U of A signs Dimensions Charter supporting diversity in research

National agreement encourages wider range of perspectives and experiences in post-secondary institutions.

The president of the University of Alberta joined the federal minister of science and sport Monday to sign a new charter focusing on inclusion and diversity in Canadian post-secondary institutions.

David H. Turpin joined Minister Kirsty Duncan in a signing ceremony to endorse The Dimensions Charter, which commits institutions to embed equity, diversity and inclusiveness in the institution. In May, the U of A became one of the first post-secondary institutions to publicly support the charter, just one day after Duncan unveiled the agreement.

Turpin said he jumped at the chance to show full support for the charter because it closely aligned with the U of A's own strategic plans.

"I immediately knew I wanted the university to be part of this," he said. "Equity, diversity and inclusion are values that the University of Alberta takes very seriously and has championed for a long time."

The Dimensions Charter is modelled after Athena SWAN, which was introduced in the United Kingdom in 2005. Canada's charter includes eight principles to welcome and engage diverse perspectives and experiences, including Indigenous Peoples, racialized groups, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community.

Duncan said it's crucial that research reflects its community and makes a difference for people from all backgrounds and circumstances.

"It is a critical step to encourage greater diversity in post-secondary institutions across the country," said Duncan. "I was honoured to co-sign with President Turpin."

The U of A is currently on track to meet or exceed targets for diversity among its representative Canada Research Chairs, the national program designed to attract and retain prominent researchers. It has also developed a best practice guide and incorporated equity, diversity and inclusiveness as part of its selection process for major academic and research awards.

Scholars receive grants

Duncan also announced that 10 U of A researchers would receive nearly $2.25 million to support infrastructure across a wide range of projects examining food safety, reclaiming mining sites and health outcomes.

The projects were part of a $61-million announcement through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, supporting 261 projects at 40 institutions across the country to help researchers acquire state-of-the-art equipment.

Sandra Davidge, executive director of the U of A's Women and Children's Health Research Institute, received $260,000 to support her work studying cardiovascular health in women and children, a collaboration with Roger Zemp, a professor in electrical engineering.

Specialized imaging equipment will help Davidge and her team investigate links between low oxygen delivery to the fetus during pregnancy and later-life cardiovascular disease. Davidge said that while complications can affect as many as one in five pregnancies, there's a "major gap" in studies of the prenatal environment, a key stepping stone to finding ways to improve outcomes.

"There's a great need to develop early intervention strategies," said Davidge. "This will allow us to develop new tools for determining who is most at risk. "

Other recipients include Ran Zhao, an assistant professor in chemistry, who received funding for the study of air pollutants. Cancer researcher Sarah Hughes received a grant to study cellular responses to disease. Carole Estabrooks, a Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Nursing, received funding for data analytics and visualization to help study long-term care in Canada.