The University of Toronto’s commitment to equity and diversity is central to its public mission as well as its devotion to the pursuit of excellence. One of the strategic objectives of our new Institutional Strategic Research Plan is a commitment to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) across research and innovation, and this objective will guide the work of the division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI).
Given the importance of EDI at the University, in 2017 I struck the Equity and Diversity in Research and Innovation Working Group. The Working Group was charged with providing VPRI with counsel and direction on strategies to foster a culture of EDI within U of T’s research and innovation activities, as well as advising on new requirements for equity action plans for some federal research programs (including the development of our CRC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan). The Working Group met regularly during 2017–18 and has provided me with their Final Report. I thank the members of the Working Group and the Chair, Professor Lori Ferris, Associate Vice‐President, Research Oversight & Compliance, for their efforts and their service to the University in producing this comprehensive and insightful Report.
The Report proposes forty-nine recommendations to support our commitment to excellence and EDI as related to external and internal research funding programs, honours and awards for faculty, and innovation and entrepreneurship. In particular, the recommendations highlight the need for VPRI to provide leadership in ensuring consistent EDI practices, increasing awareness of institutional actions, supporting education and resources, facilitating the collection and use of data, and promoting community partnerships in research involving underrepresented groups. The recommendations also call on the VPRI to engage with the Provost, the Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, the academic divisions and affiliated hospitals, as well as the broader University community to implement EDI measures to attract and retain diverse and excellent researchers among both faculty members and trainees, foster flexible working conditions that accommodate personal circumstances, and create an inclusive environment.
I accept all the recommendations of the Report that are directed to my office and agree to work with relevant University officers on recommendations that are in the jurisdiction of those offices. The Working Group noted that the Report recommendations build on previous and ongoing work at the University to fulfill our shared responsibility to build an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment for faculty, staff, and students. The Report stressed that institutional work to address EDI at U of T should not happen in silos. Accordingly, my office is engaged in consultations with the Provost, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, Principals & Deans, and the Research Advisory Board in order to develop an implementation plan for EDI in research and innovation. We will work to coordinate with existing activities being carried out in other portfolios to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure consistency for our community.
Several of the recommendations of the Working Group relate to the building of capacity within VPRI to lead the implementation of the recommendations. Two recommendations point to the need for senior staffing within the VPRI portfolio. I am pleased to report our success in appointing a new Research Equity & Diversity Strategist, who will be responsible for guiding and supporting implementation of VPRI’s equity and diversity initiatives, with particular emphasis on facilitating the implementation of the Report recommendations and ensuring we meet the requirements of the University’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan in relation to the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program. The Strategist will work with key stakeholders across the University and affiliated hospitals and in consultation with other shared service offices and the leadership of the academic divisions. A new Partnerships Development Officer has also been appointed to provide proactive support in promoting community partnerships in research involving underrepresented groups, including Indigenous communities, as well in developing a long-term strategy to help us better assist our faculty who wish to build partner-based research programs.
Through the implementation of the recommendations and the continual examination and monitoring of practices, policies, and programs, we will work to integrate EDI principles within the University’s research and innovation activities as well as aligning the VPRI’s strategies with the broader initiatives at the University of Toronto.
Vice President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives
September 11, 2018