ATIC in the Press

"Health, education research draws $11 million in new SSHRC grants"                                                              Simon Fraser Media and Public Relations - December 8, 2003

"Ellen Balka"                                                                                                                                       Simon Fraser Media and Public Relations - December 9, 2003

"SFU awarded three major awards"                                                                                                                             Amy O'Brian, Vancouver Sun - December 9, 2003


Health, education research draws $11 million in new SSHRC grants:                                                              Simon Fraser Media and Public Relations


December 08, 2003
Simon Fraser University researchers will use $11 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to advance technology’s role in health care delivery and education.

SFU receives three of seven nationally awarded projects funded through SSHRC’s Initiative on the New Economy (INE), each valued at $3 million — the largest INE grant total secured by one university. "This is unique, a huge achievement for a single university," says SSHRC President Marc Renaud. Funding for two other $1 million projects involving SFU faculty will come from SSHRC’s Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) funding program.

"SFU ranks first among Canadian comprehensive universities in SSHRC and Canada Council grants," says SFU President Michael Stevenson. "With these exceptional new awards, developed in cooperation with many academic, institutional and community partners, SFU will nearly double the annual research grant funding the university has received from SSHRC in the past."

SFU faculty members from the school of communication, the faculty of education, and the department of political science and women’s studies lead five projects that will have broad, national impact. They will target improvements to the delivery of health information across the country, create new technological methods for training in the health sector, develop life-long learning tools and techniques for greater academic success, especially among First Nations children, and investigate the impact of government downsizing.

"The success of our researchers in the competition for these SSHRC awards is a spectacular achievement and speaks highly of the quality of their proposals and of their prior research accomplishments," says Bruce Clayman SFU vice-president, research. "It builds significantly on SFU's clear leadership among comprehensive research universities in research in the social sciences and humanities."

Website: Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council:

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EllenBalka:                                                                                                                                         Simon Fraser Media and Public Relations                         

SFU/SSHRC Backgrounder

December 9, 2003

Technology’s role in the health sector has been a key research focus of communication professor Ellen Balka for the past several years.

Her $3 million, SSHRC (INE) funded project is titled, The role of technology in the production, consumption and use of health information in varied settings: implications for policy and practice. The project will expand on previous work and allow her research team to further investigate the design, use and effectiveness of technology in the health sector, in order to inform the design of policies and new technological systems.

The need to better understand the role of health information technologies was also identified in the recent Romanow and Kirby reports on the nation’s health care system.

"One of the goals of our research is to better understand the problems that occur as new technologies are introduced into health settings," says Balka. "We hear far too often that a new computer system has made work more difficult — our goal is to learn more about the contexts in which technologies are used, so that new technologies can be designed to better meet users’ needs."

Balka says health care has been increasingly subject to computerization while use of the Internet as a source of health information continues to grow, leading to concerns about how information is interpreted as well as limits to access. Researchers will determine whether or not existing Internet delivery of health information and the growing computerization of health care jobs achieve desired results, such as equitable access to health information leading to improved health, and employment situations that make it easier to deliver high quality patient care.

Balka is also a research scientist with the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. The recipient of a 2003 YWCA woman of distinction award, she continues to carry out research related to gender, technology and communication.


Ellen Balka, 604.291.3764/604.725.2756 (cell)

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SFU awarded three major grants:                                                                                                  Amy O'Brian, Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

SFU economist Marjorie Griffin Cohen received a $1-million grant.
CREDIT: Vancouver Sun files

Simon Fraser University has been awarded more research grants in the areas of social sciences and humanities than any other Canadian university in the latest round of funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The university will get $11 million to conduct research over the next four years intended to "advance technology's role in health care delivery and education."

The council awarded three of its seven major grants to SFU, nearly double the annual research grant funding the university has received from the council in past years.

David Kaufman, a professor in the university's faculty of education, who is one of five recipients of the grants, said B.C.'s other major universities were not included this year in the council's generous grant-giving.

"It's blowing everyone away," he said.

Kaufman is using his $3 million grant over the next four years to examine how game and simulation technology can be used to educate people in the field of health.

The professor heard in October that he had won the grant and said he was so blown away that he accidentally hung up on the person delivering the good news.

"I was so shocked and so amazed," Kaufman said.

"I made a quick motion and hung up on the person by accident."

Kaufman's team includes 10 other investigators who are interested in harnessing the current fever surrounding video games and computer simulation and using it to teach instead of simply entertain.

One of the team's researchers has been working on a computer game for nine- to 12-year-olds intended to teach them about contagious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and West Nile virus.

"There's been a big upsurge of interest in this area," Kaufman said.

Two other $3 million grants have been awarded to projects headed by faculty members Ellen Balka and Phil Winne. Marjorie Griffin Cohen and Mark Fettes are heading projects that will receive $1 million each.

Balka's project will examine whether current Internet programs intended to deliver health information to health consumers and the computerization of health-sector jobs are preserving the equity of the Canadian health care system.

Winne's research team will set out to develop "state-of-the-art" software for promoting learning throughout all stages of life.

Fettes' team will go out to different B.C. schools and First Nations communities to investigate whether concepts of imaginative learning that have been developed at SFU can help schools engage all children.

Griffin Cohen will use her funding to direct a study on the effects of the B.C. government's restructuring of its public services. Griffin Cohen will work with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and more than 40 academic and community partners during the study.

© Copyright 2003 Vancouver Sun

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