Message from the Vice-Principal

What makes McGill’s research unique? What common characteristics define our work and bind us together as a community? What fields will demand our attention or produce the greatest breakthroughs in the next decade? //

Dr. Rose Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations)
Dr. Rose Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations)

Over the past two years, I have asked these questions countless times during the extensive consultation process that ultimately formed the basis of the University’s renewed Strategic Research Plan (SRP) 2013-17. I met with hundreds of McGill faculty, students, staff and external partners to discuss their research goals, challenges, and priorities for the coming years. The result is a document that we feel, in its content and structure, best encapsulates the overarching themes that emerged through the extensive outreach effort.

So what is a strategic research plan? The simple response is that it is a government requirement needed for many grant applications, for example, for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, as well as an essential tool that informs strategic resource allocation, such as for Canada Research Chairs. Beyond this, though, we viewed drafting this document as an opportunity to create a reference for reporting, fundraising, and promoting our world-class researchers and students.

With these goals in mind, the SRP articulates some of the characteristics that define how and why certain research is unique in quality and accomplishment at McGill. For me, the key idea that emerged was the power of inquiry. As researchers, interesting questions motivate us. The most challenging questions enamour our minds like a new romance, compelling us to learn, feel, and grow in our pursuit of answers. This passion for research permeates the McGill community; it is palpable and inspiring.

How then can we summarize this desire, this drive? In the end, we chose to include five cross-cutting, interdisciplinary concepts in the SRP, which we identify as McGill’s “core commitments.” They are:

 IDEAS —supporting excellence in all forms of research, whether basic, applied, or somewhere in between

 INNOVATION —placing a new emphasis on translating research into social, pedagogical, organizational, and technological progress

 SUSTAINABILITY —making this concept a central component of what we study, how we approach our work, and what we are doing to ensure the long-term viability of our infrastructure and core facilities

 COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP —building new connections and expanding existing ones on our campuses and with external partners

 SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT – embracing McGill’s role as an active and responsive member of local, regional, and global communities

The SRP is being released at approximately the same time as this issue of Headway (you can read it at, and you will see elements of the SRP more and more going forward. In fact, the SRP’s infl uence can be felt throughout the following pages, where you will encounter numerous questions whose answers shape or will shape our world.

I hope these stories of excellence-driven research inspire you to ask a few of your own.