Knowledge mobilization is On the Move: Faculty of Arts research project forges ground-breaking partnership with Canada's public broadcaster

May 2nd, 2014

Cathy Newhook

Knowledge mobilization is On the Move: Faculty of Arts research project forges ground-breaking partnership with Canada's public broadcaster

Mobilizing knowledge effectively can present a significant challenge for many researchers and many universities. Even for projects that have very practical implications for people and communities, it is not always easy to get good research out there. Memorial’s On the Move Partnership, led by Dr. Barbara Neis of the Department of Sociology, has come up with an innovative solution to the challenge, and forged a unique partnership directly with the long-running CBC Radio documentary program, Ideas.  

The On the Move Partnership is a story in and of itself – a massive, seven-year SSHRC-funded project asking how employment-related geographic mobility (from long daily commutes, to extended absences from the home lasting weeks, months or even years) affects employers, workers and their families, as well as the communities where the live and those where the work? The project is a national initiative involving more than 40 researchers from 17 disciplines and 22 universities, working with more than 30 community partners. The project is a prime example of cross-discipline collaboration, cross-university collaboration, and public engagement. 

The partnership with CBC’s Ideas brings the research to life for average Canadians – after all, the research is all about average Canadians. Who doesn’t know someone who commutes for work? A commuter in the GTA, a foreign-worker employed in services in a booming resource town, a family man from rural Newfoundland trying to make a living commuting to work in Fort McMurray – each person has a different story to tell about how moving for work affects their health, family, work and community.

This is where CBC Ideas comes in. The hour-long show, hosted by Paul Kennedy, is broadcast on CBC Radio every weeknight and has an average of 800,000 listeners (aside from online listeners!). As a project partner, the show will air seven episodes over the course of the research to help share knowledge and tangible stories and then bring the seven together for a solid week of programming towards the end. From the show’s perspective, the mutual benefit of the partnership is clear, and collaboration with established researchers and community partners engaged in a well-funded and sustained project is a huge advantage in the world of journalism.

“Work-related mobility is directly impacting employers, workers and their communities – sharing those stories and understanding this complex phenomenon is not just fascinating, it’s important,” said Dr. Neis, Project Director and Senior Research Associated with Memorial’s SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research and Department of Sociology. “The partnership with Ideas will enable us to involve the public in the research as it unfolds, giving them an opportunity to be part of the discussion.” 

The first documentary in the series, On the Move to Fort McMurray, aired in November and followed the researchers as they talked to workers employed in the oil sands industry in Alberta. This year’s Ideas documentary will be looking at mobility in the trucking industry in Prince Edward Island. Future topics will be decided in consultation with the On the Move team. You can listen to the archived programs on the CBC Ideas website or via