Support change: society, culture, and governance

Chris Eliasmith and students looking at an equation.

In a rapidly changing world, the impact of change on people and how they react to it opens new doors for a pivotal understanding of society, culture, and governance. At the University of Waterloo, the social and cognitive basis of reasoning and decision-making is an area of pure research strength that has powerful implications for applied and practical issues in governance, economics, health, science policy, and ethics. In addition, researchers are changing the landscape of social sciences and humanities research by harnessing new technologies. This generates new insights into the human condition in areas such as finance and accounting, clinical and social psychology, digital media, languages, literature and culture, international governance, and public policy.

Through a focus on contemporary processes, and contextualizing social and historical factors, research will advance the understanding of governance at levels ranging from regional to global. Some of these investigations include strategic partnerships in research initiatives such as the Balsillie School of International Affairs; others such as the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project focus on analyzing specific policy problems and proposing innovative solutions. Scholarship of finance and taxation is also driven by researchers working in connection with industry partners in the School of Accounting and Finance.

Burgeoning research networks are growing around the University’s strength in language-related themes. This includes not only research on language instruction, arising from the languages department in the Faculty of Arts, but a cluster of research strengths across campus, including language pragmatics, computational linguistics, and both critical and applied approaches to rhetoric.

Investigating thought and behaviour

CIGI buildings

Research into the neurological, cognitive, and social bases of thought and behaviour will be fostered by existing research centres and initiatives, including the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, Centre for Behavioural Decision Research, Waterloo Centre for Child Studies, and Centre for Mental Health Research. Collaborators on these interrelated issues include researchers in psychology, philosophy, economics, computer science, accounting, engineering, science, and applied health sciences.

A critical dimension of change for Canadians and people around the world is technological. Politics, art, trade, commerce, scholarship, education, and even friendship and romance are being restructured around the globe by technology. Scholars at research centres such as the Games Institute collaborate campus-wide with innovators beyond the University, and with digitally entrepreneurial students, to advance knowledge of these technological changes. Technology-enabled research resources will deepen research capacity for scholars worldwide, including through the MARGOT Renaissance text project, Survey Research Centre, and Southwestern Ontario Research Data Centre.

Examining quality of life

Research related to society, culture, and governance isn’t restricted to the Faculty of Arts. Scholars within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, for example, continue to make internationally recognized contributions to understanding how health and well-being are enhanced through the effective use of leisure, including its social, psychological, economic, and environmental aspects. This research encompasses outdoor recreation, park planning and governance, urban recreation leisure and identity, tourism and sport policy, non-profit management, marketing, gender and sexuality, the social nature of leisure, and consumer behaviour. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is an innovative composite index that examines overall quality of life measures, and also identifies and develops statistical measures that report on progress toward quality of life and the well-being goals and outcomes sought by Canadians. 

As Waterloo continues its pursuit of transformational research, a focus that supports research in the humanities, social sciences, and creative arts, and enables flexible and relevant research on topics of social, cultural, political, and creative significance, will be key to advancing this core area.