Book learnin’ pays off in research
By Pip Scowcroft
Associate professor of English, Bryce Traister, is proof that a year away
from the classroom — combined with some valuable funding — is the
perfect equation for amplified research, as well as revitalization.
Traister is currently on sabbatical from his teaching duties at Western, and
is using his time off to focus on a six-chapter book regarding women and religion
in American history. He acknowledges research is an important part of his scholastic
practice, even while teaching.
“I find research and teaching very complementary,” Traister said,
adding he believes the relationship is essential. “[You can get] a better
critical relationship with current issues in your field when you understand
[those of] the past.”
Traister said the time off has provided him with a more relaxed atmosphere
in which to conduct his research. Alongside his less demanding working conditions,
Traister was recently awarded a three-year standard research grant from the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which will provide him with
three years of stable funding to continue his research.
“The relationship between SSHRC funding and my research is material,” he
acknowledged. “I could not do my research without it.”
Traister said his grant has facilitated travel and accommodation in England
and throughout the United States, as well as access to original archives in
libraries at institutions such as those at Oxford and Harvard Universities.
Traister also expressed a level of concern with regards to humanities funding,
due to the recent decision of SSHRC to reevaluate the method and criteria for
deciding on which research projects should be granted funding.
“It seems SSHRC is looking to fund research that can be branded and
marketed,” Traister said, adding he feels SSHRC may be averting their
gaze from independent researchers and setting its sights on big dollar corporations.
In general, the arts tend to receive less funding than most other areas of
study, and with the constant increase of information being put online it may
soon be argued that humanities researchers can work from their computer — and
could therefore be entitled to even less funding, Traister explained.
However, as any English or history enthusiast will tell you, looking at something
on the computer will never compare to the experience of holding an original
letter or manuscript in your hands. Adequate and accessible funding is imperative
to quality research and teaching.
In the meantime, Traister said he plans to continue his research, and hopes
funding will continue to be available for arts and humanities research in the