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Q&A with Alex D'Arcy

May 09, 2024

Alex D'Arcy headshot

VPRI: What excites you most about your new role as Interim AVPR?

AD: I’m excited about a lot of things: to learn about research across campus—new methods, new theories, new applications, new impacts; to find new ways to support research, researchers, and research excellence on campus; to think creatively and expansively about research impact and to operationalize metrics that capture and reflect the richness of our research portfolio; and to be part of a new team, one that’s focused on and dedicated to all aspects of the research ecosystem. Research is fundamentally about curiosity, and I’m excited to be part of that energy at UVic.

VPRI: Leading knowledge mobilization and research impact will be part of your new role. What opportunities do you see in these areas?

I love that you put knowledge mobilization (KMb) and impact together in one question, because they really are interrelated. And together they span the life cycle of a program of work; they aren’t simply relegated to the end point.

I see several opportunities here, to be honest. The first emerges from a challenge: KMb is generally understood as the relationship between knowledge producers and “expert” holders of knowledge (e.g., as personal intellectual property), on the one hand, and knowledge users and consumers (e.g., as recipients of that intellectual property), on the other. So many of us have been socialized in this way of thinking, but this understanding is not consistent with all world views, relational beliefs, and ways of doing research. This increasingly makes it a pain point for promotion and tenure processes, award adjudication, and certain kinds of grant adjudication. Finding ways to resist and counter it is critical. This is where opportunity emerges.

UVic is ideally positioned to change the narrative of one-way exchanges in KMb and resulting impacts of reciprocity. Sometimes the best KMb practices are those that advance disciplines and disciplinary thinking. Sometimes the best ones advance broader academic and social discussions, serve a public good, or emerge from grass roots efforts that improve the lived experiences of community members. This means that it is time to expand how we imagine, plan, fund, adjudicate and assess KMb and its impacts, especially KMb that engages beyond the academy.

And this broader context sets the scene for other opportunities that UVic is also incredibly well suited to address, like setting parameters for recognizing community-engaged work, providing guidelines and recommendations for sustainable public-facing scholarship; and expanding accessibility in research production and research dissemination. UVic’s dedication to open access is just the starting point for this work, and our commitments through the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) give us ample initiative to begin. Creative expression is another place where we excel, and we can make a real contribution in recognizing that work too. I am really excited about these things!

VPRI: What makes the UVic research community unique and what advice would you give to new faculty?

One of the things I value about the research and creative culture at UVic is that it is deeply respectful of disciplinary work, while also being actively supportive of interdisciplinary scholarship. The partnerships and collaborations that span fields are tremendously exciting, because they open potentials and create rich incubators for big ideas.

I also value the culture of investment in each other: there is a lot of mutual support for research excellence, which makes UVic a special place for holding each other up, not only for recognition but also for better outcomes. So, the advice I’d give to new faculty is twofold. First, have a plan to reach your goals. And second, don’t follow the plan in a vacuum. Instead, engage—with colleagues, with leadership, and with scholars from outside home units and disciplines. Research can be a competitive landscape, but what I see here is respect for each other’s work, generosity in helping others, and joy in celebrating success. We can make that work for each other in powerful ways.

VPRI: How have your previous leadership roles prepared you for this next chapter?

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to build relationships across campus and beyond—with students, staff, faculty, librarians, administrators, and research agencies and organizations. So even though I still have lots to learn, I’m hopeful that my experiences to date will help me to continue building the relationships that are pivotal in this role. It’s a team over here, and to be effective in the ways I hope to be, I need to come up to speed in good ways with OVPRI and with the research community I intend to support. I know from experience that I need not only to hear, but also to listen actively and with intention.