Putting Social Sciences research on the map

A new mapping tool aims to strengthen connections between researchers in McMaster’s Faculty of Social Sciences and the broader academic community.

Funded through a Forward with Integrity grant, The Research Activities Mapping Project (RAMP) is an interactive tool that both maps and annotates a number of the research activities currently underway in the Faculty of Social Sciences and is meant to be a platform for information sharing within McMaster and beyond.

RAMP documents a range of Faculty of Social Sciences research initiatives in dozens of countries around the world.

RAMP documents a range of Faculty of Social Sciences research initiatives in dozens of countries around the world.

“Research doesn’t just happen in silos. A lot of this work is informing policy at a government level, it’s informing and informed by our communities,” says Nick Marquis, a learning technologies consultant in the Faculty of Social Sciences and one of the project leaders. “We wanted to provide access to that research in a non-traditional way.  Instead of this information just going into academic journals or articles, this tool can reveal information in a user friendly way that is accessible to those who may not speak the language of a particular discipline.”

Nick, along with Beth Marquis and John Maclachlan, both assistant professors at the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL), and Jay Brodeur from the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship, worked collaboratively to develop the project.

They started by designing an email survey asking faculty to provide information about their research activities.  The responses were added to a Google fusion table which then populated the map.

The result was a preliminary map that documents 256 different research initiatives in dozens of countries around the world.

“It’s really amazing to see the breadth and diversity of research underway in the Faculty of Social Sciences,” says Charlotte Yates, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. “This initiative has the potential to facilitate knowledge mobilization and research collaborations and is an innovative way to communicate our many accomplishments within the McMaster community and to the outside world.”

While the map isn’t a comprehensive inventory of all research activities in Social Sciences, the team hopes it will continue to expand and help to stimulate collaborative research at McMaster.

“We wanted to explore ways to help foster conversation around research on campus,” says Beth Marquis.  “We hope that people will use the map to locate other people, whether it’s to locate their research, or to reach out and actually connect with that person to start talking about the potential for collaborative work.”

The team is currently inviting feedback from the McMaster community in order to assess and improve the mapping tool.