Meaningful dialogue with mainstream society about the limits and context in which animal use can occur requires some degree of openness regarding the details of this use, including which animals are used, how they are cared for, and what quality of life they are likely to experience.
Contentious forms of animal use, like using animals for research here at UBC, require a type of “social licence”; i.e. permission by society to engage in activities that would otherwise be considered taboo. Moreover, societal views continue to evolve surrounding the use of animals in science, requiring some type of ongoing renegotiation of the social licence. Meaningful dialogue with mainstream society about the limits and context in which animal use can occur requires some degree of openness regarding the details of this use, including which animals are used, how they are cared for, and what quality of life they are likely to experience. My PhD research examines how varying levels of transparency influence stakeholder trust in individuals and institutions that use animals in scientific research, as well as other contentious forms of animal use. Research on the human component of animal welfare lies at a nexus between social science and natural science, and provides an opportunity to form close interdisciplinary partnerships between academic disciplines and between non-academic public stakeholders.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
The opportunity to be a Public Scholar offers a chance to broaden the application of my research findings beyond academia. The ability to engage with public partners will strengthen my existing relationships and build new ones. These networks will provide an avenue for my research to inform important issues in public policy.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
I believe the PSI broadens a student’s ability to engage with complicated and multidisciplinary research questions with creative methods not typically used within traditional PhD programs. I will create new methods to explore beyond the status quo in these contentious industries and offer novel stakeholder findings that will foster a mutual understanding and genuine dialogue.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
I worked with research and teaching animals for 18 years before beginning my PhD. I have significant national and international connections within private industry, academia and government. These groups all have invested interests in my research. I believe these networks can be leveraged to both make meaningful change for the public good and provide a variety of career opportunities.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
My research engages and seeks to understand perceptions of transparency from both within the laboratory animal science community and the public. Networking with a broad range of stakeholders allows for a deeper understanding of the issue and may also help build trust by collaboratively identifying and addressing problems.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I am an ardent advocate and practitioner of continuous learning who enjoys teaching others. The pursuit of a PhD was always a goal, however, as a single father such a life changing decision required many discussions with my daughter and substantial thoughtful reflection. My work is centered on a topic that I am passionate about and enjoy exploring. Thoughtful contemplation allowed me to realize I have more to contribute to society through the pursuit of a PhD.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
UBC has an internationally respected Animal Welfare Program and this program conducts mixed methods research that bridges natural sciences and social sciences. I came to the Animal Welfare Program for the people; the faculty are world-leading scholars, and are friendly, welcoming and accessible. I spoke with numerous former and current students and all agreed that the leadership within this program has created an environment to support student interests and creativity that empowers exploration, development, and success. Arriving at UBC felt like my new home.
The ability to engage with public partners will strengthen my existing relationships and build new ones. These networks will provide an avenue for my research to inform important issues in public policy.