Building Research Capacity and Organizational Empathy Among Students: Making Connections Beyond the Data

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Anita Durksen
Shannon Struck
Alexandra Guemili
Soomin Han
Emily Brownell
Alyson Mahar
Nathan Nickel
Randy Fransoo
Marni Brownell
Jennifer Enns
Lorna Turnbull


The leveraging of multi-sector, whole-population, linked administrative data is advantageous for conducting research on complex real-world problems. However, such large and complex data repositories can sometimes appear impersonal and overwhelming. Establishing organizational empathy (OE) in the
context of a multi-sector partnership between academic, government and community representatives can help us understand the data better for social policy research. Evidence stemming from this research can then inform policy decisions, ultimately increasing the potency of linked data analysis and creating more meaningful student experiences. Our objective is to examine the role of OE in the student research experience.

Objectives and Approach
SPECTRUM (Social Policy Evaluation Collaborative Team Research at Universities in Manitoba) is a multi-disciplinary partnership working to provide evidence-based solutions to ‘wicked’ social issues by using linked data from multiple sectors. SPECTRUM provides fellowships to students to become partners in the collaboration. Students have participated in quarterly workshops, building relationships with community leaders, government decision-makers and academic researchers. Students are from various faculties, bringing their unique frameworks and research interests to the collective. Through OE, students observe
and participate in SPECTRUM, relating its goals and outcomes to society and their own research.

Student inclusion in SPECTRUM enhances the partnership by providing a greater range of perspectives and facilitates the development of OE among SPECTRUM members. Students are using linked administrative data, while actively engaging in dialogue with stakeholders, thereby enriching their knowledge and understanding of research.

Conclusion / Implications
Data linkage involves more than just use of the repository; it requires establishing common ground since the data have different meaning to each partner. OE developed through SPECTRUM provides invaluable insight into and context for the data. Knowledge transfer among members of the partnership will enrich SPECTRUM’s research outcomes while building capacity among Students.

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How to Cite
Durksen, A., Struck, S., Guemili, A., Han, S., Brownell, E., Mahar, A., Nickel, N., Fransoo, R., Brownell, M., Enns, J. and Turnbull, L. (2020) “Building Research Capacity and Organizational Empathy Among Students: Making Connections Beyond the Data”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 5(5). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v5i5.1557.

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