"Real world problems are not constrained by disciplinary boundaries - to understand them adequately you need to look at them from multiple directions," notes Barbara Neis, professor of sociology at Memorial University. Reflecting this belief in her interdisciplinary, team-based approach to research, Professor Neis is the recipient of Memorial University's President's Award for Outstanding Research, the Atlantic Centre of Excellence Women's Health Leadership Award, and the Margaret Lowe Benston Award for combining research and activism.
While engaged in fieldwork on her Ph.D. research in Newfoundland, two events transpired to develop an interest in gender analysis and occupational health: witnessing the gender dynamics of the protest line set up to prevent a plant closure which consisted mainly of women; and listening to stories of injuries suffered by draggermen working on fishing vessels. Astonished by the apparent apathy the workers were faced with and feeling an ethical obligation to lend a voice to these communities, she has continued to fight for the visibility of marginalized groups like women in fisheries and rural and remote communities and has co-directed SafetyNet, a Community Research Alliance in Workplace Health and Safety in Marine and Coastal Work.
Professor Neis notes that her work on the interactive effects between changes in society and changes in the natural environment, and the way these effects are ignored, directly relates to the Foundation's core themes of social justice and responsible citizenship. She plans to reinvest the Fellowship, bolstering resources available for the development of community-based approaches to research and policy development within Atlantic Canada. Foundation support will also help in writing a book on interactive restructuring and human and environmental health during her upcoming sabbatical and aid in refreshing her French-language skills, enabling her to collaborate with colleagues in Quebec and other French-speaking areas.