The Observatory will engage in research both on its own initiative and by working with other organizations. Its major research focus will be the Niagara area, but with reference to how the Niagara area is situated in the provincial, national, binational, and international spheres.
The strength of the Observatory will rest in the high level of expertise available in the University, and in the Observatory’s objectivity. The Observatory will produce non-partisan, evidence-based research. The Observatory will also strive to foster the sharing of research by diverse elements of the community who might be working on the same issues from different perspectives.
The Observatory could become involved in a number of activities. It is expected that the activities of the Observatory will change over time in response to the needs of the community. The Director, acting on the advice of the Provost and advisory committees, will decide which of these activities to pursue. Some possibilities are:
- Prepare a series of policy briefs (3-5 per year) addressing issues of interest in the Niagara area. These briefs would be 4-8 page documents addressed to the community that would describe the current conditions in some particular field, describe how other jurisdictions are dealing with the issue, and set out policy options for Niagara. The Observatory should seek community partners to undertake this research both to ensure that the research is serving a community need and to spread the cost of doing the research.
- Work with community partners to organize at least one forum each year devoted to one of the issue discussed in a policy brief. The purpose of the forum would be to involve a number of community organizations and serve as a catalyst for further action.
- Assist community partners in the development of conferences or forums by providing a research component.
- Support the preparation of periodic community reports describing current social, economic, environmental, and cultural conditions in the region.
- Facilitate the coordination of research among community organizations by developing a network of community researchers. This could be accomplished by organizing periodic forums to allow researchers to share their knowledge, expertise, and future plans.
- Seek funding from various agencies to engage in research about Niagara. The ongoing Popular Culture Niagara project is a model for this.
The Director will be primarily responsible for the successful conduct of these activities, but the work can be organized in a number of ways. One way of facilitating the work and involving the community in these activities would be the establishment of working groups drawn from various partner organizations to provide advice on the conduct of particular activities.