This Saturday, October 24, Trent University hosted the launching ceremony for the International Institute for Environmental Studies on the first Saturday of reading week. The International Institute for Environmental Studies (IIES) is an international multi-partner collaboration effort that is designed to foster research collaboration between students and faculty of member universities.
The IIES is an initiative pioneered by Trent University and Nanjing University and will potentially expand to include the University of Eastern Finland, John Hopkins University, and the University of Edinburgh amongst others. The institute represents recognition of environmental issues as global, pressing, and trans-boundary. It is an attempt to target environmental degradation through a collaborative, multicultural, and innovative approach, as its main function will be to facilitate the mobility of researchers to further allow for cooperation across borders.
In addition, the IIES is designed to allow collaboration and exchange of knowledge between its select member universities and institutions, government bodies, and industry partners. The IIES will place Trent University at the forefront of environmental science and studies. Furthermore, it will provide spaces for networking and skill-building to those involved in its program. The exclusive launching ceremony brought together an impressive array of academic and political figures.
President of Trent University Dr. Leo Groarke, Vice President International of Nanjing University Yi Pan, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade for Ontario Michael Chan, and Mayor of the City of Peterborough Daryl Bennett, were part of the high-profile guest list.
The weekend-long event included a number of workshops on the core aspects of the IIES: environmental processes, environmental health, green technology and environmental policy. The workshops will be held annually. However, this significant event appeared exclusive, without any press releases inviting the community on the Trent University website. Why was the launch of the IIES not open to students, not all over the Trent University website, newsletters, calendars, and media platforms? We can only speculate.
IIES will be made possible by significant donations, one of which has been from Trent alumnus, Justin Chiu. Trent University’s Operating Funds have not been spent on the IIES, and the financial details are still in the works. Despite the details being unclear, the park is sure to bring great minds to Trent, fostering an exciting development for the University. However, in order for the IIES to maintain its scientific integrity, these Industry Partners and their relationship to the research must also have full disclosure.
The production of scientific knowledge has been increasingly related to industry and government interests rather than to the sake of knowledge itself. Partnering with government and industry therefore raises questions on the transparency and bias within the research undertaken at the IIES. Trent University’s stride in tackling global environmental issues is countered in failing to divest from fossil fuels, a controversy to consider for a University at the forefront of environmental sciences and studies.
IIES has the potential to address trans-boundary environmental problems and to facilitate collaboration across boarders and institutions. Though the nature of its donors, partners, and exclusive launching event require further explanation, it appears a natural move for Trent, which is championing at second place in Canada overall primarily undergraduate category in Macleans
It is institutions like IIES that promote collaboration and innovative approaches are indisputably needed to tackle the plethora of environmental issues that we face, and Trent University deserves merit for being at the forefront of such an initiative.