Free festival showcases big ideas from UVic


It’s not often that students have open access to UVic research in a free festival format. IdeaFest is bringing together 50 events — lectures, exhibits and workshops — from all faculties on campus to share big ideas with students, faculty members and the public from March 4–15.

“We had a really great response last year,” says Melanie Tromp Hoover, IdeaFest organizer and communications co-ordinator for UVic’s Vice-President Research (VPR). “The motivation always was to be very big and very public and have IdeaFest be a huge invitation for anyone around Victoria to come to campus and explore the research and the big questions that UVic researchers are working on.”

IdeaFest is in its second year and has grown significantly since it ran as a pilot project in 2012. This year’s festival runs twice as long as the inaugural festival and features almost twice the number of events.

The office of the VPR puts on the festival and follows the university’s annual strategic plan, which encourages its researchers to share their work and ideas with faculty, students and the public. IdeaFest achieves this by “celebrating and recognizing excellence in research and finding ways to provide platforms for researchers to talk about what they’re working on, exploring the big ideas that they’re creating and cultivating it in a really accessible way,” says Tromp Hoover.

The events are wide-ranging: from panel discussions on environmental concerns to exhibits on biomedical research, and from workshops on Idle No More to a Games without Frontiers symposium about “gamification” — the use of technology and games to conduct and communicate research.

While the events feature professors and esteemed members of UVic’s research community, IdeaFest also accepted submissions from student researchers. At least half a dozen events are hosted by students; one such event is an art and film exhibit on the modern zombie.

IdeaFest will also offer four signature events put on by the VPR office. The first is “Building an Innovative Nation: The role of universities in strengthening Canada’s future” on March 8.

“There’s quite a strong focus in the country right now about making Canada more inventive and how universities can feed into the worlds of innovation,” says Tromp Hoover, explaining that the way to do that is through partnership between government, industry, community-based organizations and universities.

The second VPR-hosted event, taking place March 11, asks, “Is there still potential for human creativity?”, while the third keynote event features a panel discussion surrounding a hot topic for the upcoming provincial election, “Does our health-care system need fixing?” on March 12.

The fourth event, on March 14, asks, “How does B.C. reconcile resource extraction with environmental and economic concerns?” Panellists will include Tom Pedersen, the director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Victoria MP Murray Rankin and UVic experts on economics, environmental studies and aboriginal issues.

The department of social sciences is also offering an ongoing tour of 21 labs and research stations, where participants can collect stamps in a downloadable passport and enter to win $100 to spend at the UVic bookstore. The Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. is also holding an open house that spans the full two weeks and looks at UVic research related to substance abuse.

“I hope there truly is something for everyone,” says Tromp Hoover. “I think we’ve covered a really wide range — and it’s still a tiny snapshot of the breadth of what’s really going on on campus — but I think we’ve got a great range of interesting topics.”

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