SSHRC honours top social sciences and humanities researchers

Winner of Gold Medal for Achievement in Research and winners of awards for emerging scholars and graduate students announced

(Ottawa, November 1, 2012) – The 2012 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) prizes for outstanding research in the social sciences and humanities have been awarded to four scholars spanning the spectrum of research careers. This year’s Gold Medal for Achievement in Research has been awarded to Shana Poplack, Canada Research Chair in Linguistics and distinguished university professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Ottawa. The Aurora Prize has been awarded to Justin Piché, assistant professor in the department of criminology at the University of Ottawa. Kate Galloway, a postdoctoral fellow at the Music, Media and Place Research Centre (MMaP) and the School of Music at Memorial University of Newfoundland, received the SSHRC Postdoctoral Prize, and the William E. Taylor Fellowship has been awarded to Douglas Hunter, a doctoral candidate in the history department at York University.

“These awards recognize the very best in research in the social sciences and humanities and are an affirmation of the significant impact these disciplines have on Canada and the world,” said SSHRC President Chad Gaffield.

Image of Shana Poplack
Gold Medal winner Shana Poplack is an internationally renowned leader in the field of sociolinguistics. Her historical and quantitative analysis of language has had an impact on our understanding of language in Canada, and drawn from the Canadian context results that apply to language throughout the world.

Poplack has carried out several research projects on Quebec French, including a major study of the French spoken in the Gatineau-Ottawa region, which was innovative in its use of vast bodies of data or “mega-corpuses” from which she extracted findings related to the effect of languages in contact, as well as to the internal development of the French language.

One of the greatest impacts of Poplack’s research has been her use of Canadian data to broaden our understanding of the origins of African American vernacular. Her groundbreaking research, as well as that of her students, has demonstrated that the African American vernacular spoken today is not the heritage of the 19th century, but is largely a creation of the conditions that followed the migration of African Americans to the large cities in the first half of the 20th century.

Poplack’s innovative sociolinguistics lab at the University of Ottawa helps to train the next generation of researchers in the study of speech in its social context, with a focus on the ways by which language change comes about in different contact situations in Canada and elsewhere.

Image of Justin Piché
Justin Piché was awarded the Aurora Prize, based on research achievements at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He researches the sociology of punishment, alternatives to incarceration, and the cultural representations of penalty. His recent SSHRC-funded Insight Development Grant project, in collaboration with Kevin Walby of the University of Victoria, examines penal tourism museums and aims to demonstrate how these historical sites contribute to our understanding of confinement and punishment, as well as to our knowledge of the experiences of the imprisoned. He will pursue this project in his new position at the University of Ottawa.

Image of Kate Galloway
Kate Galloway received the SSHRC Postdoctoral Prize. A postdoctoral fellow at the Music, Media and Place Research Centre (MMaP) and the School of Music at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Galloway is working in the burgeoning field of ecomusicology, a subfield of ethnomusicology that focuses on Canadian contemporary composers and how they draw on natural and urban environments to comment on environmental issues, representations of the environment, and the environmental past.

Image of Douglas Hunter
Douglas Hunter, a doctoral student in the history department at York University, was awarded the William E. Taylor Fellowship. His research examines the competing historical narratives of pre-Columbian North American exploration—to the detriment of indigenous heritage—and the role these narratives play in the construction of nationalist and racial identities. Hunter is also a Vanier Canada Graduate scholar, journalist and author of numerous historical books, and his latest book, Double, Double: How Tim Horton’s became a Canadian Way of Life, One Cup at a Time, was just published in October.

SSHRC is proud to recognize these outstanding individuals whose research excellence in the area of human thought and behaviour is making such important contributions to Canada and the world. The Council of Canadian Academies’ recent report, The State of Science and Technology in Canada, recognized Canada’s expertise in this area, and the social sciences and humanities disciplines of historical studies, information and communication technologies (ICT), psychology, and visual and performing arts were all noted in the top six fields of research expertise. In addition, the disciplines of classics, criminology, and business and management were recognized in the top sub-fields of research impact.

Each SSHRC prize winner is selected by a rigorous peer-review process, and prize funds are directed to research activities. More information about SSHRC prize winners may be found on the SSHRC website.

The $100,000 SSHRC Gold Medal for Achievement in Research is awarded to an outstanding individual whose leadership, dedication and originality of thought have significantly advanced understanding in his or her field of research; the $25,000 Aurora Prize recognizes an outstanding emerging scholar who is building a reputation for exciting and original research in the social sciences or humanities; the $10,000 Postdoctoral Prize is awarded to the most outstanding SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship recipient; and the $5,000 William E. Taylor Fellowship is awarded to the most outstanding SSHRC doctoral award recipient.

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