The REAL Issue: A Message From Our CEO

December 2018

About a year ago I attended a meeting to put in motion the establishment of a pan-provincial academic health research network.From this arose the Nova Scotia Integrated Health Research and Innovation Strategy (IHRIS), comprised of the experience and expertise from the provincial government, health authorities, post-secondary institutions, industry and public. The intent is to leverage collective insight to address key health issues in the province and promote evidence informed healthcare solutions. 

Our first order of business was to organize a Project Management Team (PMT) to oversee activities that identify and support opportunities in Nova Scotia’s health research enterprise for collaboration, innovation, knowledge translation, evaluation, and communication. NSHRF Director of Programs, Meredith Campbell is part of this team; in fact 50% of Meredith’s time is dedicated to supporting the IHRIS effort.  

“Previous attempts to support collaborative health research in the province have encountered challenges in terms of institutional barriers, data access barriers and difficulty organizing and managing the necessary resources,” according to Meredith. “IHRIS is an opportunity to bring together academic and health system resources to better address and overcome these challenges.”

To help execute the responsibilities of the PMT, projects have been assigned to IHRIS working groupsin the areas of research assets, interoperability, data management, and communication.I’ve assumed the role of Team Lead for the Asset Working Group. This group is made up of ten members representing six organizations, including Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, Cape Breton University, the IWK Health Centre, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the NSHRF. Together they bring years of experience in health research as academics and administrators. Their expertise has been integral in grounding the project in the reality of administration to best deliver objectives. In addition to the expertise of the working group, all post secondary institutions will be consulted and engaged throughout this process.

As its name implies, the Asset Working Group is responsible for organizing a provincial inventory of research assets. Inventory can include programs of researchand/or programs of supportfor research. However, instead of creating a traditional asset map or a list of resources, our objective is to create the means to identify and categorize assets across five areas of research: biomedical research; clinical research; health services research; social, cultural, environmental and population health research; and support to the research enterprise.   

Using indicators developed by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, assets across the province will be categorized by levels of activity and sustainability. Activity levels refer to an asset’s contribution to health research in Nova Scotia and are divided into three areas: advancing knowledge, capacity building and facilitating informed decision-making. Indicators are to be selected according to criteria summarized by the acronym, REAL: Relevant, Excellent, Accessible, Legitimate. Sustainability levels refer to the longevity of an asset’s contribution; indicators include access to necessary funding and infrastructure. 

The ultimate goal of the asset working group is to create a process that promotes more efficient knowledge exchange and better decision making in Nova Scotia.Not only will the proposed approach identify research assets, it will identify strengths and gaps in supports and services, identify where assets are well supported or lack the resources to be sustainable, and identify where assets might benefit from additional aid.

To facilitate this work, NSHRF has enlisted the assistance of Brittany Barber, a PhD Health Student from Dalhousie University. Brittany has said that supporting the IHRIS asset management team has repeatedly offered opportunities for collaboration with members who span the province. “Learning from the array of expertise and experiences within this group has been a valuable experience.”

I’m proud NSHRF is contributing time, energy and resources to this unique project. The Asset Working Group is the first of its kind in the province intended to strengthen the health research community and improve the health of Nova Scotians. Thank you to everyone who is helping make this work possible. 

If you’d like to learn more about IHRIS and the working groups, please visit:


Krista Connell



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