Intellectual Property Project Lands Government Award

Simon Fraser University archaeologist George Nicholas is surprised to hear that a federal research-funding agency has awarded a global group that he leads $50,000. Its large-scale use of a methodology that puts indigenous community partners in the drivers’ seat of the research process is unprecedented.

The funding accompanies the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC’s) Partnership Award, which the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) Project, led by Nicholas, has garnered over two other finalists.

The new money allows the group to expand its work on intellectual property (IP) issues in cultural heritage.

IPinCH is the SSHRC Partnership Award’s first recipient. The award is one of five categories of the funding agency’s new Impact Awards. Through 15 global community-based initiatives, case studies and special projects, IPinCH’s 52 scholars and 26 partnering universities and organizations are addressing a variety of IP-related concerns about cultural heritage. An initial $2.5 million SSHRC grant launched the global project in 2008.

Its efforts are reflected in 47 journal articles, 17 book chapters, nine books and a long legacy of tangible and practical outcomes that address community needs when it comes to IP and cultural heritage matters. IPinCH has also provided fellowships and employment to 64 graduate students, recognizing that this new generation of scholars will further advance this work.

IPinCH has supported indigenous communities from the Canadian Arctic to the Australian outback and the steppes of Kyrgyzstan by reuniting them with their cultural artifacts, staving off linguistic extinction, developing cultural tourism and accomplishing much more.

Nicholas sees the Partnership Award as SSHRC’s validation of IPinCH’s unparalleled work in supporting indigenous communities across the globe in protecting their cultural heritage and IP. He also sees the award as reflecting SSHRC’s and academics’ growing recognition of community-based participatory research’s validity and value as a primary methodology in working with indigenous communities. IPinCH’s support of indigenous communities in their cultural heritage’s reclamation is winning those communities’ praise. During a recent meeting of IPinCH team members, Anishinable Elder Sydney Martin, from the United States, remarked: “IPinCH is a living thing; it has a spirit.”

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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