U of G Prof Wins SSHRC’s Highest Research Honour

October 15, 2013 - News Release

A University of Guelph professor who is one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change has won this year’s top research honour from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Barry Smit received SSHRC’s 2013 Gold Medal, which includes a $100,000 grant, today during the World Social Sciences Forum in Montreal. He is the first U of G professor to win the prestigious award.

“This is a fantastic and well-deserved honour for Barry,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“Barry has always been one of the most outstanding and recognized researchers at U of G and in his field internationally. This gold medal goes beyond that and distinguishes Barry as truly one of the country's most innovative social science researchers. “

Smit was among the first to investigate human vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. His work has taken him to 68 countries and dozens of towns and villages in some of the most remote and underdeveloped regions of the world.

“Part of the brilliance of Barry's research is that he makes the connections between social science and the natural sciences,” Hall said. “We also recognize Barry for his outstanding role as a mentor for young faculty.”

Part of SSHRC’s prestigious Impact Awards, the Gold Medal honours scholars for original thought, work and leadership that has advanced understanding in their field and enriched Canada’s cultural and intellectual life. The winner is chosen by jury, and the prize money is to be used for research, promotion, knowledge mobilization or related activities.

Smit called the award “a significant honour.”

“It represents encouragement for colleagues across Canada in the field of climate change, especially its economic and social implications," he said.

“The issue itself is complicated and challenging -- never mind the unfortunate discouragement of researchers seeking to understand our climate, humankind's role and effects on our ecosystems, communities and our economy, and the implications of possible solutions. These are important issues for which substantive research is needed in Canada.”

Smit has been a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) since its establishment 25 years ago. He was lead author of the IPCC’s fourth assessment report published in 2007. The IPCC team, including Smit, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with environmental activist and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.

Smit has written books, research articles and government reports, taught hundreds of students, attended international conferences and gatherings, and advised organizations, governments and world leaders.

He has held the Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change for a decade. Earlier this year, he received the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour. (Read more about Smit's career here)

Smit, who retired from U of G in August, plans to use the prize money to promote climate change research and to provide mentoring, contacts and networking opportunities for graduate students and colleagues.

"The medal recognizes my geography colleagues at U of G and the many former students who have contributed to this work and who now are highly regarded researchers and practitioners across Canada and beyond,” he said.

“They have provided expertise, support and encouragement, along with intellectual challenge and a collegial environment that has meant I got up every morning enthusiastic about continuing this sort of work.”

Barry Smit

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or kgonsalves@uoguelph.ca.

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