The Black Research Network (BRN) at U of T was launched on October 8. According to its website, the goal of the BRN is “to promote Black excellence at University of Toronto and to enhance the research capacity of Black scholars within the university and on the world stage.” The BRN aims to increase the visibility of Black researchers and their accomplishments.
The network operates across all of U of T’s three campuses and encompasses subjects ranging from engineering to music and social work. The research network has four pillars: Research Excellence, Mentorship & Pathways, Funding & Investment, and Community, Collaboration & Partnerships.
Creation of the network
The creation of the BRN can also be contextualized within the Anti-Black Racism Task Force Report that came out in March 2021.
The Anti-Black Racism Task Force was created following protests for racial justice across the world, and it released its report in March 2021. One recommendation of the report included that the university should fund and support the BRN.
In an interview with U of T News, Beth Coleman, the inaugural director of the BRN and an associate professor at UTM, said, “We know that Black researchers historically have faced significant barriers to their advancement in academia. We know, for example, they receive a lower percentage of federally funded grants.”
The BRN hopes to shift “the conversation from deficit to excellence” by supporting Black researchers across the University of Toronto campuses.
Goals of the network
In their first year, the BRN will focus on creating physical spaces across U of T’s three campuses where researchers can “attend workshops, present papers or get together to hammer out a paper for publication.” Their goal is to create a sense of community to combat the sense of isolation many Black researchers feel across their disciplines.
Coleman said that for the first year, the BRN will also be focusing on fundraising efforts to “support larger-scale research endeavours.” Coleman explained, “we’re focusing on supporting research collaborations in data science and the Temerty Faculty of Medicine – partly because STEM has been historically a difficult place for Black researchers.”
Other goals of the BRN include eventually creating a mentorship system across U of T’s three campuses.