An Overview of Academic Consumer Interest Research in Canada (ca02845)

Summary

CIR is obviously of great importance in today's economy, given the impact consumers and consumption activities have on the dynamism of our economic system. Knowledge developed through CIR can have significant impacts from both a policy and economic perspective, as well as at the level of individual's physical and psychological well-being. The quality of our lives is much defined by our consumption patterns, beginning from birth.

The genesis of this Update lay in Industry Canada's 2005 research for the Consumer Trends Report. Further analysis has highlighted the complexity involved in defining CIR and identifying CIR-related scholars. Through its multidisciplinary nature, CIR has both significant strengths—in the form of the breadth of scholarship that can contribute to research with the consumer interest in mind, and inherent challenges—given the greater difficulties in finding consumer-relevant research undertaken in so many different disciplines. Nevertheless, the multidiscplinary character of CIR reflects rather well the complexity of consumer policy analysis and policy-making, where many issues cannot be understood solely through single disciplinary lenses, but must instead integrate input from a number of quite different disciplinary perspectives to develop effective policy responses.

As the analysis for this Update has shown there would appear to be significant academic consumer interest research and expertise on-going in Canada. However, relative to other countries the emphasis of that body of research appears to be less focused on public policy issues. Further, there are concerns regarding the declining presence of scholars specifically trained and dedicated to consumer studies in recent years and a decline in the number of programs and academic departments specifically devoted to public interest consumer issues.

While a limited number of Canadian academic CIR-related networking activities have been found, international examples have illustrated enhanced levels of interaction are possible. It could be useful for the CIR community in Canada to further investigate such examples (e.g. through case studies) and benefit from the lessons learned. Discussions have been taking place in Canada among a number of representatives from academic institutions and other stakeholders regarding development of a CIR network. Initial exchanges took place at a SSHRC-supported multidisciplinary workshop held in September 2012.Footnote 67 Some initial communication tools are being developed, including a Directory of scholars (see textbox).

A new tool to identify academic research experts involved in CIR With financial support from Industry Canada, a preliminary version of a Directory of scholars with expertise in Canadian consumer interest research has been developed. The online hosting of the Directory is ensured by the University of Waterloo.Footnote 68 The Directory of scholars aims to offer a means for researchers involved in CIR work to self-identify. As the Directory grows, it will provide policy-makers, consumer organizations, and researchers themselves with efficient access to contact information for a range of CIR expertise across many academic institutions.

Industry Canada is looking forward to continuing work with partners in the CIR community to further explore options for CIR networking efforts in Canada.

 

Footnotes

Footnote 67

The Workshop was organized by Professor Robert Kerton from the University of Waterloo, Economics Department, and Professor Thierry Bourgoignie from Université du Québec à Montréal, Faculty of Political Science and Law.

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Footnote 68

The Directory is available online.

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