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COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

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Research Innovators

At Spark, we get so excited about the work some researchers are doing that we keep calling until they agree to come share some of their magic with us.Here are a couple of those that blew us away with their research innovations large and small.


Drs. Carisa Showden and Karen Nairn 

These two amazing women were doing community based research with Maori communities in New Zealand and realized that the standard process of informed consent, where people agree to everything all upfront, didn’t work with the trust-building process in community-engaged research.  So they worked with their ethics board to develop “rolling consent”.  We brought representation from MREB to the conversation, and they said, ‘yes, we can do rolling consent too!’ 

Link to Dr. Showden and Dr. Nairn's presentation.

Photos of Dr. Karen Nairn (left) and Dr. Carisa Showden (right)

Dr. Yotam Shmargad

Dr. Shmargad is interested in how ideas spread on Twitter.  Finding that the Twitter API didn’t meet all his needs, he began bootstrapping methods to track the impact of tweets.  If you are interested in dissemination of ideas through social media, his work could be a real inspiration. 

Link to Dr. Shmargad's presentation.

Photo of Dr. Yotam Shmargad

Ms. Shonta’ Allen and Mr. Allen Santinelle Martino

Many of us recognize the importance of intersectionality, and the tensions that can exist within our own identities.  But it’s not as common to engage subjects in deep reflection on those intersections.  Ms. Allen has focused her PhD research on digging deep into Black Christian millennials understanding of their identities as Black and as Christian in an era where those can feel at odds politically.  Mr. Martino has explored the tension that can exist in the identities of those with disabilities as sexual beings.  Like Ms. Allen, he digs deep into the experience of those experiencing life at the intersection of these identities.    

Link to Ms. Allen's presentation.

Link to Mr. Martino's presentation. 


Photos of Ms. Shonta' Allen (left) and Mr. Allen Santinelle Martino (right)




Request Access to Qualtrics

Spark manages the Faculty of Social Science Qualtrics licenses.  If you are an FSS researcher who would like to use a license, please fill out this form and we will be in touch.  Our priority will be researchers with survey designs that do not work as well in Limesurvey.  Particularly, Qualtrics does a superior job with

  • experimental designs including split samples and randomization;
  • providing access to respondent panels in countries around the world; 
  • longitudinal tracking

Request use of a qualtrics license

Software Pooling

Researchers at McMaster purchase much of their research software with personal development and grant funds.  We at Spark get the question regularly, "can I pool software licenses with another researcher".  Now you can.  Fill out this form and we will reach out if we can match you with others looking to pool licenses.

Link to Google Form

Qualitative Guide

There is a lot of specialized software out there but for the most part, qualitative researchers at some point need a survey software, and may need a qualitative data analysis software.  If you are considering using a more specialized qualitative research software or have specialized needs for survey or data analysis software, get in touch and we’re happy to do some research and give you options. 

Learn more

Quantitative Guide

Quantitative analysis software basically breaks into two buckets.  There is a real trade-off between these commercial and open source software.  Commercial software is built on relatively easy to use user interfaces that reduce or eliminate your need to write code.  Open source software is a collection of tools built by different developers to do different kinds of functions, all with transparent code.  There are more bugs and quirks, but these also tend to be more flexible and where newer kinds of analysis show up first; commercial software often lags behind and limits changes to parameters.  

Learn more

Insights from the Relevant Research Series (2020 - 2021)

In 2020-21, Spark Centre co-hosted with the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship a monthly SSHRC-funded workshop series focused on improving research communication or knowledge mobilization to reach the public and policy audiences. Each virtual workshop combined asynchronous with synchronous workshop content across the entire knowledge mobilization cycle.

November 2020: Plan to Communicate

How many times have you committed to sharing your research with the public while not quite knowing how? Mihaela Gruia from Research Retold joins us from the UK for a two-part workshop series on developing a communications plan. Learn to effectively share research findings with a broad range of audiences. Videos and related materials are below.


December 2020: Mental Models, Trust, & the Translation of Science

This workshop with Dr. Brian Southwell explores the latest understanding of how social and political opinions are formed and re-formed, and the implications for how researchers should think about designing the message that communicates their work.


January 2021: Telling data-driven stories: Lessons from Journalism

Data journalism is the marriage of data analysis, visualization, and public interest storytelling, where datasets and reproducible analysis methods inform (and are informed by) the development and communication of a compelling narrative. Canadian data journalism pioneer Roberto Rocha (CBC/Radio-Canada ) has built us a series of complete-at-your-own-pace pace modules to help you apply these skills to your research. This will be followed by a Live Q&A session on-January, 28, 2021 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm ET. Register to attend!


March 2021: Design principles for data visualization

Juan Velasco, data journalist and founder of 5W Infographics, will lead two synchronous learning sessions. In the first session, he will explain why data visualization is important and discuss design principles for effective communication. Participants will then have access to additional videos and exercises to apply the design principles to their own visualization. In the second sessions, participant designs will be reviewed and discussed, and Juan will discuss several different tools that are available for researchers to make their own visualizations. Registration information will be available soon!


April 2021: TBA

Organized in partnership with Sherman Centre and with funding from the SSHRC.  

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Finding Your Team

Sometimes finding the right collaborator makes all the difference.

If you are looking for a collaborator, student, or research project to engage in, please fill out this google form and we will help match you.

Sign up here

Virtual CoLab

Spark: a centre for research innovation has built Virtual CoLab - an online community for all faculty, grad students and research staff within Social Sciences.  Built to mimic our physical coworking space in LR Wilson Hall, it is a place to work on research together, share information, have fun, and get to know more people with the social sciences research community both at Mac and elsewhere.

The community is built in Slack and will be maintained throughout the pandemic. 

A detailed how to for navigating the community is available here.

Join Here