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Supporting a greener future for Research & Innovation Advancement at IWK Health

Two women work at computers with bankers boxes of paper surrounding them.

No photocopier, no problem: paper-based processes are a thing of the past for the Research & Innovation Advancement (RIA) office at IWK Health.

“All our activities are now handled in a secure electronic environment,” says IWK Health Research & Innovation Advancement Director, Kathleen Leadon. “This is no small feat when understanding that historically around the globe, research administration processes typically produced huge quantities of paper storage and waste.”

Drafts, funding submissions, regulatory reviews, grant agreements, amendments, audit documentation: these are just some of the printed requirements over the lifespan of a project with the old paper approach.

For the average research proposal, an estimated four trees at minimum are consumed per project – often considerably more.

“Now remember, this is just for the administration of the project, not the implementation, conduct and dissemination of the study itself,” Leadon adds. “With an average of 800 studies at the IWK each year, that’s thousands of trees. It’s easy to see why we’re so excited to be moving this initiative forward.”

Great strides have been made in becoming a totally paperless office, however The Incremental Project Grant (IPG) – part of the Government of Canada’s Research Support Fund (RSF) – has enabled RIA to make the final push toward achieving its goal.

“With funding secured through our 2023 - 2024 project grant, RIA was able to create a multi-unit data handling, advancement and transformation centre,” Leadon explains. “This work is transforming the paper driven culture of research administration into a site of innovation.”

One component of this multi-unit project is the RIA Data Transformation Unit. Work is already underway with RSF-IPG funded high-speed scanners to digitize and preserve historical documentation.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, reclaiming offsite storage, document review, vetting, digitization, and destruction,” says Leadon. “We currently have 145 trees – 580 banker boxes –standing by, waiting to be put to rest.”

The reduction of the RIA office’s carbon footprint has become a reality and will now be easily maintained going forward into a paperless – and much greener – future.