Luce Practice-Based Research Pilot Project

Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, IPLAI is undertaking a pilot project of Practice-Based Research (PBR), whereby Faculty Researchers are paired with artists in order to investigate and problematize various issues or topics.

This project will address the gap in our existing understanding of what goes into the production of effective PBR, and will be directed not just at the products of successful PBR, but also at the “how to” of such projects: the design, conceptualization and collaborative process itself. We seek to make headway in addressing questions such as:

  • What sorts of research questions are best approached by PBR?
  • What sort of researchers and artists are best suited to address such questions?
  • How does one go about designing a study grounded in PBR?
  • What modalities of output are best suited to fix such research?
  • How should such researcher/artist collaborations unfold?
  • What are the unique opportunities PBR affords, and what are the unique problems those undertaking such research may face?
  • How can PBR best be integrated into university-based teaching and learning

This year, IPLAI selected two teams of faculty researchers working on the following topics:

  • Using PBR to Recognize the Moral Experience and Agency in the Everyday Lives of Children.
  • PBR and Women in the Psychiatric System in Canada

In addition, IPLAI has selected a Graduate Student Researcher to document the overall process of the pilot, to work with both teams and to draw up conclusions about success, challenges, failures, etc.

Using PBR to Recognized the Moral Experience and Agency in the Everyday Lives of Children

Our PBR will be imbedded in our ethnographic research that seeks to understand the moral experiences of children and to demonstrate their capacities to be actively involved in discussions, decisions, and actions that affect them in their everyday lives. A participatory framework with active stakeholder input throughout all activities permits the inclusion of children; integrating knowledge production and knowledge utilization in all aspects of our work. Various data sources and methods of collection are being used (e.g. key informants, participant observations, interviews, text, and social media). The analyses follow an interpretive process congruent with social constructivism. Our PBR project will entail a close collaboration among members of the research team, the artist(s), stakeholders, partners, and the children to artistically showcase children’s moral experiences. An audit trail, composed primarily of methodological and analytical documentation, will be kept over the course of the PBR project to permit the transferability of this innovation process. This will permit our VOICE team to address the key questions derived by this call for our PBR project such as:

  1. What sorts of research questions are best approached by PBR to understand children’s moral experiences?
  2. How does one go about designing a study grounded in PBR with children as participants and as researchers themselves?
  3. What are the unique opportunities PBR affords to depict children’s moral experiences?
  4. What are potential unique problems undertaking PBR with children (e.g. ethical, methodological, analytical, and/or or artistic representation)?
  5. What types of child-derived data sources are needed for the artist(s) to inform their art piece, exhibit, and/or performance?
  6. How does one artistically represent children’s moral experience from child-derived data sources including children’s own art (e.g. drawings, cellphisms, and photovoice)?
  7. What actions, decisions, or discussions unfold after the art is exhibited? (e.g. How may art lead to action and the promotion of children’s agential capacities?)

Research Team:

Dr. Argerie Tsimicalis is interested in enhancing the supportive care of children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer by addressing the paucity of interventions available. By engaging multi-stakeholders, from onset of research development, Dr. Tsimicalis is seeking to develop, test, and translate innovative approaches to improve the quality of life of persons affected by cancer in a cost-effective manner. Dr. Tsimicalis was the recipient of a CIHR and POGO Fellowship for her doctoral work. For her dissertation, Dr. Tsimicalis conducted a mixed methods study to determine the costs incurred by families with children newly diagnosed with cancer. This important research was awarded research grants from POGO and the Canadian Cancer Society, highlighted in the National Post, disseminated through peer review publications, and used for fundraising activities.  Dr. Tsimicalis began her nursing career at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in the Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and was later transferred to the Centre for Nursing where her role consisted of advancing nursing research initiatives and providing research mentorship to staff and advanced practice nurses.


Dr. Franco Carnavale is an Assistant Director at the Ingram School of Nursing (Master’s Program Director). His academic appointments include: Professor at the Ingram School of Nursing, Associate Member in the Faculty of Medicine (Pediatrics), Adjunct Professor in Counselling Psychology, and Affiliate Member of the Biomedical Ethics Unit, all at McGill University. Dr Carnevale is Chair of the Pediatric Ethics Committee and Associate Member of Pediatric Critical Care at the Montreal Children’s Hospital-McGill University Health Centre, as well as Clinical Ethics Consultant at Le Phare, Enfants et Familles (pediatric hospice and respite care). He is licensed as a nurse and a psychologist.  Dr. Carnevale’s principal areas of research include: pediatric ethics, the experience of critically ill children and their families, and childhood disability.

Maria Ezcurra (MFA, PhD in Art Education) is a visual artist and educator, currently collaborating with Dr. Argerie Tsimicalis and Dr. Franco Carnevale to develop a practice-based research project to recognize the moral experience and agency in the everyday lives of children with OI. This project is supported by IPLAI and the Henry Luce Foundation. At McGill University, Maria has also worked as an Artist-in-Residence and Art-Mediator in the Faculty of Education, where she started the McGill Art Hive Initiative, and is collaborating in the Institute for Human Development and Well-being. Originally from Mexico, Maria obtained a PhD at Concordia University with the first research-creation doctoral project presented at the Department of Art Education. She has participated in numerous individual and group exhibits worldwide, and is currently developing a collaborative art project for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Her research-creation work involves feminist pedagogy, collaborative art practices, dress and activism, identity and immigration, informal education and gendered learning processes.

PBR and Women in the Psychiatric System in Canada

Project Description: 

Medical research, including in psychiatry, has become increasingly dependent on quantifiable outcomes. Both clinical trials and observational comparative studies typically compare averages for some quantifiable outcome within treatment groups, the one with the better mean result recommended as “superior.” A major problem with this paradigm is that what is better on average is not necessarily optimal for each individual. This drawback has long been recognized, and the advent of the personalized medicine movement is testament to this limitation of contemporary medicine. Such attempts, however, cannot consider all aspects of individuality and the personal experience of illness and treatment. Even in psychiatry, where patient experiences play center stage in psychotherapeutic contexts, traditional biomedical approaches to research and therapy necessarily abstract away from the individual.

Therefore, traditional quantitative methods, even when recognizing individual patient experiences and preferences to some degree, do not capture the full extent of their experiences. This is where we believe that an arts-based or practice-based research program may be useful, in exploring where traditional methods fail to go, or perhaps cannot ever go. In psychiatry for example, while personal experiences vary greatly, many consultations with family physicians or psychologists result in a quick decision to treat psychological problems pharmacologically, either owing to increased emphasis on this approach in the scientific literature or expediency due to highly limited resources for other types of therapy. The centrality of the individual perspective has been recognized by medical anthropologists for some time, including in psychiatry, but this work has had relatively little effect on mainstream biomedical research in psychiatry or on clinical practice. Like ethnography, art provides a medium for the expression of the experience of an individual. When the art is made by patients themselves, it proves a unique way of capturing the first-personal perspective, especially when experiences may be difficult to fully capture in standard interview format.

The purpose of this pilot project is to make use of film as a medium of expression for psychiatric patients themselves and as a way of documenting the insights patients achieve in the course of producing works of art that reflect their experience of illness. We hope to capture and expose individual patient experiences in greater detail than is possible using more traditional methods. In turn, a deeper understanding of the patient experience should help in targeting individual encounters with the health care system….to continue reading, download project description here.

Research Team:

Prof. Ian Gold is the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy & Psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal. He completed a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton University and did postdoctoral training at the Australian National University in Canberra. From 2000 to 2006 he was on the faculty of the School of Philosophy & Bioethics at Monash University in Melbourne and returned to McGill in 2006. His research focusses on the theory of delusion in psychiatric and neurological illness and on reductionism in psychiatry and neuroscience. He is the author of research articles in such journals as Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Mind and Language, Consciousness and Cognition, The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, World Psychiatry, Transcultural Psychiatry, Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, and Cognitive Neuropsychiatry. No Mind is an Island, a book co-written with Joel Gold, is due to appear in 2012.

Dr. Lawrence Joseph holds a PhD degree in Statistics and has been a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University since 1990. He is also an Associate Member of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at McGill and a member of CIRMMT (the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology). His main research expertise is in the area of Bayesian design and analysis of medical research studies. He has extensive experience in clinical research with over 400 publications in the medical and statistical literature.

Michaela Grill Studied in Vienna, Glasgow and London (Goldsmith College). Various film- and video works, installations and live visuals since 1999. Performances and screenings on 5 continents at e.g. MOMA NY, National Gallery of Art Washington, Centre Pompidou Paris, Museo Reina Sofia Madrid, La Casa Encendida Barcelona, ICA London and many cinematheques. Her videos were screened at over 150 festivals worldwide. Received the Outstanding Artist Award by the Austrian Ministry of Art & Culture in 2010 and the State Scholarship for Media Art in 2015. Currently living and working in Vienna and Montréal.