Defeat of peer review
Fundamental research at Canadian universities
used to operate under a small-business model.
An enterprising young researcher could attract
grant support based on his or her own abilities and
scientific record. This operational model not only
allowed Canadian science to compete at the
highest levels with anyone on the planet but was
also likely the most cost-effective way to do so.
This all began to change with the introduction of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
This well-intentioned program initially provided
a tremendous stimulus to Canadian science by
providing a mechanism for renewing infrastructure which had suffered from decades of under-funding.
Regrettably, university administrators quickly
learned that they could exert a previously unimagined
level of control over the research conducted at their
institutions through the CFI program because,
in order to be funded, the research proposals had
to fit within the university’s “strategic plan.” Any
researcher or group of researchers whose work
lay outside the institution’s plan had no chance
of being funded. University administrators also
instituted a pre-selection process wherein proposals would be sent forward to CFI only if they
satisfied local political criteria, rather than being
chosen for their scientific merit.
This system might have been tolerated initially
because researchers had other means for securing
scientific infrastructure support, though perhaps
at a more modest level. The demise of the research
tools and instruments program of the Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council means
that the only way that researchers engaged in
fundamental research can obtain the expensive
equipment necessary to carry out their research
is through the CFI program, that is, through their
university’s administration. Who would have
imagined that the peer review system would be
defeated in this perverse fashion?
James H. Davis
Dr. Davis is professor emeritus with the department of physics at
the University of Guelph.
the canadian pse system will be a little bit
worse off now that Doug Owram is officially
retiring from university administration (“From
the administrator’s chair,” June-July issue). I felt
that way when he left the University of Alberta’s
provost role, and I feel it now that he is leaving
UBC-Okanagan (though I have never been to
UBC-O). Doug has been a tremendous influence
on, and role model to, a number of us who had the
pleasure to work with him (and spar with him)
over the years. I suspect I join many others in
wishing Doug the best, and sincerely hoping he
enjoys life “post-administration,” which will hopefully still include some writing that I suspect he
hasn’t had the time to focus on over the years!
Mr. Wuetherick is program director at the Gwenna Moss Centre
for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Saskatchewan.
He is a former student leader and academic staff member at the
University of Alberta.
A privileged space for some
in his letter published in the June-July issue
reacting to my opinion column, “Sexual identity:
let’s get it all out on campus” (University Affairs,
April), Michael Murdock makes several points
that I’d like to address.
To his “wonder[ing] if it has occurred to Gerald Walton that many people are put off by
homosexuality and lesbianism,” I have several
questions for him. Did it occur to Mr. Murdock
that I’ve had to put up with other people’s discomfort for most of my life and so I know exactly
what I’m talking about? Did it occur to Mr. Murdock that his and other people’s discomfort is
not my problem? Did it occur to Mr. Murdock
that nowhere in my article did I discuss “
homosexuality.” I spoke only about same-sex relationships. Mr. Murdock would do well to learn the
difference. Finally, did it occur to Mr. Murdock
that the fact that some people feel uncomfortable
is the reason I wrote the article in the first place?
To ask whether it has occurred to me indicates
Mr. Murdock’s profound ignorance on the issues.
On his point that I should “not be surprised
if people turn away or shake their heads if you
choose to present homosexual behavior,” I can
say that I am not surprised and never said that I
was. I said only that the straight majority needs to
be educated on how their privilege operates in
social space, an education which Mr. Murdock
clearly needs. To describe the public expression
of relationships as “homosexual behaviour” is
demeaning and dismissive. To describe our relationships as “friendships” is also demeaning. I
wonder how Mr. Murdock would feel if I described
his relationship with his wife as a “friendship.”
On loving his wife, Mr. Murdock is free to
use the “wife” word. (I cleared up this issue in a
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Melonie Fullick analyzes higher
education policy and practice.