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Goodyear under fire for SSHRC interference

June 12, 2009

Science Minister Gary Goodyear has not had a good year. Things are getting worse with recent revelations that he has allegedly interfered in a SSHRC funding decision for political reasons. 

First, the CAUT demanded the Minister’s resignation:

“It’s unprecedented for a minister – let alone a minister from the department that funds the granting councils – to intervene personally with a granting council president to suggest that he review funding for an academic conference,” said CAUT executive director James Turk. “This kind of direct political interference in a funding decision made through an independent, peer-reviewed process is unacceptable and sets a very dangerous precedent.” 

Second, an association that represents more than 50,000 Canadian graduate students also called for the Minister’s resignation in a news release:

“The independence of research granting agencies is a major pillar of our academic system,” said Megan Nicholson, Chairperson of the National Graduate Caucus. “For the Minister to involve himself in the awarding of this funding not only constitutes a dangerous precedent of political interference in the Canadian research community, but it also undermines Canada’s academic reputation abroad.”

Third, individual researchers are taking action. For instance, an academic at Osgoode Hall Law School has written a letter to Dr. Chad Gaffield, President of SSHRC, urging him to decline the Minister’s request to reevaluate funding. I like this approach, since the government seems to have a deaf ear to the concerns of researchers. If the granting agencies are truly arm’s length agencies, they should have the independence to stand up to government meddling. Here’s the letter, with thanks to Leiter Reports:

Dr Chad Gaffield, President
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6G4

Dear President Gaffield,

If the report in the Globe and Mail of 10 June is accurate,  Canada’s
Science Minister, the Hon. Gary Goodyear, “has asked SSHRC president
Chad Gaffield to convene a second peer-review committee to assess if the
[York University] conference is still worthy of public funds….”  :

I hope that this report is inaccurate.  It if is accurate, I very much
hope that you will decline the request to re-review a properly
peer-reviewed proposal for a conference on a timely and important
issue.  In Canada and abroad, senior academics are watching this
controversy with great concern.   I believe it would seriously injure
the independence and mission of the SSHRC, not to mention the value of
academic freedom on which all our work depends, were you to acceed the
this overtly partisan request.
Yours sincerely,

Les Green

Leslie Green
Professor of the Philosophy of Law
University of Oxford
Balliol College, Oxford OX1 3BJ

& Professor of Law
Osgoode Hall Law School

If you want to add your voice, you can also contact Dr. Gaffield by email:


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