Goodyear’s office allegedly threatened SSHRC over funding decision
Gary Goodyear’s political interference in a SSHRC funding decision reached further than previously thought, with the Science Minister’s chief of staff threatening to withhold future funding increases based on SSHRC’s decision to fund a contentious conference.
At the time, the brouhaha surrounding the York University Israel/Palestine conference led Minister Goodyear to issue a controversial public demand for a second round of peer review of the funding decision. Goodyear also allegedly telephoned SSHRC president Chad Gaffield directly to discuss the funding decision, a major breach of the arm’s length relationship supposed to exist between the government and the agency. The perceived political interference led a number of prominent academic groups to call for the minister’s resignation.
Now, it seems the behind-the-scenes political interference was more intense, with a senior member of the Minister’s office threatening to withhold SSHRC funding increases if the agency didn’t comply with the Minister’s demand.
According to an email obtained through an Access to Information request submitted by the CAUT, Goodyear’s chief of staff Phillip Welford told SSHRC communications director Trevor Lynn: “this is a serious issue and is so serious that it will make it hard for the Minister to recommend increased funding for SSHRC in the next budget”. The email was addressed to SSHRC president Chad Gaffield and was written by Lynn to alert SSHRC staff about the Minister’s forthcoming public statement about a second round of peer review.
CAUT executive director James Turk is quoted on the CAUT website:
This email raises serious questions about how decisions are made about federal government funding for academic granting councils. Minister Goodyear must be called upon to explain his chief of staff’s actions, and if he cannot provide an adequate explanation, Prime Minister Harper must safeguard the integrity of academic research in Canada by asking for the minister’s resignation.
The Globe and Mail has also picked up this story, and notes that SSHRC refused to perform a second round of peer review, and instead asked organizers to provide an update – as per SSHRC policies. This decision has no doubt left SSHRC waiting for the political fallout in the next budget. “They must be scared to death”, says Turk.
Certainly, Goodyear is going to have to address this issue. Using threats to influence SSHRC decisions demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the academic community and for the peer-review process. I wholeheartedly endorse the CAUT’s call for accountability.
The CAUT has posted the emails in question on their website (.pdf).