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Goodyear addresses SSHRC controversy, parrots SSHRC

October 16, 2009

In an interview with The Hill Times, Ottawa’s political weekly, Minister of Science, etc. addresses the SSHRC funding controversy that simmered this summer. In an “email interview” (download) largely focused on policy, the Hill Times asked the Minister for a response to calls for his resignation. The Minister’s response:

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has acknowledged that the email in question is inaccurate. It has also indicated that it is fully satisfied with its handling of the matter, as an arm’s length agency, as it is consistent with SSHRC policies and procedures and with its responsibilities as a steward of public funds.

Goodyear continues:

As a steward of public funds, SSHRC is expected and committed to look into concerns about how awards are being administered. That is why my office informed SSHRC of public concerns we had received regarding the York conference. In accordance with established postaward policies and procedures, and in light of public discussion, SSHRC requested information from the grant holder to assure that conference planning was proceeding in a manner consistent with SSHRC policies and procedures.

While the minister endorses the “independent, arm’s-length” role of SSHRC, his response is awfully similar to SSHRC’s press release, posted Oct. 3 on the SSHRC website:

As stewards of public funds, SSHRC is expected and committed to look into concerns about how awards are being administered. Last Spring, the Minister’s office informed SSHRC of public concerns that they had received regarding a conference at York University… As per its policies and procedures and in light of public discussion, SSHRC requested information from the grant holder in the context of post award procedures as stated in the Grant Holder’s Guide for the Aid to Research Workshops and Conferences program.

Just a coincidence that the Minister’s email interview response and the statement released by an arm’s length funding agency are virtually identical?

Either the Minister’s office is guilty of copy-and-paste from the agency’s website, which would be lazy and incompetent, or else someone is composing the message for both SSHRC and the Minister, which is direct interference. Either way, it certainly makes a mockery of the “arm’s length” relationship between the Minister and the agency.

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