Top Ten

October 28, 2014

uAlberta faculty concerned about proposed changes to budgeting

Faculty at the University of Alberta say that they are concerned about the impact of a new model of budgeting that is expected to go into effect as early as the spring. The “Responsibility Centre Budgeting” approach will reportedly see administration allocate specific amounts to each faculty to cover all expenses, including salaries; individual faculties would be responsible for covering any additional costs not met. While proponents say that the move could help PSE institutions operate more efficiently and encourage faculties to find new funding sources, critics argue that such a model will lead to competition rather than collaboration between faculties and that it will favour faculties that have historically been the recipients of large corporate donations. Some also say that the new model will take deans out of the faculty association, making it more difficult for them to speak out. uAlberta President Indira Samarasekera dismissed such concerns, saying that the changes are “not as drastic” as some are saying. Still, Kevin Kane, President of the uAlberta Faculty Association said that there remains “significant concern.” “The concern is some faculties will expand and be vibrant and others, just as valuable to society, will stagnate,” he said. Edmonton Journal

UPEI Student Union presses government to include PSE institutions under freedom of information legislation

The University of Prince Edward Island Student Union is trying to convince the provincial government that UPEI should be subject to Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection (FOIPP) legislation. According to Student Union President Lucas MacArthur, PEI is the only province in which PSE institutions cannot be subject to freedom of information act requests. “This obviously is an issue that troubles us, as roughly half of UPEI’s operating budget is using public dollars yet there are no FOIPP obligations for the institution,” MacArthur said. He added, "we don’t believe there is necessarily anything that’s going on in the university that has anything to do with wrongdoing"; nevertheless, the student union feels that any institution relying on public money should be subject to the legislation. Under PEI’s FOIPP legislation, any member of the public can submit an information request; if the request is denied, there is an opportunity to appeal. UPEI currently allows student and staff to submit information requests to a privacy officer, but there is no oversight or means for appeal if the request is rejected. The Guardian (PEI)

uCalgary, uAlberta at odds over uCalgary’s claim to be Canada’s energy university

Administrators at the University of Alberta are upset by a new University of Calgary ad campaign that describes uCalgary as “Canada’s energy university.” According to the Edmonton Journal, uAlberta board Chair Doug Goss told the board Friday, “the claim that they (U of C) are Canada’s energy university is nothing short of preposterous and ridiculous and insulting to all the work that goes on here.” Goss further noted that the research done at uCalgary “pales in comparison” to that done at uAlberta. uAlberta President Indira Samarasakera pointed to an MOU signed by AB’s 3 research universities (including the University of Lethbridge) to collaborate on energy research. The decade-old MOU is still in effect, she said. uCalgary issued a statement highlighting the “great work” done by Campus Alberta institutions. “To dismiss what we do and what the U of L does as not having a role diminishes this province,” said Samarasekera. Goss added, “it’s not helpful to the province and to collaboration and certainly not helpful to Campus Alberta and playing on our strengths when we propose to insult each other, that’s what it is—insulting.” Edmonton Journal

UVic immersed in “blue economy”

A recent article in the Victoria Times-Colonist highlights the involvement of the University of Victoria in the emerging “blue economy” of global marine-based business. UVic is home to the NEPTUNE and VENUS ocean observatories, underwater cable networks that deliver a wide range of data to researchers. VENUS and NEPTUNE are operated by UVic-based Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), which has recently launched the ONC Innovation Centre, designed to explore commercial applications for NEPTUNE and VENUS technology, with the goal of becoming self-sustainable. Based on the management agreement in place between ONC and UVic, revenue generated through the Innovation Centre will go first to cover the centre’s expenses, then to cover the expenses of the ONC; any remaining revenue will go to the university itself. “What the centre is established to do is help Canadian industry grow and tap into that international market,” said ONC President Kate Moran. Victoria Times-Colonist 

New UoGuelph President committed to comprehensive focus for institution

In an interview with the Guelph Mercury, new University of Guelph President Franco Vaccarino emphasized his intention to maintain the institution’s comprehensive focus, even in the wake of its strategic mandate agreement with the provincial government. “Our comprehensiveness is critical to our future … we need all those areas firing on all cylinders and working together in fresh and exciting ways,” he said. He acknowledged that the institution is going through what he described as a “tough” period—the Mercury notes that UoGuelph is facing a $24 M deficit—but added that while fiscal stability will be crucial if the university is to be prepared to capitalize on future opportunities, fixating too narrowly on fiscal challenges can detract from “serious planning for those moments of opportunity that will emerge.” Kelly Meckling, President of the UoGuelph Faculty Association, noted that Vaccarino’s commitment to comprehensiveness may “require push back” against the province. She also said that with “so many transitions in the administration,” many in the university community are still waiting to hear about what will happen with proposed cutsGuelph Mercury

Op-ed says that basic research is critical for innovation, not opposed to it

Martha Crago, VP Research at Dalhousie University, has co-authored an op-ed for the Globe and Mail with Rivka Carmi, President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, that considers the role of basic and applied research in supporting economic stability. They say that in a period of economic uncertainty, there is often a push toward innovation and applied research; however, they argue that the debate between innovation and basic foundational research “presents a false choice.” They contend that basic research is critical to innovation, noting that the path from fundamental, curiosity-driven research to innovation is rarely clear or straight. “To say that foundational research is indispensable for scientific breakthroughs is fully compatible with promoting innovation,” they write. They also cite programs at Dal and at Ben-Gurion University that help promote entrepreneurial thinking in graduates, as well as the work of technology transfer offices, science and technology parks, and business partnerships; they moreover emphasize the importance of partnerships between universities such as that between Dal and Ben-GurionGlobe and Mail

Faculty associations must change course to meet new challenges in PSE

An article in Academic Matters, published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, considers the past and future role of faculty associations in Canadian PSE. Authors Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage argue that recent transformations in the structure of the university mean that faculty associations are more vital than ever; however, faculty associations must change to meet new challenges. Ross and Savage say that increased competitive pressures and a move toward a corporate approach to university governance have led to the marginalization of faculty in the decision-making process as well as an increase in precarious, contract- or project-based teaching and research positions. They say that it is incumbent upon faculty associations to move past a “tried and true approach to faculty unionism” that is “characterized by a narrow focus on members’ economic interests” and focus instead on changing the workplace itself, as well as on breaking down the wall between “union issues” and “academic issues.” Ross and Savage also call for further cooperation between groups that share faculty association interests. Academic Matters

Danish universities resist internationalization in protest of program cutbacks

2 universities in Denmark are refusing to sign an annual “development contract” with the country’s education ministry, a move that in effect means that they will not enrol new international students. The contract was intended to increase internationalization at Danish universities; however, Copenhagen University and the University of Southern Denmark say that they cannot sign the agreement as long as they are also being forced to reduce the number of seats for Danish students in some programs. The universities had recently been forced by the government to reduce the intake of Danish students in some master’s programs from 2015 onward; CopenhagenU Prorector Lykke Friis noted that there currently were not enough study places for domestic bachelor’s candidates who had graduated and had a right to further education. “If the government is reducing the number of Danish students to be admitted, there are no places for foreign students,” the universities said in a statement. The cuts targeted programs that the ministry said had poor job prospects. “Denmark is not going to educate for unemployment,” said Education Minister Sofie Carsten Nielsen. University World News (Cuts) | University World News (Refusal)

Campus IT must prepare for impact of the Internet of Things

The rise of the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT)—a term that refers to the increasingly wide range of devices, appliances, sensors, and other machines that are connected online—will have a big impact on campus IT infrastructure. Technology research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be 26 B units connected as part of the IoT, up 30-fold from 2009. This explosive growth will lead to a substantially increased burden on campus servers, storage, networking, and security, and PSE institutions need to plan to deal with enormous resource demand. The IoT will require a move away from centralized data centres and toward a more distributed approach to IT infrastructure. According to Gartner VP and Analyst Joe Skorupa, “the IoT threatens to generate massive amounts of input data from sources that are globally distributed. Transferring the entirety of that data to a single location for processing will not be technically and economically feasible.” Institutions will also need to “harden” their security methods to contend with the sheer number of devices that will have network access, from webcams to garage door openers. Bandwidth demand will also continue to accelerate, compounded by the number of end-user devices operating on campus. Campus Technology

You won't believe what this professor is doing to improve public engagement with his research

Mark Marino, a professor at the University of Southern California, has published a “listicle” on the popular site Buzzfeed arguing that researchers should write more Buzzfeed-style articles. While the listicle seems to be humourous—it includes memes, animated gifs, and cat pictures—Marino is sincere. He is trying to create a new journal, BuzzAdemia, to disseminate similar types of scholarship. “As newspapers fall to a new level on the hierarchy of information, people are at least spending some time on other sorts of sites to gather information … This is going to be an important area for academics to try to engage and try to translate their ideas,” he said. He hopes that research will be shared not via a central site, but through existing publishing platforms. He says he expects resistance, but argues that such publications can serve as useful supplements to traditional scholarly publishing venues. He says that publishing articles on Buzzfeed and other sites can reach a much larger audience of non-academics who would be unlikely to otherwise encounter academic research. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Buzzfeed