English Matters

Targeted Research: What’s Happening to English Studies?

On November 14h, Gisèle Yasmeen, Vice-President, Research, at SSHRC, posted an article in University Affairs, entitled “Whiter Research Priority Areas?” Yasmeen notes that the Council is now in the process of identifying “nascent areas for enquiry and research” for the future. One such area is “Imagining Canada’s Future,” and a link to the SSHRC site for this new area of targeted research explains that “Imaging Canada’s Future” is, to the 2010’s, what “aging, education and work” was to the 1980s, “immigration, education and training, competitiveness and productivity” was to the 1990s, and “the digital economy, the North, aboriginal research, and productivity” was to the first decade of the 2000s. Yasmeen writes in support of SSHRC research funding that covers a “strong, diverse research base,” and the article is generally in support of a funding principle that covers both targeted and curiosity driven research. But given the rise in targeted priority funding within the new SSHRC “architecture,” it seems increasingly clear that the kinds of research we usually do within “English Studies” is not well positioned to play a central role in dynamic Council change. We may continue to get funded, but not likely within the emerging protocols for research innovation.

How should we react? Suggest areas of our own for priority SSHRC targeting? Reinvent ourselves? Protest? Duck and cover?

The article is here:

Whither Research “Priority Areas”?

On November 15th, Gary Mason in the Globe & Mail wrote an ebullient encomium to the University of Calgary, which is now undergoing a major “rebranding” exercise, designed to make the U of C “one of the top five research-intensive universities in Canada by 2016.” Mason reports that the U of C will now target six research areas for future development: brain and mental health; smarter and more secure cities; earth-space technology; engineering solutions for health; energy innovation; and infectious and chronic diseases.” Reports are circulating that alongside this initiative, Calgary’s Faculty of Arts is being given new positions: good news indeed for English Studies! But one might nevertheless wonder: how will English Studies be positioned when targeted development ventures such as this one become normative within Canadian universities? Are we doomed to remain attached to that “curiosity driven” research lumpen, for whom there can be no upward mobility? Are we, at heart, a service profession, whose work is to enable the really exciting areas of research innovation to communicate better?

Mason’s article is here:

Rebranding University of Calgary 

S.S.

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