English Matters

Canada 150 Research Chairs: Backgrounder

by Manina Jones, President of ACCUTE


Several ACCUTE members have inquired about the new Canada 150 Research Chairs, and, particularly because this is a program that has unfolded very swiftly over the summer months, I thought it might be helpful to touch base with ACCUTE members across the country and solicit opinions and further information about how individual institutions are approaching the C150RCs, and how conversations about the chairs are taking place at different universities, especially as they relate to literary and cultural studies.

The Canada 150 Research Chairs program was announced on  March 22nd in the 2017 Federal Budget:

In recognition of the importance of research excellence and in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, approximately 25 Canada 150 Research Chairs will be created to attract top-tier international scholars and researchers to Canada and enhance Canada’s reputation as a global centre for innovation, science and research excellence. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $117.6 million over eight years for these new chairs, funded with resources within the existing Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

They were formally introduced on June 21st by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan. The process has admittedly taken place quickly: “the recruitment of these chairs is designed to be fast,” the announcement said. Institutions produced postings by July, which stipulated university application deadlines of late July to early August.

The Canada 150 Chairs are a Tri-agency (SSHRC, NSERC, CHIR) initiative, intended as a one-time investment to help hire 15-35 “internationally-based” scholars (either non-Canadians or Canadians currently working outside Canada) to boost Canada’s role as a “global centre for science, research and innovation excellence.” The stated intent of the chairs is to support all disciplines of research, including the social sciences and humanities; the program was lauded by the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences in their budget review.

There has been a flurry of postings from universities across Canada since early July; the descriptions of the positions vary widely, from ads open to any discipline in any faculty, to targeted strategic areas of focus, to specific disciplines or institutional/departmental clusters. They all have short deadlines and will be working to a program deadline of September 15th for forwarding completed proposals and candidates to the C150RC program. From a quick survey of the various ads, it’s not clear what the various internal university processes were for identifying areas, or what they will be for reviewing and forwarding applications.

Some criticisms and questions about the Chairs have circulated around the haste with which the program has proceeded, the stipulation that hiring be from outside Canada, and in a time when we have so much unsupported research potential at home. While there is no restriction on career stage for the chairs, the two categories of the Canada 150 Research Chairs ($350,000/year and $1M/year), suggest that rather than cultivating research appointments from the bottom up among new PhDs, the program will stimulate appointments at the level of top-tier (i.e., high-salary and high dollar-value) researchers and research projects, possibly with private sector partners. The program is certainly well-timed to take advantage of the political climate in the US and UK, when leading researchers may consider their careers better pursued outside those countries. Diversity has been recognized as an important element of proposals. I’m hopeful that in practice, universities will respect the comma in the goal statement of making Canada a “centre for science, research and innovation” and will target cutting-edge scholars in the humanities.

To confirm or contest this hope, or to provide further information, please contribute to ACCUTE’s blog, social media, or more directly by email (info.accute@gmail.com), especially about what discussions are taking place at your own institution, and what kinds of appointments have been advertised and go forward. I hope this communication is helpful.

Keep in touch,

Manina Jones

with thanks for research by Mohammed Sharifi

See also:

2017 Federal Budget (March 22, 2017)

News Release: Competition opens for new Canada 150 Research Chairs Program offering more than $117 million to attract top international research talent (21 June 2017)

Universities Canada OpEd by U of Toronto President (27 March, 2017)

Regina Leader-Post OpEd by Raymond B. Blake (27 July 2017)

Kirsty Duncan’s response to Blake’s OpEd (28 July 2017)

Government of Canada News Release New Research Chairs program will bring the world’s brightest talent to Canadian campuses (3 April 2017)

Ivan Semaniuk in the Globe and Mail: Federal budget positions Canada to lure scientists from U.S. and Britain (23 March 2017)



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