The federal government is willingly abandoning social sciences and the humanities in favour of business-related research, which could have devastating effects on thousands of students and academics across the country, according the NDP’s post-secondary education critic.
“Scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will be focused on business-related degrees,” reads one line in the Jan. 27 Conservative budget. That’s a statement that has Niki Ashton, the member of Parliament for Churchill, Manitoba, up in arms.
“This is not just an attack on future research, but an attack on research that is actually taking place,” says Ashton. “That the government is stipulating where money from a peer-reviewed, independent research council ought to be spent is wrong.”
When the budget was first released, Ashton says she initially overlooked the detail. However, since starting a petition on her constituency website, she says she has been approached by an “overwhelming” number of academics and students who are concerned what the move will mean for their research in fields including literacy, poverty reduction, education and health care.
So far the petition has gathered more than 17,000 signatures.
The NDP has attacked the decision to direct funds to business-related research as an “abdication” of the goals of the research council and the ideals of a “well-rounded society.”
“This recession will end,” says Ashton, who received a SSHRC grant while studying political economy at Carleton University. “We’re not saying that business doesn’t deserve support, but that this isn’t the way to go about doing it. There should be broad investment in all types of research.”
At a time when the new American administration is putting big money into research, she says it’s an embarrassing choice of words on the part of the feds, but is also setting a dangerous precedent that could give the government of the day an ability to direct funding to disciplines with more political clout.
“We don’t think this is the way to go for Canada,” says Ashton. “It’s only one sentence, but it’s one sentence that says so much.”