04 February 2009

A Letter to My MP, Copied to Ignatieff and Harper, Concerning SSHRC Funding in the Budget

Dear Dr. Bennett,

I have recently been made aware of a proposal in the budget bill currently before Parliament concerning funding provisions for the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Specifically, the wording appears to stipulate that the temporary additional funding for an additional 500 doctoral, and 1000 master's scholarships be "be focussed on business-related degrees," (unless the wording is taken literally as written, which would direct ALL SSHRC grants to business-related degrees – I cannot believe that any Canadian politician would be that short-sighted with regard to the future of Canadian research).

My concern is that the such a stipulation would, with one broad brush, prejudge the usefulness and innovation of research that is conducted throughout the academy, that happens not to be located in business schools. My own case is illustrative. I am now completing a PhD in the department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Technically speaking, my degree would not be business-related. However, my specific research, "A Valence Theory of Organization," is fundamental to the future of all business and management education, and has great potential for reconceiving the basic premises of business management and leadership itself. (I essentially ask and answer the question, "why haven't we updated the foundations of management education, and principles of leadership, motivation, innovation, etc. for over 100 years?") Details of my research can be found on my weblog (address below) under the label "Valence Theory of Organization." I am currently publishing aspects of my research, even prior to completing my thesis, and have been invited to speak to many audiences, including international audiences of CEOs, and other business leaders.

Under the proposed provisions of the budget, it seems that my research would not be eligible to apply for the additional SSHRC funding, since my degree is in education, although my research is not. Similarly, there is considerable research performed throughout other social science disciplines that are not strictly related to "business degrees," yet have direct applicability to the future wellbeing of Canadians, and Canadian businesses, communities, governance, and our collective ability to thrive in a complex, contemporary world. What is needed - indeed, demonstrated and supported by my own research - is more extensive and diverse approaches and thinking, that will in turn create the most success, innovation, and ability to appropriately react to complex challenges. Narrowly focusing SSHRC funding to favour business degrees is an example of "Industrial Age," deterministic thinking – the type of thinking that is entirely inappropriate and counterproductive in our complex world.

I urge you, as the Member of Parliament who represents me in Ottawa, to work with your Liberal caucus colleagues to remove this limiting provision of the budget, now that it is in committee.

Mark Federman, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology
OISE, University of Toronto

Resident of St. Paul's riding.

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