As the University of Calgary continues its drive toward the top five universities in Canada in terms of scholarship, creativity and research, which faculties are getting the better end of the bargain?
In the 2001-2002 Fact Book by theU of C's Office of Institutional Analysis, discrepancies in the amounts of external funding for the sciences and engineering as opposed to the social sciences and humanities are noted.
The OIA Fact Book stated that in the 2001-02 fiscal year, sciences received $25,909 and engineering $14,825 in external funding while social sciences collected $4,688 and Humanities $1,805. This trend has continued for years.
Most funding comes from the three research granting councils that are funded by the federal government; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
NSERC's proposed granting and scholarship budget for 2002-2003 is $649.6 million. SSHRC's granting budget is projected $189.4 million.
Pierre-Yves Mocquais, Dean of Humanities said some faculties like sciences, engineering and medicine are more dependent on extended funding than others. These faculties require more expensive equipment to carry out projects, whereas research in the Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences require extended amounts of time rather than high levels of funding.
"The hard sciences tend to be more expensive," said Dr. Dennis E. Salahub, U of C Vice-President Research. "Historically, science and engineering seemed to need the injection of research funding and the federal government took that on."
According to Dr. Robert E. Woodrow, Vice-Dean of Planning and Research in the Faculty of Science, while NSERC does infuse funding into science research, it only provides about half of the necessary funding. The other 50 per cent comes from other external sources, including the Alberta government, other institutes and organizations related to science research, and industries and businesses.
"Because of the special expertise that exists in the department, industries have an interest in carrying out research at the university," Woodrow suggested.
Woodrow also said that within the sciences, finding funding is more difficult for some areas than others.
"The money is structured, you can't just borrow some from over here and put it over here," Woodrow stated.
Space is a also limiting factor. In order to finance more projects and increase research in the faculty, more space and time is needed.
Research in the natural sciences and engineering took flight after the Second World War, with health and medicinal research quickly following. For the humanities and social sciences, however, it is just beginning.
"We struggle for funding, sometimes recognition, or for recognition outside of the faculty at least. We're doing all we can to ensure our strengths are confirmed," said Douglas Walker, Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Humanities.
"Clearly, our strengths are in the area of understanding what it means to be human. We have contributions to
make across the board," he added.
According to Walker, the humanities are fundamentally important, but are sometimes misunderstood in purpose and go unrecognized.
"If increased recognition were available, I assume increased funding would follow," Walter articulated. "We have things of value and we should promote them."
In October 2001, according to the SSHRC Standard Research Grant Commission, out of 14 humanities applications, six were granted awards and six were put on a waiting list. Those six applicants were judged of sufficient scholarly merit to be funded, but SSHRC could not provide adequate funding, which Walker attributed to underfunding.
"There is chronic overcrowding and an increased interest in research productivity," Walker said. "The resources and time necessary to undertake significant projects is harder and harder to find."
In addition to seeking research funding from the federal research councils, the Alberta Science and Research Authority also funds projects in the province. Also, within the
U of C, competitive internal funding is given to researchers for various purposes.
Woodrow said that internal funding is primarily a starting point in seeking funding.
"It's really relatively smaller in nature," he suggested. However, it does provide a good start and is an important area of research funding for students.
While the Alberta Science and Research Authority is in place to provide funding in the province, it is a funding mechanism that is primarily for science and technology research. Currently, there is no research council at the provincial level for the humanities and social sciences. Mocquais suggests that implementation of a provincial research council for humanities and social sciences would be beneficial.
According to Mocquais, funding from other external sources not related to any government institutions is also available for humanities research. For example, there are agencies elsewhere, and international funding that is accessible, but more difficult to obtain.
Recently, with interest turning to multidisciplinary research, a cross-section of many faculties are being used together in an increasing number of research projects.
"We're calling more and more of the social sciences," Salahub articulated. "Building that interface will help build tools on both sides. I can see the hard sciences becoming softer. People on the social sciences side of things are becoming 'harder,' meaning that aspects are becoming more qualitative."
Salahub suggests a multidisciplinary view of education and a new take on research.
"You really need to know one subject very well, in depth," he said. "At the same time, take some time to see what other disciplines are doing. Know something well, but look around. It takes time and effort, but it's rewarding. Breadth without sacrificing depth."