Yet, that’s exactly what bureaucrats want you to feel. “You are the only one complaining. You are isolating your community…”. That’s what they said when 336 mathematical scientists, 27 Canada Research Chairs and 35 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada wrote NSERC’s President about the flaws in the new system at Discovery. The Astronomy community also wrote and they were met with the same “Everybody loves it! Stop complaining, it’s you not us”. That’s what the physicists, who are writing next week (stay tuned) will hear. And that’s what UBC’s computer scientists and engineers will be told after their forum (next Monday) on NSERC’s new ways. There is nothing further from the truth, because when a system produces “a decline in both fairness and trust” (as the Physicists will be saying), all decent and serious scientists in the country feel it, if not react to it, simultaneously. You are not alone!
Bureaucrats sometimes bring their own statistics to show you that you are “alone”. Last summer, it was reported that in a quite provocative and still embargoed presentation to the CMS membership (see below), NSERC’s President, Suzanne Fortier, asserted that 90% of the Evaluation Group (EG) members in the first two years thought that the new system (for NSERC’s Discovery Grants) worked better than the old system. Yet by last year, at least on EG 1508, 60% of the EG signed an open letter to NSERC’s President expressing serious concern about the outcome of the 2011 competition.
Keep in mind that you can be framed to be alone, even when they admit that “only” 80% of scientists were happy with the previous system, hence the need to scrap it and implement a new one.
And good luck asking for the number of appeals that NSERC received after last year’s competition. How many were approved? How many denied? So much for Minister Tony Clement’s call for federal government transparency. The colleague who extracted the numbers for the DG 201o competition likened it to experiences reported from the offices of 19th century dentists. This year’s numbers surely dwarf the preceding one, and extracting them from NSERC cannot be for the faint of heart. Why? because you are supposed to feel that you are “alone” in appealing!
And have you heard, O spirited descendants of Euclid and Pythagoras that
— you are “alone” in having your success rates out of line with other disciplines.
–the members of your Evaluation Group are “alone” in practicing `bin’ grade inflation.
–You are “alone in failure” because your discipline has 9.5% of the Discovery Grant holders, but only 5.4% of the CRCs
All these statements (and more) were reported to have been made last summer in a public powerpoint presentation by NSERC’s President, Suzanne Fortier, to the Canadian Mathematical Society in Edmonton. We are told that the Long Range Plan (LRP) Committee has eventually received a copy of that presentation but has been instructed to not release it to the public. What gives?
Stay tuned for an upcoming series of blogposts, where various guest bloggers will show you that … You are not alone!