By Neale McDevitt
Hosting her second Town Hall in as many months, Rosie Goldstein, VP (Research and International Relations), pledged to go to bat for researchers from the humanities and social sciences.
Held on Feb. 28 in the Arts Building, the small but lively meeting centered primarily upon the contentious issue of government funding – or lack thereof – for social sciences and humanities. Traditionally, the bulk of funding is awarded to researchers in the hard sciences, leaving their colleagues in the so-called soft sciences to do more with less.
Asked about her plan to improve the situation, Goldstein asked for researchers’ input so she could gain a fuller understanding of the challenges they face. In areas that weren’t working, Goldstein asked for “positive suggestions for change.”
“We have to identify emerging areas of research strengths – where are those pearls? And where we can, my office has to support you and add value.”
However, she also said that added support should come from within. Goldstein suggested mentoring relationships be developed between experienced faculty members with past success in securing grants and newer faculty.
But once a large grant is landed, what then? More than one person told Goldstein that lack of administrative support within the University meant that faculty members often spend more time fulfilling administrative duties related to their grants than they do actually pursuing their research interests. “Part of my job is to make the University and researchers better equipped and prepared to administer large grants,” said Goldstein. “We must provide best practices in research services so that you have the support, skills and tools you need.”
People also expressed concern that the lagging economy would lead to funding cuts in the already under-represented humanities. Goldstein reassured the audience that research will continue across McGill in all domains. “When we get out of this economy it is going to be the [institutions] that have been doing and building on their research strengths that will be ahead. [The McGill administration] understands this and your senior executive team members are among your strongest advocates.”