Open Access

Christine Jewell, University of Waterloo Library

Do you follow developments in the Open Access (OA) movement? If so, you’ll have heard the exciting news on the Canadian front.  This past October, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) together launched a consultation on a harmonized open access policy.

The agencies are aiming for a policy that is in tune with global trends toward open access of scholarly literature, specifically, peer-reviewed journal publications arising from publicly funded research. The consultation document, entitled the Draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy, is modeled after the CIHR Open Access Policy that has been in place since 2008.  The CIHR policy states that peer-reviewed journal articles must be freely accessible within 12 months of publication. The CIHR policy remains in effect throughout the consultation process. The proposed policy would apply to CIHR grants as well as SSHRC and NSERC grants awarded after September 1, 2014. More information and answers to frequently asked questions are posted on the NSERC website.

The consultation stage of the proposal will end on December 13th.  NSERCC and SSHRC are calling for individual as well as collective responses to be sent to

Continue reading “Open Access”

The Quebec Charter of Values

Dan Brown, Status of Women & Equity Committee

It is a bit dismaying how little discussion there has been of the academic freedom implications of the proposed Quebec Charter of Values. Neither the Canadian Association of University Teachers nor the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has been willing to go on the record publicly about concerns with the Charter, and inside Quebec, the only university to publicly state its opposition has been McGill, whose new Principal, Suzanne Fortier, did publicly oppose the Charter.
In October, SWEC approved this letter.

The Status of Women and Equity Committee of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo disagrees strongly with the proposed Charter of Québec Values.

These proposals forbid civil servants from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols, such as hijabs, turbans, and kippot, while allowing for “non-ostentatious” small jewellery. 

“This proposed charter would unacceptably enshrine religious discrimination and restrict the academic freedom of faculty and staff at universities across Québec.”

This proposed charter would unacceptably enshrine religious discrimination and restrict the academic freedom of faculty and staff at universities across Québec.  A pluralistic society will include members who express their personal beliefs by diverse choices of attire, and this diversity does not reduce the religious neutrality of the state.  We reject the claim that leaders of public institutions will proselytize by their choice of dress.

We strongly support the rights of women and equity for all members of society.  The proposed Charter does not enable women’s equality, and, by forcing some women to choose between their profession and their religion, violates their freedom of religion and freedom to practice their profession.

Finally, the Charter will reduce the quality of research and education in Québec.  Leaders at universities in Québec are already expressing concern about recruiting excellent faculty if the Charter were to be enacted.  At the University of Waterloo, we know that a diverse faculty is essential to educate our students and spark innovation, and we will regret the unnecessary loss to the research community that will come from silencing so many scholars.

We call on the Québec government to cancel the introduction of this unnecessary and divisive Charter.

In Support of the Strategic Plan

George Freeman, FAUW Past President

Since I am on both Senate and Board of Governors and have been involved in discussions of Ontario university politics for five years, I do support the strategic plan in its present form and suggest another approach for Senate and individuals who don’t like the wording of the ‘over the next five years’ paragraph in the ‘transformational research’ section of the plan.

George Freeman
George Freeman

My understanding of history would be that top-down direction of research (not development) has ultimately failed every time it has been tried (excluding some serendipitous fall-out which can come from any research activity). Having not seen much inclination from Waterloo administration to make that mistake, I wouldn’t worry that the strategic plan is a surreptitious move in that direction. I have been around Waterloo for a long time. I was at one of the first meetings, perhaps fifteen years ago, of the thing which ultimately became the nanotechnology piece of what is called quantum science in the plan. I participated in research discussions with the Research Institute on Aging back in 2006. I feel like water research has been amorphously congealing at Waterloo since my time as an undergraduate student in the 1970s (perhaps deriving from the puddles of 1957). My point is that these research areas became strengths from the ground up – because of Waterloo faculty interests and abilities and pursuits. It would be a fool’s game to strategically move into a research area without significant prior faculty buy-in and engagement and expertise. Thus, I would say the ‘transformational research’ section of the strategic plan, where it mentions specific research, is highlighting and celebrating a few current strengths from the thousands of research agendas we follow. In a time frame as short as five years, significant resources already have been, or are being, directed to those areas, plan or no plan. Everything else in that section is about supporting research generally and came from consultations with all stakeholders at a scale I would say has never before been seen on this campus. Fifteen years from now, I believe the highlighted research will look quite different.

My understanding of publicity would be that the plan is out there, has made its primary impact, and is now yesterday’s news as far as the public is concerned. If Senate wants to change the word ‘including’ to ‘including, but not limited to’ or some longer version of that – or to delete the paragraph – the only public news is the conflict between our Senate and our Board. That kind of exposure will not help us as faculty in anything we wish to accomplish and I would go so far as to call it a conflict based more on circumstances than overt actions.

Nothing is perfect. Waterloo is a big complex place in an environment of constant change trying to preserve proven academic principles which are under vicious attack in the public sphere. Meetings of Board and of Senate are costly, important events and people have other lives, especially in the summer. An administrative upheaval occurred, during the plan preparation, with the resignation of Sallie Keller, our previous Vice-President, Academic and Provost (VPAP). I believe Geoff McBoyle, our present VPAP, even put Waterloo ahead of his own well being (through lack of sleep) getting the plan out in time. If you want to understand the urgency, and the political risk, subscribe to the OCUFA news feed or spend some time reading the HEQCO website. If you have a particularly strong stomach, check out the Ontario government’s Productivity and Innovation Fund to which the university had to respond in September. The attacks and misunderstandings seem to come daily, some well planned and well funded, and some seeking essentially to dismantle the structures which make universities work to the benefit of society and change them to the benefit of other interests. I don’t think we have much political space for generic arguments. Had it been noticed in time, I’m convinced that the paragraph which bothers people would have been altered without a second thought by the Board or administration. The political goal, I think, is to look tremendously successful in things to which the public can easily relate and project our confidence that this will only get better in the future, ensuring their prosperity. Our story has to be as simple and immediately absorbable as the almost-completely-false but intuitively comfortable stories of some of the influential people attacking us.

Anything said in the document can, of course, be picked up by someone with an intent to push their own interests over yours. This happens sometimes with the faculty-level strategic plan in my faculty, for example. That’s where our full participation as faculty members in collegial governance comes in. FAUW has worked with the administration to become a permanent part of the Senate Long-range Planning Committee. Keeping that committee active is a good place to be involved in actual strategy.

“Get involved with FAUW activities. If someone in the public misinterprets the plan, set them straight or direct them to someone who can.”

Speak up in your department, faculty, or university committees. Regardless of what any plan says, most resultant actions need approvals before they can happen. Get involved with FAUW activities. If someone in the public misinterprets the plan, set them straight or direct them to someone who can. Most of what happens at Waterloo passes through public meetings in open session (or should). You could have attended, for example, every significant discussion of the strategic plan by the Board and heard first hand what each governor said (nothing about specific research directions in my recollection). My advice for Senate on the plan would be that we come to a understanding (recorded in the minutes) with the administration about the meaning of the one controversial paragraph. As a senator, I can be rightly upset about how the plan traversed its Senate approvals, but at some point I believe I have to look for the best solution in the context of what actually happened rather than a worst-case interpretation or an idealistic stance for its own sake.

As a public document, I believe the plan serves us well in this time and place. It makes us unique to the point of being anomalous in Ontario (on yet another front for Waterloo). As an internal document, it captures what people said they wanted, plus or minus. Internally, I consider the planning process much more important than the resultant plan.  How about externally?  What I believe we want to do, ideally, is load up our external Board members and other supporters with enough ammunition on Waterloo’s beliefs, and accomplishments under those beliefs, that they can sell our case in the corridors of power and money where they operate. If they are successful, this aids the case that Waterloo is a worthwhile investment and that it is not a target needing political meddling. When we go asking for support, it won’t matter so much that
they remember how successful we are in water, quantum science, or aging – it will only matter that they remember we are successful on a certain scale.  I believe this is the ‘branding’ for Waterloo which people are seeking.  It’s hard to make such an impact on outsiders without specific good examples.

The Senate needs to worry mostly about academic credibility, academic planning, and the motivations of faculty and students.

As always, I think the Board and Senate are voting on somewhat different things. The Board needs to worry mostly about risks of various kinds and about garnering support for the university. This is a high-level oversight role, not day-to-day management.  The Senate needs to worry mostly about academic credibility, academic planning, and the motivations of faculty and students. When a big resource movement is contemplated, these worlds mix a bit but mostly they seem to move along somewhat separately at the university level (unless you are a president or other high-level administrator). Where you really want a sharp eye out, I think, is your department and faculty and how the plan is interpreted into specific actions.

There’s also a bit of talking past each other going on between the Board of Governors and the Senate, I believe.  When the Board talks about a strategic focus on three areas, it is talking about the first three sections of the plan, namely ‘experiential education for all,’ ‘a uniquely entrepreneurial university,’ and ‘transformational research.’  These are the areas where Waterloo stands out on the Ontario and international stages.  The other five are in great shape at Waterloo but don’t represent as much of a competitive advantage in promoting this university. The government is serious about universities needing to understand and promote their strengths (differentiation), although we don’t know as yet exactly how that translates into funding decisions. Nevertheless, I think it is prudent for Waterloo to be in the game and ready.

I just got back from a meeting of Ontario members of boards of governors of universities, on the topic of what universities will look like in ten years, at which we heard from the Governor General of Canada, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (both the Minister and Deputy Minister, separately), and several speakers and panels comprised of people experienced as university presidents, university board chairs, employers of university graduates, students, and education trend watchers or reporters. I would call it the most intense discussion of Ontario universities that I have ever participated in outside of a conflict environment. Based on my understanding of what was said, what is misunderstood, and what needs to be done, Waterloo’s strategic plan positions us extremely well (in fact, all three of Waterloo’s targeted areas, namely experiential education, entrepreneurial focus, and truly transformational research, were specifically mentioned as urgent priorities by many participants). There are real changes afoot and Waterloo looks well placed to be agile.

Bottom line is that I support the plan and urge Senate to take a non-confrontational route to reaching an understanding of its meaning.

Changes to UW’s Strategic Plan: Up for Approval at Senate

David Porreca, FAUW president

This week’s blog post outlines a series of serious concerns a number of Senators have expressed concerning the version of UW’s Strategic Plan that is intended to be discussed for approval at the next UW Senate meeting on November 18.

University of Waterloo Strategic Plan Header

First, it is important to outline the principal differences between the latter and the version of the Strategic Plan that Senate voted on electronically in the wake of the 21 May 2013 meeting of Senate. The two versions are set out in the table below, both taken from the “Research” section of the Plan [changes are boldfaced]:

21 May Strategic Plan language 18 November Strategic Plan language
Increase the worldwide impact and recognition of University of Waterloo research


  • Enable conditions which support research excellence and impact
  • Identify and seize opportunities to lead in new/emerging areas
  • Increase interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research at the global, national and local scale
  • Strengthen the relationship between research and teaching at the undergraduate level
  • Build wider awareness and understanding of Waterloo’s research productivity and impact
Increase the worldwide impact and recognition of University of Waterloo research

Over the next five years:
Waterloo will allocate current resources and align future resources to support areas of research where we have the greatest potential for world leadership, including quantum science, water and aging.

Primary Objectives:

  • Be recognized internationally for excellence and innovation in education, research and scholarship
  • Enable conditions which support research excellence and impact
  • Identify and seize opportunities to lead in new/emerging areas
  • Increase interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research at the global, national and local scale
  • Strengthen the relationship between research and teaching at the undergraduate level
  • Build wider awareness and understanding of Waterloo’s research productivity and impact
  • Seek global awareness of Waterloo’s research and teaching expertise

The motion that was voted on electronically by senators after the 21 May meeting reads as follows:

“You will be asked to vote on the following motion:
Resolved that Senate support the adoption of the strategic plan in the version posted at the following link [link to 21 May version no longer functions], and that Senate recommend to the Board of Governors that it adopt the strategic plan in that version.
Do you support this motion? Choose yes or no. “

Would the latter version have been resisted strongly at the electronic vote had it been included in the original?  It would seem so, considering how much reaction the new version is getting now that attention has been drawn to it, and Senators are becoming alert to the implications of the new language on several levels:

  1. The quoted passage from the new plan is not harmless language, where the key word is “including.”  Here are a couple of passages from the KW Record article “UW to focus on research as it strives for international recognition”

    “Hamdullahpur said there are many researchers at Waterloo whose work does not fall into the three research areas of special focus: quantum science, aging and water. There won’t be any threat of taking resources away from one scientist to give to another, he said. Rather, projects that fall within the priority areas will get preferential treatment with any new money that is raised.”  [emphasis added]

    “A new strategic plan for the university calls for it to develop internationally renowned and “world-changing” research, with special focus on the three key areas of quantum science, aging and water.”

    Conclusion: the suggestion heard at Senate that these three areas are only “examples chosen from many” is not consistent with the statements attributed to UW’s President in these press reports. So, is the intention to pour resources into these three areas at the expense of other world-class research on campus, was the President misquoted, or was a false impression given to Senate?

  2. The implication of  “world leadership” in the new version is itself troubling on at least two levels:

    a) The simple fact of singling out three areas in particular inevitably invites the reaction that “there are other, lesser fields.”  Anyone with links to a not-named field may feel that UW is not interested in what they do.  This has an effect not only on the morale of researchers, but also on potential donors interested in contributing to the not-named fields: would they still choose to support UW’s endeavours?

    b) There are numerous fields of extremely worthwhile inquiry to which “world leadership” cannot logically apply.  Examples include local history, the study of local ecosystems, the safety of local water supplies and local climatic conditions. The best possible research in these fields cannot conceivably be supported by the new language in the Strategic Plan.  Will scholars in these fields find themselves at a disadvantage in the resource allocation game as a result of the new version of the Strategic Plan?

  3. Focusing on a small number of things that one does well may well work in other realms of human endeavour (e.g., running a business, or playing a musical instrument), but it is a recipe for significant harm to an institution whose very name – a university – implies that it studies “the sum of all things,” or the “whole community”.

Therefore, it would behoove Senators to take their jobs seriously as guardians of the academic integrity of our institution.  If harmful ideas at the strategic planning stage are not resisted, how will we be in a position to stand up against them when the time comes for implementation?  The only reason that Senators are getting to vote on this new version of the Strategic Plan is thanks to the diligent attention – and serious concern – of a number of faculty and student Senators.  Otherwise, UW would be saddled with a plan that was modified at the urging of the Board of Governors, without the rest of our academic community’s knowledge or consent.

Consequently, an amendment to the motion for approval of the Strategic Plan will be put forward at the next Senate meeting to change significantly or delete entirely the paragraph beginning “Over the next five years…”, and Senators are invited to consider their votes carefully.

Unless, of course, the Strategic Plan is a document not to be taken too seriously at the day-to-day operations level….