Editorial: Research funding in danger

The University of Calgary’s potential loss of millions of research grant dollars due to what seems to be correctable administrative errors is, at best, laughable.

An article appearing in the March 10 National Post claimed that the U of C “is on the verge of losing access to tens of millions of dollars in crucial [research] funding because of chronic problems with the management of research grants.” This serves only to add to the current air of skepticism surrounding the U of C’s financial (mis)management.

Granted — no pun intended — the university itself is not to blame for the reduction in provincial funding nor the lagging economy scraping away at its innards, but the fact that simple, rectifiable “administrative” handlings such as improperly filled out claims forms are the source of a possible funding loss to a research-intensive institution is ridiculous.

The combined $81 million from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research could, at least temporarily, disappear as a result.

This isn’t the first time. Apparently there were various problems with expense claims, researchers’ salaries and other aspects of grant accounting dating back to the last audit in 2006. Comically, this includes office supplies. Perhaps Harvey Weingarten’s retirement package included a lifetime supply of pens.

Worse yet is the fact that there has been a lack of corrective action taken to fix problems dating back four years. This is deplorable for an institution that considers itself among the 13 elite research-intensive universities in Canada.

From the three government agencies the message is clear: change your handling in grants or see your money cut off or suspended.

For an institution that prides itself on being a “world-class research school” this is like Sidney Crosby missing the game-winning goal on an empty-net from one foot away — it only detracts from already scant faith in the university’s administration.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.