Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Federal budget consultations: making the case for grad students

The federal government is hosting budget consultations, and have a simple online form where citizens can submit their comments.

These consultations are a simple way to let the federal government know what you think of federal funding for graduate study and the role of graduate study in the economy.

Not sure what to say? Check out the following information sources... they spark a lot of ideas about the role of graduate school, and the impact it has on our society.
The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies has this letter to the Federal Government on how to better support graduate studies and Canada's low (2nd last by OECD ranking) investment in graduate education:

  1. Investing in the granting councils
  2. Investing in international grad students in Canada
  3. Invest in innovative skills training for grad students and post docs
  4. Invest in post docs.
The budget consultation is a venue for supporting this ideas.

Perhaps you are interested in your field of research and its role in the economy...

The OECD has all manner of statistics on the impact of education, research and development and how Canada's funding ranks compared to other OECD nations.


OECD study on education funding. (Tertiary education is post secondary education, but doesn't break down between a bachelors, masters and PhD).

The OECD database is searchable on many subjects, so you can search for data on our priorities in science and engineering, health, environment, business, education, and doctoral graduates, depending on your interest.


For example:

In 2011 Canada is below average in OECD for doctoral graduate rates (but is close to average at PhDs awarded to women: 44% of Canadian PhDs - OECD average is 46% -- Canada's rate hasn't changed since 2009, but OECD has gone from 43% to 46% average between 2009 and 2011):


Direct funding of Research and Development (2011 stats) includes this amazing chart, which shows how those R&D dollars are spent - are they going to defence or universities or health?


Here is Canada (2009) vs OECD breakdown (2008) by % of direct Research and Development spending:

  • Defence: Canada 3.2% OECD 31.8%
  • Health & Environment: Canada 22.7% OECD: 17.5%
  • Economic Development: Canada 25.8% OECD 15%
  • General University Funds: Canada 33.3% OECD 16.1%
  • Non-oriented: Canada 7.7% OECD 11.3%
  • Other Canada 7.3% OECD 8.4%

... but remember that Canada spends less than the OECD average (govt appropriations as % of GDP) on research and development:


Spending on R&D as % of GDP (2010): Canada .61% OECD average .75%



Friday, November 18, 2011

Canada Research Chairs and Equity

The Canada Research Chairs Program announced a program to encourage equity among research chair awards. In 2010, a new Canada Excellence Research Chairs raised the ire of many when it appointed all men to its first round of awardees. The general research chairs program was already considered a poor performer on gender equity, and in fact a human rights complaint had been settled previously to improve the Canada Research Chair program's equity ... but that agreement doesn't apply to the new Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

The equity project arises from the human rights complaint settlement, and has now established an ongoing cycle of (mandatory) equity audits and (optional) recognition programs featuring successful equity practices.

The first year will focus on medium universities ... so UVIC will be among them.

Full notice is follows from the CRC follows:

Canada Research Chairs Program announcement: Equity target setting exercise and new Recognition Process for universities


In 2006, the Canada Research Chairs Program reached a settlement agreement concerning the representation of four designated groups (women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities) among Chair recipients. As part of this agreement, the Chairs program has worked with universities to ensure that they follow open, transparent and equitable recruitment practices and to establish targets for the representation of the four designated groups. The Chairs program is now launching a Recognition Process to recognize universities with exemplary equity practices in recruiting, nominating and appointing Canada Research Chairs (CRC) and meeting their equity targets.

Overview of the CRC Equity Target Setting and Recognition Process:

A first target setting exercise was completed for all institutions in 2008-09. Starting this year, the exercise will be run annually, but only for a subset of universities (small, medium or large)*.

Each year, one subset of universities will be required to complete the target setting exercise and will be invited to nominate their university for recognition of their equity practices. Thus, each university will participate in the target setting and recognition process only once every three years.

The first subset of universities to take part in this process is the medium size universities. The universities of this subset will receive all necessary information and materials in a separate email, in November 2011. The Chairs Secretariat will require that medium size universities submit the information for target setting within 2 months. The Secretariat will use the data provided by universities to establish a baseline and monitor progress in meeting established targets for members of the four designated groups.

The Recognition Process is being introduced as a voluntary component of the mandatory target setting exercise. Applications will be considered by the Chairs program’s Advisory Committee on Equity Policy. The Secretariat will select one institution annually to be recognized as having exemplary practices in equity.

Why would an institution want to be profiled?

The selected institution will receive a certificate and an invitation to present its equity practices at a national conference (TBD). In addition, the institution will be profiled on the Chairs program website and will have the opportunity to use the logo (below) identifying them as recognized by the Chairs program as having exemplary practices in equity.

The Secretariat invites chairholders to support this new initiative at their university. The collaboration of all program stakeholders is necessary to ensure that our program remains equitable while supporting excellence in research.

Should you have any questions about this process, please contact Louise-Michelle Verrier at (613) 995-3236 or by e-mail at louise-michelle.verrier@chairs-chaires.gc.ca.

*The list of the universities participating in the Chairs program by subset is attached.

Michèle Boutin

Executive Director

Chairs Secretariat

Annonce du Programme des chaires de recherche du Canada : Exercice d'établissement des objectifs en matière d’équité et nouveau processus de reconnaissance pour les universités


En 2006, le Programme des chaires de recherche du Canada (PCRC) a conclu un accord de règlement relativement à la représentation des membres des quatre groupes désignés (les femmes, les Autochtones, les personnes handicapées et les minorités visibles) parmi les titulaires de chaires. Afin de satisfaire à cette entente, le secrétariat du Programme a travaillé en collaboration avec les universités afin de s’assurer que les pratiques de recrutement des titulaires de chaire soient ouvertes, transparentes et équitables et pour établir des objectifs de représentation des membres des quatre groupes désignés. Le programme des chaires procède actuellement au lancement d'un processus visant à reconnaître les universités qui font preuve de pratiques exemplaires en matière d’équité dans le recrutement, la mise en candidature de titulaires de chaire et la dotation de chaires et qui atteignent leurs objectifs en matière d’équité.

Aperçu de l'exercice d'établissement des objectifs en matière d'équité dans le cadre du PCRC et processus de reconnaissance

Un premier exercice d'établissement des objectifs a été réalisé en 2008-2009 pour tous les établissements. À compter de cette année, l'exercice sera réalisé tous les ans, mais seulement pour un sous-ensemble d'universités (de petite, moyenne ou grande taille)**.

Chaque année, un sous-ensemble d'universités devra compléter l'exercice d'établissement des objectifs et sera invité à présenter la candidature de son université en vue d'obtenir une reconnaissance pour ses pratiques en matière d'équité. Par conséquent, chaque université participera à l'établissement des objectifs et au processus de reconnaissance seulement une fois tous les trois ans.

Le premier sous-ensemble d'universités qui participera à ce processus est celui des universités de taille moyenne. Les universités faisant partie de ce sous-ensemble recevront tous les renseignements et les documents nécessaires dans un autre courriel, en novembre 2011. Les universités de taille moyenne disposeront de deux mois pour faire parvenir les renseignements relatifs à l'établissement des objectifs. Le secrétariat du Programme des chaires de recherche du Canada analysera les données transmises par les universités afin d’établir des paramètres de référence concernant la représentation des groupes désignés et de faire, par la suite, un suivi des progrès réalisés dans le but d’atteindre les objectifs fixés.

Le processus de reconnaissance est présenté comme une composante optionnelle de l'exercice obligatoire d'établissement des objectifs. Les demandes seront prises en considération par le Comité consultatif sur les politiques en matière d'équité du Programme. Tous les ans, le secrétariat sélectionnera un établissement dont les pratiques exemplaires en matière d'équité seront reconnues.

Pourquoi un établissement aurait-il intérêt à être sélectionné?

L'établissement sélectionné recevra un certificat et sera invité à présenter ses pratiques en matière d'équité lors d’un congrès national (à déterminer). En outre, l'établissement sera présenté sur le site Web du PCRC et pourra utiliser le logo (ci-dessous) qui le désigne comme un établissement reconnu par le Programme pour ses pratiques exemplaires en matière d'équité.

Le Secrétariat invite les titulaires de chaire à appuyer cette nouvelle initiative au sein de leur université. La collaboration de tous les intervenants engagés dans le programme est nécessaire afin de veiller à ce que notre programme demeure équitable tout en appuyant l'excellence dans la recherche.

Pour toute question au sujet de ce processus, veuillez communiquer avec Louise-Michelle Verrier, au 613-995-3236 ou par courriel à l’adresse louise-michelle.verrier@chairs-chaires.gc.ca.

** La liste des universités participant au Programme des chaires de recherche du Canada par sous-ensemble est présentée dans le document ci-joint

Michèle Boutin

Directrice générale

Secrétariat des chaires

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Globe Graduate Studies section for MBAs only

For a moment I was excited to see the Globe and Mail has added a "Graduate Strudies" section to their education report.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/graduatestudies/

However, a quick review shows that virtually every story is about MBA students -- ony 6 of 43 posts thus far are about a subject other than MBA programs. And even the 6 non-MBA stories were often more general interest than graduate studies (ie. scandal related to a speech at convocation, kids visit a lab, etc).

It is too bad because there are lots of interesting things to consider about graduate school -- changes to research funding, corporate involvement on granting council boards, research facilities in various universities, the changing demographic of graduate school. Even graduate student unions occasionally do something interesting!

So, if you are an MBA student, I encourage you to have a look.. there is some interesting stuff there. Otherwise, unfortunately, not so much.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Free and fun services at the public library

Looking for some entertainment but have a limited budget? Consider some of these awesome services available free at the public library...

(This is the Greater Victoria Public Library, not our campus libraries, btw. Any Victoria resident can get a public library card by bringing in a piece of mail, such as a utility bill, for proof of address).

Take the family to the BC Museum for free -- sign out a museum pass for the weekend at the library!

Borrow music with freegle or a mystery novel (e-book or audio book) online through the library to go service!
And forget about that comps reading list... check out the 100 picture books to be read before kindergarten! (I am so behind--some of those were written after I turned 30!)

How nerdy is this ... they have links to library-loving apps. Need the app for stats can? I didn't know I did until I saw it on the library's app site.

Do you, like me, spend time working on your research while your child is doing homework? Check out the homework help section for kids.

Going overseas to do some research? Try learning a language online with Mango.

And of course we cannot forget books. Remember those? I don't mean the ones you are reading for your research, I mean novels--everything from award winning fiction to junky thrillers. Ah, books, you used to be about relaxing!!! And if you want some recommendations, you can use NoveList and other suggestion making resources, which suggests similar books to those you already enjoy--search by author or theme. The new library site also lets you post reviews and follow other library users with similar interests.

Want a new study spot? The library also has lovely study space for when the Mearns feels too crowded. Wifi is free with your public library card too.

All of these great things in one place ... in your neighbourhood, or online.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Changes to immigration benefit (some) international PhD students

The minister of state for science and technology, Gary Goodyear, announced today the process for International students doing their PhD in Canada to become Canadian citizens is being streamlined -- but only for students in specific areas, such as sciences and engineering, following along with other changes to immigration recently.

Once 2 years of a PhD have been completed, eligible students can apply for citizenship. This change is coming nearly immediately, with applications being accepted November 5. There will be 1,000 spaces in the program.

Read the CBC story here.

This is great news for PhD students who want to stay in Canada (and stop paying differential fees), so long as they are in the right program... but what about those in other research areas?

Recently, the provincial government has been pushing for international recruitment, opening BC scholarship programs to international students, for example. I wonder if immigration offers is a way to make Canada more competitive in recruiting international students. AUCC president seems to think so. AUCC's press release on the change is here.

I think this may be the most pro-grad student comment I have heard from the feds:
Doctoral graduates play a unique role in the economy. They drive research, encourage innovation and pass on their knowledge through teaching,” said Minister Goodyear. “And quite simply, Canada needs more of them.” (from the press release).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stop Torschlusspanik!

At a recent wednesday coffee, we were discussing words that exist in other languages, for which there is no equivalent in English. (Schadenfreude has always been one of my favourites).

Frank Berghaus (Grad Rep for Physics and Astronomy) introduced us to "Torschlusspanik" -- the feeling of rushing to meet a deadline that is looming. Literally "gate close panic" if I remember Frank's translation correcty.  

I'm willing to bet many graduate students are in a constant state of torschlusspanik. I know I have experienced it myself!

I think one of the main roles of the GSS is to create spaces to reduce the stresses on graduate students, and think we should launch a "stop torschlusspanik" campaign. All this reminds me of rumours I'd heard of the "DPP". Last year I heard of grad students in one UVIC department who created the "Dropout Prevention Party". Motto: Join the Party!  Genius! (Was this you? Let me know so I can give you a hat tip!)

Among those who work in academia, there are many tales of imposter syndrome, where graduate students believe there was an error in admitting them to grad school, or fear they are not up to completing their program. Well, a DPP in every school, I say! Join the Party and stop torschlusspanik!

And now for the qualitative research part: I am crowdsourcing for ideas to present to the GSS: What should the DPP do to stop Torschlusspanik?

Committees, Committees, and more Committees

In many ways, universities are run by committees. Committees approve new academic programs, hire all senior administration and department chairs, and oversee new campus services. UVIC even has a committee on committees!

Living in residence? Got a child in the UVIC daycare? You might be interested in some of our committee vacancies.

Love to reward great teaching? Seats on the Gillian Sherwin Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Andy Farquarson Teaching Excellence Award for Graduate Studentscommittees are now seeking graduate students.

Interested in UVIC fudraising, art galleries, and government relations? You could be on the appointment committee for the new AVP External Relations, who is responsible for all these things.

While we are at it, you  might be interested in the vacancies on grad council or some of the GSS committees like the Health and Dental Appeals Committee, Events Committee or various campaign committees (which are looking at grad student housing, creating a grad student advocate office, looking at GSS relationships with UVSS clubs and advocacy groups (and grad student fees for these groups), or examining our means of allocating seats on grad council) – email me at gssmgr[at]uvic.ca if you are interested in these committees.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

photo blog chronicles free snacks of academia

The GSS has been all about food of late .... Wednesday Coffee is bringing a crowd every week, and the new Grad House menu is peppered with grad student references. It has been my experience that food draws grad students. Apparently Jorge Chan agrees.

Thus, I was amused when I found Refreshments will be provided, a photo blog featuring free food offerings in academia.

What is the food that keeps your thesis going? (Are you among the legions of grad students who have told me of your despair since biblio cafe replaced their veggie wrap? Do the undergrad who make your americano at the Munchie Bar know more about your thesis progress than your supervisor?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


It seems everyone is down on grad school these days. Newest commentary comes from the economist.

here is a sample

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors’ publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn’t in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband

For my own research (into potential for graduate students to form co-operatives as  a service provider) I just obtained the much cited (and also bleak) book , Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Doctoral Study (by Barbara E. Lovitts).

For me, the hardest departures I see are where the student has made a huge sacrifice, for many years, to attend grad school, but at the end of their program it doesn't work out. In my experience there are usually several factors piling up against the student, many of them also outside the university's control, and little means to help the student find their way through if those external problems cause long delays.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dean loves Dean Cakes!

I admit I was somewhat trepidatious when GSS Operations and Services Manager Brandy Sistili proposed renaming the Grad House crab cakes after the Dean.

The crab cakes are one of the most popular menu items... but still, it is possible it could be taken the wrong way.

Now, if the Grad House menu were an honourary degree, there would be a whole protocol and process to deal with such situations...

Brandy pointed out the menu was full of references to grad student life, and the GSS has a great relationship with the Dean. So, despite my worries, Brandy kept it in.

Turns out that, as usual, Brandy was right, because the Dean popped in with a big grin and asked immediately to order his honourific meal. (Sadly they were sold out!)

Now I am worried the President will be feeling left out!

Grad rep? Moi?

Grad Students… Be your department Grad Rep to the GSS!

What do the Graduate Representatives do?
represent the interests of fellow grad students in your department
report back to your home department on discussions and decisions made during grad council meetings
where possible, sit on one university committee a year
hold a departmental meeting at least once a semester to discuss common issues of concern and bring concerns and issues raised back to grad council 

participate in major governance decisions about the GSS (e.g. last year, the Grad Rep Council was involved in discussions regarding changes to the health and dental plans)
attend the monthly grad rep council meetings the Annual General Meeting and Semi-annual General Meeting
participate in GSS sub committees and represent graduate students to committees of the university

How do I become the Graduate Representative?
It is up to students in each department to select a representative. This call for grad reps should be forwarded to students in your department by email by the department graduate secretary. Typically interested students submit their name to the graduate secretary, and if there are several candidates, elections are held either by ballot in the department office, email vote or election at a meeting of all graduate students in the department. The nature of the election is determined by the students in the department, and usually depends on the number of students enrolled, whether the department has a department graduate students union that can administer the election, and whether many students are studying by distance. Departments should make efforts to select the representative before the first meeting of the Council on Tuesday, September 27 

Can there be more than one representative for a department?
Grad Council meetings are open to all members of the Society. However, each department has only one vote. If the representative is unable to attend a meeting, an alternate may attend in her/his place. If a representative fails to attend three consecutive meetings without sending an alternate, she or he shall be deemed to have resigned from the Council.

When does the Council meet?
Grad Council meetings are usually held on the last Tuesday of each month, at 5 pm at the Graduate Students' Centre (see exceptions below). In September there will be a meeting September 27 at 5pm. normally, there is no meeting in December or between April and August. Pizza or other light fare is served for dinner. (January 2012 meeting will be on Tuesday the 24th).

I’ve been elected, what now?
Please ensure that your grad secretary sends notice of your election to the GSS by email at gssmgr [a] uvic.ca. Successful candidates can contact Stacy Chappel at gssmgr[at]uvic.ca to provide contact information and obtain more information.

Any questions:
Please call/email Stacy Chappel at 472-5163 / gssmgr[at]uvic.ca.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

great news -- Saeed Malekpour gets a reprieve

Update:  Unfortunately it looks like this reprieve has now been reversed. The campaign to free Saeed is asking everyone to email Minister of Foreign Affairs and insist Canada take action. Their message follows:

Please help urge the Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada to issue a statement condemning Saeed's death sentence confirmation. Today, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Alistair Burt) spoke out about Saeed's imminent execution! Let's get Foreign Affairs Canada to do the same, since Saeed was living in Canada!

john.baird@parl.gc.ca (Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird)


Reported in the Post today -- Saeed Malekpour, husband of former UVIC PhD student, Dr. Fatima Eftekhari, gets a reprieve from death sentence in Iran.

Monday, April 25, 2011

PhD Comics Movie confirmed

This article confirms the rumour of a PhD comics film ... slated to hit campuses in the Fall. Please Cinecenta, bring this to UVIC! The GSS will ensure a full house.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

could it be true? a PhD Comics movie?

UPDATE: UVIC PhD Comics movie screening set for January 17, 2012, 7pm at the Grad House. 

Check it out here: facebook event page or  gss website event notice
 ----- original post follows---

Rumours have emerged on the PhD Comics facebook page that there will be a PhD Comics movie. !!!

Surely it is worth a travel grant to go participate (in California).

Not only that -- you could be an extra! Posted April 6th

Do you live in/near Southern California (or know someone who does) and want to be an extra in the PHD movie? Please e-mail movie@phdcomics.com
Original post here.

But I thought that post docs were too invisible to show on film.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

props to the undergrads

For this youth vote campaign.

I love this whole campaign, which I understand started with Leadnow responding to a Rick Mercer challenge to youth voters. (Hat tip to UVIC grads involved in starting Leadnow, like Jamie Biggar)

I knew, as well, that it was getting traction when my mom told me all about it over dinner! (She was thrilled!)

(Also fun for UVic folks to watch and see them run around a corner in Clerihue and arrive in the SUB foyer, haha!)

Vote May 2, everyone!!

Here is some more coverage

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thesis distraction gets local boost

The GSS maintains a list of thesis distractions. But this is a first ... a wonderful puzzle distraction designed by one of our own, Computer Science grad rep, Alejandro Erickson.

Check out tomoku puzzles .. a puzzle game based on lucky placement of Japanese tatami mats. Alejandro produced a little book of the puzzles as well as this online version.

I have the book and my son and I have risked being late for school when drawn into the puzzles over breakfast.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A little GSS history

I admit to watching with interest as Pro- and Ant- CFS campaigners dash about campus for the pending UVSS referendum on CFS memebrship, and my thoughts turn to our own departure from the CFS in March 2008.

No doubt for similar reasons, I was asked by some undergrads what our reasons for leaving were. I am not sure the situation of undergrads in 2011 is the same as those at the GSS in 2008, but I posted the GSS articles from the era here for those who are curious.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

News of interest: $2M penality for McGill and Cracks in the PhD Glass Ceiling

Quebec slaps McGill with $2M penalty over MBA

Tuition increase to 29,500/year going too far, say courts.

Meanwhile, the "glass ceiling" has some cracks at the PhD and Full prof level:


It would be good to know how this relates to the 60% majority female undergrads over the same time periods...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Martlet | Students asked to partially fund new facilities

The Martlet | Students asked to partially fund new facilities

The athletics fee issue is back. The GSS was active in the campaign to defeat this last year by calling on the Minister of Advanced Education (now Science and Universities) and the BC Tuition Limit Policy.

some past news on this issue:

Coverage of the campaign victory at UBC Insiders
Some past Martlet coveragae here.

And hey, here's the campaign info from the last time around.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

UVIC GSS website

Hi all, we are experiencing some trouble with our UVIC Graduate Students' Society website in google since it migrated to the new site. It is being fixed, but for now, the link is the same: http://gss.uvic.ca/

UVIC graduate student health plan information can also be found at http://gss.uvic.ca/.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

kick start you writing using online motivational tools

Beyond my life working for graduate students at the gss, I also have a secret life as a graduate student.

This term I am to submit my research proposal. Through my first two terms of graduate school, I have attempted to journal as a means to help my writing process, but with limited success.

Today I embarked on a new effort to ensure I do keep to my writing commitments, partly inspired by Joan Bolker's book, Write your dissertation in 15 minutes per day. (What an inspiring title!) Which advocates keeping a research journal.

But for those, like me, who need some prodding, some online tools may be of interest.

Do you forget to write every day? Oh, Life may be fore you. It is a simple system. you set up an account using your email, and then each evening Oh, Life sends an email asking about your day. You respond, and that is these emails become the substance of your journal. After you build up content, it will send snippets of past entries as reminders/starting points, selected at random. I wish I could choose its question to suit my purpose (not "how was your day" but "how's the research?" or something ... as long as it isn't "are you done your thesis yet?"). However, I can't fault the simplicity of the system, and the fact that an email prompt will likely be helpful for someone like me.

If goals and rewards are what you need, you might like the online journal, 750 words. With this site you are encouraged to login and write 750 words per day, and if you do this for five days in a row you get a little reward (penguin badge), and each month you get a score card with more points the more days you write. The site also assigns moods based on what you write (which unnerves me). There are challenges as well -- you could end up on the wall of awesome (or wall of shame) so think on that before choosing your pen name!

In both cases, the online journal can be downloaded for use elsewhere. Perhaps in your thesis methods section!