Saturday, December 18, 2010

More great grad school themed blogs

I seem to be having a bonanza in the department of "excellent blogs for UVic graduate students to read", something I am always seeking in my work.

The Thesis Whisperer warms my heart because, like me, she keeps a list of procrastination activities handy. It is also packed with practical advice to be productive in your research and writing, so has the best of both worlds.

The thesis whisperer is actually a group of whisperers, but the writing is consistent and topical.

how is academic writing to be ranked in the age of 2.0?

Found this article an interesting read from the Academic Productivity blog. What is the impact of self publishing online for academics?

What happens when "that hallway conversation moves into blogs" and is now cited?

The author argues that peer reviewed journals are becoming out of date in terms of tracking article impact, and looks at new publishing models for researchers. Not sure I want to give up on peer review altogether but the proposal for self publishing and online debate is interesting. After all, it isn't so much different than conferences ...

Perhaps we should organize a discussion on this at the GSS?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BC Student Activism goes waaaay back

In a tribute to the students around the world standing up for public post secondary education systems in past weeks, here is some archival footage of BC's first (I expect) student demonstration -- the UBC Great Trek of 1922, which demanded the campus finally be build so students didn't have to study crammed in old huts.

On a personal note, I recently learned my Great Aunt Eunice was a student on the Great Trek, as my cousin found a letter she wrote home describing the demonstration to her family. Guess I know where I get my activist streak!

Here is a bit of a history lesson in a bit of a bland but more structured and informative video about BC's history of establishing universities. Given the financial struggles we are having, it is good to learn from this mini-doc that BC's biggest university fought off closure during the great depression, only 7 years after it opened.

To learn about some current grad student campaigns visit the UVIC GSS at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Science & Tech funding boost

CBC is reporting that Industry Canada has announced funds for 310 Canada Research Chairs. See the story here.

There is no write up on the Industry Canada site, although there is a (not very exciting) media advisory.

The push seems to be in particular areas and with at least some focus on commercial/economic outcomes for the research...

Between this and BC's announcement that 2011 is the Year of Science, looks like the coming year might be science-tastic. (Too bad BC is simultaneously is reducing involvement of independent researchers and increasing Big Pharma's input in the BC drug approvals process... read about it in the Globe and Mail or listen to the CBC Victoria radio interview (MP3)).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

80% cuts to eduction in UK draws 50,000 protestors

At the GSS we are following the demonstrations for public education funding with interest.

Excellent democracy now coverage on the demo, followed by very good explanation of the cuts happening in the UK to education and other cuts to social programs.

University was free in the UK in the 90s, it will now be 9,000 pounds per year ($14,600 Canadian)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BC Cabinet shuffle creates ministry of science and universities

Ida Chong - a former Minister of Advanced Eduction - is to take the helm of the new ministry, something UVIC VP Research has described as positive. Denmark has a similar ministry. (Any Danish students have insight into this model?)

The Vancouver Sun has described the shuffle as uninspiring (and the cabinet as too large).

According to the Vancouver Sun

[Chong will] now be responsible for university financing, degree approval, student financial assistance and research, innovation and technology. Although universities are mainly self-sustaining, Chong will oversee annual university spending of more than $1 billion a year across B.C.

She'll also oversee millions in provincial research grants, matched by federal and private partners.

This is curious as when asked about BC's high rate of student debt and tuition, Chong asserted in an interview on CBC Radio Victoria that taxpayers (note, not citizens) pay 70% of the cost of the university, and that BC tuition is mid range. (Too bad they cut the BC Grad Scholarships, which would have made BC more competitive with Ontario).

UVIC's audited statements (2009) shows BC contribution to UVIC is 40% of UVIC's funding, and all government funding combined adds up to 54% of UVIC's funding- just enough to continue to be called "public" universities. Tuition accounts for 24% (up from 12% in my day) and almost as much comes from sales of services (books, residency and meals anyone?).

Hopefully this change will see an increase in graduate student support in the sciences - but won't indicate neglect of the other important fields of study in our universities.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

oil company funding for university energy research comes under scrutiny

BP and nine other major oil companies's funding for research into alternative energy has come under scrutiny in a report by Jennifer Washburn at thinktank the Centre for American Progress.

What makes the report particularly interesting is the detailed analysis of the contracts between the universities and the oil companies, and the amount of control given to the companies in the contracts.

The contracts characteristics are highlighted in the report:

"• In nine of the 10 energy-research agreements we analyzed, the university partners failed to retain majority academic control over the central governing body charged with directing the university-industry alliance. Four of the 10 alliances actually give the industry sponsors full governance control.
• Eight of the 10 agreements permit the corporate sponsor or sponsors to fully control both the evaluation and selection of faculty research proposals in each new grant cycle.
• None of the 10 agreements requires faculty research proposals to be evaluated and awarded funding based on independent expert peer review, the traditional method for awarding academic and scientific research grants fairly and impartially based on scientific merit.
• Eight of the 10 alliance agreements fail to specify transparently, in advance, how faculty may apply for alliance funding, and what the specific evaluation and selection criteria will be.
• Nine of the 10 agreements call for no specific management of financial conflicts of interest related to the alliance and its research functions. None of these agreements, for example, specifies that committee members charged with evaluating and selecting faculty research proposals must be impartial, and may not award corporate funding to themselves." (Washburn, October 2o10, p 6)
The author was interviewed on Democracy Now about the study October 18.

Washburn, Jennifer. October 2010. Big Oil Goes Back to College. Centre for American Progress. found October 15, 2910 at

Friday, September 17, 2010

BC graduate tuition above national average

Statistics Canada produced a report yesterday about tuition for Canadian students by province.

According to the report, graduate student tuition is increasing at a rate higher than undergraduate tuition.

Of interest at UVIC is that BC graduate tuition is above the national average by about $1,000 per year. This is particularly daunting given BC's lack of a graduate scholarship program, and high cost of living.

Obtain the stats can report here.

The UVIC GSS is working with graduate student unions across western canada to advocate for better graduate funding, maintaining tuition caps, and support for students.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Famous GSSers in CUPE ad!

The campus CUPE locals at UVIC have put together a new ad campaign, and some familiar faces are in the video. (Hint: Cristal and Dave both work or worked for the GSS).

Champions of Public Education from Bryan Skinner on Vimeo.

Pick up a free pen from our office... or (if you are a UVIC student) go to the site and enter to win a $500 gift certificate from UVIC bookstore! Goodbye textbook fees (for one semester anyway!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

UVIC bunny bakesale

This was spotted in Vancouver and sent to me... hat tip to wendy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

cool grad student moment

ultimate research fantasy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Travel Grants issue resolved (for now)

To: All University of Victoria graduate students
We are happy to announce that, as a result of additional one-time funding commitments of $95,000 ($15,000 from the Graduate Student Society, $27,000 from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and $53,000 from CUPE 4163 – the union representing teaching assistants, language instructors, and sessional lecturers at the University of Victoria) the FGS/GSS Travel Grant program is once again active for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
All three parties are pleased to be able to ensure that graduate students who have already made travel commitments based on an assumption of funding availability will be eligible to receive the monies they were relying on. This additional funding will allow the fund to be reinstated under the current eligibility guidelines for the summer (May-August), in order to provide time to address concerns with the funding structure for the fall.
As always, the distribution of funds will be done on a first-come, first-served system, so we encourage students to apply as soon as they receive the necessary paperwork from conferences.
Adrienne Canning – Chair, Graduate Students’ Society
Dr. Aaron Devor – Dean, Graduate Studies
Craig Ashbourne – President, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4163

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blog takes issue with research funding in canada

With posts on "Green Brain drain" research in the budget and NSERC as outsourced labour, this blog looks to be an interesting place for debate about research in Canada. Check it out!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

UBC Insiders gives GSS rave reviews

I love the UBC Insiders blog.

I love them even more, now though, because they provided some excellent coverage of our athletics fee fight. Not only that, they identify some implications for UBC students regarding their athletics fees at UBC-O.

Check out the full story here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Festival of Budget news

Here is some more detail regarding the 2010 budget from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, there is this mention of graduate students:

Objective 1.2: BC’s post secondary education sector fosters creativity, innovation and knowledge development.

British Columbia’s future economy will be shaped by innovation. Collaborative partnerships and knowledge development will be critical to unlocking BC’s full economic and creative potential in the years ahead. Our ability to capitalize on BC’s leading-edge research and competitive strengths in key knowledge industries will require unprecedented collaboration between government, post secondary institutions and industry. It will also require a province-wide effort to build a culture of science in BC to ensure the province has a critical mass of people with the knowledge and skills needed to support the knowledge-based economy.

- Work in partnership with the Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development on the continued development and management of research and innovation policy and research-related investments.
- Support research and innovation through operating grants to post secondary institutions, targeted funding for graduate students, and through the BC Knowledge Development Fund, which supports investments in research infrastructure.
- Work with partners to advance a culture of science across BC.

But what does it mean?

In past years the government has set targets for increasing grad enrollment. They have also created, then expanded, then put on hold the BC Pacific Leaders scholarship program which funded graduate students. This doesn't indicate if there will be a shift to more or less, or maintenance of the same.

The Advanced Education ministry's service plan also mentions international student recruitment as a key goal for BC, with Goal 3 to make BC a "global destination of choice for students, skilled workers and entrepreneurs".

Increasing first nations participation is another key goal, but unfortunately no specific targets are given except to increase enrollment over previous years.

Supporting research universities is also given as part of a plan to increase the knowledge economy in BC. They specifically mention supporting research in key labour market areas as well, and medicine gets a particular nod with a goal to increase the number of doctors. This sort of thing makes universities nervous. Traditionally universities have been arms length--receiving government funds, but able to allocate to areas of research and education as they choose. Recently past couple years, the ministry created quite a stir by adding "Letters of Expectation" to their funding letters, with the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia arguing the letters violated the University Act. The ministry seems to be addressing this fear in particular with Minister Stillwell's introduction:

We want our public universities to have the independence and flexibility needed for them to pursue their unique areas of excellence in partnership with others, and in a way that provides better services for students. Working closely with our institutions, we will be exploring ways for them to unleash their creativity and thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

You can read the full BC Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Management Development March 2010 service plan here.

BC 2010 budget -- increases for universities and post secondary

From CBC budget review...

"Education: $228 million over three years to boost post-secondary education, including $165 million to increase access to educational opportunities at universities, colleges and other institutions; $40 million to expand education in the health-care sector; $23 million to boost the number of doctors trained in B.C.; and $16 million for assisting immigrants to achieve professional qualifications."

Read more:

We'll be digging through the details in the next few days.

Monday, February 8, 2010

GSS wins tuition rebate for students

A recent campaign on behalf of members in EPLS has been successful--with second year students in the counselling program obtaining a rebate of a $350 per term fee implemented September 2009 by UVIC.

The GSS had raised concerns about the fee, but was told it was not tuition. As a result, the GSS Executive decided to send a formal complaint about the fee to the Ministry of Advanced Education, which is responsible for BC's tuition limit policy.

The university argued that the counselling program constituted a new program, thus the new fee being admissable under the tuition limit policy. As a result we successfully argued that second year studetns could not be charged the fee as they are covered by the university calendar regulations in the year they began their degree. UVIC agreed and refunded the students.

However, the complaint to the ministry regarding the fee for new students is outstanding.