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Letters to the editor


Forget it, it cannot be saved

Kill the CCV (“The unloved Canadian Common CV is in for an overhaul,” November issue). Return to the simple and intuitive approach formally used by NSERC for Discovery Grants and still used by SSHRC for Standard Research Grants. Those formats are easy to create and update because they use standard word processing and they are easy for reviewers to follow. The CCV can use 50-plus pages for information that will fit into four in the old format. This is particularly problematic since most reviewing of grants is now done on screens. All that scrolling adds a huge amount of extra wasted time to the reviewing process. I experienced this as an NSERC Discovery Grant committee member – one year with the old CV format (easy, fast, simple, familiar) and one year with the CCV (hard, slow, complex, unfamiliar). It added hours and hours to the reviewing process. In summary, the old CV formats worked well. Cutting and pasting into a Word document takes very little time, whereas adding the information one piece at a time into a form (no cutting and pasting available) is slow. Consult the users! Do not waste time and energy solving non-existent problems.

Jo-Anne LeFevre
Dr. LeFevre is a Chancellor’s Professor and director of the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University.

It’s why I stopped applying

i write in response to the article in the November issue on the long-overdue redesign of the CCV. I received a good deal of funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council over my career: a doctoral fellowship (1989-1993), a postdoctoral fellowship (rather foolishly not accepted so as to start a tenure-track job), and a Standard Research Grant just before I got tenure (in 1999). So I am fundamentally grateful to SSHRC and its administrators for making my academic career possible.

However, after the CCV was required for SSHRC competitions, I ceased applying for SSHRC funding. I no longer needed it as badly, but I also found that I was able to get all the funding I needed from foreign granting agencies in Europe while avoiding the insane fuss and bother of the CCV, and the ridiculously complex architecture and conflicting messages of SSHRC competitions (especially regarding the role of graduate students, a perpetual problem). Since starting graduate school in 1984, I have been funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD, 1985-1986), the Herzog August Bibliothek (1987), the Dr. Günther Findel Foundation (1991 and 1992), the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (1997 and 1998), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2002-2003), and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (2008). The total from those sources amounts to well over $100,000, but all the applications together took less time and effort than one SSHRC application. We have allowed a peculiarly egalitarian and Canadian dystopia to flourish because we are collectively too meek and passive-aggressive to speak out and demand better.

SSHRC can adapt. Repeated complaints from established scholars wishing to pursue new research topics or directions (but blocked by the emphasis on “track record” narrowly understood) led to the creation of the Insight Development Grant program. However, as in all central bureaucracies that are not answerable to users but to administrators, change came at a glacial pace – so slowly that I will retire before I ever bother applying to SSHRC again. And I certainly will not create a CCV under any circumstances unless the new one allows me to simply upload my existing Word CV. If I want more funding, I’ll just go back to the Humboldt Foundation, which will renew my fellowship any time I ask for further research time. It’s essentially a onepage application.

Andrew Gow
Dr. Gow is a professor of history at the University of Alberta.

His brilliant career – cracks and all

I was very interested in the family glassblowing article (“A tradition of glassblowing welds father and son,” November issue). My dad, John Lees, was the glassblower in the University of British Columbia physics department from 1949 till the late ’70s and taught me quite a bit as I was growing up so that I was often in his workshop helping him. In the summer of 1955, after I had finished Grade 10, I actually took over as the physics glassblower for two weeks while he was in hospital with a slipped disc. At that time, Hans Dehmelt was visiting UBC doing experiments on electron beams in a glass high-vacuum vessel which had to be periodically cut open to replace the source material and then sealed up again.

My dad had told me to be extremely careful when warming up the glass beforehand on the lathe, and I succeeded in doing it the first time. However, the next time I was too impatient and the glass cracked as I was trying to reseal the tube. With persistence, I managed to melt the cracks together and get the tube sealed again, but it looked pretty awful and I vividly recall the anguished look on Dr. Dehmelt’s face when he came to pick up his apparatus. Luckily, this did not seriously dent his research career since he went on at the University of Washington to receive the Nobel Prize in physics in 1989 for his work on single electron spectroscopy and ion traps.

Ronald Lees
Dr. Lees is a professor emeritus of physics at the University of New Brunswick.

A safe space to speak up

Thanks to Adam Chapnick for his article, “Recognizing the differences between shy and introverted students” (November issue). It provided much-needed insight into something I have been grappling with: how to get the quiet students to speak out more in class. I thought about his analysis and how to adapt it for my graduate-level classroom of 20 students. In a nutshell what I did was briefly introduce the subject at the beginning of the week’s class. I asked how many of the students were familiar with Susan Cain’s book Quiet, or TED Talk. Only a few raised their hands. I strongly encouraged them all to watch the TED Talk. I asked who could explain what being shy was and what being introverted was, and then we talked about the differences. I asked them to think about what would make it easier for a shy person and an introverted person to participate more in class. And I mentioned why it was in everyone’s interest to make the classroom a safe space where everyone felt they could voice an opinion, and how that level of participation might make the discussion richer. I asked them for suggestions as to how we could make our classroom more accessible for everyone.

They came up with several ideas. One student described a strategy one of her undergrad professors used and I thought it might be the technique to try then and there. The class agreed that those students who could easily speak up in class, count to 10 before replying to questions in order to give the quieter students a chance to speak. Although I can’t be certain, it seemed that, following that decision, there were more voices heard during the discussion. So thanks again, Adam, for putting your thoughts to paper and sharing.

Charna Gord
Ms. Gord is an adjunct lecturer in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.