Following up on my renewed interest in the
Canada Tory School of Energy and Environment, until recently the home of disgraced Conservative convict Bruce Carson and now the home of an oil sector consultant, I thought I’d take a look at its partner organization in Calgary, known as Carbon Management Canada.
Like the Tory School, Carbon Management was until recently chaired by Bruce Carson. Like the Tory School, its new management is even more dubious than its old management: Gordon Lambert, the sustainable development vice-president at Suncor, one of the dominant players in the tarsands. Given CMC’s mandate, this is obviously less offensive than the corporatist takeover of say, the sciences and humanities granting councils, which I’ve covered previously. Still, it does raise questions about the independence of what is theoretically a university-focused research and granting agency.
The rest of the CMC Board of Directors consists of four academics, a University of Calgary administrator, three federal representatives, Doug MacLeod of Capital Power, Eddy Isaacs of Alberta Innovates, Nick Olds of ConocoPhillips, retired accountant and UNX Energy director Keith Turnbull, Calgary lawyer and Inter Pipeline director Richard Shaw, Marlo Raynolds of the Pembina Institute, Scott Rennie of Schlumberger. Scientific guidance is provided by Steve Larter of the University of Calgary. So basically, a balance of government, industry, and academy, which given the organization’s mandate (commercially useful carbon management technology) is understandable.
This motley crew was set up almost two years ago through the efforts of Carson at the Tory School as well as some of his associates, and given a much bigger budget to play with, about $50 million all told, with some coming from both levels of government . Current partners include various government departments, seven energy companies (including Suncor, Conoco Phillips, and others represented on the Board), and 22 universities.
So far only the 2010 round of funding has been publicly announced; the second round probably should have come over the last month, but has been delayed, hopefully not for political reasons. In Round 1, $8.6 million was doled out to 18 projects (involving 51 researchers). Several things stand out about the awards list. First, and most importantly, it has to be said that 11 of 18 projects went to researchers on the CMC boards — either the Board of Directors, mentioned above, or the Research Management Committee, which coordinates the granting process. That included projects where Bernhard Mayer, James Meadowcroft, and Don Lawton were lead authors.
Incidentally, the University of Calgary also competed very well — coincidentally, for funding from a national organization that happens to be headquartered at the University of Calgary. Fully 10 of the 18 studies listed have lead authors affiliated with U of C. Four more have co-authors from that institution.
Now, for the record, I don’t necessarily see a problem with top-notch scientists in a field being both directors and grant recipients. In both cases, you’d expect the honours and opportunities to flow to the most qualified experts in the field, and maybe that’s exactly what happened here. But it does seem to bear mentioning, nonetheless. After all, if the recipients were corporations in an identical position, this blog would be slamming the process for massive conflicts of interest — as I did at the National Research Council, for instance, which has recently wandered off course to check out the president’s pet projects in algae-based carbon storage. The same rules should apply to universities.Tweet