May 30, 2002

Canada researchers chairs' gender

Peter Cain

Dr. Rene Durocher
Executive Director
Canada Research Chairs

Dear Dr. Durocher,

I understand from an article in the National Post that you have been quoted as saying the following about the percentage of women appointed to Canada Research Chairs:

"It is much too low. We have been talking to the universities and telling the presidents they must improve the situation."

If you will allow me to comment, I have concerns about this view. I do not believe that the appointment of any particular percentage of individuals by gender is a proper matter for any of us to specify. The appointment of individuals to Canada Research Chairs is a matter for universities to judge, based on proper criteria of excellence in research. Unless there is evidence that universities have been making errors of judgement about excellence in deciding on these appointments, then I have difficulty seeing that the politicization of the selection process is justified or helpful.

On the other hand, if there is good evidence that there is systematic selection bias against certain excellent candidates, which seems to be implied by your comment, then we should know more about that and I would urge you to bring the evidence forward.

From my own observations I can say that I have been very impressed by the appointment decisions that have been made since the inception of Canada Research Chairs, both at my own University and elsewhere. In cases in or close to my own field, I can say with confidence that all of the individuals who have been appointed are internationally known leaders in the field and richly deserve the appointment they received. Based on this I have confidence that the appointments in my field of which I am aware were well justified and that Canada will continue to benefit from their creativity and hard work.


Peter Cain Professor
Department of Psychology Graduate Program in Neuroscience
University of Western Ontario London

cc: Paul Davenport, President, UWO
     Greg Moran, Provost and VP (Academic),UWO
     Nils Petersen, VP Research, UWO

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