Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Research Initiative Leaves AU Out

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org

STUDENT LOAN FRAUD

A recent news report announced that Alberta’s “three major universities” are working quietly on a plan to “co-ordinate and expand their energy research activities under a single umbrella” (Lamphier, 2004). This work is going on so “quietly” that Alberta’s fourth major university has apparently been excluded.

A three-way accord has been signed by the presidents of the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge, in which the universities agree to work together to pursue “ground-breaking research in the areas of oilsands extraction, clean-coal technology, hydrogen production, bio energy, and land-water management.” The proposal is entitled the “Pan Alberta-Canada Energy & Environment Research Initiative (PACEER)” and is supervised by the Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Science through the Alberta Energy Research Institute. Funding in the vicinity of more than $60 million annually is being sought from government and industry partners, and each university is to focus on a different research area, with the goal of positioning Alberta as a research leader in “hydrocarbons, clean-coal technology, hydrogen and alternative energy”.

With the potential for some 1000 researchers to be involved in the work, some discussion is already occurring over which university will have the right to host PACEER. U of A’s David Lynch insists that areas of research will be shared to maximize each university’s individual strengths, and there will be no competition, with the project “truly being handled in a virtual mode, with no single administrative centre.”

One cannot help but wonder why Athabasca University, a leader in virtual communication & distance education research, has been excluded from this important research venture. Although AU is not known as a research university, there are many relevant research projects being conducted at AU and we hold two Canada Research Chairs – Martin Connors for Space Science and Terry Anderson for Education. AU has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to environmental issues, and has recently opened up the BA in Environmental Studies. An MBA with Energy Concentration will soon be available. Even if AU does not have the same level of expertise and background in energy research, certainly Alberta’s “other” three major campus-based universities could take advantage of AU’s expertise in virtual communication to support and facilitate this collaborative research project.

Lamphier, G. (2004). Alberta universities work to unite research efforts. In the Edmonton Journal, October 14, 2004. http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/business/story.html?id=80bbce09-130a-47e8-8c79-4fe23488f4ad
Athabasca University Research Centre: http://www.athabascau.ca/research/
Canada Research Chairholder Database: http://www.chairs.gc.ca/web/chairholders/index_e.asp
AU’s Executive MBA with Energy Concentration:
http://www.mba.athabascau.ca/Titan/aucimwebsite.nsf/AllDoc/56B3C13BA8BE430587256E3E0067384A?OpenDocument

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