Update: As of March, 2015, I no longer hold the Enbridge Professorship.
There are 4 major milestones in a professor’s career – you get your first job as Assistant Professor, you get tenure, then (or possibly jointly) get promoted to Associate Professor, and finally to (full) Professor. Outside of that formal structure, there are separate rewards that you might earn – Professorships, Chairs–including those endowed by donors or funded through a government granting agency–fellowships, etc. This year, I was awarded one of these – the Alberta School of Business Enbridge Professorship in Energy Policy. I’m grateful for the recognition from the school and grateful for the support of Enbridge, as well as for that of our many other donors. The University of Alberta’s Donation Acceptance Policy states that, “philanthropic support is an important element in advancing research and education,” and there are many donors who make it possible to do the work we do at the Alberta School of Business. I am aware that many of you will have questions about this professorship and how it influences my work and responsibilities. I hope that this post will answer them.
I am committed to transparency and disclosure with respect to potential conflicts of interest. I have posted my own Conflict of Interest Disclosure on this blog and kept it regularly updated since early 2012. I began this in response to the American Economics Association’s adoption of new guidelines for economists in terms of conflict of interest management, also in 2012. The link to my conflict of interest disclosure is on every page, at the top of every post. If you want to know anything about me, from who has paid me to speak to who has given me hockey tickets to what stocks I am holding today, you can find out with a click and a scroll. If there’s something you’d like to know that is not there and is germane to my public engagement or research work, let me know and I’ll add it to the list. This post will have a permanent link from that page as well.
I have structured the remainder of this post as a Q&A.
What is the Enbridge Professorship? The Enbridge Professorship is an award supported by a donation from Enbridge to the Alberta School of Business. The award is given by the Alberta School of Business to a faculty member working in the field of energy policy. The award provides financial resources, which may be used to support research or taken as salary. The total value of the award is less than 10% of my annual salary. The award does not change my conditions of employment at the university as stipulated by the Faculty Agreement (PDF), nor does it change my rank. I remain an Associate Professor with tenure.
Does this mean that Enbridge is paying part of your salary? Yes and no. The Professorship is an appointment provided by the Alberta School of Business funded through a donation from Enbridge. My salary is paid by the University of Alberta, but I can elect on an annual basis to receive some or all of the Professorship resources as a stipend, which would be funded by the Enbridge donation. As specified above, the share of my annual earnings which would be funded by the Enbridge Professorship would be a maximum of less than 10%. Based on my elections for this academic year, the share will be less than 5%.
Can the position be revoked at Enbridge’s request? No. The professorship and accompanying resources are provided by the Alberta School of Business, and so such a decision would be at the School’s discretion, not Enbridge’s. The University of Alberta has specific guidelines that detail the relationship between a donor and the university, protecting scholarly freedom and integrity, which you can see here.
Are you required to be supportive of Enbridge projects, actions, statements? No. The Faculty Agreement is very specific as to the protection of academic freedom. Article 2 of the agreement states that the principles of academic freedom include, “the right to examine, to question, to teach, to learn, to investigate, to speculate, to comment, to criticize without deference to prescribed doctrine.” This is not superseded by the awarding of a sponsored professorship. The University of Alberta’s Donation Acceptance Policy is very clear in this regard, and states that, “the University values and will protect its integrity, autonomy, and academic freedom, and does not accept donations when a condition of such acceptance would compromise these fundamental principles.”
I’ve been supportive of Enbridge positions in some cases in the past, and not so at other times. I expect that will continue. I have received wonderful support in my classes from Enbridge over the years, as well as from many of their competitors and opponents. I expect that to continue as well.
Does the award specify subjects that you should or should not address in your research? No. The award is not a research grant and so is not tied to a specific project, nor are there expectations in terms of specific research questions to be addressed by the holder of the professorship. I expect to continue as before – working on what interests me, and trying to publish articles in the top peer-reviewed journals in my field, as well as maintaining this blog and other public platforms. In accordance with the American Economics Association guidelines, I will disclose the general research support provided through the Enbridge Professorship on research papers submitted for publication, and on my conflict of interest disclosure, which is readily available on this blog. The award places no restrictions on research topics or any other academic activity, as explained above.
Do you expect me to believe you aren’t conflicted by this position? No. There is no question that the debate over energy is both very important and often heated in Canada. As a result, in accepting this position, I was and remain well aware that people will assume that I am conflicted by this position and will view my writing and commentary through that lens. That’s fine – please read and judge for yourselves.
My promise to myself on accepting this position was that if I were to come to feel that my academic freedom had suffered as a result, I’d give up the professorship. Academic freedom is the first substantive clause in the Faculty Agreement for a reason: it’s crucial to have that freedom in order to contribute positively to the public understanding of important issues including energy. I am not prepared to give that up.
Did Enbridge approve this post? No. A copy was provided in advance to the appropriate contact within Enbridge as a courtesy.
I hope that this has addressed any concerns you may have and that you will continue reading my work here and elsewhere.