Friday, January 9, 2009

Robert Sirman writes back

I just now received a response from Canada Council Director Robert Sirman to my letter of concern regarding last year's GG poetry award. It's a rather predictable bit of bureaucratic boilerplate. I'll be writing back to him soon.

Here's his letter in full:

Dear Mr. Wells,

Thank you for having taken the time to write to me concerning the 2008 Governor's General Literary Awards.

I would like to stress that the Council is very sensitive to real or perceived conflicts of interest. Every effort is made to avoid conflicts of interest despite the likelihood that peer assessment committee members will know some of the authors under consideration. We have aconflict of interest policy tailored specifically for prizes and awards, which is distinct from the existing policy we use to govern our regular granting programs. The Council also has an open discussion with each committee members about possible conflicts of interest and members are required to sign a form indicating if they have a conflict of interest with any of the applicants.

In the case of the selection of the GGLA finalists and winners, it isimportant that all three peers be able to come to a consensus. This is not a decision that is made by one peer alone.

The members of the committee selecting the 2008 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry discussed the conflict of interest requirements and made their selection based on the criteria of artistic and literary excellence. We are confident the committee made its decision in accordance with the Canada Council's peer assessment policy and we stand behind the results.

We appreciate the interest shown in the selection of this year's winner and always welcome feedback on the process and selection. However, we also recognize that not everyone will be happy with the decisions of a particular peer assessment committee, no matter how stringently we have met the requirements for selection of the peers and how strongly we have adhered to the process.

I trust you will find these additional comments helpful and appreciate your contacting me directly on this matter.


Robert Sirman
Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des Arts du Canada
350, rue Albert Street
Ottawa, ON
K1P 5V8

(613) 566-4414 ex/poste 5200

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