In February, 1988 McGill amended the Regulations on Research Policy to include sections 10 and 11 dealing with the evaluation and approval of research projects funded by a military agency. This introduction of military research policy came in response to concerns about contracts with the US military for McGill professors to do research on fuel-air explosives.
At the time that the new military research policies were implemented, they were criticized because their requirements for ethical evaluation were limited to professors evaluating their own research projects, without any outside input into the process. In recent years, the policies have also been criticized because it does not account for research projects that are being done in direct collaboration with military researchers, but do not involve a McGill professor receiving military funding. Also, the evaluations and approvals resulting from the 1988 policy have not been reported to senate as required by the policy, nor made public in any other way. Therefore, it has been suggested that McGill’s research policies should require more public transparency.
In 2008, a policy was proposed regarding the ethical conduct of research. It will replace the Regulations on Research Policy. This could mean that military research policies at McGill will be erased, or it could mean that they will be improved to ensure public transparency and ethical evaluation of research that is funded by or done in collaboration with researchers from military agencies. Demilitarize McGill is working to ensure that this policy is improved, and that it can be used to make sure that the thermobaric explosives research in the department of mechanical engineering does not contribute to the development of weapons for the US military.
The new Research Policy was slated to be approved in Senate on March 4, 2009. However, the motion has been postponed to the Senate meeting of May 20, 2009. Demilitarize McGill is working to uncover the reasons behind this postponement. We are concerned that the lower number of students around in Summer semester, and the lack of student press at this time, will reduce the publicity and transparency surrounding adoption of the new policy.
We have succeeded in getting the discussion of the policy at Senate postponed until the Fall, when there will be students and student press on campus!