It’s hardcore recommendation season and I’ve been spending a little time each afternoon working on a recommendation as I line up the templates for the year (or send out the fellowship recs, which are usually due first).

Today was my first attempt to engage with SSHRC’s new online interface. They have, happily, trashed the ludicrous EAMS system for online recommendations. But the system that they have replaced it is, apparently, even more ridiculous because it is completely unstable and unrelated to their other systems. SSHRC must have my full contact information and disciplinary expertise like 3 times now, and yet the recommendation form for postdocs asks me to submit it again. It also has a link that goes nowhere entitled “download your form.” Which is unrelated to “click here to fill out your recommendation.” Anyway, I start filling in my information for the gazillionth time and then the form freezes up. Then the ENTIRE SITE APPEARS TO GO DOWN, then I call the SSHRC office in Ottawa and am informed that their voice mailbox is full and I cannot leave a message.

So let’s review.

1. SSHRC is Canada’s most important granting agency for the humanities and social sciences. Late September and October are its crunch times for applications.
2. For 3 years it has not been able to find anyone in Canada who is competent to design or implement a web-based application system.
3. The current system take recommenders to a page with nonsense links and asks for information SSHRC has collected dozens of times before.
3. The system appears unable to accommodate the level of traffic at 3pmPT/6pm ET on a Friday afternoon two weeks before the deadline.
4. There is no way to reach anyone at SSHRC to tell them their system is down.

This does not inspire confidence. I don’t know what kind of money they’ve paid people to do this but I’m sure I or countless other people could give them a proper web interface for the price of a course release one term, which as to be tens of thousands less than they’ve spent already. Someone else will have handle server-side architecture, but really, it’s not that difficult.