Friday, 2 November 2012

More cuts at NRC: Public science continues its downward spiral in Canada

More cuts at NRC: Public science continues its downward spiral in Canada: "Over 90 National Research Council (NRC) employees across the country represented by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) were notified today that their services may no longer be required. The 94 affected members include Scientists, Researchers and Business Development Officers who work in the NRC’s Life Sciences, Engineering, and Business Management divisions. They are located in Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton, London, Regina, Winnipeg and Ottawa.
This is the second round of cuts at the National Research Council since the tabling of the 2012 Budget. Earlier this year, some thirty PIPSC researchers and scientists received similar notices. The NRC cuts include the termination of all Medical Devices research activities focused on neuroscience and MR, EEG and MEG-based imaging, spectroscopy and data acquisition.
“This is another example of the government’s wrong-headed approach to the NRC” said PIPSC President Gary Corbett. “The important role that government-funded research plays in advancing science for the Public Good continues to be eroded. Future NRC activities will be dictated by market demands and by what can be commercialized, instead of being focused on the benefits Canadians receive from public research, and the economic spinoffs which can be leveraged from cutting-edge studies”."
Some background on how the changes at NRC have come about: "Alberta Research Council culture goes National! Over the course of his 12-year tenure as President and CEO of the Alberta Research Council (ARC), John McDougall steered the organization towards “delivering and aligning science and technology solutions to industry’s needs”. Less than one year after his appointment as President of the National Research Council (NRC), McDougall “ordered all staff to direct research toward boosting economic development and technology, with less time for pure science”."
NDP's response when the cuts last March when the cuts were announced: "With the federal budget being tabled tomorrow, economists aren’t the only ones worried about how the Conservatives might affect the future of our country. Canadian scientists and academics are also increasingly worried that the main outlet of public science, Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), might be the subject of radical restructuring.
NDP critic for Science and Technology, Hélène LeBlanc says that many science professionals she’s spoken to are fearful about where the government will take the NRC.
“I’ve spoken to many scientists, professors and researchers about the future of the NRC and a lot of them are worried that the mandate for basic or ‘bluesky’ science will be stricken from the NRC’s mandate. That’s something that would be harmful for the advancement of science as well as the economy,” stated Ms. LeBlanc.
In a speech given to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on March 6th, Minister of State for Science and Technology stated that the National Research Council "...will be hopefully a one-stop, 1-800, 'I have a solution for your business problem...”
“Mr. Goodyear must understand that the NRC is more than just a Staples outlet,” said Ms. LeBlanc. “The National Research Council has an immense role to play in Canadian scientific culture. It is a symbol of our commitment to the greater international movement for the advancement of science.”"
For more on research funding cuts also see: "The budget also imposes a dramatic restructuring of the National Research Council. The NRC’s basic research program will be effectively eliminated, and the agency will be “realigned” to meet business needs. As part of this process, the NRC will receive $67 million in 2012–2013 to support the “refocusing on business-led, industry-relevant research.”
“Tying research increasingly to commercial interests, as this budget does, will hinder real innovation,” Turk said. “The government ignores the fact that most fundamental advances in knowledge leading to innovative applications come from basic research guided by scientists, not political or commercial interests.”"
Rick Mercer's take on the recent NRC cuts: 

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