Monday, 8 July 2013

Scientists Bristle at Canadian Leader's Applied Research Push

Science Magazine's writeup about the recent Canadian gvnt's funding cuts for basic science: Scientists Bristle at Canadian Leader's Applied Research Push: ... you need subscription to read the article, I will try to post some...

"That response was the latest—and
quintessential—example of what Harper’s
critics have described variously as his “antiintellectual,”
“antievidence,” or
“antiscience” attitude. An economist
turned politician, Harper
became Canada’s 22nd prime
minister in February 2006.
According to his opponents,
Harper soon began waging a subtle
“war on science” that has only
intensifi ed since his Conservative
party captured a majority of Parliament
in 2011.
That war has operated on
many fronts, his detractors say.
Stagnant budgets for the country’s
three granting councils
have sent a message that academic
research is not a priority
for the Conservative government,
they say. Climate and atmospheric
research have been hit especially hard as
part of what critics regard as an assault on
environmental stewardship."

"However, Harper’s top-down
initiatives and his demand that
the academic community become
more directly involved in the commercialization
of research have
infuriated scientists. Some argue
that the government’s propensity
for large, elitist programs is an
assault on the fundamental tenets of investigator-
initiated research that is eroding the
health of the scientifi c base. Others are simply
queasy about being nudged into becoming
what some call “mercenaries for industry.”"

"Researchers say it’s no coincidence that
a policy requiring government scientists to
obtain permission from Harper’s offi ce before
speaking to the media seems so often to
impinge on environmental researchers. Last
year, 2000 researchers in lab coats descended
on Parliament Hill for a mock funeral for the
“death of evidence.” The policy has spurred
an ongoing investigation by the federal information
commissioner into whether Harper
has placed undue limits on the ability of federal
scientists to disseminate fi ndings."

"Abolishing the national science adviser’s
position was particularly egregious, says
Kennedy Stewart, science critic for the opposition
New Democratic Party. The result, he
says, is that the Harper government is now
crafting science policy “without getting
advice from scientists.”
The shift to a voluntary census, meanwhile,
prompted the resignation of then–
Chief Statistician Munir Sheikh. It was
ostensibly made because libertarian backbenchers
within Harper’s caucus were fretting
that a Canadian might be charged with
failing to fi ll out a census form. And many
fear that the elimination of the national health
council, part of a broader policy to leave the
provinces entirely in charge of health care,
puts Canada on the fast track to becoming
14 splintered systems."

"Gregory Marchildon, Canada Research
Chair in Public Policy and Economic History
at the University of Regina, says that
the “federal government is dismantling
key aspects of the scientifi c infrastructure”
and that it will take “a generation or two
to rebuild” the damage. The opposition’s
Stewart says that the Harper government
is coasting on investments past and that its
strategy of “barking an order at someone”
and telling them “to go from being a scientist
to somebody who does industrial applications”
is doomed to fail."

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