Conservative government versus basic research.

First they dismissed the National Science Advisor and closed the office. Now they announce increases in funding for science — to a small elite, and only for those working in areas the Conservative government thinks are important. It’s all applied topics — for the agency that presently funds most basic science, NSERC: automotive, manufacturing, forestry, and fishing industries. Instead of raising support for everyone, which is much needed, they will give it to a small few. This is so… un-Canadian. One of the craziest bits is offering $50,000 per year to a select group of doctoral students — they could provide scholarships for twice as many at half the price per, and they would still be doing well compared to most students.

I hate that I had to start a new label, “politics”, just for this post, but I can barely take it.

From ScienceNow‘s report:

  • “Since assuming office in 2006, Canada’s minority Conservative government has argued that it’s more important to fund the best and the brightest in designated areas than to spread the wealth across the entire spectrum of scientific activity. Today, it reinforced that message in a new 2008-2009 budget that will shower 20 scientific superstars from within Canada and abroad with $10 million apiece over 7 years.”
  • “It has yet to be determined whether the chairs will be selected through competitions administered by the country’s three research granting councils or whether a government department such as Industry Canada will oversee the program, including selection of the recipients.”
  • “Finance officials stressed that the allocations must be directed at priority areas rather than simply pumped into core operating grant programs. ‘The government has made it clear that they want this money to support the kind of research that should be supported,” says one official. ‘And the councils will have to answer to the Treasury Board if they don’t.'”
  • “Doctoral students will also be beneficiaries of the move toward more elitism. Scholarships named in honor of war hero and former Governor General Georges P. Vanier will be created to attract 500 of ‘the best doctoral students from here and around the world to study in Canada’ each year. Each student will be eligible for $50,000 per year for up to 3 years.”

Expect a significant discussion among Canadian researchers — perhaps not even totally polite — over this.


3 comments to Conservative government versus basic research.

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