Conservative budget butchers Canadian science.

Canadian researchers are disproportionately productive and do an outstanding amount of science in light of the amount of funding they receive. That may change. It now seems that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has taken even more steps to gut Canadian basic science.

Budget erases funding for key science agency
Carolyn Abraham
Globe and Mail January 29, 2009

The only agency that regularly finances large-scale science in Canada was shut out of Tuesday’s federal budget, putting at risk thousands of jobs and some of the most promising medical research, and forcing the country to pull out of key international projects.

“We got nothing, nothing, and we don’t know why,” said a stunned Martin Godbout, Genome Canada president and CEO. “We’re devastated.”

For the first time in nine years, Genome Canada, a non-profit non-governmental funding organization, was not mentioned in the federal budget and saw its annual cash injection from Ottawa – $140-million last year – disappear.

While research leaders have applauded the Conservatives’ plan to spend billions on construction and fixing old buildings on university campuses, they are mystified that the money to operate these facilities seems to be shrinking – particularly when U.S. President Barack Obama plans to double research funds in the U.S. over the next decade.

When President Obama comes to Canada, we can show him some nice labs with no one in them,” said Dr. Godbout, who compared the situation to supplying planes but no pilots or ground crews.

Dr. Godbout said he spent the day fielding calls from worried scientists and making calls to research funding partners in the United States and Europe saying that Canada would have to withdraw from a few key international projects – including some that were to be Canadian-led. Among them, he said, is the worldwide effort to sequence the genomes of 50 different types of cancer.

It’s not just big science. The Conservatives also plan to chop $87.2 million from the federal granting agencies in the next three years. They say this will not affect the amount provided to individual researchers, but their trend of focusing on (their own) ‘priority areas’ could very well mean that basic research will be gutted in the same manner as big science.

This is bad news. This is very, very bad news.