Canada’s “NSF” Problem

House Republicans are trying to implement serious changes to the evaluation and funding of NSF science [here and here].

Canada is perhaps a bit further down this road. Here’s the latest on the decision to fund research that has industry applications rather than basic science.

When science goes silent
Jonathan Gatehouse | MacLean’s
May 3, 2013
This article touches on the shift in funding from basic science to applied science, but it is more in-line with an earlier post on the muzzling of environmental scientists.

National Research Council move shifts feds’ science role
Canadian Press | CBC News
May 7, 2013
‘Job-neutral’ restructuring to make agency streamlined, efficient and functional, president says

The Harper government is telling the National Research Council to focus more on practical, commercial science and less on fundamental science that may not have obvious business applications.

The government says the council traditionally was a supporter of business, but has wandered from that in recent years — and will now get back to working on practical applications for industries.

Some folks disagree with this shift:

In a statement, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers said the government is “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

“By transforming the NRC into a “business-driven, industry-relevant” organization, you are denying its ability to support basic research,” said Jim Turk.

“At the same time, you are cutting support to basic research in the universities.”

And is this part of the Tory ‘war on science’? [more coverage on this]

NDP science critic Kennedy Stewart called the shift in direction for the NRC “short-sighted” and said it could actually hurt economic growth in the long run, because it scales back the kind of fundamental research that can lead to scientific breakthroughs.

Research Council to focus on commercially viable projects, rather than science for science’s sake
Jessica Hume | Sun News
May 7, 2013
Two quotes say it all:

The government of Canada believes there is a place for curiosity-driven, fundamental scientific research, but the National Research Council is not that place.

“Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value,” John McDougall, president of the NRC, said in announcing the shift in the NRC’s research focus away from discovery science solely to research the government deems “commercially viable”.

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