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Tag Archives: Silverman

Canadian Budget Reaction Boils Over

A meeting this week between the Canadian Association of University Teachers and Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of Science and Technology descended into a shouting match over cuts to research funding announced in Canada’s 2009 federal budget.

Interestingly, the Minister focused on a point I made last week – that the Canadian approach lately has centered on commercialization:

Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., said the government has been steadily investing in science and technology since 2006, with a new emphasis on commercialization…

I think commercialization is a worthwhile investment; but funding commercialization at the expense of Canadian research is a major  blunder, for the following reasons:

  1. There is no commercialization without research.  Researchers from Boston or San Francisco or Edinburgh will not suddenly move here to start their companies because of extra NRC-IRAP funding.  If the developments aren’t made here, the companies won’t be formed here either.
  2. Research is an area in which Canada punches above its weight.  Check out our Friday Science Reviews and you will see international headlines and top tier journal articles.  However, a lot of hard reputational work is undone by the kind of international reaction generated by the 2009 budget.
  3. The timing is bad.  The increased research funding provided by the U.S. budget and stimulus makes for a terrible comparison.  Plus, Obama is poised to lift the U.S. federal funding ban on stem cell research tomorrow (Monday); and this is an area where we have benefited from an extra structural advantage that is about to be erased (as observers in the UK have already noted).

So, Mr. Goodyear, by all means focus on commercialization.  We can (and will) quibble about that implementation another time.  But in the meantime, restore the research funding that makes us a world-class producer of scientific innovation.

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