Science shouldn’t be all business Publish Date: 09-DEC-2014 08:44 AM Last Thursday, during a visit to IBM headquarters in Markham, Ont., Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled his government’s science and technology strategy. Like all Harper government-branded products, it has a grandiose title: “Seizing Canada’s Moment: Moving Forward in Science, Technology and Innovation” – and features the buzzword du jour, “innovation.” It also opens with some bons mots from the PM himself… What the Prime Minister announced was not really a science strategy, but a business strategy – and a short-sighted, self-serving one at that.
Scientists want revenues from their inventions invested in research: union Publish Date: 07-DEC-2014 02:45 PM Canada’s federal scientists want contract changes so half of the revenues generated by their inventions and other intellectual property will be plowed back into government research to shore up budgets hit by spending cuts and to attract top talent. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents more than 15,000 scientists, researchers and engineers, is going to the bargaining table this week with a demand to improve science funding as part of its negotiating strategy for 2,300 researchers working in the science-based departments and agencies.
Public-interest science missing from new federal science strategy Publish Date: 07-DEC-2014 02:42 PM The federal government has just released the revised and updated Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) strategy along with details of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, originally announced in the 2014 budget. “It is unbelievable that the federal government could release a science strategy that only pays lip-service to the research done by government departments and agencies,” says Dr. Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy. “Government research is the core of public-interest science in Canada and crucial for the protecting the health, safety and well being of Canadians.”
Canadian government continues valiant fight in the war against science Publish Date: 04-DEC-2014 02:31 PM Canadian scientists are protesting major changes to public research funding which will considerably increase their reliance on industry partners and decrease funding for basic scientific research. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada's main funding source for health science research, has announced plans to slash baseline funding of all research institutes in half, with the slashed funds diverted to a common pool available to any area of health research. To access these funds, researchers will need to obtain additional funding from external sources such as industry. "At least eight" of the 13 CIHR institute boards, as well as individual researchers, have written to CIHR to protest the upcoming changes. The CIHR governing council is appointed by the federal government in 3-year unpaid terms. Its 18 members include politicians, academic researchers, directors of healthcare institutes, and industry representatives.
Canadian innovation is more than just oil Publish Date: 04-DEC-2014 10:49 AM We are surrounded by innovations made by Canadians. We invented canola oil, alkaline batteries and snowmobiles. Such innovations are at the heart of our economy. But where in Canada are the innovators of today? New data show that we need to rethink old stories of which parts of the Canadian economy are the most innovative. Inventors in Alberta and in the utilities and construction sector – areas that some see as producing little domestic value added – are outperforming researchers in many other parts of the economy in applying their work to the Canadian market.
Canada could be a world leader in innovation Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:19 AM Innovation and productivity drive economic growth. They allow countries to lead in today’s fast-paced global economy. They can raise living standards for everyone (if distributed fairly!). Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said, “Productivity isn’t everything, but, in the long-run, it is almost everything.” For three decades, Canada has been lagging behind similar countries when it comes to innovation. Until about 1980, Canada largely kept up with productivity and innovation in the United States. By 1984, our relative productivity slipped to 90 per cent of the U.S.—a decline, but still respectable. By 2007, our productivity was just 74 per cent of the U.S. From 1980 until 2011, productivity grew at just 1.4 per cent annually, compared to 2.2 per cent in the U.S.A. Our Conference Board of Canada has consistently ranked Canada near the bottom of the largest industrial economies in terms of productivity and innovation. This productivity gap costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars and countless jobs each year.
Is innovation an election issue ? Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:18 AM Since 2006, at least a dozen major reports about innovation in Canada have come to three identical conclusions. First, future growth and prosperity depend upon innovation. Second, Canada is not very good at it. Third, what we are doing about it is not working. Such conclusions attract broad political and industry agreement. But it has been nearly two decades since any federal government has taken substantive coordinated action on this file. And as we enter an election year, there is little indication that any of the contenders have this issue on their radar.
Canada’s global innovation standing continues to drop, says World Economic Forum Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:16 AM Expanding the nation’s capacity to innovate, enhancing business competitiveness and further industry, government and post-secondary collaboration on research and development is needed if Canada wants to see improvements to its global competitiveness ranking, which has fallen once again. Canada was outpaced in the latest World Economic Forum’s (WEF) competitiveness rankings, falling to 15th place of 144 national economies in 2014-15, despite holding on to 14th place for the last two years. Canada fell out of the top 10 in 2011-12 and this year’s score is the lowest the country has seen since 2006’s 16th place score.
Canada can be a global innovation leader Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:00 AM I met recently with Jonathan Bagger, the new director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics. TRIUMF is becoming an innovation driver in nuclear medicine and materials science. It collaborates extensively, with 18 member universities across Canada, and a range of international partnerships. Dr. Bagger, well-known in the world of physics, was himself recruited from the United States after an international search. A successful research enterprise requires the best and brightest lead researchers. A search for those leaders is necessarily international. International collaboration facilitates innovation and should be encouraged. We must focus on talent retention and recruitment and a commitment to repairing Canada’s damaged international reputation in the science, technology and innovation community.
Driving Innovation – are we there yet ? Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 09:58 AM ‘There has been no effective mobilization of advice and counsel from outside the public service and responsibility for the expansion of various activities has been borne by individual ministers without any evidence of their relation to national policy as a whole.’ (J. Grant Glassco, Commissioner, 1963) This salient observation on the country’s national science activities by the Glassco Royal Commission on Government Organization could easily have been written today. Canadian governments and their public service have been experimenting on how to mobilize knowledge assets and advice ever since. A key dimension of all of these ventures over the five decades since that landmark report has been the innovation within the country’s science and innovation policies.
Letter: Closing of facility is another blow to scientific research Publish Date: 28-NOV-2014 08:41 AM On Friday, Nov. 21, the National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids in Ottawa announced that it must close because of inadequate funding. This unique, multi-million dollar facility, opened in 2005, overseen by an international advisory committee, is a world-renowned scientific facility dedicated to the study of solid materials using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. It has been a source of pride among Canadian scientists and the envy of the scientific community around the world.
World's strongest magnet unable to attract further federal funding Publish Date: 24-NOV-2014 11:47 AM The world’s strongest magnet dedicated to studying solids, and the strongest magnet in the country overall, will soon be shutdown because the federal government refuses to fund the project. “With no feasible options to apply for funding for proper operations and maintenance on the horizon, the Steering Committee reluctantly concedes that the continued operations of the facility are not currently sustainable,” said a memo to staff at the National Ultrahigh-field NMR Facility for Solids, an Ottawa research institution that specializes in magnets, magnetic resonance imaging and how it can be applied to the very atomic structure of solids.
Remarks by the President at National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation Award Ceremony Publish Date: 20-NOV-2014 11:39 AM If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re a little self-conscious because you feel like maybe everybody in the room is a little smarter than you today you are right. That's how I'm feeling -- because today it’s my pleasure to welcome a truly extraordinary group of men and women -- some of the world’s greatest scientists and researchers -- and I've got the extraordinary honor of presenting them with our nation’s highest honor for scientific and technological achievement, the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation.
A Cheap and small-minded museum plan Publish Date: 18-NOV-2014 02:18 PM If you want to know just how much the national government disdains the national capital, consider its plans to save the antiquated, ugly and obsolete Canada Science and Technology Museum. The decision, which Heritage Minister Shelly Glover announced Monday, is cheap and small-minded. It will resuscitate a corpse of an institution – a “temporary” facility in a converted bakery in a forlorn corner of the city along an unsightly thoroughfare. It should have been given a decent burial decades ago.
Canada is falling behind global leaders in R&D Publish Date: 16-NOV-2014 02:10 PM The Conservative government wraps virtually everything it does these days in the magic cloak of “jobs and growth.” Trade deals, infrastructure spending, business subsidies and tax breaks for families and small businesses. Everything on the economic front gets the familiar J-and-G spin – even if there’s scant evidence these efforts generate much of either. And yet in one vital area where governments really can make a difference – innovation – Ottawa’s commitment has been inconsistent and its investments wanting.
Canadian companies lag global peers in innovation Publish Date: 28-OCT-2014 09:01 AM A new list of the most innovative companies in the world is notable for what does not appear: a single Canadian firm. A global ranking, to be published by the Boston Consulting Group Tuesday, shows Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. at the top of its measure of the 50 most innovative companies. American firms dominate the ranking (though their presence is diminishing), with companies in China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and the Netherlands also in the top 50.
It’s time to support Canadian universities Publish Date: 27-OCT-2014 08:52 AM Canada’s universities are also at the centre of the cutting edge Canadian scientific research that has important spin-offs for our economy and sprouts countless partnerships with other researchers and institutions abroad. The federal government must take a leadership role in ensuring that this research is properly valued and that critical investments are made. But Conservatives have failed to fulfill their promises to support university science and research.
CFIA Consultations and Canadian Food Safety (PDF)
Publish Date: 19-DEC-2014 02:44 AM
As part of the 2014 CFIA Consultations, the Professional Institute of The Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) has submitted a detailed analysis of each of the following proposals:
Scientists Rally in Support of Federal Research
Publish Date: 27-NOV-2014 11:16 AM
On the morning of October 22, researchers and science staff from Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture & Agri-food Canada and the Department of National Defence demonstrated in Québec city at the entrance of Université Laval in support of research in the federal government.
The Canada First Research Excellence Fund seems to be the Harper government’s response to fierce criticism about its science policies. It was announced with much fanfare last week (although it had appeared in the spring budget) by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an unprecedented investment to strengthen Canada’s position in the world of science. But it came on the heels of an uproar in the scientific community over the imminent shuttering of a world-class science facility at the University of Ottawa, highlighting precisely what many critics believe is wrong with the Conservatives’ approach to science.
Irrités par les interventions du gouvernement Harper, les scientifiques fédéraux ont concocté un répulsif inusité: des clauses à insérer dans leur convention collective. Reste à voir si le remède sera homologué.