The Role of Government Science and Lost Capacity

“I’m very concerned with the direction that science has taken in the federal service. There are issues that can best be explored by government that contribute to the public good (i.e. groundwater mapping, climate change impacts, etc) and the govt is best positioned to take the lead.”

“Help!” [FR]

“The government of Canada needs to re-establish the National Science Advisory Council and listen to that advice.”

“I think the public is unaware of the importance that federal scientists play in public policy. I am worried about the future of federal scientists, as funding of these positions has been decreasing over the years. Although partners such as academia can carry out some areas of research, a large majority of the research conducted within the federal government is unique and cannot be carried out exclusively in the private sector.”

Our Department (Agriculture and Agri-Food) used to carry clout among the agricultural community and academia, nationally and internationally, but in the last 5-10 years, we have come to be viewed as mediocre in our capacity to carry out research and development. We have become a "mere shadow of our former selves". This can be directly attributed to the downsizing in personnel and funding. The never-ending restructuring imposed by government and management will never solve this critically important situation.”

“Our department looks dead.”

“I believe the senior managers in my program try very hard to maintain quality of science and staff morale, but that the overall direction of the department will lead us to a place where we have lost the ability to be proactive in dealing with environmental concerns because we no longer have baseline data that allows us to anticipate issues.”

“My research program was declared surplus [DATE REMOVED]. This has severely disrupted my plans to phase out the work I have been doing (via either a succession process or a formal planned decommissioning of the research) and will result in a large amount of valuable scientific research data being lost (wasted work). There has not been support for discussing a plan to salvage important findings from studies that are nearly complete.”

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain independent public-good research within the department as greater amounts of funding are provided to outside academic, private, industry and pseudo-private organizations, while at the same time numbers of scientific staff continue to decline. The work of the remaining scientists is increasingly directed or managed by outside groups.”

“I am so disappointed with the direction that our Gov't is taking towards agricultural research and environmental research. It is structurally dismantling the research branch in such a way that it cannot be practically rebuilt. To me, this signals the end of research within the [PROGRAM REMOVED] and a severe blow to Canadian research, overall. Additionally, it severely limits the future of Canadian youth to find meaningful careers within the research establishment in Canada. I also believe that the present Gov't does not understand what drives good, sustainable research in this country because they are ideologically motivated to transfer most, if not all research to the private sector.”

“I and most of my colleagues are deeply concerned about the future of "public good" scientific research in the federal public service and feel that the current lack of interest and support for basic, long-term research will seriously impair the ability of Canadians to understand, manage and adapt to the world of the future.”

“It would seem that resources have been deliberately withheld in order to render the organization ineffective.”

“The recent funding cuts have resulted in us being unable to meet regulatory requirements.”

“The capacity of research in Environment Canada, or the Government Canada in general, over the last 6 years is decreasing. It is very important to have a national vision in terms of government research on what should be achieved for the best of Canadian people in next 10-20 years. Government research should focus on the issues which are not easily been taken by university research or private organizations. Scientific steering committees should be established at all different levels (e.g., departmental, directorate and division) to work with management to ensure that the best science can be served with the best interest of Canadian people.”

“Thirty years ago the Federal Government was the employer of choice for scientists who wanted to do public-good research for the benefit of Canadians. The labs of the day were well equipped, and the science managers had all been career researchers themselves. We had excellent funding and facilities. Today, these same labs are run by non-scientists, often economists, and they are less well equipped than academic labs. The mood has changed dramatically, we don't appear to be concerned with public good-rather we must do what industry wants us to do. In addition travel is impossible, and equipment is old and labs look like some that I've seen in the developing world.”

“As it stands today, I could not in good conscience recommend a career in federal S&T to anyone. To be honest, I think that is exactly the effect that the government is intending to have.”

“In my 31 years with the federal public service, I’ve never seen such a systematic dismantling of science capacity. My only hope of ever seeing a scientifically viable and credible public service again is a change in government.” [FR]

“The current federal government’s stand on environmental law and regulation along with muzzling and cutting jobs in the environment and science-based sector across departments is extremely distressing both professionally and as a citizen. I believe Canada has lost respect in the world scientific community by having our own world-renowned programs and sciences eliminated and having funding reduced and in some cases eliminated altogether. I do not believe the current federal government is presenting the truth to Canadians about the environmental, human health and safety impacts - both short- and long-term - this will have on our human health, environment, economics and socio-economics. It will take Canada at least 10 years to recover from the damage that the federal government has done to science in general. It is appalling that a federal government representative would publicly in an international forum discount climate change - I am appalled as a citizen and a professional. We need to support science based research for the sake of science not just to help support industry or provide innovative technologies that have a monetary purpose.”

“I think that the refocusing and structural changes to NRC will, over the next few years, render the organization ineffective and irrelevant to its stated commitment to support Canadian industry. At that point it can be closed down. I am not convinced that is not the strategic objective.”

“It is a national disgrace that what was once a world-class public service has been driven to destruction in the past five years by an ideologically-driven agenda rather than management decisions informed by facts and science-based information.”

One of the least harmful aspects for the public, but one of the most harmful for our professional growth, is the series of budget restrictions on travel. They are preventing the majority of federal scientists from actively participating in the international science community’s development of knowledge. These restrictions have already had a negative impact on the number of invitations from peers to participate in science meetings, or in task forces, including those normally expected in the course of funded projects that federal scientists collaborate on. In the long term, these restrictions will lead to the exclusion of Canadian federal scientists from international events and collaborations, which will prevent these scientists from receiving the upper levels of pay set out for their positions. In fact, the higher levels can only be attained by factually demonstrating the impact of a researcher’s body of work internationally. That is a blatant conflict between the administrative decisions made by the government and the terms laid down for the career advancement of scientists.”