The "Harper Government" Responds

Basic, fundamental research in Canada is in big trouble. The current government, led by Stephen Harper's Conservatives, have cut back on the funding of basic research while promoting applied research of various sorts. The consequences in academic departments have been nothing short of disastrous. In university biochemistry and molecular biology departments, for example, there are hundreds of mid-career scientists who have lost their grants and many of them will never get back funding for their basic science projects. This means that research technicians are being fired, graduate students and postdocs can't complete their projects, and PI's find themselves unable to do what they've been hired to do, with 15-20 years before retirement age.

The recent protest on Parliament Hill [Protest on Parliament Hill] highlighted some of these problems with science funding in Canada. That prompted a response from Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology (see below). Recall that Gary Goodyear is a chiropractor and a creationist [Gary Goodyear "Clarifies" His Stance on Evolution].

Here's the Harper Government's1 response to criticism that it has neglected basic research in favor of applied research.
The Harper government has made historic investments in science, technology and research to create jobs, grow our economy and improve the quality of life for Canadians.

Support for science and technology has been a fundamental priority of our government since 2006. This year, through Economic Action Plan 2012, we enhanced federal government support for leading-edge research.

As a world leader in post-secondary research with a highly skilled workforce, Canada has strong fundamentals for innovation. While several countries around the world are reducing funding in science and research, our government continues to invest in research, development and technology. In fact, Canadian higher-education research and development expenditures are higher than any other G7 country, as a percentage of GDP.

While the government is returning to a balanced budget, science, technology and innovation remain a strong priority with an added $1.1-billion investment over five years. University presidents, academic leaders and industry leaders have praised our government's leadership in recognizing the important role that research and innovation play in our economic prosperity.

Economic Action Plan 2012 funding allocated to science, technology and innovation includes:
  • $12 million per year to make the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program permanent.
  • $6.5 million over three years for a research project at McMaster University to evaluate team-based approaches to health care delivery.
  • $17 million over two years to further advance the development of alternatives to existing isotope production technologies.
  • $105 million over two years to support forestry innovation.
  • $37 million annually starting in 2012-13 to the granting councils to enhance their support for industry-academic research partnerships.
  • $60 million for Genome Canada to launch a new applied research competition in the area of human health and to sustain the Science and Technology Innovation Centres until 2014-15.
  • $10 million over two years to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to link Canadians to global research networks.
  • $500 million over five years, starting in 2014-15, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support advanced research infrastructure.
  • $40 million over two years to support CANARIE's operation of Canada's ultra-high-speed research network.
Our government is investing in science and research that is leading to breakthroughs that are strengthening our economy and the quality of life of all Canadians. Our investments are enabling Canadian scientists in universities, colleges, businesses and other organizations to help secure Canada's prosperity today and into the future.
Does that sound like a government that understands the importance of basic research and knows the difference between research and "innovation"? He forgot to mention that these "increases" in spending are not on top of existing funding but often instead of support for fundamental research. That's why scientists all over the country are losing their grants unless they can find a way to make them sound applied or translational.

UPDATE: See how Denyse O'Leary manages to turn this into whining about Darwinists at Scientists, including evolutionary biologists, carry coffin through streets in Canada, to protest cuts to funding?.

1. Before Stephen Harper took over, it was common to refer to the "Government of Canada" in press releases. Now, it's always the "Harper Government."
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