Canada to Abandon Pure Science Altogether?

Phil Plait reports that the National Research Council—the Canadian scientific research and development agency—has now said that they will only perform research that has “social or economic gain”.

John MacDougal, President of the NRC, literally said, “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value”. Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology, also stated “There is [sic] only two reasons why we do science and technology. First is to create knowledge … second is to use that knowledge for social and economic benefit. Unfortunately, all too often the knowledge gained is opportunity lost.”

I had to read the article two or three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something, because I was thinking that no one could possibly utter such colossally ignorant statements. But no, I was reading it correctly. These two men—leaders in the Canadian scientific research community—were saying, out loud and clearly, that the only science worth doing is what lines the pocket of business.

The link goes to an article at the Globe and Mail entitled “Research council’s makeover leaves Canadian industry setting the agenda”.

In short, Canada continues to defect from civilization and intends to free ride on the efforts of other nations.

Before everyone outside Canada gets too smug, consider that these pressures are being felt elsewhere. The Globe article says:

Canada isn’t alone in trying to find the right balance between basic and applied research as countries struggle to speed the translation of research toward economic ends. U.S. President Barack Obama, for example, is pushing for more near-term results from federally funded research in his 2014 budget.

After all these decades of growth, apparently we can’t afford science anymore. It calls into question what, exactly, has been growing…

Anyway, given this free rider problem, should genuine science (as opposed to engineering and medical R&D) be funded at the global level, since the benefits of pure science are global, rather than national?

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  1. Pingback: A right wing defence of pure science funding by governments | Planet3.0

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