Jim Turk is Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). He is a staunch defender of university research, especially curiosity motivated research.
In Tuesday's Globe and Mail, Turk explains why current government policy is wrong. It puts too much emphasis on research that directly helps business and not enough on fundamental research [Get the state out of the labs of the nation].
He also makes a point that needs emphasis. The Presidents of Canada's granting agencies are getting into bed with the government. They increasingly see themselves as obedient pawns of the government and not as independent agents who will stand up for what they believe in regardless of the consequences.
Our federal government has acknowledged that politicians should not try to pick winners and losers in the economic marketplace, but persists in trying to do so in the marketplace of ideas. In the 2007 and 2008 budgets, the federal government dictated where new money for granting councils could be spent - ruling out the vast majority of researchers' work. In the 2009 budget, it restricted new social science humanities graduate scholarships to students "focused on business-related degrees."
That research funding has become politicized was also evident when the presidents of the three granting councils - the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - failed to object when their budgets were cut, and when Genome Canada's president expressed concerns, then quickly retracted them. Canada's research funding agencies should be made arms' length from government.
[Hat Tip: T. Ryan Gregory: Genomicron]