Here's some excerpts ...
Finding a fan of Canada’s current science policy among those who care about such things would be a discovery worthy of Banting and Best. Few if any would contend that Ottawa’s approach is sound; rather, the debate in 2014 has been over what in the world would possess a government to pursue such a catastrophic course.The rest of the editorial describes how Stephen Harper and his Conservative buddies have directed funding agencies to concentrate on research that will be of direct benefit to Canadian for-profit companies.
According to one school of thought, the answer is simple: the Conservatives are cavemen set on dragging Canada into a dark age in which ideology reigns unencumbered by evidence. Let’s call this the Caveman Theory.
The other, more moderate view holds that Prime Minister Stephen Harper et al are not anti-science – that they at least understand the importance of research and development to their "jobs and growth" agenda – but are instead merely confused about how the enterprise works and about the role government must play to help it flourish. Let’s call this the Incompetence Theory.
It concludes with ...
Whatever the government’s motives, whatever it understands or does not about how science works, it has over the last eight years devastated Canadian research in a way that will be hard to reverse. Private sector R&D continues to lag, but in our efforts to solve that problem we have seriously reduced our capacity for primary research, squandering a long-held Canadian advantage. Meanwhile, we have earned an international reputation for muzzling scientists, for defunding research that is politically inconvenient and for perversely conflating scientific goals with business ones, thus dooming both. Our current funding system is less well placed than it was in 2006 to promote innovation and our science culture has been so eroded that we are unlikely to attract the top talent we need to compete in the knowledge economy.
Whether it was anti-intellectualism, incompetence or both that led us to this dark place, let this coming election year bring the beginning of a climb back into the light.
Most people are not interested in research that simply advances our knowledge of the natural world.
What are we doing as educators to reverse this trend? Not very much, as it turns out. Many of our courses in biochemistry focus on how biochemistry can benefit medicine as though this was the only reason for learning about biochemistry.1 Our department is discussing whether we should have undergraduate courses on drug discovery and how drugs are brought to market. We are considering a co-op program where students will spend some time working in the private sector. We are toying with the idea of creating an entirely new program that will train students to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
It's no wonder that the general public thinks of science as the servant of industry. We are not doing a very good job of teaching undergraduates about the importance of knowledge and the value of scientific thinking. In fact, we are doing the opposite. We are supporting the Stephen Harper agenda.
Don't be surprised if it comes back to bite you in the future.
1. We teach medical case studies in our introductory biochemistry course for science undergraduates!