This article appeared in the Guelph Mercury in 2013.
The pronouncement Tuesday from Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, about the National Research Council has left scientists across Canada â€” normally a mild-mannered and rather placid bunch â€” sputtering with disbelief and even anger.
The National Research Council is no longer a place for fundamental science, weâ€™re told. It is a place for â€œcommercially viableâ€ science. It is now a servant of Canadian industry. Canadian industry will create wish lists and its minions at the research council â€” paid on the taxpayersâ€™ dime â€” will do their best to fulfil them.
Research and development is a risky business, because a good idea isnâ€™t necessarily always a profitable one. Stephen Harperâ€™s Conservative government has a solution. Instead of incentivizing industry to do their own research and development, letâ€™s just have the government-funded National Research Council do it for them. Itâ€™s quintessentially Canadian. Socialize the risk. Privatize the profit.
Goodyear, the MP for Cambridge, was all gregarious and well-intentioned this week, with a message spun sweet as cotton candy. What could possibly be wrong with an initiative to make the research council useful, even profitable?
The problem is, Goodyear isnâ€™t a scientist, and if this new policy is any indicator, he genuinely and truly doesnâ€™t understand how science works.
First, let me tell you how science doesnâ€™t work. Continue reading