Politics
Research Council to focus on commercially viable projects, rather than science for science's sake

Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) speaks with John R. McDougall, President of the National Research Council of Canada during a press conference with Deputy Leader of the Government at the Senate, the Honorable Senator Claude Carignan, May 7, 2013

Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY

JESSICA HUME | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - The government of Canada believes there is a place for curiosity-driven, fundamental scientific research, but the National Research Council is not that place.

"Scientific innovation is not valuable unless it has commercial value," John McDougall, president of the NRC, said in announcing the shift in the NRC's research focus away from discovery science solely to research the government deems "commercially viable".

Science Minister Gary Goodyear said: "There is 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."

Opposition parties and critics decried the change of direction, saying it's a continuation of the Stephen Harper government's so-called war on science. But Goodyear believes this redirection at the NRC will help address Canada's well-documented innovation dearth.

Citing the NRC's "inability to respond to industry's demands," Goodyear explained that the NRC will now respond exclusively to industry's demands.

"We want business-driven, industry-relevant research and development."

The idea is that businesses of all sizes - whether Canadian-owned or not - can "knock on the NRC's door" and ask for funding or help with their research needs.

David Robinson, spokesperson for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said the government's idea is misguided.

"Discovery comes from what scientists think is important, not what industry thinks is important," he said. "Fundamental scientific advancement drives innovation, and that is driven by basic research."

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