Public Values

Government continues to withdraw resources from federally-supported science

Medical doctors and scientists now have severely reduced access to an important research tool.

Gary Corbett, president of Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).by Gary Corbett

OTTAWA, October 8, 2009 — The Professional Institute decries yet another hit on public science as the National Research Council (NRC) announces cuts to its world-renowned Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) and plans to spin-off the Research Press, publisher of scientific journals.

Some 69 members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) will be affected by a $35 million drop in NRC funding. For scientists, this is part of the recurring nightmare known as the government's cyclical expenditure review process. There is no escaping the five percent cuts which are demanded by the government's "strategic review" process every few years. In the last round of cuts in 2007, over 100 jobs were lost at the NRC. And so the nightmare persists, as the federal government continues to withdraw much-needed funding from Canada's science and technology community.

The layoffs of highly-trained specialists at CISTI will leave medical doctors and scientists with severely reduced access to an important research tool. These are the people whom Canadians depend on to solve issues such as pandemic response, food and product safety, weather forecasts and storm warnings, energy and national security. It is their role to conduct fundamental science and applied research in the service of Canadians' health, well-being and prosperity.

The privatization of the Research Press, the publisher of our national science publications, brings an end to almost a century of unbiased, award-winning research reporting in Canada.

  Canada has fallen behind other nations in international R&D rankings, and is rapidly losing its capacity to innovate.

PIPSC President Gary Corbett questioned, "Do we really want to rely on corporate funding of our scientific publications? Currently, all Canadians, including universities, have free access to those publications. Can Canadian universities afford the cost of subscription to Canadian research journals with all the cutbacks they have recently received?"

As the government continues to withdraw resources from federally-supported science, Canada's economically challenged private sector is in no position to step in and fill the void. "There is a very real danger that Canadian researchers, scientists and engineers will move to the United States to continue their careers, now that the Obama administration is making such a serious and wide-ranging commitment to science," commented Corbett.

Canada has fallen behind other nations in international R&D rankings, and is rapidly losing its capacity to innovate. Canada needs to attract and retain the best scientific minds if it is to make up for lost time and regain its status as a world leader in this regard.

Recurring and short-sighted decisions, such as the cuts to the NRC, can only exacerbate the problem and will make it increasingly difficult for Canada to compete. The government's scientific communities have been grossly underfunded for years. These is an urgent need for the government to invest in its science-based departments and agencies and build up their capabilities instead of grinding them down to nothing. Failure to do so not only endangers the well-being of Canadians, it severely limits the government's ability to develop public policy and to protect the public interest. Canadians know this and expect the government to set aside politics and ideology when it comes to these issues.

The Institute urges Canadians to make clear to their elected representatives that these layoffs and budget cuts to science must end. "After all, the public good depends on good public science," remarked Corbett.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada represents 57,000 professionals and scientists across Canada's public sector.

Links and sources
  Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada website

Posted: October 11, 2009

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