Basic science needs funding too

- April 21, 2009

Ninety-four Dalhousie faculty members have joined over 2,000 professors from across Canada in signing an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to support the pursuit of basic science. In the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama announcing a $15-billion infusion for science funding, the “Don't leave Canada behind” campaign is asking the Canadian government to take similar action.

While funding has been allocated to applied science, through organizations like the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), basic science programs, such as the National Research Council (NRC) have seen funding cuts.

“The government is taking a top-down approach instead of a bottom-up approach,” says Dr. Keith Louden, Chair of Oceanography at Dalhousie. “They are basically saying ‘you will do this’ and setting up programs aimed primarily at applied science while under funding basic science.”

Funding helps provide research staff and post-doctoral students to work in labs created with support from CFI. “You need people to carry out the science,” says Dr. Louden.

Researchers say the need for basic science funding is critical, not only to applied research, but for social and economic development. “Science doesn't just generate answers, it generates questions,” says Dr. Roger Croll, professor in the department of Physiology and biophysics at Dalhousie. “Basic science leads to discoveries in the future that shape our social interaction and drive the economy,” adds Dr. Louden.

Both Dr. Croll and Dr. Louden, signatories on the letter, believe the disconnect between research and government funding occurs because outcomes are harder to measure with basic science. “There often isn't clear relevance yet where leading-edge questions are being formed,” says Dr. Croll. “What breakthroughs are successful cannot always be predicted, but underlying research must be allowed to progress nonetheless,” he adds.

While Dalhousie is the recipient of a great deal of funding, much of our research is basic science. “The foundation for applied science is basic science,” says Dr. Croll. “You want faculty to make discoveries and create new questions.”

“We need to have foresight,” says Dr. Louden. “Countries that don't, fall behind scientifically and lose scientists and researchers to countries that get more funding … By having a state-controlled research economy, creating a few pre-set areas for science funding, is like saying we're going to produce one type of car, regardless of its merit, such as in a communist economy.”

To follow the efforts of the “Don't leave Canada behind” campaign, go to

Dalhousie signatories to Don't Leave Canada Behind

  1. Dr. John Archibald, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  2. Dr. Sina Adl, Biology
  3. Dr. William H. Baldridge, Anatomy & Neurobiology
  4. Dr. Robert G. Beiko, Computer Science
  5. Dr. Brenda Beagan, Women’s Health
  6. Dr. Prabir Basu, Mechanical Engineering
  7. Dr. Christian Blouin, Director of Informatics
  8. Dr. Bernard P. Boudreau, Oceanography
  9. Dr. Rob Brownstone, Surgery, Neuroscience
  10. Dr. Patrice Cöté, Biology
  11. Dr. Patricia L. Cleave, Human Communication Disorders
  12. Dr. R. William Currie, Anatomy & Neurobiology
  13. Dr. Philip T Cox, Computer Science
  14. Dr. John Cullen, Oceanography
  15. Dr. Roger P. Croll, Physiology & Biophysics
  16. Dr. Karl Dilcher, Chair, Math. and Stats.
  17. Dr. James Drummond, Physics and Atmospheric Science
  18. Dr. Roy Duncan, Microbiology and Immunology
  19. Dr. Kevin Duffy, Psychology and Neuroscience
  20. Dr. Thomas J. Duck, Physics and Atmospheric Science
  21. Dr. Lindsay DuBois, Sociology and Social Anthropology
  22. Dr. M E El-Hawary, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  23. Dr. Ezz I. El-Masry, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  24. Dr. Ian Folkins, Physics and Atmospheric Science
  25. Dr. Kevin Forward, Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology and
  26. Dr. Alan Fine, Director, Neuroscience Institute
  27. Dr. Zoheir Farhat, Materials Engineering
  28. Dr. Kim Good, Psychiatry
  29. Dr. Amyl Ghanem, Engineering
  30. Dr. Michael W. Gray, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  31. Dr. Tom A. Gill, Food Science
  32. Dr. Martin Gibling
  33. Dr. Qigang Gao, Computer Science  
  34. Dr. Ernst W. Grundke Cmputer Science
  35. Dr. Milan Horacek, Dept. of Medicine
  36. Dr. Qi-Ming He, Industrial Engineering
  37. Dr. Jean Hughes, Nursing - Mental Health
  38. Dr. Malcolm Heywood, Faculty of Computer Science
  39. Dr. David Hamilton, Statistics
  40. Dr. David W. Hoskin, Microbiology & Immunology
  41. Dr. David Iron, Mathematics and Statistics  
  42. Dr. Theodore Kolokolnikov, Math. and Stats department
  43. Dr. Stan Kutcher, Psychiatry
  44. Dr. Markus Kienast, Oceanography
  45. Dr. Georges J. Kipouros, Materials Engineering  
  46. Dr. Keith Louden, Chair, Oceanography
  47. Dr. Song Lee, Microbiology & Immunology
  48. Dr. Chris Moore, Psychology
  49. Dr. Fiona S. Martin, Sociology and Social Anthropology
  50. Dr. Jeannette McGlone, Psychology
  51. Dr. Donald Mitchell, Professor Emeritus
  52. Dr. Evangelos Milios, Computer Science  
  53. Dr. Ian Meinertzhagen, Life Sciences
  54. Dr. Randall Martin, Physics and Atmospheric Science
  55. Dr. Jeannette McGlone, Psychology
  56. Dr. Robert Moore, Oceanography  
  57. Dr. Anna Metaxas, Oceanography  
  58. Dr. Mladen Nedimovic, Earth Sciences
  59. Dr. Sergey Ponomarenko, Engineering  
  60. Dr. Leslie Phillmore, Psychology  
  61. Dr. Daniel Ruzzante, Biology
  62. Dr. Tamara Romanuk, Biology  
  63. Dr. Harold Robertson, Pharmacology
  64. Dr. Andrew J. Roger, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  65. Dr. Holly Richardson, Interdisciplinary Research in Health and
  66. Dr. Neale Ridgway, Pediatrics, and Biochemistry and Molecular
  67. Dr. Barry Ruddick, Oceanography
  68. Dr. Harm Hinrich Rotermund, Physics and Atmospheric Science 
  69. Dr. Andrew Rutenberg, Physics and Atmospheric Science
  70. Dr. Benjamin Rusak, Psychiatry and Psychology
  71. Dr. Jan K. Rainey, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  72. Dr. Douglas Rasmusson, Physiology & Biophysics  
  73. Dr. Ed Susko, Mathematics and Statistics  
  74. Dr. Pierre Stevens , Mathematics and Statistics
  75. Dr. David Scott, chair, Earth Sciences  
  76. Dr. Stephen Shaw, Psychology & Neuroscience  
  77. Dr. Arthur Sedgwick, Computer Science
  78. Dr. Peter Selinger, Mathematics and Statistics  
  79. Dr. Jinyu Sheng, Oceanography  
  80. Dr. Gerhard Stroink, Physics and Atmospheric Science
  81. Dr. Elizabeth Townsend, Occupational Therapy  
  82. Dr. Thomas Trappenberg, Computer Science & Neuroscience Institute  
  83. Dr. Keith Taylor, Mathematics  
  84. Dr. Victor Thiessen, Sociology and Social Anthropology
  85. Dr. Tracy Taylor, Psychology
  86. Dr. Christopher T. Taggart, Oceanography
  87. Dr. V. Ismet Ugursal, Mechanical Engineering  
  88. Dr. Grace Warner, Occupational Therapy 
  89. Dr. Peter Wentzell, Chemistry  
  90. Dr. Emma Whelan, Sociology & Social Anthropology
  91. Dr. Boris Worm, Biology
  92. Dr. Jian Wang, SHCD
  93. Dr. Kuan Xu, Economics
  94. Dr. Norbert Zeh, Computer Science


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