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 http://dontleavecanadabehind.wordpress.com/
Dalhousie signatories to Don't Leave Canada Behind
comments powered by Disqus