Conservatives suggested “Chief Scientist” in policy outline
Over at Frogheart, Maryse de la Giroday responded to Nature’s criticism of Canada’s absent science policy by going to straight to the horses’ mouths and posting an interesting analysis of her results. She checked the webpages of the four main federal parties to determine their science policies. Alas, it turns out Nature was correct; even for opposition parties, for whom making grand, empty policy promises is de rigueur, science merits nary a mention.
The Liberal webpage is free of any policy statements (unless you head to their archives where you’ll find some slideshows from past national conventions – very convenient, and still don’t mention research policy). Of course, their leader has just wrapped up a speaking tour where he speculated about all sorts of unlikely directions science and research policy could take under his government, which are perhaps better left off the official record… The NDP and Green Parties post their party platforms, but make no mention of science policy.
The only party whose platform explicitly mentions science policy? The Conservatives (albeit as part of their “Economic Development” package).
The four-point plan (within their 2008 policy document, available here) has largely been enacted – less bureaucracy for large projects, private sector stimulus via tax incentives, “funding… through the granting councils” (*cough*). Their policy also calls for an “independent Chief Scientist who would advise and report to Parliament on scientific matters, and help coordinate science policy issues within government, and internationally”. As Maryse points out, this sounds suspiciously like the National Science Advisor, whose office was abolished by the Conservatives in 2008. The Conservatives’ policy position, though, calls for an office explicitly modeled after the British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). Coincidentally, the creation of a Canadian version of POST was suggested and widely supported at this fall’s Canadian Science Policy Conference.
The government thinks it’s a good idea, the research community thinks it’s a good idea, so why not do it?
ps. Stephen Harper announced a cabinet shuffle this morning, and Gary Goodyear survived in the junior ministry responsible for science and technology, and his portfolio was not promoted to a full cabinet position.