No Research in Speech From the Throne
Yesterday, the government outlined the results of its ‘recalibration’ with a speech from the throne (.pdf here). In broad strokes, the government outlined its vision for the recovering economy and signaled its priorities for the coming Parliamentary session.
So what are the government’s plans for research? How will investment in R&D help drive economic recovery and place Canada at the forefront of innovation?
Well, research was barely mentioned. The community can take comfort that “[the] Government will extend support for advanced research, development and prototyping of new space-based technologies, especially in support of Arctic sovereignty”, which sounds exciting, though I have no idea what it means. Also, “[the government] will create a world-class High Arctic Research Station”, presumably to track the advanced space-based technologies we create.
In both cases, the government is underlining its belief that research is something you do to support “real” objectives, like Arctic sovereignty, instead of something of value in its own right. Research as a means to a quantifiable policy outcome, instead of as a foundation for a modern, innovative economy.
Of course, the Speech from the Throne is a political document – short on details, long on positioning. The government used it to signal its broad economic plan, and to position itself politically with lots of law and order issues and patriotism sprinkled throughout. We’ll get a better sense from today’s budget, which will enumerate spending details.
Still, it’s a sad and worrying note that, despite widespread calls for investment in an innovative economy, Canadian research and development don’t even qualify for a mention in the government’s overall plan.
p.s. There is an intriguing note in the speech that the government “will expand the opportunities for our top graduates to pursue post-doctoral studies and to commercialize their ideas.” It’s pretty vague, but the fact that post-docs made it into the speech signals that their issues made it onto the table, which is great. They’ve been the forgotten link in the academic world for too long, and it’s good to see the government acknowledge it.