Opinion Leader: Big on Twitter, Little on Facts- Will this be the fate of science advice under Trump’s administration?
Scientists in the US fear the United States under Donald Trump could become like the Soviet Union, in which the prevailing political ideology was so powerful that science was unable to contradict it with hard evidence. Speaking at the beginning of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Boston in February, its president, Barbara Schaal, and chief executive, Dr Rush Holt, both expressed concern about the use of the phrase “alternative facts” by Trump administration officials.
The Quebec government has committed $834 million over five years to research and innovation, including unprecedented increases for post-secondary research after recording its second consecutive Budget surplus. The new funding arrives ahead of the province’s latest research and innovation strategy, due next month, as well as a new life sciences strategy expected before the end of April.
Opinion is decidedly split on the federal government’s delivery of its promised innovation Budget. The March 22 budgetary planning document contains a wide range of measures related to skills, company financing, program consolidation and clean technology.
With Budget 2017, the Liberal government is kicking major components of its much-vaunted Innovation Agenda down the road as ambitious plans run up against an increasingly constrained fiscal environment. Under the Innovation Agenda – retitled the Innovation and Skills Plan – the launch of many new initiatives are deferred for a year or more while unfettered new support for fundamental science is absent – a development anticipated due to the delay in releasing a government-commissioned report delivered three months ago.
Canada lacks the institutional structure to invest in the future
Budget 2017 promises $125 million to launch what it calls a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy by promoting collaboration between centres of excellence in Montreal, Toronto-Waterloo and Edmonton. This, it says, will “position Canada as a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in artificial intelligence and innovation.” What’s missing as Canada seeks to position itself for the future, and this is critically important, is any institutional capacity to prepare Canadians more broadly for the future.
The rank and file at the National Research Council will have their voices heard at the federal Cabinet table this spring following an internal consultation that identified ways in which the agency can best support Canada’s innovation priorities.
R$ talks to David Naylor
A federally commissioned blue-chip panel calling for greater coherence and financial support for fundamental research has made a series of 35 recommendations, including a $1.3-billion increase in the budgets of the three granting councils, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and related entities over the next four years.
It was a sold out crowd at the 16th annual RE$EARCH MONEY conference in Ottawa this week. Over 170 people from government, industry, finance, academia and the not-for profit sector gathered to examine federal Budget 2017 and the Innovation Agenda – renamed the Innovation & Skills Plan in the budget.