Science

Review of Canadian science calls for better oversight, coordination—and more money

To reinvigorate its science base, Canada needs to “reinvest” almost CAD$500 million in basic, investigator-led research over the next 4 years, according to a long-awaited review of the country’s science and innovation landscape released today.

“A crucial shortcoming in the system is the level of support for independent investigator-initiated research,” David Naylor, a former president of the University of Toronto in Canada who led the nine-person review panel, told ScienceInsider. “That support has been squeezed for about a decade.” Read more in Science.

Canada’s government scientists get anti-muzzling clause in contract

Scientists working for the Canadian government have successfully negotiated a clause in their new contract that guarantees their right to speak to the public and the media about science and their research, without needing approval from their managers.

“Employees shall have the right to express themselves on science and their research, while respecting the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector … without being designated as an official media spokesperson,” the new clause states. Read more in Science.

Israel’s botanical gardens face funding crisis

Israel’s 11 botanical gardens are scrambling to cope with deep cuts in funding from the government’s agricultural ministry. Government spending on the gardens, which host research and education programs and are often associated with universities, is down by more than 50% this year. That’s a reprieve from a 98% cut that the ministry announced last year, but still a major blow for the gardens, which rely heavily on government funds to pay for basic operations.

“There were times this year when we couldn’t afford potting soil, or even printer paper,” says Tal Levanony, curator of Tel Aviv University’ in Israel’s botanical garden. “I’m not sure how the researchers will cope without support.” Read more in Science.

Montreal institute going ‘open’ to accelerate science

Experiment aims to show whether forgoing patents and freeing up data can boost neuroscience research.

Guy Rouleau, the director of McGill University’s Montreal Neuro logical Institute (MNI) and Hospital in Canada, is frustrated with how slowly neuroscience research translates into treatments. “We’re doing a really shitty job,” he says. “It’s not because we’re not trying; it has to do with the complexity of the problem.”

So he and his colleagues at the renowned institute decided to try a radical solution. Starting this year, any work done there will conform to the principles of the “open-science” movement—all results and data will be made freely available at the time of publication, for example, and the institute will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. Read more in Science.

Canada expected to reinstate mandatory census

The new Canadian government seems poised to fulfill a wish of social scientists by bringing back the country’s mandatory long-form census.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in this morning, and members of his Liberal party expect him to act promptly to meet one of his campaign promises. Such a move would also signal his commitment to reversing many of the policies of the former Conservative government under longtime Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Read more in Science.

A scientist elected to Canada’s Parliament shares his hopes as Trudeau prepares to take power

One scientist will be among the new faces in the 338-member House of Commons: Richard Cannings, a bird biologist, author, and former curator of the vertebrate museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Cannings, a member of Canada’s left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP), will represent British Columbia’s (BC’s) South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding, or district. The NDP now holds the third-largest number of seats in Parliament, behind the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Cannings recently took a break from a Sunday afternoon mayonnaise-making session to talk with ScienceInsider about how he hopes to improve the lot of science and environmental issues during his time in Ottawa. Read more in Science.

In Canada, election results cheer scientists

Many Canadian scientists are celebrating the result of yesterday’s federal election, which saw Stephen Harper’s Conservative government defeated after nearly 10 years in power.

The center-left Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau won an unexpected majority government, taking 184 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives will form the opposition with 99 seats, while the left-leaning New Democratic Party fell to third place with just 44 seats.

“Many scientists will be pleased with the outcome,” says Jim Woodgett, director of research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “The Liberal party has a strong record in supporting science.” Read more in Science.

In Canada, science campaigns for attention from voters

Opponents of Prime Minister Stephen Harper try to make his record on research an issue in election.

Science is making a rare appearance in Canada’s election. As candidates make their last push before Election Day on 19 October, the nation’s leading opposition parties have taken aim at Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s science policies, which have alienated large segments of the nation’s scientific community.

Science policy isn’t a top concern for most voters in the election, which could send new members of Parliament and a new prime minister to Ottawa. But some research advocates hope the issue could move enough ballots to sway what appears to be a tight three-way race between Harper’s Conservatives, the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Tom Mulcair, and the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau. “Science could be the sleeper issue,” says Kennedy Stewart, the NDP’s spokesman on science issues and a member of Parliament. Read more in Science (if you have a subscription).