Toward Global Science Excellence

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ministerial mandate letters for Science and Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) outline an agenda to investigate and improve the nation’s innovation ecosystem. Roundtable discussions on various themes are taking place across the nation as part of Canada’s Innovation Agenda, an initiative driven by Minister Navdeep Bains (ISED) and Minister Kirsty Duncan (Science). Minister Duncan has also launched Canada’s Fundamental Science Review and empowered an eminent panel chaired by Dr.
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Canada is Retreating from Investment in Science and Engineering

  (The following is a slightly edited version of an invited post appearing on The Inside Agenda Blog on TVO’s web space.) Canada retreats from Science Canada is retreating from investment in science and engineering. Public letters (by 10 prominent physicists, 336 mathematicians, 49 leading researchers) have signaled alarms at changes to the NSERC Discovery Grants Program and the elimination of the Major Resources Support (MRS) and Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) programs.
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On Today's NSERC Contact Newsletter Item Regarding Postdocs

I received today the September 2012 Contact Newsletter (volume 36, number 4) from NSERC via email. The fourth item in the newsletter reads: Postdoctoral Fellowships - no change to number of awards Over the last ten years, the volume of applications to the NSERC PDF Program has doubled to about 1,300, impacting the workload of volunteer selection committee members. A change to the eligibility rules for the Postdoctoral Fellowships (PDF) Program was made to ensure that applicants’ and reviewers’ time was used productively.
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Canada Restricts Athlete Participation to One Olympic Games per Lifetime

The (false) headline conveys the sporting analog of NSERC’s new policy on Postdoctoral Fellowship Competitions: Effective as of the 2013 competition, you can only apply once to the NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowships (PDF) Program; however, applicants whose first PDF application was submitted prior to the 2013 competition may submit a second application provided they are within the eligibility window. What’s going on? Why would Canada choose to limit the pool of participants competing for advanced training opportunities in science and engineering?
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Business Earmarks or Merit Competition: Which is the Better Federal Research Strategy?

Investments by governments to support research and development are crucial to economic prosperity, job creation, scientific advancement, and improvements to the future to be inherited by children. How should these investments be selected? Merit review is a competitive process leveraging the expertise of a specially qualified panel to direct investments in research and development. Earmarks are appropriations given to specific recipients or targeted areas, without competition, to satisfy the intent of government.
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Misaligned Incentives in Canadian Science Policy

Budget 2012 continues to shift Canadian federal investment away from basic research toward industrial applied research. This shift is politically expedient: the redirection of funds can be discussed with tantalizing justifications based on job creation, targeted investment, streamlining discovery, and so forth. The shift resonates with a public concerned about frivolous expenditures of dollars collected through taxation. The late Senator from Wisconsin, William Proxmire, advanced this line of political rhetoric by issuing Golden Fleece Awards for science projects he lampooned as unworthy of government investment.
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A Report on the 2012 NSERC Discovery Grants Results for Toronto Math

Fifteen1 faculty members from the Department of Mathematics at the University of Toronto submitted proposals to the 2012 NSERC Discovery Grants competition. Of these, one was a first time applicant (En), two (Ga, Ia) applied after a successful appeal of 2011 results, and one (Cd) was an appellant whose appeal was denied but could reapply because the 2011 award was for zero dollars. The first table below shows the 2012 results (in thousands of dollars per year) with 2010, 2011 award amounts for those researchers.
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Anticipating the 2012 NSERC Discovery Grants Competition Results

2011 Discovery Grants Competition Aftermath Anomalies in the results of the 2011 NSERC Discovery Grants competition provoked a flurry of activity nearly one year ago. My blog post from April last year reported on surprising results for several of my colleagues at Toronto. An email flurry among Canadian mathematicians culminated in a late April public statement which was eventually signed by 336 Canadian researchers, including 35 Fellows of the Royal Society and 27 Canada Research Chairs.
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(Guest Post) Neil Turok Responds to Posts on Perimeter Institute

Dear James, Thank you for this opportunity to respond to your recent blog posting on Perimeter Institute and offer some clarifications. First, the comparisons of support for different institutions and programs presented in this posting mix total funding over time (including endowment contributions) with annual budgets and ignore substantial differences between their operations. For example, Perimeter Institute currently houses over 140 full-time trainees and researchers (from Masters students to senior faculty) whereas to my knowledge the Fields Institute has none.
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The Lucky Few of Waterloo Part 2: Perimeter Institute Buys Culture

Efforts to understand the foundational issues of theoretical physics have been made by scientists over millennia. Human beings are naturally curious: we want to deeply understand nature. With pioneering insights by Aristarchus and Archimedes, Copernicus and Kepler and, more recently, Dirac and Feynman, humans have made spectacular advances. The benefits of basic research investigations cascade into fundamental improvements for humans living on earth. Visionary investors, like the Duke of Braunschweig Charles William Ferdinand in the eighteenth century and Mike Lazaridis of today, have recognized the virtues of investing in basic research.
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