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O, Canada...you're doing it wrong.
May 13, 2013 5:21 PM   Subscribe

"Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value" The Canadian scientific research and development agency has announced a major policy change. Going forward, they will only perform research that has "social or economic gain".
posted by bitmage (97 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
right up there with ...

"There won't be an environment unless we can figure out how to pay for it."

(overheard in the late 1980s -- I assume he was being bitingly sarcastic)
posted by philip-random at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Canada, your envy of your dumb neighbor to the south is incredibly embarrassing. Attempting to outdo them only leads to failure.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is why I prefer to live in fantasy worlds. Our country is in a bad place right now, and there's still no sign that we're coming out of it.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:25 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a Yes Men thing, right, or The Onion? Jesus.
posted by odinsdream at 5:25 PM on May 13, 2013


Economic gain for whom?
posted by threeants at 5:25 PM on May 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is freely shared knowledge not a social good?
posted by jaduncan at 5:28 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Harper's war on science continues...
posted by asnider at 5:29 PM on May 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


What's social gain when it's not likes on Facebook?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:29 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


How is this... I mean... what?

This is insane. What on earth could be the motivation for this?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:35 PM on May 13, 2013


This is insane. What on earth could be the motivation for this?

Harper is tired of being Prime Minister, and wants the other party to be in charge for a good, long while after the next election.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 PM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


And somewhere a Republican representative is drafting a bill...(download .txt file, search "Canada", replace "United States").
posted by she's not there at 5:39 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's like Canada took note of Lamar Smith's proposal, decided their plan would outdo it, and went and actually did it.
posted by RichardP at 5:40 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Totally guessing here ('cause I have no idea what's really going on inside the government), but I think conservative-inclined people in Canada are a lot more linked up with conservatives in the US than they used to be. There's probably some meme going around that community right now asserting that "science must make money" and politicians in both countries are responding to it.

It's like that earlier meme that "the long form census infringes our privacy." The Conservative party wrecked Census Canada and some politicians in the US tried to do the same to your census. (Don't think they got away with it, though.)
posted by Kevin Street at 5:41 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh Canada. Do not copy our (U.S) dumb shit. If you gotta do dumb shit, make up your own, okay?

How hard is it to understand that it might take a long time for a scientific discovery's economic value to be realized? It can't be that hard. And yet, saying something profoundly stupid is so easy.
posted by rtha at 5:41 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chris Hadfield, what are you coming home to?
posted by jaduncan at 5:42 PM on May 13, 2013 [27 favorites]


What on earth could be the motivation for this?

Turning it from a science research agency to an R&D lab. Different perspectives, different payoff times, increased emphasis on commercialisation, the drive for immediate profit.

That said, IBM do a lot of basic research. I take it back. I should say it's turning it into a short-sighted private R&D lab.
posted by jaduncan at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


You ivory tower intellectuals must not lose touch with the world of industrial growth and hard currency. It is all very well and good to pursue these high-minded scientific theories, but research grants are expensive. You must justify your existence by providing not only knowledge but concrete and profitable applications as well.

– CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Ethics of Greed"
This was the first thing that sprung to my mind.

And, from someone in the comments of the article, someone who could think of a quote from an actual historical person, apparently:
This is what the man of radically servile character—give him what leisure and what fortune you please—will never understand. He will ask, ‘But what use is it?’ And finding that it cannot be eaten or drunk nor used as an aphrodisiac, nor made an instrument for increasing his income or his power, he will pronounce it—he has pronounced it—to be ‘bunk’.

—C. S. Lewis
Yep. I'm probably part of the problem, guys.
posted by furiousthought at 5:47 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Guys, don't think that anyone in Canada except for a few government ministers actually thinks this is a good idea. It's all ideological idiocy being shoved down the throats by the current government. But they cut the GST so, hey, they're amazing!
posted by GuyZero at 5:51 PM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, they should totally stop studying how to cure cancer in mice because who the fuck cares if a mouse has cancer, right?
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:51 PM on May 13, 2013 [28 favorites]


Well ok then, good luck with that eh.
posted by humanfont at 5:51 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This from Canada and the move toward similar criteria for academic departments in the UK just blow my mind.

But it really shouldn't. In the last year or so, in relation to the panic about online education, I've noticed that even on progressive education blogs there's a nearly universal assumption that higher education is primarily vocational and should be evaluated on that basis. So it's all of a piece, really — even progressives, and even outside the US, almost everyone seems to agree that education and research should primarily serve the purpose of training workers and creating technology.

So it's no surprise that conservatives are at the forefront of this. Studying literature or researching cosmology ... what a waste of money this is to these conservatives.

And, again, the conservatives are just the extreme. I can find any number of posts/threads here on MeFi where progressives argue against some educational discipline or some research interest on the basis that it's a waste of money because it doesn't have some direct positive economic impact.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:51 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Curing disease is for suckers. Causing diseases, then charging for the cure, that's where the profit lies!
posted by Kevin Street at 5:52 PM on May 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


There was a good interview on CBC last week with Nobel laureate John Polanyi about this story and what it means for the NRC. One of his points is that this change "merely" instantiates what has been NRC's direction over the last few years.

No mention of whether Minister of State for Science & Technology Gary Goodyear is still a creationist.
posted by sneebler at 5:53 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every scientific discovery holds the potential for commercial value, from arcane physics (relativity gives us GPS) to mundane biology (duck genitals would help with duck breeding woud help with food or viral research). So I don't understand why this is even an issue.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:54 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Guys, the free market model has proven over and over again to optimize results and bring out the best in people. Don't worry. Trust it.
Please buy my new book: "Get Fucked: Adam Smith and the Invisible Cock."
posted by phaedon at 5:56 PM on May 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


My country :( Harper is the worst prime minister and the CPC is the worst party. I cannot believe what they are doing to my country, and I cannot believe that there are people out there stupid enough to support it. I mean, seriously. The damage being done to Canada by this givernment is incredible and it blows my mind that it's being allowed to happen. Conservative government: never again.

>Harper is tired of being Prime Minister, and wants the other party to be in charge for a good, long while after the next election.

I fervently hope this is what happens, but the shortsighted right-wing ignoramus vote is pretty powerful.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:56 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


So I don't understand why this is even an issue.

Because the commercial value is not always apparent when making grant applications. And if you're not giving out grants unless there demonstrated commercial value, original and innovative research lines will be underfunded.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:58 PM on May 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


I share frustration and some despair with those of you giving voice to your disbelief about the place in which this is happening. But as this demonstrates, nation-state-level institutional and cultural characteristics, such as Canada's much-vaunted approach to social spending and public goods, are not resilient in the face of economic incentives that the international neoliberal business and banking class can offer to politicians. And there will always be at least some people willing to sell off the public and national good for the right price.

Neoliberalism is the mode of political economy which turns nations into mere bidders for the favor of the people with real power, and neoliberalism has won. There's no better example than the sustained and ongoing institutional attacks on learning and research that characterize our education policies (including K-12 and higher education, which effectively produces this kind of research). Even Obama's administration has embraced the neoliberal perspective in education. We live in a neoliberal world now, at least in the West. The question is not whether politicians will keep selling out the lives and welfare of their citizens and societies at large to private interests, it's what we're going to do about this ongoing process.
posted by clockzero at 5:59 PM on May 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


I keep saying to myself "This is just a blip. Canada will get back on the right course. I mean, Chris Hadfield, right?". But it's starting to feel like I've been saying it for quite some time, and too frequently.

C'mon Canada, get back on track! You can do it!
posted by benito.strauss at 6:00 PM on May 13, 2013


after Poutine, this was inevitable.
posted by HuronBob at 6:02 PM on May 13, 2013


If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn't call it research.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:03 PM on May 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think that deep down we've already decided that the future belongs to China; we're just not ready to say it out loud yet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:08 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Derek Lowe (of "Things I Won't Work With" fame) put this on his blog, "In the Pipeline" at the end of April -

"Just Work On the Winners"
But since we here in the drug industry are so focused on making money, y'know, you'd think that we would have even more incentives to make sure that we're only working on the things that are likely to pay off. And we can't do it.
So, not only is the Conservative's view of science incompatible with academic science, it's also incompatible with commercial science.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:08 PM on May 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


Fortunately "social gain" is vague enough that people will be able to make up some sort of claims about it for their grant applications no matter what the research topic is.

Here in Australia we have to include a section in grant applications about what National Benefit (social or economic) our research will have. (International benefit doesn't count.) Everyone in the humanities just copy-pastas a vague statement about how their research will raise Australia's profile and attract more students to come study here, and referees and the funding agency don't even read that section anymore. It just keeps the government happy.
posted by lollusc at 6:10 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


"What use is a newborn babe?"
Lasers were invented around 1960, but it took years before they had significant commercial value, just for one example.
posted by fings at 6:12 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, not only is the Conservative's view of science incompatible with academic science, it's also incompatible with commercial science.

This is not Conservatism, no matter how the people who espouse it describe themselves. And it's not even about producing only commerce-ready scientific advances, I would argue: it's about strangulating the public funding for scientific advancement by attacking the very idea of money being spent toward general good (here realized as scientific progress) rather than concentrated private profit. Companies will still do R&D, but in the world that appears to be coming, there will just be far less public investment in everything important.
posted by clockzero at 6:16 PM on May 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Totally guessing here ('cause I have no idea what's really going on inside the government), but I think conservative-inclined people in Canada are a lot more linked up with conservatives in the US than they used to be.

I don't know about that, in terms of deliberate cross-border coordination of ordinary citizens.

I'm pretty sure what's really going on is that a certain segment of the Canadian media saw a growing conservative market and is cynically exploiting it by emulating American Right Wing media (Fox News --> Sun News) that tells its audience exactly what it wants to hear, pulling them away from the "mainstream media" boogeyman to get that audience all to themselves.

...which, come to think of it, is remarkably similar to the way cults work.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:20 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not Conservatism, no matter how the people who espouse it describe themselves

This is completely characteristic of the modern Conservative movement. This is now what the word "conservative" means, like it or not.
posted by thelonius at 6:20 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


NSF has had, for a long time, that "broader impact" section that is required on the grant application. So I guess there has been a slow drift for some time toward justifying why a project should be funded beyond consideration of scientific merit alone. Most scientists in my academic niche don't take it too seriously, for now. But I fear the great neoliberal take back of everything that made the so called "golden age of capitalism" so golden is not complete. In fact, they are just getting started.

Welcome to the dark ages.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:21 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's Regressivism, is what it is.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:22 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


US NIH grants are supposed to have a direct impact on human health. Yet they fund stuff like better 3D visualizations of protein structures. I wouldn't count on this having the effect it sounds like it will have.
posted by miyabo at 6:23 PM on May 13, 2013


I hope not. Like people have been saying on this thread, the Conservative era will eventually end, and it will be up to the next administration to repair the damage they've done. I hope the NDP and Liberals are keeping track of all this crap.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:33 PM on May 13, 2013


And there will always be at least some people willing to sell off the public and national good for the right price.

My suspicion is that this isn't intended to either cut back on research funding or indirectly benefit business interests (although apparently NRC funding dropped off in 2011-12 to $143 million in grants and contributions, down substantially from 2009-10 and 2010-11). Canada is not currently particularly beholden to creditors. More likely, this is intended to do three things: 1) Codify an already-existing policy that the NRC has been drifting towards over the last decade 2) Legitimize defunding politically inconvenient research (how commercially viable is climate science?) 3) Allow for putative measures against individuals who do things like sign open letters that embarrass the government.

Not venal, just thuggish.
posted by figurant at 6:33 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is completely characteristic of the modern Conservative movement. This is now what the word "conservative" means, like it or not.

I disagree, thelonius. I hate to get all Orwellian on you now, but manipulating the meaning of well-known and common words through constant, unchallenged repetition is a great way convince people that a given policy is actually its opposite. These people can call themselves Conservatives all day long but there's no reason to buy into their blatant dishonesty unless you support their agenda.
posted by clockzero at 6:35 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I shouldn't let things like this make me so furious. I should be past the age where politicians like Harper fill me with such despair and resentment. I am a multidecade expatriate from Canada and my emotional attachment to the country I was once so proud to call my own should have long since faded. I shouldn't be soft-headed enough to harbor suspicions about conspiracies in plain sight to dismantle all that's best about Canada in service of ideology and greed.

But I can't seem to help myself. It makes me angry, and then it makes me sad. Every swing of the pendulum further out into foolishness pulls that ground out of terra incognita and into the regions of what can be considered reasonable and up for debate. It opens up territory for the lunatics to colonize, polarizes discussion further, and makes it harder to ever get back to a reasonable course based on principles, compromise, and the traditional cornerstone of the Canadian way: concern for the welfare of Canadians.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on May 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


ser·en·dip·i·ty
noun \ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē\
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:43 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, the NRC budget is only $150M? That can't be right. The NSF spends twice that on astronomy alone (for example).
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:46 PM on May 13, 2013


William Boyd coined the term zemblanity to mean somewhat the opposite of serendipity: "making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design". A zemblanity is, effectively, an "unpleasant unsurprise". It derives from Novaya Zemlya (or Nova Zembla), a cold, barren land with many features opposite to the lush Sri Lanka (Serendip). On this island Willem Barents and his crew were stranded while searching for a new route to the east.

Bahramdipity is derived directly from Bahram Gur as characterized in the "The Three Princes of Serendip". It describes the suppression of serendipitous discoveries or research results by powerful individuals.

posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:46 PM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, the NRC budget is only $150M?

Oh, no. 2011-12 expenses were $847 million, but only 17 percent of that went to grants. Over 50% went to salaries and benefits, which may count for some actual scientists being employed. Financial highlights.
posted by figurant at 6:52 PM on May 13, 2013


Not venal, just thuggish.

Let's be generous: it can totally be both.
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on May 13, 2013


Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology, also stated “There is [sic] only two reasons why we do science and technology.

He immediately followed this statement with "Me am smarty guy! Me hate Weasel!"
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 6:58 PM on May 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


How is this "copying" the US? In the US, one senator proposed a law, and so far it's gone nowhere. In Canada, they actually implemented it.

They may be copying the dumb ideas of the republicans, but this isn't something we are doing at all.
posted by delmoi at 7:04 PM on May 13, 2013


These people can call themselves Conservatives all day long but there's no reason to buy into their blatant dishonesty unless you support their agenda.

If I like it or I don't, I still have to communicate with asshats and dupes a lot, and to do that I have to use language as they understand it. That means using words as Orwellianly redefined by people I hate. The alternative is to not communicate at all. That would be worse.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:09 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in Texas: Gov. Perry has a vision for state universities, in which they are run like businesses, and Perry "argues that professors concentrate too much on research and writing books".
posted by filthy light thief at 7:13 PM on May 13, 2013


Curing disease is for suckers. Causing diseases, then charging for the cure lifelong treatment, that's where the profit lies!
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:14 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is anyone making the argument that grants for basic scientific research has the same model that successful venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital, etc. use? Namely that 99% of the startups funded fail, losing the investment, but the one that succeeds more than makes up for the rest, and it's IMPOSSIBLE at the start to know which one is going to pan out.
sigh.
posted by Sophont at 7:18 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Artw at 7:37 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


2) Legitimize defunding politically inconvenient research (how commercially viable is climate science?

The Prime Minister of Can-da is pretty well locked-in with the vested interests of Alberta Oil extractors. I did see something in the paper last week about a new federal govt initiative for alternate energy sources. I just blinked and assumed that it was a clever diversion of some sort.
posted by ovvl at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to clarify this here - the article in part talks about the "Canadian scientific research and development agency", which in Australian terms sounds like the CSIRO - ie. a government agency that actually does research in the national interest. Then it talks about the "National Research Council", which sounds, in Australian terms, like the ARC, or like the NSF in the US - they are a government agency that provides grants to, for example, researchers in universities for their projects. The CSIRO has long had a focus on performing research focused strongly on the national interest, commercial applications. The ARC (while obviously still requiring justification as to the usefulness of the research) tends to fund more leading-edge basic research. Are these two arms of scientific funding the same thing in Canada? What's being impacted here, the government researchers, or the university researchers?
posted by Jimbob at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2013


I've actually worked in government for an agency tasked with promoting technology commercialization. First of all, NRC-IRAP provides an excellent service that has helped commercialize technology.

Second, I would want to see more details about the revisions to the NRC mandate before passing judgement.

Canada has a real problem reliably and consistently commercializing technology. Our research institutions are second-to-none, but, at least in British Columbia, anyway, they do not commercialize technology. They make it hard to commercialize any intellectual property coming out of universities - it's a cultural divide.

Canada, except for Ontario and Quebec (and look what happened to Ontario), has a resource-based economy. If we want to escape the resource trap and shut down the oil sands, we have to move to a knowledge economy, and the NRC has got to help that effort.

Commercializing technology is not about building something and cashing out (and, with government involvement in the form of NRC, even with a revised mandate, that will never, ever happen - once again, a cultural divide), but Canada's problem is that there is too much pure research, and not enough applied research.

We've got to do something. I don't want my kids depending on coal and oil.

But I would really want to see some informed analysis of the revised NRC mandate. If anyone has got that handy, it would be nice.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Texas: Gov. Perry has a vision for state universities, in which they are run like businesses, and Perry "argues that professors concentrate too much on research and writing books".

Damn, outdumbed by Texas yet again!
posted by anothermug at 7:45 PM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This should've been instituted before all that post-Newtonian physics crap started. I mean, who really needs transistors, integrated circuits, radio, television, telephones, the Internet, CRTs & plasma screens, lasers, GPS, X-rays, MRIs & PETs, nuclear power, ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:49 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This should've been instituted before all that post-Newtonian physics crap started. I mean, who really needs transistors, integrated circuits, radio, television, telephones, the Internet, CRTs & plasma screens, lasers, GPS, X-rays, MRIs & PETs, nuclear power, ...

Interestingly, a number of these technologies were developed for the military. I don't know how many of these were developed by government labs in Canada, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:57 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Totally guessing here ('cause I have no idea what's really going on inside the government), but I think conservative-inclined people in Canada are a lot more linked up with conservatives in the US than they used to be."

sys req: I don't know about that, in terms of deliberate cross-border coordination of ordinary citizens.

I take a very dim (if not paranoid) view of this situation, but here's what I think:

The current "Conservative Party of Canada" is the shell of a (more or less) respectable British-style Conservative party that was taken over by the Reform Party in the late 90's. As far as I can see, growing up in Alberta, the biggest piece of Reform's constituency was (is) rural Christian conservatives. Evangelical Christians make up a significant number of the CPC's inner circle, including Harper. Harper's church, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, is a mainstream American church with ties to the same Conservative Christian organizations who have considerable influence in the US government. These people are also Dominionists; one of their religious goals is the establishment of God's kingdom on Earth, and taking over the government is all part of the plan.

I don't know how popular Dominionism is amongst Evangelicals in general, but my sense is that the Canadian churches have grown along with their American counterparts, and they're very much working together for the same goals.

If that wasn't enough, there have been well-substantiated claims that Republican strategists and party workers were in Canada working for the Conservatives during the 2011election.

And if THAT wasn't enough, I just noticed that Ted Cruz, darling of the Republicans, was born in Calgary Alberta!!! I rest my f'ing case.

So yeah, very linked up.

There is some good news on the horizon though: even some conservative commentators think Harper has gone too far.
posted by sneebler at 8:08 PM on May 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is insane. What on earth could be the motivation for this?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts


One and only one, in my opinion.

To prevent studies showing how bad for the environment current mining and oil sands extraction initiatives have been and will be in the future.
posted by jamjam at 8:24 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


From Coyne's column, I really disagree with this point:

Hence it is well-established economic principle that basic research is the sort of thing governments should fund. By the same token, however, government should not be in the business of funding applied research, that is research directed to commercial uses. Not only is this unnecessary — business can perfectly well fund this sort of thing on its own — but it inevitably tilts the pitch in favour of certain activities over others: some technologies, innovations, products, firms and industries will be funded, at the expense of the rest.

In Canada, industry *cannot* fund applied research. Companies are too small here compared to other countries. The applied research tax credit (SR&ED), while providing a competitive advantage for Canadian companies competing internationally, is a fundamentally flawed program, with no continuity.

"Business" doesn't mean a bunch of guys in suits in a boardroom. Most of Canada's tech companies are very small in terms of headcount, with a median size of about a hundred, if that. This is not big business, this is small business, and these companies need all the help they can get.

And we need to create more companies in Canada - we have such a poor record of "crossing the chasm" to successfully commercialize a technology and scale up to create the next RIM.

I'm not arguing NRC's mandate should be changed, I'm just trying to point out that there is little support for applied research in Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:35 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Similar trends are already happening in the USA even without the explicit wackiness of Lamar Smith's proposal. Someone upthread mentioned that the NIH funds work that is not specifically disease-focused, but over the past several years the NIH has shifted towards funding translational research at the expense of basic science. I more or less share David Botstein's views on this: "In a way, the 'translation' metaphor is helpful. If there is no basic text to translate, how can it be translated to another language?" He then goes on to compare this to eating our own seed corn.

Slap*Happy's link upthread is exactly on point as well, IMHO.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:37 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Future university majors:
  1. Business Philosophy
  2. Monetization Studies
  3. Legal Loophology
  4. Poetic Systems Administration
posted by deathpanels at 8:43 PM on May 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


What is this I can't even

Wait, wait, wait! What is the value of this very Metafilter thread? See, he's got you there.
posted by newdaddy at 9:25 PM on May 13, 2013


Slap*Happy: "So, not only is the Conservative's view of science incompatible with academic science, it's also incompatible with commercial science."

Harper's government is essentially anti-science. Both on the front end like in this case and on the back end when it comes to acting on results that don't jive with their world view. Take for example the closing of the prison farms which are the cheapest prisons we have while at the same time increasing the prison population with stupid shit like mandatory minimums. Any sort of analysis of their effectiveness shows we should have been expanding the programs during a time of expanding inmate populations but that doesn't sit well with the CPC punish the bad guys/rehabilitation is for chumps philosophy so out they go.
posted by Mitheral at 10:04 PM on May 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value"

God, it's like someone tried to find the sentence mostly likely to make me sputter with rage.
posted by JHarris at 10:25 PM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Welcome to Jesusland, Canada.
posted by homunculus at 11:05 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


To re-phrase the headline then, "Scientific discovery Ignorance is not valuable unless because it has commercial value.
posted by islander at 11:15 PM on May 13, 2013


I hate things like this. One could point out that explorations into things like imaginary and complex numbers seem to be completely wasteful mathematical masturbation, poor places to spend limited government funds; it's "basic" research, not practical, not applied.

But here's the thing. Complex numbers became incredibly useful in the modern era, decades after they were first teased out. They're used in signal filtering, compression, and processing. They're used in many different analytical methods. All of these are powerful applied technologies, which would have been difficult to create, replicate, describe, or improve had the basic, "useless" research into complex numbers never been done.

What's worse, if the government's going to fund research, this is *precisely* the kind of research they should be doing, particularly in a free market economy filled to the brim with companies paying for R&D. Let the free market decide what is "valuable" to research when it comes to applied science--because very few of them will do pie-in-the-sky, theoretical research on their dime. The shareholders wouldn't let them.

That's what they're better at--at least, isn't that what the conservative commentators always say? The free market is better than the government in determining where scarce resources should go? Let them do the applied stuff. Have the government fund the stuff they won't.
posted by qcubed at 11:20 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck Harper.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:29 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'know, homunculus and others, it's not Jesusland just yet. We may be on the eve of electing an NDP government here in BC (which is a social democratic party, lying well left of US federal Democratis). We have NDP governments in Nova Scotia and Manitoba and the current federal opposition party is NDP.

We still have public health care, gun control and a much more moderate influence of evangelical Christianity on public Policy. Gay marriage is legal everywhere and so is abortion. We have no death penalty.

I mean I could go on. Yes we have a shitty Conservative government that has been elected term after term because the left is split in this country but they have never had a majority of the popular vote and they have only survived two minority governments through sheer procedural audaciousness.

So while I appreciate that our recent federal slide to the right of the policy spectrum may be disappointing to some US residents who want to see us as a bastion of progressivism in North America, try not to confuse the Canadian character and Canadian society in general with the policies of a bunch of lunatics. I think the comment "welcome to Jesusland" would feel inaccurate even to many Canadian conservatives. Not that Jesusland is exactly a fair portrayal of middle America...

We are, warts and all, what we are. And we are not solely defined by a Cabinet full of paranoid autocrats.
posted by salishsea at 11:35 PM on May 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Future university majors:
Business Philosophy

Monetization Studies

Legal Loophology

Poetic Systems Administration


Also: reclassify all of the arts as subcategories of the magisterium of Marketing.
posted by acb at 11:59 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, with the puffed chest doughy bag of resentment running the show here, the thing is that everything revolves around tar sands oil and getting said tar sands oil to market somewhere on the damned planet.

So, all the available resources of this great, deaf mute giant of a country must harnessed to that goal. It's what short fingered vulgarians and the shekel huffing gee gawers in Alberta want and they fund the whole Harperoid enterprise.

Get rid of the national census? Check. Gut the national archives? Check. Celebrate a war no one gives a good goddam fuck about? Check. Attempt to seize control of the national public broadcaster while attempting to rewrite basic elements of Canadian history? Check. It's all part of the narrative to reduce us to a culture of ignoroids and doughnut licking stooges. That's all.

Harper is a vile, destructive force who whose only real talent as a politician is wrecking things to suit his proto prelapsarian view of what Canada should be and this fits right in.

It's a disgrace, just like all the other disgraces he has committed as Prime Minister.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:17 AM on May 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


"We are, warts and all, what we are. And we are not solely defined by a Cabinet full of paranoid autocrats."

Well said. There are many different kinds of people in Canada, including any number of fine scientists doing important work in every imaginable field. Despite the growing number of restrictions placed on them by government.

And there's also this guy from another Bad Astronomy blog post, who's a better representative of the Canadian spirit than any politician ever could be.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:34 AM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Harper is a vile, destructive force who whose only real talent as a politician is wrecking things...

I agree with you on the vile destructive force part, but I think people underestimate his actual talents. He's a very well educated, focused strategist who has the patience to wait for his long-term goals to come to fruition. Someone recently called him a "determined incrementalist". And that's true - on just about every front, he's moving Canada to the right, or the Reform Party's version of it. His MPs screw up right and left, but he's the guiding hand on the tiller. And a lot of people seem to like him on basics because he's affable, speaks carefully, and plays the piano and sings at parties. But much of what he's accomplished during his tenure is going to be very difficult to undo.
posted by sneebler at 5:14 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume this means all of the top scientists in Canada will soon be working to discover new ways to fuse Doritos with highly volatile foodstuffs.
posted by nowhere man at 5:45 AM on May 14, 2013


You all seem at risk of committing sociology
posted by chapps at 6:51 AM on May 14, 2013


Macleans had a longer article on Harper and science a couple weeks ago. The anecdote at the start of it about the "shark guy" worried for his job is amazing. Also, eleven govt employees worrying about a science article in a newspaper for a day, our tax dollars at work .....

After the National Research Council denied an interview request about a study of snowfall patterns last March, Ottawa Citizen reporter Tom Spears filed an Access to Information request and discovered that 11 government employees had spent the better part of a day worrying about what he might write, exchanging more than 50 emails. It was a sharp contrast to what happened when he called NASA—also a party to the study. It took the U.S. agency just 15 minutes to put him in contact with one of their climatologists.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:26 AM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, as much as I find Harper a dick and "bad for Canada", he was right about "not committing sociology." Any hope I had for Trudeau as Liberal leader (and I'm a card-carrying Liberal Party of Canada member) evaporated when he said what he did after Boston.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 AM on May 14, 2013


the current federal opposition party is NDP.

I wouldn't think the gains they made at the expense of the Ignatieff-led Liberals are going to carry over in the next election. I have barely seen Mulcair at all, and Trudeau is impossible to avoid. People seem to like him. People liked Jack Layton. I feel like something this simple is going to be a big factor in the next election.

Any hope I had for Trudeau as Liberal leader (and I'm a card-carrying Liberal Party of Canada member) evaporated when he said what he did after Boston.

He said he would offer condolences and assistance, and then he would look at root causes because they didn't know if this was foreign or domestic, lone crazy person or international terrorists. I don't see that as a particularly bad answer, but I suppose "FIND WHO DID IT AND HANG THEM FROM THEIR BALLS" plays better with the average Canadian voter these days for better or for worse.
posted by Hoopo at 9:35 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry to contradict you, miyabo "I wouldn't count on this having the effect it sounds like it will have."

This has already happened. This government doesn't announce things before they happen, but after it's too late. NRC has been operating differently in the last few years. Insiders already knew was happening but the culture of secrecy has meant that no one really talks about it.

Publishing by NRC in refereed journals has dropped by 73% in the last two years.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:42 AM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


No. He was wrong about committing sociology, quite literally. What he meant was moral relativism, which is not a significant part of sociological inquiry. Sociologists (or more often anthropologists) will use a methodological relativism to understand people's motivations for doing things, based on the assumption that understanding the context allows you to do things like differentiate sane from insane behaviour (this comes from a historical context in which many non-Western people's perfectly reasonable activities were interpreted as savage and/or insane and/or of sub-human intelligence; these assumptions led to patently poor scholarship and useless predictive models).

It would be perfectly reasonable to "commit sociology" to try to understand the attempted bombing for two reasons: first, the policing apparatus of the state is functioning well and so there is no urgent need to change best practices or take any actions that would be delayed or potentially made difficult by sociological analysis; two, if there can be long-term solutions to terrorism, they will not be found without attention to what makes acts of terrorism reasonable to their participants.
posted by carmen at 9:44 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Harper told us we wouldn't recognize Canada by the time he was done. He is keeping his promise.

In his younger days he expressed absolute loathing for this country. We should not be at all surprised by or disappointed with his actions.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I know the UK ended up with its current Tory goverment because the fucking Liberals betrayed us, how did Camada end up with this asshole? You all seem so reasonable.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on May 14, 2013


It wasn't so much a betrayal here, just the result of an ever-increasing bad taste left in the mouth of Canadians from an overly-comfortable and somewhat corrupt Liberal party, combined with the right wing getting its shit together and joining forces instead of fragmenting the vote over 2 parties. In a nutshell.
posted by Hoopo at 10:52 AM on May 14, 2013


So I know the UK ended up with its current Tory goverment because the fucking Liberals betrayed us, how did Camada end up with this asshole? You all seem so reasonable.

Same way. Plus the fusion of two separate right wing parties means that the two left wing parties now act as spoilers against each other.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:53 AM on May 14, 2013


Yes, the Liberal party waging an insane internal war over succession and wheelbarrows full of oil patch money supporting the Cons didn't hurt either.

I would also suggest the consolidation of corporate media who support the right wing candidates everywhere and voter apathy played a large part. Plus, Stevil, in a political sense, runs a sociopathic enterprise that caught the other parties off guard though fortunately there seems to be some sort of backlash growing against things like spending massive amounts of money on commercials while cutting and slashing everything in sight.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:59 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So I know the UK ended up with its current Tory government because the fucking Liberals betrayed us, how did Camada end up with this asshole? You all seem so reasonable."

What they said. It's been literally decades since I paid attention to Canadian politics, but my ex-wife was Canadian and I so vividly recall the 1993 election. At the time, it was thrilling to see the right be so humiliated, even though the NDP was, too. But if we'd known that this would be an opportunity for Preston Manning to move into the vacuum, we would have been horrified. I mean, I was horrified years later when I learned of it. But it should have been obvious that this would happen given that Bloc Québécois did well enough to become the opposition while the whole impetus for Manning's Reform Party was francophobia.

So the center-left party, the Liberals, did well for a while but the true left was marginalized and the center-right was marginalized leaving the farther right party to pick up all the pieces, gather them together, and create a new Conservative party that was farther right than the one it replaced. And eventually the Liberals were discredited (as happens to governments and parties, every now and then), leaving the field to a new Conservative party that was farther to the right than the previous.

This is my (poor, I'm sure) understanding.

This is what people are talking about when they argue that it's important to encourage the moderate opposition to remain healthy. It really wasn't in the long run interests for Canada that Mulrooney's government and his party collapsed. Those Reform Party people should have remained lost out in the prairies.

But, again, disclaimer: this is a gloss on something I have only passing knowledge of. It'd be better if actual Canadians corrected my errors and filled out my omissions. It does seem a story worth telling.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:39 PM on May 14, 2013


You know, as much as I find Harper a dick and "bad for Canada", he was right about "not committing sociology."

Like hell he was. That committing sociology line was rote, cynical, anti-intellectual pointscoring. It verged on a dog-whistle to all the "common sense" neocons out there who nod along and cheer as the CPC votes in the stupidest and most wasteful goddamn crime bill in the nation's history.

Here's philosophy prof Joseph Heath utterly eviscerating the counter-factual and scientifically illiterate and plain old dumb-assitudinous thinking hiding behind the committing sociology quip. A highlight:
As Harper’s former chief of staff Ian Brodie has explained, part of their strategy in this area was specifically to antagonize criminologists and other intellectuals, so that the Conservatives could position themselves as defenders of common sense. “Politically,” he said “it helped us tremendously to be attacked by this coalition, so we never really had to engage in the question of what the evidence actually shows about various approaches to crime.”

Given this strategy, it’s not entirely surprising that the government should regard anyone who wants to bring data to bear on the question of criminal justice policy as an enemy combatant.

[. . .]

[P]eople who read books and study statistics are much more likely to support programs that appear to coddle criminals (what conservatives like to call “hugs for thugs” programs). It’s because social scientists actually know something important about how the world works, and in this case reality does have a liberal bias.

Hostility to expertise in all of its forms is the closest thing that Canadian conservatives have to a unifying ideology.
This government's loathing for science, facts and expertise is an open insult to every thinking Canadian. Whatever you think of Trudeau, it was a smarmy horseshit line.
posted by gompa at 1:41 PM on May 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


philip-random: "There won't be an environment unless we can figure out how to pay for it."

(overheard in the late 1980s -- I assume he was being bitingly sarcastic)
Or simply anticipating results based on observable past events.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:43 PM on May 14, 2013


Canadian Government Pursuing Aggressive Lobbying Push On Keystone XL
posted by homunculus at 9:17 PM on May 20, 2013


The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment
posted by homunculus at 2:23 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


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