Science: the State, Market and Civil Society

March 11, 2008

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Thanks to Corey Beaman for his stunning photography and video clip shown above which he made available via the Creative Commons license in Flickr. He also recommends the www.audi.com/ironman on his blog http://oneighturbo.com/. Billionaire technophile, Tony Stark is Iron Man, who directs a major industrial complex, wearing either his indestructible, hi-tech suit of armor or driving in his invincible Audi R8 which is oddly similar to his armour right down to details like Stark’s artificial heart which resembles the Audi’s mid-engine (http://oneighturbo.com/).The Audi R-8 was chosen by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada as the “2008 Canadian Car of the Year, ” a 420 horsepower, 250 km/hr, two-seat sports car.As Quirks & Quarks’ Bob McDonald wrote in his blog, “Now there’s a clean, efficient car for you, perfect for a country with speed limits of 100km/hr and snow deep enough to ground this low rider on the first turn.”  McDonald used the Audi R-8 as an example of what might happen when publicly funded science is limited to one kind of science: applied science driven by building, nurturing and protecting investment climate and the economic environment See Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage . He argued,“Take clean cars for example. Scientists have been working for decades on emission controls, fuel efficiency, fuel cells and alternative ways of making wheels go around. But until regulations are in place that force automakers to use these technologies, they often don’t make it to the road. [. . .] It seems the automakers and the journalists who write about them still think it’s 1969. So if the government is going to invest in new technologies, then regulations, penalties and tax incentives must also be in place to help those technologies get out of the laboratories and really make a difference. Here’s the other danger of focusing on applied science: it doesn’t really develop anything new; it just improves on what’s already out there.”

“The 2008 Federal budget includes more money for science, which is a good thing, but the cash comes with a catch. The scientists have to do what the government wants, not pursue the basic questions of the universe. The new budget is mostly aimed at supporting the auto industry, manufacturing, fisheries, genomics and nuclear power. In other words, applied science that contributes to the economy. Of course, we need clean cars and new products. Applied science is aimed at developing new technologies, new industries, jobs and perhaps a boost to the economy. If it all happens within the four-year tenure of a politician, everyone looks good. But here’s a word of caution about this approach to funding research; it may not actually produce anything, and basic science can end up on the back burner. When the government invests in new technologies, industry doesn’t have to adopt them, and often resists doing it if extra costs are involved.”

More

Webliography

Bernier, Maxime. 2007. Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Corporate Publications. Industry Canada. (May 2007)  http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/vRTF/PublicationST/$file/S&Tstrategy.pdf

McDonald, Bob. 2008-03 http://www.cbc.ca/technology/quirks-blog/2008/03/new_government_adds_insult_to.html

McDonald, Bob. 2008-01-25  http://www.cbc.ca/technology/quirks-blog/2008/01/no_science_in_the_pms_ear.html 

McDonald, Bob. 2008-02 “Budget for science, or at least one kind of science.” http://www.cbc.ca/technology/quirks-blog/2008/02/budget_for_science_or_at_least.html

McDonald, Bob. 2008. Budget for science, or at least one kind of science quirks Friday, February 29, 2008.

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