Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The long reach of Budget 2012, and it's impact on Canadian research

Is there an aspect of Canadian research that is not impacted by the 2012 federal budget?
As implementation of the 2012 Federal budget begins, researchers across the country are raising the alarm about resulting cuts to a variety of research programs in Canada. Marine research, climate research, archaeology, archives, and the fund for purchasing scientific equipment are all subject to cuts. 

Over the past few weeks I have attempted to collect information on cuts to research programs resulting from the 2012 federal budget. What follows is what I have found – please add to the list, if you know of more.

37 northern research facilities have been cut
due to cuts to the federal science research funding agency, NSERC. This article discusses cuts to arctic research, notably Kluane research station.
[In case you, like me, are unaware of the ice cores, here is a description from the article:
The collection of ice-cores was drilled from ice caps and ice fields throughout the Canadian Arctic. It comprises more than 1,000 metres of ice cylinders documenting thousands of years of climate history. Most of the cores contain ice dating back to the end of the last glaciation, about 12,000 years ago, but some may contain ice up to 80,000 years old. The longest of the cores, extracted from the Agassiz ice cap on Ellesmere Island, is longer than 330 metres.

Cores are important sources of data on past climate change, because they can contain dust, gas bubbles and chemical isotopes that give clues as to atmospheric and temperature conditions when the ice was laid down. The resolution of the information is often sharper than that in other proxies, such as ocean sediments.]

I have heard from faculty that the ice cores are valued world wide, and cost a hefty amount to collect and set up storage -- money that will be wasted if they are indeed lost to budget cuts.

I’ve also heard from people in the sciences that the NSERC fund Canadian scientists in universities use to purchase their equipment will end in one year -- meaning that right across the country, all labs will have to make due with whatever they have now and can obtain in the next twelve months.One casualty of this cut is the Neutron Beam Centre at the Chalk River Nuclear Plant and another is Canadian meteor research.

Bamfield's world renowned marine research centre (near Tofino) is also facing drastic cuts. The Pacific Marine Analysis and Research Association (PacMARA) blog has attempted to catalogue cuts that will impact marine research, but says they are “surely incomplete”.

Parks Canada cuts are described as “draconian” by the Canadian Archaeological Association because of their on archaeological research. Archaeologist and blogger Tim Rast has catalogued cuts to archaeology here. In many cases, regional labs will see their artefacts transferred to central storage in Ottawa.

The sciences are not the only researchers feeling the pinch in this budget.
You may have heard archivists speaking out about cuts to an archival program that ensures support to small community archives, and development of online access to archives. UVIC’s archivist, Lara Wilson, joined an “Ottawa trek” of archivists modeled on Canada’s historic “On to Ottawa Trek”. The campaign, and the reasons our archives are important to more than historians, are featured in this CBC radio story. One estimate says the cuts could close 800 of Canada's smaller archives.

CAUT has harshly criticised cuts to research in the recent federal budget, noting cuts to funds that make it possible for professors to take research time. CAUT raises concerns about government interference in research areas, funding “bricks and mortar” while cutting the programs that fund the use for these facilities. They also state they were told to “shut up” by the policy advisor to Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, when they met to raise their concerns.