It’s encouraging to learn that there are renewed efforts to increase the collaborative capacity of science-based federal departments and agencies, and bolster their aging infrastructure (see page 3). Informally dubbed FINE III after the Federal Innovation Networks of Excellence (FINE) proposal (R$, November 28/01), the latest initiative is in the early stages of development but it appears to have legs.
The fact that both the national science advisor and Treasury Board are actively involved indicates that the federal government may finally be convinced that action is urgently required to revive this long-neglected but critical component of the emerging national system of innovation.
The decentralized nature federal S&T means that an initiative that enhances collaboration both within and external to government should generate benefits from coast to coast to coast. Bringing all federal labs into the 21st century will ensure that their contribution to the social and economic well-being is commensurate with the growing need, regardless of location.
From Arctic research and related sovereignty issues to global health threats and water quality, the need for top-notch federal S&T infrastructure and an innovative funding mechanism has never been greater. And that need is certain to escalate and grow more complex.
When it comes to S&T, Ottawa has an unfortunate tendency to delay funding decisions until critical situations are teetering towards disaster. Let’s hope that such callous behaviour is not repeated, and that federal S&T is finally given adequate resources to flourish.