Editorial - 14-13

Guest Contributor
October 23, 2000

It appears as though international S&T has broken through the federal wall of indifference and is about to climb the Liberal government's priority list of technology issues. Last week saw the long awaited release of the ACST's report on the issue, containing several strong recommendations for putting Canada back on the international S&T map (see page 3).

The work of the ACST expert panel over the past several months has obviously raised awareness of how badly Canada is faring when it comes to international S&T. The day after the report was released, Finance minister Paul Martin's mini-budget contained a provision that gives the Canada Foundation for Innovation $100 million "to help Canadian researchers participate in leading-edge international research projects".

The announcement is being viewed as a hopeful first step, but international S&T has historically been a interdepartmental minefield which even the ACST expert panel has failed to completely avoid. By recommending the creation of a new executive committee jointly managed by two departments, the feuding is likely to continue at least for the short term.

Currently, international S&T is handled by the trade promotion branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade - not the ideal place for an activity that is largely scientific. Granted, the proposed committee is supposed to include a variety of stakeholders, but the feeling of many is that the job should go to an arm's length body that can operate above the interdepartmental fray. How the government responds further to the report will be watched with keen interest.

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