Back in 2012, when Canada's Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.
Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives' war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.
An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age. Update: a copy of these logs survives overseas.
The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned.
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On Monday, scientists across Canada demonstrated against the Conservative government's war on science. The Stephen Harper government has imposed political minders on scientists, requiring routine press queries to be vetted by unqualified political operatives, many of them 20-something Conservative party fundraisers without any background in science. The Harper government has taken many other unprecedented, anti-science measures, from demanding NDAs from foreign scientists working on projects in Canada to shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area, the Canadian equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider, a massive lake-system used for crucial large-scale climate research.
The Tories raised their election war-chests from tar-sands oil companies and other dirty industries, and have spent their time in government trying to abolish facts from political discourse. Canada's world-class research community had been crying foul all along, but this appears to be the breaking point.
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Apparently the Conservative government has decided that government research labs should be concentrating on science in the public interest ... oops, I mean, science in *industry's* interest. A major overhaul of national science policy requires these labs to begin "Conducting collaborative R&D projects with private industry, sharing the costs and the risks."
Notice, that's research in the service of *existing* industries. So government labs can help the current rich get richer, but may not create whole new industries. An applied mathematician might describe this as: you are allowed to climb toward the top of the hill you are on now, but not allowed to jump to other hills which may reach much higher.
...And your applied mathematician consultant would tell you that this is not a way likely to find a global maximum, merely a local one. Maybe the Conservative government should listen to some scientists before ruining science policy.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a series of Conservative government attacks on science in Canada, which has included muzzling scientists and shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area -- "Canada's LHC," the world's leading site for critical research on freshwater systems.
Research council’s makeover leaves Canadian industry setting the agenda
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