Canucks and Science..... (was Canadian Cousins Honesty about Science)

Graham Dellaire dellaire at ODYSSEE.NET
Wed Jun 12 08:04:26 EST 1996

Hello all,

I know I am quite, quite late on this thread... as it seems to have 
mutated into something else but I would like to add my two bits.

As a current graduate student here at McGill University in Montreal , 
Quebec (yes it is STILL part of Canada) and having done my B.Sc.Hon at 
the University of British Columbia I have seen how science functions 
here on both coasts.  In general funding like all monies in Canada goes 
basically by population when you look at totals per province.  
Accordingly smaller provinces farther from center (i.e. BC, Alberta, 
Nova Scotia etc) get less money and the center gets the lions share 
(Quebec and Ontario).  Hence one reason I am in the east now is that it 
is much easier to find labs with funding in Toronto or Montreal than 
back in Vancouver, B.C..

I wanted to stay in Canada for my Ph.D. to pick up the ethic of Canadian 
 science. We do not have an exclusive on fair play but I think many 
Canadian Scientists feel a kinship in dealing with large funding 
agencies like MRC and NSERC as well as the fight for recognition in the 
shadow of the USA.  This kinship can breed great science when resources 
and knowhow are diseminated from lab to lab.  Here in Montreal in 
particular, being not only Canadian but also Quebecers there is an even 
stronger push for open collaboration and sharing. The US against THEM 
attitude in a benign way. 

Montreal is one of the few cities in Canada with 4 major Universities in 
the local area (U of Montreal, University du Quebec a Montreal, McGill, 
and Concordia, not to mention Sherbrooke and Laval University only an 
hour or two away).  Perhaps because of the proximity of so many 
universities, Montreal is one of the few cities where a scientist can 
find his/her spouse a job in research very easily.  On more than one 
occasion I have seen a post-doc find his wife a position within months 
of arriving, people actively set out to find a position for you. 

Being much closer to Britain than the USA... we only repatriated our 
constitution in 1980, I think this has an effect on science an how it is 
carried out.  For many years Great Britain has done the most with the 
least.  Where as in the USA the trend has been to do the least with the 
most resources.  We also have much influence from French Science as 
there is an open system for training postdocs and graduates between 
Quebec and France.  I think the european influence is very strong in 
shaping our character and could provide one reason we "appear" to carry 
science out a little differently than our neighbors to the south.

Lastly, with all the cuts to funding and lack of positions here in 
Canada (especially for aerospace, engineering and physics) the United 
States will ultimately end up benefiting from our countries investment 
(what little is left) in science.  Most researchers will end up looking 
south for jobs... particulary in their most productive years (late 20's 
to mid 30's).  Perhaps if enough Canadians move south our influence will 
be felt and the one sided cultural exchange, as it exists now, will be 
reversed for just a little while.


Graham Dellaire
McGill University
Dept. of Medicine
Div. of Exp. Medicine

dellaire at
bionet: bionet.molbio.recombination

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