Back in 1995, and way before Gwyn Morgan took up this role, Reform party MP Randy White, was on a mission to illustrate waste in government by trying to discredit what is now called NSERC’s discovery grant program. His staff dug up two funded proposals: one about “Lie Theory” and the other about the “behaviour of humming birds”. They had assumed that the first grant was about devising a theory of “lying”, not knowing that it was in fact concerned with one of the deepest mathematical theories developed by the distinguished Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie (1844-1899). I will let you guess how “humming birds” rang the alarm bells in White’s office.
I did then write a letter about Sophus Lie to the Vancouver Sun, which was relating to the public that the MP was “fuming”. My friend and colleague John Petkau also wrote about the scientific value of studying humming birds.
Why do I write about this episode now?
Because I am coming to realize the huge sums of taxpayers’ money that the Government of Canada is currently spending to support “Research and Development” initiatives that are too often disconnected from what is happening in our universities. A mind-boggling $4 billion on tax incentive programs for Canadian businesses to conduct R&D, and billions more on other programs that supposedly support business R&D, either through general support (e.g., Industrial Research Assistance Program $248 million) or through sector-specific support (e.g., Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative, Forestry, Automotive industry, etc…).
More about that in future blogs.