CSC President Responds to State of Science Report
Science in Canada is healthy, growing and internationally respected, according to a report released on September 27, 2012 by an expert panel supported by the Council of Canadian Academies.
“Canada is punching above its weight, our scientific contributions are having an impact, and the world is taking note,” said Eliot Phillipson, chair of the panel, in a presentation of the report. “We realize that for modest and self-critical Canadians, this may be a bit of a head-scratcher.”
Phillipson acknowledged that the findings contradict perceptions within the scientific community and the media which have focused recently on the fact that Canada’s overall investment in research and development has declined in recent years. In fact, Canada is the only OECD country with a net decline (of over six per cent) in research and development expenditures between 2005 and 2010. The report points out that “International comparisons of investment levels are not, in and of themselves, a measure of strength, however S&T [science and technology] strength does not develop without ongoing investment.”
The conclusion of the report states “The preponderance of evidence indicates that Canadian science and technology … is healthy and growing in both output and impact. With less than 0.5 per cent of the world’s population, Canada produces 4.1 per cent of the world’s scientific papers — seventh in the world — and nearly five per cent of the world’s most frequently cited papers — sixth in the world.” When 5,100 authors of the world’s top-cited scientific papers were surveyed, 37 per cent identified Canada as one of the five leading countries in their field which places Canada fourth overall in the world behind the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Though the news overall seems to bode well for science in Canada, the story for chemistry is more mixed. Canadian chemistry was ranked seventh in the world in terms of average relative citations. Eight per cent of all of Canada’s patents are chemical-based, and the average relative citations to those patents ranks second in the world.
However, chemistry as a discipline, defined to include polymers, analytical, general, inorganic and nuclear, medicinal and biomolecular, organic, and physical chemistry, was not found to be among the top six performing fields in Canada and was found to be “falling behind” by some expert rankings. A serious complication to this analysis is the fact that many highly active emerging fields such as nanotechnology, materials, and energy are given their own classification outside of chemistry.
This is a serious issue with regard to the accurate assessment of chemistry as a discipline, says Cathleen Crudden, president of the CSC. “Nanotechnology, materials, and energy are all fields over which chemistry has legitimate ownership. Chemistry departments across the country have sub-disciplines with exactly these names, and thus, removing these particular areas from the overarching field of chemistry risks skewing the performance of chemistry in Canada. In some ways, we are victims of our own success when science and technology developed largely within our community ends up being defined as separate entities. The CSC will be discussing these metrics with the authors of the report.”JOIN NOW