Canadian government is cutting science funding… in favor of business degrees!

This article summarizes the results of the current funding cuts in research. It almost feels like Bush moved up North. Dozens of millions are being cut. My previous employer, the National Research Council—Canada’s largest research organization—was cut as well. 

Fortunately, our wise government saw fit to compensate with more business degrees:

 $17.5 million over three years to (…) to fund an additional 400 master’s and 100 doctoral scholarships “focused on business-related degrees.” 

Summary: less funding for degrees in science, more funding for degrees in business.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

10 thoughts on “Canadian government is cutting science funding… in favor of business degrees!”

  1. Shameful. Genome Canada, a less than 10 year old agency charged with supporting large-scale genomics and proteomics research projects, was completely left out of the federal budget.

    Of course, investing in business degrees has the potential for long-term impact; just look at what Bush accomplished with his MBA.

  2. Daniel,

    If the situation in Canada is the same as in the US, then I would like to argue that this funding is long overdue. Traditionally, there is no government funding coming to business schools. So, in comparison, the science and engineering schools have been receiving the lions share in terms of funding.

    You may argue that “mi field better than su field” but I hope that you can agree that it is not the business of the government to decide the worthiness of an academic discipline and allocate plenty of funding to one field and none to the other. Furthermore, if there was more funding for the economics-related disciplines, then maybe today we would have better understanding of such complex systems such as our financial system, and not the current mess.

    And yes, being in a business school, I have seen many fluffy MBA students but I have also seen many bright PhD students, easily competing with the best PhD’s in the sciences and engineering. And I remember plenty MSc students in CS that were not of much higher level that the run-of-the-mill MBA students.

  3. While I agree with Panos that there are plenty of very bright students in business schools, I’d have to disagree on the point that it is not the place of government to judge one field more worthy than another. I’d say that that is precisely the role of government in allocating funding. If medical research were cut in favor of underwater basket weaving, I would consider the government officials who made that decision to be utterly delinquent in serving the public interest.

    Personally I think we need less business degrees running around at the moment, since so many are without jobs. More scientific research might actually lead to new technologies (and then, inevitably, more business degrees), whereas I’m not sure the same kind of economic stimulation will be brought about by adding 500 new business grads to the unemployment line.

  4. But Daniel, haven’t you argued frequently and vociferously that we do students a disservice by admitting them to Ph.D programs and sending them out into an environment where there are no jobs ? Wouldn’t a cut back in research funding merely shrink research programs to a more manageable level, in your view ?

  5. Two points:
    Research in expertise showed basically that expert economists produced results at chance level in their own domain of expertise (in other words, the field isn’t advanced enough/is too complex to reliably predict results).

    Interesting article on how an expert’s recipe may have exacerbated the present economic crisis:

    So yeah, I’m very skeptical about pouring more money into business degrees.

    And Suresh, if you cut funding from the agencies that employ scientists, how is this helping with the job crisis?

  6. @Sylvie: “in other words, the field isn’t advanced enough/is too complex to reliably predict results”

    For me this is exactly the argument that calls for more funding in that area. Traditionally, research in business schools has been funded by corporate sponsors and there was minimal government funding coming in.

    While it may seem a fine model, how would you feel if research in medicine was solely funded by pharmaceutical companies?

  7. While it may seem a fine model, how would you feel if research in medicine was solely funded by pharmaceutical companies?

    As someone who worked in a medical research lab. and who ran an e-health research group, I can tell you that this is not far from the truth. And that is a very bad thing indeed.

  8. @Sylvie I don’t actually believe it’s a good thing to cut funding. But Daniel has argued often in the past that research programs are over-funded, creating PhDs who can’t find jobs.

  9. @Sylvie:

    “So yeah, I’m very skeptical about pouring more money into business degrees.”

    Such attitude actually killed machine translation for a couple of decades. In AI, the expectation of great results in a highly complicated field also gave a bad name to AI, effectively leading to new names for the same discipline (machine learning, data mining, etc).

    There is a field that has not been getting funding generating a very small number of PhDs per year. And surprise surprise, the field is understudied, we do not understand what is going on, and we have the disasters mentioned in the Wired article.

    Perhaps if we had 10x the researchers working on these topics, they would have discovered the problems earlier, or we may had more graduates, qualified to understand the assumptions behind the models.

    And being in a glass house (dot com bubble anyone?) we (computer scientists) should avoid throwing stones.

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