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Public Science, Private Interests

Public Science, Private Interests: Culture and Commerce in Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Public Science, Private Interests
    Book Description:

    The Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program is Canada's flagship research funding initiative and a policy innovation that has been emulated by a number of other countries. The NCE program is historically significant in the political economy of Canadian research: established in 1988 by the Mulroney government, it was the first program to attach expectations of industry partnerships and commercial exploitation to funding for academic research. The program rests on dual goals of research excellence and commercial relevance and promotes a national research capacity that 'floats across' existing academic institutions and provincial jurisdictions.

    Janet Atkinson-Grosjean'sPublic Science, Private Interestsis the first book-length study of NCEs, and offers an assessment of the long-term impact of the erasure between public institutions and private enterprise. Atkinson-Grosjean reveals not only the cultural and commercial shifts sought by policymakers, but also unintended consequences such as regional clustering, élitism and exclusion, problems with social and fiscal accountability, tensions with host institutions, and goal displacement between science and commerce. This is a work of great importance to Canadian policy studies and particularly to science and medical research policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7889-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    For the past two decades, the Group of Eight (G8)* nations have structured their public research goals and research funding envelopes around the neoliberal orthodoxy of marketization, privatization, and public-sector reform. In such a climate, university research is expected to be commercially ‘relevant’ and open to the market. These expectations are institutionalized in ‘strategic science’ policy.

    The changing status of academic research under the combined weight of state and market forces has been the topic of considerable debate in the literature.¹ Many scholars perceive a radical break with past values as systems of ‘knowledge production’ respond and adapt. Distinctions between...

  7. 1 Two Divides
    (pp. 12-39)

    The conceptual framework of this study relies on the relationship between two sociological and epistemological distinctions: the public/private and basic/applied divides, respectively. The space where these dimensions intersect is particularly relevant to this study, and various theorists have attempted to describe it. Donald Stokes, for example, calls the space Pasteur’s Quadrant; others speak of ‘strategic research,’ ‘emergent science,’ or ‘Jeffersonian science.’¹ Two models present opposing interpretations of the relation between the divides: theopen sciencemodel and thenetwork(oroverflow) model. The tension between these contrasting approaches to public and proprietary knowledge runs throughout this book. The last part...

  8. 2 Science Policy in Canada and the NCE Experiment
    (pp. 40-66)

    Three mutually interacting influences shape and constrain policy formation: powerful ideas, powerful institutions, and powerful interests act as gatekeepers to the process of agenda setting. The role of these three structuring influences in the historical development of Canadian science policy and public science institutions is described in the first half of this chapter. The remainder of the chapter focuses on the formulation and implementation of the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program as an instrument of a strategic science policy.

    Historian Donald Phillipson suggests that the Canadian state has had an abiding interest in the economic relevance of science...

  9. 3 Configuring the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network
    (pp. 67-104)

    What is a network? Often, it is thought to be something flimsy or ephemeral, like a cobweb, that can easily tear and drift apart – just a web of relationships, with nothing visible anchoring them in place. But this is not the case. Networks are anchored in the materiality of the actors that make them up: in the infrastructures actors inhabit, in the resources actors command, in the allies they enrol, and in the artifacts and instruments they employ (or, as is often the case, are employed by). Thus actors both ‘come before’ and ‘make up’ networks in a complex process...

  10. 4 Culture and Science
    (pp. 105-137)

    The more serious problem with accountability frameworks is that they capture and evaluate only those dimensions that can be quantified, objectified, and made accountable. Non-quantifiable and less tangible practices arenot taken into account. At the same time, other elements assume new weightbecausethey can be quantitatively evaluated, such as the quantity (not quality) of research publications, the numbers of patents held, and the dollar value of research contracts. In short, a focus on readily quantifiable inputs and outputs risks neglecting more complex social variables that resist measurement but are, nevertheless, valid outcomes. The construction of intangibles such as...

  11. 5 From Science to Commerce
    (pp. 138-163)

    NCEs were funded with the intention that they would, among other benefits, generate products and technologies for profit. Although ‘excellence of the research’ was the dominant criterion in Phase I selection and remained a background condition, commercialization and partnerships with the private sector were critical to the core mandate. As the sunset of NCE funding loomed, CGDN focused on constructing a portfolio of licensing deals and spin-off companies that they hoped would provide a stream of future revenues.Allalternative sources of income were investigated. The goal was to prime the ‘pipeline’ that links the laboratory and the market, the...

  12. 6 Adventures in the Nature of Trade
    (pp. 164-191)

    Previous chapters have focused on the network as an entity, with an organizational history and culture and a mission to exploit technologies commercially. But withoutscientists, none of this would exist. Scientists represent the ‘heart of the matter.’ They are the people who make the discoveries that the network reports as achievements, who produce the technologies that the network exploits. They are the ones who embrace or resist the organizational goals of the network. Individual scientists – their beliefs, values, opinions – shape the network’s research culture. Much depends on the way they locate their loyalties with respect to the various institutions...

  13. 7 NCEs and the Public Interest
    (pp. 192-204)

    The case study of CGDN and the NCE program generated a set of six broad themes I consider to be of theoretical, empirical, or policy significance. Another researcher might well interpret the data in a different way and take away a different set of conclusions. Nevertheless, I believe the evidence presented in the study supports the robustness of these findings.

    The concept oftranslational researchmay be theoretically significant. The results of this study suggest that neither ‘basic’ nor ‘applied’ accurately captures the empirical reality of much of the work in biomedical research. Nor do these terms apply to the...

  14. APPENDIX A NCE Program: Funded Networks, 1989–2005
    (pp. 205-206)
    (pp. 207-212)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 213-230)
  17. References
    (pp. 231-252)
  18. Index
    (pp. 253-269)