Profs Call on Leadership Candidates to Articulate Provincial Research Strategy

Created 7 December 2010 09:12

(Prince George): In light of recent cuts to forestry research in British Columbia, the province’s public university professors today called on the candidates for the Liberal leadership to articulate a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable research strategy for the province.

“British Columbia is well situated to be a leader in the knowledge-based economy,” said Robert Clift, Executive Director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia (CUFA BC). “However, recent cuts to forestry research raise serious questions about our province’s commitment to the high-quality research necessary for sustainable economic growth.”

Clift noted that the Liberal government has made significant investments in research since coming to power in 2001, but that the support for research has become much more tenuous since the 2008 financial crunch.

“We understand the financial challenges facing government,” Clift said, “But high-quality research is not a tap you can simply turn on or off when convenient. It takes years to establish research programs in areas such as forestry. Cutting off funding means losing investments in research programs, in people, and in future economic opportunities that may never be recovered.”

This view was echoed by Dr. Paul Sanborn, an Associate Professor at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and a former researcher for the Ministry of Forests.

“I want our very best students to put their minds to these problems, and to put their skills and energy to work in serving the communities that depend on our forests,”Sanborn said. “But they won’t do it if the government’s actions show that research is just a nice frill that we can dispense with in tough times.”

Dr. Kathy Lewis, Professor and Chair of UNBC’s Ecosystem Science and Forest Management program, underscored the importance of research in adapting to global changes.

“Climate change, global trade, the collapse and emergence of markets all put stresses on forest ecosystems and forest resource-based economies,” Lewis said. “The more we know about forest ecosystems and related social and economic impacts, the better we will be able to adapt to, and modify these stresses. Research, and the education of future researchers, is vital for generation of this knowledge.”

Clift further noted that a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable research strategy is vital in addressing the challenges facing all British Columbians in the years ahead.

“Some of the biggest problems we face are in how we live together, work together and share the bounty of our province,” Clift said. “This is why the province needs a comprehensive research strategy that takes advantage of innovations in all fields of knowledge. Such a strategy must also be integrated, drawing upon the different strengths of researchers from government, the universities, and the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. Bringing all this together with predictable and sustainable funding will go a long way to secure British Columbia’s economic, social and intellectual prosperity.”

“We hope the Liberal leadership candidates understand this and will demonstrate their commitment by articulating their provincial research strategies in the coming days.”