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The Black Hole

BY JONATHAN THON | January 13 2014

It’s a new year, and with it come renewed efforts to improve the status of academic funding in Canada. While our reader feedback  has been phenomenal this last year, our government’s has been less so. Back in June 2013 I wrote a series of open letters on the status of science funding in Canada which […]

BY DAVID KENT | January 06 2014

Happy New Year to all of our readers. It was an extremely busy autumn and there has been a lot of reader commentary on the Black Hole site – many thanks from both Jon and me. Of particular note, we ran a session at the Canadian Science Policy Conference and asked readers for feedback on […]

BY JONATHAN THON | December 11 2013

In a previous post I made the argument that one way of recovering federally funded-research costs and bringing discoveries and innovations to the marketplace is by having governments included in intellectual property agreements. My guess is that getting universities to give up their patent rights and ability to claim  indirect costs from incoming grants are […]

BY DAVID KENT | December 04 2013

As our readers know, we ran a panel discussion last month in Toronto at the 5th Annual Canadian Science Policy Conference. It was a packed room and the panel featured heated exchanges at some points (even between panellists!). Many diverse opinions were shared, pointing to a clear need for academic-training reform. Chris Corkery began by […]

BY JONATHAN THON | November 25 2013

In my previous blog post, I highlighted the fact that despite their academic laurels, publically funded research institutes are no less aware of their bottom line and profit margins, and no less risk-averse, than private businesses. The problem is that while research departments are run like corporations, few principal investigators see themselves as small business […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 19 2013

This Thursday, I’ll be attending the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Toronto to run a session on the training the next generation of scientists. The session promises to be discussion-based and I hope that some practical ideas and solutions will be proposed by audience members and panelists to help address what I consider to be […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 13 2013

Last week, the International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA) was launched in connection with the VITAE Research Staff Conference. Forged in the fire that burns in the bellies of early career researchers with low salaries, little stability and poor career prospects, this organization aims to better the researcher profession by linking the individual (often […]

BY JONATHAN THON | November 04 2013

In the United States most universities and hospitals are private businesses, and are run as such, maximizing profit margins and generally promoting low-risk ventures with greatest return on investment. Basic research by comparison is high-risk and generally takes 10 to 20 years to show a financial return on investment (if there is a financial return […]

BY DAVID KENT | October 29 2013

One of the most popular topics on our site over the years has been the taxation and administrative status of postdoctoral fellows. The budgetary changes and the resultant discrepancy between postdoctoral and graduate student take-home pay galvanized Canadian postdoctoral fellows across the country and was a primary driver of the enthusiasm that formed the Canadian […]

BY DAVID KENT | October 21 2013

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be breaking down the fantastic information found in the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars 2013 Survey of Canadian Postdocs. To start this, I thought I would focus on the most surprising finding in my mind: 53.1% of the 1,830 respondents were either landed immigrants or holding a work permit. This […]

BY JONATHAN THON | October 15 2013

“Doctorate recipients begin careers in large and small organizations, teach in universities, and start new businesses. Doctoral education develops human resources that are critical to a nation’s progress—scientists, engineers, researchers, and scholars who create and share new knowledge and new ways of thinking that lead, directly and indirectly, to innovative products, services, and works of […]

BY DAVID KENT | October 08 2013

Last week was the culmination of an incredible amount of volunteer labour through the CAPS-ACSP group who produced their 2013 Survey of Canadian Postdoctoral Scholars. Done in collaboration with Mitacs, a not-for-profit group aimed at facilitating the transition from academia to industry, the survey emphasizes the need for urgent action at universities and research institutes […]

BY JONATHAN THON | September 30 2013

In light of the present circumstances, I thought I would interrupt my ongoing series on federal funding of basic research in Canada and take the opportunity this week to update you on the current status of science funding in the United States amid another looming fiscal showdown. The 2014 fiscal year in the U.S. begins […]

BY DAVID KENT | September 23 2013

Citations are the standard benchmark for scientists to assess the impact of their work. Highly cited papers have clearly influenced the field and few would dispute their importance. What citations do not measure, though, is the wider impact of a paper – do industrial projects build from these discoveries, are school children interested in them, […]

BY JONATHAN THON | September 16 2013

While the federal government has taken steps to address a stagnant science and technology sector in Canada through a $9-billion annual investment (Economic Action Plan 2013, the Harper Government’s eighth budget since 2006), the focus on a trickle-down approach to research and development by shifting resources toward the private sector misunderstands the pipeline by which […]

BY DAVID KENT | September 05 2013

For the past year, I have been sitting on the publications committee for a society-run journal and in the journal’s quest to improve its impact factor (IF), it became clear to me that one of the system’s dark secrets is the “window of IF eligibility.” It single-handedly disadvantages journals whose science stands the test of time […]

BY JONATHAN THON | August 27 2013

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2 Dear Mr. Harper, Canada is in the historically unique position to begin reversing the academic brain-drain and establish our nation as a world leader in the knowledge market through our innovation of science and technology. I am a Canadian […]

BY DAVID KENT | August 12 2013

Two weeks ago I attended the Flow Cytometry UK Meeting and their keynote speaker was Douglas Kells, the current chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). He gave an inspiring talk about the benefits and utility of open access publication and what the BBSRC (and other funding agencies) were doing to promote […]

BY DAVID KENT | July 30 2013

Today, we are very pleased to have a guest blog post from the Humanities and only a touch of familial guilt was used in its procurement. Dr. Eddy Kent, an assistant professor in the University of Alberta’s English and Film Studies department, puts in his two cents on SSHRC’s announcement earlier this month about its […]

BY JONATHAN THON | July 22 2013

Last week Dave wrote a post on how universities can begin keeping track of graduate student and postdoctoral fellow outcomes. With blogs such as “100 reasons not to go to graduate school” popping up online, as well as many articles increasingly critical of the state of higher education, it warrants that prospective students think long […]