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How to Sink 62 Million Dollars

The Provincial Government of British Columbia is investing 62 million dollars (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2003MAE0040-000896.htm) in underwater research facilities. The North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments project is, according to the description, “Thirty undersea laboratories : connected by 3,000 kilometres of powered fibre-optic cable.” But it’s not life under the sea as you might imagine it. The laboratories are all remote controlled by researchers on the shore. Information gained by this 62 million dollar bundle of wires and equipment is supposed to “lead to earlier warning of earthquakes and tsunamis, more accurate estimates of commercial fish stocks and improved models for climate prediction.”

The sixty-two million is split between British Columbia and the rest of Canada via the CFI or Canada Foundation for Innovation. In addition, the University of Washington, NASA, the Montery Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are also all involved. So we can see that this project is quite major.

I understand the need to research the ocean, we’ve hardly touched it, after all. And I certainly understand the need to know more about the tectonic plates in the ocean, as people continue to move to places that they know are going to fall into the water at some point in the likely not-so-distant future. I even applaud the idea of making the observations and pictures available to the public in 2007 as they say will happen via the internet. These are all wonderful things.

But 62 million dollars?

This is in the face of tuitions that have risen 70% since 2001 (http://www.reducefees.ca/CA30.php). Research is a good thing this is true, but seeing as how small colleges such as the Northwest Community College has already seen an enrolment drop with the increased tuition, this seems like another case of short-sightedness. British Columbia’s Ministry of Advanced Education is robbing British Columbia of the researchers of tomorrow in order to pay for a sexy sounding research project today.

Let this be a lesson to you AU graduate students. If you want funding, make sure your proposal has the following bullet points:
“¢ Uses high-tech materials such as “powered fibre-optic cable” Powered even! Why that’s much better than the regular old unpowered kind, right?
“¢ Hearken back to the age of 50s science fiction by being able to refer to things like “underwater laboratories”, even if they’re really just instrument and electronic packages, and nobody could ever actually enter one.
“¢ Be able to cite international partnerships. Include some relatively unknown but serious sounding corporations and institutes, as well as a very well known name if possible.
“¢ Always, always, always be sure to spend a good amount of time on your research project’s title. For instance, this one is the North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments, that shortens to the very snappy sounding “NEPTUNE” project. What politician could refuse putting our funding (and hence, their name) to The NEPTUNE Project? It just sounds important and meaningful, doesn’t it?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so bitter. Who knows, with this vast deep-sea network in place and available over the internet, maybe BC students can find a suitable place to deep-six Premier Campbell.

Summer Students and Labatts, Now Federally Funded!

The Honourable Minister Jane Stewart announced funding of almost a quarter million dollars (http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/common/news/youth/031016.shtml) for the Labatt People In Action program. Unfortunately, the program is not quite as fun as we might hope. The program is designed to allow summer students to “create their own summer jobs while working within 93 charities across Canada.”

So 130 students got to set up projects to help out various charities in their communities and pay them for making those projects work. The total cost of the program is split around the half-half mark between the Government of Canada and Labatt’s breweries. So the charities win, the students win, and, because of the advertising and good-will that Labatt can leverage from this, they win as well.

So go ahead and have a cold one. You may be helping someone you know.

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