Strategic Science in the Public Interest: Canada's Government Laboratories and Science-Based Agencies.


235 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-8020-8853-6
DDC 352.7'450971




Reviewed by Alex Curran

Alex Curran is a former member of both the National Advisory Board on
Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council. He was chair of the Telecommunications Sectoral Advisory
Committee on Free Trade and the first recipien


For many years departments of the Canadian government have performed R&D in the public good, where the “public good” implied such issues as international standards, regulations respecting health, safety, and environmental protection. In all cases the work was considered as part of the mandate of the sponsoring department, which provided objectives, resources, and management. By the mid 1960s it was clear that Canada was lagging in science and technology, that the products of the knowledge economy were growing, and that if Canada were to share in that growth ways must be found to increase the level of research and development, to extend cooperation between commercial and government laboratories to cover the innovation process, and to increase industrial commitment to that enhanced role. This book addresses those needs.


A brief historical review illustrates the growing concern and the changes which must be implemented. In essence until recently government laboratories have been treated as centres of R&D with little or no responsibility or capability for commercial applications of the knowledge gained. Further, on the commercial side, Canada’s innovation record is one of the lowest of the G8. There is a clear challenge to improve.


The authors have defined a path. They have identified the relationships involved in the innovation process. For any science and technology project a review of those relationships should disclose those who will take an active role in management. Next the authors have provided a list of boundaries of policy interests where similar or complementary interests exist. Finally they have provided a catalog of policy issues which might affect any specific project. All told many challenges face those who choose to manage this complexity.


But it can and, the authors might say, must be done. They have illustrated their belief by examination of the management issues of four quite different laboratories.


This is a must have book for those currently involved with management of S&T projects, or would aspire to such a position. It should also be studied by those who may be called upon to audit the value of S&T investments.


Doern, G. Bruce, and Jeffrey S. Kinder., “Strategic Science in the Public Interest: Canada's Government Laboratories and Science-Based Agencies.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,