Feds cut funding to key science facility


mentalfloss
#1


Canada to lose its 'PEARL' of Arctic research


Canada's most northerly research station is ceasing year-round operation, a "draconian" move decried by scientists both nationally and internationally.

"Its closure shows a stunning lack of interest on the part of the Canadian government in long-term Arctic issues," atmospheric scientist Jim Drummond, at Dalhousie University, said of the loss of the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory.

Drummond and his colleagues announced Tuesday that PEARL, as the lab on northern Ellesmere Island is called, will stop operating continuously at the end of April due to lack of funding.

A network of university and government researchers has operated the lab since 2005. It costs $1.5 million a year to run, but the federal government has eliminated the atmospheric research program that had been funding the operation. And a proposal to keep PEARL going as part of a Canadian Advanced Polar Science Network was recently turned down.

PEARL has operated continuously since 2005, gathering data on air quality, atmospheric chemistry, ozone and climate changes. It is linked to many national and international programs and networks.

"This loss comes at a highly significant time when Arctic conditions are changing rapidly: Witness the recent rapid loss of permafrost, the appearance of the first large Arctic ozone depletion last year and many other harbingers of significant Arctic change," the researchers said in a statement Tuesday.

"Without PEARL there will be no continuous active measurements in the High Arctic of many atmospheric quantities scientists believe greatly affect both our Arctic and the whole planet."


NDP MP Dennis Bevington, representing the Western Arctic riding in the Northwest Territories, denounced the ending of PEARL's year-round operations in the House of Commons Tuesday suggesting the decision was "based on the whims" of Prime Minister Stephen Harper instead of advice from leading scientists.

"After significant investment into this world-renowned atmospheric research station in the High Arctic, the Conservatives are slashing funding," Bevington said.

Environment Minister Peter Kent responded, saying his department has provided "partial funding" for PEARL since 2009 and had supported the scientists' recent, but unsuccessful, bid for renewed funding through the national Centres of Excellence competition.

Drummond said the proposal was to use PEARL to help expand Arctic science and train manpower until the government's new Arctic research station in Cambridge Bay opens in 2017. The Network of Centres of Excellence program recently turned down the $35-million, five-year proposal.

With no other funding sources in sight, the researchers say they have no choice but to cease year-round operations.

"We have gone on as long as we can trying to keep it going, and we've now hit the wall," Drummond said in an interview with Postmedia News.

The lab, which has been operated by a staff of four, may still be used periodically when researchers have grants to pay for specific projects. But Drummond said the closure will put an end to continuous monitoring and "the deep science" exploring the mysteries of the long, dark polar winter and the dramatic changes in the atmosphere as the seasons change.

PEARL also has the most northerly Internet installation on the planet, was being used by Canadian astronomers working on the world's most northerly telescope, and has been piloting high-latitude-high-frequency communications in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency.

Drummond said Canadians do not seem to realize how such science contributes to Arctic sovereignty.

"Having an occupied station 365 days a year, doing world-class science, participating at international conferences, putting papers into the international literature and being the go-to place when international groups want to come and do research in the Arctic — these things enhance Canada's sovereignty very considerably," he said. "And I don't think that's really understood."

The demise of PEARL will not only affect Canadian but global science programs.

"This will have a negative impact on our ability to detect changes in carbon emissions in the Arctic, and on our ability to validate high-latitude space-based measurements," said U.S. atmospheric scientist Paul Wennberg, at CalTech.


"The closure of PEARL will eliminate a unique set of High Arctic water vapour measurements that are essential to our global effort to better understand the atmospheric water cycle and its links to climate," said Matthias Schneider, of Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.


Biologist and acclaimed Arctic researcher John Smol, at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said it is a "real shame" to be closing PEARL as the Arctic is responding more quickly than any part of the planet to global warming.

"It's really the most sensitive part of the world," said Smol.

"Canada has a tremendous amount of real estate is the Arctic," he said. "About half our land mass is there and we are responsible for knowing what is happening there. And to do that, you need to monitor."

Canada to lose its 'PEARL' of Arctic research
 
Vanni Fucci
+3
#2  Top Rated Post
Maybe it could be repurposed as a resort for would-be climate change deniers...
 
mentalfloss
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by Vanni FucciView Post

Maybe it could be repurposed as a resort for would-be climate change deniers...

They're too busy going after twitter pedophiles.
 
captain morgan
+2 / -1
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by Vanni FucciView Post

Maybe it could be repurposed as a resort for would-be climate change deniers...


Suzuki ought to step up to the plate on this. It really is a natural fit for him, he already has the tour bus to take the customers up to the resort.
 
mentalfloss
+1
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Suzuki ought to step up to the plate on this. It really is a natural fit for him, he already has the tour bus to take the customers up to the resort.

What does Suzuki have to do with this science facility?
 
captain morgan
+2
#6
I wasn't responding to you Flossy, but I see that you are still stalking me and handing out reddies every time I post
 
mentalfloss
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

I wasn't responding to you Flossy, but I see that you are still stalking me and handing out reddies every time I post

Please stick to the topic.
 
Machjo
+1
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post



Canada to lose its 'PEARL' of Arctic research

Canada's most northerly research station is ceasing year-round operation, a "draconian" move decried by scientists both nationally and internationally.

"Its closure shows a stunning lack of interest on the part of the Canadian government in long-term Arctic issues," atmospheric scientist Jim Drummond, at Dalhousie University, said of the loss of the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory.

Drummond and his colleagues announced Tuesday that PEARL, as the lab on northern Ellesmere Island is called, will stop operating continuously at the end of April due to lack of funding.

A network of university and government researchers has operated the lab since 2005. It costs $1.5 million a year to run, but the federal government has eliminated the atmospheric research program that had been funding the operation. And a proposal to keep PEARL going as part of a Canadian Advanced Polar Science Network was recently turned down.

PEARL has operated continuously since 2005, gathering data on air quality, atmospheric chemistry, ozone and climate changes. It is linked to many national and international programs and networks.

"This loss comes at a highly significant time when Arctic conditions are changing rapidly: Witness the recent rapid loss of permafrost, the appearance of the first large Arctic ozone depletion last year and many other harbingers of significant Arctic change," the researchers said in a statement Tuesday.

"Without PEARL there will be no continuous active measurements in the High Arctic of many atmospheric quantities scientists believe greatly affect both our Arctic and the whole planet."

NDP MP Dennis Bevington, representing the Western Arctic riding in the Northwest Territories, denounced the ending of PEARL's year-round operations in the House of Commons Tuesday suggesting the decision was "based on the whims" of Prime Minister Stephen Harper instead of advice from leading scientists.

"After significant investment into this world-renowned atmospheric research station in the High Arctic, the Conservatives are slashing funding," Bevington said.

Environment Minister Peter Kent responded, saying his department has provided "partial funding" for PEARL since 2009 and had supported the scientists' recent, but unsuccessful, bid for renewed funding through the national Centres of Excellence competition.

Drummond said the proposal was to use PEARL to help expand Arctic science and train manpower until the government's new Arctic research station in Cambridge Bay opens in 2017. The Network of Centres of Excellence program recently turned down the $35-million, five-year proposal.

With no other funding sources in sight, the researchers say they have no choice but to cease year-round operations.

"We have gone on as long as we can trying to keep it going, and we've now hit the wall," Drummond said in an interview with Postmedia News.

The lab, which has been operated by a staff of four, may still be used periodically when researchers have grants to pay for specific projects. But Drummond said the closure will put an end to continuous monitoring and "the deep science" exploring the mysteries of the long, dark polar winter and the dramatic changes in the atmosphere as the seasons change.

PEARL also has the most northerly Internet installation on the planet, was being used by Canadian astronomers working on the world's most northerly telescope, and has been piloting high-latitude-high-frequency communications in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency.

Drummond said Canadians do not seem to realize how such science contributes to Arctic sovereignty.

"Having an occupied station 365 days a year, doing world-class science, participating at international conferences, putting papers into the international literature and being the go-to place when international groups want to come and do research in the Arctic these things enhance Canada's sovereignty very considerably," he said. "And I don't think that's really understood."

The demise of PEARL will not only affect Canadian but global science programs.

"This will have a negative impact on our ability to detect changes in carbon emissions in the Arctic, and on our ability to validate high-latitude space-based measurements," said U.S. atmospheric scientist Paul Wennberg, at CalTech.

"The closure of PEARL will eliminate a unique set of High Arctic water vapour measurements that are essential to our global effort to better understand the atmospheric water cycle and its links to climate," said Matthias Schneider, of Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Biologist and acclaimed Arctic researcher John Smol, at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said it is a "real shame" to be closing PEARL as the Arctic is responding more quickly than any part of the planet to global warming.

"It's really the most sensitive part of the world," said Smol.

"Canada has a tremendous amount of real estate is the Arctic," he said. "About half our land mass is there and we are responsible for knowing what is happening there. And to do that, you need to monitor."

Canada to lose its 'PEARL' of Arctic research

I'm sure it can find a source of funding from someone in the world if it's that important.

When we have unemployment and a federal debt, we ought to focus on bread and butter issues such as helping the unemployed into the workforce.
 
captain morgan
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

I'm sure it can find a source of funding from someone in the world if it's that important.

When we have unemployment and a federal debt, we ought to focus on bread and butter issues such as helping the unemployed into the workforce.


You'd think that the UN/IPCC would leap at this opportunity or atleast Suzuki would carve off a small fraction of hi sfunds to keep the site operating
 
mentalfloss
+2
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

I'm sure it can find a source of funding from someone in the world if it's that important.

When we have unemployment and a federal debt, we ought to focus on bread and butter issues such as helping the unemployed into the workforce.

You can have the site and work on the employment crisis at the same time. And if we scrapped scientific pursuit because of the debt, we would never have any facilities as we will always have some debt. Besides, the cost of this facility is a drop in the bucket and axing it would have no tangible benefit for the economy.

The other problem is that scientific research should be free of the type of influence a private corporation would bring in order to remain as objective as possible. Once you sell that facility to the highest bidder, the operations of the facility will always have to coincide with the corporation's profit margin, which can taint the research.
 
Machjo
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

You can have the site and work on the employment crisis at the same time. And if we scrapped scientific pursuit because of the debt, we would never have any facilities as we will always have some debt. Besides, the cost of this facility is a drop in the bucket and axing it would have no tangible benefit for the economy.

The other problem is that scientific research should be free of the type of influence a private corporation would bring in order to remain as objective as possible. Once you sell that facility to the highest bidder, the operations of the facility will always have to coincide with the corporation's profit margin, which can taint the research.

Er, you are aware aren't you that NGO's also fund research on occasion, and NGO's are not-for-profit.

Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

You'd think that the UN/IPCC would leap at this opportunity or atleast Suzuki would carve off a small fraction of hi sfunds to keep the site operating

NGO's do provide much funding for various research projects. If this is considered a priority, I'm sure some NGO would divert its research funding. And contrary to what Mentalfloss seems to believe, NGO's are not-for-profit organizations.
 
petros
+3
#12
Oh the horror. Whose trash will the polar bears rummage through?
 
mentalfloss
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

Er, you are aware aren't you that NGO's also fund research on occasion, and NGO's are not-for-profit.

At the cost of $1.5 million/year, what NGO is going to pick this up? lol

No, this is an important facility - especially considering the state of science in this particular sector at this time. If you want to really cut wasteful programs, get rid of the jets or the prisons or the senate, etc. etc. etc.
 
Machjo
+2
#14
Also, if you have more people working, you have more people giving to charities, which in turn means NGOs have even more funding.

And from a democratic standpoint, that's far more democratic because each worker can give his hard earned cash to the charity of his choice, thus leaidng to a more democratic means of determining research priorities compared toa governmental top-down approach to research.

And again, an NGO is not a for-profit corporation.

Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

At the cost of $1.5 million/year, what NGO is going to pick this up? lol

No, this is an important facility - especially considering the state of science in this particular sector at this time. If you want to really cut wasteful programs, get rid of the jets or the prisons or the senate, etc. etc. etc.

If it's important enough, numerous NGOs could work together on it, if it's important enough.
 
mentalfloss
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

Also, if you have more people working, you have more people giving to charities, which in turn means NGOs have even more funding.

And from a democratic standpoint, that's far more democratic because each worker can give his hard earned cash to the charity of his choice, thus leaidng to a more democratic means of determining research priorities compared toa governmental top-down approach to research.

And again, an NGO is not a for-profit corporation.

I don't disagree with that, but I would question the democratic value if it is something propelled by environmental lobbies like good ol' cap and petros would attest to.

I'm a firm believer that the best democracy we can have is a transparent and accountable government. This is the case because taxpayers want their taxes to go toward imperative measures and the media (or at least some media) will ensure that directive has public exposure. If someone like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace took hold of a facility like this, we all know that the environmental impacts of this research might be exaggerated just as we can likely assume that a private corporation would favour profits first and foremost.

I would pay the 5 cents/year to have a robust scientific facility at work.
 
petros
+1
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

At the cost of $1.5 million/year, what NGO is going to pick this up? lol.

It's already painted Coke red.
 
Machjo
+1
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

I don't disagree with that, but I would question the democratic value if it is something propelled by environmental lobbies like good ol' cap and petros would attest to.

I'm a firm believer that the best democracy we can have is a transparent and accountable government. This is the case because taxpayers want their taxes to go toward imperative measures and the media (or at least some media) will ensure that directive has public exposure. If someone like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace took hold of a facility like this, we all know that the environmental impacts of this research might be exaggerated just as we can likely assume that a private corporation would favour profits first and foremost.

I would pay the 5 cents/year to have a robust scientific facility at work.

Of course. And because even Sierra Club or Greenpeace know we would be wary of their results, if they did fund it they would naturally ensure they do so at arms length to make it more trustworthy.

Honestly though, they are not scientific but rather activist organizations so they are not likely to even want to fund research anyway.

Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

I don't disagree with that, but I would question the democratic value if it is something propelled by environmental lobbies like good ol' cap and petros would attest to.

I'm a firm believer that the best democracy we can have is a transparent and accountable government. This is the case because taxpayers want their taxes to go toward imperative measures and the media (or at least some media) will ensure that directive has public exposure. If someone like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace took hold of a facility like this, we all know that the environmental impacts of this research might be exaggerated just as we can likely assume that a private corporation would favour profits first and foremost.

I would pay the 5 cents/year to have a robust scientific facility at work.

5 cents here, five cents there, quickly adds up. Maybe that's the problem. because probably thousands of government programs individually are not expensive, we therefore ignore them, ignoring the fact that again 1 cent here 1 cent there quickly adds up to thousands per person.
 
mentalfloss
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

Of course. And because even Sierra Club or Greenpeace know we would be wary of their results, if they did fund it they would naturally ensure they do so at arms length to make it more trustworthy.

Honestly though, they are not scientific but rather activist organizations so they are not likely to even want to fund research anyway.

Well then it begs the question of how we would ensure an NGO-funded station would be more accountable and objective than a government-funded one.

Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

5 cents here, five cents there, quickly adds up. Maybe that's the problem. because probably thousands of government programs individually are not expensive, we therefore ignore them, ignoring the fact that again 1 cent here 1 cent there quickly adds up to thousands per person.

So the first order of determining whether those programs are important is not simply the cost, but what kind of output they provide for that cost. When you enforce that kind of protocol on all government programs, we can see that the least helpful and most costly programs are things like prisons and the senate.

If you want to be efficient in your austerity measures, then it should be a top down approach.
 
petros
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Well then it begs the question of how we would ensure an NGO-funded station would be more accountable than government-funded one.

Can the data be collected remotely using unmanned monitoring gear? Is there any plans to amalgamate several projects into one research facility?
 
mentalfloss
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by petrosView Post

Can the data be collected remotely using unmanned monitoring gear? Is there any plans to amalgamate several projects into one research facility?

On your first question, I'm sure they have some database management system. That should go with out saying.

On the second point, how is this an accountability measure?
 
IdRatherBeSkiing
+1
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by petrosView Post

It's already painted Coke red.

Maybe they should ask the Coca Cola company for funding. They like using polar bears and artic stuff in advertizing. It can be the CocaCola Research Centre for the Arctic. Great PR and cheap advertising.
 
petros
+1
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by IdRatherBeSkiingView Post

Maybe they should ask the Coca Cola company for funding. They like using polar bears and artic stuff in advertizing. It can be the CocaCola Research Centre for the Arctic. Great PR and cheap advertising.

and the David Suzuki Hilton right next to the airstrip with polar bear tours offered by Brewsters. Proud Corporate Sponsors of the WWF.
 
Tonington
+2
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by MachjoView Post

Of course. And because even Sierra Club or Greenpeace know we would be wary of their results, if they did fund it they would naturally ensure they do so at arms length to make it more trustworthy.

Honestly though, they are not scientific but rather activist organizations so they are not likely to even want to fund research anyway.

Sierra Club funds lots of research, they don't conduct it themselves though. A good example is a research project (external - login to view) led by Patricia Chow-Frasier (external - login to view) of McMaster University which is examining the impacts of changes to the hydrology and coastal biodiversity in Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Greenpeace on the other hand is far more activist orientated. They want publicity.

There's a big difference though between the type of research funded by NGO's, and that funded through public funds paying civil service scientists. The biggest is that with NGO's, the funding is not regular. It's difficult to plan and maintain long-term research when the funding is not known in advance. That is also a problem with changing governments, but generally a department will have responsibilities and mandates, so the funds will be at a lower risk of being withdrawn.

A point that most commentators on this subject will frequently miss, is that having stable funding allows a research entity to more easily go after additional funding. If you have a lab, with researchers and infrastructure in place, the funding that pays for that makes it far easier to apply for grants from say, Sierra Club. That means additional science can be conducted. As new funding comes in, you could think of it as being more efficient, because there is a baseline in place already to maintain what is there. New funds can buy new equipment, which can make even more research possible to conduct.

Where it gets muddy is when it comes time to publish results, and ownership of results. That can be challenging. For example, I have been speaking with researchers at the local veterinary college about graduate work, which my company will pay for. I work for a large corporation that considers intellectual property to be a large part of the value of the corporation, as all pharmaceuticals do. As a Master's student I would be expected to publish some papers. But I would like to work on basic science that would help our company to be more efficient. What ends up happening, is the goals of the degree granting institution do not always align with the goals of the company I work for.

That is no less true for projects funded with public money, and outside money. There are protocols in place but it can be so daunting to align all the parts that sometimes a worthwhile project just won't get done. Some food for thought anyways. I'm obviously pro-funding when it comes to science...all science.
 
Tonington
+2
#24
Also, I think I should add, a major goal of Harper has been to expand Canada's presence in the North. Maintaining that research station and potentially adding new work would have gone a long way towards that goal. In 2007, Harper said of the Arctic, "Use it or lose it" when speaking of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
 
MHz
#25
How about a peek at the daily highs and lows over that 7 yr period, that may explain why it is being downsized. An unmanned station could supply that sort of data as can a satellite.

Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

"Use it or lose it" when speaking of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

Nobody is going to steal it lol
 
Tonington
+2
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by MHzView Post

How about a peek at the daily highs and lows over that 7 yr period, that may explain why it is being downsized.

So you think it's just a weather station? Interesting. But very wrong.

Quote:

An unmanned station could supply that sort of data as can a satellite.

So you'd rather spend billions of dollars to put a satellite in orbit? For all the tracking and research that was done at that station, you would need a very sophisticated satellite...

Quote:

Nobody is going to steal it lol

You don't watch the news much do you? Read about Hans Island.
 
Dexter Sinister
+3
#27
Another key point here is that the 2011 federal budget committed $35 million for centres of excellence like PEARL, and the funding has never shown up. This isn't the only project that's suffered because of that, I know there was one about monitoring the oil sands for environmental impacts, and one on the east coast about monitoring heavy metals, mostly mercury, in the environment. I think the explanation's perfectly simple, really: the federal government is de-funding research it's ideologically opposed to.
 
Tonington
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by Dexter SinisterView Post

I think the explanation's perfectly simple, really: the federal government is de-funding research it's ideologically opposed to.

It's difficult to come to any other conclusion than that. But hey, at least they're funding more MBA's....
 
taxslave
+2
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

What does Suzuki have to do with this science facility?

Better question"What does Suzuki have to do with science."
So if the international science group wants this facility so much why don't their governments step up to the plate and hand over some cold hard cash to keep it operating?

Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

You can have the site and work on the employment crisis at the same time. And if we scrapped scientific pursuit because of the debt, we would never have any facilities as we will always have some debt. Besides, the cost of this facility is a drop in the bucket and axing it would have no tangible benefit for the economy.

The other problem is that scientific research should be free of the type of influence a private corporation would bring in order to remain as objective as possible. Once you sell that facility to the highest bidder, the operations of the facility will always have to coincide with the corporation's profit margin, which can taint the research.

But right now the goal of the staff is to keep as many highly paid government employees working there. You think this doesn't taint the results?
Either way we should have NO long term debt and never a deficit.
 
MHz
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

So you'd rather spend billions of dollars to put a satellite in orbit? For all the tracking and research that was done at that station, you would need a very sophisticated satellite...

I was thinking of existing satellites rather than launch a new on that would be 100 times the cost of running the station. Rent it out for the next meeting of the elites, $1B in security costs saved, perhaps we should look at useless spending first. One meeting up there and it would pay for 100 years of operating costs. (with many times that left over)
 
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