From Public Resource to Industry's Instrument: Reshaping the Production of Knowledge in Canada's Universities

Claire Polster (University of Regina)

Abstract: The ongoing subordination of academic research to the needs of industry is a matter of growing concern to people both within and outside of Canada's universities. However, while the costs of university/industry links are increasingly well understood, the ways in which these links are being accomplished as a practical matter are not. This paper explores the complex reorganizational process in and through which control over our universities' research resources is being progressively ceded to industry. Its main focus is on how recent federal activities related to academic research both contribute and respond to this transformation. The analysis reveals how the benefits and use of our universities' research resources are being privatized, while the costs of academic research are still largely borne by the Canadian public. The implications of the new politics of university research, particularly for strategies to resist the conversion of academic research from a public resource to industry's private instrument, are addressed in the paper's final section.

Résumé: La subordination continue de la recherche académique aux besoins de l'industrie est une question de plus en plus préoccupante, autant pour ceux au sein des universités canadiennes qu'à l'extérieur de celles-ci. Or, bien que nous soyons de plus en plus conscients du coût de tels rapports entre université et industrie, nous ne comprenons pas comment en pratique on est en train d'exploiter ces rapports. Cet article explore le processus complexe de réorganisation qui nous mène à céder à l'industrie le contrôle des ressources de recherche universitaires. L'objectif principal de cet article est d'examiner comment des activités fédérales récentes se rapportant à la recherche académique contribuent et répondent à cette transformation. L'analyse révèle comment on est en train de privatiser les bénéfices et l'utilisation des ressources de recherche universitaires, en même temps que le public canadien continue en grande partie à subventionner cette recherche. Les implications des nouvelles politiques sur la recherche universitaire, particulièrement en ce qui regarde la conversion de la recherche académique d'une ressource publique en instrument privé de l'industrie, sont adressées dans la section finale de cet article.


In Canada, as in many other advanced industrialized countries, there is a profound transformation underway in public universities. One key aspect of this transformation involves the harnessing of the universities' knowledge production capacities to meet the needs of industry. Government representatives, university and industry executives, and many academics have defended this development on the grounds that Canadian business must capitalize on our universities' knowledge resources in order to increase its competitiveness in the more aggressive, information-based, global economy. In recent years, however, more dissenting voices have entered into the public debate around this issue, calling into question the wisdom of university/industry links and their assumed benefits for Canadians. Although I agree with those who claim that university/industry collaboration is causing more harm than good, the strength of their arguments is often undermined by a lack of understanding of the actual process through which business is gaining a hold on the universities' knowledge production capacities. The purpose of this paper is to provide an account of how university/industry research links are being put into place as a practical matter. In so doing, it may enhance both arguments and political strategies that oppose this process.

I attempt to shed light on how university research is being subordinated to industry's needs by explicating how some of the social relations of academic research are currently being reorganized or refashioned.1 My aim, in other words, is not to explain university/industry links as the effects of external causes. Rather, it is to show how they emerge out of a reconcerting or re-co-ordination of the activities of those involved in academic research across a variety of locations (particularly, the university, industry, and government). As a means of entering into and making sense of what is a very complex and dynamic process, I focus on the federal government's activities in academic research. These activities are not seen as the cause of the changing relations of research, but as an integral part of the process which opens up the latter for investigation and analysis.

This discussion of the federal government's role in the reorganization of the relations of academic research is structured as follows. First, I provide an abbreviated account of some recent federal initiatives that promote university/industry links. I then show how these initiatives are working, that is, how they are helping reorganize the activities of those involved in academic research so that the latter is increasingly subordinated to industry's needs. In the final section, I briefly illustrate how an understanding of this process may strengthen some of the arguments against it as well as political strategies designed to reverse it.

Federal activities related to academic research

Contrary to public wisdom, the government of Canada is not abandoning the university. The federal government has actually become quite actively involved in academic research since the late 1970s, and is putting significant amounts of money into it. The catch is that federal involvement and spending in university research is increasingly designed to promote university/industry links and industrial development as opposed to other goals. It is for this reason that much of the government's investment in university research is not very visible to many people either inside or outside of the academy.2 There are numerous ways to categorize and describe federal activities in the area of academic research. For the sakes of brevity and simplicity, I collapse many of the government's initiatives into two categories. These are initiatives that help tailor academic research to industry's needs and initiatives that promote technology transfer, particularly between the university and business communities.

In various ways and to a greater degree than ever before, the federal government is shaping academic research and allowing the private sector to shape research so that it more closely conforms to industry's needs. Inside the three federal research granting councils, for example, financial and other forms of support for basic or academic-initiated research is diminishing while support for strategic and, particularly, partnership research (which involves partners -- usually, but not exclusively, from industry -- co-developing research projects in return for co-funding them) is increasing (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, 1989; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 1990).3 In addition to helping define research projects supported by the councils, private sector representatives are becoming more involved in other council operations, such as grant adjudication and policymaking processes, which allow them to influence decisions about whose research and what kinds of research will be supported. Federal departments and agencies other than the granting councils are also increasingly involved in initiatives that allow industry to harness the university's research resources. According to a report of Industry, Science and Technology Canada (ISTC) (now Industry Canada), several federal departments and agencies either participate in or financially support university/industry research projects in areas ranging from basic and applied research to product development and testing (Industry, Science and Technology Canada, 1992a). Various departments also sponsor more permanent forms of multisectoral research collaboration that permit and promote more long-term and intense university/industry links, such as university/industry research centres, multisectoral research institutes, and multisectoral research networks, such as those of the federal networks of centres of excellence program.

While joint research programs and institutions help diffuse technology between and among university, industry, and federal scientists, the government is taking a number of steps designed specifically to promote technology transfer, particularly between the academic and business sectors. Various federal programs support technology centres and innovation centres that help transfer and /or commercialize the results of academic research. Financial and other resources are also provided to universities to help them establish their own offices of technology transfer which perform a similar function. As well, the government funds networks of people, such as the National Research Council's industrial technology advisers, whose role is to match various players in the innovation system that can be of use to one another. The government also produces and provides access to various databases and other information services that facilitate technological diffusion in Canada (Industry, Science and Technology Canada, 1992b).

There are numerous other ways in which the federal government is both directly and indirectly promoting technology transfer. For example, the granting councils are encouraging and, in some cases, obliging academics to develop strategies to disseminate their research results to the "user" sector. Federal efforts to fortify national communications networks (such as the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry, and Education project) are also intended to improve and intensify the diffusion of technology within the innovation system. One final initiative of note is a change in the regulations regarding ownership of intellectual property produced under Crown contract. Whereas prior to 1991, all intellectual property produced under government contract was vested in the Crown, it now belongs (in most cases) to the contractor. As Pierre Yves-Boucher, a member of the Intellectual Property Advisory Committee (IPAC) that was responsible for this new regulation, has suggested, the purpose of this change was to facilitate collaboration and diffusion of technology, particularly between the academic and business communities (Webb, 1992).

The reorganization of the social relations of
Canadian academic research

The above account of federal activities related to academic research is far from exhaustive.4 Nevertheless, enough detail has been provided to allow us to examine how these activities are helping reconcert the activities of those involved in academic research in a number of locations. I re-emphasize that federal activities are not to be seen as the cause of this reorganization. Rather, they are to be seen as an integral part of a process to which they both contribute and respond. In order to avoid characterizing this reorganization as a mechanical process of cause and effect, I organize my description of the changing relations of academic research in a circular manner. I begin by showing how federal activities related to university research help reorganize some relations within the government itself. I then move to a discussion of how federal activities help refashion relations between the academic and business communities. Finally, I examine how new relations between the latter lead to changes in their relations with the federal government, which lead to further changes inside the government. And so the cycle continues. The structure of this account is such that one could actually enter into it at any point and, by reading through to the end, come up with the same understanding of the process I am trying to describe. This is because each part of the description may be seen as both flowing into and flowing out of the next one.5

Reorganization of relations inside the federal government

Federal activities in the area of academic research are producing a number of changes in the operations of various parts of the federal government and the government as a whole. For instance, some intersectoral research programs and projects are changing the roles of individual departments, promoting more collaboration among government departments, and transforming the relationships between them.6 Perhaps the most significant change in federal operations, however, is the incorporation of people from the private sector (as well as others) into government decision and policymaking with respect to academic research. This change is taking place in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is through the establishment of federally appointed advisory bodies that deal with science, technology, and /or university research, such as the IPAC referred to above and the influential National Advisory Board on Science and Technology (NABST). These advisory boards differ from more traditional advisory bodies, such as the now defunct Science Council of Canada, in that they do not operate at arm's length and with moral authority only. Rather, as Davis, Alexander, & MacDonald (1990) point out, "the newly incorporated groups straddle the state apparatus, sometimes with responsibility for making policy and program decisions, which the government then implements and administers" (p. 69).7 Later, I will return to this discussion of changes inside the federal government. Next, however, I examine how federal activities are helping refashion relations between the academic and business sectors.

Reorganization of university/industry relations

In order to see how the relations of academic research are being broken down and reconstituted, one needs some understanding of how they were organized in the period immediately prior to this transformation. To simplify, from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, there was a considerable degree of uniformity in the conditions under which academics performed their research work. University research also tended to be organized and regulated by academics quite independently of members of other social sectors (such as industrialists, government workers, etc.). This characterization may be substantiated by examining two related aspects of university research.8

One aspect of university research in which there was both a high degree of uniformity and academic control was the organizational structures within which research was conducted. Prior to the late 1970s, most research was carried out by professors from within their departments (there were few extra-departmental research units on campuses) and most of this research was discipline-based. At this time, many academics were also involved in national and /or international research networks which tended to be organized along disciplinary lines. Whether they received external support or not, in the vast majority of cases these networks were established by and for academics, that is, both their membership and their leadership were drawn exclusively from the university sector. Although researchers from other social sectors were rarely involved in academic research networks, there was some degree of contact between individual professors and industry, government, and other groups, particularly in the form of paid consulting and contract research. However, this work tended to be done "on the side" and was not seen as part of the mainstream of academic research.9

Access to federal research support was another aspect of university research that was highly uniform and academically controlled. Up until the mid-1970s, there were a small number of research funds to which academics could apply and few mechanisms through which research funds were allocated. As well, most academics could apply for most of the research funds that were allocated to their general research area (i.e., social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, health sciences, etc.). Academics also had a large degree of control over the processes through which these funds were awarded. Research proposals were generally assessed and adjudicated by university professors, primarily on the basis of academic criteria.

With the advent of federal initiatives examined in the previous section, the organization of academic research has not been replaced by something new, but it has been diversified. On many university campuses, new research structures and new sources and ways of allocating research funds serve to break down the relative uniformity in the organization of academic research. And this diversification facilitates the inclusion or the hooking up of industry (and others, such as government) into the academic research process. As this takes place, the almost exclusive control by professors over the research process is eroded. This leads, in turn, to a further diversification of the conditions of academic research, and so the process is advanced further. An examination of the evolution of the two aspects of university research discussed above substantiates and helps illustrate these claims.

Since the mid-1970s, but particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been a marked increase in the numbers and kinds of research agreements being made between academics and groups external to the university, such as government and /or industry. There has also been a proliferation on many university campuses of new structures within which research is conducted, such as research centres, technology centres, and centres of excellence. One consequence of these developments is that research in many Canadian universities is no longer conducted only or mainly through academic departments. Rather, research is being progressively pulled out of departments and is being organized through a variety of new and more specialized research bodies.10

A second consequence of these new forms of research organization is an increase in the number and kinds of relationships being produced between researchers within particular universities, across universities (both nationally and internationally), and between social sectors. University research centres, which are increasingly organized along multidisciplinary lines, may foster the development of new networks between academics working on the same research topic from within different disciplines. Other structures, such as centres of excellence, also create and sustain intersectoral research networks, thus incorporating academics into non-academic networks and vice versa. Many of these new research organizations also remove exclusive academic control over research networks. For example, rather than coming together spontaneously, academics come together in some networks in response to criteria established by others or because they have been selected by others. Further, rather than managing themselves, academics in various research networks are managed by others in addition to, or instead of, themselves.

Finally, the establishment of new forms of research organization helps to pull research work done for and with non-academics from the sidelines into the mainstream of academic research. As new research structures are established on university campuses, work for and with non-academics is not simply tolerated or even accepted within many universities, but is actually promoted and accommodated in a number of ways.11 This work is also being used in some quarters (such as in some Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada [NSERC] adjudication procedures) in order to assess the quality of academics' scholarship.

Since the mid-1970s, there has also been an increase in the sources of public (and private) funds for academic research and in the ways that these funds are allocated. As suggested above, the number of federal research support programs has increased both within the research granting councils and other government departments and agencies. There has also been an increase in the kinds of mechanisms through which research support is allocated (again, technology centres and centres of excellence are useful examples) and in the targeting of financial support to particular kinds of research. One consequence of this diversification is that academics no longer enjoy relatively equal access to research funds in their general area of research. Rather, moneys are being taken out of general research support programs and are being targeted to specific areas so that only academics working in these areas have access to these funds. Academics with particular institutional affiliations, such as to a centre of excellence or a technology centre, may also have access to research funds to which their unaffiliated colleagues do not.

As the uniformity of access to research funds is eroded, so too is academic control over the allocation of research funds. With increasing frequency, representatives of government and industry are making decisions about which research areas are to be well funded. Non-academics are also increasingly involved in decisions about how these research areas are to be funded and which researchers and research proposals will receive support. As new players are introduced into the funding process, new criteria and new relevancies are introduced as well. Along with academic excellence, the needs and relevancies of external groups are influencing the allocation of research support.12

Thus, since the mid-1970s and particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, federal initiatives have contributed to the diversification of many of the structures, procedures, and practices in and through which university research is produced. This has facilitated, at the same time that it is advanced by, increased industrial involvement in and control over the academic research process. It is important to stress that I am not suggesting that all academic research is being subordinated to the needs of industry. In Canada, many research networks continue to be formed and regulated only by academics and many professors still autonomously define and conduct their own research. Even though they may not actively participate in the new relations of academic research, however, the research work of even these academics is increasingly affected by them. This is because the process of bringing academic research into relation with industry also involves a qualitative transformation in university operations related to academic research. By entering into relation with business -- and in some cases in order to enter into relation with business -- several universities have had to co-ordinate their operations with those of industry in some way. They have also discovered new interests in operating in a businesslike or entrepreneurial fashion.

The issue of intellectual property clearly illustrates the point. Up until the mid-1970s or so, university administrators were not very concerned with nor involved in matters of intellectual property. Since becoming involved in a variety of collaborative research agreements with industry, however, they have been forced to confront this issue as it is of foremost concern to their industrial partners. In recent years, university administrations have taken a number of steps to deal with intellectual property. These include expanding their offices of research administration, hiring personnel with expertise in the area of intellectual property rights, and developing institutional policies around intellectual property and related matters such as academic fraud and dishonesty.

More than simply facilitating interaction with industry, the creation in these universities of a capacity to deal with intellectual property transforms their operations in other ways that are consequential for the relations of academic research. Cash-strapped administrations of several Canadian universities have recognized the benefits to be derived from patenting and licensing the work of professors within their institutions. And so, with or without help from the federal government, many have set up institutions such as offices of technology transfer and innovation centres to facilitate the commercialization of academic research. They are also developing formal and informal institutional practices and policies that help and motivate academics to take their ideas to market. As well, many university administrations are allocating increasing proportions of their already-strained budgets to fund the construction of new research labs and facilities. This not only facilitates, but is explicitly designed to foster, university/industry collaboration as well as the production for universities of intellectual property and even businesses of their own. The main point here is that the more the universities work with business, the more they are operating like business. In various ways, this makes it easier for the two to collaborate, thus the number and intensity of their links increase.13

Reorganization of relations between the universities,
industry, and the federal government

In helping to reorganize relations between the academic and industrial communities, the federal government also helps reorganize the two parties' interests vis-à-vis one another. Specifically, the government helps produce a common point of interest that binds the two communities together, namely, an interest in entrepreneurial science.14 In addition to new interests in one another, leaders of the university and industry have also developed new interests with respect to the government of Canada. Prime among these is a mutual interest in having the federal government support and subsidize commercially valuable research. As a means of achieving this goal, leaders of the university and industry put out public reports calling for federal action in a range of areas that enhance the potential for, and profitability of, entrepreneurial science. They also contribute to relevant national conferences and federal consultative exercises such as the Prosperity Initiative and the recent Science and Technology Review. A third and very significant way in which university and industry executives advance their common interest is by supporting and encouraging the decentralization of government decision-making regarding science, technology, and academic research, and by actively participating in new policy-making procedures and bodies, such as IPAC and NABST.

And it is here that we come to the rub. Many of the government's activities that were described at the beginning of this paper are not simply the brainchild of civil servants who think university/industry links are a good thing. Rather, program changes, changes around intellectual property rights, the establishment of joint research centres and networks, and so forth are also developed and promoted by the politically incorporated executives of the university and industry whose common goal is the enhancement of entrepreneurial science. Here then, as we come full circle, we can see that the federal government is not the initiator of the changing relations of academic research, nor are its activities the cause of these changes. Rather, people in the government are as much responding as contributing to the changing relations of research and the various dynamics they set into motion.

Although I have portrayed the reorganization of the relations of academic research as a circular process, it would perhaps be more accurate to describe it as a spiral process in which the potential for and intensity of university/industry links is continually increased. For example, when one examines the non-governmental membership of various federal advisory bodies that deal with academic research, one finds that it is often mainly comprised of university and industry executives as opposed to representatives of other interested groups such as faculty associations, learned societies, and student organizations. Thus, more than simply providing the former with a vehicle to advance their interest in entrepreneurial science, the development of what seems to be "an inside track" into federal policymaking helps entrench the ability of university and industry executives to advance their interests relative to those of other groups that also have a stake in academic research. Further, university and industry executives may not only use their positions on advisory bodies to promote their particular interests, but they can and are using their positions to institutionalize these interests inside the federal government. For example, NABST was very influential in setting up ISTC which involved placing the formerly independent Ministry of State for Science and Technology into a department concerned primarily with industrial development. This move both intended and resulted in the entrenchment of a business approach to academic research (and to scientific research more in general) inside the federal government (National Advisory Board on Science and Technology, 1988).

From public resource to industry's instrument

In this discussion, I have attempted to show some of how the underlying organization through which university research is produced is in the process of being transformed. In particular, I have tried to show how three social sectors that are involved in academic research are becoming more closely related to one another and related in new ways. At the same time that they take on more of what were formerly each other's responsibilities with respect to academic research, the three sectors are becoming increasingly involved in each others' operations.15 They are also taking on more of each other's characteristics: whereas both the universities and government are operating more like private institutions,16 many industries are operating more like public institutions, particularly in the sense that they are benefiting from large public subsidies for their research.17

While this interpenetration of the university, industry, and government is interesting from a number of perspectives, my main concern is for its implications for academic research. Put simply, changes in the social relations of academic research result in the conversion of (some of ) the university's research capacities from a public resource to a private instrument used by industry to meet its needs. This conversion process should not be confused with a straightforward privatization. For what is being privatized is not the university's research capacities per se, but rather the use of those capacities as well as many of the benefits derived from their use. In other words, industry is not "buying out" the knowledge production capabilities of the university that the Canadian government is no longer willing to support. Rather, through a very complex reorganization of the activities of those involved in academic research, control over the production and products of research is being progressively ceded to industry, largely at the Canadian public's expense.

Some implications of the analysis of the changing
relations of Canadian academic research

In this paper's introduction, I suggested that an understanding of the actual process through which university/industry links are being established may enhance both arguments and political strategies that oppose them. In this final section, I provide an example to illustrate the case.

It is increasingly common for those who oppose links between the academic and business sectors to admonish self-serving entrepreneurial academics and to urge them to straighten out their priorities and reaffirm their commitment to a public service ethic (see, for example, Barlow & Noble, 1993). The main target of these opponents' criticism, however, is the federal government, whose apparent withdrawal of support for the university in general, and for academic research in particular, is seen as the reason why academics have put their services at industry's disposal in the first place. A common strategy adopted by these critics is to press for renewed -- and sufficient -- federal funding for the university and its research. They believe that once adequate support is re-established, links with industry will be severed and academic research and its benefits will revert to being a genuinely public resource.

The main problem with this strategy lies in the implicit assumption that university/industry links stem from industry's taking advantage of a particular circumstance, namely, federal neglect of academic research, and the self-interested attitudes of professors that it fosters. The analysis presented in this paper suggests that this assumption is incorrect: university/industry links actually arise in and through a very complex and fundamental transformation of the ways in which academic research is being produced in Canada, wherein the control over, and the benefits from, much university research are progressively ceded to industry at the public's expense. Thus, while desirable, changes in federal funding and professors' attitudes are insufficient to stop the conversion of university research from a public resource to industry's instrument. For this to occur, the various new processes and bodies through which academic research is defined, funded, produced, and distributed need to be challenged and reformed, as do the multiple dynamics they set into motion. It is worth further noting that unless this takes place, pressing for full funding may not simply be ineffective, but may also cause harm. Under present circumstances, it is far more likely that the injection of new government funds into the university will serve to increase, rather than reduce, the numbers and intensity of university/industry links, thus entrenching rather than reversing the new social relations of academic research.

It is not possible, particularly in such a short space, to sketch out a comprehensive strategy to intervene in and alter the ongoing reorganization of the social relations of Canadian academic research. Thus, in closing, I will simply highlight some possibilities for action that can serve as springboards for further discussion and activity. At the local level, members of the academy (along with relevant community groups) can track and wage campaigns against particular university/industry initiatives18 and oppose new decision-making procedures which marginalize community participation in the setting of university priorities. They can also demand greater accountability and improved representation from the leaders of their institutions who sit on the various bodies that are gaining greater influence over higher educational policymaking. There are also several targets inside the federal government where collective pressure could be applied. For example, people can work to reform if not abolish the undemocratic and unaccountable advisory bodies that deal with academic research. They may also oppose various government policies, programs, and regulations (such as that regarding ownership of intellectual property developed under Crown contract) that transfer control over public resources, and the benefits that derive from their use, into private hands.

In addition to responding to existing circumstances, there are numerous possibilities for creative action on the part of opponents of the new relations of research. They can press for a range of policies and regulations that would require industry (both national and transnational) to return to Canadians some of the benefits it derives from publicly subsidized academic research.19 They may also propose and promote more ambitious projects and programs that would produce closer research and other links between the university and a broad range of social groups. The European science shop is one excellent vehicle for achieving this goal (Dickson, 1984). It goes without saying that, to be effective, any such strategies must take into account the larger transformations under way in the national and global political economy. Indeed, an exploration of the connections between national and global restructuring and the ongoing reorganization of relations of research will not only strengthen strategies to oppose the latter, but will also result in their taking on greater urgency and significance.


I gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the intellectual contribution of Janice Newson without which this paper could not have been written.


My understanding and use of the term "social relations" have been largely influenced by Dorothy Smith. She defines them as those ongoing courses of human activity in which "different moments are dependent upon one another and are articulated to one another not functionally, but reflexively, as temporal sequences in which the foregoing intends the subsequent and in which the subsequent `realizes' or accomplishes the social character of the preceding" (quoted in Smith, 1990, p. 24).
For example, funds allocated to university/industry research projects from several federal departments' industrial development programs are excluded from government statistics on support for university research. As such, the injection of quite substantial federal funds into academic research is invisible to those who consult government data on postsecondary education.
For instance, at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), from 1981-82 to 1990-91, expenditures on the basic research program decreased from 72.7% to 61.9% of the council's budget, while expenditures on the targeted research program (i.e., strategic and partnership research) increased from 11.6% to 18.5% of the budget. Further, whereas support for basic research increased from $146 million to $262 million, or by 80% over this period, support for partnership research soared from $1.9 million to $37 million, or by 1,900% (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, 1991, pp. 115, 125).
For a more detailed discussion of federal activities related to university research, see Polster, 1994, chaps. 2-5.
Two points are in order here. First, due to constraints of space, I can only provide selected examples from each part of this vicious circle. For a more complete discussion, see Polster, 1994, chap. 6. I also emphasize that the following is a general description of a process that is both ongoing and developing unevenly across the country. It is neither possible nor my intention to produce an account that accurately describes concrete developments in each of the relevant institutions in Canada.
For instance, the centres of excellence program not only increased the interaction between the granting councils and Industry, Science and Technology Canada, but resulted in the latter violating the councils' autonomy by forcing them to administer a program which they had virtually no hand in developing.
It is worth noting that this change constitutes a serious erosion of democracy, as unelected and unaccountable individuals are increasingly responsible for public policy decisions. This change also renders the political process less transparent and thus potentially less contentious. It is perhaps for these reasons (or because these reasons have come to light) that the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology is slated to be replaced.
Other aspects of academic research, such as the regulation of research and the development of disciplinary research agendas, may also be used to support this characterization. Due to limitations of space, they cannot be addressed here.
That this work was not seen as part of mainstream academic research is reflected in the widespread position that work for external groups was to be tolerated (if not accepted) so long as it did not interfere with professors' academic obligations, that is, teaching, research, and community service. Its marginality is also reflected in that work for these groups was rarely used in determining the quality of academics' scholarship in the context of tenure and promotion decisions, granting council adjudication procedures, and so on.
As Barrow (1994) notes, it is not only the number of new research bodies that is increasing; their institutional importance -- relative to academic departments -- is growing as well. "During previous times of fiscal difficulty, institutes and centers were usually among the first cost-units eliminated at universities in order to preserve departments. It is now often the case that departments are being reduced or eliminated in order to create new centers" (p. 26).
For example, academics involved in the administration of research centres may be released from some of their teaching responsibilities.
In this context, it is interesting to note that while the criterion of scientific merit was assigned the greatest weight (50%) in the evaluation process for the first round of the centres of excellence program, this criterion counted for only 20% of the evaluation in the program's second round. Each of the four other criteria -- highly qualified personnel, networking and partnerships, knowledge exchange and technology exploitation, and network management -- also counted for 20% of the evaluation (Canada, 1993).
An important point worth noting in this context is that links with industry are, in various ways, eroding democratic practice within the university. For instance, it is increasingly the case that university/industry research deals are being negotiated -- often in secret -- between university and industry executives, as opposed to moving through traditional lines of the senate structure framework. This practice is legitimated on the basis of the need to expedite the negotiation process and to protect any proprietary information that may be disclosed in it (Newson & Buchbinder, 1991).
Among other things, entrepreneurial science includes university/industry partnerships around shared research agendas; the transfer of technology between universities and the private sector; the growth of university-sponsored incubators for science-related, high-risk businesses; and the fostering of spin-off companies (Slaughter, 1990). This mutual interest is forged and consolidated through the ever-increasing collaborative initiatives between universities and industry. It is also consolidated and promoted through joint organizations such as the Corporate Higher Education Forum (CHEF). (Launched in 1983, CHEF is comprised of university presidents and the CEOs of major corporations in Canada. It serves as a meeting and matchmaking place for corporate and academic executives and a site from which to strategize around their common interests.)
For example, industry is taking on a larger share of the financing of academic research, which was formerly (and still is, for the most part) a governmental responsibility. Industry is also getting more involved in the production and regulation of university research and in government policymaking related to academic research.
In addition to operating as private institutions in the sense that they are increasingly involved in the production of knowledge for profit, both the universities and government are coming to operate as private institutions in the sense that democratic control over them is being eroded.
While it is often the case that the costs of collaborative research projects are equally shared between industrial partners and the public sector, in many cases the subsidy is actually much higher. For instance, in its discussion of the NSERC's Research Partnership Program, a Canadian Research Management Association (CRMA) study points out that in addition to the funds provided by the councils, some provinces have programs that match industrial funds again. Moreover, the universities involved in the partnerships contribute to the salaries of the academics involved and absorb other indirect research costs. Thus, "in effect, the industrial cash contribution is more than tripled, and often more than quadrupled" (Canadian Research Management Association, 1991, p. 4).
The success of members of the York University community and other community groups in preventing the proposed International Space University from being established at York can serve as a model and /or source of inspiration for such campaigns.
At present, the Canadian government imposes few, if any, obligations on industry which ensure that Canadians reap direct or indirect rewards from the industrially oriented academic research they subsidize. Domestic production requirements for any commodity developed with federal funds would be one means of achieving this goal. (These requirements, however, would have to be devised in ways that took into account various restrictions imposed by the NAFTA and the GATT.)


Barlow, M., & Noble, D. (1993, June 29). Science sells out to low bid. The Toronto Star, p. A19.

Barrow, C. (1994, May). The strategy of selective excellence: Redesigning higher education for global competition in a postindustrial society. Paper presented at a Conference on NAFTA, Human Resource Development, and the Universities, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Canada. (1993). Phase 2 -- Networks of Centres of Excellence: Policies and guidelines. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada.

Canadian Research Management Association (CRMA). (1991). Forging R&D linkages between industry, universities and government: A discussion paper. Mississauga, ON: CRMA.

Davis, C., Alexander, J., & MacDonald, L. (1990). The political incorporation of innovation systems: Collective action and Canadian science and technology policy. Reseaux revue interdisciplinaire de philosophe morale et politique, 58-60, 65-81.

Dickson, D. (1984). "Science shops" flourish in Europe. Science, 223, 1158-1160.

Industry, Science and Technology Canada (ISTC). (1992a). Federal science and technology alliances report. Ottawa: ISTC.

Industry, Science and Technology Canada (ISTC). (1992b). Technology networking guide Canada. Ottawa: ISTC.

National Advisory Board on Science and Technology (NABST). (1988). Report of the NABST Committee on the Department of Industry, Science and Technology. Ottawa: NABST.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). (1989). Ten years to 2000: A strategy document. Ottawa: NSERC.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). (1991). Facts and figures 1990-91. Ottawa: NSERC.

Newson, J., & Buchbinder, H. (1991, October). Institutional change and strategic choice: Reconstructing democratic practice in the university. Paper presented at conference on The University and Democracy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, ON.

Polster, C. (1994). Compromising positions: The federal government and the reorganization of the social relations of Canadian academic research. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, York University, Toronto, ON.

Slaughter, S. (1990). The higher learning and high technology: Dynamics of higher education policy formation. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Smith, G. (1990, May). Political activist as ethnographer. Paper prepared for presentation at the Qualitative Research Conference, York University, Toronto, ON.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC). (1990). A vision for the future: A five year strategy from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Ottawa: SSHRCC.

Webb, R. (1992). New government policy benefits university research. [University of Ottawa] Gazette, 4(15), 4.

  •  Announcements
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Current Issue
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Thesis Abstracts
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo

We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.