Science and technology policy

Week 10

Learning objectives:

  • Describe Canadian policies intended to enhance science and technology benefits
  • Understand the consistent appeal of the Glassco framework
  • Describe critiques of Canadian science and technology policy
  • Evaluate the fairness of critiques
What has the government of Canada got right and wrong in its science and technology policy? How do we know?

Student presentations:

  • 17 November (week 11) Connor Parris – Innovation systems
  • 17 November (week 11) Jake Bullen – Equity
  • 20 November (week 11) Jack Peel – Ingenuity
  • 27 November (week 12) Erik St-Gelais – Science and Technology Policy.


The material for this week is in some ways the culmination of the course, and serves to highlight the role of the Glassco framework as a consistent feature of science and technology policy in Canada.


Jasanoff (2004) describes the co-production of science and the social order, and we would expect that part of the consistent appeal of the Glassco framework as a vehicle for science and technology policy stems from the social structure of Canada, related both to political elites and to the dependent economic development Smardon describes.  This returns us to Smardon’s interpretation of policy paralysis as a consequence (partly) of social antagonism between labour and capital (chapter 1).


Is it possible that the “Glassco framework” becomes in Smardon’s analysis a short-hand for “free-market approach” to investment and R&D?  If this is the case, is there really any alternative, regardless of the shortcomings of private-sector investment?  What would an alternative look like? (e.g. state-owned companies, crown corporations, bail-outs of companies like Bombardier through ownership of stock rather than interest-free taxpayer loans?


Moving on from Smardon’s fairly single-minded concentration on the Glassco framework and the shortfalls of the market in providing effective R&D to support Canadian growth, was the Harper government responsible for attacking scientific activity in government?  Note the statement on behalf of the Minister for Science and Technology, the Hon. Ed Holder. Whether you accept the Ministers statement or the criticism, what is the common denominator with the Glassco framework?


Finally, in a globalizing economy, with increasing trade liberalization and international ownership of capital, what options are there for national support for R&D?

Required Reading

Reread the Smardon sections describing the Glassco Framework:

  • introduction: ‘the transformative state, the Glassco framework, and private captial)
  • Chapter 6: the Glassco Commission
  • Chapter 6: entrenching the Glassco Approach
  • Chapter 6: the Glassco framework and internal R&D
  • skim chapters 6-13 to summarize the evolution of the Glassco framework
  • Conclusion: the impasse of the federal state and Canadian Industrial R&D
  • The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (2013) The Big Chill: Silencing Public Interest Science, A Survey. June 5 – 19, 2013.

Optional Reading

During the last years of the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there was a mounting concern in some quarters about ideology interfering with good science.  Some of this was partisan polemics, but other criticisms came from scientific and professional communities and cannot be as readily dismissed.


Complete required reading and prepare for seminar.

Self-Assessment Questions

  • What is the Glassco Framework?
  • How did it evolve over successive governments from Diefenbaker to Harper?
  • What accounts for its resilience as a policy?
  • What was going on in the international economy over this period, which reinforced the impact of the Glassco framework?
  • Is there a connection between the resilience of the Glassco Framework and the specific criticisms of the Harper conservatives’ science policy?
  • What are the interests reflected in the Glassco framework?


Participation evaluation for week 10 Concepts will consist of:

  • 60s: Describe the key points in the evolution of the Glassco framework over sixty years.
  • 60c: What are alternative key points that one might mention?
  • 60s: the big chill described by the public service institute has been more significant than the pervasive influence of the Glassco framework in the last decade.
  • 60s: in a globalizing economy, with increasing trade liberalization and international ownership of capital, what options are there for national support for R&D?
  • 5R: Smardon’s critique of Canadian science policy focuses excessively on the Glassco framework, and ignores the potential creativity of public sector organs like the national research council and private sector contributions through global investment and foreign ownership, which also has benefits for Canadians.  Discuss for 5 minutes. Present the results in 60s. There is an opportunity for a minority report as a 60c.


Questions and discussion