Roger Gaudry convocation address

Mme. le Chancelier, Monsieur le Président, Membres du,Sénat de I'Université, Mesdames et Messieurs,

Words come to me more easily in French when I wish to express my gratitude on such an occasion. Je veux dono, en mon nom d'abord, remercier le Sénat de votre Université pour l'insigne honneur qu'il a bien voulu me faire en me décernant, en même temps quit mes deux distingués collègues dont je me fais l'interprète, un doctorat honoris causa. Je l'apprécie d'autant mieux que cette haute distinction s'adresse beaucoup plus à ce que je représente qu’à ma personne.

There are evident reasons why you have bestowed on Dr. Eisely and on Dr. MacLennan the honorary degrees that their achievements, each in his own field, so well deserve. It may be that in my case, the Senate of the University of British Columbia wanted to welcome back in the academic family the prodigal son who had left university life for what looked to be the greener pastures of industrial research. Let me tell you though, and my wife may tell you how often they take me away from home, that I have two lasting love affairs. One is with Science, the other with the University. I am so involved in both that my address will deal precisely with the relationships between them, with particular emphasis on Research, without which neither could progress. If ever they were separated, each of them would be no better than dead or, to paraphrase the title of Dr. MacLennan's well known novel, they would become "Two Solitudes". So let us forget about this unwanted variety of separatism.

Academic orations on occasion like this one may often be brilliant exercises in giving lip service to much abused truisms such as "A university without research is like a body without soul". My purpose in tackling this time-honoured cliché is to shake it somewhat and remove some of the dust it has accumulated over the years. If I dare to do that it is because universities must be prepared for what the recently created Science Council of Canada may have in store for them and also for what the Council will expect from them. Research, principally in the Universities, is to a certain, not to say to a great extent, a haphazard enterprise. In spite of all efforts of graduate schools, the odds against the successful achievement of their goals are overwhelming if we look at the situation from the nation's point of view. Individualism is the rule and I doubt if any single Canadian university has a really integrated programme of research. While some universities with adequate financial resources are still asking for more, other institutions are without the bare minimum which would enable them to initiate research in some major areas of study. How much time is lost in preparing and filing application forms for research grants and fellowships that are turned down?

The aims and objectives of the Science Council being briefly stated as "to advise the Canadian Government in matter of scientific policy", the universities are indeed deeply involved both in the fact-finding stage of the Council's approach to the subject and in the consequences arising from its thorough investigation. Since it is a matter of logistics and since the resulting policy shall at the same time try to answer the needs of the nation within its financial resources, the first step in its investigation should be a census of all the scientific manpower of the country and their qualifications and a survey of the various fields of scientific research in which Canadian scientists are engaged. Although the Council's main concern is with the natural sciences and their applications, I am sure that it will have a great impact on the social sciences, because of the social and economic consequences of a co-ordinated scientific policy at the national level.

A summary survey of the present situation already reveals that there are evident gaps in the research programmes that are conducted in the universities, in Government and industrial laboratories of Canada, and that there is little co-ordination between complementary projects going on here and there, not to mention possible duplication of effort. Recent examples show that universities can be in a rather awkward position If and when the Government or its agencies are lukewarm or even opposed to the developments of a particular programme.

There is something more than paradoxical in the long-standing attitude of scientists in this matter. Science is recognized as a logical organized body of knowledge and there is no higher compliment to be paid to a systematic study of a question than to say that it Is a scientific approach. Why is it then that scientific people still tolerate such a chaotic treatment of a problem in which they know they would have so much to gain if it were properly organized this is precisely what the Science Council intends to do for the benefit of science, the scientists and the Canadian people. The Council is so composed that it can muster the experience of people well versed in the practice and management of research in Government, university and industrial laboratories. Its interest is not limited all to a single aspect of science but extends to all levels of scientific activity. Its very simple line of approach is as follows : no scientific policy is possible without a scientific manpower policy; no scientific manpower policy is possible without a scientific manpower training policy, which brings us right in the center of the academic circle, with the only possible conclusion that we are in need of a university scientific policy, both local and national.

So far so good, because everybody agrees that something has to be done to improve the conditions of scientific research in Canadian Universities and that the main trouble is the inadequacy of financial support. We can anticipate, according to the very words in the Speech from the throne that was read at the present Session of the Federal Parliament, that there will be, year after year, substantial increases in support of scientific research. There is little doubt in the mind of any member of the Science Council that in order to bring good results, this increased support must be properly administered. At this point, I can hear the mounting protest against any possible attempt at limiting academic freedom, and against any computerized national regimentation of scientific research in Canadian universities.

There should be no misunderstanding on this point. What is actually and urgently needed in order to improve an admittedly poor organization is not to dictate what universities should do nor to exercise a rigid control of their research activities, but to devise ways and means for a better co-ordination of the sources of research grants and a more efficient distribution and use of research funds. A few examples will illustrate what is intended. Interdisciplinary research is to be encouraged as compared to isolated efforts in border-line areas; co-operation between neighbouring institutions on projects which no one could undertake and maintain if it were alone; participation of smaller and younger universities in projects already conducted by older and bigger universities If these objectives are achieved, an important and happy result would be to stop the fierce competition among universities for research funds and personnel.

In view of these decided advantages, universities will feel the need to review and reorganize some of the ad hoc structures resulting more from empirical and on the spot decisions than from a systematic study of their responsibilities towards science and the scientific community. We can envisage that the Universities themselves instead of individuals will become more often the recipients of grants in aid and block grants, which will mean a more direct interest on the part of all concerned and the development of a real research policy in each and every university.

At a recent meeting in Montreal of the Association of French Language Universities of the World (AUPELF), the main topic of discussion was "Research and the University". One of the recommendations put forward was that the Universities should possess two parallel scales of progress or promotion within the university. One would be the normal teaching scale and the other would be a research scale which would apply to the people who would devote essentially all their time to research and would not be expected to participate actively in the teaching. While I have some doubt as to the wisdom of this dual structure within the university, it is evident that this problem of research policy is becoming very important and that the very evolution of research in the universities makes it necessary for all of us to re-assess our present and future needs and to give us the structures that will permit our universities to grow and adjust themselves to the needs of tomorrow.

I fully realize that as Rector of a major Canadian University, the problem is on my door step and that there shall not be any conflict of interest between my academic responsibilities and my duties as Vice-President of the Science Council. My only concern, and I am sure that all university presidents and all professors and graduate students will share with me, is that more adequate use of the resources, financial, material and human, at our disposal, be geared to achieve a scientific policy that will be for the better interest of Science, of our country and of mankind in general.