Fri, 15 Dec 2023
Special Seminar

Dr. Bob Lemieux

University of Waterloo

Advocacy for fundamental research: a case for support 135 years in the making

Friday, December 15, 2023
ASB 10900 @ 1:30 p.m.

Host: Dr. Vance Williams



The Canadian research enterprise suffers from chronic underfunding. According to the OECD, Canada’s investment in research and development has been stagnant for the past 20 years; in 2021, it amounted to 1.6% of its GDP—significantly less than the 2.7% average for OECD members. This stagnation is reflected in funding programs that support fundamental research across all disciplines. For instance, the past two federal budgets contained no new investment in the base budgets of the three Canadian granting councils to support fundamental, discovery-based research. To address this problem, it is incumbent on researchers to articulate a compelling value proposition for fundamental research that supports more significant research investments by our government. In the framework of case studies, researchers can explain how discoveries made in their respective fields changed our collective understanding of natural, physical, and social phenomena and, in many cases, impacted how we live.

In this presentation, I would like to advocate for the importance of fundamental research with a serendipitous discovery that revolutionized how we communicate, work and play. A discovery that took place 135 years ago but that did not result in a commercial product until the 1970s—one that proved to be foundational to my research career—the discovery of liquid crystals.