Saturday, February 24, 2007

BC North Coast Ocean Technology Opportunities

As presented at a COINPacific Forum in Victoria on June 5, 2006, a plan is afoot to create an Ocean Observation System along the lines of the VENUS and NEPTUNE projects, for the North Coast of BC. This project would be funded by government but industry operated. The declared intent of such a project would be to create a private sector ocean science community within BC, steering the focus away from existing government and university research centres such as IOS and PBS.

One has to wonder about the wisdom of using taxpayer money to finance such an initiative, especially since private entities tend to control the intellectual property these projects generate. The main problem with such ventures is that the datasets they generate are privately owned, and so governments, the public and the private sector do not have free access to them, to either validate the findings of the relevant research, or to add value to the data and results.

Questions also arise as to what kind of research is done, who sets the research priorities, what the research is done for, and the way in which it is conducted.

Thus, there is a need to explain why it is that potentially hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars should be funnelled into private sector technology and marine science programs when government research centres on the west coast are starved for cash.

In the final analysis, commercial ocean science ventures should stand or fall on their own merits, and should not be heavily subsidised by governments. Moreover, major science planning on the west coast, and indeed all of our coasts, should be science- rather than technology-driven.


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