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Arthur Carty: Science Advisor to the Canadian Prime Minister

bridges vol. 2, July 2004 / People in the Spotlight
by Philipp Steger

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Carty_Arthur_caption"The appointment of Arthur Carty, head of the National Research Council, as national science advisor to the Prime Minister is a good step. Dr. Carty could be influential in shaping and advancing a national science agenda," wrote Preston Manning. And that is quite a compliment, coming from one of Canada's most outspoken former opposition critics for Science & Technology. Manning's sentiment is not an exception: Arthur Carty, the former head of the National Research Council, is widely regarded as an excellent choice for the newly created position.

Meeting Arthur Carty in his new office a few weeks after he had officially started his new job on April 1, 2004, we could tell that Dr. Carty must have had a lot of other, more pressing things to do than receiving an Austrian delegation. Still, Arthur Carty, a soft-spoken and unpretentious man in his early sixties, was a gracious host, patiently answering many questions and thoughtfully sharing some of his insights on Canada's Science & Technology Policy.

 

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest}Arthur Carty, still an active scientist himself, explains the rationale for creating the position of the Science Advisor as having to do with the Prime Minister's seeing Science & Technology as one of the key drivers for economic growth. Little wonder, therefore, that the commercialization of science will likely be the cornerstone of Carty's tenure. This has some people worried, because they fear that basic research will suffer from that approach. But their fears might be misplaced. After all, Paul Martin has repeatedly been reported as saying that if he was born again he would like to be a basic researcher. More convincing and less dependent on the uncertainties of reincarnation, may be Carty's impressive track record at NRC, where after being initially criticized for catering too much to industry, he was able to allay concerns by both raising the level of and securing additional funding for basic research. Also, Carty's intention to set up a process akin to the U.K. Foresight Program shows that his concern is not all about economics: "We need a forum that is responsible for looking at risks and opportunities for the future."


Carty, who realizes that the main challenge of his job lies in having to satisfy a broad array of groups, points out that he will not be just an advocate for the science community, but makes it clear that he intends to listen to all the other stakeholders as well. "This has to be advice that takes into account the opinions of not only the scientific community but also those of private industry, communities and governments at all levels both in Canada and internationally," Carty said in a recent speech, when talking about the advice the Prime Minister will expect from him. "There are hundreds of issues on the table, and I will have to focus on a few things," says Carty.

 

Carty, born in the U.K. in 1940, earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at the University of Nottingham and continued his scientific career in Canada, first at the University of Newfoundland and then, for nearly three decades, as a professor and chair of the chemistry department at the University of Waterloo, where he was also Dean of Research for five years.

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