March 2, 2009

Whither CISTI and the Canadian War on Science

Many of you will have heard of CISTI, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, one of the premier scientific libraries in the world and a key document delivery provider for universities everywhere.

Well, apparently the Government of Canada doesn't think that this is such a good thing to have because, I guess, everything is on Google for free.

Here's the recent announcement (via) (emphasis mine):

An announcement from CISTI as to the upcoming changes:

Dear colleagues,

I would like to share some news with you regarding upcoming changes to CISTI as a result of the recently approved Canadian federal government budget.

Over the course of 2008, the National Research Council (NRC) was included in the Government of Canada’s Strategic Review process. As a result, NRC will be realigning resources and programs, which will include major changes to CISTI.

The NRC Strategic Review plan focuses on the issue of ‘core role of government’. For NRC-CISTI, this will be realized through the spin-off of NRC Research Press and the transformation to new delivery models of the Information Intelligence Services and National Science Library Programs.

CISTI will continue to exist but will function on a significantly smaller scale, and will seek to deliver some services via private sector vendors or partners. The provision of scientific, technical and medical (STM) information remains a priority for NRC and the Government of Canada. CISTI will continue to partner with other organizations to fulfill its core role as part of Canada’s innovation infrastructure, as feasible under the new model.

The option we have recommended for the Research Press is to move to a new not-for-profit corporate entity to permit a continued commitment to provide a viable Canadian S&T publishing option. Free electronic access to Research press journals for Canadians is in question due to the projected loss of DSP support.

It is too early to say how these changes will affect the way we work with you. The proposed program transformations will require investigation of feasibility and best options, consultation with staff, potential partners and stakeholders, and planning. This planning phase will occur in 2009, with implementation beginning in early 2010. You will be consulted as CISTI moves into the planning phase, and I will provide you with more information when I have more details.

CISTI’s core value of delivering quality STM information service remains unchanged and we will try to minimize the impact of these changes on our clients and stakeholders. However, this year is going to be a very challenging one for everyone at CISTI due to the scale and complexity of the proposed changes and the ambiguity around how some of them will be implemented.


Pam Bjornson

Director General, Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information
Directrice gnrale, Institut canadien de l’information scientifique et technique
National Research Council Canada | 1200 Montreal Road, Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6
Conseil national de recherches Canada | 1200, chemin Montral, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0R6
Tel/Tl: 613-993-2341 | Fax: 613-952-9112

Thanks to a FriendFeed pal, I see this letter to opposition leader Michael Ignatieff framing a possible response to the government's actions:
The lion’s share of these cuts to the NRC are shouldered by the National Science Library CISTI. From the present budget of about $48M the current budget by NRC to CISTI for 2010 is targeted at $16M - a dramatic drop of close to 70%. While some proportion of this cut will be accounted for by the planned privatization of the NRC Press this measure represents a major slashing of public spending on the basic infrastructure of science and technology: knowledge. At a time when scholarly science libraries are transforming from bricks and mortar repositories of papers and books to sophisticated information retrieval engines in specific fields of science, our country needs more, not less, investment in next-generation digital libraries as well as time to implement them.

Sigh. It seems that the current government has begun it's own little war on science. In particular, check out this article from today's Globe and Mail. I'll excerpt it below, but it's well worth reading the whole depressing thing:
So while the Barack Obama administration in Washington has added $10-billion (U.S.) to finance basic research in the United States, the three agencies that back basic research in Canada must cut spending by $148-million over the next three years.

CIHR, for example, Canada's main funding body for medical research, has to find about $35-million in savings by 2012, and $28-million of that is by eliminating a program that provided grants to research teams.


The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, which had been financing his work, received no new money in budget 2009.

CFACS, like Genome Canada, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, was one of 14 agencies created in 2000 to finance particular areas of peer-reviewed research.

But without new funding, CFACS will shut down by March 2010 and 24 research networks that have studied climate change and related issues will close down with it.

Meanwhile, NSERC's priorities do not involve funding climate-change research, he said, "and there are not many places you can go to for this money."

"As a citizen I have to question whether upgrading facilities is a good idea if there's no one there to run them," said Dr. Drummond. "I don't want to demonize anybody, but you have to question the wisdom."


"I think it's a fundamental philosophy of the Conservative government that they don't see the value in basic research," said Dr. Boone. "We'd like to stay in Canada," he adds, "but there's only two options: You stick it out and wait till the government changes or you go somewhere else."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the entry. I was trying to read between the lines of the email announcement from NRC. This is very distressing to hear.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, very very sad though. Seeing Science projects going down the drain is just not right. Not everything has to be shut down just because of the crisis. There are other areas which we can save money on and put into basic research. Lets hope scientists won't die out in Canada.

Take care, Lorne

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - there is so much disinformation about the changes, it is nice to something firmly based on good info sources.

Anonymous said...

I just heard from someone at Infotrieve that as of August 01, 2010 CISTI will not allow the public to use their library. If you want something from it you will have to order it from Infotrieve. The photocopiers will be removed and Infotrieve will not be bringing books downstairs to users anymore.
What a shame that CISTI sold out.

Anonymous said...

April 01, 2010 CISTI will no longer allow public to look at their colletion, or should I say Infotrieve's collection.