Presentation of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
What a pleasure to welcome you to Rideau Hall for this celebration of excellence.
Let me start with a quote from Gerhard Herzberg that was kindly sent to me by his daughter, Agnes, who is herself a distinguished academic at Queen’s University.
It’s from a speech he gave to students at the University of Manitoba back in the 1970s, in which he said:
“Your aim should be to make Canada a country that is recognized throughout the world, and throughout history, as a country that has advanced in a significant way the progress of sciences, art and literature.”
Now that’s the kind of ambition that leads to a Nobel Prize for Chemistry!
As you likely know, Dr. Herzberg won a Nobel in 1971!
Tonight, we’ll present the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, as well as the rest of the prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada awards to such deserving recipients.
You’re among the best in Canada, which means your work is among the world’s best.
What you do is so important to our well-being. Each advance in our learning has a ripple effect on our lives, which means we must always consider the big picture even while focusing on the details of discovery.
As governor general, I have tried to create a ripple effect of sorts by fostering a smart and caring nation, where our “smartness” supports and reinforces our “caring,” and vice versa.
As researchers, you have a key role to play in educating the public on the importance of basic and applied research, and showing that each has a ripple effect on the other. Moreover, the cost and complexity of research require that we collaborate and engage globally, and overcome the challenges to that model of global collaboration.
It’s up to those of us who most value science and innovation and understand so profoundly its importance to respond—to be not simply practitioners, but publicists and prophets.
Together, we have to make the case that what’s needed is more discovery, more reason and more critical thinking, not less. That is my challenge to you.
Each of you can make a real contribution to reinforcing Canadians’ trust in and understanding of science. One way you can do this is by widely sharing and explaining the importance of your work and trying to do so in clear, understandable language.
This is essential so that people have the capacity to make informed decisions about the scientific research that affects their lives. One of our best interpreters is Dr. Arthur McDonald who, especially since his Nobel Prize win, has helped Canadians understand the significance of basic science.
This public education effort is so important.
Think of it as your 150th birthday present for Canada!
I’m proud to say it’s been another great year for Canadian research on the global stage.
We’re continuing to work with NSERC on the Global Excellence Initiative, which aims to ensure Canadian research is nominated for the top international awards and prizes. As Canadians see the recognition and celebration of their fellow Canadians on the global stage, we hope to inspire them to become involved in making the case for vigorous scientific effort as a fundamental Canadian value.
In 2016, Canadians won 12 international awards and prizes, meaning we have once again exceeded our benchmark of 8 prizes set in 2014.
We’re on the right track.
My message to you is, keep going. See these awards as a threshold beyond which you will take your learning even further.
I’m so impressed at your talent and dedication, and so grateful for your efforts.
Thank you, and congratulations on this well-deserved honour.
I wish you a wonderful evening.