National Research Council of Canada : The National Research Council of Canada (NRCC) was created by the Research Council Act (7-8 Geo. V, chap. 20, 1917), under the name Honorary Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The First World War caused the federal government to take stock of shortcomings in Canadian research and development programs in the field of science and technology. Upon its creation, the NRC set up a program of bursaries and grants to subsidize research, as well as a system of advisory committees to coordinate research in Canada in specific fields. The NRC was also responsible for providing advice to Cabinet regarding science and technology, and for ensuring liaison with international scientific organizations. Through the Minister of Trade and Commerce, the NRC reported to the Privy Council Committee on scientific and industrial research.
In 1924 a revised Act (14-15 Geo. V, chap. 64) set the NRC up as a corporation, which controlled its own expenditures and hired its own personnel. It was also given a full-time president. The mandate of the NRC was extended to include units of measure in Canada. Two types of committees were associated with the NRC: committees that provided advice and committees that directed or coordinated specific research projects.
The NRC hired its first researcher in 1925. In 1932 it inaugurated its new laboratories in Ottawa, which were sometimes called the "National Research Laboratories". The NRC was composed of four divisions: physics and engineering, chemistry, information, and biology and agriculture, to which the Mechanical Engineering Division was added in 1936. The research division, whose director enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, was the principal organizational unit of the NRC until the 1990s. In 1939 the construction of new research facilities was started on the outskirts of Ottawa. During its first decades of existence, the NRC increased its profile by contributing, either directly or by grants, to the improvement of lobster processing methods and concrete production methods in Western Canada, the development of rust-resistant wheat varieties and more aerodynamic locomotives. As Canadian researchers were experiencing difficulty publishing in Canada, the NRC launched, in 1929, the Canadian Journal of Research, which gave rise to several more specialized publications. In 1997 the NRC put out 14 scientific and technical publications.
During the Second World War, the NRC concentrated its activities on research that supported the military effort and became the de facto army, navy and air force research centre. Its research personnel quadrupled and its research budget skyrocket to 2 million from million. NRC researchers contributed to the development of radar technology. Other contributions included: detection of mines and submarines; ballistics; explosives; food preservation and transportation; aeronautics, and the production of metallic magnesium. Under the direction of the NRC, and in cooperation with the British and US governments, a nuclear energy research laboratory was set up in Montreal in 1942. In 1944 the project moved to its own facilities in Chalk River, Ontario. In 1946 the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) was created. In principle, the Board assumed administrative control of activities at the Chalk River laboratories, which continued to be directed by the NRC. For instance, C.J. Mackenzie was president of both the NRC and the AECB from 1948 to 1952; since then, the president of the NRC has been an ex officio member of the AECB.
The post-war years saw the apogee of the NRC's influence. In 1945 it had a virtual monopoly over knowledge in Canada in many key sectors of science and technology. NRC researchers accumulated achievements in many fields, including: breakwaters, cardiac stimulators, atomic clocks, air transport safety (explosives detection, locator beacons),water jet cutting, identification of toxins in molluscs, and the remote manipulator arm for the American space shuttle. In 1971 Dr. Gerhard Herzberg, director of the Physics Division, received the Nobel Chemistry Prize for his work on the identification of molecules in space. The majority of the research work at the NRC nevertheless dealt with research and development, mostly in cooperation with the private sector. The NRC also housed some unique facilities (wind tunnels, basins, testing facilities) that enable it to conduct tests and trials on behalf of its partners. In addition to responding annually to thousands of information requests from the private sector, the NRC launched, in 1962, a program of grants to the corporate sector (Industrial Research Assistance Program).
In the 1940s, NRC activities were decentralized and laboratories were gradually opened in all regions of Canada. In addition, new divisions were added in the fields of atomic energy, medical research, construction (including the Canadian Building Code), radiotechnology and electrotechnology, aeronautics, space, informatics and applied mathematics. In 1970 the NRC absorbed the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources astronomy program. In 1947 Canadian Patents and Development Limited was established as a subsidiary of the NRC in its own right to manage the patents obtained by NRC researchers. That same year, the Technical Information Service, which had been set up to provide technical information to the corporate sector, was transferred to the NRC from the Department of Reconstruction and Supplies. The primary role of the NRC in the field of scientific and technical information was confirmed in 1966 by the official recognition of the National Science Library.
Concurrently, the NRC supported the establishment of other centres based on its own expertise. Military research went to the Defence Research Board, set up in 1947. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, set up in 1952, took over the laboratories at Chalk River. Space research went to the Canadian Space Agency in 1990. The NRC lost most of its subsidizing functions to the Medical Research Council (1960) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (1978). Canadian Patents and Development Limited went to the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce in 1977. In 1992, a major reorganization took place and the divisions were replaced with research institutes that were generally smaller in scope and defined in terms of fields of application rather than disciplines. At the same time, the emerging function of the NRC was increasingly focused on assistance to the corporate sector and on the self-financing of some of its components.
The preeminence of the NRC was gradually eroded by the growth of science and technology research in the university and the corporate sectors. Other federal institutions, apart from the ones named above, began to devote considerable amounts of their resources to research: Agriculture et Agri-Food Canada, the Department of National Defence, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Industry Canada. From the 1960s onward, the role of the NRC was explicitly called into question in the light of the renewed interest on the part of the federal government in science policy; a revision of the Act in 1966 (14-15 Elizabeth. II, c. 26) constituted a turning point in this regard. In 1963 the Royal Commission on Government Organization (Glassco Commission) deplored the lack of oversight and coordination as regards federal involvement in the field of science and technology; among other things, it reproached the NRC for neglecting its role as advisor to Cabinet on scientific matters in favour of its own research activities. The report of the Special Senate Committee on science policy (Lamontagne report), published in 1970, also accused the NRC of having discriminated in favour of basic science. In 1964 the Pearson government created a Science Secretariat in the Privy Council for the purpose of studying and analyzing federal involvement in the field of science and technology. In 1966 the Secretariat took over the role of Cabinet advisor that had belonged to the NRC. The Ministry of State for Science and Technology (MSST) took over this role in 1971, and the Science Council, which had been set up in 1966, was give a broader consultative and educational mandate.
The NRC reported successively to the Privy Council (1916-1971), the MSST (1971-1990), the Department of Industry, Science and Technology (1990-1992), and the Department of Industry (1992-).
In the course of its existence, the NRC has had several full-time presidents: Henry Marshall Tory (1923-1935), Andrew G.L. McNaughton (1935-1939), Chalmers Jack Mackenzie (1939-1952), E.W.R. Steacie (1952-1962), B.G. Ballard (1962-1967), W.G. Schneider (1967-1980), Larkin Kerwin (1980-1989), Pierre Perron (1989-1994), Arthur J. Carty (1994-2004), Michael Raymont (2004-2005), Pierre Coulombe (2005-2010), and John R. McDougall (2010-).