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Departure of Frederic Gault

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After working for more than 20 years on behalf of science and technology statistics, Dr. Frederic Gault, Director, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division, is leaving Statistics Canada.

Following a 15-year career as a lecturer in theoretical physics at Durham University, Dr. Gault joined Statistics Canada in 1984. In 1988, he became chief of Science and Technology Section, which at that time was part of Science, Technology and Capital Stock Division. The notable event of that period was the very first survey of manufacturing technologies (1987). In 1989, Dr. Gault was appointed Director of Services, Science and Technology Division.

The next few years were difficult ones. In the early 1990s, because of budget cutbacks, the staff of Science and Technology Surveys Section was reduced to a total of 8.5 person-years. Despite the cutbacks, the first survey on innovation was conducted (1993), and the Statistics Canada Advisory Committee on Science and Technology Statistics was established.

Fred Gault has an abiding interest in official statistics on science and technology. It is more than his job, it is a passionate interest. When we initially began our collaboration, there was little funding for data on S&T. Our first, and monumental challenge was to develop a framework for the collection and use of S&T data. This task engaged the Advisory Committee, and particularly a small working group of the Advisory Committee together with Fred Gault, for a considerable period of intensive, often heated, but always creative, work. The intensity of our engagement in this task found us working on Saturdays, early mornings and late evenings. No one protested; the challenge was so very engaging of both our intellects and our interests. The framework we developed continues to guide the work of the SIEID.

Susan A. McDaniel, Chair of the Statistics Canada Expert Advisory Committee on Science and Technology Statistics from 1996 to 2004

 

 

 

Then came a period of significant development of the statistical apparatus in the science and technology and information society fields, development that was undertaken in close cooperation with users. As part of the review of federal science and technology activities, the Statistics Canada Advisory Committee on Science and Technology Statistics served as a task force on the development of science and technology statistics. In the 1994 report, the main recommendation was that Statistics Canada establish an on-going development project to design, plan and implement an extended program of science and technology statistics. The Advisory Committee on Telecommunications was formed shortly thereafter, and its work led to the establishment of the current statistical program on the information society.

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In 1996, following two or three years of efforts to obtain funding for such a program, a project to redesign science and technology statistics was launched under Dr. Gault’s direction. The project had two major focuses: science and technology statistics and statistics on telecommunications and the information society. During that period, Dr. Gault’s team carried out a series of projects in rapid succession:

  • Survey of Innovation in the Service Industries (1996)
  • Survey of Biotechnology Use (1996 and 1997)
  • Project to develop the statistical infrastructure for telecommunications and the information society (1996)
  • Household Internet Use Survey (1997)
  • Project to develop bibliometric statistics (1997)
  • Survey of Advanced Technology in the Canadian Manufacturing Industry (1998)
  • Annual Survey of Telecommunications (1998)

In 1999, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division was established. This marked the beginning of a phase of consolidation and expansion of the work done in the early years. The well-established statistical programs on R&D and telecommunications were joined by new programs on innovation, electronic commerce, Internet use by individuals, and life sciences as well as new indicators and special projects such as intellectual property in universities and knowledge management.

  • Quarterly Survey of Telecommunications (1999)
  • Survey of Innovation (1999, 2003, 2005)
  • Redesigned biotechnology survey (1999)
  • Connectedness series (1999)
  • Innovation Analysis Bulletin (1999)
  • Survey of Electronic Commerce and Technology (2000)

Fred Gault’s leadership and mind have been instrumental in moving the international measurement agenda forward. I have seen this first hand, as the member of the OECD Secretariat who has had the pleasure of riding co-pilot, watching Fred navigate through clear skies and turbulence as the chair of two working parties dedicated to the development of indicators that shed light on the development, diffusion and impact of science and tehnology.

The development of new statistical standards and indicators at the OECD very much depends on the initiative of a member country to be the locomotive that pulls the train, Statistics Canada, especially Fred's division, has performed that role in numerous areas, with Fred acting as the engineer. The list is a long one but perhaps the most memorable is Fred's pioneering work as the first Chair of theOECDs Working Party on Indicators for the Information Society (WPIIS). Emerging from the largest OECD Ministerial meeting ever held in Ottawa in 1998 (October) on e-commerce, Fred led this working party to be the front runner in producing a measurement framework for the Information Society. By 2000, a mere 16 months later, internationally comparable official statistics on e-commerce began to appear—and year after year the group produced a new standard every time it met (an unprecedented pace for international bureaucracies). These were the building blocks of the OECD “Guide to Measuring the Information Society” produced for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005. This Guide acted as a rallying point for all the world's international organizations interested in measuring the information society—the OECD, UNESCO, UNCTAD, ITU, the World Bank, ECLAC, etc.—to form a partnership to develop a set of core ICT indicators that could be measured world-wide—one of the more tangible outcomes of WSIS. As Fred might say: “It has not been an uninteresting experience.” (his use of double negative has also become world famous, especially among interpreters of OECD meetings!)

Andy Wyckoff, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

 

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This period of growth resulted in the production of a large number of publications and a total of eight books in the space of about 10 years on subjects as diverse as regional innovation systems, biotechnology, innovation, alliances and partnerships, knowledge management, the information society, and information and communications technology. The most recent book summarized the proceedings of an OECD international conference (Blue Sky II) held in September 2006.

We would be remiss if we failed to mention Dr. Gault’s contribution to Statistics Canada’s reputation on the international scene. Appointed vice-chair of the OECD’s Working Party of National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators (NESTI) in 1995 and its chair in 2002, Dr. Gault, together with his team, has made Statistics Canada a pioneer and a leader in science and technology statistics. The Working Party’s key activities during that period included revising the Frascati Manual and the Oslo Manual and overseeing the work of the Ad hoc Biotechnology Statistics Group.

Dr. Gault was also the first chair of the OECD’s Working Party on Indicators for the Information Society, a post he held from 1997 to 2002. During that period, the Working Party developed the first recognized definition of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and a statistical definition of electronic commerce. It also produced the first collection of statistics on the subject, a model survey on ICT use by households and individuals, and a survey on ICT use by businesses. This work led to other international standards and later to the production of the Guide to Measuring the Information Society. The Working Party’s accomplishments have helped improve the statistical system in Canada and the rest of the world.

In addition to his participation in projects carried out in conjunction with the OECD, Dr. Gault worked with colleagues from China, Russia, South Africa and a number of other African countries on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). He also served as a member of several other international committees.

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It is important to note that these initiatives were assisted by the establishment of strong partnerships between Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division, Industry Canada and the many users of our data in federal and provincial government departments, ministries and agencies. In 2007, Dr. Gault received the Partnership Award of the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX).

“If Fred Gault did not exist, we would have to invent him!!”. I’m not sure that this expression quite works; but I am certain it describes the value that all of us attach to Fred as a professional, colleague and friend. It has been my good fortune to work with Fred for the last few years, both here in Canada and internationally.

As most people already know, Fred’s leadership role at the OECD and in other international fora is almost legendary. I personally benefitted from his extraordinary capacity to manage and advance complex international projects when he took charge of the efforts to develop new statistical systems to measure the e-economy following the OECD Ministerial Conference on Electronic Commerce in 1998. In short order, we had not only developed an excellent survey instrument in Canada, but had developed a scheme for transnational measurement of e-business for use within the OECD that eventually spread to the wider international community.

Fred exemplifies the level of intellect, integrity and professionalism that we all strive to attain as public servants. The Public Service will very much miss him and his immense talents. Some of us, however, will hopefully have the pleasure and privilege of continuing to work with him as he assumes new roles and new challenges in the years ahead.

Richard Simpson, Director General, Electronic Commerce, Industry Canada

 

We are grateful to Dr. Gault for his many initiatives and for the leadership he has provided. He has made an outstanding contribution to Statistics Canada’s success and to the development of the science and technology statistics program. We wish him every success in his future endeavours.

Taking over the position of Director for Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division is Paula Thomson. The next issue of the Innovation Analysis Bulletin will include an interview with Ms. Thomson.