Restructuring the Nova Scotia Community College’s applied research arm is one thing. Firing Bob Maher, unarguably its top scientist, is simply the wrong thing to do.
If geomatics isn’t the only bright spot in Nova Scotia’s future, that’s fine. Let the NSCC grow its applied research capacity and let the Applied Geomatics Research Group continue with what it was doing. Build those other research areas on their own merits. Sustainable energy and shipbuilding are good directions to go.
Regardless of the NSCC’s budget, and regardless of what they were paying Maher, the man is among the best in the world at what he does and many in Annapolis County would tell you his work was one of the bright spots in the future of local communities. Maher was a bargain – like finding a Rembrandt at Frenchys.
It’s not as if the NSCC was firing an inept and bungling senior scientist. Maher led projects that have had a direct impact on communities and has brought in literally millions of dollars to the college through grants. $25 million is one estimate. He should have been kept on for his ability to write grant proposals, if not for his ability to think well beyond the curve and way outside of the box.
And Maher would have been happy to help out in those other areas of research – he knows where the money is and he knows how to get it.
Sadly, axing Maher, scientist Chris Hopkinson, and community mapping project manager Jeff Wentzell appears more like a house-cleaning exercise or a budget-crunching game than a rational restructuring. Even if it isn’t, it does feel like a hatchet job.
Will the current projects at the Applied Geomatics Research Group continue? Apparently. Will the community have much faith in that answer? Doubtfully. Those approached to fund research at the NSCC will question the decision to fire three top figures. Would those benefactors then hand out money? Not likely. Bungling at the management and planning level is often considered indicative of the entire structure.
Was Maher a little bit hard to handle? No doubt he was, but only because of his foresight, brilliant mind, and his dedication and determination to science and how it can be applied positively to the everyday lives of communities. Those are good qualities, not firing offences. And those who know him describe him also as generous and mentoring. Also not firing offences.
But it’s the nature of bureaucracies to punish success and reward failure. Maher may be better off without that bureaucratic burden – and perhaps his best work is yet to come.