Hey look: Just on the off-chance that luring extraordinary scientists is a GOOD idea...

From the print edition, my column on the Canada Excellence Research Chairs, in which I acknowledge only in passing the concerns about how all the recipients are men. After three days of blanket coverage of that angle, I’m sure my column will seem hopelessly obtuse to many. But I wanted to use the space Maclean’s gave me this week simply to explain what the program is, and why it will have effects on several campuses that go well beyond the parachuting of some exotic hothouse flower into a cloistered perch. No, in every case that I looked at on Tuesday, the arriving CERC will be joined by colleagues in place and by new hires, new equipment, grad students and post-docs — 19 little colonies of well-funded, very ambitious talent on 19 13 campuses (Laval, Waterloo, UofT got two CERCs each; the University of Alberta got four). There’s room for criticism, but it seems to me that we should start from a basic understanding of this program’s goals and the effect it’s already having.