Predictably, the women's organization most often invited to do policy research or comment on policy proposals is Status of Women Canada. Other groups might undertake to research subjects of upcoming urgency as established by legislative agenda, and while they might even manage to gain a hearing, they are seldom invited. Sometimes, groups such as NAC are able to choreograph an invitation for input through extensive lobbying.
Most Canadian policy research on women, then, is set on a reactive basis rather than one of self-motivated research priorities. Since human and financial resources are severely limited and the time frame is often very short, priorities are often set by the critical path of proposed legislation rather than by a realistic assessment of the time it would take to make an in-depth study of a specific subject. A further result of these shortages is that there is little time left over for intra-organizational communication or sharing of information. This can lead to a wasteful overlap of work done. It is hoped that such overlap will be obviated by CRIAW's research bank. It must be remembered, though, that the Research Bank is only as helpful as the information fed into it is full and clear and accessible.
"We try to cover everything, but we simply can't do it all in adequate depth" one respondent from government agency claimed. De facto, then, the extent and quality of policy research on women is set by the state and its priorities. If the amount of public money consecrated to women's causes is any indication of priority, it is clear that we are not very important.
Women's organizations are in a real quandary: of course we want maximum input into legislation affecting us; of course we need to know more; of course we want input before rather than after legislation is passed. On the other hand, there might be matters equally important or even more important which the government has not set as priorities. We have neither the time nor the resources either to identify or to pursue such matters. How then can we take over the agenda setting, undertake the. research which we want, and at the same time affect on going legislation and policy?
"It becomes ludicrous when voluntary organizations must do basic research for the government."
100% of our respondents complained about the lack of sufficient financial and human resources. For instance, there are only three full-time researchers at the Advisory Council whose job is to inform and make recommendations to the public. It is extraordinary that, given these constraints, they are able to put out such a massive number of publications, and ones of excellent quality. They manage this by contracting out much of their work. Lab our Canada also contracts out some of its research. Contracting is a questionable solution to lack of resources. Because of its fragmentary nature, one does not have a readily available corps of researchers whose processes can feed into one another's research projects. In a relatively new field such as research on women, interaction and dialogue are essential. Contract researchers, however, might do excellent research which they punctiliously deliver to the agencies as finished products; on the other hand, no one else really has access to their processes. One can only wonder if such problems are as prevalent in agencies such as the Science Council which receives two to three many times as much funding as all the women's organizations together.