The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy


August 6, 2001

This document is intended as a codicil to the candidate’s PhD thesis proposal submitted to the College of Graduate Studies & Research (CGSR) in April 2001.  As such, it is intended as:

a) a response to questions raised and comments made during the meeting of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the CGSR tasked with initial review of the proposal and determination if it qualifies under the terms and conditions of the Interdisciplinary Program of the CGSR; and,

b) a modification of that proposal in anticipation of its review by the PhD Committee of the CGSR and determination if the proposal qualifies under the terms and conditions of the PhD Program of the CGSR.


Questions answered, and modifications made, are clustered under two broad themes:

a) The Candidate: Competence & Originality; and,

b) The Program: Courses, Procedures, Rigor and Funding.

(a) The Candidate: Competence & Originality

As reported to the candidate, questions were raised during the meeting of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the CGSR regarding the competence of the candidate and the candidate’s PhD committee as well as the originality of the proposed thesis itself. 

i - Competence

The candidate, in addition to completing a rigorous undergraduate and graduate program including twenty-five full and half courses in economics to the MA level, has:

  • thirty years of public policy research experience in a wide range of fields – cultural economics, futures studies, higher education, intellectual property rights, international affairs, policy science, public finance and urban affairs;

  • engaged in all phases of the research process including collection, compilation, display and analysis of empirical evidence including statistical data as well as statutory instruments defining the ‘rules of the game’;

  • designed, developed, implemented and managed for ten years a formal research and evaluation program, involving a staff of nine and an operating budget of more than $500,000, for a major Canadian grant-giving council (the Canada Council) including preparation of the $100 million grant application of the Council to Treasury Board;

  • published the results of original research and modeling in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, relevant journals, edited collections of essays, etc.; and,

  • published three books – the Compleat Canadian Copyright Act: Current, Past and Proposed Provisions of the Act 1997 (ISBN 0-9689523-1-3 plus Annual Updates to 2000), the Compleat Multilateral Copyright and Related Agreements, Conventions, Covenants & Treaties 1998 (ISBN 0-9689523-2-1 plus Annual Updates to 2000) and the Compleat Multilateral Trademarks and Industrial Design Agreements, Conventions & Treaties 2001 (ISBN 0-9689523-3-X).

The Committee is composed of members of the Colleges of Agriculture, Arts & Science, Commerce and Engineering with expertise in agricultural economics, biotech, commerce, environmental engineering, sociology and physics.  Each member has distinguished himself in his chosen discipline and has demonstrated, in the opinion of the candidate, an acute sensitivity to the strengths and weakness of the ‘disciplinary’ epistemology institutionalized in the contemporary North American university and the differing traditions of other countries and cultures.  Overall, the proposed PhD Committee represents a dynamic and innovative assemblage of talent, technical competence and professional acumen well qualified to assess the candidate’s work product.

Regretfully, there are, among others, no women or native members, nor any representatives of the College of Law nor of psycho-linguistics, on the Committee, facts to be rectified by formally incorporating findings from legal studies, psycho-linguistics, wisdom traditions, women’s and gender studies.  Furthermore, the learned opinions of USASK faculty with expertise in these critical fields and disciplines will be actively sought and appropriately incorporated into the main body of the final thesis itself. 

ii – Originality

The thesis is original in that an innovative model of the complexity of contemporary knowledge will be developed and used to harvest and then process research results and findings from a wide range of disciplines in the natural & engineering sciences (NES), the humanities & social sciences (HSS) and the arts (Art).  The original thesis proposal identifies three levels at which different countries and cultures institutionalize knowledge. 

First, at the national level, knowledge is organized into distinct knowledge domains in the guise of ‘grant-giving councils’.  Drawing on the Canadian experience, these include NES, HSS, and Art. 

Second, knowledge flowing from these domains is then transformed into economic property, capable of being bought and sold, in the form of intellectual property rights: copyrights, patents, registered industrial designs and trademarks, among others.

Third, knowledge as economic property is then converted, at the ‘shop floor’, into technology

During this process of ‘filtering down’ NES knowledge is constrained or encouraged through the mediating influences of the HSS (legal, political and religious values) as well as the Arts (the socio-psychological-aesthetic sense of the right ordering of the multiple parts of the world) that vary country to country and culture to culture (see Fig. 1 Epistemic Genetics, p. iii).  A current public issue demonstrating the mediating influence of the HSS and Art on the application of NES knowledge is stem cell research that is officially approved and regulated in the United Kingdom, on the verge of being banned in the United States and underway without formal regulation in Canada

Three additional dimensions of knowledge institutionalization will also be examined, one horizontal, one vertical, one heterodox.  First, while at the national level knowledge is institutionalized as grant-giving councils, actual production and conservation of knowledge takes place through a system of universities and colleges.  Such systems, in turn, vary dramatically between countries, e.g. the system of polytechnic institutes and technical universities in Germany.  Furthermore, within generally recognized knowledge domains, such as the HSS, there are significant national and cultural differences between what is recognized as a discipline and especially, sub-discipline.  

Second, the reality is that libraries, archives and computers ‘store’ what Carl Sagan called ‘extrasomatic knowledge’ (Sagan, C., The Dragons of Eden, Balantine, NY., 1977) but only a ‘natural’ person can ‘know’.  Accordingly, a psychological foundation must be laid upon which the thesis can be constructed.  There are a number of distinct schools of psychology, e.g. behaviourist, clinical, neurophysiologic, psychoanalytic, etc.  The sub-discipline chosen by the candidate is alternatively called analytic, complex, depth or Jungian psychology (Jung, C.G., Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press).  This sub-discipline is chosen because of its explicit treatment of and sensitivity to cultural variations on psychological phenomena generic to humanity, e.g. the concept of the ‘collective unconscious’.

In this scholarly tradition, there are four elemental psychological faculties through which a human being ‘knows’: the intellectual or thinking function, the intuitive function or ‘no-knowledge’, emotion or the feeling function and, sensation or the sensual function (e.g. sex, drugs and rock’n roll).  Within the individual one function tends to be dominant (usually thinking or feeling), two subordinate (usually intuition and sensation) to the dominant function, and one tends to be repressed (usually thinking or feeling).  Economically, these ‘ways of knowing’ tend to become institutionalized into distinct science, religious, arts and sensual industries.

Third, the three modes of institutionalizing knowledge proposed in the main thesis can all be classed as ‘orthodox’.  The competitiveness of nations in a global knowledge-based economy is not, however, solely determined by such means.  Rather than creating knowledge, competitiveness can also be achieved by stealing it or otherwise abusing it.  ‘State-sponsored industrial espionage’ is a ‘heterodox’ approach to competitiveness.  Similarly, various ‘single issue’ groups and causes, e.g. environmental and religious terrorism, use the fruits of orthodox knowledge in an attempt to ‘overthrow’ the existing order.

In summary, the proposed thesis is original in that it will develop and apply an innovative model of the alternative national modalities for the institutionalization of knowledge and how this may affect the competitiveness of nations.  It will be encyclopedic, synthetic and transdisciplinary harvesting and processing research findings from a wide array of disciplines.  It will be topographic defining the terrain, naming and describing some and identifying other peaks on the epistemological horizon.  It will provide a transdisciplinary lens through which other researchers will be able to search out, collect, compile and assess findings from an even broader spectrum of disciplines to enhance our collective understanding of the competitiveness of nations in a global knowledge-based economy.


(b) The Program: Courses, Procedures, Rigour & Funding

As reported to the candidate, questions were raised during the meeting of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the CGSR regarding proposed program of study including courses, procedures, rigour and funding.


i - Courses

The proposed methodology – transdisciplinary induction - requires harvesting and processing intelligence – modeling and research findings – from a wide range of disciplines.  No formal graduate courses are available at USASK applying such a methodology nor are there courses that cover the wide range of disciplinary findings and results required to complete the thesis.

To baseline the thesis two special courses were initially proposed.  In this Codicil, a third is added.  The first will be a full 6 credit course (INT D 898.6), The Knowledge-Based Economy: The State of the Art, to be conducted under the direction of the PhD Supervisor, Peter W.B. Phillips, College of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics. Professor, NSERC/SSHRC Chair, Managing Knowledge-Based Agricultural Food (see page 14).  The second will be a half course, Competitiveness – The State of the Art, to be conducted under the direction of Interdisciplinary PhD Committee member, Grant Isaac of the College of Commerce, Department of Management & Marketing and Associate Professor of Biotechnology Management.  The third will also be a half course, Knowledge: The State of the Art, to be conducted under the direction of Interdisciplinary PhD Committee member, George Khachatourians of the College of Agriculture and Coordinator of Biotechnology Initiatives.

Each course is intended to establish the state of the art regarding a critical thesis component, specifically, the knowledge-based economy, competitiveness and knowledge.  Each course will involve a thorough literature review, preparation of an annotated bibliography and assessment of current understanding of these concepts.  Results will be replicable, that is, an independent researcher would uncover the same literature base and arrive at similar conclusions regarding the state of contemporary understanding of these concepts.  It will be against this baseline that the thesis can be assessed with respect to originality and contributions to enhanced understanding of the competitiveness of nations in a global-knowledge-based economy.  Each course will result in ‘stand-alone’ findings that should prove useful to other researchers.


ii – Procedures

As reported to the candidate, questions were raised during the meeting of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the CGSR regarding compliance with standard USASK procedures for qualifying and comprehensive examinations.  It is proposed that the qualifying examination procedure be satisfied by preparation and acceptance by the candidate’s Interdisciplinary PhD Committee of a detailed work plan for the thesis.   Similarly, it is proposed that requirements for a comprehensive examination be satisfied by successful completion of course work and defense of the final thesis.


iii – Funding

As reported to the candidate, questions were raised during the meeting of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the CGSR regarding funding.  As noted in the original proposal, tuition and associated student fees (approximately $2,000 a term) will be paid directly by the candidate.  The candidate will work out of his home office.  Other than library services, the candidate will cover all associated space and equipment costs.  The candidate will also pay necessary translation and communications costs. 

Research for the main thesis and the comparative national case study (Canada, the UK and the USA) will be based on secondary sources available through regular university library channels.  If, however, the Interdisciplinary PhD Committee determines that original research should be conducted for additional case studies then, with the support of the Committee, the candidate will approach granting and funding agencies.  One potential case study discussed by the candidate and some members of the Committee would involve application of the thesis model and findings to the intellectual property rights and international marketing implications of Canadian synchrotron technology, its spin offs and offshoots in a global knowledge-based economy.