This post is more to point out the good work of Rob Annan at Don’t Leave Canada Behind than to make a point about names in science policy. Rob has an excellent post outlining the history of the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), which is now – and has been – a very different organization than it’s American namesake. While the two Councils may have closely resembled each other in the early decades of the 20th century – conducting research to advise the nation – they have diverged notably since then. The Canadian NRC was expanded to include performance of basic research (starting to resemble the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) and spun off into a half-dozen separate organizations. Perhaps the only thing it does still resembling its American counterpart is working as a fee-for-service research organization, though the kinds of research conducted on both sides of the border are very different.
My little, small, add-on to Rob’s points is to emphasize that a similarity in name does not mean a similarity in function, mission, or history. While it is sometimes true (though the British Association for the Advancement of Science and its American cousin have both changed their names), it’s a bad assumption to fall into.