To improve access to science funding, Support the Report

Guest post by Dr. Liisa Galea, adapted from whri.org. Image credit: UBC Public Affairs via Flickr.

On April 10, 2017, the Fundamental Science Review was released to the public. Written by nine experts in science and technology, the review of federal support for science was commissioned by the Minister of Science, The Honourable Kristy Duncan and included a review of all disciplines, basic and applied, that involved federal support and peer-review, as well as a review of programs tailored to knowledge-generation rather than industry or commercialization. 

The significance of this report for the future of science and importance of scientific funding within Canada cannot be overstated: for the first time in 40 years, a comprehensive review of funding for science in Canada has been issued. This is the singular most important report to be completed in our scientific careers.

The report was written, in part, after consultations with 230 researchers across the country at five roundtables, and 1275 written responses from researchers, institutions, and the general public. Increases in annual budgets for research monies to the four agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC and CFI) were recommended to stem the hemorrhaging of research productivity in Canada and on the world stage.

The recommended increase in budget amounts to less than one per cent of the Government of Canada’s annual budget (a total increase of approximately $1.4 billion over four years). This increase is needed in part to offset Canada’s decline over the past 15 years in gross domestic expenditures in research and development (GERD) as detailed in the report (Chapter 3). Canada’s ranking in GERD intensity (GERD as a percentage of GDP) has fallen as other G7 nations' GERD intensity has risen or remained stable.

The executive summary outlines 35 recommendations. Most of the recommendations involve changes to oversight in the federal support for basic research. 

Eleven of these recommendations concern the creation of a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) to oversee research funding within Canada and advise on the current funding models for fundamental research and innovation.

Another 12 recommendations include harmonizing the four agencies (CIHR, SSHRC, NSERC and CFI) with the formation of a formal Four Agency Coordinating Board to oversee common issues such as peer review, scholarships, international partnerships, rapid review mechanisms, needs of different career stages (including early career) and the importance of equity and diversity in funding outcomes.

The report emphasizes the protection of funding for basic research, with more funding directed towards investigator-driven research at the expense of targeted priority-driven and partnership-oriented research. 

At a meeting in Toronto on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, several roundtables were set up to discuss the recommendations and the best pathways to support the recommendations. David Naylor, chair of the Advisory Panel, fervently stressed that these 35 recommendations be implemented in full and that researchers and scientists speak with a united voice in our support of the report. 

How can I Support the Report? 

  • Use social media to spread the message to #SupportTheReport
  • Attend meetings on Science Review of Funding in your community.
  • Write your MPs to thank them for funding support and indicate your support of the Fundamental Science Reviews Recommendations using personalized examples.
  • Invite MPs to your research laboratories to show them what science and research can do for society and the community as a whole. Stress or highlight the impact of local jobs and job opportunities within your laboratory but also in knowledge creation. A package with helpful tools to engage our MPs has been created by the Association of Canadian Early Career Health Researchers (ACECHR) (download here!)
  • Engage public interest to #SupportTheReport by personalising your research, telling your research story to the public and highlighting the potential of fundamental science so that government and the public can better understand why research is so important
  • Keep the message POSITIVE and support ALL of the recommendations

For more information, attend UBC's Fundamental Science Review Town Hall on June 21, or email liisa.galea@ubc.ca. Future Town Hall dates to be announced.

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