Budget 2018 offers hope, opportunity for Canadian research

Wellington lab

Pictured: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould (third from left), Minister of Justice and Member of Parliament, visits Dr. Cheryl Wellington's lab on a tour of DMCBH on October 13, 2017. Image credit: Paul Joseph.

Budget 2018 dropped yesterday, and Canadian scientists are enthusiastic … and relieved. The new budget offers nearly $4 billion in funding for Canadian research over the next five years, which includes $354 million each for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), plus $763 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

"This new budget gives hope, shows leadership, supports scientists, and invests in research," said Dr. Brian MacVicar, who has been an advocate for improved funding for basic science. 

While the budget does not address the full value of funding needs outlined by the Naylor report – more than $1 billion per year for the tri-councils (CIHR, NSERC, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) – it is a promising first step and reflects the diligent efforts of researchers across the country to secure better support for basic science.

A 2016 survey of Canadian lead investigators indicate that long-term funding deficits had forced them to consider or begin slowing their research programs, which included freezing hiring and taking on fewer or no students. Researchers were optimistic in 2017, but the budget for that year did not ultimately address many of the critical research areas suffering from a lack of investment.

In 2017, the Minister of Science commissioned the Fundamental Science Review – commonly known as the Naylor Report for its principal author, Dr. David Naylor – which was endorsed by research leaders across the country, and championed by university presidents including UBC’s Professor Santa Ono. Over the months that followed, scientists across the country committed considerable time and effort to meeting with Members of Parliament in MP offices, research labs, and in Ottawa to tell their stories and make a plea for better, more inclusive funding.

Budget 2018 was released by the Government of Canada on February 27, 2018. For more information, visit budget.gc.ca.

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