UBC researchers promote the Fundamental Science Review on Parliament Hill

Canadian flags at Parliament

“Based on data from a survey we produced last year, 80 per cent of Canadian Principal Investigators (PIs) have indicated plans to slow their research programs,” says Dr. Liisa Galea. “They’re worried about how they’re going to support new trainees, and funding is their primary concern.”

Dr. Galea recently travelled to Ottawa in support of the Fundamental Science Review as part of a delegation led by the UBC Office of Government Relations and UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Santa Ono. Dr. Phil Heiter, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Medical Genetics and researcher at the Michael Smith Laboratories, also joined the delegation. The group met with Members of Parliament (MPs), including Canadian Minister of Science Hon. Kirsty Duncan, to emphasize the importance of basic science and to lobby for support from MPs for the implementation of the Fundamental Science Review, also known as the Naylor Report.

Written by nine experts in science and technology, the review of federal support for science was commissioned by the Minister of Science, and included a review of all disciplines, including social sciences and humanities, that involved federal support and peer-review, as well as a review of programs tailored to knowledge-generation rather than industry or commercialization. The review was led by an independent panel of distinguished research leaders and innovators including Dr. David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto and chair of the panel.

President Ono and the University of British Columbia have endorsed the report and its recommendations. The presidents of UBC, McGill University and University of Toronto wrote recently to the Globe and Mail to express their support of the report recommendations. Within the report, there are 35 recommendations and which primarily urge more money be placed into investigator-driven basic research, and advocate for changes to oversight in how federal support for basic research is distributed.

“The current tendency is to give a lot of money to fewer labs, when evidence shows that it is more efficient to distribute funding more broadly, to a diverse range of researchers,” says Dr. Galea. “More people tackling a scientific question from different angles offers a far better return on investment for Canadian taxpayers, and a more sustainable ecosystem for Canadian basic science.”

One significant outcome of the meetings for Dr. Galea was that it is clear that basic, fundamental science is not well-understood, either by Members of Parliament or the public in general.

“It is absolutely critical that basic science researchers tell their stories,” says Dr. Galea. “People don’t know what basic science is, and if they don’t understand it, they will not see its value and it will not get funded.”

Fundamental science, or basic science, is at the root of all scientific discoveries. Fundamental science creates the knowledge and reference point from which translational and applied science discoveries arise; without basic science, the foundational information researchers need to develop clinical trials, new technologies, and improved quality of life for all Canadians simply wouldn’t exist. The value of fundamental science is immeasurable, and it’s important that Canadians and their representatives in Parliament understand the value of that research.

So what can you do?

If you’re a researcher, reach out to your MP, thank them for the support you have received in the past from federal funds, and invite them to your lab 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.

Engage public interest in funding for basic science by personalizing 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. Your faculty, research insitute, and university have communications professionals who can help you craft and disseminate your message. 

Not sure where to start? Check out this step-by-step guide for researchers who want to connect with their MPs.

If you’re a member of the public, communicate your desire to know more about the research that shapes your life. Engage with scientists on Twitter, or join the conversation online at #SupportTheReport. Participate in science events in your community, and lobby your MP and your MLA for more funding for science. For information on participating in research, check out Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute's database of current studies.

Resources

For more information on UBC’s role in supporting the Fundamental Science Review, visit research.ubc.ca. Find out more about how other Canadian universities are backing the report at univcan.ca.