There's a crisis in science funding in Canada. The budgets of the main granting councils are being cut by $148 million over the next three years.
Laura Frost is the President of the Canadian Society of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cellular Biology (CSBMCB). She recently wrote to Prime Minister Harper to draw his attention to the seriousness of this decision.
Dear Mr. Harper;CSBMCB has also published a letter from the President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Read this letter ... comments below.
On behalf of the Canadian Society of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cellular Biology (CSBMCB), I would like to congratulate the Government of Canada for a number of measures in the 2009 Budget, including the more than $1.5 billion investment in science and technology. The CSBMCB is pleased to see in the budget $750 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) in support of research infrastructure and $87.5 million for the temporary expansion of the Canada Graduate Scholarship Program as well as continued funding for Genome Canada.
However, the lack of additional new investment in Canada’s granting agencies Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), NSERC and SSHRC is of great concern. Without increased investments in operating funds to support doing research, Canada could lose the competitive edge that previous investments in students, scientists and infrastructure have achieved. Operating monies are the funds that allow our gifted students and other trainees to become competitive at an international level and leaders in the next generation of scientists. Without these crucial increases, fewer labs will be funded and fewer students, scholarships notwithstanding, will be trained in the diverse areas of science that define “interdisciplinary research”. Targeted research is one essential component of the funding process, but as a country, we need a strong background in basic research that feeds into technological development and planning for crises ranging from SARS to mountain pine beetles to environmental concerns in the oil sands.
Over the past several years, many leaders and national and provincial partners dedicated to advancing research in Canada have advocated for increased investments in discovery research through the granting councils to match the growth in infrastructure and research capacity through the CFI and the Canada Research Chairs Program respectively. Failure to align these funding streams at the federal level has created a serious imbalance in the supply and demand in health research and research generally, which will, in turn, increasingly affect our capacity to retain and recruit the best scientists.
The biotechnology sector is also suffering from a lack of investment capital. This industry serves as a primary receptor for much of Canadian research related to health, agriculture, manufacturing, environmental and resource-based emerging technologies. Fifty percent of Canadian companies indicate they will be closing or selling off their operations to international partners by the end of this year. Canada cannot afford to ignore the competitive environment other nationals will be adopting to help grow and stimulate their knowledge-based industries.
The economic impact of Canadian health research is significant. On an annual basis our industry generates $12 billion in economic activity and provides employment and training for over 10,000 people across Canada. The sector also supports more than 20,000 scientists, clinical investigators and other researchers and staff.
Canada has many of the right ingredients to succeed in the knowledge-based economy including a highly skilled workforce and some of the best research facilities in the world. The CSBMCB looks forward to working with the Government of Canada in laying the foundation for a stronger and more sustainable economy of the future in which research and development in the health and life sciences are a top national priority.
Laura Frost, Ph.D.
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF CIHRThis is unacceptable. It sounds like a letter from a political lackey and not from someone who is really concerned about scientific research in Canada. Why can't Alain Beaudet mention that he is fighting on behalf of all Canadian scientists to increase CIHR funding in order to better support basic research? Is it because he isn't fighting?
Following the January 26, 2009 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada tabled its 2009 Budget, Canada’s Economic Action Plan in the House of Commons on January 27. The Budget outlined the Government’s economic stimulus package designed to bolster the Canadian economy and provide support for Canadians as the world’s economies work through the current economic crisis. The Budget 2009 speech and documents can be found on the Finance Canada website at: http://www.fin.gc.ca.
Research plays a key role in improving the health of Canadians. That’s why, over the past three years, the Government has increased the annual base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) by over $142 million. This year CIHR plans to spend approximately $917 million on peer-reviewed health research projects conducted at universities, hospitals and research centres across Canada.
I have summarized below the details of Budget 2009 as it relates to CIHR.
First, CIHR will receive $35M over the next three years for Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) to fund an additional 200 doctoral scholarships, valued at $35, 000 each per year for three years beginning in 2009-10, and an additional 400 master’s scholarships, valued at $17, 500 each for one year, in both 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Second, Budget 2009 also provided the results of the Government’s Strategic Review process. CIHR was one of the 21 Government Departments and Agencies that undertook a Strategic Review of its programs and services. The objective of the process was to assess whether programs:
• are effective and efficient;
• meet the priorities of Canadians; and
• are aligned with federal responsibilities.
The results of the process are as follows:
• CIHR funding of the Open Team Grant program will be discontinued. To respect current commitments, reductions will be phased in over the next three years with $1.5M in 2009-10, $5.5M in 2010-11, and $27.6M in 2011-12 and thereafter; and
• Funding for the Intellectual Property Mobilization (IPM) program will be discontinued. To respect CIHR’s current commitments, the annual reductions of $2M will commence in 2010-11 and end in 2011-12.
In addition, funding under the Indirect Costs Program will be reduced in proportion to reductions in the above direct cost programs. The relative ratio of funding for the direct and indirect costs will therefore remain essentially the same as prior to the Strategic Review.
In summary, taking into account the new investments for the Canada Graduate Scholarships and the strategic reallocations, CIHR’s budget for 2009-10 will increase by $12.5M, bringing our total budget to $978.8M.
Alain Beaudet, MD, PhD
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
We need someone who will stand up and oppose government underfunding, not someone who will make excuses for it. If the current President does not have the confidence of the scientists who are supported by CIHR then perhaps we should find a new CIHR President who does have their confidence.