Post Secondary Education
The future of scientific research in Canada
On November 26, 2009, I spoke to the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cowan calling the attention of the Senate to the critical importance of scientific research to the future of Canada and to the well-being of Canadians. I had the privilege of meeting with several medical researchers at the University of Alberta who shared their concerns with me about funding for scientific research.
I noted that, “although this government focused on investments in knowledge infrastructure in the 2009 budget to build new laboratories and renovate research facilities, there is not enough money to fund the staff required to do research in these laboratories.” The lack of funding for scientific research will jeopardize Canada’s future, since many new researchers will want to pursue their studies in other countries where funding is more abundant and more readily available.
“In the words of one of the researchers at the University of Alberta, ‘it appears that the government is robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ He notes that the funds for the scholarships and CFI ( Canadian Foundation for Innovation) programs will be obtained by ‘streamlining’ budgets for NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) and SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) [...] This is unsustainable and will lead to a decline in the quality of research.”
To tackle this problem, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) recommended in its pre-budget consultation submission to the Minister of Finance that “investments in university research be increased through the three federal research granting agencies.” Moreover, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries recommended that the “federal government increase funding for the indirect costs of research from the current 23.3 per cent of direct research funding to 40 per cent.”
However, the current state of scientific research in Canada is not merely a matter of funding. As Dr. Paul Cappon of the Canadian Council on Learning said, we need a “national strategy on post-secondary education” if we want to excel on the world stage as a leader in scientific research.