The future of Canada’s research: A roadmap to strengthening our country

(Ottawa, ON) – On April 10, 2017, the report developed by the panel to oversee the review of fundamental science in Canada was released: “Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research” presented a welcomed plan to strengthen Canada’s research ecosystem. The plan addressed the need for increased funding to the base budgets of the granting councils (CIHR, SSHRC, and NSERC); the need for scholarships and fellowships; the need for stabilized funding for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for infrastructure support; increased funding for indirect costs of research through the Research Support Fund; balance across all research disciplines as a foundational principle for funding; and increasing support to diversity in research, emphasizing the importance of research across disciplines, addressing gender equity, and providing support for early career scientists, visible minorities, researchers with disabilities, and Indigenous researchers.

“This very thorough report offers a comprehensive plan to both change and improve Canada’s research ecosystem and in so doing, restore the position of Canadians as research leaders on the international stage,” said Dr. Lisa Votta-Bleeker, Chair, Canadian Consortium for Research.

The report was prepared by an independent, expert advisory panel chaired by Dr. David Naylor, former President of the University of Toronto, and was commissioned by the Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan. In 2016, the Canadian Consortium for Research (CCR) made a submission to the panel that highlighted key issues affecting Canadian research and researchers.

Consistent with the CCR’s recommendation to the panel and the review’s focus on fundamental science, the first priority of the report is to increase funding for independent, investigator-led research. To this end, the report recommends cumulative increases to the base funding of the federal research granting councils to reach annual spending of $4.8 billion by 2022, phased in over four years—up from the current $3.5 billion annually which represents an increase of roughly 8% annually over the next four years.

The report also outlines a comprehensive agenda to strengthen the foundations of Canadian research. Among its recommendations is legislation to create an independent National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) that will work closely with Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor (CSA). Together, they will provide ongoing evaluations of all programming and the appointment of a new Four Agency Coordinating Board that would work closely with the Chief Science Advisor and the Ministers of Science and Health to improve coordination and harmonization, promote collaboration, and share best practices among CIHR, SSHRC, NSERC and CFI. In line with this recommendation and again consistent with the CCR’s recommendations, the report also called for balance across all research disciplines as a foundational principle for funding and recognized the significant contributions that the social sciences and humanities make to Canada’s ability to thrive in the 21st century; SSHRC currently receives just 15 percent of federal investments in the granting councils.

We are pleased to see other important recommendations and priorities of the report such as new forms of support for multidisciplinary and international funding; support for students through scholarships and fellowships; stable annual funding for CFI; and consolidated long-term funding for a merged entity to oversee national digital research infrastructure. These are reflective of the CCR’s submission that called for increased funding for graduate students, as well as support for Canada’s research infrastructure.

“The Canadian Consortium for Research extends its sincere thanks to Minister Duncan for convening the review and to the panel for completing this very important work,” added Dr. Votta-Bleeker. “The panel was extremely insightful in its recommendations. We look forward to engaging our members in the coming months regarding the report’s recommendations as they pertain to the CCR’s advocacy efforts, and to working with government to bring the report’s recommendations to fruition.”

See the PDF here; ScienceReviewPanel_recommendations_CCRresponse_Final