Written by Liisa Galea:
On April 10, 2017, the Fundamental Science Review, written by nine experts in science and technology, was released to the public. The Honourable Kristy Duncan commissioned the review of federal support for science, the first of its kind over the last 40 years. The mandate included a review of all disciplines, basic and applied, which involved federal support and peer-review and a review of programs tailored to knowledge generation rather than industry or commercialization. The significance of this report for the future of science and importance of scientific funding within Canada cannot be overstated– this is the singular most important report to be completed in our scientific careers. This report was written, in part, after consultations with 230 people across the country at five roundtables (the attendees are listed in Appendix 2), and 1275 written responses from researchers, institutions, and the general public. Increases in annual budgets for research monies to the four agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC and CFI) were recommended to stem the hemorrhaging of research productivity in Canada and on the world stage. The recommended increase in budget amounts to less than 1% of the Government of Canada’s annual budget (a total increase of approximately $1.4B over 4 years). This increase is needed in part to offset Canada’s decline over the past 15 years in gross domestic expenditures in research and development (GERD) as detailed in the report (Chapter 3). Canada’s ranking in GERD intensity (GERD as a percentage of GDP) has fallen as key nations, including the G7, GERD intensity has risen or remained stable. The executive summary outlines 35 recommendations. Most of the recommendations involve changes to oversight in the federal support for basic research. Eleven of these recommendations concern the creation of a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) to oversee research funding within Canada and advise on the current funding models for fundamental research and innovation. Another 12 recommendations suggest harmonizing the four agencies (CIHR, SSHRC, NSERC and CFI) with the formation of a formal Four Agency Coordinating Board to oversee common issues such as peer review, scholarships, international partnerships, rapid review mechanisms, needs of different career stages (including early career) and the importance of equity and diversity in funding outcomes. A heavy emphasis in this report is placed on the protection of funding basic research, with more funding directed towards investigator-driven research at the expense of targeted priority-driven and partnership-oriented research.
At a meeting in Toronto on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review (attended by Gina Ogilvie and Liisa Galea from WHRI), several roundtables were set up to discuss the recommendations and the best pathways to support the recommendations. David Naylor, who was chair of the Advisory Panel, fervently stressed that these 35 recommendations be implemented in full and that researchers and scientists speak with a united voice in our support of the report. It is, by nature, our desire to see more funding come to our own research areas but it is essential that the funding levels increase across all disciplines. Recommending a redistribution of funding will not help a chronically underfunded research community within Canada ( nor will it improve GERD intensity). While women’s health is not mentioned specifically in the report, the report frequently refers to the underrepresentation of women, minorities and Indigenous populations as awardees of CERCS, CRCs and in operating grant awards across tri-council. The WHRI recommends that we support the report in its entirety and some suggestions on how to do so are given below.
The full report:
The Executive Summary can be found here:
What can you do:
- Use social media to spread the message to #SupportTheReport
- Attend meetings on Science Review of Funding in your community ( #SciRevYYZ, one on June 21, 2017 at UBC).
- Write your MPs to thank them for funding support and indicate your support of the Fundamental Science Reviews Recommendations using personalized examples.
- Invite MPs to your research laboratories 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. A package with helpful tools to engage our MPs has been created by the Association of Canadian Early Career Health Researchers (ACECHR) and can be downloaded from: http://www.acechr.ca/summerofsciencecan.html
- Engage public interest to #SupportTheReport by personalising 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
- Keep the message POSITIVE and support ALL of the recommendations