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A call to the CIHR community

March 8, 2011

With the federal budget expected to be tabled in two weeks, concerns about research funding are mounting. Despite the government’s repeated claim that it has offered unprecedented support for R&D in this country, calls for deficit-cutting raise the spectre of the slashed research budgets of the Chretien/Martin era.

While the government has invested significantly in research infrastructure, recall that the 2009 “stimulus” budget included budget cuts for the research funding tricouncil spread over the following three years. The budget described cuts of $17.7-million in 2009-2010, $43-million in 2010-2011, and $87.2-million in 2011-2012. Budget 2010 restored $32-million in annual funding to the granting councils, which means that they are still targeted for a $55.2-million budget cut next year. And that’s before what is widely anticipated as an austere, deficit-cutting budget.

So what to do? Well, Reinhart Reithmeier has launched the 1,000 Letters Project. Dr. Reithmeier is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and UofT, and is his university’s CIHR delegate. The project was conceived during a university-wide open forum and is designed to give voice to the CIHR community in consideration of CIHR’s ten-year international review. In his words:

The goal of this project is to send 1,000 letters to the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and your local M.P. concerning the need for further investments in CIHR to provide internationally competitive levels of funding to our researchers and to allow CIHR to fulfill its mandate to improve the health and prosperity of Canadians…

The letter should be positive and include the following elements:

  • Re:  CIHR
  • thank the government for its many investments in health research
  • tell a personal story on the positive impact of CIHR and how the research we conduct improves the health and prosperity of Canadians
  • raise a concern about the research enterprise, operating grants, international competitiveness, etc
  • suggest further government investments in CIHR (e.g., The 7% Solution:  a government commitment to an additional investment of 7% per year in CIHR would double its budget to $2 billion in 10 years.)

I’ve often lamented the lack of political participation by our researchers, and have stressed the need to participate in the political process lest we get left behind. Initiatives like Dr. Reithmeier’s remind MPs of the importance of health research and ensure that our opinions are considered. Dr. Reithmeier has also published an op-ed in the Toronto Star calling for Canadians to “Own the Podium” in health research.

I hope you’ll support the initiative and encourage you to circulate Dr. Reithmeier’s call to action among your colleagues.

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