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This is a space to add general comments on any issue relating to research and innovation.

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50 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2009 02:32

    Please add my signature to the list, and thanks for taking the initiative on our behalf. Peter

  2. Rasit Eskicioglu permalink
    April 3, 2009 14:11

    Ditto… Please add my name to the list as well.

  3. concernedresearchers permalink
    April 3, 2009 14:38

    Chers Concerned Researchers,

    J’endorse pleinement le message que porte la lettre ci-jointe.
    Je regrette seulement qu’elle ne soit pas plus explicite sur la
    nécessité d’appuyer les initiatives *libres* donc innovatrices
    des chercheuses(eurs) plutôt que les priorités à cour terme du
    gouvernement conservateur.

    René Racine, Ordre Canada, Ordre national du Québec,
    Astrophysique (Université de Montréal)

  4. concernedresearchers permalink
    April 3, 2009 14:40

    Hello,

    I’m coming up for undergrad graduation in behavioural neuroscience at Concordia University. I’m looking forward to pursuing a career in the field and would like to earn my living doing so. Thus, this letter is of great concern to me and would like to sign it. I would like to thank you for raising awareness and taking the initiative to something about the poor funding for science and research in Canada.

    Thank you,
    Katie

  5. James Wadsley permalink
    April 3, 2009 17:04

    The imbalance between infrastructure funding and operating/research funding has already
    been noted.

    I also question the value of the new graduate scholarships. The top scholarships
    are now tax-free and comparable to the after-tax income of faculty. These students are
    very unlikely to get post-doctoral incomes at this level in Canada and it seems like a
    recipe to train people to leave to work outside Canada. It also flips on its head the
    standard financial incentive structure of a career which someone with economics training
    would be better equipped to comment on.

    I also think there is an imbalance here which gives too much freedom of choice to the
    student so that good students have a reduced incentive to work with the best
    researchers (as reflected in their grants). What financial incentives (e.g. travel, top-ups)
    can researchers offer rich students, especially with individual grant cuts?
    Furthermore, how can we afford lab costs for the students? How can we hire these students as postdocs to complete their training?

  6. Jane Evans permalink
    April 3, 2009 18:30

    Thanks for organizing this initiative. It is very worthwhile. Please add my name to the list. While I am close to retirement, I have major concerns for the students and more junior faculty who are trying get established in these difficult times. If we do not encourage research as a career at this time, we will lose out on many fronts beyond the economic benefits of innovation and new knowledge. Just who will be left behind to teach the next generation as the already aging professoriate retires? Research in my own field (genetics) has been relatively well resourced, but the falling off of support for CIHR and Genome Canada are concerning. Even more troubling in some ways, is the apparent devaluing of research in the social sciences and humanities.
    Dr. Jane A Evans, Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba

  7. David B. O'Gorman permalink
    April 3, 2009 20:59

    Please add my name to this list.

  8. Ellen Larsen permalink
    April 3, 2009 17:43

    A former government insider, Preston Manning, has been rather forthright in saying that “science” would do itself a favour in forming networks of impartial advice givin to elected government officials on a general basis. Then, when science issues come to be debated in Parliament, these scientists could be asked and trusted to give pros and cons. Just coming to Parliament with hat in hand at funding time makes science just another lobby group. Perhaps the Royal Society could spearhead this sort of engagement.

  9. April 4, 2009 05:28

    I signed this letter long ago, but with the reservations: the lack of inner democracy in Canadian academy is astonishing and before asking government to listen us we should learn to listen ourselves. The rank-and-file Fellows of Royal Society are trusted only to rubber-stamp the short list of candidates approved by unelected and rather secret committee rather than to consider all qualified candidates. After this change happened few years ago I reduced my participation to paying duties,

    Victor Ivrii, Professor, FRSC (Mathematics)

  10. concernedresearchers permalink
    April 4, 2009 06:59

    Please find attached a transcript of a speech given by Lib. MP Marc Garneau to the house about a month ago. It is, in my opinion, a very good piece of work and would likely be of interest to the readership of the ‘don’t leave Canada behind’ blog.

    Congratulations to all on getting this movement going – it seems to be well organized and may well succeed in changing things!!

    Derek, York

  11. Fanrui Meng permalink
    April 4, 2009 09:38

    University is not only education facility, but also plays major role in research and innovation. I do share the same concern and appreciate your efforts and leadership. World after economic crises will be a totally different world and we will be left behind if the government does not take action quickly.

  12. Terry Amburgey permalink
    April 5, 2009 00:45

    My first inclination for the sending of thoughts is to point out that, apparently the social sciences don’t exist for you. SSHRC doesn’t get mentioned at all. Even the humanists get 1 word at the end…I guess the SS portion of SSHRC is of no consequence. When you decide to include the social sciences in your efforts get back to me. Terry Amburgey, University of Toronto

  13. Ian Dohoo permalink
    April 5, 2009 06:56

    I felt that there were two major areas in which Canada was being left behind the US .. so I included both of them in the following letter to my local Member of Parliament (Shawn Murphy). I was not trying to dilute the focus on the need for research support … but didn’t want renewable energy forgotten. …. Ian Dohoo

    Dear Shawn: (copy to Prime Minister and Mr. Ignatieff)

    I would like to add my voice of support to the letter below which outlines the concerns of researchers across the country about the cuts in funding for research in Canada.

    It seems to me that the two critical areas that we should be investing “stimulus spending” in (if we want to reap long term benefits) are research and renewable energy. The United States is moving much more aggressively than Canada in both of these regards and will benefit from this investment when the recession ends. I know that the granting councils have many, worthwhile, “shovel ready” research proposals from creative and intelligent researchers across the country. Increasing funding in these areas will inevitably create many opportunities for the youth of our country to pursue graduate training and enhance their ability to contribute to the knowledge economy of the future.

    On the renewable energy issue, it is unfortunate that Canada’s international reputation in terms of environmental policy (particularly as it relates to greenhouse gases) has suffered badly under the current administration. Canada has so much to lose from global warming that I would like to see us return to a position of international leadership on this issue. Investment of stimulus funding in renewable energy projects would be a great start.

    I would encourage you to push as hard as possible for support for these two critical sectors so that we may derive some long term benefit from the stimulus spending that will help offset the long term consequences of higher debt loads.

    Best wishes
    Ian Dohoo
    Ian R. Dohoo DVM PhD FCAHS, Professor – Epidemiology,
    Director – Centre for Veterinary Epidemiological Research

  14. April 5, 2009 09:56

    I’ve just heard about your initiative and I want to share my concerns regarding the direction this government is taking with respect to its support of research in Canada. I really don’t think they appreciate the importance of the scientific enterprise and do not see the value of informed scientific opinion, which is dismissed if it runs counter to their ideology. This is evident in the case of their policies associated with the criminal justice system, their policies regarding stem cell research, and most catastrophic, their policies regarding the environment.

    So, please add my name as a concerned scientist.

  15. April 6, 2009 07:54

    I’m glad to hear that the NDP and the Bloc have been included in the discussion. It would be prudent to also include the other federal party that stands to win seats in the next election: the Green Party of Canada. All parties can compete with one another by proposing strategies for thriving research and higher education in Canada.

    Since provincial governments are primarily responsible for university funding, the leaders of all provincial parties (including the provincial Green parties) should also be included.

  16. April 7, 2009 08:20

    Congratulations for your success -first time I heard, you were at 100 signatures, now 2000 wow! It’s quite an achievement!

    I don’t know if you heard of our own French-speaking initiative, “Je vote pour la science”, that was launched in June, 2008. We were inspired largely by the American initiative Science Debate. It is, like SD, a call to a public debate on science between politicians… (elections or not!)
    <a href=”http://jevotepourlascience.blogspot.com”Je vote pour la science

    You can find an English-speaking page here

    and of course, if you judge it important, we would be happy for whatever gesture you can think to promote it in English, since we are a small not-for-profit media who have a lot of other things on fire in the same time. Why note a pan-Canadian Science Debate?

    About this crazy idea of a debate on science between politicians: we obtained one! During the Quebec elections, last December, a group of teachers and biology students, in Rimouski (30 000 people) organized a debate on science between their three local candidates. We are very proud of them!

  17. April 14, 2009 01:17

    This is quite a hot information. I’ll share it on Twitter.

  18. April 14, 2009 13:25

    Good site, admin.

  19. Diane Sullivan permalink
    April 16, 2009 05:46

    Given Harper’s conservative religious background, I am not surprised that the old war between science and religion is resurfacing, masked by cuts that seem to serve the economy. Typical of Harper, he does not respond to a letter or a question. Whatever happened to government for the people, by the people? Harper should be made accountable.

  20. Peter MacKenzie permalink
    April 16, 2009 11:10

    Please add my name to the list. Peter MacKenzie, Director, Lung Cancer Canada

  21. Kelly Purkis permalink
    April 17, 2009 08:55

    Please add my name to the list as a concerned citizen!!

  22. Melissa Vollrath permalink
    April 17, 2009 09:48

    I am writing to join the Don’t Leave Canada Behind Campaign and would like to add my signature to your letter.

    I am a new assistant professor at McGill University and came here from the US.
    I believe that as scientists we need to do a better job of lobbying the government and educating the public.
    I get the impression that supporting science with tax dollars is viewed as social welfare to employ scientists rather than the engine of the economy that it is.

    Thank you for beginning this important initiative – I hope it will outlast the current crisis.

    Dr. Melissa Vollrath – McGill University, Dept. of Neurology and Neurosurgery

    • Diane Sullivan permalink
      April 17, 2009 12:26

      I think you’re right to a certain extent. People need to be informed with plain language how scientific research and breakthroughs benefit the public. The media, in particular, television and websites with illustrations of direct applications, such as David Suzuki does so well, will help to show that science is part of everyday life. Make science as cool as sports in school, and get more girls involved. TVO did a great series on the brain, for example.
      Diane

  23. April 17, 2009 11:48

    I am very concerned about the presently emerging trend (cuts) in research funding. Infrastructure funding, while needed, does not substitute for solid operating grant support for research labs. Microscopes don’t make discoveries, people do.

    Everything we use today is, in some fashion, a product of research, including toothbrushes and aspirin pills of our decision makers. Therefore, it should not be difficult to understand that we cannot suddenly pool back, or scale down something that represents a real societal and civilizational long term need. We don’t ration or re-budget water supply. Well, we need science and research just as badly, but on the time scale that far exceeds the election cycle, and therefore becomes possible to overlook.

    Yes, it is difficult to make decisions and balance priorities, but the continuity in research, science and thought means everything. This is a delicate system that cannot be jerked around depending on passing fashions. One cannot build a high profile university over a span of a few months, the way one builds a department store. And yes, research infrastructure and operation is, by comparison, very unexpensive. Professors who train strenuously for decades to become qualified for their positions never receive bailout packages, or multidigit bonuses. In fact for some of the annual bonuses paid to bank executives one could run a research lab for 10 years. In general, it is rarely, if ever acknowledged that highly qualified people employed in research work very hard, long hours and for very little money. Candian research output, per dollar spent, ranks, depending on the field, near or at the top of the world’s performance scale.

    Research is at the heart of the university education process as such, this is what professors and their teams do. Indeed, research is not just about mixing liquids or crunching numbers, but it is a way of thinking about the unknown. Every dollar spent on a graduate student, reverberates for many years in a form of educational gains, crativity, better citizenship and career decisons that fuel our technology, and high end service sectors of the economy, and often lead back to science. This will not be the case if, through underfunding, research becomes an insecure, unstable, stressful and ultimately futile career, where sheer luck and whims of funding mechanisms outweigh talent, creativity and hard work. We have been telling people for years that our economy will become more competitive by moving from manufacturing and heavy industry to service and knowledge based sectors. Who is going to work in these sectors if the training machine that produces people with the required skills – called research – is crippled or destabilized?

    Let’s protect these assets, while we still have them

    Janusz Rak

    Associate Professor of Pediatrics
    McGill University

  24. April 18, 2009 03:35

    Concerning the budget enhancements for the Health and University sectors. Though so-called infrastructure has received a boost, the funding of research for which this infrastructure is predominantly intended has been cut. Given that high technology requires ever changing and improving infrastructure if it has a hope to compete internationally and to profit Canadians, it is illogical to improve infrastructure without at the same time providing the resources necessary to use this infrastructure. Typically any part of research infrastructure has a useful life of no more than 5 years before it is surpassed by new technological requirements. This is the reality of true innovative research. Thus, creating new research infrastructure cannot be seen as an investment in the future in itself. If the infrastructure is not used immediately within a few years it will be passé and hence constitute a waste of taxpayers money with no payback. This can be seen from the inability of the CFI to stimulate research in Canada in the absence of enhanced research funding.

    Purchasing new research infrastructure without at the same time providing funds for the research to use that infrastructure is analogous to buying a car years before it is needed. By the time a driver is found the car will no longer be technically up-to-date and probably rusted through! Why is government blind to the most obvious solution; balancing enhanced infrastructure spending with enhanced research funding through the the funding of novel research on a competitive basis via the federal agencies of the CIHR, NSERC, etc? It would be a truly novel change that would profit the whole country and put us at the leading rather than the trailing edge of high technology.

    Yours Sincerely,

  25. Bob van Leeuwen permalink
    April 18, 2009 08:34

    I would be doing 10 times the research right now, and using university researchers to do it, if taxes on profits could be claimed forward more than 3 years (preferably at least 20, like losses) against eligible SR&ED projects.
    This would be a way for the private sector to contribute more to the R&D funding of basic research, should that be the reason R&D funding directly to universities is being curtailed.

  26. April 18, 2009 16:10

    I’d like to sign the petition and post a link, could you please tell me how to sign the open letter? Thanks.

  27. April 18, 2009 22:26

    Hi,

    First, please add my signature to the list, and thanks for taking the initiative on our behalf:

    Dr. Dominic Groulx, Mechanical Engineering (Dalhousie University)

    After reading a lot of the comments on the website, I haven’t seen any comments geared towards new faculty member (first or second or third time applicants to the funding agencies … but still not funded) and how this might affect the future tenure of a lot of these newer faculty members hired in the last 2 years.

    As it is right now, all these new researchers, not being in the system of funding agencies, are left out even more than before (knowing that even more experience researchers, already funded in the past by the funding agencies, are seeing their funds reduce or completely cut). Not receiving funding for a large part of their first five years leading to possible tenure limits the quality and the amount of research these new researchers can do … limiting the amount of good research publications coming out of their research … making them fall behind the still, but barely, funded older and established researchers even more.

    So, what are the stats coming out of the funding agencies telling us? How do younger, newer applicants fare in general in the system?

    There use to be a separate pot of money reserved for the newer applicants so they could get some funding to let them prove, before tenure, what they could do research wise, help them start their career in the right way before there were asked to compete against more established researchers the second time around. Unfortunately, that pot of money was abolished a few years ago, making the scientific life of newer researchers that much more difficult, scrambling for pennies to maybe be able to pay for one graduate student.

    It would be nice to know how all of these changes to the funding agencies negatively affect all the newer faculty members, the future research leaders of tomorrow.

    Keep up the good work.

  28. April 19, 2009 06:49

    Lettre ouverte de retrait du processus d’évaluation

    Cher Monsieur Lapointe,

    Étant donné que je suis en désaccord avec les nouvelles politiques
    du CRSNG en ce qui concerne les (pseudo) “améliorations” apportées au programme de
    subventions à la découverte (SD), ainsi que d’autres changements de politiques récents,
    je dois malheureusement me retirer du processus
    d’évaluation du programme d’ARM.

    Par le passé j’ai collaboré avec le CRSNG de toutes sortes de façons (comme
    représentant CRSNG pour mon université, comme membre et président du comité
    d’évaluation GSC-337, etc). J’ai toujours trouvé le personnel du CRSNG du plus grand
    professionalisme, et j’ai pu apprécié l’importance de leur implication.

    Je comprend que le CRSNG doive fonctionner dans un contexte financier plus restreint,
    mais cela n’est pas une excuse pour “jeter le bébé avec l’eau du bain”. Autant les examens
    indépendants, que la vaste consultation que vous à laquelle vous avez procédé, ont confirmé
    que le programme de SD était unique et excellent. En fait, il fait l’envie de plusieurs communauté
    scientifiques de l’extérieur du Canada. Le nouveau président de “l’American Mathematical Society”
    (George Andrews, voir http://www.ams.org/notices/200903/rtx090300383p.pdf) le cite d’ailleurs
    en exemple, en l’opposant à l’approche élitiste de la NSF.

    Depuis de très nombreuses années les comités GSC 14, GSC 336, et GSC 337 ont eu un taux de succés
    élevé, et cela correspondait à un choix délibéré des membres de ces comité,
    qui était en cela appuyés par la communauté des sciences mathématiques. Nous
    avons souvent expliqué au CRSNG les raisons derrière ce choix, et l’histoire a démontrée que ce choix
    est gagnant. En effet, pendant cette période, le niveau de recherche mathématique de pointe au Canada s’est considérablement
    développé autant en qualité qu’en quantité. La recherche n’est pas le résultat de l’activité d’une
    petite élite restreinte, mais le fait d’une communauté riche et variée. Vos nouvelles politiques plus
    élitistes vont à l’encontre de cette vision des choses, et je me dois de protester vigoureusement.
    Il en va de l’avenir de la recherche mathématique au Canada, puisque c’est la relève qui sera
    principalement touchée.

    J’espère que ce message sera au moins un peu entendu. Désolé
    de vous laisser tomber aussi soudainement,

    François Bergeron,
    Département de Mathématiques,
    Université du Québec à Montréal.

  29. Monique Cadrin permalink
    April 20, 2009 03:49

    Do not eliminate smaller grants
    Le Canada doit comprendre que la recherche fondamentale est essentielle pour son développement et sa reconnaissance comme pays pouvant jouer un rôle dans le monde. Le différentes formes de financement de la recherche doivent être maintenues et améliorées. Il est aussi important que les intervenants dans les demandes faites au Gouvernement regardent attentivement ce que les chercheurs à petits budgets réussissent à faire. Certains vont dire que c’est du saupoudrage d’argent mais les retombées sont souvent très importantes.

    Je souhaite que nous puissions convaincre nos dirigeants, qui ont été élu pour répondre aux besoins de la population que la recherche devrait être mise dans la section prioritaire des budgets.

    Monique Cadrin Ph.D.
    Groupe de recherche en endocrinologie et oncologie moléculaire,
    Département de Chimie-Biologie
    Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

  30. Gord Schindler permalink
    April 20, 2009 04:07

    I would like to add my name to the list of those concerned with cuts to science. Given the dreadful stance that Bush took in the last US administration while Canada surged ahead, are we willing to go down that path with the situation reversed? Canada can ill afford to allow other countries to eclipse us in such important areas as DNA research etc.

    Gord Schindler
    Computer consultant (Ret.)
    Toronto, Ont

  31. Isabelle Brunette permalink
    April 20, 2009 04:20

    À qui de droit,
    En tant que checheure et médecin ophtalmologiste, je crois fermement que la recherche scientifique au Canada est sous-financée et j’appuie pleinement les initiatives listées à la page suivante.
    https://dontleavecanadabehind.wordpress.com/open-letter-to-the-prime-minister-and-leader-of-the-opposition/
    En vous remerciant de l’attention que vous porterez à cet appel collectif,
    Isabelle Brunette

    __________________________________
    Isabelle Brunette, MD, FRCSC
    Professeur agrégé, Département d’ophtalmologie, Université de Montréal
    Chaire de recherche Charles-Albert Poissant en Transplantation cornéenne, Université de Montréal
    Directrice adjointe du Réseau FRSQ en Santé de la Vision
    Vice Présidente Conseil consultatif de l’Institut des neurosciences, de la santé mentale et des toxicomanies
    /Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada (IRSC)
    Directrice du Programme de recherche BioFemtoVision Canada

    Unité de Recherche en Ophtalmologie
    Département d’ophtalmologie
    Centre ambulatoire – Rez de chaussée
    Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont
    5415, boulevard de l’Assomption
    Montréal, Qc H1T 2M4 Canada

  32. SpongeBob permalink
    April 20, 2009 12:31

    A very simple calculation shows that around 240 researchers went from funded to unfunded by NSERC in the results announced proudly by Minister Goodyear.

    7.5% decrease in success rate * 3210 candidates = 240 new unfunded, or

    ($4,000 average increase taken from unfunded researchers * 2039 grants) / $34,000 average grant = 240 new unfunded researchers.

    In addition, with the new rules, anyone can see his or her grant increase or drop significantly. What about the grad students that are in the lab, you just fire them?
    This new pledge for excellence and competition is criminal. Has NSERC become plain stupid, or can we see the hand of the neocons now in power? The Discovery Grants were providing some kind of minimal continuity in the functioning of labs. It has to come back to what it was

  33. Dr. Azad Kaushik permalink
    April 22, 2009 13:26

    Some years back I read that if there were to be no NSERC and research monies were distributed equally among professors in Canada, it will provide a grant of $45K/Professor. Having belief in merit, there is need for peer review and need for an organization like NSERC. Nevertheless, it is either policies or the process or something else that has resulted in a skewed funding and grant awards. There are some, who because of grantsmanship or networking, have so much research monies and there are others with internationally competitive research programs who have little or no monies to sustain and advance research. There is little scope for creativity in a scenario where angels fear to tread into the unknown. There is need to re-examine Canadian research system where every professor with an active and competitive research program has some minimum monies guaranteed for research.

  34. Stephen Arif permalink
    April 22, 2009 19:50

    Please add my signature to the list.
    I cannot believe the stupidity of this government in not expanding the investment into the scientific infrastructure of our country. It is our future even more so than bricks mortar and asphalt>

  35. mary s szabo permalink
    April 23, 2009 05:21

    As a practicing Emergency Physician and a faculty member for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine , I have great concern and disappointment with our federal government’s decision to cut research funding. The importance for scientific research is paramount and it has great impact not only on clinical research but also on the health of all Canadians. Without support for such research new and better treatments will not be develop and this will have a great impact on health care cost as well as the health on all Canadian citizens. Please include my signature in” the support for research open letter” to our Federal government. I will forward this disturbing news to all my colleagues.It is important for our clinican collaegues to stand behind our scientific colleages on such important issues, as without them clinical research will have to take 10 steps backward.
    Thanks for the opportunity to reply to such an important issues.
    Mary S Szabo MD CCFP(EM) FCFp
    Emergency Medicine
    Thunder Bay
    Ontario

  36. Diane Sullivan permalink
    April 25, 2009 11:36

    I have written to my Liberal M.P. about this issue several weeks ago, and have not received any reply. Has anyone else had this experience? What is the Liberal policy on this issue?

    • PDE permalink
      April 25, 2009 11:40

      Can you be more specific on the issue you are talking about, Diane?

      • Diane Sullivan permalink
        April 25, 2009 12:14

        Sure. The whole issue of the Harper govt. reducing funding for scientific research. I asked why and if my M.P. was speaking up about this in the House of Commons. I added the fact that scientific research is crucial in this economy to create new jobs and to keeping Canada’s status worldwide as a nation that fosters scientific research and technology, such as the Canadarm. I received no reply from the M.P. on any of this.

  37. France Dufresne permalink
    April 27, 2009 08:18

    I am among the 240 researchers that went from funded to unfunded. I have been holding NSERC funds for the past 8 years and with the small funds I have been able to maintain a small active lab in molecular ecology. After the initial difficult years of starting a new lab, attracting good students, and getting publications out of their work, I felt that things were rolling and I was confident in this year competition. It was a terrible shock to hear about my NSERC’s results especially since comments from the reviewers were positive about my proposal and my publication record. This leaves my four graduate students with no income and no money to carry on their research. I don’t understand why I was not given funds for one year so that I could provide my students with minimal funds to finish off. NSERC is wasting previous investment in HQP.
    I am afraid that these new criteria are going to affect mostly researchers from small universities. I teach four courses a year and I hardly see how I can put more efforts into my research. Perhaps the whole idea is to discourage people like me from applying again and therefore decrease the number of applicants in the system.

    If other people are concerned over this matter or in the same situation, please contact me at france_dufresne@uqar.qc.ca

    • April 28, 2009 11:33

      France, it required courage for you to post this, and you are to be admired. You have inspired me to post my own story, please see my web page. Unless we all start speaking out the system can’t get fixed.

  38. April 27, 2009 19:37

    I agree with your open letter to politicians.

    We need a strong investment in basic science to provide a long term foundation for applied research and engineering. And we also need a strong investment in engineering and technology to turn past scientific breakthroughs into industrial earnings. Starving either will shrink our economy, sooner or later.

    I have experience both as a university researcher and as a high tech product inventor and developer. I’ve seen both sides, and they are complementary.

    I am now helping small and medium business in Eastern Ontario to invest in risky research and development via the SR&ED tax credit program. That program is excellent, but it has some unfortunate restrictions that can distort industrial research, especially in software engineering. SR&ED needs not so much a new pot of money as more appropriate rules for spending it. In particular, research into effective user interfaces and human factors in general should qualify for SR&ED credits. It can make the difference between a product that sells worldwide and a product that fails, and it is as difficult and risky as other forms of research.

  39. Evan permalink
    May 2, 2009 07:00

    Hello,

    I’m a Dalhousie Commerce student, and a volunteer fire
    fighter. I think that many advances are the result of general scientific
    exploration, not only the pinpointed and focused avenues. Funding will always
    be in short supply, people need to eat, have potholes fixed, and go to the
    doctor, however, if you don’t speak up about the short supply people don’t tend
    to leave a wrapped gift of 15 billion dollars at researcher’s doors.

    Good Luck,

  40. HollyFlinstones-Batman permalink
    May 11, 2009 21:00

    “Mark Mullins, the executive director of the conservative-leaning Fraser Institute — and a former adviser to the Canadian Alliance Party — was recently appointed to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090511.wscience11/BNStory/politics/home

  41. SpongeBob permalink
    May 27, 2009 09:02

    I have the strong impression that in the debate about research funding a lot of people are taking shortcuts – with some even trying to throw uppercuts, especially in the National Post. Sometimes it looks as if those talking about “knowledge-based economy” imply or hope that most of the efforts devoted to generating knowledge should or will lead to new products and services. Hence the will to identify as soon as possible the “valuable” or “transferable” knowledge so that more efforts can be put into its development, at the expense of “less valuable” knowledge.

    This quest for fast and high return on investment has led us to the economic crisis we are in. It is amazing that those who applied the recipe in the financial world are the same who want to apply it to the R&D world, about which they know even less than the one they have messed up.

    Many things have already been said about research funding:
    -We cannot predict where the next important technologies or scientific advances will take place.
    -The role of Academia is first to instruct and train the highly qualified people that are needed.
    -We cannot draw lines and exclude disciplines. Humanities are necessary, in order that new knowledge and technologies should not clash with society.
    -Some research has no direct payoff, but must be undertaken to avoid future financial and human costs; everything having to do with safety and regulation issues, environment, everything we call the “common good”.

    This means that any government serious about the new economy has to invest broadly, to maintain a basic level of activity and thereby minimize the reaction time in any new, promising direction. This is what keeps society in pace with change.

    Some areas demand immediate action and need more investment, including:
    -Climate change and low carbon footprint technologies; any delay does not add to, but multiplies the consequences.
    -Age-related diseases, increasingly important as the population gets older.
    What about development and technology transfer then?
    It is not the role of universities, nor of the government. Not directly. Their crucial contribution lies in training highly-qualified people and creating an environment that will foster development in the private sector.

    The STIC report is quite clear in identifying, once again, the heart of the problem: Canadian universities do well, but the private sector does not follow. There are many reasons for that, the principal being that Canadian manufacturing is ill balanced. We have branch-plants, and SMEs, but very little in between. The first have their R&D performed elsewhere, the latter do little R&D. We will not be able to transform transnational companies unless we can offer HUGE advantages, but we may impact the other ones.

    First, let’s not forget that developing a product for the market is expensive. The good old 1-10-100 rule-of-thumb tells that for every dollar spent on research leading to a new product, 10 will have to be invested for the development, and a 100 more to bring the product to the market. It’s a fact of life.

    With a given amount of money, the government would have to drop most of its funding to concentrate on a few potential products and increase the budgets ten-fold, just for development, without any guarantee that it will be successful, but the absolute certainty that it will not make a penny out of it. Remember, the government is not there to go on the market and compete with the private sector, and this is especially true for the present government.

    To change things, we will have to find ways to entice companies toward R&D efforts using the knowledge and highly qualified personnel coming from universities, by regulation, incentives, or someway yet to be devised. Past strategies have not been successful, such that we will have to think outside of the box, be creative, be aware.

    Let’s repeat this: universities do well, the STIC said it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Help them do better. If some money has to be saved, let’s look at the discrepancy between the huge amounts going to big equipments and infrastructure through the CFI and the lack of operating money given by the granting councils. This leads to massive amounts of money wasted on underutilized facilities and equipments.

    In French, “knowledge-based economy” translates to “économie du savoir”. But “faire l’économie du savoir” also means to skimp on knowledge. Let’s not start doing that.

  42. concernedresearchers permalink
    June 2, 2009 06:49

    From James Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers:

    Dear Dr. Annan,

    I appreciated your comment on our op-eds that have appeared in the Globe and Mail and the National Post regarding research funding and policy in Canada. We cannot begin to count the number of calls we have received from researchers at universities across the country who voiced the concerns that I articulated in the op-eds. Indeed, it was because of the number of calls I received from researchers troubled by what Morgan and Bliss had written that I decided to submit responses.

    I am concerned that you describe this as attempting “to score cheap political points.” We are speaking because the issues are so very serious. Quiet diplomacy has not worked, and it seems clear that the government will only respond if they sense public concern about the matter. Our recent Harris/Decima poll suggests that the public, having become aware of the issues, strongly support researchers and the scientific community. We need to build on that by responding to misleading claims that all is fine.

    Our most relevant comparator is the United States as the research communities in our two countries are closely linked. Proportionately, Canada must maintain comparable levels of support for academic research to be able to attract and retain our young scientists who have opportunities both here and in the U.S. The same goes for well-established researchers. Significant disparities can have very negative consequences.

    Further, although you are right that all governments identify research priorities, our government has been doing that with relatively little consultation with the scientific community. A new worry is the recent pattern of the federal government to diminish the number of active researchers and scientists on key bodies [such as the Councils of NSERC and SSHRC, and the Science,Technology and Innovation Council]. While the government’s supporters may not like us pointing this out, it is vital that Canadians be aware of what is happening if we are to have any chance of reversing course.

    This is a critical moment in the history of our country. We have a chance to build on the wonderful achievements of our researchers and scientists. Your web site and the work of your colleagues in publicizing some of the concerns has been vital. Until there is some sign that the government is prepared to listen to these concerns, we need to keep up the dialogue.

    Yours sincerely,

    James L. Turk

    James L. Turk // Executive Director / Directeur général // Canadian Association of University Teachers / Association canadienne des professeures et professeurs d’université

  43. July 17, 2009 12:41

    Hi All! Just wondering if you folks out east have considered putting together a special event when the movie Creation, a story about Charles Darwin opens the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s the first time in 10 years that a film that’s not Canadian is opening the festival. It could be an opportunity to get some exposure for scientists in Canada. There are a number of directions this could be taken, a “come as your favourite 19th century scientist” party is my thought as I think avoiding a panel discussion would be good. The film is about Darwin’s struggle with faith and his new understanding of evolution so this might have to be handled carefully. If you’re interested the trailer is here,
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/5505963/Creation-the-movie-world-exclusive-trailer.html

  44. September 22, 2009 12:00

    My name is Dale Martin and I am graduate student in the Department of Cell Biology at UofA. Myself and others are trying to establish a National Day for Canadian Research to help support and recognize the achievements of researchers in Canada. This is a non-partisan and cost-free approach that the government should have no difficulty accepting.

    For this to occur, it must be enacted by Parliament and we must petition them formally. In this effort, we have set up a website where hard copies of a petition (in either French or English) can be downloaded and signed (www.canadianresearchday.ca). In addition, an online petition can also be found at http://www.petitiononline.com/NCRD/petition.html or through the link found at http://www.canadianresearchday.ca. The CSBMCB has also posted our links on their advocacy website.

    However, the online petition can only act as an indicator of total support and we must submit hard copies.

    Please help support this cause by printing, signing and collecting signatures for the petition and/or signing the online petition.

    Thank you for your time and help in this matter.

  45. November 11, 2010 09:43

    There haven’t been many contributions to this page lately, but I thought I’d put this out there anyway. Let me illustrate one way in Canada is being left behind.

    The NRU nuclear reactor is arguably one of Canada’s greatest scientific achievements. (See nrureactor.ca for a bit on its history.) Currently, the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre operates a user-laboratory at NRU where over 200 scientists, professors, post-docs, and students every year come to do their research using neutron beams for Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Biology, and Earth Science. The publication rate exceeds that of much larger neutron beam labs around the world.

    And in 2016, if not sooner, it will end.

    At a time of neutron science renaissance, Italy is the only G8 country without a high-flux neutron source, while Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Hungary, and China already, or soon will, have these laboratories. Even so, demand for neutrons runs about 3 to 1; for every day available for experiments, there are three applications.

    This was Canada’s area of expertise (Brockhouse’s 1994 Nobel prize).

    We at the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering (www.cins.ca) saw this coming years ago, and have long lobbied the government to prepare for NRU’s replacement. This is not about medical isotopes or AECL. It’s about Canada joining the world with serious, large-scale national labs as a resource for R&D.

    The Province of Saskatchewan has last month proposed building the Canadian Neutron Source (CNS), a modern neutron-beam research-reactor, backed by a strong commitment of $200 million. The Federal government needs to partner with them, and bring another world class research center for materials science at the University of Saskatchewan to accompany the Canadian Light Source (CLS)

    We’re excited by this proposal, and are working to make it happen. But it may require a shift of political will and thinking: What exactly is Canada’s strategic plan for large-scale science? Plans that are bigger than CFI, bigger than the NRC? The CLS is a success thanks to the hard work of many in Saskatchewan and Ottawa , but its funding model does not indicate how Canada prioritizes big-science in this country.

    I’d be interested to hear from anyone with their ideas and comments.

    (www.futurecrl.ca)

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