Canada's Budget to Make Significant Investments in Basic Science and Research

By Blatchford, Andy | The Canadian Press, February 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

Canada's Budget to Make Significant Investments in Basic Science and Research


Blatchford, Andy, The Canadian Press


Researchers hope for eureka moment in budget

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OTTAWA - Canada's research community has long yearned for a consequential funding boost for science -- and 2018 is poised to be its year.

The Liberal government's federal budget, now believed to be only a few weeks away, is expected to contain a major financial lift for basic scientific research across the country -- one that will address some of the concerns laid out last year in a national review of the state of fundamental science.

That exercise, led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor, recommended the government end a long stretch of underfunding with phased-in investments over four years -- until there's $1.3 billion more for researchers, scholarships and facilities.

It remains to be seen how much spending the budget will contain, and for how long. The Naylor report calls for a steady increase in funding for scientific endeavours -- with a particular focus on federal granting councils, which oversee the distribution of federal grants to researchers.

The report is calling on the government to gradually add $485 million a year to its annual funding allotment for granting councils.

Government sources suggest the budget is unlikely to include a point-by-point endorsement of the Naylor report, but it is expected to contain a major increase for granting councils as well as significant investments in science, in general.

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet public, said the commitments are likely to be organized in the budget based on scientific theme, rather than the model in the Naylor report.

In recent weeks, confidence has begun to spread in the halls of academia. Leaders from the research community say they continue to see promising signals from the government.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said a "key element" in his budget, which is expected before the end of March, will focus on science and how it can play a role in building a solid economic foundation over the long term. In December, he held a roundtable with leading researchers and met with members of the review panel, including Naylor himself.

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, who commissioned the Naylor report, couldn't share details of the budget, but she called the review "really important."

Duncan also acknowledged that funding is an issue -- as well as governance, equity and diversity, early career research and ensuring a more nimble, responsive system is in place to improve funding.

"We are a government that's committed to science and research, and we have a finance minister who's listening," Duncan said in an interview.

Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, said the most urgent need is the additional funding for granting councils. …

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