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Research Canada's Health Research Advocacy Newsletter
October 2012

CIHR Reforms Update

As you are aware, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has undertaken a reform of its Open Suite of Programs and peer review process. From the outset, Research Canada’s members expressed concerns both with regards to the proposals being put forward by CIHR and the quality of the communications surrounding the initiative. Many of our members were not clear on what the reforms’ process would entail and how long it would take. Nor were you clear on the agency’s plan to engage you in constructive dialogue and glean the expertise and experience of the community in reshaping the Programs and peer review process.

You also know that Research Canada took it upon itself to communicate our members concerns to Drs. Alain Beaudet and Aubin in the spring of this year and to engage in an ongoing dialogue to stress the importance of clearly communicating information to the community as it becomes available and to offer counsel on ways the agency could engage our members and the broader sector in meaningful exchanges where all parties were heard and understood.

In September of this year, Research Canada undertook a Membership Survey to engage RC’s members in the organization’s strategic planning process by soliciting their views on organizational and sectoral challenges and RC’s role in the sector. During the interviews our members raised the CIHR reforms’ process and provided us with more of their views.

You told us the following:

  • The reform process is a lot of change all at once especially in light of all of the other changes that are occurring simultaneously at other funding agencies at the federal and provincial levels and within the health charity sector. While many of our members recognized the need for changes to the current system, this amount of change all at once was causing push back on CIHR reforming both the Open Suite of Programs and peer review at the same time.

  • The reform process must be driven first and foremost by the need for better results from both the Open Suite of Programs and the peer review process. It should not be driven by a costs-saving agenda.

  • The implementation of the proposed changes will have significant costs associated with them. RC’s members want to know how the implementation phase will be funded.

  • The creation of a Task Force comprised of members of the health research community to advise CIHR on the reforms’ process was seen as a step in the right direction by many of our members. Also, CIHR’s receptivity in terms of piloting and modeling of the proposed changes gave some comfort to our members.

  • More information is required from CIHR on an ongoing basis. Many of you told us that more regular updates from CIHR would help you to feel much more a part of the process and provide you with opportunities to offer your suggestions and voice your concerns.

  • There were many other detailed suggestions that we took away with us from these interviews. Last week, Research Canada met with CIHR to share these latest views from RC’s members. They were very receptive to the concerns and points we raised and indicated that these points reinforced a lot of what they were hearing from their own town halls across the country. They informed RC that they are in the throes of having internal discussions and will be sharing more information with the health research community in the weeks ahead.

Research Canada will continue to monitor this issue moving forward in the interests of ensuring that our members’ individual and collective voices are heard and understood.

Let us continue to work together to build a strong health research enterprise in Canada.


About Research Canada: An Alliance for Health Discovery

Research Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health and prosperity of Canadians by championing Canada's global leadership in health research. Working for all Canadians, its members and partners are drawn from all sectors dedicated to increasing investments in health research, including the leading health research institutes, national health charities, hospitals, regional health authorities, universities, private industry and others.

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