Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

Promoting and advancing molecular understanding of biology

Doing the Double-Double by 2019.
Petition to double open operating grants.

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The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Object: Questions on funding for scientific research and innovation

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am writing to you today in the name of the Canadian Society for MolecularBiosciences (CSMB), a scientific society representing thousands of researchers(graduate students, postdoctoral researchers employees and professors) acrossCanada. The CSMB recognizes the fact that despite a very challenging budgetaryenvironment the Government of Canada has generally kept funding for scientificresearch and innovation stable. However, due to the natural expansion of Canada’soutstanding research institutions and the increasing targeted funding of appliedprograms over basic curiosity-driven discovery research the available funding hasfactually declined, leading to a very fragile situation at many research institutions.There are actually dozens, if not hundreds of laboratories across the countrythat have already contracted their activities leading to losses of jobs and ofcapacity to do research and to innovate. Considering recent funding trends atgovernment funding agencies, others will have to contract in the very near futureand risk being closed down over the next few years.

Despite the currently fragile situation, it is not too late for government to react andto avoid the contraction of research capacity, the loss of past investments and ofjobs in research. We are confident that decision makers are sensitive to thechallenges faced by the scientific community and that the potential of research forimproving the health of Canadians and for the development of our economy arewell recognized. As a consequence, we hope that the improving financialsituation of the federal government will enable stable increases of funding forresearch and innovation in the near future.

In preparation for the Federal Election in 2015 we would like to inform ourmembers about the positions and plans of the different political parties on fundingfor scientific research and innovation in order to inform their electoral choices. Forthis reason the board of the CSMB has formulated the following list of requestsand questions.

1. To reverse the gradual decline of funding to basic discovery research the CSMBproposes 3% annual increases of the budgets of the Canadian Institutes ofHealth Research (CIHR) and of the Natural Science and EngineeringResearch Council (NSERC) that should be targeted to the most innovative openoperating grant competitions.

2. To fill a critical gap for renewal of research instrumentation in laboratories, theNSERC research tools and equipment (RTI) program and the equivalentfunding at CIHR should be restored to previous levels. Funding for the CanadaFoundation for Innovation (CFI) continues to be an excellent investment andshould be sustained.

3. To enable institutions to more adequately support the mission of researchers, wepropose a gradual increase of the indirect cost program from the current 20%to reach 40% in 2017.

The requested increases may sound audacious, but if they were properly phased infrom 2015-2017 this would coincide with the 150th birthday of our nation. Thisinvestment would very adequately show your vision of Canada’s future as a nationof innovators dedicated to the generation of knowledge and of economicprosperity

4. The board of the CSMB and many of our colleagues are concerned about theperceived preference of government funding agencies for applied research at thecost of basic curiosity-driven discovery research. Whereas funding for appliedwork is of course important, the increasing emphasis on this aspect will causedamages in the long run since we need sustained basic research-driven innovationto fill the pipeline of applied research. What is your position on this topic andhow will you ensure the right balance between funding for basic and appliedresearch?

In the name of the board and of all our members, I would very much appreciateyour feedback on the above proposals and questions. I am of course available toanswer any questions you may have on the CSMB and on funding for research andinnovation in general. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Dr. Christian Baron, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Université de Montréal
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
President of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

Université de Montréal
Pavillon Roger-Gaudry
C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville
Montréal, Québec
H3C 3J7

c.c.      The Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance
             The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
             The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry
             The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology)
             The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition
     Kennedy Stewart, NDP Critic (Science and Technology)
     Laurin Lui, NDP Deputy Critic (Science and Technology)
     Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
     Ted Hsu, Liberal Critic (Science and Technology)
     Dr. Mario Pinto, President of NSERC
     Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of CIHR
     Dr. Gilles Patry, President and CEO of the CFI  

 

 

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