Lab Canada

University scientists propose three ways to safeguard academic research

Ottawa, ON – The group representing academic researchers and scientists across the country is stepping up calls on the federal government to invest in research through Canada’s granting councils and ensure that scientists, not politicians, decide where research funding is spent.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Harper in February to warn about the impact of underfunding of basic research provided through the granting councils, and about the dangers of the government attempting to steer what research is conducted. Since then, more details have emerged about which programs are being discontinued or are in jeopardy, and many more scientists are speaking out against the government’s policies.

“One immediate danger is that lack of funding and increasing government micro-management means we could lose a lot of our top researchers,” said James Turk, CAUT’s executive director. “We’ve made some constructive proposals in a letter to Prime Minister Harper about how to fix the problem, and we hope he is seriously considering those proposals.”

CAUT is urging the federal government to:

– Increase basic research funding for Canada’s three granting councils over the next two years to match, on a proportional basis, that being introduced by the US government. Based on the relative size of Canada’s economy, that would translate into a boost of $1 billion.

– Ensure that programs and scholarships funded by the granting agencies are judged on the basis of merit by the scientific community and are not restricted to specific fields.

– Ensure that infrastructure funding provided through the Canada Foundation for Innovation or through the university and college infrastructure initiative are similarly judged on the basis of their scientific merit by the research community.