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Canada's top scientists reeling from $148 million in cuts to ongoing research

Brain drain feared as US government set to pump $18 billion into science.

CAUT executive director James Turk on Parliament Hill March 3CAUT [the Canadian Association of University Teachers] continues to voice concerns over the Conservative government's underfunding of research provided through the granting councils, and the targeting of specific projects.

A furor erupted within the scientific community following the release of the federal budget in January. The Conservatives pledged $2 billion over the next two years for university and college infrastructure, with additional money provided to the Canada Foundation for Innovation. But it was also announced that research program funding provided through the three granting agencies will be cut by $148 million over the next three years.

That left many researchers shaking their heads in disbelief.

"Investments in bricks and mortar are important, but it makes no sense at all to build facilities and provide equipment but not give researchers the funding they need to do their work," says CAUT executive director James Turk.

Important programs are being eliminated because of the cuts. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council announced it will be ending the Research Time Stipends program which helped fund course release time for researchers, and will chop $5.6 million from health-related research.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council is eliminating the Centres for Research in Youth, Science Teaching and Learning, University Faculty Awards, the Research Capacity Development program, the Special Research Opportunity program and the Intellectual Property Mobilization program. In addition, NSERC is limiting its postgraduate scholarships award to one year and tightening restrictions on projects funded under the Major Resources Support program.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is ending its Intellectual Property Mobilization program and the Open Team Grant Program.

Gordon Keller, head of the University of Toronto's McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and a recipient of a CIHR team grant, says researchers can't afford to lose these programs.

"These are very important programs because it allows groups of investigators to come together to address a common question," he said in an interview with the Globe and Mail.

Others have warned that the absence of any new commitments means funding is about to run out for a range of facilities and agencies, including the Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research Lab and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. No new funding for Genome Canada, the agency that supports large-scale science, means some scientists could run out of money by the end of this year.

"I think we're seeing very clearly that the government just doesn't understand the value of basic research," CAUT's Turk says. "I'm afraid we're in real danger of losing many of our researchers, particularly when you have the Obama administration set to pump $18 billion into research in the United States." . . .

To read further, please click on the link below. . .

Links and sources
  CAUT Presses Government on Budget Research Shortfall, CAUT Bulletin, March 2009
  Neuroscientists fear brain drain as crucial funding disappears, by Anne McIlroy, Globe Campus, March 11 2009
  Nobel scientist criticizes Tories over funding, by Ian Bailey, Globe Campus, January 31 2009
  Nation's credibility on the line, scientists warn, by Carolyn Abraham, Globe Campus, January 30 2009

Posted: March 16, 2009

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