The following is a report that the CAP received from Dr. Shohini Ghose, Wilfrid Laurier University, Chair of CAP’s Committee to Encourage Women in Physics who attended the release of the Report of the Fundamental Science Review Panel on behalf of the CAP on Monday, April 10, 2017. This summary of the report was prepared from notes taken during the formal release announcement and has not been cross-checked for accuracy against the formal report which can be seen at http://www.sciencereview.ca/eic/site/059.nsf/eng/home. It is being posted, with the permission of Dr. Ghose, for the information of CAP members. Our sincerest thanks to Dr. Ghose for representing the CAP at this event and preparing this summary for us.
Report from Dr. Shohini Ghose following attendance at the official release of the report from the Canada Fundamental Science Review Panel on Monday, April 10, 2017.
I attended the science review announcement this morning (April 10, 2017). It was a packed room with a lot of interest and representation from government, academia, industry and also charitable organizations interested in health and science research. By now many of you have likely seen the report. It is quite a remarkable document (and hefty – over 240 pages). Personally I think it is a thoughtful, honest and brave analysis, and I hope it will help shape the the future of science research in Canada.
Here is a summary of my notes from this morning’s presentation:
Mandate: To answer 2 broad questions
- Are there gaps in Canada’s research ecosystem?
- Are there examples from other countries that would be useful?
Focus of the review was on extramural rather than intramural research landscape – in particular the 4 pillar agencies: NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR and CFI
- Canada’s research competitiveness relative to other countries is eroding – research performance growth is stalling
- HERD funding by government is only 23% in 2015 and is anomalous compared to other countries
- Contrary to perception, Canada is not overproducing PhDs
- Canada still has a global brand which can provide opportunities for improvement in research performance
- Improve stewardship and oversight pf research ecosystem.
- Specifically recommend that Parliament create NACRI: National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation comprised of scientists and leaders. Will oversee new and existing research entities. New Science Advisor will be on the Council
- Recommend creation of a 4 agency Coordinating Board for NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR and CFI
2. Funding/Resources Recommendations to invest in 4 main areas
- Highest priority recommendation is $485 million over 4 years for investigator-led research (as opposed to priority-driven research).
- Infrastructure: in particular stabilize CFI funding (cost-neutral recommendation)
- Personnel (HQP): Harmonize programs, increase funding. CRC’s are vital and need major renewal.
- Facilities and operations: Recommend target for reimbursement of Facilities and Admin costs be 40% (currently 21%).
Total spending would increase over four years from $3.5 billion to $4.8 billion across the 4 agencies (0.4% of Federal budget)
- Urgent action needed
- Stronger oversight and governance
- Transformative investments.
The panel answered questions from a moderator and also a few questions from the audience. I tried to take a few notes…
Q. Role of fundamental science in Canada
- Important for Canada’s population to be knowledgable about the world around us.
- Helps government make evidence-based decisions
- Drives innovation which in turn drives further fundamental science
- Important for educating the next generation
- Research has to be supported at all levels (local, city, provincial, federal) and across the country since different regions have different needs and priorities.
Q. Distribution of money/resources
- Proportion of funding should be rebalanced across the 3 councils with an increase for SSHRC.
- Adequate support of students/ researchers of diverse backgrounds is critical. (There is an emphasis on diversity and inclusivity in the guiding principles of the review – with particular mention of women and Canadians of indigenous origin)
- Consolidation alone is not enough (didn’t work well for Netherlands), since there are communities of interest around the 3 councils and affection for CFI. Therefore instead of completely consolidating and removing existing structures (very expensive to do), a great deal can be achieved at lower cost through better co-ordination.
- Room for improvement in increasing diversity/ support of underrepresented groups. Special attention paid to indigenous community and indigenous research. Diversity issues specially impact early career researchers.
- Multidisciplinary research is often gendered, slow and complex and should be supported adequately.
- Should be an oversight panel for big science
Q. How to build connection between science and innovation
- educate entrepreneurs (for example UW program on entrepreneurship)
- industries have to step up – don’t force a culture change (for example priority-driven research)
- Should be a separate review panel for innovation
- Different institutions should collaborate
Q. How to get the recommendations implemented
- Try not to dissect report endlessly
- Different bodies should provide unified message to government. If government feels the scientific community is divided it is much more difficult for them to take appropriate action
- Unite in a common cause rather than ‘tug the blanket’ all to yourself