The Federal Government needs to restore investments in basic scientific research to foster long-term productivity of local businesses and in order for Canada to remain competitive in innovation, according to a national alliance or organizations dedicated to advancing health research.
The organization urged the government to implement the detailed multi-year investment plan put forward by Dr. C. David Naylor after concluding this year’s Fundamental Science Review. In June of last year, Federal Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan launched the massive review of federal funding for fundamental science. The review panel was headed by Naylor.
Research Canada wants the Federal Government to particularly implement:
- Increased investment of $485 million over four years to fund independent investigator-led research
- Stable funding of $300 million annually for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
- Enhanced support for doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and research chairs
- New support for small capital grants, as well as for the costs associated with federally-funded research
- Financial support to diversify opportunities for science-based graduate students so that they may explore, embrace and compete for non-academic careers in order to fully capitalize on their talent and energy
“While each of these recommendations is important, they ultimately hinge on the first.” Research Canada said. “Without significant reinvestment in fundamental, investigator-led science, other related investments will be ineffectual.”
The group also cited Naylor’s comments on how critical fundamental health research is to build a strong national science infrastructure.
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“… basic research is the upstream source of the foundational building blocks for innovations of transformative importance to the world,” Naylor said. However, “Canada’s research competitiveness has eroded in recent years when compared with international peers.”
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) figures show Canada trailing the OECD average and losing ground when it comes to research intensity and growth, according to research Canada.
Apart from investing in higher education, the government also needs to made in Canada health research, the group said.
“…we cannot rely on health research from other jurisdictions; we need investment in made-in-Canada health research that speaks to the particular needs and challenges of Canada’s diverse population,” according to Research Canada.
The organization recommended enhanced support for the following:
- Research addressing the unique healthcare needs of one of the world’s most multicultural populations, with a complex array of genetic, lifestyle and behavioural risk factors
- Research addressing innovative ways of delivering high-quality, public health care in remote and rural settings, including through the use of new technologies
- Research addressing how to alleviate the disproportionate burden of disease and disability carried by our Indigenous peoples, e.g. higher rates of infant mortality, mental health disorders, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and HIV. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called on the Federal Government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to “establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.”10 This can only be accomplished through local research that is sensitive to the values, traditions, knowledge, and realities of Indigenous communities
- Research that helps to explain and address Canada’s high rates of specific disorders, such as multiple sclerosis – our rate leads the world, often striking Canadians in the prime of their working lives – which prevent Canadians from fully participating in the labour force
- Research addressing the significant caregiver burden posed by an aging population, including its impact on labour force productivity. Canada is a leader in Alzheimer’s disease research, among related dementias, identified as the second leading cause of disability among people over age 70
“We will all reap the benefits, by nurturing and keeping our best and brightest research minds, supporting the health of Canadian workers and providing the vital supply of fundamental knowledge that feeds the pipeline leading to the innovations of tomorrow,” Research Canada said. “We urge the Committee to recommend implementation of the Naylor Report’s prescription for multi-year investments into the renewal of fundamental science in Canada, preparing the ground for a prosperous future for all.”