Friday, March 30, 2012

Canadian Medical Association weighs in on CIHR and other research cuts

The devil is in the details, and a great summary of concerns about research funding has been provided in today's Canadian Medical Association journal.

I have quoted from the article below any sections directly related to resaerch funding not reported in my previous post on the budget, but I htink the entire article is worth a read for those interested in details of how budget policies relate to health and health research.

CIHR cuts are a shift in funds to "targetted research"
 And in several cases, a departmental or agency cut is offset by an injection of new funds for a targeted purpose, so the effect is often a wash. For example, while the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) budget will be reduced $15 million in 2012/13 as a result of the spending review exercise, the granting council received $15 million per year to support its Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research ( and 

Cuts to NSERC, SSHRC, are also a shift of funds to increased support for "industry-academic research partnership initiatives"

As with CIHR, the spending review exercise resulted in a $15 million cut to the budget of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in 2012/13, and an additional $15 million in the following fiscal year. The budget of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) was cut $7 million for 2012/13 and another $7 million the following year. But the 2012/13 cuts are offset by the provision of $37 million annually ($15 million to CIHR, $15 million to NSERC and $7 million to SSHRC) in “support of industry-academic research partnership initiatives.” The staggered cuts could result in a serious hit to granting councils base budgets in 2013/14 but Treasury Board and Finance officials, who speak on condition of anonymity during budget background briefings, indicated that the expectations are that the bolstered funding for industry-academic partnerships will be repeated in next year’s federal budget, so that council budgets will continue to remain at roughly $1 billion apiece for CIHR and NSERC, and about $651 million for SSHRC. “The net effect is that overall council funding will be unchanged,” one Finance official stressed. That’s based, though on the presumption of an increase for 2013/14. About 25% of the medical and natural sciences budgets, and 45% of the social sciences budget, represents monies administered by the councils on behalf of the government for special initiatives, such as one to cover the indirect costs of research.

and if that sank your spirits, you may be cheered to know there is new funding for depression research:

$5.2 million will be provided to support the creation of a Canadian Depression Research and Intervention Network by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It will connect “over 80 of Canada’s brightest depression researchers from across the country. Particular focus will be on suicide prevention and identifying and treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Funding provided in the budget will serve as a catalyst for private and public sector investment.”

Devils in the details on the controversial change of NRC to a more industry-related body.

The National Research Council will continue to be restructured as a toolbox for industry, receiving an additional $67 million this year to support its “refocusing on business-led, industry-relevant research.” The council will also see its Industrial Research Assistance Program contributions budget, which provides extramural grants to businesses to develop products, double to $220 million per year. The combined increases will hike the National Research Council’s overall budget to $700.5 million in 2012/13.
and finally: 
 $12 million per year will be set aside to make the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program “permanent.” In the original competition to create such networks, the four winners included the Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery-CQDM (Nuns’ Island, Quebec), which aimed to “accelerate the drug discovery process and to develop safer and more effective drugs.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Federal Budget & Grad students

Updated: links to responses to budget for research/graduate study added below

The budget was touted for many cuts (and the demise of the penny!), but there are some additional resources for research, when business related, plus small increases for graduate students.

You can see the (more) detailed budget plan section on "Supporting Entrepreneurs, Innovators and World-Class Research"
Or visit the budget main page here, which includes briefs, press releases, the full budget plan, and even a video of the Minister looking really serious (kids in the hall fans may think he is about to crush your head).

The following is the quick version of the funding increases related to university research:

"Support for Research, Education and Training
The Government is committed to providing additional resources to support advanced research at universities and other leading research institutions. Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes:
  • $37 million annually starting in 2012–13 to the granting councils to enhance their support for industry-academic research partnerships.
  • $60 million for Genome Canada to launch a new applied research competition in the area of human health, and to sustain the Science and Technology Centres until 2014–15.
  • $6.5 million over three years for a research project at McMaster University to evaluate team-based approaches to health care delivery.
  • $17 million over two years to further advance the development of alternatives to existing isotope production technologies.
  • $10 million over two years to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to link Canadians to global research networks.
  • $500 million over five years, starting in 2014–15, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support advanced research infrastructure.
  • $40 million over two years to support CANARIE’s operation of Canada’s ultra-high speed research network.
  • $23 million over two years to Natural Resources Canada to enhance satellite data reception capacity."

    [How did McMaster do it? (shakes fist)! Develops theory.]

    There are also some items of particular grad student interest:

    "Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes $14 million over two years to double the Industrial Research and Development Internship program.
    The Industrial Research and Development Internship program currently helps 1,000 graduate students undertake hands-on research in innovative Canadian firms each year. This initiative provides host firms with access to cutting-edge research and skills, while providing students with valuable applied research experience in a private sector setting. To double the resources of the Industrial Research and Development Internship program, Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes $14 million over two years. This new funding will be administered by Mitacs, an advanced research organization with a proven track record of helping businesses solve problems through access to graduate students."


    "This new approach will promote business innovation through improved support for high-growth companies, research collaborations, procurement opportunities, applied research and risk financing. This will provide a solid foundation on which Canada’s globally competitive businesses can build by making the investments in innovation required to create high-value jobs and long-term economic growth. In particular, the Government will:... Support private and public research collaboration through internships for graduate students and funding for business-led research and development.  ..."

 I hope all that extra money means these internships will be paid.

UPDATE: Responses to budget:

CIHR provided some excellent summaries of how reasearch money is shifting (my summary here)

CBC Power Politics longer interview on innovation and the budget (video)

Liberal finance critic, MP Scott Bryson, described the research funding as a "shell game" on CBC's As it happens March 29, 2012. He said funds that once went to innovation in the private sector was being shifted to the public sector, which was being cut, thus leaving the private sector worse served in terms of supporting research. NDP critic also on, doesn't speak to the research funding. Check out the CBC As It Happens budget interviews (before there is 11% less of it).

NDP tried to get a jump start calling for the  National Research Council to be saved the day before the budget was launched.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)  applauded the research funding  and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies also called the budget a positive development (PDF) but the press release "noted the details are still sketchy".

Meanwhile, the Canadian Association of University Teachers said the budget "compromises research, hinders prosperity", saying tying research to commercial goals will hinder, not help, innovation.

And from the student groups: CASA says thumbs down [pdf], saying it shifts money from granting councils to industry related research, and the CFS love it. Just kidding, they don't like it either.

UBC likes it. So does UVIC, but we have less to say, and refer back to the AUCC statement.

Mixed reaction from the business community according to the Financial Post

A few days pre-budget, the Globe and Mail had some more in depth coverage on how r&d  funding for industry works now, and proposed changes with the budget.

Also of interest:

CCPA alternative federal budget