Minister of Science and Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kirsty Duncan is photographed in her office in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Duncan is making good on a promise today to help young researchers who are trying to establish themselves in their fields. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan says she expects universities to nominate young scientists for the vast majority of Canada’s new federally-funded research jobs.

Duncan is on a cross-country tour of universities this week to promote $210 million worth of funding promised in last winter’s federal budget for the creation of 285 Canada Research Chair jobs.

She told The Canadian Press that she’s calling on universities to find scientists in the early stages of their careers to nominate for most of the new positions. Last year, she told universities they need to up their game in nominating more women to existing jobs.

Duncan said that over the last decade young researchers have been hit hardest by budget cuts to science programs.

“If I don’t address this issue of underfunding for our early career researchers, where are we going to be in 10 to 15 years?” she said.

Duncan wants up to 250 of the 285 new jobs to go to early career researchers.

Canada Research Chairs are funded for five to seven years, with grants of either $100,000 or $200,000 a year, to push the envelope on research in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. There are 2,000 chairs available but about 1,700 are currently filled.

READ MORE: Trudeau announces funding to build nuclear medicine hub in B.C.

Canada spent $265 million a year on the program before the latest boost. The $210 million commitment will add $25 million to the program this year, rising to $50 million a year by 2022-23.

In May 2017, Duncan was incensed when the latest list of nominations for the chairs had twice as many men on it as women. She threatened the schools they would lose their funding for future positions if they didn’t start working harder to nominate qualified women.

The schools responded and more than 40 per cent of the nominations for the latest round of appointments went to women. The number of female research chairs has increased from about one in four in 2009 to almost one in three today.

Duncan said the nominations also included a proportional number of Indigenous candidates and a higher number of visible minorities than in the past.

She expects the schools to continue to focus on diversity in the new nominations of early career researchers as well.

Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy, which argues for the use of science in policymaking, said the government’s budget commitments to science are a significant investment even if they aren’t ”hugely transformational.”

“I think overall it made the research community quite happy,” she said.

She said there is grumbling among researchers that the extra funds for granting councils that distribute money to academic researchers for particular projects — a promised $925 million between now and 2023 — are not flowing yet, and there are still gaps in covering the ongoing operating costs of labs.

But Gibbs said the biggest concern is that the government’s own scientific work is still flailing. Overall, Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down.

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Statistics Canada are among 18 departments whose internal budgets for scientific research are lower today than almost a decade ago.

READ MORE: Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

The federal Conservatives took heavy criticism from the scientific community for cutting science jobs and funding, and accusations were made that government scientists were kept from speaking publicly about their research unless explicitly given permission from political authorities.

Gibbs said the Liberals have loosened the muzzle somewhat but funding for government science has not been restored.

Duncan defended the government’s in-house funding, saying there is $2.8 billion for government lab infrastructure.

She said she knows the importance of government-led research noting federal scientists work on things like the Ebola vaccine and Canadian durum wheat.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

What’s happening for Family Day in the Boundary

Activities in and around Grand Forks offer something for everyone.

Biologists discover another female calf in depleted South Purcell Mountain Caribou herd

Calf will be moved to Revelstoke maternity pens, then released

Petition on Second Street project presented to council

Over 1,000 signatures were gathered, but staff say council can’t do much about the project.

Man seriously hurt after police shooting near Nelson

Incident has been reported to provincial police watchdog

Mental health, BC Housing council’s picks for resolution issues

Grand Forks council aims to hold the province accountable to local government with draft resolutions

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Most Read