McGill welcomes new federal research fund

McGill has welcomed the official launch of a federally supported research fund. The $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which was initially announced in the 2014 federal budget, will be governed by a Steering Committee comprised of the presidents of the three federal granting agencies and the deputy ministers of Health and Industry Canada.

lab149083695By McGill Reporter Staff

McGill has welcomed the official launch of a federally supported research fund.

The $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which was initially announced in the 2014 federal budget, will be governed by a Steering Committee comprised of the presidents of the three federal granting agencies – the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – and the deputy ministers of Health and Industry Canada.

“The launch of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund reinforces the Government of Canada’s promise to assist top-notch Canadian universities like McGill in their missions to promote research excellence,” said Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal, Research and International Relations. “With this major investment, McGill will have the opportunity to build its capacity to generate breakthrough discoveries and promote innovation.”

In the first round of competition for project funding, Canadian post-secondary institutions will vie for up to $350 million in awards over seven years. Applications for this first competition will be due in March 2015. According to material provided by the government, a second competition will be launched by 2016 at the latest.

“Grants will be awarded on the basis of scientific merit, strategic relevance to Canada (including the potential for the research area to create long-term economic advantages for Canada), and quality of implementation plan,” said a background document from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Arms-length panels of international scientific experts, as well as an arms-length selection board made up of leaders from academic, private and other relevant sectors, will review proposals for project funding.

Institutions applying for funding will have the freedom to determine the scope and scale of their proposals, the background document says. The fund will consider large, potentially multi-institutional initiatives as well as smaller, single-institution proposals.

“Proposals will be required to align with the Government of Canada’s updated ST&I (Science, Technology and Innovation) priority research areas, released as part of its renewed ST&I Strategy: environment and agriculture; health and life sciences; natural resources and energy; information and communications technologies; and advanced manufacturing.”

Ottawa’s ST&I priorities include: environment and agriculture; health and life sciences; natural resources and energy; information and communications technologies; and advanced manufacturing.

The organization representing Canada’s universities and colleges also welcomed the launch of the fund.

“This bold new program will position Canada as a leader in international research. It will support Canada’s top research talent and build new global links,” says David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). “University leaders welcome the tremendous potential of this initiative to engage Canada’s next generation of top young researchers in globally significant research programs and networks.”

Canada’s research-intensive universities – the U15 – were also pleased by the news.

“Since its announcement in Budget 2014, the U15 has been looking forward to the official launch of CFREF as a significant commitment by Canada to support globally competitive research excellence,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, chair of The U15 and president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “This Fund will allow successful institutions to better compete on the international stage in established areas of research strength as well as new and emerging areas that will support Canada’s scientific standing and long-term economic advantage.”

In 2013, the U15 proposed that the government of Canada invest in the creation of a new fund to bolster Canada’s research strength and promote global research excellence. CFREF – the end result of that advocacy – will position Canada’s post-secondary institutions to compete with the best research universities in the world for leading scholars and students, and will generate breakthrough discoveries, the U15 said.

The fund’s launch was announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a tour of an IBM facility in Markham, Ont. Harper was joined by Science and Technology Minister Ed Holder and three Conservative MPs.

“Canada’s ability to attract top talent and research partnerships requires its world-class institutions to have the ability to seize emerging opportunities on the global stage by capitalizing on their proven strengths,” Harper said. “The Fund will enable research that creates jobs, opportunities and the prosperity of Canadians for years to come from coast to coast to coast.”

 

 

Comments on “McGill welcomes new federal research fund”

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    It is great that the federal government is adding funds to support research but I am worried about two things: Tight deadlines and lack of transparency.
    The NOI deadline is 2 February, barely 2 months after the official announcement. What kind of “large, potentially multi-institutional initiatives” can be even conceptualised, let alone organised in two months?
    Also, it is clear that this is not general funding to universities on the basis of excellence but funding of specific projects. If there is going to be only one application per university, who decides what project(s) go into it? If some sort of objective, inclusive and transparent scientific assessment of priorities and merit doesn’t happen at this level, international peer review (no matter how well organised and high-profile) will be meaningless.
    Finally, although it is not stipulated in the very general announcement, I hope that “deliverables within four years” will not be the major criterion. I am referring to the short-sighted mentality of this federal government that all but destroyed genomics research in Canada. See my editorial http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22889850

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