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2015

Make Science Matters -25 September 2015

Dear CSMB Member,

As we enter the final stretch of the 2015 Election Campaign it is time to make Science Funding a National Priority.

While the public is talking about the “muzzling of science” (see recent¬†Maclean’s Poll¬†) the crisis in ¬†funding for basic discovery science remains low on the political radar.¬† Decreased success rates combined with reforms to grant competitions at CIHR and NSERC have led to a tipping point where laboratories across Canada are being forced to shut down or downsize. Without increased and predictable support for discovery research, Canada will lose its next generation of researchers and the ideas that will enable progress in research and its applications in biotechnology and in medicine.

Let’s make Discovery Science a National Priority!

Talk to Your Local Candidates.¬†The CSMB is a member of Research Canada, our lobbying arm, who has set a goal of doubling the CIHR budget (see ¬†Research Canada’s Election Primer¬†for more information). ¬†Is this an outrageous ask in these economic times? NO IT ISN’T. ¬†It is important to get the message out that¬†research in Canada is in crisis.¬† We need increased funding for discovery research in Canada.¬† Ask your candidates:

Does your party support doubling the CIHR and NSERC budget to support increased investments in discovery research?

#MakeScienceMatter #elxn42¬†–¬†Lets work together to get#MakeScienceMatter¬†trending on Twitter
CSMB Petition¬†–¬†Stay tuned for when we launch a petition to increase support of basic discovery science.

SPREAD THE WORD – Make Support for Science a National Priority regardless of political party.

 

Sincerely,

Kristin Baetz, President
Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB)

 

 

Submission for Pre-Budget Consultation to the House of Commons ‚Äď August 7 2015

BOARD OF THE CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR MOLECULAR BIOSCIENCES SUBMISSION FOR PRE-BUDGET CONSULTATION TO  THE HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
AUGUST 7TH, 2015

(PDF)

Executive summary:

Science, technology and innovation (STI) are crucial for the economic and societal health of Canada. For example, foundational discovery-based molecular bioscience research has led to Canadian development of innovate cures and diagnostics for diseases, genetic engineering of microbes and plants to produce drugs and high value chemicals such as biofuels. Innovations stemming from curiosity driven science are the bed-rock of STI that will improve Canadian’s health, create businesses and jobs and allow Canada to become a leader in the knowledge economy. Canada’s future will depend on support for STI including long-term oriented discovery research.

Canada’s past investments have considerably strengthened our nation’s capacity for scientific research, for innovation, for training of highly qualified personnel and for the applications of results in biotechnology and medicine. In a very challenging budgetary environment the government has maintained support for science by continuing investments in federal funding agencies that provide crucial support for research institutions in all parts of the country. Whereas we applaud these investments we cannot ignore the fact that despite largely maintaining the budgets of the funding agencies, the available resources are not sufficient to leverage the increased capacity for research and innovation in our nation. Further, increased targeting of research investments towards short-term application and commercialization programs has led to a significant deterioration of funding for discovery-based research in Canada. Curiosity-driven discovery science generates both the ideas that fuel innovation and trains the next generation of leaders in research and its application. If Canada is to play an increasing role in the global STI economy it is essential that it increases its support of non-targeted curiosity-driven discovery research. The Canadian Society for Molecular Bioscience (CSMB) recommends:

Increased investment in open operating grant competitions at CIHR and NSERC to drive innovation and discovery. This recommendation addresses the 2015 pre-budget consultation theme of productivity, infrastructure and communities, and jobs.

 

Continued investment in research infrastructure. This recommendation addresses the 2015 pre-budget consultation theme of productivity, infrastructure and communities, and jobs.

Introduction:

The Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) represents the interests of thousands of faculty members and research personnel who are training thousands of students in bioscience and biomedical research departments at Universities and other research institutions across Canada. Our members’ research programs are largely dependent on operating funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Changes in the research funding priorities by these federal agencies have placed the foundation of innovation and discovery science in Canada at great risk. In this document we make recommendations to help end the crisis that is presently threatening bioscience and biomedical researchers in Canada.

Successive Canadian governments have increased and largely sustained investments in basic discovery-driven and applied research supporting world-class innovation in academic institutions across our country. Investments in the¬†Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)¬†have provided world-class equipment making our institutions competitive with the best in the world. The¬†Canada Research Chairs¬†program has allowed Canada to recruit and retain outstanding academics and contributed to unprecedented growth of our research institutions. These programs have greatly increased the science research capacity of the nation, but realization of the full potential of these investments is currently limited by the availability of operating funds, which are the resources required from year to year to carry out the actual research, and to do so at an internationally competitive level. Operating funds support the salaries of the creative minds that drive Canadian discovery and innovation, most notably the young and highly-qualified technicians, research assistants, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who represent the next generation of high-tech employees. Operating funds also provide the supplies and services required to perform the fundamental and applied research that will shape Canada‚Äôs future. Operating funds can be likened to the ‚Äėgas‚Äô that fuels the ‚Äėcar.‚Äô Government funding has provided splendid new vehicles (equipment and other infrastructure) and exceptional drivers (research personnel) for the global race in which Canada must compete. However, without adequate fuel (operating funds), we won‚Äôt be able to get to the finish line.

The granting councils CIHR and NSERC have provided the operating funds to make world-class discoveries and to provide training to highly qualified personnel who will continue to innovate in academic as well as in industrial environments. Indeed, as Canadians we can all be proud of these achievements. The past investments have greatly broadened our capacity for innovation and knowledge creation, for training of highly qualified personnel who create companies and jobs and there has also been a net migration of excellent researchers to our country. Modern technology used in hospitals to improve the health of Canadians and innovative approaches used in the biotechnology sector now were developed in basic discovery research laboratories 10-20 years ago. It is therefore critical that operating fund investments at CIHR and NSERC into early stage discovery research be increased to match the research infrastructure of our nation, which will be crucial in order to reap the benefits of future discoveries.

Canadian bioscience research is in a crisis. Research funding was largely maintained in recent years and even increased in some targeted areas, but the granting councils CIHR and NSERC simply cannot keep up with the increased research capacity we have built over the last decade. Further, changes to the open operating grant programs at both NSERC and CIHR that put increased emphasis on immediately translatable research have resulted in an unprecedented decrease of both success rates and funding level for basic researchers. While industry and disease-focused charities support more directed research, basic science has largely no other place to turn to access operating funding other than NSERC and CIHR. This is why basic science needs unbiased and fundamental support through the Tri-Councils. If the trend towards increasing funding of applied over basic research continues, it will result in the in the closure or contraction of hundreds of laboratories across the country.

In the case of NSERC, Discovery Grants support basic discovery research in science and engineering. Since 1978, despite an expansion of the number of researchers and an increased percentage of the Canadian population that pursue a university education, even with a steady increase of funding for the Discovery Grant program there has been a decline of the proportion of the NSERC budget committed to Discovery Grants. Instead NSERC funds have increasingly been directed towards applied and industry partnership programs, with resultant fewer dollars directed towards Discovery Grants. These applied programs are important, but they should not come at the detriment of basic discovery research. For example, in 2014 the average Discovery Grant awarded was $33,612, an amount that is largely insufficient to support modern bioscience research that is at the cutting edge internationally.

The impact on health research funded by CIHR is even more alarming. Just as an example, the success rate at the CIHR open operating grant competition was about 25% just a few years ago, reflecting a healthy competition for the best ideas ensuring that only excellent and very promising work is being funded. However, this has steadily eroded and dropped to 14% in the last competition. In addition, even the funded grants were all cut by more than 25%, meaning that jobs for hundreds of researchers disappeared. The reforms of the CIHR open operating grant funding and peer review system further aggravate this situation and in the 2015 competition, hundreds of fewer grants have been awarded than in previous years. Also, the mechanism of implementation of these reforms has resulted in funding gaps due to the limited number of competitions. In our current environment many labs are operating on only one operating grant, and as a consequence of all these factors, hundreds of our best biomedical research laboratories across the country have already contracted or will begin to close down over the next few years. This is already leading to a loss of jobs and of economic activity as well as of innovation and training capacity across the country so that costly CFI-funded equipment cannot be used due to lack of operating funds.

Support of discovery research environment in Canada is essential to drive innovation.¬†While we applaud the government‚Äôs efforts to support applied and translational research, to foster research between industry and academia, and to drive commercialization, it cannot be at the expense of supporting discovery research as a key component of the¬†STI system.¬†Further,¬†OECD data¬†for 2013 indicate that Canada only spends 1.6% of its GDP on Research and Development (R&D), compared to the average OECD nations at 2.4% of GDP. We strongly encourage the Government of Canada to work towards increased spending on R&D to 3.5% of the GDP as in the most aspiring nations such as Japan, Korea, Sweden, Finland and Israel as recommended by the¬†Scientific Advisory Board of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Increased funding for R&D in Canada will enable our country a complete and competitive innovation pipeline ‚Äď from foundational discovery research to commercialization.

Recommendation:

The board of the CSMB proposes two concrete and feasible measures to address the immediate crisis that is occurring for basic discovery research in Canada:

Increases to open operating grant budgets of CIHR and NSERC. The upcoming Federal budgets will be crucial for the Canadian research enterprise. Annual increases for the granting councils CIHR and NSERC by 5% each year for a minimum of 3 years and that these increases be directed to the most competitive and innovative research funded by the open operating grant competitions (NSERC Discovery Grants and CIHR Foundation and Project Grants). This infusion of funding would stop the downwards trend that we have experienced for fundamental basic research in Canada. Ensuring that discovery research is maintained in Canada will a) generate innovations leading to increased productivity, b) train the next generation of scientists necessary for a robust STI-inspired economy and c) maintain the employment of highly trained research staff (technicians, research associates) in Canada.

 

Continued investment in research infrastructure. CFI should continue to play an important role to finance world-class infrastructure. Similar to operational funding, through the CFI Innovation program there has been an increased emphasis on funding large collaborative projects of targeted research projects that can demonstrate the potential of short-term economic or societal benefits. Though this funding is both welcomed and necessary to keep Canada a global leader in research, unfortunately most basic researchers have limited success at accessing CFI Innovation funds. However, as infrastructure age, access to more modest equipment funding programs is essential. We recommend increased funding of the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund which funds infrastructure for individual researchers. Further increased funding of NSERC Research Tools and Instruments Grants Program and the reinstatement of a modest equipment funding program at CIHR would be equally important. These programs finance urgently needed renewal of ageing infrastructure on a much broader scale that is not eligible for the CFI. In addition to keeping Canada’s research laboratories competitive, equipment renewal drives Canada’s biotechnology equipment sector and directly leads to job creation. The additional cost needed for this is about 10 million $ per granting council, for a total of 30 million per year (2016-2018).

To conclude, we applaud the continued commitment of the Canadian government to world-class discovery-based research and its applications for improved health, training and economic development. We hope that the government will agree that Canada must now prioritize STI by increasing investments into the CIHR and NSERC, and sustained support for the CFI. This will ensure that our researchers can reach their full potential continuing to do world-class research and innovation that will stimulate economic development and job creation across our nation and improve the health of Canadians.

On behalf of the board, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to provide our input and we would be happy to provide further information and insights in person if requested.

Sincerely,

Kristin Baetz Ph.D.
President of the CSMB
Canada Research Chair in Chemical and Functional Genomics
Associate Professor
Director of the Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology
Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology
University of Ottawa
613 562-5800 ext 8592
kbaetz@uottawa.ca

 

 

2015 Federal Budget – CSMB Response -April 28 2015

2015 Federal budget ‚Äď Good news for the CFI, but continued erosion of funding for Discovery research.

The CSMB is encouraged by the fact that the Government of Canada considers research and innovation as priorities that figure prominently in the 2015 budget announcement. The new 1.33 billion $ funding for the Canada Foundation of Innovation (CFI) is a critical investment to ensure that Canadian researchers will continue to have access to cutting edge equipment. The fact that the core operating budgets of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) were exempt from the cuts facing other federal agencies shows a commitment to research despite a challenging budget environment. However, the limited new investments of 46 million $ into tri-council funding are largely targeted to specific programs such as the strategy for patient-oriented research and to industrial collaborations. As a consequence, funding for Discovery Research in Canada continues to stagnate thus further eroding our nation’s capacity for research and future innovations.

The fact that significant new investments continue to be made into targeted programmes, such as the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), shows that we need to further educate decision makers about the nature of the scientific process and about the essential role of Discovery Research in the innovation process. Nobody, neither the best scientists, nor government can pick winners and predict what research will lead to the next ‚Äėbig discovery‚Äô, making targeted investments a questionable use of taxpayer‚Äôs money.

The board of the CSMB strongly encourages all our members and their colleagues and fellow students to educate those who want to be elected in October 2015 about the needs of the scientific community. We as scientists need to speak up clearly and in large numbers to ensure that the next federal government, no matter which colour it has, will make more inspired choices!

Christian Baron, President

 

 

Letter to Hon. J. Moore, Minister of Industry & response from the Minister – February 2015

Read our letter to the Honorable James Moore, Minister of Industry: Investments addressing urgent needs for discovery research and innovation.

Read the Response from Honourable James Moore (PDF)

 

Montréal, 24.2.2015

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Industry
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Object: Investments addressing urgent needs for discovery research and innovation.

Dear Minister Moore,

Thank you for your letter of February 2nd 2015 in which you kindly respond to our inquiry about the government’s priorities for research funding in Canada. This is greatly appreciated. We have in fact never questioned the government’s willingness to sustain investments in scientific research and innovation that have factually attracted many new researchers to Canada. However, we have become victims of our own success and cannot ignore the increasingly difficult situation in many discovery research laboratories across the country. This situation is caused by the increasing numbers of excellent researchers in Canada, by changing priorities of the funding agencies CIHR and NSERC, by the largely stagnant funding for these agencies, and by the in fact mostly targeted nature of the top-ups of Tri council spending you mention in your letter.

The overwhelming majority of discovery research laboratories critically depend on the very competitive and most innovative open operating grant competitions. The success rates and funding levels have unfortunately dropped to critical levels in recent years. The success rates in the open competitions at CIHR have dropped from about 25% only a few years ago to 14%, and even the funded grants were all cut by 26.8 %. The success rates for NSERC discovery grant applications are higher, but the average grant for a bioscience laboratory is nowadays around 35,000$/year, which is grossly insufficient for an internationally competitive research program. We are very concerned that short changing discovery research programs will continue to undermine the river of innovation and that important potential for translation benefiting the health of Canadians and economic development will be lost.

The recent episode on the narrowly avoided closure of the Mont Mégantic Observatory is only one example of the changed priorities at NSERC, but the consequences keep increasing, largely due to the increasingly insufficient funding available for the open competitions that fund discovery research at NSERC and at CIHR. In fact, there are currently dozens, if not hundreds of little Mont Mégantic Observatories across our country, research laboratories that have contracted, closed, or face this danger in the near future, if the prioritization of government funding does not change! This is not sufficiently known since itis not in the nature of scientists to complain openly, but as representatives of a significant part of the bioscience and biomedical research community we cannot ignore this fact.

We realize that the budgetary environment is challenging, but to address the urgent needs of the scientific community the CSMB has made the following proposal in the context of the 2014 pre-budgetary consultation, and I am sending you the full text enclosed. The CSMB proposes the following:

  1. 3% annual increases of the budgets of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and of the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) that should be targeted to the most innovative open operating grant competitions that fund investigator-initiated discovery research.
  2. Reinstatement of the NSERC research tools and equipment (RTI) program and the equivalent funding at CIHR and continued support for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
  3. Gradual increase of the indirect cost program from the current 20% to reach 40% in 2017.

We have costed our proposals and the required resources would closely match the new funding that was recently announced for the Canada First Research Excellence fund. Whereas the creation of the CFREF is certainly an interesting idea, it constitutes yet another new and targeted program, requiring more administration that will only benefit a limited number of researchers. In contrast, the investments into Tri-council funding proposed by the CSMB would broadly improve the situation for researchers across the country, and that in a peer reviewed fashion, strictly based on excellence and high potential for discovery and innovation.

In the name of the board, I would kindly request that you consider our proposals. Those proposals should not be seen as competition to existing or new programs like the CFREF, but as a practical and modest investment that would respond to the most urgent needs of the scientific community and that would have broad impact all across our country. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Dr. Christian Baron, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Université de Montréal
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
President of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

Université de Montréal
Pavillon Roger-Gaudry
C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville
Montréal, Québec
H3C 3J7

c.c. The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology)
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition
Kennedy Stewart, NDP Critic (Science and Technology)
Laurin Liu, NDP Deputy Critic (Science and Technology)
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Ted Hsu, Liberal Critic (Science and Technology)
Dr. Mario Pinto, President of NSERC
Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of CIHR
Dr. Gilles Patry, President and CEO of the CFI

 

 

Call to action: Request increased funding for research – January 12, 2015

Call to action: Request increased funding for research

Dear CSMB Members,

Today I am contacting you to request your active involvement in the society’s advocacy work aimed at obtaining increased support for curiosity-driven basic research. Increased funding would be beneficial for all our members, for principal investigators as well as for postdoctoral researchers and for students who are particularly vulnerable in the currently fragile situation of funding for research. Before the holidays, I have written letters to the Prime Minister of Canada, to the Ministers of Finance, Health and Industry as well as to the leaders of the opposition parties and the critics for science and technology. In these letters the CSMB is requesting increased support for NSERC and CIHR as well as for the indirect cost program financing research activities at Universities; you will find the link to these letters on our website.

Will these letters be answered? We have received some encouraging feedback, but I am certain that they will not make much of an impression if these are the only communications the politicians receive on this topic. This is where your implication would make a difference! This initiative will only succeed if the politicians we address feel that the expressed views correspond to concerns many citizens and voters have. Remember, most politicians are decent people dedicated to public service and to our country, but they are in the business of being elected and they will only listen if many speak up on a particular issue.

What kind of letter or email you write is of course entirely at your discretion. You could endorse or paraphrase this letter. Even better, you could describe, using concrete examples, how the limited amount of research funding affects your life, your career or your future plans. Speak from a personal perspective! Explain the importance of consistent and sufficient funding, especially in terms of discovery, training the next generation of Canadians and how the public will DIRECTLY benefit from the research. Explain how the stagnation of funding for research has impacted your laboratory/students and how this will negatively impact future development of new technologies / new treatments for Canadian patients. If you are a student wanting to succeed in science, you have even more reasons to participate and why don’t you ask your family and relatives to also write a letter?

We suggest that you write to one of the politicians on our list and/or to your local member of parliament and to the presidents of the political parties. Some of us may be better placed here and we believe that it would make a big difference if CSMB members in Western Canada wrote to elected members of government in their area. Those of us in Eastern Canada will also have choices among members of government, but we should not forget members of the opposition who hope to form the next government.

I realize that this message is focused on advocacy, but this is not the only thing the society is doing as you can see in the President’s letter. Advocacy for increased research funding is our number one priority. The board believes that we will succeed if you help us, and thereby yourself, by writing one or two letters or emails and if you motivated others to do the same.

To help us continue our work in your interest we would greatly appreciate if you renewed your membership, and even more so, if each of you motivated one or two of your fellow students or colleagues to join the CSMB. Having more members would give us more authority to speak up in your name. Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,
Christian Baron
Professor and Chair, Université de Montréal
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
President of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

 

 2014

Letters to politicians – November 2014


Letter to Politicians
 (PDF)

 

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Object: Questions on funding for scientific research and innovation

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am writing to you today in the name of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB), a scientific society representing thousands of researchers (graduate students, postdoctoral researchers employees and professors) across Canada. The CSMB recognizes the fact that despite a very challenging budgetary environment the Government of Canada has generally kept funding for scientific research and innovation stable. However, due to the natural expansion of Canada’s outstanding research institutions and the increasing targeted funding of applied programs over basic curiosity-driven discovery research the available funding has factually declined, leading to a very fragile situation at many research institutions. There are actually dozens, if not hundreds of laboratories across the country that have already contracted their activities leading to losses of jobs and of capacity to do research and to innovate. Considering recent funding trends at government funding agencies, others will have to contract in the very near future and risk being closed down over the next few years.

Despite the currently fragile situation, it is not too late for government to react and to avoid the contraction of research capacity, the loss of past investments and of jobs in research. We are confident that decision makers are sensitive to the challenges faced by the scientific community and that the potential of research for improving the health of Canadians and for the development of our economy are well recognized. As a consequence, we hope that the improving financial situation of the federal government will enable stable increases of funding for research and innovation in the near future.

In preparation for the Federal Election in 2015 we would like to inform our members about the positions and plans of the different political parties on funding for scientific research and innovation in order to inform their electoral choices. For this reason the board of the CSMB has formulated the following list of requests and questions.

  1. To reverse the gradual decline of funding to basic discovery research the CSMB proposes 3% annual increases of the budgets of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and of the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) that should be targeted to the most innovative open operating grant competitions.
  2. To fill a critical gap for renewal of research instrumentation in laboratories, the NSERC research tools and equipment (RTI) program and the equivalent funding at CIHR should be restored to previous levels. Funding for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) continues to be an excellent investment and should be sustained.
  3. To enable institutions to more adequately support the mission of researchers, we propose a gradual increase of the indirect cost program from the current 20%to reach 40% in 2017.

The requested increases may sound audacious, but if they were properly phased in from 2015-2017 this would coincide with the 150th birthday of our nation. This investment would very adequately show your vision of Canada’s future as a nation of innovators dedicated to the generation of knowledge and of economic prosperity

  1. The board of the CSMB and many of our colleagues are concerned about the perceived preference of government funding agencies for applied research at the cost of basic curiosity-driven discovery research. Whereas funding for applied work is of course important, the increasing emphasis on this aspect will cause damages in the long run since we need sustained basic research-driven innovation to fill the pipeline of applied research. What is your position on this topic and how will you ensure the right balance between funding for basic and applied research?

In the name of the board and of all our members, I would very much appreciate your feedback on the above proposals and questions. I am of course available to answer any questions you may have on the CSMB and on funding for research and innovation in general. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Dr. Christian Baron, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Université de Montréal
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
President of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

Université de Montréal
Pavillon Roger-Gaudry
C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville
Montréal, Québec
H3C 3J7

c.c.      The Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry
The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology)
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition
Kennedy Stewart, NDP Critic (Science and Technology)
Laurin Lui, NDP Deputy Critic (Science and Technology)
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Ted Hsu, Liberal Critic (Science and Technology)
Dr. Mario Pinto, President of NSERC
Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of CIHR
Dr. Gilles Patry, President and CEO of the CFI

 

 

Submission for 2014 Pre-Budget Consultation – August 6, 2014

Board of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB)

Submission for Pre-Budget Consultation to the House of Commons
Standing Committee on Finance
August 6th, 2014

Posted: August 7th, 2014

PDF Version 

Executive summary:

The board of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) thanks the Standing Committee on Finance for the opportunity to provide feedback as part of the pre-budget consultation. Our society represents the interests of hundreds of faculty members and research personnel who are training thousands of students in basic bioscience and biomedical research departments at Universities and other research institutions across Canada. We confirm that past investments have considerably strengthened Canada‚Äôs capacity for scientific research, for innovation, for training of highly qualified personnel and for the applications of results in biotechnology and medicine. In a very challenging budgetary environment the government has maintained support for science by continuing investments in government funding agencies and into the indirect cost program that provides crucial support for research institutions in all parts of the country. Whereas we applaud these investments we cannot ignore the fact that despite largely maintaining the budgets of the funding agencies, the available resources are not sufficient to leverage the increased capacity for research and innovation in our nation. If we want to ‚ÄúSeize Canada‚Äôs Moment‚ÄĚ, citing a recent Industry Canada consultation document, audacious steps are necessary to leverage past investments for improved health of Canadians and to create more competitive companies and sustainable economic development.

CSMB recommendation for improved health and economic development by investing in basic discovery-oriented research:

Successive Canadian governments have increased and largely sustained investments in basic discovery-driven and applied research supporting world-class innovation in academic institutions across our country. Investments in the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) have provided world-class equipment making our institutions competitive with the best in the world. The granting councils Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) have provided operating funds to make world-class discoveries and to provide training to highly qualified personnel who will continue to innovate in academic as well as in industrial environments. Indeed, as Canadians we can all be proud of these achievements! The past investments have greatly broadened our capacity for innovation and knowledge creation, for training of highly qualified personnel who create companies and jobs and there has also been a net migration of excellent researchers to our country. The government of Canada has maintained the investments in the granting councils in challenging economic times, showing its continued commitment to supporting world-class basic discovery-driven as well as applied research. Modern technology used in hospitals to improve the health of Canadians and innovative approaches used in the biotechnology sector now were developed in basic research laboratories 10-20 years ago. Continued investments into early stage discovery research are therefore crucial in order to reap the benefits of such discoveries in future.

We applaud the past investments, but the Canadian research enterprise is now at across roads! Research funding was largely maintained in recent years and even increased in some very targeted areas, but the granting councils CIHR and NSERC simply cannot keep up with the increased research capacity we have built over the last years. We feel that the government’s science and technology policy risks to be a victim of its own success, if the government does not make audacious steps to build on our past successes and investments.

The most important issue is that the success rates at open operating grants competition of the granting councils CIHR and NSERC have been steadily eroding over the last years. Also, important support mechanisms such as equipment grants have almost disappeared due to increased budgetary and application pressure. Just as an example, the success rate at the CIHR open operating grant competition was about 25% just a few years ago, reflecting a healthy competition for the best ideas ensuring that only excellent and very promising work is being funded. However, this has steadily eroded and dropped to 14% in the last competition. In addition, even the funded grants were all cut by 26.8%! This low success rate is getting close to the situation at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at the National Science Foundation (NSF) implying that we have almost lost our competitive advantage that helped us attract many researchers from the United States. The upcoming reforms of the CIHR open operating grant funding and peer review system further aggravate this situation by restraining the number of competitions in which researchers can submit their most innovative and competitive ideas for funding. Also, the mechanism of implementation of these reforms causes important funding gaps, which has let to widespread concerns in the scientific community. As a consequence of all these factors, there are dozens, if not hundreds of research laboratories across the country that have already contracted, will have to contract in the very near future and risk being closed down over the next few years. Whereas researchers at many major research Universities appear still be able to compete in this environment, it is already clear that colleagues at many small and mid-sized institutions outside of the major urban centers are not able to sustain their activities at competitive levels. This is already leading to a loss of innovation and training capacity and to a loss of research capacity across the country so that costly CFI-funded equipment can not be used due to lack of operating funds.

Whereas the above may sound alarmist, we feel that it appropriately reflects the fragile situation in many research laboratories across the country at this point. Further, we wish to underline that it is not too late for the government to react and to avoid the contraction of research capacity, the loss of past investments and the potential for future job creation and health benefits. The board of the CSMB proposes three concrete and feasible measures to address this situation in the following.

 

First, the upcoming Federal budgets will be crucial for the Canadian research enterprise and even modest annual 3% increases for the granting councils CIHR and NSERC, if targeted to the most innovative open operating grant competitions, would stop the downwards trend that we have experienced. Additional cost about 30 million $ per granting council, 60 million $total per year (2015-2017).

Second, the CFI should continue to play an important role to finance world-class infrastructure, but the reinstatement of the more modest equipment funding programs at NSERC and CIHR would be equally important. These programs finance urgently needed renewal of ageing infrastructure on a much broader scale that is not eligible for the CFI. Additional cost about 10 million $ per granting council, 20 million $ total per year (2015-2017).

Third, we suggest that the indirect cost program should be gradually increased from the current 20% to reach 40% in 2017 in order to enable research institutions to more adequately support their mission. This increase may indeed sound audacious, but it would coincide with the 150th birthday of our nation. It would very adequately show our vision of Canada’s future as a nation of innovators dedicated to the generation of knowledge and of economic prosperity. Additional cost about 100 million $ per year (2015-2017).

To conclude, we applaud the continued commitment of the Canadian government to world-class discovery-based research and its applications for improved health, training and economic development. We hope that the government will agree that Canada must seize this moment and that the improving budgetary situation will enable modestly increased investments into the CIHR and NSERC, and sustained support for the CFI. This will ensure that our researchers can reach their full potential continuing to do world-class research and innovation that will stimulate economic development and job creation across our nation and improve the health of Canadians.

On behalf of the board I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to provide our input and we would be happy to provide further information and insights in person if requested.

Sincerely,

Dr. Christian Baron

President of the CSMB

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

Université de Montréal

 

 

CSMB Response to Industry consultation – February 10, 2014

 

CSMB Response to Industry Consultation (PDF)

 

The Honorable James Moore
Minister of Industry
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

February 10th, 2014

Re.: Response of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) to the consultation on Canadian Science, Technology and Innovation policy.

Dear Minister Moore,

As president of the¬†Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB)¬†I thank the Minister of Industry for the opportunity to provide our feedback on the future strategy of the government aimed at “continuing investments in discovery-driven research, strengthening Canada’s knowledge base, supporting research infrastructure and providing incentives to private sector innovation.” The CSMB represents over a thousand bioscientists at all career levels across the country and we have encouraged our members to respond individually to the online consultation process responding to the document ‚ÄúSeizing Canada‚Äôs Moment : Moving Forward in Science, Technology and Innovation‚ÄĚ.

As president of the CSMB I would like to provide some reflections on behalf of the board, specifically to the questions raised in point three of the discussion paper that is closely linked to our member’s expertise as scientists.

Questions: How might Canada build upon its success as a world leader in discovery-driven research?
Is the Government of Canada’s suite of programs appropriately designed to best support research excellence?‚ÄĚ

We agree with the basic premise of the consultation paper emphasizing that successive Canadian governments have increased and largely sustained investments in basic discovery-driven and applied research supporting world-class innovation in academic institutions across our country. Investments in the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) have provided world-class equipment making our institutions competitive with the best in the world. The granting councils Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) have provided operating funds to make world-class discoveries and to provide training to highly qualified personnel who will continue to innovate in academic as well as in industrial environments. Indeed, as Canadians we can all be proud of these achievements!

The past investments have greatly broadened our capacity for innovation and knowledge creation and we confirm that¬†“There has also been a net migration of researchers over the past decade as Canada increasingly continues to be a sought-after destination for some of the world’s brightest minds.‚Ä̬†The government of Canada has maintained the investments in the granting councils in challenging economic times, showing its continued commitment to¬†‚Äúsupporting world-class discovery-driven research at all levels.‚ÄĚ

Nevertheless, the Canadian research enterprise is now at a crossroads, and it is therefore most pertinent that the government asks for input to inform its future strategy. We cannot hide that there are very widespread concerns in the research community, since the continued investments, especially into the granting councils CIHR and NSERC, simply cannot keep up with the needs of the increased research capacity we have built over the last years. In a way, the government’s science and technology policy risks to be a victim of its own success if we do not take the appropriate measures to build on our success.

The most important issue is that the success rates at open operating grants competition of the granting councils CIHR and NSERC have been steadily eroding over the last years. Also, important support mechanisms such as equipment grants have almost disappeared due to budgetary pressure. Just as an example, the success rate at the CIHR open operating grant competition was about 25% just a few years ago, reflecting a healthy competition for the best ideas ensuring that only excellent work is being funded. However, this has steadily eroded and dropped to just over 15% in the last competition and in addition, even the funded grants were all cut by 26.8%! This low success rate is getting close to the almost desperate situation at the National Institutes of Health and at the National Science Foundation implying that we have almost lost our competitive advantage that helped us attract researchers from the United States. The upcoming reforms of the CIHR open operating grant funding and peer review system further aggravate this situation by restraining the number of competitions in which researchers can submit their most innovative and competitive ideas for funding. Also, the mechanism of implementation of these reforms causes important funding gaps even for successful applications, which has let to widespread concerns in the scientific community. As a consequence, there are dozens, if not hundreds of research laboratories across the country that have already contracted, will have to contract in the very near future and risk being closed down over the next few years. Whereas researchers at many major research Universities appear still be able to compete in this environment, it is already clear that colleagues at many small and mid-sized Universities outside of the major urban centers are not able to sustain their activities at competitive levels. This is already leading to a loss of innovation and training capacity, to a loss of research capacity across the country so that costly CFI-funded equipment can not be used due to lack of operating funds.

Whereas the above may sound alarmist, we feel that it appropriately reflects the fragile situation in many University research laboratories across the country at this point. Further, we wish to underline that it is not too late for the government to react and to avoid the contraction of research capacity and the loss of past investments. The board of the CSMB proposes three concrete and feasible measures to address this situation in the following.

First, the upcoming Federal budgets will be crucial for the Canadian research enterprise and even modest 2% increases for the granting councils CIHR and NSERC, if targeted to the most innovative open operating grant competitions, would stop the downwards trend that we have experienced.

Second, the CFI should continue to play an important role to finance world-class infrastructure, but the reinstatement of the much more modest equipment funding programs at NSERC and CIHR would be equally important. These programs finance urgently needed renewal of ageing2infrastructure on a much broader scale that is not eligible for the CFI.

Third, we suggest that the indirect cost program should be gradually increased from the current 20% to reach 50% in 2017 in order to enable Universities to adequately support researchers in their mission. This increase may sound audacious, but it would coincide with the 150th birthday of our country, and it would very adequately show our vision of Canada’s future as a nation of innovators dedicated to the generation of knowledge and of economic prosperity.

To conclude, we applaud the continued commitment of the Canadian government to world-class discovery-based research and its applications. Indeed, Canada must seize this moment! Nevertheless, as president of the CSMB speaking on behalf of the entire board of the society, I feel the need to communicate the concerns of our members that reflect the situation on the ground in our country. We hope that the improving budgetary situation will enable modestly increased investments into the CIHR and NSERC, and sustained support for the CFI, so that our researchers can reach their full potential continuing to do world-class research and innovation that will stimulate economic development and job creation across our nation and improve the health of Canadians. We thank you again for the opportunity to provide our input and for considering the views expressed in this letter.

Sincerely,
Dr. Andrew Simmonds
President

c.c.   The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honorable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
The Honorable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology)
The Honorable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition
Kennedy Stewart, NDP Critic (Science and Technology)
Laurin Lui, NDP Deputy Critic (Science and Technology)
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Ted Hsu, Liberal Critic (Science and Technology)
Dr. Janet Walden, Chief Operating Officer of NSERC
Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of CIHR
Dr. Gilles Patry, President and CEO of the CFI

 

 2013

CSMB Board Members’ Response to the 2013 Federal Budget – April 6, 2013

Research and innovation remain at the forefront of the Federal 2013 Budget
CSMB Board Members’ Response to the Federal Budget

Posted: April 6, 2013

The 2013 Federal Budget made it clear that Research and Innovation remains a key priority for the government and that they have positive impact on Canada’s economy. Importantly, while other sectors are being impacted by austerity measures and budget cuts, overall federal support for research and development was increased. The Canadian Society of Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) applauds the government’s continued commitment to build a world-class research and innovation culture that is essential for Canada’s long-term prosperity. However, the CSMB is concerned that the emphasis on applied research may erode Canada’s capacity for discovery-based research and as a consequence, its applications in future.

The CSMB was pleased to see that there was an additional $165 million for Genome Canada to support new competitions. Further, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has been granted access to accrued interest on the foundations endowment which will allow them to invest $225 million into advanced research infrastructure. This is especially welcome news for academic researchers in light of the fact that equipment grants were terminated at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and that the size of the program was reduced at NSERC.

Importantly, the overall funding of the Tri-council granting agencies remained unchanged and did not experience substantial budget cuts seen for other agencies. Though there was an announced increase of $37 million, this compensates for planned cuts of the same amount and these newly announced funds are targeted to specific priorities. In the case of the $15 million per year new funding for NSERC, $12 million of that will be targeted to the College and Community Innovation Program. The $15 million received by CIHR are slated for the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research. There was no increase for core research grants or trainee scholarships.

The biggest gains for research in the 2013 Economic Action Plan were for applied research and business innovation. This included $121 million over two years to align the research of the National Research Council with key business sectors; $20 million over three years to aid small and medium sized business with access to research and business development services at post-secondary institutions and significant changes to Canada’s Venture Capital system to promote innovation.

Though it is important for the Canadian economy that business-related Research and Development (R&D) is supported and that Canada creates an innovation-based entrepreneurial business environment that funds R&D, the CSMB is concerned that this is occurring at the expense of basic discovery research. ‚ÄúBlue-sky‚ÄĚ research and training have a value as such in a knowledge-based society like ours, even though it may not appear to have immediate commercialization possibilities. In addition, ‚ÄúBlue-sky‚ÄĚ research is known to provide the foundation for entire industries and to be the basis of novel therapeutics. Sufficient and stable funding of unfettered discovery research is therefore essential for Canada to maintain a healthy research enterprise, as well as sustain its longer-term competitiveness and future prosperity, and also to train the next generation of innovators.

The CSMB is committed to continue advocating for increased funding for discovery-based research for Canadian researchers through both our own initiatives and our continued involvement with Research Canada.

What you can do? CSMB members are encouraged to write to the Prime Minister, their Member of Parliament and/or Cabinet Ministers  to thank them for their support of the research enterprise in Canada with a short personal success story (discovery, invention, start-up company, successful trainee, etc.) showing the benefits of the continued investment in discovery research.

 

 

CSMB Response to NSERC Request for Consultation – April 1, 2013

CSMB Response to NSERC Request for Consultation

April 1, 2013

Ms Isabelle Blain
Vice-President
Research Grants and Scholarship
NSERC

Dear Ms Blain,

The Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB), previously known as the Canadian Society of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology (CSBMCB), thanks you for the opportunity to participate in the evaluation of the Discovery Grants Program. Since 2011, the CSMB includes the members of the former Genetics society of Canada and therefore represents scientists with a wide variety of disciplines in the biosciences.

The consultation questions were circulated to all of our members who were requested to forward their comments to the CSMB for preparation of a response from the Society. A number of responses were forwarded which assisted greatly in the preparation of this report.

Our report is structured as a series of responses to the consultation questions.

Role of the Discovery Grants Program

Q.1 ? What role does or should the Discovery Grants program play in funding NSE research, including basic or fundamental research, high-risk research and multidisciplinary research?

The NSERC Discovery Grants program and its predecessors the NSERC and earlier the NRC Operating Grant programs have played a crucial role in the development of excellent research programs at Canadian universities. As stated by one of our members ‚ÄúThere are few, if any, other sources of stable funding for fundamental research, which supplies ideas and new discoveries that can eventually be incorporated into applied research‚ÄĚ. Basic research is the engine behind applied research and it also provides the training for personnel who will later be involved in basic research. As another member states ‚ÄúAs you are aware, the International Review Committee reported in 2007 that NSERC‚Äôs Discovery Grant program was a model for broad-based support of basic science, and specifically noted that there was no evidence to suggest that NSERC was funding anything other than excellent research.‚ÄĚ Clearly NSERC should be proud of its central role in the development of an excellent basic research community. Certainly, the NSERC Discovery Grants program should continue to play this crucial role in Canadian Science.

Nevertheless, a major concern expressed by members was their perception of the declining portion of the NSERC budget dedicated to basic research with more emphasis being placed on applied research.

Certainly applied research is important and we realize that there maybe political directives to increase the proportion of funding dedicated to it. However, basic research is of fundamental importance to the maintenance and advancement of the Canadian research community as well as for all the applications that will ultimately emerge. One member states ‚ÄúIt is difficult to understand why the government needs to be continually reminded that lack of funding for fundamental and high-risk research in the present will cripple applied research in the future?‚ÄĚ We hope that NSERC will continue to make this point to decision makers.

A related major concern is the decline in success rates and in the size of the average grant. The funds available do not allow for successful applicants to have research programs that reach their full potential. The low success rate of new applicants prevents them from developing research programs at the important initial stage of their university career. The failure of productive applicants to obtain renewals means a break in continuity of their research programs and possibly demise of them while applicants still have years of potential productivity ahead of them.

Finally, the decline in success rates reduces the diversity of research in Canada and concerns were especially expressed for smaller universities. To paraphrase a comment from a member an extra $30,000 to a large lab provides support for example for an additional postdoctoral fellow doing research closely related to others in the laboratory whereas that same funding given to a small laboratory supports an entire research program in a completely different area.

Q.2 ? Do you believe that the current focus and objective of the Discovery Accelerator Supplements are appropriate?

There was a difference of opinion of members responding to this question. Some supported the DAS but felt that they should not be targeted but rather available to the most outstanding applications. Others thought the DAS should be discontinued and the funds put into the Discovery Grants budget to increase success rates and/or average grant sizes. Considering that the new evaluation process allows for significant increases of funding given to excellent applications, it is not clear whether the DAS program is still as justified as it was when it was originally designed.

Program Design and Delivery

The performance and outcomes of the Discovery Grants program are measured against three program objectives:

promote and maintain a diversified base of high-quality research capability in the natural sciences and engineering in Canadian universities;

foster research excellence; and

provide a stimulating environment for research training.

Applicants to the Discovery Grants program are assessed on the following three selection criteria, as judged by their peers:

the excellence of the researcher(s) as demonstrated by the quality and impact of their recent research achievements;

the merit of their research proposal; and

their achievements in, and plans for, research training.

Currently, these three program selection criteria are equally weighted.

  1. 3 ? Do you believe that this is appropriate, based on the three program objectives, or should certain criteria be weighted higher or lower relative to the other criteria, and why?

Members responding agreed that all three program objectives should be assessed but differed in the proportions that they believe should be assigned to the criteria. Several suggested the HQP criteria should be weighted less than the other two criteria.

In 2009 and 2010, NSERC implemented a new peer review system, which involved the following changes:

a two-stage review process that decouples the merit assessment of applications from the funding decision;

a merit assessment that provides a rating for each of the three selection criteria based on a common set of Merit Indicators; and

a new committee structure made up of 12 Evaluation Groups that function in a conference model.

  1. 4 ? Does the new peer-review system enable NSERC to ensure consistency and fairness in the assessment process, across applications?

Members expressed general satisfaction with the new peer-review system. As one member stated ‚ÄúPeer review is a human system and, as such, will never be perfect. But the one we use now is probably better than the alternatives.‚ÄĚ

  1. 5 ? Does the new peer-review system enable meritorious applicants, regardless of their career stage, to increase their funding more quickly?

One member answered this question as follows. ‚ÄúYES with the exception of HQP. By virtue of their ‚Äėnewness‚Äô in the system, ECR generally score moderate for HQP, with a few getting strong. It is recognized that new faculty in a first tenure-track position cannot possibly have the same HQP record as an ER, even with a stellar training plan. This is accounted for to some extent by funding to bin K for ECR. However, beyond that, anyone can get into a high funding bin if they have the past record and an excellent proposal.‚ÄĚ I would concur with this but would add that the overall funding available for the Discovery Grants program does put a brake on the level of increased funding available for applicants at all career stages.

Arthur J. Hilliker
President, Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

 

2012

Research Canada’s Health Research 2012 Advocacy Newsletter – October 2012

Research Canada’s Health Research Advocacy Newsletter
October 2012

CIHR REFORMS UPDATE

As you are aware, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has undertaken a reform of its Open Suite of Programs and peer review process. From the outset, Research Canada’s members expressed concerns both with regards to the proposals being put forward by CIHR and the quality of the communications surrounding the initiative. Many of our members were not clear on what the reforms’ process would entail and how long it would take. Nor were you clear on the agency’s plan to engage you in constructive dialogue and glean the expertise and experience of the community in reshaping the Programs and peer review process.

You also know that Research Canada took it upon itself to communicate our members concerns to Drs. Alain Beaudet and Aubin in the spring of this year and to engage in an ongoing dialogue to stress the importance of clearly communicating information to the community as it becomes available and to offer counsel on ways the agency could engage our members and the broader sector in meaningful exchanges where all parties were heard and understood.

In September of this year, Research Canada undertook a Membership Survey to engage RC’s members in the organization’s strategic planning process by soliciting their views on organizational and sectoral challenges and RC’s role in the sector. During the interviews our members raised the CIHR reforms’ process and provided us with more of their views.

You told us the following:

The reform process is a lot of change all at once especially in light of all of the other changes that are occurring simultaneously at other funding agencies at the federal and provincial levels and within the health charity sector. While many of our members recognized the need for changes to the current system, this amount of change all at once was causing push back on CIHR reforming both the Open Suite of Programs and peer review at the same time.

The reform process must be driven first and foremost by the need for better results from both the Open Suite of Programs and the peer review process. It should not be driven by a costs-saving agenda.

The implementation of the proposed changes will have significant costs associated with them. RC’s members want to know how the implementation phase will be funded.

The creation of a Task Force comprised of members of the health research community to advise CIHR on the reforms’ process was seen as a step in the right direction by many of our members. Also, CIHR’s receptivity in terms of piloting and modeling of the proposed changes gave some comfort to our members.

More information is required from CIHR on an ongoing basis. Many of you told us that more regular updates from CIHR would help you to feel much more a part of the process and provide you with opportunities to offer your suggestions and voice your concerns.

There were many other detailed suggestions that we took away with us from these interviews. Last week, Research Canada met with CIHR to share these latest views from RC’s members. They were very receptive to the concerns and points we raised and indicated that these points reinforced a lot of what they were hearing from their own town halls across the country. They informed RC that they are in the throes of having internal discussions and will be sharing more information with the health research community in the weeks ahead.

Research Canada will continue to monitor this issue moving forward in the interests of ensuring that our members’ individual and collective voices are heard and understood.

Let us continue to work together to build a strong health research enterprise in Canada.

About Research Canada: An Alliance for Health Discovery

Research Canada¬†is a national, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health and prosperity of Canadians by championing Canada’s global leadership in health research. Working for all Canadians, its members and partners are drawn from all sectors dedicated to increasing investments in health research, including the leading health research institutes, national health charities, hospitals, regional health authorities, universities, private industry and others.

 

 

The Scientific Community Responds to CIHR’s Proposed Reforms – May 1, 2012

The Scientific Community Responds to CIHR’s Proposed Reforms to the Open Suite of Programs and to the Peer Review Process

Updated: May 1, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

On February 9, 2012, CIHR released a document describing proposed changes to the open suite of programs and the peer review process. If implemented, these proposals will introduce broad-ranging and fundamental changes to the mechanisms by which operating grant funds are distributed. We urge all members of the “CIHR community” to carefully examine the¬†proposals¬† and to respond to the¬†on-line poll¬†established by CIHR. In addition, considering the inherent limitations of prescribed questions, we encourage you all to personally or collectively communicate your views directly to CIHR.

We also encourage you to share your views of these proposals and so this site has been set up for that purpose. We believe that the proposed changes would represent the most significant changes since CIHR was established and therefore merit a careful examination from all possible perspectives. Your views will be especially valuable at this time in helping to shape policies that will enable Canadian research community to sustain it’s enviable reputation on the international stage.

March 14, 2012 – U. of Toronto, Dept. of Biochemistry, Research Committee

16 Mach 2012, Jacques Cote, Laval University, Cancer Research Center

March 20, 2012 – University Affairs

March 21, 2012 – McGill Univeristy

March 27, 2012 РNova Scotia Health Research Foundation 

March 27, 2012 – UBC Junior Investigator Response Letter

March 30, 2012 – Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

April 2, 2012 – UBC – Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences

April 7, 2012 – The Lancet Editorial – Vol 379 “Catastrophic neglect of the basic sciences in medicine”

April 20, 2012 – CSMB Response Letter to CIHR Reforms – Sent to Drs. A. Beaudet and J. Aubin

April 23, 2012 – UBC – Biochemistry Department

April 23, 2012 РMike Tyers РUniversité de Montréal

April 26, 2012 – University of British Columbia – Department of Medicine Response to CIHR

April 26, 2012 – Research Canada Letter to RC Members re CIHR Reforms

April 27, 2012 РLaval University and Québec University Hospital РCIHR Letter

May 1, 2012 – Universite de Montreal, Department de biochimie

Further updates from CIHR on the proposed changes to the open suite and peer review process

Pre-Training Stream Overview – Received from Kathryn Andrews-Clay, Partnership Branch,CIHR

Environmental Scan of the Existing National and International Practices for Establishing a College of Reveiwers at CIHR – Natalie Bendin, Policy Analyst, Peer Review Management Unit, October 2010

Summary Table of the Environmental Scan Findings

CIHR Reform Survey at U of Toronto (Researchers at University of Toronto were asked to give their general impression of the proposed changes to the CIHR open suite of programs and the peer revew process)

 

2011

The 1,000 Letters Project – March 11, 2011

The 1,000 Letters Project

POSTED: MARCH 11, 2011

 

The goal of this project is to send 1,000 letters to the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and your local M.P. concerning the need for further investments in CIHR to provide internationally competitive levels of funding to our researchers and to allow CIHR to fulfill its mandate to improve the health and prosperity of Canadians.

Via Post:

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
Health Canada
Brooke Claxton Building, Tunney’s Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

Via e.mail:   http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/contact/ahc-asc/minist-eng.php

The letter should be positive and include the following elements:

Re: CIHR

thank the government for its many investments in health research

tell a personal story on the positive impact of CIHR and how the research we conduct improves the health and prosperity of Canadians

raise a concern about the research enterprise, operating grants, international competitiveness, etc

suggest further government investments in CIHR (e.g., The 7% Solution: a government commitment to an additional investment of 7% per year in CIHR would double its budget to $2 billion in 10 years.)

Reinhart Reithmeier
University of Toronto
CIHR University Delegate
r.reithmeier@utoronto.ca

Jean-Pierre Perreault
Jean-Pierre.Perreault@usherbrooke.ca

Send Your Letters Today!

 

 

From the President’s Desk РMarch 10, 2011

From the President’s Desk

MARCH 10TH, 2011

Dear Members:

The Toronto Star recently published a powerful Op-Ed piece by Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier, entitled ¬ę Let‚Äôs Own the Podium in Health Research ¬Ľ. You can read it at:¬†http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/947633–let-s-own-the-podium-in-health-research

Briefly, Dr. Reithmeier points out that Canada’s investments in the Let’s own the Podium Program have been an outstanding success that led to heightened performances by our athletes and a record number of Canadian medals at the Vancouver Olympics. He went on to point out the excellence of Canadian health researchers whose past contributions have been rewarded by Nobel Prizes. Dr. Reithmeier warns, however, that if Canada is to maintain its competitive edge and its position as one of the world’s health research leaders, it must not fall behind in its financial support to CIHR. Injecting an additional 7% into CIHR’s annual budget every year over the next 10 years would double the budget of Canada’s leading health research funding agency. New investments will enable Canada’s best scientific minds to remain leaders at the international level and step up to the Nobel podium once again! Importantly, this investment would also help us to maintain and enhance the quality of our health care system and ensure that we are training and recruiting the best people to build for the future.

I invite you all to actively take part in the 1,000 Letters Project, the details of which are posted on the CSBMCB Advocacy page: https://csmb-scbm.ca/advocacy/ . The goal of this project is to send 1,000 letters to the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and your local MP concerning the need for further investment in CIHR to provide internationally competitive levels of funding to our researchers and to allow CIHR to fulfill its mandate to improve the health and prosperity of Canadians. If each and every one of us sends out a letter, we will collectively succeed in making a difference for the development of Canadian health research and a stronger economy.

Jean-Pierre Perreault
President, Canadian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology

 

 

CSBMCB Previous Advocacy Posts

A National Public Opinion Poll on Health and Medical Research – January 2010
Posted: January 20, 2010

Sondage d’opinion publique sur la recherche en santé au Canada РJanvier 2010
Posted: January 20, 2010

Transcript of Research Canada’s Health Innovation Panel ‚Äď January 2010¬†
Posted: January 15, 2010

Response to Federal Budget 2009

Posted: February 5, 2009

Research Canada – Budget 2009 Highlights and Challenges Ahead

Posted: February 3, 2009

Letter to House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology

Posted: April 24, 2008

Letter to NSERC from Dr. Eric Brown, CSBMCB Past President, re. Internal Review of the Discovery Grant Program, September 2007

Posted: September 12, 2007

Letter to Minister Clement from CSBMCB Executive, October 2006 

Posted: October 24, 2006

Write your MP (Find your MP) 

Posted: October 5, 2006

CSBMCB Response to the International Review of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research 

Submitted by the CSBMCB Executive, August, 2006
Posted: September 1, 2006