June 15, 2023 (OTTAWA) – Scientists from all over the country flocked to the University of Ottawa earlier this month for the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB), which focused this year on metabolism and its implications for cancer. Usually an event filled with activities and excitement, however, the mood among young scientists was somewhat subdued, with many raising concerns about their ability to continue their careers in Canada.
“I am now a post-doc at a US university and the possibilities in Canada are simply not comparable to those in the US,” explains Dr. Matthew Berg, a recent Canadian PhD graduate. “The grant money that flows into the labs in the US is at another level. Many of the experiments that are now the gold standard in biosciences are more costly than ever. I wonder how the Canadian research system will hold up in the long term. It is difficult to motivate the next generation of researchers, scientists, and innovators when they are living below the poverty line.”
A recent study published in the journal Biochemistry and Cell Biology which investigated the financial realities of Canadian graduate students found that 86% of graduate students experience stress and anxiety about their finances, while 37% of graduate students worry about their ability to pay rent each month.
“Young science graduates who obtained their degrees in Canada are leaving the country and being recruited to international universities as postdoctoral fellows, research associates, or professors because of a lack of funding and opportunity in our country, and this must stop,”says Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden, Professor at the University of Manitoba, and President of the CSMB.
“The federal government must increase funds for the tri-council agencies that provide the research grants through which most graduate students are receiving their fellowships,” adds Dr. Walid A. Houry, Professor at the University of Toronto, and Vice-President of the CSMB.
CSMB supports the petition currently underway by Support Our Science, which calls on government to pay graduate students and postdoctoral scholars a living wage. We call on the government to increase the budget of the tri-agency funding programs (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) by at least 10% each year over the next five years to better support innovation and the next generation of scientists.