Federal Budget 2022 fails to support Canadian scientists and researchers

The Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences echoes the disappointment being expressed by others in the scientific community in response to Federal Budget 2022. Funding for basic discovery research in the sciences has not received the financial support needed for the creation of new knowledge from Canada’s scientists, despite the pandemic clearly showing the necessity of ongoing investments to support fundamental research. We need to look only as far as the pandemic to realize the impact basic science has had on global health. Specifically, we would not have mRNA vaccines had there not been significant and sustained basic funding to basic scientists decades ago. Nor would we have artificial intelligence or machine learning without basic research, funded by the federal government, to researchers working on, at the time, novel ideas that had no obvious application.

Canada’s best and brightest in science and research require ongoing and predictable support. As such, we have been advocating for significant investments in science and discovery research, and in investigator-initiated fundamental research at the granting councils. Although Federal Budget 2022 includes several niche announcements around research, such as funding to create additional Canada Excellence Research Chairs as well as to support post-secondary research in developing technologies, the heavy focus on innovation and application (i.e. the end of the pipeline of discovery) fails to recognize the early stages of the innovation/application pipeline, without which, application would cease to exist. It is essential to support the basic research that is the foundation to discovery and application because without this support, Canadian scientists will not be equipped with the resources that are essential to create discovery and lead to innovation.

For example, whereas the proposal for $40.9M over five years, and $9.7M in ongoing support to the federal granting councils to support targeted scholarships and fellowships for promising Black student researchers is very welcome as means to increase participation from talented individuals, in the absence of more operating funding, students in basic science will have nowhere to go to do their important research.

Without an increase in sustained funding, Canada’s scientific community will find itself unable to react to new and emerging challenges quickly. While funding was rapidly mobilized during the pandemic to support those undertaking research related to our COVID-19 response, those engaged in other important research, whether in biomedical sciences or otherwise, were hopeful that Budget 2022 would provide long-term funding across a breadth of areas, namely through increased support for the granting councils. Because it is impossible to predict the nature of future crises, our country will be best prepared by possessing a broad range of basic scientific knowledge and experts.

It is more important now than ever that the Government acts on lessons learned from the pandemic, and be adequately prepared to meet future challenges by appropriately funding science and research. We strongly urge the Government to consider this pressing issue looking forward to the Fall Economic Update.