Many of you have been impacted by the CIHR reforms and many of you have told me that you felt helpless in effecting change. Last week Michael Rudnicki took a stand on the issue. When talking to Elizabeth Payne at the Ottawa Citizen about his recent discovery on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Michael let her know about the crisis that is occurring at CIHR and how it is impacting researchers across the country. This led to two front pages articles on the Ottawa Citizen:
These articles, along with a declaration of support of basic research by Minster of Science Kirsty Duncan at the Canadian Science Policy Conference http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/new-science-minister-promises-more-support-for-basic-research , garnered a lot of attention in Ottawa this week.
But more scientists need to be engaged in the discussion. It is critical that the new Liberal government hear about how the CIHR reforms have impacted your research program. Letters/emails to Members of Parliaments (MPs) remain an incredibly powerful tool to bring issues to the forefront for our parliamentarians, especially if received in large numbers. Think this doesn’t work? Last week on Wednesday I rallied my personal friends and colleagues to write emails, Thursday I was contacted by the Minster of Health’s office to arrange a time to discuss the CSMB’s petition and our recommendations to improve the funding of fundamental biomedical research in Canada.
Let’s keep the pressure on!! I encourage you to keep writing and talking to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Health Jane Philpott, Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan, and Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Singh Bains and your local MP. Do not know what to write? Keep it short. Tell them who you are, what you work on and how decreases in success rates and/or the CIHR reforms have impacted you. Two points in particular you could point out, if you chose, are issues with the new online peer review system and the continued targeting of CIHR funding to “strategic” areas which has led to a decrease in funding for open competitions and success rates hovering around 14%.
The Liberal Government has strongly indicated that Science will once again become a priority. Not only does Canada now have two Minsters with science portfolios, the mandate letter from Prime Minister Trudeau to Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan outlined one of her top priorities to “Examine options to strengthen the recognition of and support for fundamental research to support new discoveries.”
The time is right to tell the Liberal Government your concerns about fundamental research funding in Canada and demand changes at CIHR.
Kristin Baetz, President
Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences