Minister of Science and Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kirsty Duncan is photographed in her office in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Duncan is making good on a promise today to help young researchers who are trying to establish themselves in their fields. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Minister of Science and Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kirsty Duncan is photographed in her office in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Duncan is making good on a promise today to help young researchers who are trying to establish themselves in their fields. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan says she expects universities to nominate young scientists for the vast majority of Canada’s new federally-funded research jobs.

Duncan is on a cross-country tour of universities this week to promote $210 million worth of funding promised in last winter’s federal budget for the creation of 285 Canada Research Chair jobs.

She told The Canadian Press that she’s calling on universities to find scientists in the early stages of their careers to nominate for most of the new positions. Last year, she told universities they need to up their game in nominating more women to existing jobs.

Duncan said that over the last decade young researchers have been hit hardest by budget cuts to science programs.

“If I don’t address this issue of underfunding for our early career researchers, where are we going to be in 10 to 15 years?” she said.

Duncan wants up to 250 of the 285 new jobs to go to early career researchers.

Canada Research Chairs are funded for five to seven years, with grants of either $100,000 or $200,000 a year, to push the envelope on research in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. There are 2,000 chairs available but about 1,700 are currently filled.

READ MORE: Trudeau announces funding to build nuclear medicine hub in B.C.

Canada spent $265 million a year on the program before the latest boost. The $210 million commitment will add $25 million to the program this year, rising to $50 million a year by 2022-23.

In May 2017, Duncan was incensed when the latest list of nominations for the chairs had twice as many men on it as women. She threatened the schools they would lose their funding for future positions if they didn’t start working harder to nominate qualified women.

The schools responded and more than 40 per cent of the nominations for the latest round of appointments went to women. The number of female research chairs has increased from about one in four in 2009 to almost one in three today.

Duncan said the nominations also included a proportional number of Indigenous candidates and a higher number of visible minorities than in the past.

She expects the schools to continue to focus on diversity in the new nominations of early career researchers as well.

Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy, which argues for the use of science in policymaking, said the government’s budget commitments to science are a significant investment even if they aren’t ”hugely transformational.”

“I think overall it made the research community quite happy,” she said.

She said there is grumbling among researchers that the extra funds for granting councils that distribute money to academic researchers for particular projects — a promised $925 million between now and 2023 — are not flowing yet, and there are still gaps in covering the ongoing operating costs of labs.

But Gibbs said the biggest concern is that the government’s own scientific work is still flailing. Overall, Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down.

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Statistics Canada are among 18 departments whose internal budgets for scientific research are lower today than almost a decade ago.

READ MORE: Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

The federal Conservatives took heavy criticism from the scientific community for cutting science jobs and funding, and accusations were made that government scientists were kept from speaking publicly about their research unless explicitly given permission from political authorities.

Gibbs said the Liberals have loosened the muzzle somewhat but funding for government science has not been restored.

Duncan defended the government’s in-house funding, saying there is $2.8 billion for government lab infrastructure.

She said she knows the importance of government-led research noting federal scientists work on things like the Ebola vaccine and Canadian durum wheat.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Accessibility improvements and more classrooms at the Houston Christian School should be completed by the new school year. (Houston Today photo)
Accessibility improvements coming to Houston Christian School

Construction package includes two classrooms

The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)
Houston hatchery and nature centre’s upcoming events

The conservation group to host summer students this year

Council wants a say in the expansion of long term care services in Smithers. Pictured here is the Bulkley Lodge facility in that community. (Google photo)
Long term care remains on council priority list

Wants to be involved in expansion plans in Smithers

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Most Read