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Revitalizing research: E4D’s contribution to Canada’s fundamental science review

This month, the federal government has been inviting Canadians to weigh in on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review. Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan has assembled an Independent Review Panel, who are considering the feedback of thousands of Canadians for our nations’ scientific future.
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The panel is primarily investigating mechanisms of science funding: grants, fellowships, and the balance between fundamental and applied research. Are the current programs adequate? And perhaps more important, do these funding mechanisms address issues of science integrity?We asked our community for their thoughts on these important issues to contribute our perspective on how research can be revitalized in Canada. Below are some highlights from our recommendations.

With regard to supporting fundamental research, we made eight critical recommendations. Here are the top 3:

  1. Reinstate and increase funding to basic/curiosity-based science
  2. Reduce mandated requirements for academic-industrial research partnerships
  3. Increase funding to Discovery Grants, as well as to early-career researchers and graduate students. Our community noted that these tools were comprehensive, and superior to similar offerings in other countries, but part of an underfunded system.

We gave a number of program-specific recommendations to the Independent Review Panel, however, we urge that the Panel consider the implications of their decisions that go beyond funding mechanisms. Fundamental science funding cannot be considered in isolation from innovation-driven research and government-led monitoring. It is important that an appropriate balance be struck between applied and basic science, and the place of social science be considered.

Finally, this Panel should give careful thought to recommendations which support critical partnerships and collaborations, especially where contemplating the need for government scientists to be free to communicate with their peers, free to publish without censorship and for their research to be free from political interference. We encourage the Panel to take a broad scope: consider not only fiscal resources, but also the essential elements of communicating research, addressing public science literacy, and ensuring science integrity. Such an approach will allow not only for competitive science, but to ensure that the ecosystem of research is integrated in such a way benefits not only researchers and policy-makers, but also Canadian society.

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