Research advocates criticise ‘big science’ budget

An election year budget that focuses on investments in research infrastructure and partnerships with industry but flatlines funding for basic science is being lamented as a lost opportunity by Canadian research advocates, writes Ivan Semeniuk for The Globe and Mail.

At issue is the funding for the three federal granting councils that distribute money for academic work in the natural, health and social sciences. Last year, that funding amounted to about CAD$2.7 billion (US$2.2 billion), and this year’s budget maintains that. Because of inflation and increasing competition, that is actually a tightening of resources for rank-and-file scientists at Canada’s universities and hospitals. At the same time, those institutions are vying for a share of a CAD$1.5 billion pot of money called the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which the government unveiled last year and is aimed at helping push selected projects to a globally competitive level.

The issue resonates beyond Canada’s research institutions. After winning a majority in 2011, the Harper government ignited fierce criticism by shutting federal labs and blocking federal scientists from speaking publicly about their work. Now, with two successive budgets that spotlight large allocations to research over many years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be looking to head off accusations his government is anti-science.
Full report on The Globe and Mail site