As chair of the Alliance of Canadian Comprehensive Research Universities (ACCRU), I want to congratulate the Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science on the release of its comprehensive report, Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research.
We are very pleased with the report and we support the majority of the recommendations made by the panel. In particular, we are very supportive of the panel’s primary recommendation that annual Federal spending across its main four funding agencies increase from approximately $3.5 billion to $4.8 billion. We are also very pleased that many of the panel’s recommendation speak to better coordination of efforts, processes and programming across the major Federal funding agencies.
With that in mind, there are still areas where we wish that the panel’s report could have better articulated that research excellence is found in universities of all sizes across Canada. We feel strongly that the support for fundamental science in Canada must be a level playing field across the country for awarding funding to universities regardless of their size. We were very pleased with the panel’s conclusion that “the recent erosion of Canada’s research competitiveness . . . has been exacerbated by a policy shift in favour of new programs that focus resources on a limited number of individuals and institutions.” This is something that we have long argued is an issue for the research ecosystem in Canada.
We also note that while there are numerous references to training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) at the undergraduate and Master levels, the report seems to particularly emphasize the importance and need for support of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows (PDF). In fact, the details in Recommendation 7.1 are extremely focussed on doctoral and PDF awards – the Tri-Agencies’ CGS-Master awards program are mentioned, but essentially nothing is stated about undergraduate support. ACCRU would like to emphasize that training and support of HQP at all levels, from undergraduate to PDF, is extremely important for the research ecosystem in Canada. Almost all doctoral student and PDFs were undergraduates and Master students at some point, and aside from the excellent research carrier out at these pre-doctoral levels, the supply of doctoral candidates will surely decline if we do not prioritize support of these students as well.
Additionally, there are some recommendations in the panel’s report that ACCRU member universities are extremely well placed to help deliver. For example, the panel recommends that “The three granting councils should collaborate in developing a comprehensive strategic plan to promote and provide long-term support for Indigenous research.” Many of the ACCRU member universities are located in rural settings and have excellent relationships and on-going research with indigenous and First Nations peoples. This makes these universities especially well-suited to help realize the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on research.
Overall we are very pleased with the findings of the advisory panel. Our member universities look forward to working with the Government of Canada as it acts upon recommendations from the report to improve the fundamental research enterprise in universities of all sizes and in all corners of Canada.
About the Alliance of Canadian Comprehensive Research Universities
Established in 2011, the Alliance of Canadian Comprehensive Research Universities (ACCRU) brings together vice-presidents research from over 30 small- and medium-sized universities across all 10 provinces in Canada.
ACCRU acts as a voice for communications on research and scholarly activity issues important to its members with research funding agencies, policy makers, and the public at large.
For a list of ACCRU member universities, please see: http://www.accru.ca/our-members/
Dr. J. Kevin Vessey
Associate Vice President Research
Saint Mary’s University