In 2021-22, Canadian researchers bent their collective efforts to overcome many challenges posed by COVID-19 while finding ways to adapt, innovate and advance research in all fields for the health and well-being of Canadians. In much the same way, Canada’s federal research funding organizations worked together, through the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, to support research combatting the pandemic while moving forward on key national priorities.
Each of the agencies took steps to combat the pandemic and together we directed the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) to issue special calls to support Canadian-led international teams addressing priorities set out in the UN’s Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery and innovative approaches to research interrupted by the pandemic.
Like many organizations, we also drew lessons from the pandemic experience. We saw how it exacerbated already difficult circumstances for early career researchers, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. In response, all three funding agencies extended the eligibility of early career researchers to equalization measures in their flagship programs. We also started working together on a new Tri-Agency Talent Strategy, to deliver a more equitable, accessible, and effective suite of scholarships and fellowships for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.
Recognizing the importance of international collaboration in addressing all global problems, we joined forces to broaden our networks abroad and lay the groundwork for future international efforts. We met as one “Team Canada” with the executive heads of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Germany) and the National Science Foundation (USA). We reached out to these, and other like-minded funders globally, to prepare a truly joint international initiative for interdisciplinary research in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
At the same time, we moved forward on a number of national priorities. We awarded the first ever NFRF Transformation grants, providing $144 million over six years for seven Canadian-led international interdisciplinary research teams, giving them the mandate and resources to challenge current paradigms and develop new approaches to world-wide problems.
Similarly, we worked together with Canadian institutions to help create a more diverse research community, mobilizing the talent and insights of more Canadians to strengthen our research enterprise. To set a baseline, track progress and inform evidence-based decisions, we revised the agencies’ self-identification questionnaire for all applicants. We also asked institutions participating in the Canada Research Chairs Program to set population-based equity targets and launched the Robbins-Ollivier Excellence in Equity Award to inspire researchers to address systemic barriers to equity in the research ecosystem.
Working together, in collaboration with Indigenous scholars, community leaders, knowledge keepers, elders and youth, we continued to build a community to guide implementation of the interagency strategy to strengthen Indigenous research capacity (SIRC). The Reference Group for the Appropriate Review of Indigenous Research is a fundamental part of that community and, over the past year, it laid the foundation for a review of the agencies’ peer assessment models that will be guided by principles of cultural relevance, cultural safety, respect for Indigenous knowledge systems, and self-determination in research. We reached another milestone at the end of the year by setting up an Indigenous Leadership Circle in Research (ILCR) which will oversee implementation of the plan and advise the agencies on matters related to Indigenous research.
Throughout the year, it has been a pleasure to work with my CRCC colleagues and staff in all member agencies and departments on these initiatives. Together, with Canadian researchers and administrators, Indigenous leaders, hospitals, businesses and community organizations, we are moving towards a research enterprise that is truly inclusive and connected across disciplines and borders that supports young innovators and encourages risk-taking. In short, we are moving towards a truly Canadian research enterprise.
Please read more about our work together in the 2021-22 CRCC Progress Report, “Moving Forward,” on the CRCC Website.