Friday, March 30, 2012

Canadian Medical Association weighs in on CIHR and other research cuts

The devil is in the details, and a great summary of concerns about research funding has been provided in today's Canadian Medical Association journal.

I have quoted from the article below any sections directly related to resaerch funding not reported in my previous post on the budget, but I htink the entire article is worth a read for those interested in details of how budget policies relate to health and health research.

CIHR cuts are a shift in funds to "targetted research"
 And in several cases, a departmental or agency cut is offset by an injection of new funds for a targeted purpose, so the effect is often a wash. For example, while the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) budget will be reduced $15 million in 2012/13 as a result of the spending review exercise, the granting council received $15 million per year to support its Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research ( and 

Cuts to NSERC, SSHRC, are also a shift of funds to increased support for "industry-academic research partnership initiatives"

As with CIHR, the spending review exercise resulted in a $15 million cut to the budget of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in 2012/13, and an additional $15 million in the following fiscal year. The budget of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) was cut $7 million for 2012/13 and another $7 million the following year. But the 2012/13 cuts are offset by the provision of $37 million annually ($15 million to CIHR, $15 million to NSERC and $7 million to SSHRC) in “support of industry-academic research partnership initiatives.” The staggered cuts could result in a serious hit to granting councils base budgets in 2013/14 but Treasury Board and Finance officials, who speak on condition of anonymity during budget background briefings, indicated that the expectations are that the bolstered funding for industry-academic partnerships will be repeated in next year’s federal budget, so that council budgets will continue to remain at roughly $1 billion apiece for CIHR and NSERC, and about $651 million for SSHRC. “The net effect is that overall council funding will be unchanged,” one Finance official stressed. That’s based, though on the presumption of an increase for 2013/14. About 25% of the medical and natural sciences budgets, and 45% of the social sciences budget, represents monies administered by the councils on behalf of the government for special initiatives, such as one to cover the indirect costs of research.

and if that sank your spirits, you may be cheered to know there is new funding for depression research:

$5.2 million will be provided to support the creation of a Canadian Depression Research and Intervention Network by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It will connect “over 80 of Canada’s brightest depression researchers from across the country. Particular focus will be on suicide prevention and identifying and treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Funding provided in the budget will serve as a catalyst for private and public sector investment.”

Devils in the details on the controversial change of NRC to a more industry-related body.

The National Research Council will continue to be restructured as a toolbox for industry, receiving an additional $67 million this year to support its “refocusing on business-led, industry-relevant research.” The council will also see its Industrial Research Assistance Program contributions budget, which provides extramural grants to businesses to develop products, double to $220 million per year. The combined increases will hike the National Research Council’s overall budget to $700.5 million in 2012/13.
and finally: 
 $12 million per year will be set aside to make the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program “permanent.” In the original competition to create such networks, the four winners included the Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery-CQDM (Nuns’ Island, Quebec), which aimed to “accelerate the drug discovery process and to develop safer and more effective drugs.”


Anonymous said...

The IRAP amount is $110M per year for 2 years giving a a total of $220M over a 2 year period, not the $220M annual amunt mentioned above

Stacy Chappel said...

Thanks for your clarification.

andreastuart said...

I'm concerned that you seem to have swallowed hook-line-and-sinker the Harper Government's policies. The shift away from funding basic research to encourage industry-academia partnerships will have serious medium-term consequences.

The best way to illustrate the value of pure basic research is to think of the most important hospital diagnostic tools. Very few (none that I can think of) came as a result of targetted research. The X-ray machine was not invented by someone trying to "see bones" but rather by a physicists trying to understand what happens when you throw particles around--similarly, MRI machines, CatScans, and lasers.

The science of these things were not discovered by industry-academia partnerships... but by basic researchers funded and trusted to do something interesting. It is for industry to come in afterwards to find applications.

Industry-academia partnerships cheapen the whole environment of research by focusing it on short term economic pursuits.

The funding cuts to the tri-councils are but another part of the Harper Government's attack on basic research and their scary attempt to replace science with ideology in Canada.

See here: and see here:,-101.25&spn=24.942542,158.027344&iwloc=0004c5430caae3cc6132f

Stacy Chappel said...

Hi Andreastuart

Thanks for your thoughtful post. I did a few posts on this budget as more information came out, and as you probably know it took a few weeks to fully see the impact of the budget because of the way it was released (including much more policy changes than in most budgets) and the limited debate these aspects received.

I tried to capture a summary of cuts as they were revealed to various research projects here

Stacy Chappel said...

Also, that google map is a great resource on the research cuts, thanks for posting.