Top scientists blast research strategy
MONTREAL – Some of this country’s top scientists describe Canada’s national research strategy as disastrous, saying it rewards those with the strongest business ties rather than those with the best ideas.
According to a CanWest News Service story this summer, 40 scientists complained in the journal Science about the federal government’s co-funding policy that requires researchers going after government money to find matching funds from other sources. The report quotes the authors of the article as stating: “By eschewing scientific excellence as the primary consideration, co-funded programs imperil scientific credibility.”
The scientists involved in writing the article represent a number of institutions including the Universities of Toronto, Montreal, B.C., Alberta and Calgary.
The government’s co-funding policy was first used with the 1997 establishment of the Canada Foundation for Innovation – which contributes only to projects that have additional funding covering at least 60 per cent of the infrastructure costs. Genome Canada uses the same policy, said the news report, and the research agency demands that winning applicants find half of the project costs from other sources.
In the latest round of competition for Genome Canada funding, the scientists claim, 30 of the 120 initial proposals were eliminated without scientific review. Of the 93 proposals allowed to go forward, they say almost one-third were eliminated by a panel of accountants “based on ambiguous financial criteria and without any consideration of scientific merit”, the report said.
“We encourage governments, scientific administrators, and scientists in Canada and other countries not to succumb to the superficial allure of co-funding, but rather to evaluate and fully fund research on its own merits,” says the Science article. “The manifold benefits to society will inevitably follow.”