Research funding welcome, but no extra for CLS
— Budget boosts NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC, NRC and pays some indirect research costs —
Finance Minister Paul Martin’s Dec. 10 federal budget has been well-received by universities across the country for boosting research funding and for the first time stepping up to pay for some of the indirect costs of research.
Vice-President (Research) Michael Corcoran says the U of S joins in welcoming the budget announcement.
“We have to applaud the federal government for increasing research funding. Any increase for the granting councils is always good news, because they support fundamental research,” he says.
But, Corcoran adds, for the U of S there was one glaring omission from the budget, and it’s a cause for concern.
“There was no indication of a commitment for additional operating support for the Canadian Light Source.”
Corcoran says U of S President Peter MacKinnon and others have been talking with the federal government for months about the need for additional operating money for the synchrotron so that the U of S can make the most of having the leading-edge, world-class facility on its campus.
“It was conspicuously absent,” Corcoran says. While the CLS has commitments for operating funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and others, he says, “it’s clear that to optimize having the facility, it needs more.”
For that reason, Corcoran says the lobbying to the federal government will have to continue.
He said he also has an ongoing concern about the level of funding that the third ‘tri-council’ body – the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – gets, compared to CIHR and NSERC.
“SSHRC serves the largest sector, yet has the smallest amount,” he says.
In his budget, Martin announced a one-time investment of $200 million through the granting councils to address the indirect costs of research.
The budget also increases the annual budgets of NSERC and SSHRC by seven per cent each, for an increase of $36.5 million to NSERC and $9.5 million to SSHRC.
CIHR will get a $75-million increase to its annual budget, taking it to more than $560 million.
The budget also provides an additional $110 million over the next three years to the National Research Council (NRC), to go for “leading-edge technologies,” including a new program on “Crops for Enhanced Human Health” at the Plant Biotechnology Institute on the U of S campus.
Vice-President Academic & Provost Michael Atkinson agrees it’s good news that tri-council funding is up, and he thinks it may make a difference for U of S researchers.
“We have a lot of faculty not funded, because there’s not quite enough money, especially at SSHRC and NSERC.”
Atkinson also agrees “it’s a big step forward” that the federal government has recognized indirect research costs.
Corcoran hopes the one-time funding for indirect costs is “an opening salvo” for what could become an ongoing support for these costs.
“The Americans routinely award support” for indirect costs, Corcoran says.
He says these costs for a variety of ‘overhead’ types of costs associated with doing research, are estimated by the U of S to be as much as 40-50 per cent of the direct costs of the research projects.
In reaction to the budget from across the country, the presidents of the Universities of Calgary and Toronto both said they were heartened that even at a time when the federal government’s attention was on security matters in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it kept university research funding as a high priority.