lack of funding for basic research, pivoting towards investment in applied/industry-related research creates a gap in knowledge, brain drain
Canada's main funding source for academic science and engineering research has been eroded by cuts. At the same time, changes to the way grants are awarded have meant fewer grants to graduate and post-doctoral researchers.
The Discovery Grants Program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is the main source of long-term funding for primary academic research programs in Canada. The renewable five-year grants' base funding has borne the brunt of cuts, falling from a high of just over $86 million in 2009 to less than $65 million in 2011 (a decrease of 7%), the same year that there were a record number of applicants. (It has increased to over $68 million in 2014, still below earlier levels.) At the same time, the numbers of overall Discovery Grants and particularly graduate and post-doctoral fellowships fell.
Many stakeholders have described the annual declines in the Discovery Grant budget as unsustainable for the Canadian academic research community.
While research for primary academic research declined, funding for industry-related research has increased. In December 2014, the federal government announced new money for research in the form of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, confirming its new emphasis on "research that creates jobs." According to the government 's web site, proposals are "required to align with the Government of Canada’s updated ST&I (Science, Technology and Innovation) priority research areas."
A Review Panel commissioned by NSERC to evaluate the Discovery Grants program in 2014 wrote that it was "concerned by the perception of the Canadian academic community… that Discovery Grants were moving more towards the support of applied work, at the expense of fundamental research,” and that "the Panel believes Canada is stagnating in terms of growth in investment in discovery research in comparison with other countries.” Nevertheless, it concluded that “Discovery Grants continue to be Canada’s most important support mechanism for foundational research and should be fully recognized for this importance.”
Read background commentary on research budgets here.