30 January 2009

The Role of Research or, Budget Confusion

An article in today's Globe outlines the important role that research plays in advancing the knowledge based economy, and the lack of funding for science in this week's budget. However, the article repeats what may be some confusion on funding for the Tri-Council: "The federal budget suggests these key granting agencies are to find $87.2-million in savings over the next three years."

As I said yesterday, the Tri-Council has received "an additional $87.5 million over three years." Here is the complete text from the Budget:

Further Developing a Highly Skilled Workforce
Canada’s ability to prosper in today’s global, innovation-driven economy ultimately depends on the skills, knowledge and creativity of Canadians. Further developing a highly skilled workforce and ensuring that this talent is well applied is a priority.

Budget 2009 builds on investments made in the previous two budgets by providing an additional $87.5 million over three years, starting in 2009–10, to the federal granting councils. This funding will temporarily expand the Canada Graduate Scholarships program, which supports Canada’s top graduate students. . . . (p.106)

On page 270 there is the mention of the $87.2M in savings:

Granting Councils
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada are streamlining operations and aligning programs with the objectives of the Government’s Science and Technology Strategy and national research priorities. Through closer coordination, these agencies are improving the effectiveness of existing programs, aligning their programs with their core roles and fostering the
development of innovative new programs.

These savings will be used in this budget to support repairs at postsecondary
institutions, to upgrade key Arctic research facilities, to expand the Canada Graduate Scholarships program and graduate internships, and to support new world-class research facilities. This budget also sets aside $750 million to support the current and future activities of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

On the face of it it would appear to be a net gain of $300K, but I think that the Globe's report (the same as what they said on Tuesday) is promoting some misinformation. Finding a way to save money and streamline operations of the granting councils is a good thing - we all need to learn how to do more with less in these lean economic times. Using those savings to increase the investment in highly qualified and skilled personnel will have an even bigger net benefit for Canada.

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