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Government to consult on new research excellence fund

‘Substantive consultation’ coming, says Rickford.

By ROSANNA TAMBURRI | FEB 20 2014

Canada’s Minister of State for Science and Technology Greg Rickford said the government will soon embark on “a very substantial and substantive” consultation process with the country’s postsecondary community to iron out the design details of the new Canada First Research Excellence Fund announced in the 2014 budget on Feb. 11.

The new program will provide postsecondary institutions with $1.5 billion over 10 years. They will receive $50 million in the 2015 fiscal year, $100 million in 2016, $150 million in 2017 and $200 million in 2018 and thereafter.

“Over the next decade Canadian science and research will own the podium,” Mr. Rickford said at a news conference held at the University of Toronto on Feb. 19. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Rickford said the new fund is intended to provide postsecondary institutions with a pathway to global research excellence. He said the government felt this could be best achieved through a new dedicated fund rather than by large increases to the base funding for the major granting councils (although $37 million in new ongoing funding to the base budgets of the three main granting councils was included in the 2014 budget). “We listened closely to what the research community was saying,” he said. It wanted a fund “of a certain distinction that would provide a platform for postsecondary institutions to get to that level of excellence.”

Also in attendance were Chad Gaffield, president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Michael Wilson, U of T chancellor and former finance minister, Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo, and Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

Dr. Gaffield said afterwards that the new fund is distinct from existing programs such as the Canada Excellence Research Chairs and the Canada Research Chairs because it will allocate grants to institutions rather than individual researchers. “It’s a complementary initiative,” he said. “It’s going to be competitive and it’s going to be peer reviewed.” The new program will be administered by SSHRC.

A separate event to discuss the new fund was held the same day by Kevin Sorensen, Minister of State for Finance, at Simon Fraser University. In attendance was SFU President Andrew Petter, who said, “At a time when public finances are tight, it’s gratifying to see the federal government demonstrate an understanding that investments in advanced education and research are critical to Canada’s future well-being and prosperity.”

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