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Margin Notes

World-class researchers coming to Canada

Government announces the 19 inaugural recipients of Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | MAY 17 2010

Maclean’s columnist and blogger Paul Wells beat me to the punch, but he’s right that today is a big day in Canadian science. The federal government announced this morning the names of the 19 inaugural recipients of Canada Excellence Research Chairs – or, as Mr. Wells called them, the “uber-chairs” – a new program to attract truly top researchers to Canada in a number of priority areas identified by the federal government.

All 19 of the researchers held positions outside Canada prior to being named chairholders – a huge brain gain for this country.

Universities will receive up to $10 million over seven years to support the chairholders and their research teams. Research conducted by the chairholders will focus on the areas of environmental sciences and technologies, natural resources and energy, health and related life sciences and technologies, and information and communications technologies.

A sampling of today’s press releases and media reports gives a sense of the excitement: “World leader in photonics joins University of Ottawa”; “McMaster lands car-of-the-future research leader”; “Western attracts world-renowned U.K. neuroscientist”; “U of Manitoba home to new climate change dream team.”

What’s more, a news release from the University of Saskatchewan shows the possible multiplier effect of these investments. With matching funds from the provincial government and other in-kind contributions, the university will use its new CERC holder – British scientist Howard Wheater, one of the world’s foremost experts in hydrology and sustainable freshwater resource management – to create a new Global Water Security Institute. A total of 85 new positions will be created at the institute, says the university, including six faculty, 20 post-doctoral fellows, 24 PhDs, 24 master’s students, and 10 support staff.

Leading with the most CERCs was the University of Alberta, with four. University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and Université Laval each received two. The complete list of chairholders and their areas of expertise is here.

One slight mystery: there were supposed to be 20 chairholders. What happened to the 20th is anyone’s guess.

ABOUT LÉO CHARBONNEAU
Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Stephen Downes / May 17, 2010 at 17:48

    It was probably a woman, and didn’t pass the ‘white male filter’.

  2. Dave / May 19, 2010 at 14:40

    The combined budget for these chairs could fund 2/3 of the entire discovery grant program for a year (http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/_doc/FactsFigures-TableauxDetailles/2008-2009Tables_e.pdf).

    If the government were really interested in scientific innovation, they would offer consistent, predictable support for good research without tying it to politically popular “strategic initiatives” or ideologically driven commercialization schemes. If they made more of an effort to support research here in Canada, they wouldn’t have to scour the globe looking for superstars.