The Canadian Consortium for Research (CCR) consists of 22 organizations that represent 50,000 scientists and researchers and 400,000 university students across Canada. While the majority of the scientists and researchers are based in universities, the constituent organizations have numerous members in government laboratories and agencies, hospitals and other health care institutions, and in private sector research centres. CCR's primary concerns are the development and funding of research in all sectors, and the support of post-secondary education.Positive Steps
Through the following measures contained in the federal budget of February 1997, the government has demonstrated a commitment to post-secondary education and to investing in Canadian research capacity and science and technology initiatives:
- The creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, a fund for the renewal of research infrastructure in universities, hospitals and research institutes
- On-going support for the Networks of Centres of Excellence program, which bring together university and private sector researchers
- Continued funding for the Industrial Research Assistance Program, designed to make expertise in government laboratories and universities available to small and medium-sized companies
- Tax and repayment changes to assist students — representing investments in people
Reductions of more than $4 billion since 1994-95 in the transfers to the provinces have placed universities in dire straits with respect to paying for operating costs. This situation has negatively affected the ability of universities to retain their best faculty members, maintain their physical plant and facilities, sustain their libraries, and provide even minimal technical support for research. Concurrent reductions in granting council budgets have compounded the problems.Future Needs
Science informs policy and decision making. To realize this interchange, Canada needs a comprehensive S&T plan which expands on the federal S&T Strategy, launched in March, 1996. Major components should include:
- Canada must compete effectively in the global economy. To do so, our investment in S&T, currently at the bottom end of all G-7 countries, must be significantly increased.
- Direct support of basic and applied research in universities through the three research granting councils is dropping significantly — too much potential is being left by the wayside. Support of this research must be increased and stabilized at these new levels.
- Transfers to the provinces for indirect costs of post-secondary institutions have been drastically cut. The means of supporting or covering these indirect costs of research at universities must be devised.
- Research in the social sciences and humanities is critical to our understanding of the social, cultural and economic challenges facing Canada.
- Together with the medical and natural sciences, research in these fields will enable Canadians to adapt to the demands of a new knowledge-based society. Strong and stable support for the social sciences and humanities will enable Canada to meet these objectives.
- Post-secondary education must be affordable. The CCR supports the measures put forward in January 1997, by seven national organizations representing universities, community colleges, students, faculty and student aid administrators. These measures include special opportunity grants, deferred grants, a work-study program and tax changes.
- Government laboratories are an integral part of our S&T capacity. Cuts to federal departments are resulting in drastic reductions to the work of these laboratories with little apparent regard given to the implications of the changes for universities, other government departments, or the private sector. A comprehensive assessment, with external input, is urgently needed.