Western to big wigs: show us the money
By Lorraine Forster
THERE’S ANYTHING WESTERN STUDENTS ARE GOOD AT, IT’S MULTI-TASKING.
This Western student proves that people who have cellphones attached
to their ear can do many things at once.
As many Western students moan and groan about final essays and research papers,
there are those in the Western community embarking on research endeavours they
are actually motivated to complete — partly because federal grants given
to these projects make them a bit more engaging than insignificant papers.
As many students and faculty members can attest, Western’s campus is
booming with innovation and ambition; federal government agencies have taken
note and are putting many of the great minds of Western to work.
In early March, Western was awarded an investment of more than $34.1 million
towards research projects from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which
was created in 1997.
“We fund the research infrastructure, not the research itself, with
core funding that comes from the federal government,” said Valerie Poulin,
co-ordinator of media relations at CFI.
Research infrastructure consists of state-of-the-art equipment, buildings,
laboratories and databases required to conduct research, Poulin explained,
adding that CFI’s mandate is to strengthen the ability of institutions — such
as Canadian universities and colleges — to carry out world-class research
and technology development to benefit Canadians.
On Mar. 8, CFI granted $585.9 million to various Canadian universities; however,
all of these schools, Western received the most, Poulin added. “Their
projects were exceptional.”
Included in these exceptional projects are research endeavours including:
— proposed to be a state of the art environmental research facility
— located on Western’s campus
— collaboration between Western and the University of Guelph
— will study areas including infectious disease, management of global warming,
insect borne disease, food chain impacts of pesticides and herbicides
— headed by biology professor Norm Huner
The Three Little Pigs Project: Testing Full Scale Houses and Light Frame Buildings
— will permit for the first time anywhere in the world, the application
of realistic, simulated and extreme environmental conditions such as wind, snow
and rain to full-scale houses
— will provide scientific basis for new building codes and construction
— motivated by the property damage caused by natural hazards
— headed by civil environmental engineering professor Michael Bartlett
Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET):
— facilitates the sharing of expertise and resources, encourages inter-institutional
and multi-disciplinary collaboration and enables research and innovation that
would otherwise not be possible for a single institution
Poulin explained that the criteria CFI uses in choosing the recipients and
amounts of each grant are stringent. It depends on the quality of research
and need for infrastructure, how the research will contribute to strengthening
the capacity for innovation and the potential benefits of the research to Canada,
In order to be funded, a project must meet all three criteria to a degree
appropriate to the size and complexity of the project. “It’s basically
the institution that lets us know what they need and then we’ll fund
40 per cent — it’s up to the institution to fund the other 60 per
cent,” Poulin noted.
While the $34.1 million grant from CFI is a great achievement, this is not
the only research funding Western projects have received. Western and its affiliated
research institutions will share over $11.1 million from the Canadian Institute
of Health Research to be put towards projects focusing on medical research
including cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, musculoskeletal
health and health policy development.
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will also grant Western
$2.5 million to lead a major national research project that examines how all
levels of government can work together to deal with issues of both local and
Essentially, aside from all the innovative work students do at Western, there
are ground-breaking major research projects at the university that deserve
the millions they have received.