Domestic research is crucial

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

June 14, 2007 Ed Cartoon

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) recent grant of $8.9 million towards medical research at Western, Lawson Health Research Institute and Robarts is a boon to these institutions as well as to the city of London. The grant highlights the importance of research conducted at these institutions while raising London’s profile as a city that supports medical research.

London is fortunate in that this past year its institutions received a higher proportion of grant money than most other cities in Canada. However, the fact there is so little money to distribute among medical researchers in Canada poses a problem, as it compromises Canada’s ability to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge research in this highly competitive global field.

Funding for medical research in Canada is not keeping pace with demand. As research is so vital, Canada should be doing more to ensure its researchers have easier access to funding. Given that Canada’s economy is currently robust enough to accomodate added research dollars, the government should be serving its people by committing more money to academia.

The most unfortunate effect of a continued lack of funds would be a brain-drain of our best scientists, who would inevitably go where there are the resources available to do their research.

However, it’s unreasonable to expect research funding to keep pace entirely when demand for it is constantly growing. A balance must be struck between demand for funds and its allotment. There are a number of ways researchers can combine their work to take advantage of shared resources.

The recent merger of Robarts and Western is one example of how research institutes are cutting costs. Individual researchers, too, can work jointly doing research. Why not combine Western’s resources with McMaster’s, for example? The outcome would produce dividends both for the institutes in terms of reduced costs as well as for Canadians. Also, if researchers worked jointly, there would be less competition for grants, meaning more researchers could share the available funding.

Another slightly murkier solution would be to allow further funding from corporations, as per the U.S. model. Corporate funding would make dollars more readily available, though the risk is corporations would insist their money support research solely of private interest. The benefit of Canada funding research within its own institutions is that the country is, theoretically, responsible to act in its citizens’ interest, rather than merely to a strict bottom line.

It’s important that Canada invests in the advancement of domestic medical research. To continue to withhold from funding would be a disservice to Canada’s reputation abroad.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette