The signatories of this petition strongly commend recent Federal investments in infrastructure and research support through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Research Chairs (CRC), the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE), Genome Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). In particular, the CFI infrastructure program has played a vital role in revitalizing, modernizing and elevating Canadian science into an internationally competitive position. The CFI exemplifies a highly successful cofunding paradigm built largely upon pre-arranged Federal-Provincial commitments. Importantly, the CFI program places a minimal burden of raising cofunding on the individual researcher, and is hence assessed primarily through scientific review. In addition, other strategic cofunding envelopes, such as the Industrial Research Chair Program and the Collaborative Research and Development Program, both under the auspices of NSERC, have augmented connections between industry and academia. We urge the Federal Government to continue its investments in research through the CFI, CIHR, NSERC and other agencies and to ensure that scientific merit is the primary criterion for the award of these funds.
We emphasize that Federal investments into genomics through Genome Canada reflects genuine foresight on the part of the Government to support a crucial emerging area of research. These investments initially enabled a world-leading collection of genomics platforms to be built, catapulting Canada to the very top of this exciting new field. However, application of increasingly stringent cofunding criteria by Genome Canada has demonstrably compromised the very platforms and world-class groups it has helped to create. Genome Canada has indisputably funded projects that have and will continue to generate excellent science. However, because of inflexible cofunding criteria, these projects reflect only a subset of the potential excellence in the country due to the exclusion, on the basis of non-scientific aspects, of many worthy genomics projects. Re-implementation of scientific review as a primary means to assess the worthiness of grant applications in genomics and other emerging areas is essential if Canada is to continue its drive towards the forefront of international research.
Lastly, we stress that the Canadian scientific community currently faces a critical shortage in peer reviewed operating grant awards, which have not yet scaled in proportion to other investments. While top-down, agency-directed initiatives can play a useful role, investigator-initiated research programs consistently lead to the most innovative discoveries, and should thus remain the primary mode by which research funds are allocated. Indeed, these operating funds are essential for effective use of the infrastructure investments made by the Federal Government. It is crucial that equitable and sustainable mechanisms for funding national research and development programs be established. We therefore strongly encourage the principle of peer review in the context of open operating grant competitions administered through Canadian funding agencies.
scientific freedoms, research and development, industry, post secondary education