The report says that after COVID-19, Canadian scientists face a faster, more competitive world.


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A person undergoes a mural during the COVID-19 epidemic in Toronto on 22 April 2021.

Nathan Dennett / Canadian Press

Canada will need to be more creative and more determined if it hopes to be a serious player in world scientific research after the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report from the Council of Canadian Academies shows.

The report includes a survey of the global research environment in which various countries – mainly those who are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – are doing the most to make the most of investments in science and engineering and Canada. Draw useful text.

Several common challenges have to be faced, which precede the epidemic, including a relatively flat research budget that must be divided between a growing pool of scientists around the world, and increasing competition from China in particular.

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But the epidemic demonstrated the importance of cultivating fundamental research over many years and then moving rapidly to apply that research when there is an emerging public need. It was precisely this combination that did the ground work for the first RNA-based vaccines and allowed them to be developed and authorized in less than a year.

Canadian-American molecular biologist and past president of Princeton University Shirley Tilghman said, “What we saw around the world is that funding agencies were able to develop these rapid responses … and they responded faster. Saw the effect of being able. ” Presided over the report panel.

According to the report, COVID-19 “dramatically changed the scientific landscape” by accelerating both the speed and scale of research in several domains. This result is likely to influence the way we support and conduct research in the future.

For example, Drs. The trend of researchers posting their work online before it was accepted by the publication turned into an epidemic in a long-time push to shift publicly funded research toward open-access models, Tilghman said. Allows proposers. For wider, more rapid dissemination of knowledge.

“I think open science has finally won the day,” she said.

The report also noted that the epidemic is meant to reinforce existing inequalities that determine who has access to science funding and raise concerns about removing safeguards that ensure research quality Are for

The report, released on Tuesday, was commissioned by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, or NSERC, one of three federal funding bodies that provide most of the grants awarded to individual scientists in Canada.

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This suggests that hyper-competition for funding dollars is having a particularly damaging effect on young scientists, in some cases ruling them out of promising careers. A measure may be an approach that allocates dedicated funding pools to people at various career stages.

Another puzzle that Canadian funders face is how to better support research that cross-disciplines, involves cross-border collaboration or is considered a high risk – high reward. Such projects defy standard categories but can lead to the most significant successes. By design, the report did not make specific recommendations, but rather provided several options that have been implemented in other jurisdictions and rate their success.

NSERC President Alejandro Adem said the report was intended to initiate a long-range planning process that would determine how the agency functions as a funding body by 2030.

“We envision a period of consultation between now and the end of the year and we are reaching people in universities, colleges and polytechnics, as well as people in science within the government,” Dr. Adem said.

The report follows the heels of the federal budget, which is seen as setting the stage for the next federal election, but it included panelists at a recent budget seminar tied to Canada’s research agenda, said Canada’s research Some nuances related to the agenda are included.

David Nailor, former president of the University of Toronto, who led a milestone review of Ottawa’s science funding tools in 2017, said his report led to a significant reinvestment in Canadian research in 2018, which has led the world since.

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Dr. “The bottom line is that we are again losing ground on a low base relative to independent basic and applied research,” said Noiler.

He said that both the United States and Britain are embracing research as part of their economic exit strategies out of the epidemic, while Germany continues to set the pace for research funding among Western countries. A trio of countries are responsible for the development of all three COVID-19 vaccines, which are now widely deployed in Canada.

Dr. “Overall, the good news is that multi-institutional co-operation has been stronger than usual and Canada is pulling more than its weight in many areas associated with COVID-19,” said Niler. “Nevertheless, we must take a hard look at our overall performance when the epidemic spreads, and do not hesitate to make adjustments.”

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