GARY GOODYEAR, MINISTER of state for science and technology, visited the University of Ottawa on March 13 to announce $124.5 million being invested in bringing leading researchers to Canada and building infrastructure for research to foster. This investment funds 136 Canada research chairs across the nation, including a renewal of five chairs at the U of O.
In an interview with the Fulcrum, Goodyear said funding research in Canada is a major priority for the current government, especially to improve the economic situation as Canada and North America recover from 2008’s global financial crisis.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that science powers commerce,” said Goodyear. “We need to secure our future economy and we will do that by creating jobs. We will create those jobs when businesses start creating and selling discovery, whether it is a product or a process. Those discoveries clearly don’t happen by magic—they come from our researches and university laboratories.”
According to Goodyear, no government in Canadian history has funded science and technology as much as this government. Prime Minister Harper has invested an estimated $11.7 billion during his mandate. The government wants to ensure funding continues, emphasizing development of research for industry to create jobs and economic prosperity.
The funding has improved Canada’s reputation internationally, as it ranks as a leader in the G7 for funding research, science, and technology.
“The Canada research chairs program is something we’ve designed to attract and retain the best researchers in the world to come to Canada and do their various research,” said Goodyear. “Our goal is to have 2,000 Canada research chairs. Currently we have about 1,850. We’ve created a complete circle of success for the research folks in Canada who are at the forefront of discovery.”
The program has two levels of chairs: Junior chairs are for new professors, while senior chairs are for professors who are international leaders in their field. Chairs offset the salary of a professor so universities can hire more professors without cutting into their own budget. Most senior chairs cover the entire salary for a professor.
Professor Mona Nemer, vice-president of research at the U of O, believes funding has been beneficial for universities to develop research programs and attract the best researchers in the world. The U of O currently ranks seventh among research-intensive universities in Canada.
“The future looks very bright because it takes a while to establish research infrastructure and research projects,” said Nemer. “In the past 10–12 years, the [U of O] has been continuously moving up and increasing its research enterprise.”
The university has over 60 research chairs. The five renewals of funding cover research in Parkinson’s disease, computational nanophotonics, globalization and health equity, human genome epidemiology, and proteomics and systems biology.
This funding allows graduate students who work with professors to be part of major discoveries, shaping the next generation of Canadian researchers. The U of O has also implemented a program that focuses on involving undergraduate students.
“Increasingly we’ve been involving undergraduate students in the research enterprise,” said Nemer. “This year we have 275 undergraduate students working … with researchers to really learn and participate in research. The students play a very important part in the research enterprise. The more prominent our researchers, the more students we will also attract.”
Minister Goodyear agrees students are the future for Canada and its economic recovery, which is why the government has placed such a focus on research.
“These folks train our up-and-coming researchers, so it is a great opportunity for our students,” said Goodyear. “Throughout the economic recession we have been investing at record levels because we absolutely believe that is the strength of our economy in the future, through science and technology.”