Rising political and economic backing to applied research and other commercial applications of scientific research has led to a situation unfavorable for steady progress of Canada as a global leader in terms of technological innovation and scientific progress, according to a growing number of Canadian researchers active in fundamental sciences. The falling number of this contingent is indicative of a deeper malaise in the way science is conducted in Canada, Global Young Academy’s report on restoring Canada’s research competitiveness says. This decline, according to the academy, couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the current time rife with problems that need an insistence on “the reasoned search for truth”.

What do the Figures Say?

One of the key factors responsible for the growing concern is the growing number of research students. Managing the swell of academic scientists has led to overstaffing of applied research fields, and the situation is unlikely to change in the near future due to the “massive inter-generational inequity”, as the report’s author Jeremy Kerr put it.

Canada’s three research councils are the prime target of the report, with the authors demanding the government start filling a C$459 million hole in funding.

The funding programs for applied research at the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) reveal the crux of the problem in a nutshell: Since 2005, when the applied research funding started to grow, it rose by 51% to C$369 million by 2013. Often sponsored by industrial partners, this swing in the funding priorities has become a key target for young scientists who find their way out of a foundation in fundamental science hard to negotiate due to lack of a supportive industrial and economic regimen. The NSERC’s funding for discovery programs in basic research, meanwhile, fell 16% from 2007 to 2013, though they still remained higher than applied research funding in 2015, at C$420 million.