The Naylor Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science

Jun 15, 2017

On May 31st, “A Researcher's Response to Canada's Fundamental Science Review" was organized at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with over 150 attendees. The Summit was chaired by Dr. Jim Woodgett (Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute) and Dr. Imogen Coe from Ryerson University and included a presentation by the panel’s chair, David Naylor.

The report titled, “Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research,” was released on April 10, 2017 and laid out a multi-year strategy for greater independent investment and investigator-led research projects including coordination between the four core funding research agencies and the creation of an oversight body called the National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI). The review panel recommended major investments in annual federal spending in research related activities so that spending would increase by about 9% over four years from $3.5 billion to $4.8 billion annually. This increase would represent a modest 0.4% of the federal government’s annual budget. 

The Key Recommendations:

The background to the Naylor Report highlighted the fact that although in the words of Dr. Naylor, “We like to think that Canada, a smaller nation, punches well above its weight. Canada’s competitiveness has eroded in recent years as compared to our international peers.” 

At the May 31st event, Dr. Naylor highlighted the important aspects of the report:

1) Increase in direct project funding. The report recommends a phased-in investment of $485 million over four years directed to funding investigator-led research across all disciplines; 

2) Increasing stability of funding for the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The CFI should be given a predictable annual budget of $300 million per year (same as the current average). The panel also recommended allocation of funds specifically for young investigators;

3) Investment in personnel. The panel recommended that the Canada Research Chairs Program be restored to 2012 levels (from 1650 chairs to 2000) and that new chairs should be allocated to Tier 2 level awards to help early career investigators. They also recommended an increase graduate student funding; and

4) Greater reimbursement of facilities and operations in indirect costs that are more in line with other nations such as the National Institutes of Health in the United States.  The recommendation was to increase the minimum institutional reimbursement for research to 40% (currently U of T associated tri-council research has an indirect rate of ~17%, the lowest in Canada).

The consensus amongst the attendees of the May 31st event was, “great support for the Naylor report.” Dr. Naylor urged the attendees to speak with one voice and not with special interests in mind. He recommended that the research community begin by thanking our members of Parliament and federal ministers for the grant support we have received in the past. This allows them to understand that we are grateful to the commitment of research in Canada. We should have personalized narratives to tell how the research that we perform changes lives, and raise the concern that the future of Canadian research and the next generation of researchers is at stake. 

The Recommendation of the Department of Medicine:

It is important that we all read the Executive Summary of the Naylor Report. It is our impression by speaking to our broad constituency in the Department of Medicine research community that there is general consensus that the Naylor Report is an important step forward. As the priorities for the 2018 federal budget will set by early Fall 2017, we recommend the following actions for our faculty:

1) Within your own research communities, organize a personalized letter writing and face to face meeting campaign to Parliamentary members and the federal Ministers of Health and Finance encouraging them to support the report;

2) We must advocate for research and encourage that the report be fully adopted now with an emphasis on the support for early career investigators and the benefits that investing in the next generation will bring to Canadian society; and

3) We should advocate for interdisciplinary team science so that we can harness and leverage all of the resources necessary to bring discovery forward to patients, particularly those who are disenfranchised including our indigenous population.

In the next two months, we will be coordinating letter writing campaigns and meetings with our members of Parliament and federal ministers here in Toronto. We encourage everyone in our research community to participate in this process. We have to act now to influence the next federal budget that will be finalized in the fall.

We look forward to hearing from you!