Global Science Excellence Roundtable

August 18, 2016—Saskatoon, SK
Global Science Excellence
Hosted by Maurice Moloney (Co-chair, Steven Rothstein)

Area of Focus

Support world-class research excellence from fundamental to applied science.

  • What policy and funding changes are needed to enhance research capabilities and innovation?
  • Which organizations/research centres are essential to building capacity in global science excellence and how should these be resourced?
  • How do we enhance academic-industry collaboration and address commercialization gaps?
  • How do we increase demand for research-trained graduates in Canadian companies?

Highlights

Canada has great foundation of excellent research and has done a good job in attracting talent, must build on this to ensure future success; Need to do a better job of raising awareness about importance and success of science and research; Improved coordination and coherence needed in support for post-secondary research; Need more sustained, long-term support for discovery research, not tied to industry, to allow transformational ideas to take shape which will in turn attract industry involvement; Greater international collaboration is needed as well as improved support for interdisciplinary research.

Summary of Discussion

Innovation and future potential cannot be accurately predicted. Canada needs to build on solid foundations by strengthening funding for discovery research; including allowing researchers to pursue best ideas with sustained, longer-term funding and not tying funding to having industry partners. Researchers also need the tools and training to equip them to effectively manage a research enterprise.

Greater collaboration and coordination is needed across federal and provincial governments, as well as across institutions, to maximize resources/efficiency and optimize Canada's science ecosystem. Funding decisions must be based on excellence and peer review and greater coherence is needed in the federal government's support of post-secondary research.

Incentives already exist for greater industry involvement in R&D but this continues to be an area of weakness. Need more tools/supports for researchers to collaborate with industry, such as enabling partnerships with international companies, facilitating matchmaking between researchers and industry partners, and simplifying IP policies at universities.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Paradigm shift: Cannot predict the unpredictable and while it may be easy to identify what is currently excellent, cannot predict future impact. Failure is not well tolerated and government has to be willing to support novel ideas that no one else will to foster more innovative ecosystem.

Fragmentation and lack of coherence: Education funded by provinces while research supported by federal government, better interaction needed across these entities. Lack of coherence in federal government's decisions to fund/create many different research organizations and whether these decisions are all underpinned by excellence and peer review. Significant differences exist across institutions in supports provided to researchers.

Lack of support for researchers to collaborate: Different and restrictive IP policies at universities cause friction and do not encourage researchers to collaborate with industry. Researchers are largely on their own to identify and establish industry partnerships.

Barriers to participation: Lack of diversity across research community (including gender). Bias needs to be overcome in funding processes. These challenges impede talent retention and limit full potential of Canadian science and innovation.

Administrative challenges: Significant administrative effort is required to manage research grants. Researchers need more time to research, including access to teaching relief. Bureaucratic barriers impede collaboration between researchers at universities and federal scientists.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Improve funding for discovery research: Increase amount and duration of grant funding for discovery research along with flexibility for how funds can be used. Also consider indexing funding amounts.  Increase funding to pursue exceptional ideas without requiring industry collaboration and improve agility of system so it can more nimbly adapt to unexpected and emerging areas.

Broaden base of research excellence: Improve funding for "research middle class" not necessarily part of the top 1% but where much talent and innovation resides, and who may be at risk of leaving Canada for better opportunities.

Enhance coherence of research funding: Unify/coalesce many of the existing federal funding organizations and programs and provide more transparency. Excellence and peer review must be basis of all government investment decisions in science and research. Focus on areas of strategic advantage and encourage critical mass.

Strengthen research at federal labs: Provide needed resources and improve science leadership to better attract and retain talent. Remove restrictions for federal scientists to access funding from granting agencies. Reduce administrative barriers/restrictions to greater collaboration.

Facilitate engagement with industry: Create a database of potential industry contacts/partners to enhance collaboration as it is now done on an ad hoc basis and responsibility lies with researcher to identify partners. Change eligibility of current federal programs to allow engagement with international companies. Change intellectual property guidelines to allow researchers to keep IP rights.

Increase demand for research-trained graduates: Differences exist across sectors and need to tailor approaches. Companies already have incentives to hire such grads, need to better prepare these graduates for opportunities outside academia. Remove barriers to the immigration of researchers to Canada.

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