By Justin Chandler
Ryerson has asked the federal government to better fund scientific research at smaller research institutions such as itself.
By Sept. 30, over 1,250 individuals and groups submitted proposals to Canada’s Fundamental Science Review panel for funding. The panel’s review will conclude in December.
In the report, Ryerson asked the Liberals to fund non-traditional, applied and multidisciplinary research at “innovative, emerging institutions.”
The panel was launched by federal science minister Kirsty Duncan in June. The review is to assess the current federal framework for supporting Canadian science. It’s being led by an independent panel, headed by former University of Toronto president David Naylor. Some researchers say the government tends to fund large research projects at the expense of small ones.
Imogen Coe, dean of Ryerson’s faculty of science, said “big vanity projects” can direct funds away from smaller projects. Ideally, she added, the federal government will fund research at institutions of all sizes.
The U15, a lobby group of 15 universities including U of T and the University of Waterloo, is one such group that Coe said holds more influence than Ryerson on how research is funded. She said institutions not in the U15 can get government funding, but it’s a challenge.
Coe said it’s important for public science funding to be at a “basic and consistent level.”
Ryerson’s report recommends the federal government share resources and infrastructure among a wider group of researchers.
Ryerson is also urging the panel to recognize “research is a spectrum that extends from pure-discovery research to highly applied, industry-problem solution-focused research.”
Pure-discovery research, also called fundamental or basic science, refers to science done for the sake of discovering. Applied research takes existing information and uses it to solve existing problems.
The report says more opportunities for researchers will be created if the government stops distinguishing between the two. The report says doing so constrains researchers with pre-determined expectations.
As well, Ryerson asked the government to organize workshops, panels and a review of other jurisdiction’s practices to improve access to funding for inter and multidisciplinary research. According to the report, there are “significant barriers” to obtaining such funding.
Equity, diversity and inclusion in Canadian science are also covered in the report.
“Science has a diversity problem, and in the quest for new ideas and innovation, we cannot afford to exclude any bright minds, ” it says.
The report says that there is an under-representation of women, Aboriginal people and visible minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“The value to Canada is clear: great ideas can happen anywhere, from remote Northern reserves to disadvantaged urban neighborhoods,” the report says.
Ryerson recommended the federal government support universities whose research practices increase equity and diversity in science.
Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi said Ryerson is pleased the current federal government understands that science and research are important. He said research and science were not prioritized by the Harper government.
In the past year, Ryerson researchers have sent fungi to space, tested small-scale wind turbines, designed computer programs and built parts for hyperloops.
Last month, the federal and provincial governments invested $36.63 million for Ryerson to fund additional research and research spaces.