Canadian Consortium for Research (CCR) Summit
The SSC is one of 20 member organizations which belong to the Canadian Consortium for Research (CCR), representing more than 50,000 researchers and 650,000 students across disciplines. The broad group seeks to promote multidisciplinary unity and progress for Canadians of the impact of research both within, and without, academia on the ultimate placement of our nation internationally.
Dr. David Naylor, chair of the Fundamental Science Review (FSR) Panel in Canada, asserts, “Given global competition, the role of research in underpinning innovation and educating innovators, the need for evidence to inform policy-making, and the current unsettled conditions in the research ecosystem, the Panel firmly believes that this commitment is also among the very highest-yield investments in Canada’s future that any government could make.” Yet, Canada relies on universities to pay for research more than any other country; universities subsidize research in untoward extent. Gross domestic Research & Development expenditure from business is also low.
If we want to foster our R&D capacity, we need to train the next generation accordingly and need the demand side to be active (e.g. businesses hiring PhDs). The value of the PhD is not only about creating topic experts. It is also about generating creative and critical minds. Graduates are equipped for a lifetime of high quality contributions in any field. A PhD is the greatest work-integrated learning program there is.
We risk under-utilizing our irreplaceable resource if training does not embrace innovation, societal transferrable skills, and recognize the vulnerability of young researchers who may lack support to prosper in career paths that fully utilize their potential. In academia, high teaching loads, contract teaching without research opportunities, low funding success rates, low support for maintaining infrastructure, and merit systems which do not recognize current achievable career goals all work to frustrate early careers. As well, business in Canada does not have the long history that countries like the UK and US have for knowledge that skill and innovation augment economic advances.
As a result of the FSR recommendations, the 2018 Budget increase for operating grants was 235 million dollars, rather than the 405 recommended. Unfortunately, this amount would not cover shortfalls in facilities and administrative costs. Dr. Naylor advised that making financial progress will be slow; we need to remember to strategize in unity, and stay watchful in campaign mode for the long haul.
The gap in society's understanding that research impacts their daily lives may be overcome effectively with story-telling about concrete ways that research has improved individual and community life, in ways that people relate to. We need to bridge communication gaps to bring our work to life in meaningful ways, always be ambassadors. The upcoming Canadian elections are an opportunity to challenge candidates to understand Canada's needs.
Following along the tenor of mentoring our future, the SSC was represented by Janie Coulombe, a PhD graduate student at McGill, and Judy-Anne Chapman, retired Queen's professor, who was SSC Accreditation mentoring facilitator for about 10 years. We both fully participated and enjoyed the CCR program, learning a lot. Janie reported to The Canadian Statistics Student Conference in Calgary. Shirley Mills represented the SSC at the January CCR meeting with Funders (CIHR, SSHRC, NSERC, CFI, MITACS) and CCR March Meetings about the federal budget, response to the federal budget, and Planning for the Summit that Janie and Judy-Anne attended.
The main take-home message from the summit is that research is not sustainable as it is now and that we must constantly campaign for better conditions: more funding, better definition of excellence, smaller workloads, better conditions for parents, with fewer inequities amongst researchers. Statisticians have an important role to play in decisions related to fundamental research and should actively participate in those debates.
Janie Coulombe, PhD student
Dr. Judy-Anne Chapman
Dr. Shirley Mills