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Canadian Budget a Boon for Science

20 March 2007 (All day)
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There's money for everyone. That might as well have been the theme of Canadian Finance minister Jim Flaherty's 2007-08 budget announced yesterday, which sprinkles new monies on virtually every facet of Canadian society, including science. Overall government spending rose $10.3 billion ($8.75 billion U.S) to $233.4 billion ($198.3-billion U.S.), including a government-projected $9.2 billion ($7.82 billion U.S.) for science, technology, and related activities. "This budget is for all Canadians," beamed Flaherty. "It's also about showing a modern, ambitious, and energetic Canada to the world."

The nation's three research-granting councils each received 5% hikes in their base budgets. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research each received $37 million ($31.5 million U.S.), raising their budgets to roughly $727 million ($618 million U.S.) and $737 million ($627 million U.S.) respectively.

Flaherty's largesse fell more heavily on some labs than on others. Eight existing research institutes were singled out by the departments of Finance and Industry for large infusions of cash. One, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, will receive $50 million ($42.5 million U.S). The other seven, including the Montreal Neurological Institute, each received $15 million ($12.75 million U.S.). All eight, along with hundreds of other research institutes in Canada, will be eligible to compete next year for a share of a $195 million ($165.7 million U.S.) pot of money that will designate an unspecified number of sites as Centers of Excellence for Commercialization and Research. Precise details of the program haven't been ironed-out, but centers will require some matching funding from the private sector and must involve collaborative research between universities and the private and public sectors. The government says funding for the new centers will be restricted to disciplines in which "Canada has the potential to be a world leader."

The windfall didn't please everyone. Canadian Association of University Teachers Executive Director Jim Turk said he was appalled that the government had selected labs for early largesse without conducting any form of peer review. "Sprinkled through all their discussions on research is a greater focus on targeting and the federal government choosing the targets," Turk said.

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada President Claire Morris was more sanguine. "It's really consistent with the priority that this government has put, and legitimately put, on improving the relationships between the private sector, the public sector, and academia."

Other scientific goodies included a $510 million ($433.5 million U.S.) outlay for new scientific equipment in university laboratories; $35 million ($29.7 million U.S.) to create 1000 more Canada Graduate Scholarships for master's and Ph.D. students (Science, 28 February 2003, p. 1298); and a $15 million ($12.75 million U.S.) boost for supporting indirect costs associated with research in all university laboratories ( Science, 27 October 2000, p. 687).

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