Canada Splurges on Research

3 March 2000 7:00 pm

OTTAWA--Flush with revenues from an unprecedented economic boom, the Canadian government this week unveiled a series of budget initiatives that favor research. High-energy physics, genomics, and environmental technologies research are the big winners, and university labs will also see some spoils. But the wealth wasn't spread equally: The country's research councils, which fund basic research, can expect a lean year.

The first wave of good tidings came on 28 February with news of an additional $615 million in the 2000-01 budget for refitting university labs and $109 million for a national genomics initiative (Science, 3 March, p. 1569). The next day the federal government nudged the high-energy physics community into the winners' circle by announcing plans to spend roughly $136 million over 5 years on operations and upgrades at the national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics.

The Tri-University Meson Facility in Vancouver plans to put $15 million of its windfall toward a fourfold boost in the energy of its nearly complete Isotope Separator and Accelerator (ISAC). ISAC takes low-mass particles, evaporates the nuclei, ionizes them, and then accelerates them to higher energies. Another $10 million will go toward components for the Large Hadron Collider being built by CERN in Geneva, bolstering Canada's contribution to international physics.

Five planned genomics centers will receive up to $15 million a year each, and provincial governments are expected to match that donation. The centers will focus on practical applications for agriculture, health, forest, and fisheries.

Not everyone is pleased. The budgets of the nation's three research-granting councils will stay flat, despite skyrocketing demand prompted, in part, by the new investment in university infrastructure. The National Research Council was also stiffed; NRC president Arthur Carty anticipates either cutting budgets across the board or closing one or more institutes.