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Survey Reveals Basic Research in Canada Is Falling by the Wayside

By July 6, 2017No Comments

The number of scientists who report conducting purely fundamental research in Canada dropped from 24% to 1.6% between 2006 and 2015, according to a survey released on 28 June. The analysis reveals researchers’ frustration with the country’s long-term shift towards the support of applied research over basic science.

The survey was conducted by the Global Young Academy — an international organization made up of 200 early-career scientists that was founded in Berlin in 2010 as a counterpart to national senior-scientist academies. Academy member Julia Baum, a biologist at the University of Victoria in Canada, spearheaded the investigation, which compiled the views of more than 1,300 Canadian researchers who completed an online survey.

“Every academic can unequivocally tell you that the landscape of funding for basic research in Canada has been changed and damaged beyond recognition over the past decade,” said an anonymous survey participant, according to the report.

The results hammer home the message of the Fundamental Science Review, a report commissioned by the federal government that was released in April: Canada is investing too little in basic science, and is falling behind internationally (see ‘Downward trend‘).

Canada is the only G8 country where research investments as a proportion of gross domestic product have shown a clear downwards trend, the report notes, from nearly 2% in 2005 to 1.6% in 2014. “That’s pathetic,” says Baum. Basic researchers in the country have also faced a 35% drop in available funds per person since 2013, she says: the number of researchers has increased but funding and the number of available grants hasn’t kept pace.