New coordinating committee established to align granting councils and CFI

Veronica Silva
November 14, 2017

Ottawa has announced a new coordinating body that aligns the three federal granting agencies—the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)—and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Among its objectives are the facilitation of an enhanced role for Canada in international, multidisciplinary, risky and rapid-response research as well as emerging research areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, regenerative medicine and the Arctic.

The heads of the three granting agencies will chair the new Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) on a rotating basis with SSHRC president Dr Ted Hewitt as the inaugural chair.

In a joint open letter to the new committee, Science minister Kirsty Duncan and Health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor say CRCC will address the needs of current and future scientists, scholars and students by harmonizing and coordinating the efforts of the granting councils and CFI.

“The CRCC is expected to harmonize programs and policies among the granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation to the benefit of researchers they support,” Duncan said at the Canadian Science Policy Conference held in Ottawa earlier this month. “I ask the committee, and I do expect results.”

Duncan has also asked the committee to come up with a work plan in the next two months. The plan should address issues, such as Canada’s capacity for international, multidisciplinary, risky and rapid-response research; how to collectively support strategic research areas; how to enhance efforts to increase equity and diversity; and how to improve support for early-career researchers.

Hewitt told RE$EARCH MONEY that the action plan has already been done, and addresses specific issues laid out in the open letter. He says the CRCC will submit the plan before the deadline and that “there will be some programming changes that will accompany the work plan.”

The CRCC will address some of the recommendations in the Fundamental Science Review (a.k.a. the Naylor report), released this spring. Aside from improving collaboration among the research-granting agencies, the report also recommends improving access to funds; strengthening equity, diversity and capacity of Indigenous communities to conduct research and work with the broader academic community; and, providing more flexibility to allow researchers to conduct research with minimal administrative costs.

The council heads will also work with the DMs of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Health on the committee. The president of the CFI will attend all CRCC meetings, held at least once quarterly to bring valuable perspective on the research infrastructure needs of scientists and scholars. The president of the National Research Council and Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr Mona Nemer, will be invited to participate in CRCC meetings. Other ad-hoc sub-committees or working groups will be created as needed.

Chief scientists network

At the CSPC, Duncan also asked Dr Nemer “to assess the merits of creating a network of departmental chief scientists that will provide independent advice.” To help Dr Nemer in this task, Duncan says she has already called on the DMs of science-based departments to discuss how government can break down the barriers to support a multidisciplinary approach to evidence-based decision-making because “stronger evidence promotes better decision-making.”

Duncan adds that it is important for Dr Nemer to have a network of chief scientists to consult, especially during emergencies when rapid and timely advice is needed. “During emergencies, it will allow Dr Nemer to pull this network together to quickly get scientific advice – to the prime minister and cabinet -- at that time.”


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