CIHR changes mean better health for Canadians

Opinion editorial published in The Hill Times January 12, 2015

The health research landscape has changed significantly since CIHR was created in 2000. Today, much of health research is collaborative. It cuts across numerous fields. It involves partnerships between a multiplicity of stakeholders from both public and private sectors. It involves patients and focuses on their needs.

CIHR is keeping pace with this shift toward collaborative research, and has made enormous progress in modernizing the way it does business. A series of enhancements is now being implemented that aim to ensure that CIHR investments deliver even greater impact on the health of Canadians.

Importantly, these enhancements have been made with no change in the number or slate of Institutes and without any reduction in the total amount of funding available to Canadian health researchers. Two key enhancements are:

  • Restructuring the Institute Advisory Boards (IABs) so that members advise more than one Institute. This new model will provide Institutes with a broader perspective and will help support more innovative, cross-disciplinary, and impactful research.
  • Creating a Common Research Fund. This new model for collaborative strategic research will encourage the development of high-impact research initiatives that cut across several Institutes. It will also offer an opportunity for governments, charities, institutions, and other partners to leverage CIHR investments. This can include various forms of support, including complementary funding; however, the focus is primarily on a partnership approach. The Common Research Fund does not have mandatory 1:1 matching requirements.

CIHR also continues to make progress on the reform of its funding program for investigator-initiated research. The new, simplified program will consist of the Foundation Scheme, the Project Scheme, and the College of Reviewers. The Foundation Scheme is about investing in the best people. The Project Scheme is about investing in the best ideas. The College of Reviewers is about improving access to appropriate expertise to support CIHR peer review.

As we implement these enhancements, we will continue to keep Canadian researchers and our partners informed of our progress. For example, senior CIHR management has initiated an ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal health researchers to ensure that the unique needs and context of this community remain fulsomely addressed.

All of these changes are the result of extensive consultations – both within Canada and with international partners. We are confident that these changes will make CIHR a more flexible organization that is better able to invest in research that produces the innovations we need to strengthen Canada’s health care system.

Ultimately, these enhancements will help us improve the health of Canadians.

Dr. Alain Beaudet
President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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