Government of Canada announces two critical research funding programs
Message from the President
April 23, 2020
Over the past two days, the Government of Canada has announced several programs of importance to Canadian health researchers with a combined new funding of over $497 million. This includes new support for research trainees whose training programs are affected by the pandemic, a further investment to augment our collective efforts to stop the spread of, and effectively treat, COVID-19, and a significant investment in serosurveillance.
To support trainees, including students and post-doctoral fellows, the Government of Canada announced new funding of $291.6 million to maintain income support for these individuals while the majority of academic research labs are closed. As mentioned yesterday, this funding will include those trainees funded directly through programs such as the Canada Graduate Scholarships, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships. Critically for CIHR-funded investigators, this investment will also provide support for those whose funding is derived directly from operating grants (also termed indirect support). We have heard clearly from Canada’s research community that this represents one of the greatest challenges across our research ecosystem. Understanding that the majority of student and post-doctoral support arises from within operating grants, this new funding is intended to help relieve the pressure on grants during this interval of time and better position individual researchers to return to the lab when the time comes. While the full mechanisms of disbursement of the funding remain to be established, funding apportioned to CIHR will be administered through CIHR directly. We look forward to providing you with greater details regarding this major investment of the Government of Canada in further securing the stability of the health research ecosystem.
In today’s announcements, the Government of Canada is further supporting the health of Canadians through research focused on the prevention, detection, and treatment of COVID-19, including research on vaccine development, diagnostic tests, and drugs. This investment of close to $115 million – which represents new funding directly to CIHR – will allow researchers and those working in the health system to understand how to best manage cases of COVID-19, control infections, and take public health action. All of this will be done through the most rigorous scientific methods, including clinical trials and the engagement of CIHR research networks, to ensure that policy and practice decisions that impact Canadians are informed by the best available evidence. Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on mental health, the investment will also support the creation of an expert advisory panel on mental health needs and services, and the launch of a mental health research initiative to support policy and practice decision-making. As well, funding has been allocated to lay the foundations for a Centre for Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies Research. Together, these initiatives touch at the core of CIHR’s mandate to improve the health of Canadians through research.
This research funding augments the first rapid response research funding opportunity and as with that opportunity, reflects new research dollars committed by the Government of Canada and a broad range of partnerships in our collective efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding recognizes the innovative and excellent research being performed by Canadian researchers who are pursuing novel approaches in developing treatments for COVID-19, as well as investigating the mental health and social issues associated with the pandemic. This investment also recognizes Canada’s leadership in expediting international studies focused on the pandemic, as well as CIHR’s critical role in the whole-of-government response to fighting COVID-19. I would like to thank the many researchers from across the country who reached out to us with creative suggestions to expand upon the research developed in the first phase of the rapid response competition. Through this and a targeted consultative process, CIHR has been able to remain informed of both national and international advances as well as research gaps in formulating this opportunity.
The Government of Canada also announced today the formation of a consortium of Canadian researchers to undertake serosurveillance, a critical next step in tracking the immunity of the population and in providing evidence to inform decisions regarding the reopening of the Canadian economy. As the details of this initiative are refined, CIHR will continue to play a critical role through our Institute of Infection and Immunity and Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health.
Now, more than ever, Canadians are looking to our health research ecosystem to produce the evidence that we need to develop therapies and inform public policies. I encourage all researchers who work in these areas – as well as those who wish to volunteer as peer reviewers – to visit the COVID-19 Rapid Research webpage to learn more about this funding opportunity.
I look forward to being able to communicate with you in the very near future as we work to further support you during this critical period of time, and as we begin the crucial discussions of how we will move forward in planning the fall. Your patience as we work through these complex initiatives has been tremendously appreciated.
I wish you and yours continued good health.
Michael J. Strong, MD, FRCP, FCAHS, FAAN
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