Canada Just Announced More Money for Its Young Scientists

After speaking out to Motherboard, young scientists get some good news.
April 15, 2016, 8:28pmUpdated on April 15, 2016, 8:41pm

It's been one week since Motherboard published an account of how Canada's young scientists felt shut out of the funding they need to keep their labs afloat—and how these scientists were worried they'd have to fire staff, end their research, even leave the country because Canada had become such a hostile place to do work.

At the time, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which funds health and biomedical research across the country, didn't seem willing to do much about it, other than expressing some sympathy for these scientists' concerns, and blaming chronic underfunding as the primary issue.

The tone is now changing.

In an open letter dated April 14, CIHR president Alain Beaudet said the agency has decided how it will spend that extra $30 million per year it got in the federal budget.

"This new investment will be entirely dedicated to the ongoing and future Project Grant competitions with a focus on early career investigators," Beaudet writes.

"We have made many changes to our processes in response to this feedback and intend to continue doing so as time goes on. In fact, my intent is that moving forward, we adopt new ways to communicate and work together that will ensure greater clarity and transparency.

This open letter is a first step in that direction."

"It's difficult to overstate how big a change in overall tone this is," Michael Hendricks, a biologist at McGill University who's been very outspoken about this, told Motherboard in an email.

He pointed to media attention, including from Motherboard and The Ottawa Citizen; to activism in his community of early career investigators—many of whom were willing to go on the record, even though they worried that speaking publicly might hurt their chances of getting funding in the future—and to a change in government as some of possible reasons for this huge shift in course.

Hendricks says he's "cautiously optimistic." We still don't know the details yet of exactly how that $30 million will be spent. Until we know more—and until the results of the current funding competition are announced, in June—young scientists will still be understandably nervous. But for now, it looks like good news.

Read "No Country For Young Scientists" here.