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Investing in research = investing in people

Symposium highlights the importance of research in the development of highly qualified personnel.

People are the key. In particular, highly qualified personnel (HQP) are a key part of the equation for scientific discoveries, evidence-based decision-making, and for building a foundation for economic growth and social progress. Stakeholder recognition of the value to society from training HQP is more important than ever before: the next generation of researchers will tackle the world’s most pressing issues and we must make sure they are prepared.

Investment in people was the dominant theme in The Importance of Research in the Development of Highly Qualified Personnel, a Queen’s University-hosted symposium as part of the Canadian Science Policy Conference, Nov. 1-3 in Ottawa. The symposium featured remarks from Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Art McDonald, Queen’s professor emeritus and 2015 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and a keynote from Cathleen Crudden, Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry. Each echoed the sentiment that research training at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels is critical to the development of the HQP needed by Canada’s knowledge economy, and that Canada has not kept pace internationally regarding investments in this area.

“We cannot do more with less,”  Dr. Crudden says. “A substantial increase in support for investigator-led funding is extremely important and will provide a major source of enhanced support for students and training of HQP across the ecosystem.”

A panel, moderated by Ted Hsu, former Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, featured representatives from academia, government and industry, developed into a dynamic discussion on the return on investment for training of HQP and the importance of effectively communicating this value proposition to decision-makers and industry leaders.

“We cannot do more with less. A substantial increase in support for investigator-led funding is extremely important and will provide a major source of enhanced support for students and training of HQP across the ecosystem.”
                   – Cathleen Crudden, Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry

“The symposium was stimulating and thought provoking,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “The symposium highlighted the fact that Canadian universities need to tell a better story about the remarkable value and impact of research in terms of generating what the government calls 'highly qualified personnel.' HQP are the talented individuals who emerge from research training to drive our knowledge economy and routinely produce commercializeable products. We need to highlight the impacts that HQP are making and how they are dependent on investment in fundamental research.”

Investing in fundamental science = investing in people

The symposium was inspired by advocacy efforts to encourage the federal government’s implementation of the 35 recommendations outlined in Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research.

Commonly referred to as the “Naylor Report” after its lead author, the review was commissioned by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan and was developed by a panel of nine non-partisan experts, including Dr. McDonald. The report, released in spring 2017, focuses on the importance of fundamental research support to Canada, andalso to its global competitiveness.

The university supports the review’s recommendations and is committed to working collaboratively with the government to advance Canada’s leadership in fundamental science. In addition to a statement of support and an op-ed in University Affairs penned by Daniel Woolf, the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) developed resources to aid those wishing to #supportthereport. Individual researchers have also added their voices to the discussion: last week, Andrew Craig (Cancer Research Institute), penned a piece for The Conversation Canada, subsequently repurposed in the National Post, Maclean’s and other media outlets, stressing that “Science in Canada needs funding, not photo ops.”

“The review’s recommendations have been presented to government and we are hopeful for a positive response, said Dr. Art McDonald.  “Federal investment in fundamental science has slumped in recent decades, especially support for individual researchers, who are key. If we want Canada to become a global research powerhouse, we need to invest in the people – the HQP – who will elevate our competitive advantages.”

For more information on Queen’s advocacy efforts and how you can #supportthereport, please contact the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research).