Further analysis of the federal budget has raised new concerns about the negative impact it could have on research in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dr. Eddy Campbell, acting president of Memorial, is concerned that the benefits of apparent new funding for universities may be offset by actual cuts to national research granting councils and agencies that will have a negative impact on research activity in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The three national granting councils include the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).
The federal budget calls for funding of the three granting agencies to be reduced by more than $87 million over the next three years from the current levels of about $1.7 billion.
The federal budget also includes cuts to funding for Genome Canada putting 2,000 high technology jobs at risk.
Memorial University has been emerging as a research leader in the country in areas such as the oceans and genetics. Memorial was recently recognized as the number one university in Canada in terms of research growth over the past five years.
“A great deal of this research at Memorial University is supported by the granting councils and agencies like Genome Canada,” said Dr. Campbell. “Without doubt, this federal budget will negatively affect the level of research we are able to undertake here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and these cuts will put our emerging status as a national research leader at risk.”
On the infrastructure side, there is also growing concern among universities in the smaller provinces related to the stipulations around the $2 billion in university infrastructure funding announced in the budget.
“The deeper we look into the budget, the more our concern rises,” said Dr. Campbell.
“Memorial University and Newfoundland and Labrador could really benefit from an infusion of infrastructure funding,” he said. “We’ve been preparing for growth and have a detailed strategic facilities plan in place. We’re a growing university with an emerging research presence. Yet, as we read the caveats in the budget we are concerned that this infrastructure funding will be distributed by a new program and we know none of the details.
"Coupled to the cuts to the national funding agencies, this budget does appear to be problematic in a number of different respects. We find no comfort in the budget’s wording of how the federal government plans to allocate this much-needed funding.”
Dr. Campbell sounded a cautionary note. "The budget indicates it will recognize research excellence. That’s a good thing provided we all recognize that excellence is not pre-ordained, pre-determined or pre-selected.”
Memorial and other universities across the country will continue to analyze the budget.