A year-by-year decline in national research funding from all sources of medical researchers in the less populous provinces of Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and to a lesser extent, Manitoba, is a concern of medical schools, research faculties and governments in those regions, and of the Medical Research Council of Canada.
The underlying forces that have caused this funding decline are complex and difficult to counteract. Neither the universities nor the MRC can solve the problem on their own. However, by working in partnership with all of the stakeholders in health research and by implementing clear and focussed development plans, much can be accomplished to improve success rates in obtaining research funding.
The MRC will provide a total of up to $10 million over a 5 year period to the Regional Partnerships Program (i.e. $2.0 million for each of the 4 provinces with a maximum of $500,000 per province during a fiscal year). Proposals made by applicants from eligible institutions in each province must provide leverage of two dollars of research support for every MRC dollar approved.
Eligibility is restricted to Health Science Faculties at the universities with Faculties of Medicine in the four provinces that currently receive the lowest levels of MRC funding. They are Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
There are two elements to the program: (1) the strategic planning process and (2) MRC funding of approved activites.
Support is available from the MRC President's Fund for strategic planning at a local level for the purpose of establishing research priorities and partnerships to achieve them. A maximum of $30,000 for each of the 4 provinces is available upon application, accompanied by an outline, timetable and budget for the planning process. This proposal should be submitted by the President of the University to the President of the Medical Research Council.
The strategic plan, having been developed with stakeholders including provincial governments, local institutes and others will have identified development programs that build on the local strengths and ones which represent a priority interest for the institutions.
If requested, MRC would be available for consultation in the early stages of developing proposals. MRC would also be prepared to assist in establishing external advisory committee(s) to work with local institutions in planning major developments, recruitment, the development of partnerships and grantsmanship.
Once the planning framework has been approved, matching funding from MRC will be made available following the conditions outlined in this document. Each partner's contribution to proposals under the Regional Partnerships Program should be identified exclusively for the purpose of financing the initiatives proposed. In MRC's case, this means "carving out" from its regular budget the funds to invest in regional initiatives. In the institutions' case, it would presumably mean identifying resources for investment in the program proposed.
There is a general expectation that most of the activity in this program would be directed to the recruitment of promising and/or excellent scientists. These talented individuals should in turn be able to generate new sources of peer-reviewed funding through normal competitive programs. However, proposals may also contain initiatives that are provided for in any of MRC's other programs (personnel, operating grants, University-Industry, etc.).
MRC's regular peer review will be used for the evaluation of proposals. Institutions' success in regular applications to these programs will not count towards MRC's investment through the Regional Partnerships Program.
Evaluation of initiatives funded through the program will be performed towards the end of 5 years. Criteria for evaluation include productivity of new investigators and research teams, and success at generating additional investments based on the Regional Partnerships Program.
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