Federal Budget Boosts Research Funding, But Falls Short of Recommendations

The Canadian government's 2024 budget boosts research funding and graduate student support, but falls short of expert recommendations, leaving questions about its impact on the country's research ecosystem.

Sakchi Khandelwal
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Federal Budget Boosts Research Funding, But Falls Short of Recommendations

Federal Budget Boosts Research Funding, But Falls Short of Recommendations

The Canadian government's 2024 federal budget, unveiled this week by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, includes significant investments in research funding and graduate student support. The budget allocates $825 million over five years to increase graduate student scholarships and $1.8 billion to research councils, with the aim of retaining talented researchers in Canada.

The funding is expected to increase the number of research scholarships and fellowships provided by the government, building to approximately 1,720 more graduate students or fellows benefiting each year. It will also help strengthen the research talent pipeline and fuel the growth of Canada's knowledge and innovation economy.

However, the investments fall short of the recommendations made by the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System in their 2023 report. More than three-quarters of the new funding for the research councils will not be paid out until after the next federal election, leaving many details for the next government to decide.

The budget also proposes the creation of a new 'capstone' research funding organization and a national advisory council on science and innovation, but the details of these new bodies are still to be revealed. It commits $600 million to the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit to support researchers.

Why this matters: The research funding investments in the 2024 federal budget aim to secure Canada's global competitiveness by providing incentives for talented researchers to conduct their work in the country. However, with the funding falling short of advisory panel recommendations and amid financial challenges faced by post-secondary institutions, questions remain about whether the budget goes far enough to reinvigorate Canada's research ecosystem.

University leaders, students have welcomed the investments, which will help support research in areas such as clean energy transition, health, and Indigenous scholarship. The budget also committed $30 million over three years specifically to support Indigenous participation in research. However, there is concern that the funding boost may be insufficient to allow supervisors to increase the value of all trainees' stipends to the announced amounts, meaning that the vast majority of students and postdocs will continue to struggle financially. The budget proposal still needs to be passed by the House of Commons before it is finalized.

Key Takeaways

  • 2024 federal budget invests $825M in graduate scholarships, $1.8B in research councils.
  • Funding aims to retain talented researchers and fuel Canada's innovation economy.
  • Investments fall short of advisory panel recommendations, with details left for next government.
  • New research funding organization and advisory council on science/innovation proposed.
  • University leaders and students welcome investments, but concerns over insufficient funding remain.