Celebrating a decade of research

Canada’s strength in research and academia is developing with the help of ten years of the Canadian Research Chairs (CRC) program.

At the program’s two-day tenth anniversary celebration beginning Nov. 24, Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, announced $275.6 million of federal funding for 310 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs.

The announcement formally recognized last year’s successes and indicated an ongoing governmental commitment to research, innovation and continued program funding.

According to Paul Maxim, WLU associate vice-president: research, “The reason for the tenth anniversary celebration was not only to celebrate the accomplishments of those chairs in Ontario, but also to send a message to the government, both the federal government and to a lesser degree the provincial government, that this has been a successful program.”

Anne Wilson, Canadian Research Chair at Laurier in social psychology, also commented that the anniversary conference was well received.

“It was recognized as not just maintaining the program but growing it, [and] it was nice to see that…the support is continuing.”

The Canadian Research Chair program, a government funded initiative founded in the year 2000, was created in order to bolster Canada’s research climate.
Prior to the millennium, Canada was lagging academically behind much of the developing world, including major competitors such as the United States and Great Britain. Many of the top academics left Canada to research in other countries, and Canada needed greater incentives to retain and attract academics.

“It was really hard attracting top quality international scholars to Canada, and it was also very difficult attracting Canadians who had gone overseas…to get their PhDs,” said Maxim, describing Canada’s academic environment in the late 1990s.

“Canada made a conscious decision to really try to keep some of its best minds, and in order to do that you really need to support them at a reasonable level, otherwise there are going to be other offers that are more attractive,” explained Wilson, noting the financial incentives, prestige, and overall greater opportunities of studying outside of Canada prior to the CRC program.

According to Maxim and Wilson, the general consensus is that, over the past ten years, the CRC program has been highly successful and has achieved that majority of its goals.

“[The program] has been able to attract some really prestigious people from other countries to Canada, and a lot of people who otherwise would have left have stayed,” said Wilson.

Maxim and Wilson also both noted that the CRC program has attracted a considerable amount of international attention.

“It is seen as a major contribution by Canada,” explained Maxim. “A lot of other developed countries, and some of the developing countries, are looking at that as a model to help build their own university capacity [and] research capacity.”
Another benefit of the program is that the funding alleviates some teaching responsibilities of Research Chair professors.

According to Wilson, “The CRC program…allows researchers at Canadian universities to focus more on research,” enabling Canada to better compete academically with other countries, such as the United States, that typically dedicate certain professors to teaching and others strictly to research.

Canada Research Chairs are allocated somewhat proportionately to the budgets of the major federal level funding agencies in Canada, NSERC (The National Science and Engineering Research Council), CIHR (The Canadian Institutes for Health Research) and SSHRC (The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council).

The majority of chairs have been allocated to science and engineering due to NSERC’s larger budget. However, according to Maxim, there has been considerable discussion regarding the need for increased research in policy, both social and scientific.

Maxim also added that many academic and research accomplishments often go unnoticed outside of academia.

“Part of what we have to do is reach out to the general public…to say ‘hey, look, this is what we’ve done…this is our contribution to society,’” said Maxim. “That’s part of the mission.”

About CRCs

  • The program was established in 2000 creating Research Chair positions across Canada
  • 1845 positions exist that are currently filled among 72 participating universities
  • Laurier presently has six existing chairs in various research areas
  • Laurier is looking to fill five new positions

Canadians Research Chairs by the numbers

2,000 chair positions available

1,880 chairs are regularly allocated

45% of chairs are part of NSERC

35% of chairs are part of CIHR

20% of chairs are part of SSHRC