'Address indirect research costs,' federal report urges
Committee suggests new funding agreement is needed
by Hilary Thomson staff writer
The shortfall in funding indirect costs of university research
must be addressed to achieve the federal government's innovation
agenda, according to a recent parliamentary report.
Called A Canadian Innovation Agenda for the Twenty-first Century,
the report contains recommendations to advance university research
capacity. Among these is a suggestion that the federal government
and provinces negotiate a new funding agreement that takes into
account direct and indirect research costs.
"This recommendation is very welcome news," says Indira Samarasekera,
vice-president, Research. "While the new federal programs to support
research have helped to advance our research ability, administrative
costs of research have strained budgets."
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has called
for the federal government to reimburse universities for indirect
research costs at a nominal rate of 40 per cent over and above direct
Indirect costs include upgrades of information technology for
transfer of research data between institutions, better support for
ethical reviews and support for library resources.
According to the report, Canada's 92 universities accounted for
almost 24 per cent of all research and development activity in the
country in 1998. Among its major competitor countries, Canada is
one of the few where indirect costs of research are not covered.
One outcome is a reliance on the private sector for research activity
The report also addressed the research capacity of smaller universities
where funding for indirect costs is constrained. In addition to
these costs, the report recommends an allocation of funds to smaller
institutions on a competitive basis to help them establish a strong
The report criticized the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) allocation
system. It contends that the imbalance in research capacity across
the country is reinforced because most chairs are based at large
universities and only six per cent of chairs have gone to smaller
The CRC program provides federally funded research positions
to attract and retain leading investigators, and allocation is largely
based on past competitions for research grants.
The House of Commons' Standing Committee on Industry, Science
and Technology, which produced the report, will examine the distribution
of the chairs when it reviews the granting councils in detail this
The committee also recommended that the federal government consult
with the provinces to develop a comprehensive policy on the commercialization
of university and college research that would include rules on disclosure,
ownership of results and administration