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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 13 | September 6, 2001

'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 costs.

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 funding.

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 research foundation.

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 universities.

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 fall.

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

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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