Here at the Federation, we’ve been picking apart the 2016 federal budget and also keeping an eye out for what our colleagues are saying. There seems to be a solid consensus growing: March 22 was a good day for Canadian scholarship in its many forms.
The Federation’s overall impressions are articulated in our post-budget media release, and a detailed analysis of the budget is available in our 2016 budget briefing note. The following is a brief overview of a few key topics, including issues that we feel are likely to be highly relevant in the coming year.
The 2015 Liberal election platform had no specific promises relating to research funding, so it was a welcome surprise to see a funding increase of $95 million split between the three granting agencies, on top of the $46 million promised in the 2015 budget. The Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) generally gets the smallest share of these budget increases, and this is still the case; however, its overall share did increase. Where SSHRC usually receives a bit less than half the amount received by each of the other two granting agencies (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research), in 2016 SSHRC is receiving a bit more than half. It’s a modest change, but we hope this signals a rebalancing in research funding in favour of the human-focused disciplines.
Looking forward, we can expect important high-level discussions on how Canada supports research. The budget announced an upcoming review the federal research system, led by the Minister of Science. While the budget describes the general objectives of this review, there are few details. What we do know is that the review will pursue such goals as increasing impacts, re-examining the rationales for targeting funding in the granting councils, seeking coherence in priorities and instruments, supporting emerging researchers, and responding to emerging opportunities. We can only guess at the full meaning of these terms for now, but we hope that they signal a sincere desire on the part of the government to nourish and expand Canada’s research systems. The Federation is, of course, eager to contribute to such an exercise.
On a similar note, budget 2016 announced the government’s intention to develop an innovation agenda over the coming year. Again, there are broad objectives here, but generally few details. Overall, the focus appears to be on how government can support the flow of ideas between knowledge producers and knowledge users, which has implications for scholars, public servants and private enterprise. The role of the humanities and social sciences in supporting important social innovations is a discussion the Federation is eager to advance.
There are many other worthy topics in budget 2016, and for a more complete discussion, please read our 2016 budget briefing note. Generally, the budget elicited smiles among Canadian researchers, students and teachers. It also signals that research and innovation will be important priorities for the government in the coming years. So stay tuned...
Let us know what you think!
Contact Peter Severinson, Policy Analyst, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences