Scientists will be forced to knock on doors under health research grant changes – Health – CBC News

To understand what’s going on requires a short primer on how medical research is funded in Canada.

Most of the country’s health scientists apply for funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which receives just over a billion dollars a year from Ottawa for health science research.

About half of that money is awarded through an open competition, in a process so competitive that only around 15 per cent of those who apply are successful in securing research grants.

And scientists were already upset about new rules in that open competition. It overhauled a long standing peer review process where scientists met to discuss which grants were the best candidates for funding. It also set aside almost half of the money to fund a small number of large labs or collaborations, leaving the rest of the scientists to compete for limited funding opportunities.

‘Many of these resource industries are the cause of many of our health problems so to get funding from them would be problematic.’

– Rod McCormick

Those changes had already “imposed significant anxiety and confusion among researchers,” according to one letter sent to the head of CIHR.

Now, adding to that confusion, is a new series of changes that will affect the structure of the CIHR’s 13 research institutes, which specialize in areas such as aboriginal health, child health, gender studies, nutrition, and aging.

The institutes each have their own independent advisory board, and they award grants based on priorities they establish within each institute, to focus on specialized areas of research.

Or at least that’s how it used to be.

Now, in a decision making process described as “shrouded in secrecy,” the CIHR is implementing changes that risk pitting one institute against the other as their budgets are cut in half.

The other half of the money is being pooled into a common fund, and to access that money the institutes will have to compete with each other, and the scientists will have to knock on doors to find matching external funding.

It’s a requirement that has raised particular concerns at the Institute for Aboriginal People’s Health, where researchers fear they have few options for finding those matching funds.

“Unfortunately for aboriginal people, we don’t really have many organizations we can leverage with,” said Rod McCormick, who holds the B.C. Chair in Aboriginal Early Childhood Development at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. “I don’t think it’s a secret that the Harper government wants us to get our funding from resource industries. But many of these resource industries are the cause of many of our health problems so to get funding from them would be problematic.”

via Scientists will be forced to knock on doors under health research grant changes – Health – CBC News.

Fiscal ‘blackmail’ in Canada’s poorest quarter | iPolitics

For shame. Absolute, unadulterated shame.

They have kneecapped the political opposition, ignored the premiers, muzzled the scientists and even told federal librarians not to let their hair down when they’re not at work.

Now the Harper government has brought its godfather negotiation tactics to the poorest postal code in the nation.

As the CBC has reported, seven of the ten poorest postal codes in Canada are attached to reserves.

The lesson? Beware the Ides of March, especially if you are a member of the Burnt Church First Nation in rural New Brunswick….

via Fiscal ‘blackmail’ in Canada’s poorest quarter | iPolitics.

Indigenous people a step closer to the constitution

THERE will be echoes of 1967 in Parliament House on Wednesday when both sides of politics pass legislation that will give momentum to the push to recognise the first Australians in the nation’s founding document.

Shirley Peisley was 26 when she pinned badges on the lapels of politicians in support of modest but hugely symbolic constitutional change. On Wednesday she will watch as a new indigenous generation does the same in support of something more ambitious.

Back then, Ms Peisley was a woman in awe, inspired by the leadership and example of Lowitja O’Donoghue, who organised her trip from Adelaide to a planning meeting for the 1967 referendum campaign. Like most of the activists, they stayed at Brassey Hotel, then called Brassey Hostel. ”Anyone who had a room – and some of us did – would have swags all over the floor,” Professor O’Donoghue recalls. ”The dining room was full of people who weren’t guests. It was amazing how they put up with us.”

Lowitja O’Donoghue and Shirley Peisley on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares

When they weren’t talking about the struggle or singing We Shall Overcome and other anthems of the American civil rights movement, Professor O’Donoghue recalls some of the activists throwing boomerangs on the vacant land opposite.

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This week, the two women are back in the same digs, and hoping that the unity, energy and optimism that abounded almost half a century ago will be replicated – and help transform the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The 1967 referendum resulted in indigenous Australians being counted in the census and gave the national government the power to make laws for their benefit, but only conferred what Noel Pearson described as a ”neutral kind of citizenship”.

via Indigenous people a step closer to the constitution.