Tough funding environment spurs creativity

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Dr. Argerie Tsimicalis, Assistant Professor, Ingram School of Nursing, explains why securing federal funding can be more difficult for early career researchers.

by Philip Fine

Research is vital to Canada’s early-career investigators, and yet as many as 80% see their applications to crucial federal grants turned down, says Dr. Argerie Tsimicalis, Assistant Professor, Ingram School of Nursing. For every 100 applications, only 15 are awarded.

As a young researcher herself, Tsimicalis knows firsthand how overheated competition for Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grants can disproportionately hurt fledgling academics, especially those in their first five years on the job.

According to the Association of Canadian Early Career Health Researchers (ACECHR), this group has experienced a 38% CIHR funding decline over the past six years. And the situation is not likely to improve. Some predict that the 15% award rate will drop to 10% this year.

These disheartening numbers have left survey participants telling ACECHR that almost half of them are considering leaving research, academia or Canada. “Canada could be a leader in research and development,” says Tsimicalis, 40, who sees in this a loss of scientific potential. An investigator into rare childhood diseases, she has tried to circumvent some of the grant challenges by seeking other sources of funding, namely approaching stakeholders directly—efforts that have, happily, borne fruit.

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