Data check: Federal budget ups research funds, but the trend is still down

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Almost half of funding for sponsored research at Ontario universities comes from the federal government. About two-thirds of federal support is from the federal granting councils.* After a recent decline in federal funding for university research, announcements in the Federal Budget seem to make a big splash. But the reality is, after inflation, federal funding for university research continues to decline.
 
The Budget promises to add $46 million in annual funding for research supported through the granting councils, and another $18 million over two years for other programs administered by the councils. The biggest sums are reserved for a Canada First Research Excellence Fund: it will be launched in 2014-15 with $50 million and reach $200 million annually in 2018-19. Other impressive-sounding plans – for the TRIUMF physics lab and Institute for Quantum Computing – essentially maintain existing funding.
 
If the “Canada First” funding is added to money for the granting councils, there will be a modest two per cent increase in support for higher education research from these sources in each of the next two years. Funding will regain the level it was at for 2010-11 this coming year, but once forecast inflation is taken into account, federal support will still have fallen by seven per cent.
 
*Granting councils include: the Canadian Institute for Health Research; Natural Science & Engineering Research Council; Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council; the latter also administers the Indirect Costs of University Research program.
 
Sources
Council of Finance Officers – Universities of Ontario, Financial Report of Ontario Universities
Government of Canada, Budget 2014; Main Estimates
Statistics Canada, Table358-0163 – Federal expenditures on science and technology, by major departments and agencies, annual (dollar), CANSIM (database); Table 384-0039 Implicit price indexes, gross domestic product, provincial and territorial, annual (2007=100), CANSIM (database).

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