Vital Public Funding Pushes Research Toward Innovation

Front-line researchers offer insight into the importance of ongoing government financial support.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

Ever wonder where your tax dollars go when they fund public research? Basic government-funded research is what brings us advances we have yet to imagine. Federal funding drives Canada’s ability to do the research that ushers in technological advances and informs sound policy.

In this Orange Chair Session, our research rockstars reflect on the importance of public research funding when it comes to true groundbreaking progress.

What is the importance of public funding for research?

Margaret Campbell-Brown
Western University

“Basic science questions like why are we here, where did we come from, that’s the sort of thing that you don’t tend to get private funding for. So this is the sort of thing that governments can support – basic science questions – the basic things to satisfy our curiosity about the world and the universe.”

Ron Martin
Western University

“The discovery of DNA was publicly funded. Without public funding, a lot of the really original, outside the box research would collapse, and that is of immeasurable value.”

Why exactly is public funding important?

Dawn Bowdish
McMaster University

“To really do absolutely fundamental, life-changing, paradigm-shifting, dogma-smashing research, we need a big public investment 15-20 years before the companies are interested in developing that as a therapeutic; so public funding provides that 15-20 years. Another thing that public funding provides is the training opportunities. A big part of my job is training PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. And public funding is what supports them during their degree. It’s what helps us built up the careers of these young people so that we have world-class, leading, innovative, ambitious young scientists.”

Patrick Gunning
University of Toronto

“The expenses of running a medicinal chemistry lab are huge. Without government funding, this molecule would be nowhere near advanced pre-clinical trials right now. So it’s hugely important to have this level of funding to do good science.”

Why isn’t private funding good enough?

Patrick Gunning
University of Toronto

“In future, without the same levels of funding, there is a real issue of getting molecules to a stage where industry is willing to invest.”

Sheila Singh
McMaster University

“The only way is to convince the public to invest in these basic discoveries, because if we do all our work at the far end of the translational pipeline, and just look for drugs all the time, we are going to bypass the important science, the mechanism. The answer is in discovering why something is behaving in a certain way, and unless we invest in the basic discoveries that happen at the beginning, we are not going to get to the end of the road.”

Melanie Campbell
University of Waterloo

“A company isn’t going to take the risk to fund the research at that early stage. They’re going to say that it would be interesting if this research found positive results, but they’re not going to put resources into it. They’re only willing to put resources into the research once you have a prototype. And so government really is the only place that you can go for this type of research, and that’s the only way we can make advances – important advances – in many medical areas.”


Want to learn more about the importance of government support for research? Read our special election coverage on why science should be an election issue and how science is important for democracy in the blog.