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Canada Offers Young Scientists a Chair

Late last month, details of the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program were finally released to the public. As promised by the federal government when the program was first announced last February, the CRC program emphasizes both research in the sciences and funding for junior positions.

According to the joint publication of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the three Canadian funding councils--the Medical Research Council, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council--80% of the 2000 newly formed chairs will go to health, natural sciences, and engineering. The remaining 20% allocated will be allocated to social sciences and humanities. Although the number of grants exceeds the 12% total funding traditionally allocated to the social sciences and humanities, René DuRocher, executive director of the CRC Program, was quick to point out that science and technology still received a generous per capita allowance. "Probably about 50% of [faculty] positions are in the social sciences and humanities right now, so this is a science-based program," says DuRocher.

At least half the chairs awarded by the program will be required to go to junior faculty positions ranging from recent Ph.D.'s to associate professors. "It is important to have senior researchers that are internationally recognized, but it is equally important to have the rising stars--people at the associate professor level who have the potential to be the future stars of our country. And one of the goals is to have these chairs work with postdocs and graduate students, which will be the third generation of stars," explained DuRocher. Because the 2000 chairs will be awarded evenly over the next 5 years, this means over 200 new funded positions for junior faculty each year for the next five. Each of these chairs will be entitled to C$100,000 per year in financial support, for 5 years, renewable once.

In addition to this cash given to the universities to be used for salary support and recruitment costs, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation has decided to allow the universities to apply for infrastructure grants amounting to an average of C$125,000 for each chair awarded. Though the amount given to each chair may vary, this should be enough money to help a young scientist get their lab set up.

The Canada Research Chairs Program was originally introduced as an ambitious attempt at reversing the "Canadian brain drain" to the United States by creating enticing positions for researchers within Canada. According to Carmen Charette of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, it's already happening. "We've already heard from researchers that have left Canada and that plan to come back because of this initiative," she says.