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2000: A Good Year for Science in Canada

Well, it's been a good year for science in Canada. And as we sit around the lab, thinking about New Year's resolutions, perhaps now is a good time to reminisce.

Probably the biggest news of the year was the evolution of the Medical Research Council Canada (MRC) into a bigger and more powerful Pokemon known as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). After several decades of complaints from scientists about having to review their $&%* MRC grants, or (worse yet) having to write them, Canadian health researchers don't need to complain about the MRC any more. The CIHR is promising bigger grants for scientists, and more of them. So start practicing: "If I have to read another *#*$@ CIHR grant again, I'll quit science for good!"

Seriously, the CIHR is "the one to watch" in the next year: with the leaders of their new "virtual institutes" just recently announced, it'll be interesting to see what direction this new funding body takes us.

But possibly even superceding the importance of the CIHR to young scientists was the announcement of 2000 (yes, that's 2000!) new chairs in academia, amounting to over 200 brand new, funded, junior faculty positions in Canada per year over the next 5 years. Kinda makes you wonder why we're spending so much time looking at alternative careers for scientists, don't it? Traditional careers in science have never looked better!

The same federal budget that announced the Canada Research Chairs also announced that $160 million would go to Genome Canada. Combine this cash with the announcement that the MRC's old president, Henry Friesen, was made the new president of Genome Canada, and the prediction for the coming few years are that Canada will be a player in the genomics field like it's never been before. Which is good news for the health scientists out there.

But the year was not without it's downsides. The number of graduate student and teaching assistant (TA) strikes that occurred this year were, I believe, unsurpassed in recent history--with York University TA's on strike still. And, probably related to that, tuition is the highest it has been in this country. Ever.

On a final personal note, 2000 is momentous as it will be my last year as the Canada Editor for the Next Wave. I'm passing that hat to Lesley McKarney, who will be taking over from me starting the first week in January. I will still be writing from time to time (check out the ongoing Money Matters series), but will pass all official duties on to Lesley. So let's welcome Lesley to the site as we welcome in the New Year!