Canada should rebuild its flagging research programme into northern regions to meet the challenges posed by climate change, rapid population growth, pollution, and social, health and education issues, according to a national task force.
The task force was set up by the country's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Its findings were released last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's 51st Arctic Science Conference in Whitehorse, Yukon.
“We have agreed to explore ways of funding parts of it from our existing budgets,” said Tom Brzustowski, NSERC's president. “But full implementation will require substantial new funding from the federal government.”
In recent years Canada has withdrawn from northern research because of a shortage of funds. “We no longer have the effective research presence in the north that we need to help safeguard this unique and sensitive environment,” says the task force's chairman, Tom Hutchinson of Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.
The task force had 17 members from university, government and northern communities whose expertise covered natural and social sciences and engineering.
Its report proposes a programme that would establish 14 university chairs in northern research, create 40 northern graduate scholarships and 40 postdoctoral fellowships, support 70 strategic research projects, build partnerships between communities and researchers, and provide money for equipment and infrastructure.
“These measures will allow us to interest young researchers in the north, make sound policy decisions on northern issues, meet major international commitments in the circumpolar region and reassert Canadian sovereignty in the north,” says Hutchinson.