Last month's report by the Council of Canadian Academies, prepared at the government's request, reveals that Canada's research output and impact rank seventh and sixth in the world, respectively (see go.nature.com/pyvwlk). Shouldn't the country be performing better, given its sustained investment in research and development (R&D)?
Gross domestic expenditure on R&D by the government and higher-education sectors was 0.77% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 and has been maintained throughout the global financial crisis (0.79% in 2010). Although Canada performs well given its small population, its GDP is relatively high because of natural-resource exports, so these figures may be underestimates. Its 2008 R&D investments exceeded those of Japan and of every European Union member except Finland and France (see go.nature.com/59dg8f).
Canadian academia can improve returns on this public investment. Stimulating competition and responsibility for delivering research output and impact would support the government's commitment to fiscal accountability. For example, it could assess researchers every 5–10 years and reallocate a small amount of existing public funding to the highest performers. These measures could bring Canada in line with other developed countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia.