Science funding in Canada – Statistics

Fundamental research funding in Canada is viewed in a positive light by Canadians, who understand its importance for their health and well-being, and by the current government.  However, despite the re-investments in the Canadian funding agencies announced in 2018, research funding in Canada remains low when compared to that of other countries.

CIHR statistics

Compiled by the Canadian Association for Neuroscience from data available on the CIHR website.

Project grants granted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are the core funding mechanism for biomedical research in Canada.  Unfortunately, success rates in recent competition have been dwindling (Figure 1).  The success rates for funding applications at CIHR has steadily declined since 2005, from a 31% success rates to a success rate below 15% in 2018 (less than one in six successful applications). Current success rate levels are too low to maintain a diverse and flourishing research environment, as many excellent research programs go unfunded due to lack of available funds. Success rates under 20% means that researchers spend countless hours writing grant applications, while their chance of being successful are too low to be sustainable. In addition, it should be noted that the current 15% (or less) funding level is only achieved by making drastic cuts to the budgets of all project grants (often >25%), which further highlights the lack of sufficient funding for this competition.

CIHR Grant application success rates 2000-2020

Cihr grant application success rates


Data source available here (xls format)

CIHR budget 2000-2020

CIHR budget


Data source available here (xls format)

Comparison with the NIH budget

“Comparisons in funding remain germane. CIHR has a broader mandate than the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Moreover, the U.S. funds a significant fraction of applied research in healthcare innovation and healthcare quality through two other federal agencies with a combined operating budget of close to US$1.50 billion per year. In 2016-17 the NIH budget was US$30.62 billion, while the CIHR budget was C$1.03 billion, including its share of spending contained in the relevant tri-council programs. The thirty-fold difference contrasts with a nine-fold difference in population. Adjustments for GDP per capita or purchasing power have only a minor influence on such large discrepancies. “

Naylor et al. April 2017

NSERC Statistics

NSERC budget 2007-2020

NSERC budget 2007-2020

Data source available here (xls format)

The Fundamental Science Review Report (2017)

The Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science was appointed in June 2016. Their mandate entailed a review of the federal system of supports for research conducted by scientists and scholars employed outside of federal, provincial, or territorial government departments and agencies. The Fundamental Science Review, also known as the Naylor Report, made important recommendations to improve the Canadian Research Ecosystem.

The Panel’s single most important recommendation (R6.1) is that the federal government should rapidly increase its investment in independent investigator-led research to redress the imbalance caused by differential investments favouring priority-driven targeted research over the past decade.  (Investing in Canada’s future – Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research: Canada’s fundamental Science Review, page xviii$file/ScienceReview_April2017-rv.pdf)

In response to the publication of the Fundamental Science Review, the Federal budget of 2018 announced a historic investment in science. However, examination of the recommendations of the Naylor report and the investments announced in 2018 shows that full implementation of the recommendations of the Naylor report has not been achieved.

Fundamental science review recommendations - budget 2018

The Fundamental science review report proposed investments in Investigator-led direct project funding over 4 years of $1215 Millions, while $689 Millions were included in the same four year period in budget 2018, or 56.7%.

Source: Report of the Fundamental Science Review, p. 154$file/ScienceReview_April2017-rv.pdf

and Budget 2018 Chapter 2 p. 122—Progress millions of dollars – Investing in Canadian Scientists and Researchers: Granting Councils (

OECD Statistics

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives. The OECD collects data and publishes statistics on a wide range of range of social, economic and environmental challenges.
Here we present a collection of graphics on science performance, science funding and the number of researchers in Canada. Canada is compared to the other countries of the G7.

Gross domestic spending on Research and Development

The following figure shows that Canada is the only country in the G7 in which Gross domestic spending on R&D has been going down since 2001.

Canada is now second to last in the G7 in this metric.

Direct link:


The following figure shows that the number of researchers per 1000 employed has been going down since 2011 in Canada

Direct link:

Youth science performance

Canada’s youth hits high scores in science – Scientific performance, for PISA, measures the scientific literacy of a 15 year-old in the use of scientific knowledge to identify questions, acquire new knowledge, explain scientific phenomena, and draw evidence-based conclusions about science-related issues. The mean score is the measure.
Both boys and girls score high in this measure in Canada.

Direct link:


Research-driven innovation is one of the pillars of today’s knowledge-based economy. The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is committed to advocating for increases in the total budget of the three main granting councils of Canada, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC.


Recording available: CSPC panel 128 – Roles & Responsibilities of Academic Science Societies in informing Policy: Lessons & Observations from Around the World

The recording of the CSPC panel from November 17 2020 is now available from the CSPC. Learn more on their website:

CAN President Charles Bourque’s intervention begins at 1:08. (more…)

Read the latest CAN advocacy report

Click here to view the March 2021 CAN Advocacy report (more…)

CAN submission to Department of Finance pre-budget consultations

On January 25, 2021the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, and the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, the Honourable Mona Fortier, launched pre-budget consultations. These discussions allow the government to hear the best ideas from Canadians and experts across the country about how Budget 2021 can support Canadians through the pandemic and help us build back better.

When COVID-19 is under control and Canada’s economy is ready to rebound, the government has a plan to make smart, targeted investments to jumpstart the country’s economic recovery and begin to repair the damage done by the pandemic. These pre-budget consultations are an opportunity for Canadians from across the country to share their ideas and priorities for how the government can best invest to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and build a greener, more competitive, more inclusive, and more resilient economy.

Read the full press release here:

and visit the consultation website here:

Read the Canadian Association for Neuroscience’s submission here


CAN President Charles Bourque participation in the Canadian Science Policy Conference as panelist

Professor Charles Bourque will participate in the session: Roles & Responsibilities of Academic Science Societies in informing Policy: Lessons & Observations from Around the World – November 17th at 8:30 via zoom, as part of the Canadian Science Policy Conference which takes place virtually this year.

Take a look at the whole program here:

Panel description and participants


CAN Hill week is taking place November 2-6, 2020, virtually

We are very excited to be organizing the first ever CAN Hill week, which will take place November 2 -6 2020, virtually.  Our objective is to advocate for more funding for fundamental research in Canada through CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC.

We have over 25 meetings organized in which over 50 CAN neuroadvocates will participate.

Follow us on social media to learn more!

#CANHillWeek #neuroadvocate

Read our CAN Hill week one-pager to learn more


CAN publishes an article in MacLean’s and Chatelaine magazine

The article was published in MacLean’s in October 2020, in a special section on “Understanding Neurological Conditions”, and re-published in the December 2020 edition of Chatelaine, in a special section on “Managing Chronic Conditions”.

It was also published online on the website.

CAN Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finances

We have made the following recommendations

Recommendation 1: That the government of Canada provide a one-time 25% increase in investment in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for research restart and recovery from the setback of the COVID-19 pandemic to research laboratories in Canada.

Recommendation 2: The government should commit to providing robust and reliable funding for basic discovery research to sustain and grow Canada’s scientific community. Funding to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) should be increased by at least 10% yearly, until commensurate with other G7 countries. This recommendation is in accordance with the Fundamental Science Review and will ensure Canada’s research ecosystem is healthy and resilient to face any future challenge. (more…)

COVID impact survey results

Thank you to all our members and colleagues who responsed to our survey on the impact of COVID-19 on researchers and laboratories in Canada. The full results of the survey are available here:

CAN-ACN survey on impact of COVID-19 on researchers and laboratories in Canada

This data will be used to support our recommendations to the House of Commons Standing committee on Finances, for their consultations in advance of the next federal budget.

CAN publishes in a Toronto Star insert on Brain Health

CAN President Katalin Toth was featured in a campaign on Brain Health which was published in The Star on March 13, 2020.Brain Health is a priority for all Canadians

Read the article on Brain health is a priority for all Canadians

CAN participation in SfN’s Hill Day

CAN participation in SfN’s Hill Day

Charles Bourque, CAN VP, with Michael Heintz, Director of Advocacy & Training at SfN and fellow neuroadvocates on Capitol Hill
Charles Bourque, CAN VP, with Michael Heintz, Director of Advocacy & Training at SfN and fellow neuroadvocates on Capitol Hill

CAN was invited by SfN to participate once again in SfN’s Hill Day, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on March 5, 2020.  CAN Vice-President Charles Bourque and CAN Past-President and current member of SfN’s GPA committee Jaideep Bains were present for this important event. Each was paired with a group of neuroadvocates from different states and to meet with elected officials and their staff to advocate for more funding for NIH and NSF. It was an opportunity to network with fellow neuroadvocates, to learn from our colleagues at SfN effective advocacy strategy.

“Support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Capitol Hill is bipartisan and strong.  Republican and Democrats equally recognize the importance of investing in health research – this is truly inspiring. We have work to do in Canada to increase the support for our NIH equivalent, CIHR, but the example of the our US colleagues shows us how to do this, and the importance of being mobilized towards this goal.”

-Charles Bourque


Jaideep Bains on Capitol Hill
Jaideep Bains on Capitol Hill – photo  credit: SfN

“Visiting US senators and representatives during Capitol Hill Day was a great experience. It confirmed that face-to-face contact and open discussion can have a real impact on the support elected officials have for science, and help build lasting relationships between scientists and politicians.”

-Jaideep Bains

We wish to thank Charles Bourque and Jaideep Bains for representing CAN at Hill Day.

The support CAN receives from SfN, both in terms of in-kind training and exchange, and funds for advocacy in Canada that we receive through our Memorandum of Understanding with SfN are of critical importance to allow us to pursue our advocacy goals in Canada.