Science funding in Canada – Statistics

(Last updated – October 2022)

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 rate 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 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 2000-2021


Data source available here (xls format)

CIHR budget 2000-2021


Year 2020-2021 included Statutory Authorities $203.6M time-limited funding for COVID-19 research (Pursuant to the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act). As this funding is a one-time addition to the CIHR budget not dedicated to the regular programs, it is indicated as extra data points (in yellow and orange in the graph)

Data source available here (xls format)

Comparison with the NIH budget

The NIH’s 2020-2021 budget was $41.5 billion USD (approx. $55.7 billion CAD), compared to CIHR’s $1.44 billion CAD (which includes one-time investments in COVID-19 research). This represents a 39-fold difference in funding support for CIHR, which contrasts with the nine-fold difference in population between the United States and Canada.

View data sources

NSERC Statistics

NSERC budget 2007-2021

Data source available here (xls format)

SSHRC statistics

SSHRC budget 2006-2021

Data source available here (xls format)


Data points 2006 to 2019-2020 are actual spending, as reported in the SSHRC annual reports.

Four data points are reported for 2020-21 – the bottom two represent planned spending, while the upper two data points represent actual spending, and includes significant time-limited funding for COVID-19 research (Pursuant to the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act)

Student stipends

More support is required to maintain Canada’s attractiveness for the next generation of researchers. Trainees that successfully compete for Canada Graduate Scholarships (Master’s program; CGS-M), receive an $17.5K CAD per year award, an amount that has not kept up with inflation and is stagnant since 2003. This is below the low-income level cut-off of $22k CAD for a person living alone in a major Canadian city. The NSERC website states that “This support allows these scholars to fully concentrate on their studies in their chosen fields”. This is no longer accurate, and disheartening for students, who must now face rising housing costs and inflation rates. Academia is viewed as an uphill battle, with no clear indication that the situation will improve, which is a daunting prospect for trainees.

Paying students a living wage is the base for equity, diversity and inclusion, and absolutely required if we are to attract the brightest minds from diverse backgrounds and not only those who are independently wealthy.

Update – August 2022: the Support our Science Campaign website: presents more data on funding of trainees by NSERC.

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 as compared to the average number for OECD countries

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.


CAN-ACN’s response to the 2023 budget

Response to the budget tabled March 28, 2023

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience joins its voice to the rest of the scientific community in expressing disappointment in the lack of support for science, research, and students in Budget 2023.

There are some questions left unanswered following this budget:

How can the government fail to recognize that fundamental research drives innovation and economic growth?


Two Members of Parliament visit the Trudeau lab at Université de Montréal

Dr. Louis-Eric Trudeau, neuroscientist at the Université de Montréal and his research team hosted on April 4 two federal MPs, M. Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois, and M. Maxime Joncas-Blanchette MP for the Rimouski region and in charge of science issues at the Bloc. The goal was to discuss the funding of neuroscience and biomedical research in Quebec and in Canada and also the challenges of sharing research discoveries in French. Both expressed strong support for increased federal funding for research.

Lab visits are a great way to engage with elected officials and promote science in Canada – Congratulations Dr. Trudeau!


CAN submits a brief to the House of Commons permanent committee on Science and Research on “International Moonshot Programs”

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience joined its voice to a large coalition of Canadian stakeholders calling for the Canadian government to invest in a Canadian Brain Research Initiative, to make Brain and Mental Health Research a National Priority in Canada.

Read our brief, along with those of many other stakeholders, on the House of Commons website

Read CAN’s submission to the Minister of Finance pre-budget consultations

CAN made the following recommendations to the recent consultations on budget 2023 by the Minister of Finances:

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience recommends the following:

Recommendation 1: That the government of Canada increase investments 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 the benefit of all Canadians. We urge the government to adopt a four-year plan to double the budgets of the three main federal funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) starting with a 25% increase in the next budget.  This recommendation aims to bring Canadian investment in scientific research to a level commensurate to that of other G7 countries.

Recommendation 2: That the government of Canada increase its support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows by 50% for graduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships to increase both value and number awarded in the next budget. In conjunction with recommendation 1, this recommendation will ensure our next generation of scientists have the means to participate fully in Canada’s knowledge economy.

Recommendation 3: That the government of Canada make research on the Brain and Mental Health a national priority by investing in research to understand the brain through well-established and trusted organizations in the field.

Read our full submission here (PDF)

CAN holds its first in-person Hill Day in Ottawa November 3, 2022

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience held its first in-person Parliament Hill Day on November 3, 2022 in Ottawa. It was an opportunity for our team of neuroadvocates to meet face to face or virtually with members of Parliament, Senators, Parliamentary staff members and important senior civil servants to advocate for a increased support for CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, graduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, and to make research on Brain and Mental Health a national priority. (more…)

Read CAN’s submission to the FINA pre-budget consultations

The CAN advocacy team is happy to share our submission to pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2023 budget of the House of Commons permanent committee on Finances (FINA)
View our submission: Increased investment in scientific research for the health and prosperity of Canadians today and tomorrow
The deadline to submit a brief is Saturday, 8 October 2022 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time – View the news release here

CAN Advocacy survey – 2022

View the results of our advocacy survey here

First report of the new House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research tabled on June 6

On June 6, the new House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research tabled its first ever report, as part of its study on “Successes, Challenges and Opportunities for Science in Canada”. The Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) was one of sixteen organizations that submitted a written submission as part of the consultations. The Committee held meetings over the course of three months, which CAN closely followed, hearing from science and research organizations, post-secondary institutions, companies and government departments.

CAN welcomes all 13 of the recommendations made to government, and is pleased that one of our recommendations (An initial 25% boost to the budgets of the three granting councils followed by a 10% yearly increase) was specifically referenced in the report. Additionally, we are happy to see that the Committee has recognized the tremendous setback to Canada’s research ecosystem caused by the pandemic, and the impact of the rapid mobilization of resources to conduct COVID-19 research, sometimes at the expense of research on other health issues. (more…)

Advocacy training at CAN2022

We are happy to make the slides for the CAN Advocacy training presented May 13 over lunch in Toronto available

CAN Advocacy training presentation (PDF)

CAN Advocacy – Selected resources & contact list (May 2022) 


Recording available: Science Policy Session with Senator Stan Kutcher – April 25, 2022

Co-hosted by the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences and the Canadian Association for Neuroscience

On Monday, April 25, the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences and the Canadian Association for Neuroscience welcomed the Honourable Senator Stan Kutcher for a session on science policy and advice.

Key takeaways:

  • Scientists must engage in advocacy, it is an important part of their job
  • We need more scientists in Parliament.
  • In the absence of more scientists in Parliament, we need scientists and researchers to advocate on behalf of their communities, and highlight the important work they are doing.
  • We have to help politicians understand how science is part of everything we do, and how if we don’t invest in basic science, we don’t have the tools and products required to improve people’s health and lives.
  • Scientists and researchers need to be their own champions, and try to find other long-term science champions both in the House of Commons and in the Senate.
  • We need to highlight how government investments need to be in creating a “science enterprise”, so that young people will want to stay in Canada instead of going elsewhere, or being put off from doing scientific research all together.
  • It takes constant, repeated, and clear messaging. Fundamental science is a long-game, and communicating its impacts to politicians is a long-game.
  • Canada’s scientists need to trumpet their successes more. While mainstream media doesn’t have as many scientific journalists as it used to, science communicators need to step up to fill the void and to tell the story of science.