Donna Wilson, PhD
University of Alberta
My research is on Canadian health care. I investigate improvements that can lead to a more effective and efficient health care system. I also examine who is using the health care system, in order to develop the knowledge that can inform health care policy. This work, along with the research undertaken by colleagues in my field, is extremely important for all Canadians.
Unfortunately, in recent years research funding has been significantly reduced in real dollars, and this loss has increased as a result of ongoing inflationary pressures. Due to a diminishing pool of government dollars to support this large array of talented researchers, work like mine is becoming more difficult to fund. Not only do many researchers compete unsuccessfully for funding now, and therefore waste hundreds of hours on each application, but ultimately many important research studies are not able to start. Every well-planned research study that is not completed means a major loss of knowledge and a continuing evidence gap.
Another major issue is that the research funding made available in recent years has been directed at only a few areas of inquiry. Although these areas may be important ones for the decision- makers who choose them, other areas have been deprived of funding. For instance, many public health studies oriented at preventing illnesses are not funded, as compared to studies funded because they appear to be a new or improved way to treat an established illness. As such, research funding has not been available to develop new lines of inquiry.
Commercially viable research and research that supports business interests are two areas that have had preferential funding in recent years. Basic research studies that are needed for the future development of health care policy have suffered from this redirection of research funds to only a few select areas that have the potential for an immediate return on investment. In addition, research topics that are not of interest to commercial or business interests are being starved. For example, bereavement services research that is needed to help people recover following the death of a loved one, a topic of growing importance as the number of annual decedents will double in the next 10-20 years, is another area that is now largely unfunded.
These two issues are not only present nationally but provincially, as federal grant agencies and provincial grant agencies have followed the same unfortunate direction. All Canadians are losers when an inadequate number of studies are conducted and a narrow scope of research is permitted.