OTTAWA—The National Research Council of Canada, seeking ways to buffer government pressure to support more applied work, has taken several small steps to bolster basic research.

Its latest effort is a $1 million fund from which to finance petitive grants for “curiosity-driven projects” in a variety .of disciplines. In a recent letter to NRC staff, President Larkin Kerwin noted that grants for basic research comprised only 15 percent of the council’s awards but that he believed 25 percent was a more appropriate level. Kerwin listed several measures to raise the visibility of basic research, including the accelerated promotion of outstanding scientists, the creation of a senior scientific advisory panel to advise the NRC president and the appointment of additional researchera emeritus, and President’s Medals for outstanding contributions.

NRC’s attempt to shore up basic research comes at a time when government funds for science are shrinking. During the past two years...

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