Canadian Government Ending Networks of Centres of Excellence Program
Canadian Government Ending Networks of Centres of Excellence Program

Canadian Government Ending Networks of Centres of Excellence Program

The funding future is uncertain for researchers studying topics including cancer, stem cells, and the Arctic.

Dec 18, 2018
Ashley P. Taylor

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Canada’s federal government is ending a 30-year-old research funding program, the Networks of Centres of Excellence, leaving researchers uncertain about where future funding will come from, The Globe and Mail reports. The program will be phased out over the course of the next three years, according to a spokesperson for Science Minister Kirsty Duncan.

“It is disappointing to be cut off at the knees,” John Bell, scientific director of BioCanRx, a network of researchers developing immunotherapies to treat cancer, tells the Ottawa Citizen. BioCanRx has been funded by the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program since its founding in 2015 and had expected the money to last a total of 15 years. 

NCE supports a variety of scientific topics, including the Stem Cell Network, which conducts stem cell and regenerative medicine research, as well as ArticNet, which focuses on the effects of climate change on the Canadian Arctic. 

NCE funding is normally renewed every five years, but now, according to an NCE press release, programs up for funding renewal this year can apply for a final, three-year extension. The release also says that programs not up for renewal this year “will continue to be funded until the end date of their grant,” but that “no further opportunities will be available through the NCE Program.”

BioCanRx is in the latter situation. It has received NCE money for four years and so is not up for renewal this year. “We have not heard officially what they are going to do with us,” Bell tells The Globe and Mail

Money will instead go to a different program, the New Frontiers in Research Fund, which “will be open to researchers and networks of researchers across all disciplines,” the press release states, especially for “international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and higher-risk research.”

The Stem Cell Network, though originally an NCE program, has “standalone funding in recent years,” according to the Ottawa Citizen. Nevertheless, organization officials tell the Ottawa Citizen that it will close at the end of March, barring the emergence of another federal funding source. It is currently petitioning the federal government for funding. 

 “To be internationally competitive at this time and space, you need to have many different scientists working together,” Freda Miller, who says that the Stem Cell Network “made [her] career,” tells The Globe and Mail. Without funding for networks, she says, those collaborations may cease to exist.