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Canadian Researchers Fret About Funding

Melvin Silverman, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, recently got a call from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The CIHR surveyor asked the scientist who would benefit from his studies of diabetes and membrane function, and what the intermediate and final outcome of the work would be. To Silverman, the questioner had asked him to justify the funding of basic biomedical research according to its direct community health benefits, rather than its scientific significance.

Paula Park
Melvin Silverman, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, recently got a call from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The CIHR surveyor asked the scientist who would benefit from his studies of diabetes and membrane function, and what the intermediate and final outcome of the work would be. To Silverman, the questioner had asked him to justify the funding of basic biomedical research according to its direct community health benefits, rather than its scientific significance.

Silverman answered "undiplomatically," he says, calling the questions "ignorant." Yet, the survey reflected the mandate of the new CIHR: to serve the country's diverse population and balance social and behavioral science revelations with basic discoveries in the lab. "It's a dance with the devil," he worries. "Interdisciplinary research is where things are at, at the cutting edge of new knowledge. The problem is money, and when there's a money problem, the jealousies...

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