Matching Funds 

The requirement for co-funding by industry

Simply put, making cofunding a requirement gives industry the power of determining what projects a nation's publicly-funded biomedical researchers can engage in. If a researcher cannot first get Industry to agree to provide matching funds, then his/her hopes of getting research council support are materially decreased.

Margaret Somerville commented:

"Conditions that are attached to government funding can affect the purposes and values upheld, especially when those conditions require academic-industrial partnerships for research to be eligible for funding, as in the case of the Canadian government's C $300 ... million investment in a series of genomics research centres (Genome Canada). Structuring funding in this way leaves out the funding of research that will not result in marketable products, and excludes those researchers who undertake it."

(2002; Nature Reviews 1, 316-320)

        Somerville s point was also independently made in letters to the Globe and Mail of Toronto by Donald Forsdyke (May 5, 2001) and by John Polanyi (July 7, 2005). The latter wrote:


"Requirement for matching funds applies to virtually every new source of research money over the past decade, federal or provincial. ... The effect is to restrict research to research with a predictable outcome. This is not a good way to select science. ... We can pick the wrong people. ...The administrators would, one may be sure, yield to none in their commitment to excellence. They merely reserved the right to select from among the best those who, in their judgement, are the most relevant. But these may not be the best. So Canada prepares to scale Olympus's highest peaks, having selected climbers without giving first place to mountaineering ability. ... It is like picking a Glenn Gould on the basis of appearance at the keyboard. ... In our zeal to protect the tax-payers' investment, we're in danger of squandering it. ... 

What is excellent ... is a revelation. It is precisely because it surprises us that it is resistant to being planned."



On June 24th 2005 Science published a letter from 40 of "Canada's most distinguished scientists," criticizing the government's matching funds policy. Commenting on this, Polanyi remarked: To find 40 scientists willing to challenge authority is ... a surprise. Canadian science is coming of age.


Of course, to make his point, Polanyi did not make clear that those of the highest ability (be it at mountain-climbing, keyboard, or research) are able to plan and predict outcomes that, to the rest of us (and certainly to fund-allocation committees), appear as "revelations." We would never have thought of these outcomes (because, like it or not, we are of modest ability). Thus to us the outcomes would appear "resistant to being planned." In this way, subtle ideas lose out to the unsubtle, and subtle researchers lose out to the unsubtle, whose consequent rapid career advance can lead them to key positions in fund-allocation committees. 




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This page was established in March 2006 and was last edited on 07 September 2010 by Donald Forsdyke