Editorial: The failing research funding balancing act

Ottawa was invaded last month by thousands of Canadian professors looking to promote change and let the government know they would no longer work for peanuts.

In May, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences met to discuss research funding. The event was an opportunity for academics across Canada to address with politicians the discrepancies in funding between the hard sciences and social sciences/humanities. The latter have been swept under the carpet in the past in regards to funding, the government tending to ignore them. It is hard for researchers to fund projects, as only a handful get assistance from the government.

The disparity is evident in the newly created Canada Excellence Research Chairs program, which does not include a single finalist from the humanities or social sciences, sparking protest from academics. This is not the only travesty facing professors conducting research in the humanities and social sciences areas. In fact, only one in five social sciences and humanities researchers receives funding in Canada — compared to roughly 75 per cent in the sciences. That is why Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences president Nathalie Des Rosiers has asked the federal government for $100 million over the next three to five years to fund research. This money is long overdue, as the research undertaken by social sciences and humanities professors is just as innovative and important as in the hard sciences.

The imbalance of funding between the hard sciences and social sciences needs to be corrected to allow more professors to conduct research. Currently, an exorbitant amount of funding goes to the hard sciences, engineering and business. It is time to balance the funding so that the social sciences and humanities get a bigger slice of the pie.

The social sciences and humanities play a huge role in developing a multi-faceted approach to problems often thought to be engulfed by the hard sciences, such as climate change and health care, to name a few. To solve such problems researchers from every field require the political, historical and cultural knowledge social sciences and humanities researchers can provide. An influx of funding to the social sciences and humanities will allow these strains of academia to co-exist with the hard sciences to conduct the broad research necessary to benefit humanity. This will not happen without improvement in funding for the social sciences.

That is not to say the social sciences deserve equal funding, they just deserve more than their current level. It is hard to dispute the hard sciences pay for more machinery and various types of equipment to conduct research — something very few social sciences professors need, except in the case of digital researchers. For this reason the funding shouldn’t be equal, just improved.

Let’s hope the government realizes the importance of the social sciences and humanities and gives them a couple big cheques for big money.

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