Dean On Campus Blog

Research at Queen’s is on the move

As most readers would know, research funding Canada is tough, and getting tougher. Our most significant funding agency is the Canadian Institute for Health Research or CIHR. The past decade has seen dropping success rates for Canadian researchers. Despite the fact that grants are getting better and better, success rates are getting lower and lower. For the last few years, these rates have hovered at around 17% nationally.

Fortunately for Queens’s, we have an extremely talented group of research scientists. This has become increasingly evident by CIHR grant capture rates that have exceeded national averages. And this trend of success at Queen’s continues. A few weeks ago we heard the results of the latest competition. With a capture rate of 33%, the success for Queen’s researchers was twice the national average. This success translated into the capture of approximately 10 million dollars in operating funds and brought smiles to our Vice Dean of Research Roger Deeley.

This past competition gives us lots to celebrate. Ralph Meyer, the Director of NCIC Clinical Trials Group (NCIC-CTG) and Eisenhauer Chair, along with his colleagues at Queen’s brought in $2.2 million for their work on a randomized trial in clinical gynecological oncology.

And that wasn’t the only NCIC-CTG grant, as Chris O’Callaghan and co-workers received  $1.6 million for their study on the role of radiotherapy in gastric cancer.

And how about Charles Graham, who along with his colleagues received two CIHR grants this round, for their work on research aspects of cancer progression and the biology of the human placenta.

Daren Heyland and colleagues received a grant for their work on decision making and goals of care for the critically ill.

Xiaolong Yang was the PI on a grant studying aspects of small cell lung cancer. Andrew Craig and colleagues received $700,000 for their work on lung cancer metastasis.

Kanji Nakatsu, who would be angry with me if I said for how long he has been receiving national funding, received yet another grant for his fundamental work in pharmacology.

Eric Dumont was funded for his work on the longterm effects addictive drugs.

Patti Groome, form our Division of Cancer Care Epidemiology, received funding for her work on understanding diagnostic episodes in cancer care.

Lauren Flynn from Chemical Engineering, and is cross-appointed to our Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences received funding for her ongoing work in soft tissue engineering.

There were also CIHR awards for Queen’s scientists in other faculties; including Brian Amsden from Chemical Engineering and Randy Flanagan from Psychology.

Success in CIHR competitions is fundamental to a major element of our emerging strategic plan: to accelerate research in bold and focused areas. If this last competition is of measure of our ability to be competitive with the best from across Canada, we are in right on target.

If you have thoughts about CIHR, research in general, or any of our recent successful scientists, please comment on this blog, or better yet…stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.


12 Responses to Research at Queen’s is on the move

  1. Aw. Cmon! This is another of those ephemeral blips in a devastating landscape! Well done Queen’s researchers for beating the average on this occasion! But let this not detract from the fact that the system needs fundamental reform, perhaps along the lines set out in my peer-review web-pages, and in my book “Tomorrow’s Cures Today? How to Reform the Health Research System” (2000).

    Organizations like the CIHR are committed to research, but do little in the way of experimentation when new funding models are suggested. If there are levers that might stir the Agencies to experiment, then it is the Council of Medical School Deans that is best placed to reach for them. But, sadly, many Deans are appointed because they are deemed “excellent” to the extent that the funding system has supported them: “I am excellent. The system thinks I am excellent. Therefore the system must be excellent.” — Onward the status quo!

    • reznickr says:

      Dear Dr. Forsdyke,

      Thanks for sharing your perspectives. I must say, CIHR is about to undergo fairly signnificant reform, especially in their open suites grant program. They have indeed consulted the Deans, and have paid a visit to Queen’s campus. The new Director of research at CIHR, Ajane Aubin, herself a world class scientist, is a true listener, and is mounting a major consultative process.
      Thanks for your views,


      • Thank you for your reply, but many readers will see it as passing the buck. We’ve been the “about to undergo … reforms” route before. The figures speak for themselves. Throughout Canada, on average, 83% of medical school faculty are spending one week digging a hole and the next week filling it in. This goes on and on and on, and can only be to the detriment of other activities – teaching, patient care, research, administration, not to mention family responsibilities. The responsibility for this scandal rests squarely on our medical school deans.

        • reznickr says:

          Dear Dr. Forsdyke,

          I do appreciate that you feel the Deans of the medical schools bear responsibility for the level of federal and provincial research funding. I can assure you, we do feel responsible, but also do not have control of any of these budgets and have been advocating for research funding continuously.


          • Thank you for your reply. The allocation of funds among competiting constituences – the military, highways, research – is essentially political. Here Deans can play a “squeaky wheel” role, but the matter is largely out of their hands. Your initial blog prompted the question: given a certain level of funding, how is this to be allocated among researchers in order to optimize the mission of the medical school – research, teaching, patient care, etc.? There have been thoughtful answers to this question over many decades, but, as far as I am aware, the CIHR has, like Oliver Twist, asked for more, while showing little flexibility in exploring alternative ways of distributing what it has. Here Deans have the potential for a greater role.

          • reznickr says:

            Dear Dr. Forsdyke,

            thanks again for your comments. This past year, the Deans, through AFMC, have lobbied the federal government fro a substantial increase to CIHR funding. Within CIHR, there is a move afoot to change the open suite program. This will give some scientists more money for a longer time, obviating some of the need for frequent re-applications. Unfortunately, with a fixed envelope, there may be some scientists who loose out. (see proprosed changes…)


          • Thank you for you referral to the CIHR webpages. The cliches “cosmetic”, “rearranging deckchairs” and “asleep at the wheel” come to mind. To conclude this conversation (there is no reply invitation after your March 13 message), I note that three decades ago, when funding success rates had fallen to around 25%, two strategies – short and long term – were suggested. For an immediate staunching of the haemorrhage, I introduced “bicameral review”, details of which are at my website. In the long term, we need to know whether it is indeed possible to predict, and with what degree of accuracy, which research programs will be productive and which will fail. For this, a scrupulous examination of past research is required. But, given the thinly populated History of Science field, the history tends to be written by the funding victors, one of whom, in a rare mea culpa, has recently confessed how they bamboozled both themselves and the funding agencies in the 1980s (see Immunologist K. Eichmann, The Network Collective). As one commentator wryly remarked, asking researchers about the funding system is like asking a bird about aerodynamics. Thus, the long term strategy must be to correct the fabrications that today pass as History of Science. Until the latter becomes a major CIHR Institute that supports a vastly expanded cadre of biomedical historians, there can be little hope of real progress. Of course this will never happen, so, as I said, onward the status quo!

          • reznickr says:

            Dear Dr. forsdyke,
            As you say we can conclude the conversation, really without conclusion; other than to say thanks for your perspectives.


  2. Sherif El-Defrawy says:

    Dear Rchard,

    I wanted to mention that Drs. Sanjay Sharma and Rob Campbell, Department of Ophthalmology at Queen’s, have recently received several CIHR awards to continue their work in knowledge translation and health services research respectively. We’re very proud of them!

    Congratulations to all the very talented Queen’s scientists on their successes in these CIHR competitions.

    Best regards,
    Sherif El-Defrawy

    • reznickr says:

      dear Sherif,

      Thanks for your comment and for pointing out the good work of Sharma and Campbell?


  3. I’ve had the privilege of being taught by many of those faculty in my graduate education. It’s great to hear that they’ve been so successful!

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