NSERC MRS Moratorium
UAMH and other Canadian research facilities affected by the 2012 moratorium on NSERC Major Resources Support program
The NSERC Major Resources Support program has been crucial in providing operational support to nationally and internationally recognized Canadian facilities and resources. The moratorium on funding for the MRS program due to federal budget cuts was announced on April 19, 2012. The decision placed 39 scientific facilties, including critical field stations and microbiological repositories like the UAMH, in jeopardy since there is no other funding stream dedicated to supporting the operation of these unique resources. Although many universities in Canada house herbaria and biological collections, there are very few that maintain collections of living microorganisms which by their nature, require ongoing and regular attention by qualified personnel. Historically, four of these culture collections have received partial support from NSERC MRS (and predecessor programs).
The UAMH has been funded since 1990 by MRS with a lifetime value of $950,000. The baseline support provided by MRS allowed for the retention of high quality personnel to maintain the facility in a state of readiness to provide services to users including depository and distribution of fungal cultures, provision of expertise on fungal biology, training programs and interactive websites. Additional program support came through user fees.
This valuable fungal collection, built up over 80 years of scientific research, could be lost or be made inaccessible due to loss of specialized personnel required to maintain living organisms. The approximate value of the collection's unique resources, as determined by the 2012 price list, is estimated at $750,000 to 1.75 million based on 10,000 living organisms x the user fee of $75 per culture for nonprofit or $175 per culture for industry. Equipment and capital assets of the facility exceed $700,000.
NSERC’s website states: “As part of the Government of Canada's efforts to return to balanced budgets, the NSERC Major Resources Support (MRS) Program will no longer be accepting new applications at this time. Commitments for existing instalments will be honoured, however there will be a moratorium on the MRS Program.”
May 3, 2012 A letter of concern endorsed by 47 senior scientists from affected facilities and resource centres across Canada was sent to the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, NSERC Council and others.
By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News May 13, 2012
See this and other articles by Margaret Munro on perils facing Canadian scientists and research facilities.
Aug 28, 2012 A report released by the NDP’s Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby–Douglas), NDP Critic for Science & Technology entitled Pennywise, Pound Foolish outlines the significant impacts of the loss of NSERC Major Resources Support (MRS) Program for research facilities and programs across Canada. Mr. Stewart notes that “The decision to eliminate the MRS program was made without any consultation and represents how our country’s long-standing commitment to basic science is being undermined …”
The Canadian Association of Physicists released a summary of a survey of its members regarding recent changes to NSERC Discovery, Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) and Major Resources Support (MRS) programs.
By Janet Davison, CBC News July 9, 2012
By Paul Withers, CBC News May 17, 2012
LeSoleil Blog By Jean-François Cliche, May 15, 2012
Scientists exaggerating risks of cuts to federal research programs: GoodyearBy Margaret Munro, Postmedia News May 15, 2012
Minister Goodyear's response to NSERC cuts
One Ottawa scientist rings an alarm against NSERC cuts
All in a Day, CBC.ca May 14, 2012 [access no longer available]
Federal funding cuts threaten Arctic research: scientists
By Ed Struzik, EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM May 13, 2012