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Provincial Funders are Integral to the Rejuvenation of Canada’s Scientific Enterprise

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

SHRF is a member of NAPHRO, the National Alliance of Provincial Health Research Organizations. The voluntary alliance was formed in 2002 to increase strategic alignment, share knowledge and address challenges and opportunities in Canada’s health research funding arena.

Here, Patrick Odnokon, CEO of SHRF, and Dr. Bev Holmes, Interim President & CEO of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, discuss role of provincial health research funders.

This blog is adapted from a longer version published on the Canadian Science Policy Centre website.


The report on Canada's Fundamental Science Review – known informally as the Naylor Report - has generated significant buzz. Specifically, buzz about money, and the need for more of it. But largely missing from the commentary to date is the importance of the inter- and cross-provincial system into which any new health research funding will be launched – a system whose effectiveness will ensure our scientific enterprise delivers for Canadians.

When it comes to health research, provincial funding agencies have unique insights into this system, and we urge our federal government – including Canada’s recently announced chief science advisor Dr. Mona Nemer – to draw on our expertise and experience.

Collectively the National Alliance of Provincial Health Research Organizations (NAPHRO) invests approximately $500M annually across the country. These synergistic investments, when combined with local and regional capacity-building activities and a focus on provincial priorities, are catalytic.

Individually and as a collective, provincial funders are integral to the rejuvenation of Canada’s scientific enterprise in several ways.

1. Provincial funding programs set scientists up for success in major research competitions.

Through training, establishment grants and matching funds, provincial funders help build the skills and capacity of Canadian health researchers and increase their competitiveness nationally and internationally.

Working together to complement provincial and federal programs, agencies maximize efficiencies, reduce duplication and increase impact whilst filling knowledge gaps, responding to urgent issues, and providing infrastructure and expertise.

2. We have significant expertise in measuring the impact of health research.

Based on a framework developed by Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, provincial agencies and our federal colleagues focus on impact in five areas: advancing knowledge, building capacity, informing decision-making, health outcomes, and broader social and economic outcomes.

Provincial funders measure research impact for two reasons: public accountability – since research is funded by taxpayers – and learning. The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Understanding how and why research gets used (or not used) is key to bridging the gap between research evidence and the complex social systems in which it is ideally used.  NAPHRO members are international leaders in understanding how impacts are measured and how research gets used.

3. We are trusted, neutral convenors, bringing people together to discuss difficult issues.

Given the complexity of Canada's health research system, the broad sectors it seeks to serve, and the competitive system that drives research success, connecting diverse stakeholders with conflicting needs and opinions is essential in order to make decisions and set priorities.

Provincial involvement is key to the success of any actions stemming from the Fundamental Science Review. All Canadians stand to benefit from a reinvigorated scientific enterprise, and Canada’s provincial health research funders – integral to the rejuvenation of our country’s scientific enterprise – are ready to play their part in this important collective effort.

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