ASLO Statement on Proposed Changes to NSERC Partnership programs

Today the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) submitted comments to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) regarding proposed changes to the Strategic Partnership Grants. The full text of ASLO's comments follow. 

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10 October 2018

The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) is an international organization representing aquatic scientists from over 80 countries. ASLO has over 350 Canadian members at 69 universities, agencies and institutes. The purpose of ASLO is to foster scientific research that creates, integrates and communicates knowledge across the full spectrum of aquatic sciences and to advance public awareness about aquatic resources and research. 

I write to address the possible impacts of the proposed new NSERC Research Partnership program, specifically the proposed changes to Strategic Partnership Grants. Canadian researchers, and through them, the field of aquatic science, has benefitted greatly from NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants. The proposed new program would require substantial matching cash contributions that, for aquatic sciences, would be difficult to secure from private industry and nonprofit organizations. 

Assuming that the cash requirement is removed, concerns are also raised that replacing the cash requirement with an unrealistic in-kind match would also end many lines of aquatic research. Canadian researchers in the fields of oceanography and limnology already leverage support from in-kind contributions in the form of infrastructure such as aircraft and ships, technical expertise and industrial facilities. In most cases, these contributions cannot be replaced by similar university facilities or experts. Our Canadian members have expressed concern that getting government partners to authorize just a few weeks of personnel support for a project is already challenging. Expanding that time to meet an arbitrary match requirement would require a much larger commitment of personnel time over a multi-year timeframe – something highly unlikely to happen. 

We urge NSERC to consider these challenges that may be especially severe in the environmental fields. For obvious reasons, in many environmental studies, support of any kind from industry will never be forthcoming, in any way (cash or in-kind). 

On behalf of ASLO and particularly its Canadian members, we urge you to consider this concern and change the approach of the proposed New Research Partner Program such that all scientific disciplines are included in this vital partnership program, not just those able to garner the largest cash investment from partners. This would continue the support of vital research critical to Canadians in the face of accelerating human-dominated environmental change. 

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