Richard Cannings, MP
1695A Columbia Avenue
Castlegar, British Columbia
July 4, 2017
Dear Mr. Cannings,
First of all, I want to thank you for your longstanding support of science and environmental issues, as well as your defense of treatment options for those who suffer PTSD. And for your bird book, which we use all the time! As a constituent from the Slocan Valley, I’m writing you to encourage your full support of the recommendations summarized in the recent Naylor report, and in particular for increased support for basic research. As you’ll know, this report resulted from the scientific review panel headed by David Naylor and makes a number of practical recommendations that have been enthusiastically endorsed by Canadian scientists and health researchers (http://www.sciencereview.ca/eic/site/059.nsf/eng/home). It was a response to a crisis in funding for science and health research, which has been gaining a lot of international attention in high profile science journals such as Nature and Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/research-stays-frozen-canadian-budget). I feel the issue is particularly urgent in the wake of Science Minister Kirsty Duncan’s failure to mention new science funding last week, her failure to grasp key tenets of the report, and the slowness of the Trudeau government in appointing a national science advisor (http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/why-canadian-scientists-arent-happy/ https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2017/07/03/trudeau-government-must-invest-in-basic-science-editorial.html). One of the points emphasized in the Naylor report is the importance of funding basic research widely to researchers via all three research councils.
My family home is in the Slocan Valley, but my job is as a researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience and professor at UBC Vancouver’s Department and Psychology and Centre for Brain Health. I am also a member of the Association of Canadian Early Career Health Researchers. I am currently supported by multiple, highly competitive, salary awards from CIHR and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. Yet like many other researchers in Canada I am struggling to find sufficient funding for my actual research.
My own basic research program focuses on how life experience interacts with biological predisposition (e.g., genetic variations) to shape brain systems underlying what we pay attention to and remember (http://mclab.psych.ubc.ca//). While I do basic research, it has important implications for understanding and treating pathology. For example, a recent study built on several years of basic research to examine how brain and behaviour underlying attention to threat is altered in PTSD, with implications for how to tackle treatment. This is only one of many examples of how funding basic research has important implications for the health and wellbeing of Canadians. Many more can be found on the Association of Canadian Early Career Health Researchers’ site (http://www.acechr.ca/about.html). There is also a great example of the value of basic research funding using the story of the father of Deep Learning, Geoff Hinton, in this recent Maclean’s article (http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/why-canadian-scientists-arent-happy/).
Another study from my own lab, currently under review for publication, found links between political concerns and unconscious patterns of attention to signals of climate change. We believe our findings provide insight into how and why we tune into or shut out signals of climate change in a way that has a major impact on our actions in a time when taking action is key to our survival.
There is also direct economic value in supporting science research. As director of a research lab, a large portion of my funding goes to employ and train numerous young people as undergraduate and post-graduate research assistants from BC. For example, in the four years I have been at UBC, my lab has trained more than 50 undergraduates. I also hold regular retreats with my lab members and with colleagues from all over Canada at my farm in the Winlaw area of the Slocan Valley, supporting local businesses in the lower valley from Crescent Valley to Winlaw.
In short, federal support for the Naylor report, and a major investment in science funding, will provide a wide range of benefits while helping to re-establish Canada as a leader in scientific and health research — an international role that is still badly suffering from the prior administration’s sustained war on science.
So, like the kids say, please raise your voice to #SupportTheReport!
Rebecca M. Todd, PhD