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‘Brain gain’: Plan to attract best and brightest to Canada working, feds say

Dangling hefty grants in front of researchers to bolster advanced scientific research has already attracted two dozen top-notch minds to Canada


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OTTAWA—Last June, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan hung out the “we’re hiring” sign and dangled grants of up to $1 million to try and lure some of the best and brightest international researchers to come to work in Canada.

Nine months later, 24 scientists have been given the nod, 10 of whom are Canadians coming home from all over the world.

Duncan calls it a “brain gain.”

“We’re in a global talent competition,” Duncan said. “All the research superpowers want to pull the best and brightest to their countries.”

The Canada 150 Research Chairs program was introduced last year with $117 million, aiming to hire between 15 and 35 scientists currently working abroad.

Duncan said “thousands” of people applied, their applications were peer reviewed and 24 have been chosen.

She said many of the scientists say the fact Canada chose to celebrate its 150th birthday with a major investment in scientific research was a big reason why they applied.

Duncan has been pushing universities and granting councils to up their game in attracting women to chairs jobs, even threatening not to renew funding for other research jobs at schools that don’t improve their gender ratios. For the Canada 150 research chairs, 14 are women, which Duncan says is a huge accomplishment.

Each chair position comes with a grant of either $350,000 or $1 million, for seven years.

The 24 researchers will work in a variety of fields including theoretical and quantum chemistry, hydrology, vaccinology and bacterial cell biology, new media and environment economics.

They come from across the United States including Harvard University, UCLA, Duke University, and Johns Hopkins University, as well as post-secondary institutions in England, Austria and South Africa. They will take up residence at more than a dozen schools across Canada in almost every province.


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