Globe and Mail: Canada’s $200-million lure pulls in 19 big-name researchers

Elizabeth Church, Globe and Mail, Monday, May 17, 2010

A $200-million international recruitment drive is bringing 19 leading researchers to Canadian campuses with multimillion-dollar grants that are setting off alarm bells over a potential brain drain in other countries.

The researchers – half recruited from the United States, with four from Britain and the rest from Germany, France and Brazil – will each receive $10-million over seven years as the first group of Canada Excellence Research Chairs. They represent Ottawa’s most forceful effort yet to signal its commitment to big science, something critics say has been badly lacking.

“Canada has to become more than ever a magnet for talent,” said Industry Minister Tony Clement, in Toronto to name the successful applicants. The announcement, he said, builds on other federal initiatives, such investments in campus building projects as part of its stimulus spending and the Vanier scholarships for graduate students. All are central, he said, to the government’s innovation agenda. [….]

The scientists’ appointments mark the endgame in a complicated two-year process that saw some schools outbid in the final stretch by foreign campuses intent on keeping big-name faculty. It also underlines the high political stakes involved in recruiting big-name researchers at a time when most countries – including Canada – are pinning their economic hopes on scientific advances. [….]

In all, 13 universities will welcome these scientists to their campuses, most with colleagues and graduate students in tow. As part of the recruitment package, several of their spouses were offered academic posts at their new campuses as well.

The list of successful schools is a surprise both for who is on it and who is not. [….] There also is not a single female researcher among the 19 spots, an indication of how few women hold senior positions in science and engineering, the fields that dominate the winning entries. […]

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