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The Black Hole

Some glimmers of hope from the granting councils

A change to open-access policies, and NSERC's move on parental leave, are worth celebrating.


For most of our time here on the Black Hole, we have been seen to be criticizing the granting councils, and I am the first to admit that we poke and prod much more than we shower with accolades. The reality is that the nature of scientific research has changed and massive changes are needed in terms of how we educate and train scientists.

Today’s post, however, is about some relatively new announcements from Canadian granting agencies that are real signs of encouragement. It looks like the noise made by postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and sympathetic senior scientists is finally being heard and some progressive policies are emerging from our main funding agencies.

Two such policies that have come to light recently and worth sharing with our readers are:

  1. An open access requirement for all federally funded research
  2. More progressive parental leave policies.

Fight for open access gets huge boost

As many readers know, Jonathan and I are both massive proponents of open access. Well, just over a month ago, the tri-councils (NSERC, CIHR and SSHRC) issued a tri-agency policy directive (thanks for the heads up Erika!) that mandated that government-funded research must be made open access within a 12-month period:

“Grant recipients are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication.”

While this policy doesn’t guarantee instant access to scientists and lay people across the world, it does apply pressure on scientists to look toward open access journals and, at a minimum, to get their work out there within 12 months.

NSERC comes in line with other agencies on parental leave

Readers might recall the series we ran last year from Erika and Jenn – two scientist-moms who shared their stories of trying to make an academic career work with young families. They specifically mentioned paid parental leave as one of the key features of any university’s (or granting agency’s) progressive policies to help young parents stay in science. Well as of April 1, 2015, NSERC has taken a step in the right direction and moved its paid parental leave from four months to six months (in line with CIHR and SSHRC). While it’s not the full year that Erika and Jenn had suggested would be ideal, it is nice to see such steps and we look forward to more of the same from granting councils.

Now if only NSERC would lift that silly once/lifetime eligibility rule for its postdoctoral fellowships…

David Kent
Dr. David Kent is a principal investigator at the York Biomedical Research Institute at the University of York, York, UK. He trained at Western University and the University of British Columbia before spending 10 years at the University of Cambridge, UK where he ran his research group until 2019. His laboratory's research focuses on the fundamental biology of blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. David has a long history of public engagement and outreach including the creation of The Black Hole in 2009.
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