McMaster expects 96 new research chairs over the next five years


McMaster's plan for faculty renewal got a marvellous boost this month thanks to a magic number, 96. The figure represents the number of research chairs McMaster will receive under the newly established Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program.

McMaster is expected to receive the second highest allocation of chairs among universities in Ontario.

This is a significant boost and I'm sure it will lead to a significant strengthening of our faculty complement, says University President Peter George, adding the CRC program is one way in which the federal government is able to make a direct impact on faculty renewal.
The program, formerly called the 21st Century Chairs Program, is a federal initiative that will establish 2000 new research chairs in Canadian universities between 2000-2005. The government is providing $900 million for the program, aimed at building a critical mass of world-class researchers at Canadian institutions and keeping the country's best researchers at home.

The 2000 chairs will be awarded as follows: 35 per cent to Medical Research Council (now Canadian Institutes of Health Research)-funded research; 45 per cent to research areas funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; and 20 per cent to social sciences and humanities research. The allocation of chairs to individual universities is proportional to the funding each institution receives from the three granting councils — CIHR, NSERC and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

It is expected McMaster will receive 17 chairs in year one; 18 in years two and three; 21 in year four and 22 in year five. However, the total number of chairs distributed to each university, including McMaster, will be based on a three-year rolling average of tri-council funding.

This is extremely good news for McMaster and an unprecedented opportunity for significant faculty renewal that we can use to enhance the quality of this institution. Our intention is to use CRC funds to optimize our research capacity. That said, our intention is for our chairholders to teach, says McMaster provost and vice-president academic Harvey Weingarten. He says the chairs will help McMaster achieve goals outlined in the recently approved Academic Plan. These new chairs will help us to produce an environment in which the linked concepts of scholarship and teaching can flourish.

The average value of each chair is $150,000 annually. Senior chairs (Tier 1), funded for seven years (and renewable), will support current research stars; junior chairs (Tier 2) will support future research stars and will be funded initially for five years, with a one time renewal of five years. The funds will support the chair holder and his/her research program.

According to Weingarten, the chairs McMaster will receive will be distributed across the Faculties in accordance with the research funds that were generated to obtain the chairs. As a result, it's expected the breakdown for Faculties will be: business: 1.1; engineering: 14.4; humanities: 1.6; health sciences: 50.6; science: 20.6; and social sciences: 7.7.

Weingarten says that just as McMaster can increase the number of chairs it receives by increasing its share of federal granting funds, Faculties may also increase their individual allocations by obtaining more granting funds. This is an enormous opportunity for McMaster. The CRC program represents an investment in university education that exceeds anything we have seen recently.

The final number of chairs institutions are awarded will be based on their success in future NSERC, SSHRC, and MRC grant competitions.

McMaster will submit a Strategic Research Plan to the government by September to begin receiving the new funding as early as possible.

CRC program guidelines are available on the SSHRC Web site: