Scientists urge Ottawa to boost grant funding so researchers can earn ‘living wage’

scientists urge ottawa to boost grant funding so researchers can earn ‘living wage’

Scientists and researchers hold a petition with over 7,100 signatures calling on the federal government to increase funding for graduate and post-doctoral scholars, during the “Support Our Science” rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canadian scientists are urging the federal government to boost its funding for scientific grants so that post-doctorate students and researchers are being paid a “living wage.”

In a demonstration on Parliament Hill on Thursday, roughly 100 students and researchers unfurled a 60-metre-long open letter with 7,100 signatures calling on the Liberals to increase the amount of money it gives out in science and research grants in order to keep up with the pace of inflation since 2003.

That’s when organizers said the amount of funding was last updated.

Rising inflation eating into young Canadians’ disposable income: ‘It’s insane’

Organizers cited recommendations made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research in June 2022, which said that the value of scholarships and fellowships for graduate students and post-doctorate researchers should be indexed to the consumer price index.

One of the key issuers of federal grants, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), has kept award amounts “stagnant” for 20 years, said the organizing group Support Our Science, which is made up of graduate students and researchers.

NSERC grants for masters’ students are $17,000 per year, $21,000 per year for Ph.D students, and $45,000 per year for a post-doctorate researcher.

“As NSERC is seen as prestigious, these award amounts … send a message that this is the acceptable pay level for all non-NSERC funded students and employees,” the group said.

The median household income in Canada in 2020, the last year data is available, was $66,800.

Inflation in Canada hit 8.1 per cent in June, the highest level in almost four decades, while the cost of food has soared by 8.8 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

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