2018: Funding the research talent BC needs

2018 was a big year for MSFHR. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of our namesake Dr. Michael Smith winning BC’s first Nobel Prize and putting our province on the map as a world leader in life sciences research. We hosted an international conference on knowledge exchange, and we increased our support for the research our province needs to ensure British Columbians continue to be among the healthiest people in the world.

Funding the talent and research BC needs

At MSFHR we pride ourselves on supporting research that meets the highest scientific standards, builds BC research capacity and addresses the current and future health and care issues affecting British Columbians across the province. 2018 was no exception, with 79 new researchers and 44 research teams funded through our talent development programs to advance knowledge and address health issues in areas ranging from addiction, to Type 2 Diabetes and care for seniors.

This year was the second cycle of our refreshed suite of funding programs, including our Health Professional-Investigator, Innovation to Commercialization, Reach and Convening & Collaborating awards. It is through this suite of individual and team funding programs we support early career researchers and clinician scientists, innovators and research teams as they discover more about the underlying causes of health and disease, prevent and treat disease as effectively and efficiently as possible, and support those in our communities who are most at risk.

Bringing research evidence to those that can benefit most

As part of our continuing work to close the gap between research and its implementation, we hosted Fuse 2018, an international conference bringing together researchers, government representatives and not-for-profit organizations to discuss how research can inform health policy. We also launched our new Implementation Science Team (IST) Program to support the study of proven health interventions and how they can be implemented, adapted to other settings, or scaled-up across regions to improve the quality and effectiveness of health services and care.

Looking ahead to 2019, we have some exciting knowledge translation (KT) activities in the pipeline, including MSFHR’s KT Pathways — a digital assessment and learning tool to build KT skills among researchers and research users to increase the use of research evidence in practice, policy and further research. We’ll be building and piloting the tool with partners across the province throughout 2019/20 — stay tuned for more!

Reflecting on our role as a responsive and responsible health research funder

Throughout 2018, we’ve been reflecting on our role as a health research funder and how we can best support BC health research. We’ve unpacked questions that are critical for all funding agencies (read more in our Forward Thinking blog series), and although many of these questions are underpinned by large and complex issues that we cannot solve singlehandedly, we want to contribute to solutions based on our unique role in the system. For example, mitigating potential gender bias in peer review through unconscious bias training and more gender neutral processes, something we have implemented for all 2019 competitions.

To ensure we continue to be a responsive and responsible funder, we have also introduced a new program learning and improvement cycle and, as our current strategic plan comes to an end, we have embarked on a strategic planning process that will guide our activities over the coming years. We are committed to integrating equity, diversity and inclusion in this plan and we will be exploring these themes, along with our desired impacts as a funder, in the context of growing health research capacity across all regions of BC and understanding career trajectories for the next generation of health researchers.

So yes, it has been a big year! Our successes in 2018, and our continued work to support and grow health research in BC so that British Columbians have access to the most effective and efficient health care, are possible thanks to the efforts of a dedicated Board of Directors, staff team, partners across the province, and of course our funder — the BC government. Together, we work to carry on Dr. Smith’s legacy of research excellence so that BC remains an international leader in life sciences research, making significant discoveries and bringing the benefits to British Columbians.

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to thank you for your support over the past year and wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2019.

Bev Holmes, PhD
President & CEO