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Do you have a question
with the potential
to change the world?

Stage 2 begins in CIFAR’s search for questions with the potential to change the world

For more than 30 years, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research has been connecting visionary researchers from across Canada and around the globe to collaborate on some of the most challenging questions facing humanity.

For the first time, CIFAR is expanding its portfolio of research programs through an open call for ideas. We have invited leading researchers to submit proposals to create a research network that will address a complex challenge of global importance.

The research must be foundational in nature and sufficiently bold, ambitious and complex to require sustained collaboration from an outstanding network that is both international and interdisciplinary. Areas of inquiry can draw on expertise from anywhere across the spectrum, from the natural, health and social sciences, to the humanities. Its ultimate aim should be to fuel significant progress and/or a fundamental change in our collective understanding of an important issue.

In April 2013, CIFAR launched the Global Call for Ideas, inviting leading researchers from across Canada and around the world to submit proposals to create research networks to tackle complex questions of global importance. There was a strong response with 280 Letters of Interest (LOIs) submitted.

On August 27, CIFAR announced the finalists for stage 2. Through CIFAR’s Global Call for Ideas, researchers from eight countries on five continents submitted LOIs. The proposals included a full spectrum of questions bridging the social sciences, medicine, health, the biological and physical sciences, the humanities, policy and engineering.

“The high quality of the LOIs submitted and the outstanding credentials of the researchers made it difficult to select only seven,” adds Dr. Lorne Tyrrell, former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta. Dr. Tyrrell chaired the international panel of research leaders who selected the finalists. “We believe that these seven have the potential to create transformative new knowledge that will benefit humanity.”

The following LOIs have been selected for Stage 2 of CIFAR’s Global Call for Ideas.

Biology, Energy, and Technology. A major global initiative to develop next-generation solar energy-harvesting science and related technologies for sustainable energy solutions by taking inspiration from the rapidly-advancing fields of quantum biology and photobiology. Applicants: Edward Sargent (University of Toronto), Alan Aspuru-Guzik (Harvard University), Jillian Buriak (University of Alberta), Rienk van Grondelle (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).

BrainLight: Cracking the Sensory Code. A research initiative that will use cutting-edge optical and computational technologies to decipher the microcircuitry of the human brain with the potential to provide novel therapies for pain and stroke. Applicants: Andre Longtin (University of Ottawa) Yves De Koninck (Université Laval), Rainer Friedrich (Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel, Switzerland), David Kleinfeld (UC San Diego).

Brain, Mind, and Consciousness. A network composed of neuroscientists, philosophers, ethicists and clinicians that will focus on creating a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of human consciousness. Applicants: Adrian Owen (Western University), Melvyn Goodale (Western University).

Life in a Changing Ocean: New Perspectives on Marine Functions and Services. A Canadian-led global initiative to discover and understand the key biological and physical processes in marine ecosystems that lead to better models to predict and sustain their ecological and economic importance to society. Applicants: Paul Snelgrove (Memorial University), Verena Tunnicliffe (University of Victoria), Philippe Archambault (Université de Québec at Rimouski), Maurice Levasseur (Université Laval).

Making a Molecular Map of the Cell: Towards a Direct Determination of the Structure-Function Correlation of Biological Systems. An international effort to convene a diverse research group that will explore how the molecules responsible for biological processes are formed and interact, leading to a deeper understanding of the minimum structural elements required to support life. Applicants: R.J. Dwayne Miller (Max Planck Institute and University of Toronto), Paul W. Wiseman (McGill University), Wolfgang Baumeister (Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry), Oliver P. Ernst (University of Toronto).

Microbes and Humans. A global research effort to understand the role of the microbial organisms that reside within us in human development and evolution, with the potential to benefit personal and global health. Applicants: B. Brett Finlay (University of British Columbia), Janet Rossant (Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto).

The Planetary Biodiversity Project. A global network that will employ DNA barcoding to transform biodiversity science and inform an evidence-based conservation agenda for a sustainable, global bioeconomy. Applicants: Paul Hebert (University of Guelph), John Colbourne (University of Birmingham), David Castle (University of Edinburgh), Daniel Janzen (University of Pennsylvania), Kevin McCann (University of Guelph)

The finalists have now completed the workshop stage and, at the end of February, 2014, have submitted full proposals which include fully articulated research questions, a plan on how the questions could be tackled, and the best people and research resources required to do so. The proposals will be reviewed by the International Assessment Panel (IAP), May 2014.

Please visit this site for regular updates on the process.

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