Over three decades ago, visionary leaders came together to create an institute that would unite the best Canadian researchers with their counterparts from around the world, across disciplines and national borders, to address complex and important questions.
The world has changed a lot in the intervening 37 years, and so has CIFAR. But at our core, our mission remains the same: we convene the world’s great minds around the most complex and difficult questions of our times. We believe that the most interesting and important research questions require the very best minds in the world working across disciplines in long-term collaborations. CIFAR’s model has repeatedly shown that this combination works.
We proved it through our early work on the importance of the social determinants of health, our ongoing work on the effects of the environment on child development, and the ground-breaking work on artificial intelligence that we enabled through our early support for Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun, and other researchers who are at the forefront of the AI revolution.
Today, the CIFAR Society includes 19 Nobel laureates, as well as 400 researchers in 22 countries associated with one of CIFAR's 12 global research programs. Our CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program is helping to nurture the careers of the next generation of research leaders from around the world. And in 2017, we assumed leadership of Canada’s $125 million CIFAR Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy.
Over the last five years, we developed and implemented a refreshed vision for CIFAR, one that builds on our legacy while responding to the changes and opportunities of today’s world. Now we have implemented a plan that will continue that transformation. The new CIFAR strategic plan, “Advancing Excellence, Increasing Impact,” lays out a clear description of CIFAR’s values, goals and activities for the next five years. I believe the plan is both ambitious and realistic, and it will guide us in making strategic decisions and help make us more effective in the important work we do.
The plan lays out five activities that are at the core of what we do. We will continue to strengthen our global research programs which underpin all our work. Meeting together in these programs regularly, and over a sustained period of time, our fellows create deep, long-lasting and impactful collaborations that advance science beyond anything they could do on their own.
We are also staging new Global Calls for Ideas, which invite top researchers from around the globe to propose new programs that will address questions of importance to the world. We are currently conducting our second Global Call, with new programs scheduled to be selected in the Spring of 2019.
We will launch new artificial intelligence leadership activities as part of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, such as workshops examining how AI will effect society, and national educational and collaborative programs.
The strategic plan also continues our commitment to the Global Academy program, which educates the science leaders of tomorrow. Foremost among these programs are our summer and winter schools and the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program, which selects the best young researchers from around the world and offers them opportunities to collaborate and network.
Finally, we will expand our efforts to connect our fellows and programs with potential users of the new insights, knowledge and technologies that are generated by our programs. Our goals are to inform the development of public policy, drive innovation, and catalyze new social, economic and technological innovations.
I have the very good fortune to lead an organization with such a proud history and such a promising future. All of us at CIFAR – our Board, staff, fellows, scholars, advisors, funders and donors – understand that our role is to create transformative knowledge and new insights into the world and universe in which we live. And we believe profoundly that knowledge and science are key to help solve the world’s great challenges.