Annual Report 2016 – 2017
CIFAR’s unique model of research collaboration brings together researchers to work on complex scientific and social problems that require a sustained, interdisciplinary approach. CIFAR fellows have had tremendous influence in fields as diverse as population health, child well-being, genetic networks, cosmology and artificial intelligence.
CIFAR’s success has come from creating focused research programs and selecting some of the best researchers in the world from across disciplines to collaborate in a collegial and supportive atmosphere over a long period of time. That basic model remains the same as it did when we were founded in 1981. But as the world has changed CIFAR has evolved with it, becoming more international, more collaborative and more committed to engaging with a broader set of stakeholders.
Four years ago, as part of an institutional renewal, we established three points of accountability and organized our efforts around them. This section describes and measures our progress this year towards these goals.
CREATING TRANSFORMATIVE KNOWLEDGE:
Our research programs saw strong growth. The four newest programs continued to assemble their membership, adding 13 new fellows and advisors over the year. Our regular portfolio renewal process resulted in the renewal of one program for five years and two programs for two years, and the closing of two programs at the end of their term. We also began planning for next year’s Global Call for proposals for new research programs.
ENGAGING DECISION MAKERS TO TURN KNOWLEDGE INTO ACTION:
This year, CIFAR’s research programs implemented ambitious knowledge mobilization programs with thought leaders in business, government and civil society. From targeted workshops in personalized medicine and quantum networks, to public lectures on artificial intelligence and cosmology, to a video documentary series on ocean health, CIFAR fellows engaged with knowledge users to transform research into action.
NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATION OF RESEARCH LEADERS:
We welcomed the first cohort of 18 CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars, early career researchers appointed for two-year terms. We began soliciting applications for the second cohort in March 2017, and will make our selection in Fall 2017.
CIFAR has also begun to transition towards a proposed new five-year plan, which seeks to consolidate and build on the strengths that we have developed over the past four years. We are currently looking at ways to drive greater synergy and integration across programs and activities, extend our global research through a new level of international partnerships, and increase and proactively pursue knowledge mobilization opportunities.
Our research programs funded a number of workshops designed to explore new questions that will benefit from an interdisciplinary approach. They also increased the number of Catalyst grants given to current CIFAR fellows to fund a specific, well-defined research question that will also benefit from an interdisciplinary effort.
In a major international outreach effort, we convened the CIFAR Forum on the Well-Being of the World’s Children in London, U.K., in November 2016. The forum provided an opportunity for researchers, policy-makers and civil society representatives from over 30 countries to discuss the complex questions that require interdisciplinary and international research to improve the future well-being of children.
Another exciting development was the federal government’s selection of CIFAR to lead and implement a new $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Research Strategy.
These developments, combined with a federal funding increase and continuing support from important partners and donors, have led to one of the most successful years in CIFAR’s history.
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