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CIFAR Global Call for Ideas seeks world’s next important questions

Great science starts with asking the right question.

Alan BernsteinFor more than three decades, CIFAR has been dedicated to connecting the world’s best scientists and scholars – across borders and disciplines – to ask the right questions, shape new perspectives, and spark new ways at looking at important issues in science and society.

This month we’re inviting the global research community to tell us what the next questions are. Our 2017 Global Call for Ideas will ask for proposals for new programs that address complex, fundamental questions of importance to the world. Submissions must be novel, bold, and potentially transformative to warrant the creation of a sustained, interdisciplinary, and collaborative CIFAR program.

In 2013, we launched are first ever Global Call for Ideas. This was a bold and unprecedented initiative: we asked researchers from anywhere in the world to put forward a question of importance to the world and to outline how they would address it, including examples of the colleagues they would invite to join the program if it was funded. We made it clear that CIFAR is not bounded by discipline or country. Our goal is disarmingly simple: to bring together the best to address challenging but important questions. We were incredibly impressed and pleased (and relieved) by the quality, global breadth and quantity of the proposals that we received. Research teams on five continents submitted 262 letters of interest bridging the social sciences, medicine, health, the biological and physical sciences, the humanities, policy and engineering.

Many of the letters of intent we received were ones that would not or even could not have been addressed a short decade ago. That’s how rapidly our understanding of the world and the technologies available to advance that understanding are changing. The four new programs that emerged from the 2013 Global Call have already made important contributions and have added new dimensions to an already strong portfolio of research programs that range across the biological, physical and social sciences.

As we move forward with our 2017 Global Call, it remains the central part of our mission to pursue questions that are just as far reaching and ambitious and to develop a portfolio that is dynamic and responsive to the ever shifting challenges facing our world. We are interested in receiving proposals that cut across both disciplines and national borders and that address problems of importance to the world.

During the year-and-a-half-long process, we will subject the proposals to rigorous and objective review and solicit the advice of international experts. In the end we expect to add three to six new programs that will continue to increase the breadth and depth of our existing research portfolio. I would encourage anyone interested to find out more here. Deadline for submitting a letter of intent is January 21.

Linking Canada’s and the world’s best investigators around an important question is a powerful way to build Canada’s excellence in research and remains the best way to make transformative progress in understanding and in that way to change the world. I can’t wait to see the new programs that will emerge from this unique international competitive process and to name the new crop of CIFAR fellows who are at the core at everything that CIFAR does.

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CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.

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