The future of funding for Cochrane Canada

Cochrane Canada’s funding ran out in September 2015 and will not be renewed by our primary funder, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). We know all our stakeholders have questions; and we plan to provide information on a regular basis.

Find out how you can help to #saveCochraneCanada and access our "Cochrane by Numbers" page for some quick stats. 

Here are  some facts about our funding situation:

How is Cochrane Canada funded?

  • From 2010 to 2015 Cochrane Canada has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research ($9.6 million over five years) and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care ($1 million). CIHR has been the primary funder of Cochrane Canada since 2005.
  • Cochrane Canada also receives approximately $700,000 annually in services from the global collaboration. These services include editorial support, access to training materials and software to support systematic reviews. This core infrastructure is paid for via a publication agreement with Wiley, who publishes the Cochrane Library.

How does Cochrane Canada use its money?

  • Cochrane is an enabling platform, which makes it different from a traditional research program.  Cochrane invests in specialist staff and infrastructure that assists volunteer reviewers throughout the entire process of preparing and disseminating a systematic review. This includes training, methodological and statistical expertise, editorial oversight and specialized software.  When someone comes to Cochrane with an idea for a new review topic, these combined resources serve as a type infrastructure. This infrastructure ensures the review stays on track and adheres to Cochrane standards.
  • This model is very efficient. A single Cochrane review group can manage dozens of systematic reviews simultaneously. In the last five years, Cochrane Canada produced 332 reviews and updates.  We also trained 2896 new systematic reviewers, led 97 knowledge translation events and undertook 35 evidence-into-policy workshops.
  • The model is extremely cost-effective. CIHR pays up to $100,000 for a single knowledge synthesis. For the same amount, Cochrane Canada can produce five systematic reviews. That is 80% cheaper.

Why has the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) decided not to renew Cochrane Canada’s funding?

  • The decision is not based on Cochrane Canada’s performance. CIHR has praised our work many times. Even in their letter of funding termination, they refer to Cochrane as a “vibrant organization, internationally-recognized for its excellence, and committed to engaging patients in its important work;” and they note the value of our “knowledge translation activities and the quality of [our] synthesis products.” In 2013 CIHR awarded Cochrane Canada the prestigious CIHR Knowledge Translation Award, for “Leadership in promoting evidence-based health care”.
  • According to CIHR, they have changed their funding policy to largely eliminate the use of directed grants, which is the funding mechanism used to support Cochrane Canada from 2010-2015. In September 2014 we were informed that there would be no directed grant available for us to apply for. Directed grants are used when CIHR funds research of strategic importance in areas where there is only a single entity or team of researchers capable of doing the work. Although only a single application is invited, it is still peer reviewed.  This was the ideal vehicle for funding Cochrane Canada because its flexibility allowed for investment in the enabling platform model Cochrane uses. In the absence of the direct grant, there is no CIHR funding opportunity for which the Cochrane model is suitable.

Can Cochrane Canada apply to CIHR’s Open Operating Grant Program?

  • Yes and no. CIHR has invited Cochrane Canada to apply to the open competition, but this is akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  The open competition is designed for project-based, hypothesis-driven research, whereas Cochrane is an enabling platform that supports the production of new reviews as they emerge as priorities, updates older reviews to keep the evidence current, trains consumers, practitioners and policy makers, and disseminates Cochrane evidence.
  • When Cochrane last applied to the Open Operating Grant Program we were given the lowest possible score and told that our approach to research did not fit an operating grant competition. Since that time there have been no changes to the parameters of the OOGP.