Results at a glance: Evaluation of the Contribution to Brain Canada Foundation’s Canada Brain Research Fund 2011-12 to 2015-16

January 2017

Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF)

  • Approximately 3.6 million Canadians are affected by some type of brain disease or disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease or depression.  As the Canadian population ages, more people will be at risk of or affected by some type of brain disease or disorder.
  • In Budget 2011, the federal government provided up to $100 million to the Brain Canada Foundation to establish the CBRF.  An additional $20 million was provided in Budget 2016.
  • The CBRF finances team research through Multi-Investigator Research Initiatives, the maintenance of large databases through Platform Support Grants, and training awards to new researchers to advance knowledge of the brain, brain diseases and disorders.
  • The CBRF research involves researchers from different health fields to increase the knowledge of the brain as a whole.
  • By the end of 2015, 138 research projects had been funded through the CBRF with more than 700 researchers from 70 institutions across the country engaged in brain research.

What the evaluation found

  • There is a continued need for the CBRF and this investment is aligned with federal government priorities and roles and responsibilities. 
  • The team Multi-Investigator Research Initiatives and the Platform Support Grants have increased collaboration among researchers across different fields and within the brain research community.
  • The matched funding model has encouraged new donors to fund brain research.
  • The matched funding model has created administrative challenges for donors, Brain Canada Foundation and Health Canada resulting in a long and, at times, complicated process.
  • Although there may be some overlap between CBRF and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) research funding opportunities, the evaluation found that the work of the two organizations is more complementary than duplicative.
  • The peer review process used by the CBRF for reviewing funding applications has streamlined the way projects are chosen.
  • It is too early to know whether the CBRF has met its long term goals. Research results may take 15 years or more to impact the health system and Canadians. Some anecdotal evidence suggests certain projects may impact treatments available for brain diseases.

Recommendations and responses

It is recommended that Health Canada consider adjusting the CBRF funding model.

Response

Health Canada has re-examined the matched funding model in collaboration with Brain Canada Foundation, and changes have been introduced.

About the evaluation

The evaluation wanted to see whether there was still a need for this Fund and if it was something the federal government should invest in. CBRF’s funding model was also reviewed.  Since fundraising for the CBRF only started in 2012 the report also looked at how far the Fund has gone in meeting its short and medium term goals during the period of March 2012 to March 2016.

The evaluation team reviewed documents and academic journal articles, financial and program data, as well as interviewed individuals within government and researchers, donors, and staff connected to the CBRF. 

The evaluation was conducted by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Office of Audit and Evaluation. 

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