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A New Year Represents New Opportunities

Smiling person on video call

Happy New Year! If you’re like me, a new year naturally affords the opportunity to reflect on what’s been achieved over the past year, both personally and professionally. As I look back on 2020, it was without a doubt a difficult year for millions around the world. However, 2020 also shone a spotlight on research, and how it can transform and improve the lives of our global citizens. 

Research sciences are in the midst of a revolution. Clinical researchers are inventing new ways to regenerate lost limbs and replace malfunctioning organs. The study of genomics using Big Data is establishing treatment protocols and therapies, which are now in clinical trials, to correct disease-causing genetic defects. My new friend and colleague Dr. Christopher McMaster, Professor in the Department at Pharmacology at Dalhousie University, told me during my national listening tour that years ago it cost tens of thousands of dollars to sequence the human genome and months to accomplish. Today, we can do so for $750 and accomplish it within a day.

Advances in technology like these are increasingly shaping the direction of research – from the proliferation of wearable health-and-wellness devices, to data from patient journals that serve as sources to navigate research directions. 

Another change affecting the nature of research was highlighted in a June 2016 report produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In it, the authors assert that the technologies driving these, and other biomedical breakthroughs, go well beyond health care. They impact food, energy and the environment to improve the lives of millions­ – if not billions – of people. This revolution, termed ​“Convergence,” is creating jobs, speeding products to market, and improving agriculture, defense, the environment and energy production. 

Creating Opportunities for Convergence in 2021

In the coming weeks, NDRIO will continue its Canadian Digital Research Infrastructure Needs Assessment and launch its work on a National Service Delivery Model. For more information on these undertakings, please see the video that I recorded explaining our conceptual framework.

Even more exciting is our upcoming Call for Inaugural Projects where, in collaboration with Canada’s National Granting Agencies, we hope to initiate projects that align with our three focus areas: Advanced Research Computing, Research Data Management and Research Software. 

Early examples of potential projects that researchers are working toward are simply awe-inspiring. Provinces are coming together, silos are being dismantled, and a spirit of collaboration is alive and well in ways that converge disciplines to the benefit of all Canadians. 

Indeed, NDRIO’s role as a catalyst to spark collaborations and partnerships benefiting Canada’s researchers is gaining momentum. As I completed my 90-Day listening tour, hundreds of you from across Canada volunteered your time, energy and enthusiasm in the service of research and to enhance Canada’s Digital Research Infrastructure ecosystem. In 2021, I look forward to working alongside every one of you as we collectively propel Canada onto the global stage of the knowledge economy.

Thank you, Merci & Miigwech.

Nizar Ladak
New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO)