Evidence-Based Policy: Why Research is Important for SR&ED
As we’ve discussed previously, the SR&ED program is complex and can seem enormous. One of the components of this broad conversation on research and development tax credits is what has been published in academic journals. These works do not necessarily relate only to the Canadian SR&ED program, but scientific research tax credits worldwide.
Evidence-based policy-making is defined by the Government of Canada as:
…an approach that levers the best available objective evidence from research to identify and understand issues so that policies can be crafted by decision makers that will deliver desired outcomes effectively, with a minimal margin of error and reduced risk of unintended consequences.1
In short, it’s in everyone’s best interests that government institutions, such as the Canada Revenue Agency and the Treasury Board, have the best possible information from which to make their decisions. This information can come from a variety of sources:
- Think tanks and other interest groups
- Internal government studies
- Academic journals and conferences
For example, of academic research influencing policy, take the Muller Report. When the Minister of National Revenue hired Paul Daniel Muller to review the SR&ED program, the final report (dated November 30, 2009) cited more than 100 academic journal articles and conference papers, with Canadian and International studies on the effects and administration of indirect research funding.
What is peer-review and why does it matter?
As you may have noticed, there are a good deal of competing interests with respect to government funding programs. The debate often revolves around attempting to determine the best way to distribute funds to best support research. Some argue in favour of indirect funding (tax credits, such as the SR&ED program), and some argue for an increase in direct funding (academic partnership grants, for example), at the expense of indirect funding.
While reading these arguments, you may begin to notice a trend–groups lobbying for a particular method of funding to benefit from that funding program. This is not some grand conspiracy, it is entirely natural–competing ideas and interests vie for influence, and it is the government’s job to weigh their arguments and determine the best course of action for Canada as a whole.
This, however, leaves us with a question: If everyone has an angle, where do you find unbiased, accurate, information from which to form opinions? Enter peer review.
Peer review is an academic system by which each paper submitted to a journal must be reviewed by a team of experts in the field before it can be published. The team evaluates the researchers’ methodology, be it economic, statistical, or historic. Only papers that have been determined to use an adequate amount of academic rigour are accepted into the academic world.
No system is perfect, but reading peer-reviewed papers increases the likelihood that what you are reading comes from a place of facts, not agendas.
Becoming an Informed SR&ED Advocate By Reviewing Academic Research on the SR&ED program
Reading up on the history, economics, and statistics of indirect research funding programs can help you be a more informed advocate of the program. On occasion, the press, for example, has disparaged the program. It is useful to have academically rigorous research on your side to show the benefits of SR&ED.
Do you take an academic interest in SR&ED?
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- Policy Horizons Canada, The Case for Evidence-Based Policy. Accessed from http://www.horizons.gc.ca/eng/content/case-evidence-based-policy on December 12, 2016. ↩