Michael Smith Health Research BC is British Columbia’s health research agency. Launched in 2021, Health Research BC brings together the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) and the BC Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN). We are working towards a future where BC is recognized worldwide for its vibrant, coherent, inclusive, and globally competitive health research system, which improves the health of British Columbians, the health system, and the economy.
To guide us in co-creating this future, we developed a new three-year strategy based on our strong 20+ year track record and experience as BC’s health research agency. We are focused on improving the health of British Columbians, the health system, and the economy through three interconnected strategic directions that reflect our niche in BC’s health research system.
- Build research talent for BC’s future
- Catalyze change for a stronger health research system
- Mobilize communities for research impact
Considerations of equity, diversity and inclusion are top-of-mind as we implement our strategy, and our commitment to Indigenous reconciliation and self-determination will guide us. Additionally, rigorous, ongoing evaluation will enable us to understand and increase impact, and to demonstrate accountability to the provincial government and British Columbians.
Indigenous Cultural Safety
Health Research BC is on a learning journey towards enacting our organizational commitments to Indigenous cultural safety and Indigenous health research, grounded in respect for Indigenous self-determination and awareness of reconciliation as an active and ongoing process.
Our organizational commitments to Indigenous cultural safety and Indigenous health research build on relationships nurtured and work undertaken by the former BC AHSN and former MSFHR. Key among these relationships are the BC Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research (BC NEIHR) and the First Nations Health Authority.
This work is taking place across many areas across the organization. For example, Indigenous research ethics is one of Research Ethics BC’s priorities. To grow capacity for culturally safe ethics review, the team has hosted several Indigenous cultural safety and humility events, including an Indigenous-led workshop for research ethics staff and board members.
We recognize that we are still learning how to respectfully support reconciliation efforts and develop meaningful relationships and partnerships with the Indigenous people in British Columbia. Our work continues to be guided by our Indigenous partners.
Equity Diversity and Inclusion
We have a strategic commitment to addressing systemic inequities in the health research system. Diversity in research is important to cultivating talent and promoting inclusive excellence, which in turn drives discovery and helps build a more equitable health research system.
Data from Canada and around the world show a lack of diversity in the research system, as well as systemic inequities in access to research jobs, funding and other resources. These inequities disproportionately impact groups who have been historically underrepresented among researchers and in academia, including those who are Indigenous, Black and people of colour, LGBTQ2S+ people, and people with disabilities.
As BC’s health research agency, we have an important role in leading and supporting efforts to address systemic racism and other forms of bias and discrimination that create and exacerbate inequities in the health research system. We are doing this in a few ways:
- We continue to seek ways to improve the design and implementation of our funding programs and peer review processes
- We require all Health Research BC’s peer reviewers to participate in unconscious bias training
- We are a strategic partner on an international consortium undertaking empirical research studies to advance evidence-informed research funding
This is not meant to be an exhaustive or complete list. We are in a continuous mode of listening and learning with our stakeholders and international and national partners.
This thought leadership series by our staff examines what it takes to be a responsive and responsible health research agency, and explores the world in which research operates today.
Dr. Michael Smith
Michael Smith Health Research BC was created in 2001 in honour of BC’s first Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Smith. A pre-eminent chemist and molecular biologist, Smith was dedicated to building BC’s health research capacity and nurturing the next generation of research innovators. His distinguished career and longstanding commitment to supporting emerging scientific talent helped establish BC as a hub of world-class health research. Health Research BC continues this important work in BC and beyond as a member of NAPHRO, the National Alliance of Provincial Health Research Organizations.
Health Research BC's audited annual financial statements are available for download.