Chief Science Advisor States Better Coordination Needed in First Annual Report

2018 Report from the Chief Science Advisor. Credit: Government of Canada.

The first annual report from Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, was published today and includes highlights such as developing a Model Policy on Scientific Integrity but notes there is still much more work to be done.

Of the work that still needs to be done, the report states that “there is still an acute need to better coordinate the various organizational mandates in support of science in Canada.”

In her statement on receiving the report, The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport said;

“We made a commitment to Canadians that we would incorporate facts and data into all the choices we make on their behalf. We did this because we know that good policy decisions must be informed by good science and research. To help us bring this commitment to life, we reinstated the position of the Chief Science Advisor and appointed celebrated researcher Dr. Mona Nemer to the role. On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank Dr. Nemer for all her work so far. She has moved forward in helping our government put science and research at the heart of federal decision making.”

“Dr. Nemer’s appointment is a key element of our vision to bring wholesale change to Canada’s overall science culture. Our government conducted the first review of federal funding for science and research in 40 years. We put in place requirements to boost diversity on campuses, we are better supporting early-career researchers, we are displaying leadership on the world stage, and we have invested billions to help return science and research to their rightful place.”

The reports lists the following key achievements and provides details on each point;

  • Model Policy on Scientific Integrity.
  • Providing Science Advice for Decision-Making.
  • Establishing a National Science Advisory System.
  • Advice on Supporting Federal Science Infrastructure.
  • Science Promotion.
  • International Engagement.
  • Integrating Indigenous Research.
  • Science Meets Parliament.

Ongoing work includes;

  • To ensure effective use of the Model Policy on Scientific Integrity, my office will meet with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada to review progress and propose improvements as necessary.
  • My office will remain engaged and support the leadership of science departments and agencies as they plan and build the science infrastructure of the future, including federal science infrastructure, national digital research infrastructure, and a strategic approach to major science facilities.
  • I will continue working with the Chair of the Deputy Ministers Science Committee to help develop a comprehensive picture of the federal science workforce and to recommend enhancements.
  • As the network of departmental science advisors grows, my office will convene monthly meetings to exchange information and plan joint efforts. I look forward to welcoming new members to the network, so that the Government may further embed science advice at the most senior levels of organizations.
  • In early 2019, we will be supporting a roundtable to be hosted by the Institute on Governance, involving Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders from across government, industry and academia.
  • The discussion will explore traditional Indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge, and how the two systems can be used to inform public policy and decision-making.

New projects of note include an Open Science initiative described as follows;

“Increasing access to the reservoirs of knowledge generated by scientific work promises to build public trust and support a more informed public, while accelerating the process of discovery and innovation.”

“Progress can be seen with the Government’s open data initiative, and the federal granting councils’ 2015 Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, which requires that publications resulting from the research they fund be made freely available within 12 months. More recently, Canada also supported a G7 Science and Technology Ministers recommendation to establish an international working group on open science to support the sharing of approaches and best practices. This ongoing effort will no doubt include great interest in a September 2018 declaration spearheaded by Science Europe funders, which states that, as of 2020, publications emerging from publicly funded research must be made immediately available for free.”

“For its part, Canada needs a roadmap for open science, with a plan that moves beyond an incremental approach drawing on existing resources. In the coming year, my office will be working with senior leadership from federal science-based departments and agencies, in coordination with the federal granting agencies, to create a roadmap by July 2019. The aim is to make the results of federally funded research open and to help Canadian researchers keep pace with the global open science movement.”

As well, a new Youth Advisory Committee is to be created;

“Diverse points of view are essential for forming good advice, and the perspective of the up-and-coming generation of researchers must be brought to the table. At the request of prominent student representatives, and with support from the Prime Minister’s Office, my office will set up a Youth Advisory Committee in 2019. This committee will provide a channel for the ideas and perspectives of Canada’s science youth to be brought forward in the conversation about scientific issues that are important to the Canadian public.”

The State of Government Science: Observations and Recommendations

One of the observations that stands out relates to the topic of assessing the Federal Science Workforce. The report states;

“However, to properly assess whether the federal science workforce is thriving—a request mandated to my office—a more systematic approach and consistent understanding of its composition is needed. Resources such as Statistics Canada’s annual Survey of Federal Personnel Engaged in Science and Technological Activities, the annual Government of Canada Public Service Employee Survey, and the Deputy Ministers Science Committee’s recent study of the demographics of the science workforce, while illustrative, cannot provide a complete picture.”

“As such, significant effort will be required to chart workforce dynamics, bring disparate information sources together, and collect new qualitative and quantitative information for developing effective strategies for workforce renewal, ensuring equity, and supporting career and continuous skills development.”

You can read or download the full report below.


About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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