Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Review of The Canadian Science Policy Conference

Parliament Hill, Ottawa
I had the opportunity this past week, to attend the 3rd Canadian science policy conference  that was held in Ottawa. I attended to learn about science policy and explore what a career in science policy might look like.

Overall the conference was well done and very well attended. The speakers/attendees included the Minister of State for Science and Technology, the chief scientists of Australia and Quebec, the former Premier of British Columbia, other leading politicians with backgrounds in science, the heads of research councils such as CIHR, NSERC, MITACS, people from various Canadian agencies (health, environment, natural resources, atomic energy), journalists, and of course a good representation of academics (with quite a few postdocs) from various institutions.  

The conference looked at various topics, like the current Science, Technology and Innovation policy (STIC) in Canada, the recently released Jenkin's report on research and development
and some of the recommendations that were made to restructure the Canadian innovation landscape, challenges of population growth, the training and support of scientists, reversing brain-drain, private-public sector collaborations, science and the media, and many other topics. Many of these topics will be explored at the AAAS conference (in Vancouver!) next year, which should also be interesting to attend.

Science policy as it was explored at the conference covers two broad areas. The first, 'science for policy', examines how science can impact policy making, and includes how to design frameworks for implementing policies, metrics and evaluating the impact of policies, building scientific networks so evidence and advice can be easily accessed by politicians when they need it, thinking of how to build a culture of science, and the importance of public engagement with science and some ways of going about this.

The second, 'policy for science', is just as broad looking at funding for sciences, again the importance of communicating scientific outcomes, how to align national priorities and scientific research, how to support a culture of innovation in Canada and what support structures might be needed, how to effectively communicate scientific concerns with ministers and a better understanding of uncertainty in scientific results, and perhaps the need for a lobby for science.

Overall, I found it extremely interesting and good way to think about my role as a researcher in the bigger picture. Many people also spoke of the opportunities for careers in science policy that are available, and I do think they will have a summary of the proceedings soon on their website ( 

I think I will write in more detail about some of the individual sessions (in particular the session on science communication).

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