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The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada > News & Events > Communications Magazine > Vol. 36, No. 3, Summer 2010 > The 2nd Science Policy Symposium
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The 2nd Science Policy Symposium

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Stockwell Day

Marilyn Best, Atlantic Regional Director (left), Treasury Board President Stockwell Day and Vice-President Shannon Bittman.

David Suzuki and Preston Manning

David Suzuki and Preston Manning with Véronique Morin, Lead Moderator.

Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis met with Linnell Edwards (RE) and Al Ravjiani, Ontario Regional Director.

International Unions Panel

International Unions Panel left to right: Dr. Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, USA; Dr. Anders Buch, Danish Society of Engineers; and Paul Noon, General Secretary, Prospect Union for Professionals, UK.

Delivering Public Science

Delivering Public Science: Who, Where and with What Resources? Left to right: moderator Jeff Kinder, Manager, S&T Strategy, Natural Resources Canada; Dr. Christiane Deslauriers, Director General, Science Policy and Planning, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Dr. Allen Curry, Director, Canadian Rivers Institute; Jennifer Jackman, Director General, CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory, Natural Resources Canada.

Fostering Innovation

Fostering Innovation: The Role of Public S&T. Left to right: moderator Adam Holbrook, Professor, Simon Fraser University; Ron Friedman, Co-Founder, The Impact Group; Dr. Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director, Centre for the Study of Living Standards; Michael Thicke, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, U of Toronto.

Scanning the Horizon

Scanning the Horizon: S&T and Foresight. Left to right: Jack Smith, Adjunct Professor of Technology Management and Business Strategy, Telfer School of Management, U of Ottawa; Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Leah Soroka, Director of S&T Foresight and Science, Health Canada; Dr. Shane Renwick, Director, Animal Health Science Foresight, Canadian Food Inspection Agency.


Taking the Measure of Federal S&T

Taking the Measure of Federal S&T. Left to right: moderator Benoît Godin, Professor, Institut national de la recherche scientifique; Dr. Karim Dahel, Head of Corporate Programs, Defence Research and Development Canada; Éric Gagné, A/Director, Science Policy Division, Environment Canada; Frederick Kijek, Senior Economist, Strategy and Development Branch, National Research Council Canada.

The 2nd Science Policy Symposium convincingly reaffirmed the Professional Institute’s place in the forward ranks of the national debate over science, technology and innovation policy in Canada. At a moment when Canada’s Science and Technology (S&T) strategy is rapidly returning to the policy agenda, the Symposium generated buzz among politicians, federal S&T managers and policy analysts. In the process, it also attracted attention from government scientists and researchers, private-sector consultants, funding agencies, think tanks and academics.

Among the registrants were Members of Parliament from all four sitting political parties (including the Liberal Critic for industry, science and technology), as well as the Deputy Leader of the Green Party. Treasury Board President Stockwell Day delivered the opening address of the Symposium; conference delegates heard from the Deputy Ministers of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Health Canada and Natural Resources Canada, and the Assistant Deputy Ministers (and co-chairs of the S&T Integration Board) from Natural Resources Canada. The Agriculture and Agri-food Canada spoke to the conference as well.

New Directions

International Panel International Panel: “Lessons for Canada: International Union Perspectives on Public Science”. PIPSC President Gary Corbett; Paul Noon, General Secretary, Prospect Union for Professionals, UK; moderator Véronique Morin; Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, USA, Anders Buch; Danish Society of Engineers.

The themes of the Symposium were the role of public science in protecting Canadians, preserving the environment, and promoting economic prosperity. While the 2010 Symposium took the discussion of public science in new directions, it was the 1st Science Symposium in 2007 that started the science policy discussion rolling. The 2007 edition was the first of its kind: a truly national, bilingual forum for discussion of Canadian science policy.

A success in its own right, the 2007 Symposium generated a list of recommendations for future symposia, including the need to carefully select conference themes relevant to both science members and the public (such as environmental protection), the value of case studies indicating where bureaucracy impedes good science or science effectively informs policymaking, and the importance of featuring keynote speakers capable of providing as broad a perspective as possible. The 2nd Science Symposium set out to implement these recommendations, in addition to pursuing ambitious new goals, among them:

  • Exploring the key issues facing public science in Canada;
  • Discussing the relevance of public science to Canadians;
  • Investigating ways to strengthen the profile of Canadian public science in the media;
  • Building better links between scientists and policy makers in Canada;
  • Strengthening the relationships between public, academic, and industry science.

To live up to these high expectations, the 2010 Symposium was organized to give all dimensions of public science in Canada an airing in concurrent and plenary sessions. It featured a mix of case studies and theoretical or policy-oriented discussions. Scientific integrity, growing collaboration between government science, universities and industry, science communication, science-policy integration in the federal government, science advice to government, all received attention and discussion during the three-day conference.

Suzuki/Manning Dialogue

Kicking off the event was a dialogue between two leading science policy voices in Canada, Preston Manning and David Suzuki. In addition to addressing a broad range of topics, Manning and Suzuki’s discussion returned time and again to the challenges of ‘speaking science to political power’ in Canada, and the role of the media in communicating science in general to Canadians. Manning spoke of the need to apply the science of communicating to the communication of science, and advised scientists to become more-practised advocates in the political arena. Suzuki talked about science as fundamental to human culture, reiterating themes about the need for science-based environmental policy-making, and criticizing the abdication of responsibility he views many policy-makers indulging in. Together, Manning and Suzuki provided a searching discussion of the problem of communication and the task of lifting public understanding of science in the service of the common good.

The Inspiring Stephen Lewis

Renowned diplomat and humanitarian Stephen Lewis inspired the participants on the subject of public good science, global public health initiatives, social justice and international development. Lewis outlined the challenge of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, describing the struggles of women and the poor in the developing world. He made a clear case for the contribution that rich countries and public science aligned with development goals can make to the state of the world’s poor. Symposium speaker Dr. Peter Singer of the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health amplified this message and carried further the theme of public science in the service of human welfare.

Drilling down

Concurrent sessions provided the opportunity for conference-goers to “drill down” and narrow their discussion to specific dimensions of science policy in Canada.

  • The challenges of scientific integrity for scientists serving the public good;
  • The science-policy interface in federal government departments and agencies;
  • The emerging models of collaboration between R&D in universities, business and government and the co-location of federal research;
  • The competing approaches to policy advice;
  • The new thinking about science communication, including knowledge translation/knowledge brokering as a means of bridging the science-policy gag;
  • The importance of public science to Canadians along the ‘triple bottom line’ (people, planet, prosperity);
  • Innovation as regards the role of federal science in boosting productivity and innovation in Canada, with one presentation examining innovation in the public service in particular. A common problematic arising from several sessions concerned the integration of science and public policy, and ways to cross the divide.

Three Deputy Ministers, Claire Dansereau of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Cassie Doyle of Natural Resources Canada, and Glenda Yeates of Health Canada, addressed the challenges of federal science in the 21st century. They emphasized that the complexity of the public policy agenda requires a much more sophisticated way of integrating science into policy work. The challenge is to provide coherent and timely advice to government. There is a need to integrate science and policy to give solutions in “real time”. They congratulated PIPSC for its leadership in sponsoring the symposium and putting government science on the radar screen.

International Dimension

As with the 2007 conference, the 2010 Symposium featured presentations from international guests. Paul Noon, General Secretary of the 122,000-strong Prospect union of UK professionals, informed about developments in Great Britain. Senior Scientist and Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientific Integrity Program Dr. Francesca Grifo spoke on the progress towards scientific integrity, transparency and openness under the Obama administration. Dr. Anders Buch, of the Danish Society of Engineers spoke of the new trend which embraces a kind of solidarity based on knowledge that reaches further than an individual group of scientists to embrace a wider agenda. President Gary Corbett outlined the declining share of federal government resources going to intramural R&D in Canada, and the demographic challenges facing the public science community.

Promising Initiatives

The final plenary sketched some of the promising arising initiatives to promote science in Canadian political discourse. Attendees heard about the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering’s (PAGSE’s) Science Pages initiative to instruct Parliamentarians on science issues, modeled after the UK’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology ‘POSTnotes’ publications. Delegates learned about the Canadian Science Policy Conference, which will feature its second conference on science policy in Canada this fall. Attendees found out about the new Science Media Centre of Canada and its goal of connecting experts and science journalists on breaking science-related news.

Results of the 2nd Science Policy Symposium

This Symposium set out to establish a forum to discuss the current state of, and future challenges, facing public science. It also aimed to contribute to a clearer understanding of the importance of public science and the value of federal S&T in Canada. Along the way, it sought to position PIPSC as a leading voice in the debate over science in Canada. How well did it do?

It reached a wider audience than its predecessor, achieving a 43% increase in the number of registrants over the 2007 Science Policy Symposium (277 vs. 194). This year’s Symposium was taped and broadcast on CPAC and CTV, received mention in the print and internet versions of the Globe and Mail and National Post, and was discussed on numerous science weblogs.

Comparing participants’ evaluations from both Symposia, the 2010 Symposium reported across-the-board improvement:

  • 99% rated the overall quality of the 2010 Symposium as either good or excellent (83% in 2007)
  • 94% rated the overall quality of the presentations as either good or excellent (74% in 2007)
  • The proportion of participants rating the Symposium as good or excellent was higher in 2010 than 2007 for all other categories (keynote speeches, venue, registration cost, evening receptions, Symposium dinner, and conference format. (In one category, the quality of the concurrent sessions, the proportion was the same: 84%)
  • 96% would recommend the Symposium to others (61% in 2007)
  • 59% felt the 2010 Symposium fully or mostly met its goal of positioning PIPSC as a leading voice in the debate over science in Canada
  • 75% felt the Symposium fully or mostly contributed to a clearer understanding of the value of federal S&T and the importance of public science in Canada.

Perhaps most appreciated by conference-goers were the many networking opportunities with leading science, policy, academic and industry colleagues. In general, the results suggest that the 2010 Symposium built successfully on the promise of the first Symposium.

To view the Suzuki/Manning Dialogue, the presentation made by Stephen Lewis and to download the 2010 post-Symposium package, please log on to: www.sciencesymposium2010.ca

Next Steps

Like the 1st Symposium, the 2010 Symposium left conference attendees wanting more. One delegate’s descriptions of the event: “Excellent and HIGHLY relevant conference, but only a start in the fight for the voice of science in policy.” The focus will now shift toward post-Symposium publicity and advocacy on behalf of public science, taking advantage of the many events and opportunities in the 2010-11 political agenda to advance the message of science in the service of the public good. The Institute’s public science campaign videotaped Symposium footage and conducted interviews with government scientists and leading supporters of public science; these will be used to promote public science issues in the weeks and months ahead. Additionally, the Institute’s Science Advisory Committee has pinpointed key proposals and initiatives emerging from the Symposium, such as climate science and scientific integrity in Canada, for further action. Onward and upward!