Monday, March 11, 2019

Federal Government Releases 1st Annual Report from Canada's Chief Science Adviser

          By Henry Stewart

Mona Nemer. Photo c/o Gov't of Canada.
On the one hand, very few government employees have ever written reports indicating that their tasks have been accomplished and its time to retire back to the private sector or academia.

On the other hand, Federal government chief science adviser Dr. Mona Nemer has really only held her position for a little over a year and its certainly fair to give a bit more time before expecting to receive a full public accounting of her actions and usefulness.

On Monday, the Federal government released its first "Annual Report of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada," the science advisory's first attempt to to self-assess its successes and accomplishments.

According to its summary, the report "outlines the major activities of the Office of the Chief Science Advisor for Canada over the course of its first full year."

These activities included, "developing the Model Policy on Scientific Integrity, providing principles and insights relevant to science-based decision-making across government, establishing a federal science advisory function, and advising on how to better support quality scientific research within the federal government."

The Report also identified the priority areas of action for the year ahead. They included:
... (the creation of) a road-map for open science, reviewing the impact assessment process for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, advising on how to expand the role of national academies in the Canadian science enterprise, and establishing a Youth Advisory Committee to ensure good communications with the next generation of researchers.
The final section of the report noted that:
Despite recent federal efforts such as the creation of the Deputy Ministers Science Committee, the Deputy Ministers Group on Climate Change and the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, there is still an acute need to better coordinate the various organizational mandates in support of science in Canada. 
The section also argues for enhanced participation of Canada in international research projects and science diplomacy, making the suggestion, among others, that the Canadian scientific diaspora could be mobilized to that end. The section concludes that better data are necessary to properly assess the state of the federal science workforce, as has been requested of the Office.
Perhaps there is but results are not simply assessed by the number of new committees created or suggestions formulated. The report would have benefited by including the criteria which the science advisory is judging itself along with the criteria the Federal government is using to judge the success of the science advisory.

Without knowing these criteria, the science advisory job might never be completed, which might not be a bad thing if its real role is simple job creation, but is probably a bad thing otherwise.

As outlined in the March 11th, 2019 Federal government press release, "Statement from the Minister of Science and Sport on the release of the first annual report of Canada's Chief Science Advisor," there is much to be done by the science officer, especially in the areas of setting up the basic steps needed to build a useful, "inclusive" policy, establish bureaucratic processes to track how that developing policy is successfully integrated into political decision making process and develop the specific steps needed to promote the end result both domestically and internationally.

Here's hoping that at least a few of those issues end up being addressed in time to be included with the 2rd annual report from Canada's chief science adviser.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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