The office of Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, released its first annual report on March 11. The document outlines a variety of accomplishments and challenges that were met over the past year, including the development of a model policy on scientific integrity, the integration of indigenous knowledge in research activities, and the launch of Science Meets Parliament, a program that enabled scientists from across the country to spend a day shadowing members of government. She offered these thoughts to Canadian Chemical News about the report.
Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor. Photo credit: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
2018 was a great year for Canadian science. From the historic science budget to the inspiring Nobel Prize in Physics for Donna Strickland, the science-and-innovation- focused G7 summit in Charlevoix and the global acknowledgment of our leadership in the technologies of the future, Canadians had many reasons to be beaming with science pride. The welcome investments in research support for talent development, discovery and innovation, as well as infrastructure renewal, including digital infrastructure, provide sound foundations for sustaining this momentum while training tomorrow’s workforce.
During this first year in office, I have engaged broadly with the science community within and outside government, as well as with the public who have been eager to participate in scientific dialogues around key issues. My office worked with the government scientists’ union and the Treasury Board Secretariat to develop the scientific integrity policy that is now being implemented in every federal department that employs a team of scientific personnel. We have also started building a national scientific advisory network which will further strengthen the culture of science and evidence-based decisions within the federal government.
This is a clear response to greater public demand for evidence in decision-making, and the government has taken concrete measures to ensure its decisions are informed by science. Having a Chief Science Advisor has also enabled Canada to enhance its participation in major international scientific discussions and science advice cooperation and has helped to raise the profile of Canadian science in general. Along with our international partners, I have been involved with advisory groups looking at how science can inform policies with respect to the societal use of artificial intelligence, the health and environmental impact of microplastics, the management of aquaculture and access to major research infrastructure. I have also seized every opportunity to engage Canada’s scientific diaspora, as they are very well placed to support our science diplomacy and our innovation agenda.
All in all, 2018 has reenergized Canadian science. Much was accomplished but a lot still needs to be done. Now is the time to align our efforts, ensure that the research infrastructure and programs are in place to meet rising expectations, and deliver on science promises and potential for our future.