Kirsty Duncan, a medical geographer at the University of Toronto in Canada, will be Canada's first Minster of Science.
Following the announcement, I said to a good friend and former science colleague, "This is really exciting - we have Minister of Science now!"
Although, I was clearly happy for what this new Ministerial post would bring to Canada, she simply said, "Yes, but what does that mean?".
So, following some contemplation, I've come up with a few thoughts on what a new Minister of Science for Canada could / should mean:
- Identification of clear National Science Priorities;
- Alignment of funding and resources toward National Science Priorities;
- Clear targets, goals and results for implementing our National Science Priorities;
- Integration of science in federal decision-making, overall;
- More focus on evidence-based policy making;
- Repairing the science culture in Canada -- for all science generally, and especially for the federal / "public good science" (i.e. the science that private sector and others don't typically do such as stats, weather forecasting and food safety that is important for the "good of Canadians");
- Utilizing Science for Diplomacy - This is important to me, personally, because I've seen it in action after spending the last 4 years in Brussels as Canada's Science Counsellor to the European Union. I've seen how strong scientific alliances can improve Canada's overall relations with other countries. Forging these strong alliances can allow international partners to work on other more challenging, non-scientific, policy areas.
- Forging Strong Global Partnerships - During my time in Brussels, I helped forge many scientific partnerships for Canadian researchers. The European Union, has a fund of nearly 80B euros, called Horizon 2020, for research and development. The EU strongly encourages international cooperation as part of it's programming. Canadians have partnered actively in large-scale projects under Horizon 2020. However, Canadian researchers have been challenged in bringing their own money to the table, to cover their own costs. Instead, Canadian researchers have offered in-kind items such as organizing a meeting or a conference, access to facilities, etc. Actual funding for Canadian researchers, to participate in international projects, would typically leverage more funding from other sources such as the EU's Horizon 2020 program. International scientific collaboration provides our researchers with access to top-notch global networks, world class research, world class infrastructure. One of the Horizon 2020 projects, involving a Canadian researcher, created 4G wireless technology -- something we all use today in our phones and other devices. Another great example of Canada-EU collaboration is in the area of Marine Research, under the EU's Horizon 2020 Blue Growth program. Canadian's have actively partnered in a range of projects including a 20M euro Ocean Observation project around the North Atlantic. A final point on Global Partnerships is that they could also now be aligned with to-be-defined Canadian National Science Priorities, now that we have a Minister of Science.
Please add your thoughts and comments below and share this post with other science-interested contacts so we can all help elevate the dialogue around Canadian National Science. It's an exciting time for Canada. If we can get our National Science objectives and dialogue right, it will carry us a long way.
(Note: This piece was originally published on November 5, 2015 by Karen Johnstone-Hobbs on both LinkedIn and on Foxy Science: www.foxyscience.com)
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