The REAL Issue: A Message From Our CEO

January 2019

A New Narrative on Science Policy: CSPC 2018 Sparks National Dialogue 

I believe a national conversation is critical to the Canadian science research agenda moving forward in a positive fashion. So, for the past few years I have been taking every opportunity to contribute to this discussion. In November 2018, I participated on two panels at the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC):Building Bridges Between Science, Policy, and Society. 

Prior to attending CSPC, I had the pleasure of being a guest of the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FCIHR) 2018 Leaders’ Breakfast. The event featured the 2018 Henry G. Friesen International Prize winner, Dr. David Naylor, President Emeritus of the University of Toronto. Dr. Naylor chaired the panel for Canada’s Fundamental Science Review. Released in April 2017, the report brought national attention to issues surrounding federal and provincial/territorial (FPT) support for research.His contributions garnered it the nickname the ‘Naylor Report.’ 

The FCIHR and the Henry G. Friesen International Prize program organized a keynote panel for CSPC 2018 on which I participated. The panel, ‘How can better federal-provincial collaboration strengthen Canada’s Research ecosystem?’, echoed concerns outlined in the Naylor Report about FPT relationships and the current state of research support in Canada. I was delighted by the opportunity to add a provincial perspective to a national dialogue, which historically has been largely absent.  

Canada is a federation; therefore its research ecosystem is complex, spanning federal, national, and provincial arenas. Within these tiers of government, organizations and agencies tend to develop research plans and identify research priorities independently. This lack of symmetrical communication has led to a mixed-bag of approaches to funding, competition processes, and peer review, as well as conflicting timeframes across the system. 

As co-chair of the National Alliance for Provincial Health Research Organizations (NAPHRO), I was proud to hear other CSPC panelists recognize the Alliance as a success story for interprovincial collaboration. NAPHRO has grown to 10 members since beginning in 2002. Together we exchange knowledge and pool resources and expertise to further develop our understanding of the federal research ecosystem. By doing so we are able to identify shared challenges at the federal, national and provincial level, and present potential solutions. 

NAPHRO was the organizer of the second CSPC panel I participated on, ‘A 2-way street: Science informing policy and policy informing science.’ The panel examined reasons communication breakdown occurs between researchers and policymakers during the policymaking process. This issue is relatable, the trepid waters of science informing policy and policy informing science can be felt across industry, disciplines, and divisions of government. 

Joined by panelist, Necole Sommersell from fellow NAPHRO member, Research Manitoba, thispanel was a particularly powerful display of the knowledge provincial organizations can contribute to the science policy narrative. Sommersellemphasized the importance of relationship building and stakeholder engagement, pointing to Research Manitoba’s use of impact reports designed to communicate research to a variety of audiences.I used the opportunity to share the Dead Bird analogy, if you haven’t heard it check it out here: CSPC 2018 proceedings (1:09:25).

For those who could not attend CSPC, conference organizers ensured event content could be accessed by the greater public. Audio clips of entire panels sessions, in addition to written summaries, can be found online. There is also a YouTube page housing one-on-one interviews with panelists that date back to 2010. In fact, I’m featured in five videos detailing my participation in the conference over the past three years. This is an excellent example of communication empowering knowledge sharing. 

I’m so glad I could contribute to this event. These conversations are a step in the right direction towards a more inclusive national dialogue on science policy. 

Sincerely, 

Krista Connell CEO, NSHRF 

 

2019

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