Science Culture: Where Canada Stands

Science is a fundamental part of Canadian culture and society, affecting both individual and social life. As a driving force of the economy, science is a catalyst for innovation and the creation of new goods and services. It has led to improvements in Canadians’ health and well-being, and changed how Canadians interact with one another through new technologies.  It is also a source of entertainment and excitement for all ages. While these impacts are broadly welcomed, the applications of science and technology can also be the source of debate and controversy. In addition, many people may lack the scientific knowledge needed to understand and participate in these debates. Some individuals also have reservations about science and its effects on society. Though governments around the world recognize the importance of science in developing an innovative, knowledge-based economy, understanding society’s complex and evolving relationship with science is vital to ensure it continues to improve and enrich the lives of everyone.

Defining Science Culture: Although frequently used to convey the degree to which society and the public are broadly engaged in science, the term science culture is rarely defined with precision. As understood by the Panel, a society has a strong science culture when it embraces discovery and supports the use of scientific knowledge and methodology. Such a culture encourages the education and training of a highly skilled workforce and the development of an innovative knowledge-based economy.

In recognition of the important role science plays in the daily lives of Canadians, the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation, Industry Canada, and Natural Resources Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies (the Council) to conduct an in-depth, independent assessment to investigate the state of Canada’s science culture.

Science Culture: Where Canada Stands presents a comprehensive examination of Canada’s science culture. Most notably, it contains the results of a new public survey that assesses Canadians’ science attitudes, engagement, and knowledge. The report reviews data on Canadians’ science skills and the current peer-reviewed literature on science culture. It also features an inventory and analysis of the organizations and programs that support and promote science culture in Canada, particularly among youth. This collection of data helps to paint the clearest picture of Canada’s science culture and science culture support system in 25 years. The report also examines strategies that can be used to cultivate and sustain a strong science culture for years to come.

Key Findings

  • Canadians have positive attitudes towards science and technology and low levels of reservations about science compared with citizens of other countries.
  • Canadians exhibit a high level of engagement with science and technology relative to citizens of other countries.
  • Canadians’ level of science knowledge is on a par with or above citizens of other countries for which data are available.
  • Canada’s performance on indicators of science and technology skills development is variable compared with other OECD countries.

Cultivating a Strong Science Culture

  • The Panel’s review of evidence and research identified many promising strategies and practices for cultivating a strong science culture, which can be organized under five broad themes:
    • Supporting Lifelong Science Learning
    • Making Science Inclusive
    • Adapting to New Technologies
    • Enhancing Science Communication and Engagement
    • Providing National or Regional Leadership

Question

What is the state of Canada's science culture?

Sub-questions:

  1. What is the state of knowledge regarding the impacts of having a strong science culture?
  2. What are the indicators of a strong science culture? How does Canada compare with other countries against these indicators? What is the relationship between output measures and major outcome measures?
  3. What factors (e.g., cultural, economic, age, gender) influence interest in science, particularly among youth?
  4. What are the critical components of the informal system that supports science culture (roles of players, activities, tools and programs run by science museums, science centres, academic and not-for-profit organizations and the private sector)? What strengths and weaknesses exist in Canada's system?
  5. What are the effective practices that support science culture in Canada and in key competitor countries?

Report and Related Products:

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on the State of Canada’s Science Culture was chaired by Dr. Arthur Carty, O.C., Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo. For a complete list of panel members visit the Expert Panel on the State of Canada's Science Culture page.

For further information, please contact:

Dane Berry, Associate Program Director at 613-567-5000 ext. 278 or dane.berry@scienceadvice.ca

For media inquiries please contact:

Cate Meechan, Director of Communications at 613-567-5000 ext. 228 or cathleen.meechan@scienceadvice.ca

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