Science Policy: Considerations for Subnational Governments

In Canada, science is as much a provincial endeavour as it is a national one. Science has the potential to inform policy development and enhance public welfare in areas such as security, health, the environment, education, and social policy. Investments in science can create new economic opportunities and help develop the knowledge and social capital of specific regions. Realizing these benefits, however, requires effective science policies across all levels of government.

To inform ongoing work relating to provincial science policy, the Alberta Government asked the Council of Canadian Academies to convene an expert workshop to identify key considerations for science policies relevant to subnational jurisdictions, and specifically to Canadian provinces.

The workshop, held November 21-22, 2016 in Canmore, Alberta, brought together perspectives from academia, government, research institutions, and industry. The final report of the Workshop Steering Committee, Science Policy: Considerations for Subnational Governments, is an insightful, high-quality study that identifies key considerations for the development of science policies and is intended to be used as a roadmap to guide conversations and inform decision-making about science policies at the subnational level.

The Question

What are the necessary considerations when creating science policy at the subnational level? In responding to the question, the CCA sought to:

  • Debate and validate the main outcomes of a subnational science enterprise, particularly in relation to knowledge, human, and social capital.
  • Identify the key elements and characteristics of a successful science enterprise (e.g., funding, trust, capacity, science culture, supporting interconnections and relationships), with a particular focus at a subnational level.
  • Explore potential intents of a subnational science policy, important features of such a policy, and the role of the policy in informing investment decisions.

Key Findings

  • The rationale for creating an explicit science policy at the subnational level is compelling.
  • Science and innovation policies are distinct, but inextricably linked, for all levels of government.
  • Subnational governments play many of the same roles as national governments in supporting science.
  • A comprehensive framework for a science policy can be built around five core elements: people, infrastructure, research, science culture, and knowledge mobilization.
  • Cross-sectoral and cross-governmental coordination and cooperation are central to an effective subnational science policy.
  • A subnational science policy can bring clarity to provincial research priorities.
  • Committing long term to a subnational science policy is important for maintaining and developing the science system.

Report and Related Products

The Workshop Steering Committee

In response to the charge, the CCA appointed a five-member Workshop Steering Committee, chaired by Joy Johnson, FCAHS, Vice President Research, Simon Fraser University, to lead a workshop, identify and assess relevant literature, and develop a report. The other Steering Committee members were: Paul Dufour, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa, Janet Halliwell, Principal, J.E. Halliwell Associates, Inc.; Kaye Husbands Fealing, Chair and Professor, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Marc LePage, President and CEO, Genome Canada.

Workshop Participants

The workshop was held over two days in November 2016 and brought together 16 experts from across Canada and the United States. The participants had expertise, experience, and demonstrated leadership in public administration and public policy, the science and innovation interface, the evaluation of science investments, and science culture. For a complete list of workshop participants, visit the Workshop Participants page.

For further information, please contact:

Tijs Creutzberg, Director of Assessments at 613-567-5000 ext. 232 or

For media inquiries, please contact:

Samantha Rae Ayoub, Communications and Publishing Director at 613-567-5000 ext. 256 or

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