“We’re huge fans of the Council – it’s really working for us! We’ve been one of the departments that has taken its role very seriously, and made great use of it to get the information we need.” (NRCan, Chief Scientist)
The Importance of Science-based Assessments
The Council of Canadian Academies provides access to the best available scientific knowledge — knowledge that can help to inform public policy decisions. The Council is a valuable resource to those who are grappling with difficult science-based issues.
From climate change to infectious diseases to business innovation to cutting-edge developments, such as nanotechnology, science informs much public policy in Canada today. Governments at all levels need to understand the science and evidence underlying matters of public interest in order to ensure that policies are sound, effective, and respond to the needs and concerns of Canadians. Organizations, both in non-profit and private sectors, require the same base of information in order to participate in the policy-making process.
To tackle these types of issues, the Council provides independent, science-based expert assessments (studies) that inform public policy development and decision-making. The Council’s assessments help identify: emerging issues; gaps in knowledge; Canadian strengths; and international trends and practices.
Proposing a Question for Assessment
Assessment questions must be developed into detailed proposals; specific criteria guide which proposals are acceptable.
- The topic is of importance to Canada and its citizens.
- The appropriate expertise can be assembled and the required timeline be met.
- The existing state of knowledge merits the assessment.
- Science underpins the question and its response.
All assessment questions and the resulting reports, regardless of source, must be approved by the Council’s Board of Governors.
Federal government departments and agencies who would like to propose assessment questions within the Funding Agreement may download the Call for Proposals document for more information.
Foundations, non-governmental organizations, private sector organizations, or any level of government who would like to propose an assessment question may contact the Council’s Project Office.
Council staff are available to offer advice in developing proposals for assessment questions. Inquiries may be directed to Tracey McKinlay, Coordinator, Project Office at 613-567-5000 ext 260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Impact of Assessments
In some cases the impact of Council assessments is clearly evident. For example, in 2006 the Council’s report on science and technology in Canada highlighted four areas or “clusters” of particular strength for Canada. The Government of Canada used this particular finding in developing its 2007 science and technology strategy, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage.
While the impact of some other assessments may be less obvious, all Council reports add to the scholarly body of literature available to policy-makers and stakeholders which help to inform decisions. For instance, the Council’s 2009 assessment on groundwater has become an important resource for municipalities throughout Canada.
In 2009, the Council released a thorough study on Canadian Innovation, Innovation and Business Strategy: Why Canada Falls Short. A number of themes addressed within this assessment are reflected within the 2010 Speech from the Throne and Federal Budget.
Council assessments are also informing activities outside of Canada’s borders. For example, in the United States, the National Research Council released a study in 2010 entitled, Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States. The expert panel that conducted this study heavily referenced the Council’s 2008 report, Energy from Gas Hydrates: Assessing the Opportunities and Challenges for Canada.
The Council is confident its current set of assessments will also make important contributions to the potential development of regulations and policies related to: biodiversity; research integrity; integrated testing of pesticides; and risk assessment techniques in animal health science.
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“At a time when innovation and the discovery and application of new knowledge has never been more important, the Council of Canadian Academies continues to produce material that informs public discussion and to bring together some of the country’s top minds to help steer a path towards a better future.”
Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail
“It is clear the Council is well on its way to becoming recognized as a powerful policy institute for all aspects of research critical to Canada and, at the same time, useful for science globally.”
Rita R. Colwell, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and former Director of the National Science Foundation (1998-2004)