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February 9, 2016

Science. Policy. Evidence. Informed decision-making.

These key words are energizing people across the country, from scientists to citizens, from government policy makers to the private sector. It’s an exciting time for science in Canada, and an equally exciting time to use science to help craft better public policy; whether it be in the energy sector, health care, or marine safety.

Since 2006 the Council of Canadian Academies has played an important role in evidence-based decision-making using an approach for which it has become well known: convening panels of the best experts in their respective fields to evaluate the existing evidence and provide an objective assessment of the science underlying key policy issues. Over a decade of work, the CCA has produced more than 35 reports on topics as diverse as ocean science, food security, policing, and medicines for children.

I’m honoured to join the CCA as its new President and CEO where I intend to build on this history and contribute to the vibrant science policy ecosystem in Canada. In the short time I’ve been in Ottawa, two things have already become obvious: first, the work we do would not be possible without the time and energy of the top minds in Canada and abroad who volunteer to serve on our panels. Many come from our three distinguished member academies: the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. The success of the CCA and its reports has been due, in large part, to the support of its Member Academies and their Fellows. I’d also like to recognize the essential roles played by our Board of Governors and our Scientific Advisory Committee. These groups provide valuable input, oversight, and strategic thinking critical to the good governance of the CCA. Second, the support provided by successive federal governments to the CCA, especially during challenging economic times is a testament to the value of this model, for which I’m very grateful. There is a palpable optimism in Canada about the great potential to use science for the public good ― to find answers to some of our most challenging questions. Everyone has an interest in this goal and CCA is committed to playing its part.

My own commitment to science policy is informed by almost three decades of involvement in academic research, government leadership, and advice-giving to organizations, industry and NGOs. A good deal of this time was spent outside of Canada, giving me a unique perspective on other models, best practices, and creative approaches. A common thread in all of my work is the ethical perspective: that good policy and good decision-making begins with good facts, and defensible ethical values.

I’m pleased to be back “home” in Canada at such an exciting time for science. With a new government and a renewed sense of purpose in the science community, there is an increased appetite for evidence-based decision-making. I intend to use this space from time to time to reflect on some of the work of the CCA, its member academies, and the issues affecting Canadian science. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone on the issues. Contact me at eric.meslin@scienceadvice.ca or on Twitter @emmeslin.

Eric M. Meslin, PhD, FCAHS is President and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies. Read his full bio on our website.

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