CSPC: A Successful Grassroots Effort
The Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) was founded in 2008 by a diverse group of young and passionate professionals from industry, academia, and science-based governmental departments. CSPC serves as an inclusive, non-partisan and national forum uniting stakeholders, strengthening dialogue, and enabling action with respect to current and emerging issues in national science, technology, and innovation policy. The CPSC is a grassroots initiative that thrives on a dynamic and responsive conference structure focused on best serving the needs of the science policy community. Year after year, it has flourished thanks to the efforts of more than 100 volunteers dedicated to engaging members from research, technology, policy, and the general public in thoughtful discussion to improve governance of issues important to Canadian society. The event has experienced tremendous expansion over the course of its 5 years, growing to more than 1,400 attendees. This would not have been possible without the support of over 200 companies, institutions, and agencies, as well as the Advisory and Honorary Committees comprising of more than 70 field-leading experts.
The following three key themes define the mission of the CSPC:
- Act as a hub promoting ongoing national dialogue in support of more effective coordination and collaboration across all stakeholders, nurturing a broad and evolving community of policy thinkers
- Build capacity by introducing and fostering initiatives to train the next wave of leaders in science, technology, and innovation policy
- Advance science policy research by enabling a framework for collaborative, multi-sectoral assessment of science and innovation policies in Canada
The CSPC presence on the national stage has positively impacted the national science policy scene in a number of significant ways. By offering a central forum that unites all stakeholders and highlights critical issues on national, regional, and local levels, CSPC has caught the attention of mainstream media and plays an important role in raising the public profile of science policy in Canada, reinforcing the value of scientifically informed decision-making. In addition, encouragement of participation from all members of the national community – regardless of age or experience – in the activities of the CSPC (e.g. volunteering and organization of the conference, submission of proposals, participation as members of Advisory and Honorary committees, and attendance at the conference) has enabled a greater degree of hands-on exposure to the field. This has significantly contributed to the strengthening of science and policy literary among our academic, industrial, governmental, and general population, which shall continue to deepen with continued investment in the CSPC and its vision.
In a final example that emphasizes cross-sectoral communication and collaboration born directly out of CSPC discussions, SciencePages (www.sciencepages.ca) is a quarterly publication written for parliamentarians and decision makers that summarizes the current state-of-the-knowledge and policy landscape for topical science and engineering-related issues. The documents are written and reviewed by a multi-institutional team, and serve to increase the accessibility of relevant data to better inform related decision making.
Developing and Sharing Knowledge for Canadian Science Policy
The conference itself has produced a wealth of materials useful for the science policy community in Canada.
Some of last year’s highlights included:
- Policy 101 workshops
- Two plenaries: ‘Resolving the Canadian Paradox: The Need for a Uniquely Canadian Perspective on Science, Technology’ and ‘Innovation Policy & Innovation, R&D and Productivity in the Oil and Gas Sector’
- 21 panel sessions and over 90 speakers
- Live streaming of conference event
Raising the Profile of Science Policy
Annually, CSPC has brought attention to science policy in Canada with favorable coverage from many media outlets, both national and international. In its editorial, Nature magazine hailed the CSPC as a “hopeful sign” for Canadian science policy (Nature 463, 135 (Jan 14, 2010)).
Influential national media including The Globe and Mail, CBC, The Mark, TVO, Hill Times, Agence Science-Presse, Biotechnology Focus, Canadian Government Executive, and many others have covered CSPC each year. CSPC continues to explore ways of making science policy issues more accessible to the public and ways of raising awareness of the fundamental importance of science policy to the health of Canadian society.
Training and Enabling the Younger Generation
One of the distinct strengths of the CSPC is that it brings together participants across all stages of their careers. As such, the conference can offer unique opportunities for the next generation of leaders in the science policy community to both engage with more experienced participants and to develop professionally by attending the workshops and discussions.
CSPC has relied on the service of more than 100 student and early-career volunteers to help to organize the conference over the years. These young professionals have included graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, young policy-makers, administrators, entrepreneurs, and business people. In this way, CSPC has become an enabling vehicle for many younger members of the science and technology community to deepen their policy expertise. Many have developed a deep interest in the field, and launched their career through the CSPC network. Likewise, many young policy-makers and administrators from outside of scientific research networks have enjoyed the excitement and opportunity to work with scientists directly and to better understand the culture of the scientific community. These connections are one way in which CSPC endeavours to build a stronger science policy culture in Canada.
Building on this momentum, the second pillar of the CSPC Strategic Business Plan focuses on engaging youth by creating a platform to develop and mentor future science and innovation policy thinkers that includes development of mentorship, internship and fellowship programs. This pillar will also be explored during 2012 and reported on at the conference.
Facilitating Collaboration between Science Policy Stakeholders
The CSPC has always placed a strong focus on enabling members of the science policy community to connect and collaborate on ideas and initiatives. With participation from multiple sectors and disciplines within government, academia and the business sector, the conference atmosphere encourages depth of insight and collaboration between participants in all stages of their political, professional or scientific careers. The knowledge and understanding developed supports the participants in their careers to help shape the policies of today and tomorrow in conjunction with science, and enables Canada to pivot itself as a leader in science, technology and innovation policy.
One important outcome from discussions initiated at CSPC 2009 is SciencePages, a publication written for parliamentarians and other decision-makers. It aims to increase discussion on topical issues that have science and engineering at their core by summarizing the current state of the knowledge and policy landscape. Each issue is prepared and reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team and is published quarterly. SciencePages is an initiative of the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). More information can be found at www.sciencepages.ca