November 12, 2009
“If you want your government officials interested in science and technology, send them to China.”
“Individuals are inherently innovative. Institutions are not.”
“Think-tanks are good – but we also need do-tanks.”
“Scientists have no idea to what extent communication utterly dominates politics… when meeting with a government decision-maker, you have at most 90 seconds in which to make your case.”
“Are Tim Hortons and hockey our comparative global advantage?”
“Our distinctive new global brand would be innovation – Canada helping developing countries solve their problems using science… from blue helmets to white lab coats.”
“Enough about the scientifically-illiterate public… what about all the public-illiterate scientists?”
These are just a sampling of the memorable one-liners to emerge from discussions at the inaugural Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), held on Oct 28-30 in Toronto. The CSPC’s slogan was “better policies, better science.”
The 2.5-day conference was a forum for members of the Canadian scientific community – from the academic, industry, government and non-profit sectors – to engage in a national conversation about the most important science policy issues facing our country and to forge lasting linkages between stakeholders and policymakers.
“Science policy” encompasses two related and complementary spheres:
The CSPC tackled a range of topics from both spheres, including: Canada’s national science & technology strategies, private-sector R&D, innovation commercialization, the knowledge-based economy, environmental & energy policy, governance of emerging technologies, science education, science journalism & communication and science diplomacy.
In addition to 13 sessions with over 50 leading speakers from across the country, the conference featured keynote addresses by some distinguished guests:
Manning’s address was well received enough to garner a standing ovation, and influential enough to be repeatedly cited by speakers in later sessions.
Now that the dust has settled, was CSPC 2009 a success? As one of its organizers, I may be biased – but I think the answer is a resounding “yes”. The final number of delegates – which came in at over 400 – greatly exceeded our expectations and the atmosphere of enthusiasm was palpable. All the feedback that we’ve received thus far has been overwhelmingly positive – so much so that planning of the next CSPC has already begun.
At the same time, the end of CSPC 2009 is only the beginning of a larger journey towards harnessing the energy within our community to revitalize Canada’s science policy landscape – a key goal will be to carry forward the momentum generated by the conference in the days to come. Encouragingly, the conference has ignited a serious conversation about the creation of a permanent institute/think-tank/network for Canadian science policy. Stay tuned!
In the coming days, the entire content of the CSPC will be made publicly available for the benefit of all Canadians at the conference website (http://sciencepolicy.ca).