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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 506 - La diversité des formes d’implication de la relève dans la gouvernance de la recherche

Panel 506 - La diversité des formes d’implication de la relève dans la gouvernance de la recherche

Conference Day: 
Day 2 - November 8th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Governance of research: how can next generation scientists get involved?​

Organized by: Fonds de recherche du Québec, Madison Rilling (Student advisor to Québec’s Chief Scientist)

Speakers: Blake Freier, PhD Student, University of Waterloo; Tina Gruosso, Postdoctoral Fellow, Goodman Cancer Research Center, McGill University; Dr. Donna Kirkwood, Chief Scientist, Natural Resources Canada; Madison Rilling, PhD Student, Université Laval

Moderator: Paul Dufour, Fellow and Adjunct Professor, Institute for Science, Society and Policy in the University of Ottawa

Takeaways and recommendations

Involving the next generation in policy decisions

  • Involve student researchers and postdocs in decision-making and institutional governance to ensure their needs and values are reflected in any decisions that are made.

  • How society conceptualizes science is changing. Future researchers understand this change and are often the ones leading it.

  • Next generation scientists need to have active and respected seats at the policymaking table.

  • Student researchers and postdocs bring unique perspectives that are relevant to their generation.

  • Next generation scientists are the leaders and decision makers of tomorrow.

Making science policy accessible to all students

  • Many students are not aware that science policy exists.

  • Academic institutions should be more involved in raising awareness, by creating programs/initiatives or better promoting ones that already exist.

  • Institutions that do have programs are not as well connected to each other as they used to be, and they need to be encouraged to re-forge those connections.

  • We need a broader definition of research excellence that includes supervisors exposing their graduate and post-doc students to career potentials other than academia.

  • Champions for policy learning and student integration into policy processes are essential.

  • Unfortunately science policy is still relatively elitist – there are only a few positions on boards, only a few fellowships, etc. and the space is not accessible for some underrepresented groups. This needs to change.

  • It is difficult for students to get involved in science policy as the opportunities are clustered around only a few academic institutions.

  • There is a need for a cross-Canadian network to support and offer resources to interested students outside these institutions.

  • Such initiatives can empower people to start their own organizations. Science & Policy Exchange is an excellent student-driven model for such organizations.

  • They are also important for sustainability – there is a high turnover in student populations so Canada needs a stable source of support for any existing programs.

A nation-wide portal/platform would boost the science policy ecosystem

  • Such a platform would allow students to exchange ideas and best practices.

  • It could serve to share relevant upcoming events and involvement opportunities.

  • Students facing institutional or structural barriers could go to the portal for advice and support.

  • It would help different groups connect, coordinate efforts and understand each other’s role. This connection could avoid repetition of efforts while allowing groups to access each other’s strengths and networks.

  • Dually acting as a network, such a platform could serve public, private and governmental organizations for more easily finding and involving next generation scientists in their governance and decision-making structures.

Giving students a voice in government

  • There are good examples of existing programs that bring the student voice to government, but there is a need for them to be advertised, celebrated and replicated widely.

  • Students benefit by broadening their horizons, learning about policy and getting practical experience, and the government profits from the influx of fresh ideas and the perspective of the next generation.

  • The growing network of departmental science advisors can help support more training around science policy, and advocate for more programs that give students exposure to policy experience.

  • The national Mitacs Canadian Science Policy Fellowship has been so successful that British Columbia recently implemented a similar program. Other provinces are looking at following suit.

  • Science Outside the Lab North (SOtLN) aims to provide immersion training to students related to issues that affect science, politics and society.

  • Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and other federal departments, use the Policy Analyst Recruitment and Development Program to recruit Master's and Ph.D. graduates to work on different files, with a commitment to hire them at the end if they are successful.

The example of the Comité intersectoriel étudiant

  • The Comité intersectoriel étudiant (CIÉ) of the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) advises Québec’s Chief Scientist and is mandated to identify strategies to promote access to funding for graduate studies, foster excellence of student research, and contribute to the local and international promotion of research stemming from Québec.

  • Some reasons why the model is successful:

    • Named by the Québec government, three members of the CIÉ sit as full directors on each of the provincial granting agencies board (i.e., 1 per board: health sciences, natural sciences & technology, and social sciences & humanities). This gives a strong voice and presence to students and postdocs within the granting agencies.

    • Since 2014, the CIÉ has worked to integrate student researchers within the FRQ’s governance structure, namely on program and ethics committees.

    • The CIÉ recently became a statutory committee and is now anchored into the FRQ’s governance structure (i.e., the CIÉ is no longer dependent on the acting Chief Scientist).

    • The committee is intersectional; it is the only statutory committee that spans across Québec’s three Research Funds.

    • The committee was given time and space, as well as support and resources, by the FRQ to mature and forge its own path within the granting agencies.