Canada's call

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, pp. 835
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1744

Next month, Canada will host the Group of 7 (G7) summit in picturesque Charlevoix, Québec. As leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States come together, along with European Union representatives, to discuss the progressive agenda, science will be on everyone's mind. With science and technology playing a prominent role in everyday life, access to science education and to science-based careers is ever more essential for inclusive growth and for women's empowerment.


“…scientists will be part of the solutions to global challenges…”

In addition to the contribution that science makes to economic prosperity, the public is demanding that it also be used to guide decision-making. Scientists and knowledge communities have risen to strengthen their case to policy-makers: Witness the global March for Science last month and the renewed interest in science advice for policy at national and international levels. Nowhere has this trend been more evident than in Canada, where the government has signaled its respect for science-informed policy. This was made clear in some remarkable developments over the past 10 months, including my appointment as the first government chief science adviser in over a decade and a historic science budget for 2018. The Canadian scientific community is generally upbeat and reenergized. Now is the time to ensure that the infrastructure and programs are in place to meet rising expectations and deliver on science promises and potential.

The G7 summit themes range from climate change and ocean sustainability to preparing for the jobs of the future while ensuring a peaceful and secure world. All of them require quality data, special infrastructure, and coherent multi-institutional and multinational approaches. Although these issues will occupy the work of Canada's minister of science and the Office of the Chief Science Advisor, they are not unique to Canada or to any other country. All the more reason, then, that the international science community should encourage sharing of best practices and the development of universally accepted principles for research governance. Using and benefiting from major science initiatives and facilities should not be confined within national borders. Increased international access to highly specialized facilities, such as telescopes, cyclotrons, and Arctic research stations, should be supported through proper resources and mobility programs. Such efforts will promote international collaboration and accelerate discovery and innovation. This can be a cornerstone for international relations.

Developing policies to meet national and international aspirations and commitments requires a well-organized science advice ecosystem inside and outside of government. This includes, in addition to national science advisers, a network of departmental and subnational science advisers, science academies, and scientific associations. Each plays a distinct and complementary role in gathering evidence, convening experts, and communicating with the public, decision-makers, and stakeholders. Strong national institutions are essential for supporting and sustaining a robust ecosystem of science advice and public engagement. With science and technology increasingly a part of daily life, the need for science advice will only intensify.

“Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity,” Pasteur told us. This is more relevant today than ever before. In the coming years, scientists will be part of the solutions to global challenges, and they will do this collaboratively. International gatherings, such as those of the G7, the G20, the United Nations, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government, could benefit from advance meetings of science advisers, both to help frame the issues and to signal how science might be harnessed to solve important problems. And Canada, as a member country and one that has made science and innovation a priority, is in a good position to convene and coordinate such efforts. I look forward to working with my colleagues to build on the momentum of next month's summit in Charlevoix.

View Abstract

Stay Connected to Science

Navigate This Article