2012 has the potential to be an important year for Canadian science and innovation policy, one to be remembered for many years.

In the past three years Canada has accumulated a mass of raw materials, tools, plans, energy and resources in the area of science and innovation policy. This coming year is the time to start building on our innovative, green and organic structure; before Canada’s momentum is dissipated, we need to upgrade to Science Policy 2.0.

On the academic side there have already been promising actions. The universities of Ottawa and McGill have stepped in and built new capacity by establishing institutes in the areas of science and society and policy research. There has been action on the part of the Canadian government as well. The release of the Science Technology and Innovation Council’s (STIC) State of the Nations report in June 2011 and the report of the Research and Development Review Panel published in October 2011 provide new insights and shed light on a number of shortcomings. The latter report was a positive shift of gears and many in the community anticipate the implementation of its recommendations.

Canada will be the host of this year’s general meeting of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February in Vancouver. This will be an excellent opportunity for the research community to showcase Canadian advancements on an important international stage.

What does all this mean for Canada’s science and innovation community and how can it be leveraged for the building of a more dynamic, interconnected and efficient innovation system in Canada? Based on the common themes of the two STIC and R&D panel reports, and the take-away from Canadian Science Policy Conferences (CSPC) in the last three years, several ideas for our future direction are common: cross-sectoral linkages, networking, collaboration, dialogue on innovation, adoption of international good practices on innovation policies, systematic evaluation and assessment of our innovation system, engagement of younger generation, and better use of our education system.

Capitalizing on and utilizing this generated energy and existing momentum will be the collective responsibility of all sectors and individuals who must work together to shape this indispensable part of Canada’s future, that is to say, science and innovation.

The CSPC is the Canadian version of the AAAS and is based on the same diversity model and multidisciplinary concept. Since its establishment, the CSPC has energized and generated confidence in the science and innovation community. It has inspired and brought many fresh faces and has heard from a new generation of researchers and innovators who have had their say in the area of policy making in the science and innovation arena.

The community mobilized following the first conference in 2009. In Ottawa, during the third CSPC in November, the change in the level of energy and enthusiasm was tangible and backed by great anecdotes from diverse areas of academia, industry and government.

A proposal was tabled for the establishment of a permanent and dynamic hub that links the fragmented pieces of science and innovation policy across sectors, disciplines and regions to pave the way for a more dynamic, efficient and agile science and innovation community. A non-trivial task of this hub will be to establish a national dialogue, interlink sectors, generate new capacities, and galvinize the generated enthusiasm into collective action.

This permanent hub will set out to bring the younger generation on board and initiate, facilitate and support the integration of the best and the brightest to the science and innovation arenas. This ground is well prepared to flourish and expand, but for this to happen, collective ownership is needed. The year 2012 can and should be a turning point for science and innovation policy making. Let us all participate and make it happen.


Mehrdad Hariri is chair of the Canadian Science Policy Conference.