On October 1st, at the end of a three year mandate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the role of Canada’s Chief Science Advisor would be renewed. It was also announced that the current Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer would remain in the role to “…continue to promote science and its benefits for Canadians, and provide impartial scientific advice to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Cabinet.”
What does this mean for science advice?
This announcement signals that the government prioritizes the importance of science advice in federal decision-making. Dr. Nemer’s reinstatement will allow for continuation of the progress she and her office have made over the past three years, will help maintain momentum on key initiatives like open science, COVID-19, and scientific integrity and will help ensure government decisions are informed by the best available evidence.
While this is a critical step in the right direction, there is more work to be done to ensure Canada has a strong landscape of science advice moving forward. Dr. Mona Nemer has been re-appointed for a two year term, compared to the previous three year term and there has still been no indication that the federal government will enshrine the position in legislation. This means the office remains vulnerable to future cuts or changes in government.
Just today, the office of the CSA released their annual report looking back at the 2019-2020 year. In it they include a list of priorities for the year ahead, a number of which touch on our recommendations. In particular, we are happy to see continued focus on an evidence-based response to COVID-19, an ongoing commitment to the implementation of Scientific Integrity Policies and the Roadmap for Open Science, and expansion of the network of Departmental Science Advisors. These, along with a number of other planned initiatives, are critical steps towards strengthening the landscape of evidence-based decision-making in Canada. Our open letter provided additional key areas where the CSA could contribute to science and evidence-informed decision-making. We hope to see updates to the CSA mandate to reflect those outstanding recommendations.
Over 2000 members of our community signed the open letter and nearly 500 of you sent emails and tweets to key decision-makers calling for urgent action to safeguard science advice. Together we sent a strong message to the federal government that science advice must be prioritized moving forward and we are so glad to see this important step towards that goal. We are continuing to engage with key government stakeholders to push for our recommendations to be implemented and we look forward to seeing the next steps for the office of the CSA. Stay tuned!