Evidence for Democracy was asked by the Minister of Science, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, to provide feedback on the creation of a Chief Science Officer (CSO) for Canada. We consulted science policy experts, international best practices, and surveyed our approximately 15 000 supporters across Canada in order to guide our recommendations.
Canada's Chief Science Officer: E4D's recommendations
E4D proposes that the CSO have primarily an advisory mandate to provide the government with objective, impartial, apolitical scientific information. The CSO would also work towards improving mechanisms to support evidence-based decision-making throughout government, coordinating the science done within government and academia, increasing public understanding and confidence in science, as well as number of other functions and roles that we discuss in detail in our response letter. The CSO should be independent, transparent, and widely respected within the scientific community and across political lines.
Our key recommendations include:
- The CSO is a fully staffed office, rather than one individual. As the CSO will be responsible for addressing the full body of scientific and Indigenous knowledge, a skilled team will be required.
- The CSO must be committed to independence, transparency, and openness. Transparency and openness are essential for this office, whose work should be made readily available to the public in order to build public trust in in the scientific basis underpinning government decisions.
- That there is cross-partisan support for the office, to ensure its longevity beyond the current government. The position should be enshrined in legislation.
We also want to make it clear that there is also a strong need for a separate Parliamentary Science Officer, or similar office, to provide independent oversight to government science integrity, science policy and evidence-based decision-making. Advising and oversight are two very different (and important) roles, and they require separate offices to be done effectively.
In our letter, we propose a mandate, function, and series of responsibilities for the CSO. Click here to read the complete letter to Hon. Kirsty Duncan.