I am thrilled to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the new Research and Policy Director of Evidence for Democracy.
My First Week at Evidence for Democracy
I join the team with immense excitement, hope, and motivation. For many years, I have followed and admired the work of this formidable group. In 2012, as a grad student, I supported my Ontario colleagues as they took to the streets to protest the “death of evidence”. In 2014, I watched, as E4D advocated to bring back the long form census, and excitedly filled mine in when it arrived at my door the following year. In 2017 I marched alongside E4D on Parliament Hill at the March for Science, the same year the Federal government appointed a new Chief Science Advisor.
Now, it feels almost surreal to get to contribute to E4D in this new and exciting capacity.
This is my brain!
I’ve always been passionate about the role of evidence in policy making. As a student, I undertook a PhD in neuroscience out of a deep desire to make a difference for people with neurological diseases. I was incredibly proud to work developing new therapeutics for Huntington’s Disease, a crippling genetic neurodegenerative illness. At the time, I had considered that by developing new medicines in my laboratory, my work was done in contributing to treating disease. However, during my research, I learned that there is often a gap that exists between science in the lab, and getting those discoveries to the people that need them, through effective policies, products and decisions.
This challenge sparked a flame in me. As a scientist, I felt that I had a responsibility to make sure science is used responsibly and ethically, and that it effectively informs decisions. So I got involved, and I started seeking out opportunities to apply my research background into science, health and drug policy. At the University of British Columbia I worked with Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and the UBC Neglected Global Diseases Initiative, two amazing organizations who do great work to improve affordability and access to essential medications around the world, and increase critical research on neglected tropical diseases. In the midst of an opioid crisis in Canada, I worked closely with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, sitting as a member of the National working group on overdose, advocating for better harm reduction policies for substance users, and conducting research on perspectives and substance use patterns in young people. I felt empowered by my work in science and health policy, and the real, positive changes that can come from policies that are rooted in strong evidence.
It was at this point that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in science policy.
Presenting at the Canadian Science Policy Conference 2018
In 2016, this hope was realized when I was accepted to be part of the inaugural cohort of the Mitacs Canadian Science Policy Fellowship, a new program aiming to bolster evidence-informed decision-making by placing scientists
into policy jobs in the Federal government. My fellowship took me to Defence Research and Development Canada, where my job was to review emerging technologies for human enhancement, and help National Defence identify what ethical and policy barriers could arise if these technologies were used in a military setting. I was proud to work on such an important (and cool!) science policy challenge, and being a part of the fellowship gave me a unique opportunity to learn from Ottawa’s policy community, at a time when our government is mobilized around science and evidence. I liked the work so much, that I continued in government, working on interesting impactful policy files in National defence, interdepartmental science, and fundamental research funding.
I’m now very excited to take what I’ve learned in research, health policy, and government science policy, and bring them to the table at E4D. I’m eager to learn, to grow, and to contribute, and I feel like I’ve already hit the ground running! In the coming months, I’ll be working with the team on some important and interesting work, including a research project investigating the flow of evidence gathering in Parliament, and a report assessing the state of funding for climate science in Canada based on a survey of climate scientists. I’m also fortuitous to join the team at an important time - in an election year. Although we have seen some incredible successes for evidence and science in Canada in the past several years, maintaining momentum and advocating for these important goals is as important as ever.
I’m honoured to be joining this team, and I can’t wait for the challenges, opportunities and surprises ahead. I can’t wait to get to know our network better, and I look forward to working with all of you!