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My time at E4D — a snapshot

It’s bittersweet to announce that my time as the Director of Research and Policy at Evidence for Democracy comes to a close today.
Farah Qaiser

After almost two years, it is with both sadness and gratitude that I announce that I am leaving Evidence for Democracy. I’ve truly had the time of my life as the Director of Research and Policy, and it’s so hard to leave an organization that I love. And so, I’m taking today to reflect on my time with E4D, and all that I’ve been able to do at the organization.

Where do I even begin?

I’ve followed E4D’s work for a long time. Previously, I helped with communications during the 2018 March for Science – Toronto, wrote an E4D blog post about how Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons are a form of science advocacy, and while serving as 2019-20 Toronto Science Policy Network President, I co-organized the #VoteScience campaign to advocate for science in the 2019 federal elections.

After wrapping up my Master’s in genomics research, I joined E4D’s staff as a researcher in December 2020. As I wrote in my introductory blog post, despite the unprecedented times, I couldn’t believe I was now working at my dream organization!

My first project was to develop a toolkit on how to prepare plain language summaries, as a part of a collaboration with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. Soon, I found myself working on a myriad of issues, from exploring federal scientific integrity, to assessing science-related commitments in the 2021 federal election.

In October 2021, I became E4D’s new Director of Research and Policy. I was simultaneously excited and a little nervous, especially as I was filling in the huge footsteps left behind by the last Director, Dr. Kimberly Girling. All I wanted to do was make a difference in Canada’s science, and science policy, landscape.

As Director, I was primarily focused on our Eyes On Evidence series, which is our multi-year long project to assess the transparency of evidence usage in policy-making across the Canadian federation.

I built on our initial work and focused first on assessing 100 policies from the Government of Canada. In January 2022, I excitedly shared our Eyes On Evidence II report with all of you, where our research showed that federal policies scored poorly when it came to transparency. Since then, I’ve continued to advance our Eyes on Evidence series, in conjunction with additional researchers, including Dr. Caitlin Fowler and Veronika Achor. We’ve been working away on Eyes On Evidence III, our provincial transparency assessment, and meeting with public servants to better understand barriers to transparency in policy-making. Keep an eye out for our findings this fall!

But that’s not all I’ve been working on.

Throughout my time at the organization, I’ve been working across all of E4D’s arms — from research, education to issue campaigns. This has included reviewing the status of the 35 recommendations in the 2017 Fundamental Science Review, tracking the activities of (and even testifying at!) the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Research, identifying candidates with a science background in the Ontario election, and advancing the Support Our Science campaign. I’ve penned several op-eds for outlets I never thought I would (from the Globe And Mail to The Hill Times), and spoken to several stakeholders through media interviews, workshops, panel discussions and more. In particular, I’m especially proud of my role in making the Science To Policy Accelerator (S2PA) training program a reality, where we equipped 25 early-career researchers across Canada with the skills to contribute to public policy.

To be clear, all of the work that I have done at E4D would not be possible without Rachael Maxwell’s leadership and unwavering trust, as well as critical insights and support from E4D’s incredible Board and staff (especially Nada Salem’s sharp eyes, and Sri Alageswaran’s calm). And of course, this has always been complemented by the generosity of our supporters and partners, the commitment of our volunteers, and insights from our broader community. I can’t put into words just how much this all has meant to me, so I will simply say: from the bottom of my heart, thank you all for your support.

I’m leaving E4D at a time when there is a lot of hope, and a lot of concern. As we wrote in The Hill Times last week, much has changed since the Death of Evidence ten years ago. Yes, there has been renewed attention to the role of science in government, from the reinstatement of a Chief Science Advisor, to the establishment of scientific integrity policies. But Canada continues to be plagued by persistent challenges when it comes to supporting science. We must continue to demand better.

I have hope though. Amid these challenges, I am inspired by all of you, from the 150 scientists who marched on Parliament Hill last week, to the S2PA alumni who are already sharing their insights to shape the future of science policy in Canada. Our actions, as a community, and willpower from decision-makers across sectors, will spur change.

Finally, you may be wondering: what’s next for me? Well, I’m about to start a wildly different adventure (hint: it involves a return back to school, but not for the reason you may think!). For now, what I’m most excited about is taking a much-needed break, and enjoying the last few days of this summer.

What you can always count on is that I will always be a life-long supporter of Evidence for Democracy — specifically, the staff who make the magic happen, and all of you, who have supported the organization in its first decade, and the decade to come.

 

 

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