Later this year the fourth Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) will take place in Alberta, Calgary. I attended the first conference in 2009, when it was held in Toronto. I found it quite valuable, and not being Canadian, I think that says something. In the three years since the first conference, the number of presenters and panels has grown consistently, and I think the conference provides an important convening function for the nation’s researchers and practitioners interested in science policy.
I wish we had something like it in the United States. The closest think I can think of is the Forum on Science and Technology Policy put on by the organization formerly called the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For too long it has struck me as too focused on budget and what goes on in Washington to engage with science and technology policy issues in the way that the CSPC is trying to do. (Oddly enough, I think the policy-relevant tracks at the AAAS Annual Meetings are of more benefit to science policy than the policy forum.) I think some of this can be credited to the independent nature of the Canadian effort.
In particular, I think the U.S. efforts are pretty inadequate on points four and five of the CSPC objectives:
The conference objectives are:
- to provide an inclusive forum at the national level to identify, discuss and provide insights into the current Canadian science, technology and innovation policy issues;
- to forge stronger linkages and create networking opportunities among science policy stakeholders;
- to provide a venue for a new generation of scientists, entrepreneurs and policy makers to interact, innovate and shape the future of Canadian science policy landscape which is required for a knowledge-driven economy;
- to provide a supportive environment for innovative ideas and projects in science policy, and encourage further collaborations across sectors;
- to lay the foundation for a centre dedicated to science, technology and innovation policy.
I do not mean to suggest that the Canadian effort is perfect, just that it is trying and growing in what I think are valuable directions for a country that does not (or at least didn’t when the first conference happened) have a mature infrastructure for its science policy and science policy analysis. The U.S. system is pretty calcified, from where I sit, and the AAAS isn’t aware of the calcification, or doesn’t care to shake it up. That’s a drawback of having a mature infrastructure – it’s almost harder to replace it or make major changes than to build something new.
Those Americans seeking to disagree, please fill up the comments box.