I’m at least a year late to this party, but that may be a function of how little I know about the Canadian legislative process. A recent release from Dr. Kennedy Stewart (H/T FrogHeart Daily), an MP in Canada’s Parliament, and the designated Opposition Critic of the New Democratic Party for Science and Technology, noted scientist support for his bill C-558. The bill, introduced in December of last year, would establish a Parliamentary Science Officer. As outlined in the bill, the position would be an independent officer of Parliament, meaning the person would be appointed with the approval of Parliament, and serve a term of seven years. The position would appear to be on par with the Information Commissioner of Canada and other appointed positions. (MP Stewart has referred to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, likely because that position is more advisory than the Information Commissioner.)
Per the legislation, the Science Officer would be responsible for the following:
- Providing sound information and independent analysis to the Senate and House of Commons concerning:
- Federal science and technology policy
- Scientific integrity in Federal science and technology departments
- The current scientific evidence, including uncertainties, on subjects under the jurisdiction of Parliament.
- At the request of relevant Parliamentary committees, undertake research into federal science and technology policy and/or scientific integrity.
- At the request of any Parliamentary committee or individual MP, assess the state of scientific and technical evidence relevant to any matter under which Parliament has jurisdiction
- Communicate its research, reports and analyses to Parliament and the public in a clear and accessible manner
I’m never quite comfortable in handicapping American legislation, so I will avoid doing so here. As the current Canadian government ended up discontinuing the National Science Adviser position, it may not be sympathetic to this bill. That the position would be advising Parliament (rather than the government) may dent that kind of opposition.
I like the position as described in Stewart’s bill. It does not reflect the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy as much as the long-dead (but frequently copied) U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), but with a bit more independence (The OTA was governed by a Congressional board, and the Parliamentary Science Officer could initiate research on its own). I hope the bill gets passed, or at least prompts discussion in other places about doing something similar.