Insights gained at the 2023 Bromley Memorial Lecture

Institute for Science Society and Policy

By Geneviève Dunn

Communications & Outreach Specialist, Institute for Science, Society & Policy

Genevieve Dunn
Group of uOttawa students and ISSP staff at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC.

Every year, the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society & Policy (ISSP) partners with George Washington University’s Institute for International Science and Technology Policy (IISTP) to organize the Bromley Memorial Event.

This event, held in honour of the late Dr. D. Allan Bromley, offers an opportunity to graduate students from both universities to meet and exchange ideas with senior science and technology policy advisors from various countries, sectors and levels of government.

Each year, the program includes context-setting discussions organized by ISSP & IISTP leaders, engagement opportunities with experts and practitioners, and a public keynote lecture by senior Canada-US science policy leaders.

Below is a collection of testimonials written by the 5 students who attended the 2023 Bromley Memorial Event in Washington, DC. They share the key knowledge and insights learned from the experience, how it has impacted or expanded their research, and their plans, hopes and visions for their future careers in science policy.

Rafael Aguirre, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Political Studies

I applied to the Bromley Memorial Event expecting to get a lively -even if fleeting- impression of the city and the people in DC, the pre-eminent decision-making center of the world.  

My background is not exactly related to science policy or to the sciences. I completed a Ph.D. in Natural Gas Policy, and I only started to pivot my attention toward advanced energy technology very recently. My research today concerns the feasibility of industrial policies delivering robust and low-carbon-emitting energy systems. For the US, this goal entwines with those of preserving a technological edge and translating it to preserving geopolitical leadership. For every step I take in my research, I ask myself or others: How much danger is in waiting? How much in hasting? How to appreciate the specific advantages of liberal democracies, like Canada and the US, facing these challenges? 

I was very happy that my application succeeded. I packed a handful of preconceptions and conjectures -concealed in a notebook, as we scholars usually do- and I readied myself to listen. 

I knew that the event would not directly address these questions from the start, but the presentations and discussions inevitably gravitated toward political and institutional dilemmas. To name two: will the rule of law sustain further scientific cooperation (space policy)? Are Congressional politics and political polarization a risk against science policy? 

The streets of DC look very quiet, but the place is teeming with anxiety -and with industrious, necessary, bureaucratic, and diplomatic process. We got a window to witness and start conversations.  

I came back to Canada with only more questions -or more versions of the same questions- and with one reassurance on the general direction that I am taking on my research.  What matters more, those questions and those validations have names attached to them now. 

My work will have to see its way back to the generous scholars that shared their insight with me and with the group. Promise made.  

Fatou Bah, Faculty of Arts, School of Information Studies

Attending the Bromley Memorial Event with students from George Washington University was an incredibly enriching experience. We got the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with science and technology policy advisors from NASA, AAAS, and the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C.

The keynote by Dr. Bhavya Lal, Associate Administrator for Technology, Policy and Strategy at NASA was a fascinating insight into NASA’s Artemis campaign. I gained knowledge of the policy implications for large projects requiring collaboration from several countries such as the International Space Station, or collaboration with private industry such as the creation of human landing systems. I look forward to learning more about the research being done on human space travel, and how it may intersect with my own research interests.

Our visit to the Canadian Embassy was the most impactful part of the trip. We got the chance to visit the beautiful embassy building, which was filled with art from various Canadian artists, showcasing the diversity in our country and highlighting Indigenous art and artists. Through our meeting with senior embassy officials, I learned about the field of science diplomacy which combines both my interests in science policy and diplomacy. I see myself pursuing a career in science diplomacy, more specifically in open science policy to provide equitable access to science to all.

I hope to participate in future Bromley lectures and to continue exchanging ideas with like-minded students and science policy advisors.

Sarah Laframboise, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Biology & Immunology

I was very excited and honoured to participate in this year’s Bromley Memorial Event. This was my second year attending the event, and it was a truly enriching experience for me as we were able to travel to Washington, DC to attend. Not only did this event provide the opportunity to engage with our American colleges but we were also able to discuss really important issues on Canada and US relationships, which is crucial in today's globalized world.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Bhavya Lal, from NASA gave an incredible talk on space policy, which led to fascinating discussions amongst the crowd. It was inspiring to learn about the latest developments in space exploration and how it relates to diplomacy amongst countries as well. Being able to visit the Canadian Embassy and AAAS was also unique opportunity to explore but also to learn more about science diplomacy and policy in the US.

In its entirety, the event expanded my understanding of the importance of international collaborations and the role they play in shaping the future of science and technology. I also learned how these collaborations can be used to drive innovation and solve global problems.

Overall, the Bromley Memorial Event was a fantastic experience, and I left feeling inspired and motivated to contribute to the advancement of science and technology. I believe events like this are crucial for building bridges and fostering collaborations, and I look forward to participating in more discussions in the future!

Nathaniel Noblett, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

I was privileged this year to both attend the Bromley Memorial Event at George Washington University in addition to serving on the organising committee during its planning.

Being part of the planning process was an excellent opportunity to see how the two universities put together high-quality science policy programming, also affording me the opportunity promote the availability of applications within the University of Ottawa graduate population.

The program itself was very informative as a neuroscientist interested in science policy. While the uOttawa and GWU teams discussed the various challenges facing bilateral cooperation, Dr. Lal’s keynote address showcased the success that NASA has had with in overcoming them by engaging stakeholders across sectors and attracting international cooperation through their Artemis Accords, which rely on shared principles between countries. These types of strategies are likely to play an important role as the health science community similarly addresses complex neuroscience questions related to characterising complexity in the brain and improving treatment outcomes for neurodegenerative diseases.

As a student interested in policies that promote capacity building among research trainees, the opportunity to hear from members at the Canadian Embassy on how the government supports research abroad was informative. The discussion highlighted how trainees can explore diverse paths to support science policy through Global Affairs Canada and how current work by the department staff were advancing the research ecosystem.

Overall, the experience has given me a lot to think about and no doubt will continue to be of interest to students within the science policy field for years to come.

Matthew Watson, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology

Recently, I had the opportunity to join a team of graduate students interested in science and policy on a trip to Washington DC where we attended this year’s Bromley Memorial Lecture.

What added to the excitement of this year’s event was the fact that President Biden would be visiting Ottawa the day after the event concluded. This upcoming Presidential visit really underscored the history and value of collaboration between Canada and the United States.

The keynote lecture this year was given by Dr. Bhavya Lal, the Associate Administrator for Technology, Policy and Strategy for NASA. Dr. Lal discussed the directions and goals of the international Artemis program, which launched its first mission in November 2022. Dr. Lal touched on many important issues and drove a discussion on how we as an international community are going to ensure the safety and longevity of these operations.

Policy was really the focus on how operational guidance will be established for future space missions. Similarly, policy agreements and action are what we currently require to address other challenges like climate change. Having the opportunity to respond to Dr. Lal’s keynote I wanted to highlight these similarities and touch on how international collaboration and new technologies developed for space exploration can aid in addressing climate change. The discussions that followed really highlighted the expertise and knowledge present at this year’s Bromley Memorial Lecture.

Attending this event was informative and inspired an optimism for the future direction of international cooperation and exploration. Getting to talk with many experts in the field of space exploration and policy, as well as upcoming students who will further drive these values really was the highlight of this event, and one I hope to experience again.