The ISSP in 2022-2023: A Sneak Peak of our Research, Teaching and Outreach Programming

Institute for Science Society and Policy

By Monica Gattinger

Director, ISSP; Chair, Positive Energy, uOttawa

Monica Gattinger
Welcome to this first blog of the ISSP’s 2022-2023 academic year. In it, I give a preview of key research, teaching and outreach activities in the coming months. All of them speak to the ISSP’s five-year strategic vision: helping Canada transform decision-making to meet the grand challenges of our time by strengthening science-society-policy relations within and among the academic, public, private and civil society sectors.

The activities also all focus on the three thematic areas identified in our strategic planning process: public trust in expertise and expert-based decision-making, co-production of policies by public, private, civil society and Indigenous actors, and weaving together social and technological innovation. In addition, they feature cutting-edge knowledge mobilization practices and deep interdisciplinarity, both of which are hallmarks of the Institute’s approach to research, teaching and outreach.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

This month, we are delighted to publish our report on equity, diversity and inclusion in research, teaching and knowledge mobilization at the interface of science, society and policy. The fruits of a 2021-2022 workshop series project funded by the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation, the report identifies seven good practices on EDI at the SSP interface. The project team, advisors, partners and participants featured members from across campus and beyond, including the Canadian Science Policy Centre, the Institute on Governance, Science & Policy Exchange and the Ottawa Science Policy Network.

In connection with Institute efforts to strengthen EDI, we were pleased to help sponsor the play Truth Values. Brought to Ottawa by graduate students in science and engineering at the University of Ottawa, the play focuses on diversity and inclusion in STEM.

These activities will be followed in early November with a special panel for the Canadian Science Policy Conference on EDI and science policy organized in collaboration with the Institute on Governance and Science & Policy Exchange.

These efforts will contribute to the Institute’s development of a policy on EDI.

Innovative knowledge mobilization practices

Speaking of CSPC, this year we are excited to offer conference attendees the unique opportunity to attend The Anniversary, a play about artificial intelligence, robotics and human relationships. Written by ISSP Writer-in-Residence Jacob Berkowitz and produced by ISSP Faculty Affiliate Professor Kevin Orr (Theatre), the play queries the role of technology in our lives and what it means to be human. The play will be followed by an open discussion with the audience of CSPC attendees.

This fall also marks the launch of the inclusive innovation hub (i2hub) at the Inclusive Innovation Research and Engagement Cluster. Led by Core Member Professor Sandra Schillo the i2hub vision is to share understandings, to learn about successes and failures of inclusive innovation and to assist with the transition towards an innovation system that is more broadly and substantively inclusive of Canada’s diversity.

Co-production and interdisciplinary research that’s transforming decision-making

The ISSP has had great success with projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s prestigious Partnership Development Grant (PDG) program. PDGs support projects that bring together academic researchers with practitioner organizations to co-produce research and mobilize knowledge.

The first, Beyond Endless Frontiers: Rethinking the Social Contract for Science and Innovation, is just getting off the ground. Led by Professor Schillo in collaboration with ISSP Senior Fellow Jeff Kinder and Rhonda Moore (both from the Institute on Governance), the project aims to examine the postwar social contract that underpins Canada's scientific enterprise and explore the elements of a new policy framework. Project Coordinator Rhonda Moore will publish an ISSP blog about the project this fall.

The second has now come to successful fruition. @Risk: Strengthening Canada’s Ability to Manage Risk, aims to strengthen risk decision-making in the context of lower levels of public trust in public decision-making and greater democratization of risk processes. Led by ISSP Director Monica Gattinger, the research team features two dozen established and emerging scholars from a dozen institutions in Canada and the United States exploring cases in the energy, genomics and public health sectors. Research findings will be published in 2023 in an open access edited book with Palgrave MacMillan. Stay tuned for details about the book launch!   

Both of these projects engage members, students and senior fellows across multiple faculties – science, engineering, arts, social sciences – and work with public, private and civil society partners across Canada and beyond. Project partners include the CSPC, Ingenium, Genome Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Developing the next generation of science-society-policy leaders

The ISSP is committed to help equip emerging leaders with the skills, sensibilities and competencies needed to align science, society and policy on complex issues. In addition to our Collaborative Master’s program, we support national and local graduate student organizations Science & Policy Exchange and the Ottawa Science Policy Network, and we provide opportunities for their members to participate in our research, teaching and outreach as researchers, moderators, and advisors.

This year, our Annual Bromley Memorial Event and Lecture undertaken in partnership with The George Washington University, will take place in Washington DC. This event convenes graduate students from both universities to learn about science policy and Canada-US science relations, and to meet with science policy leaders and researchers in both countries.

Domestically and globally, the coming years will be marked by the need to successfully confront a growing number and range of grand challenges. Durable solutions to everything from climate change to global health pandemics to the governance of robotics and artificial intelligence require weaving together technological, social and policy innovations; fostering robust public trust in expertise and evidence used in decision-making; and authentic co-production of knowledge and policy among researchers, governments, business, Indigenous peoples and civil society.

The ISSP is uniquely positioned to identify how this can be done and, in so doing, to help Canada to secure its prosperity, environmental resilience, health and social equity at home and abroad. The research, teaching and outreach activities above are just a taste of how we’re advancing our vision this year. There are many more activities at the Institute and by our individual members advancing our collective efforts to transform decision-making.