A Preview of the ISSP’s Research, Teaching and Outreach in 2023-2024

Institute for Science Society and Policy
Research centres and institutes
Research and innovation
Faculty of Social Sciences

By Monica Gattinger

Director, ISSP; Chair, Positive Energy, uOttawa

Monica Gattinger
Students walking North on the uOttawa campus with the FSS building in the background.
Welcome to the first blog of the ISSP’s 2023-2024 academic year. In it, I give a preview of our main research, teaching and outreach activities in the coming months. All of our activities aim to advance 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.

Our activities focus on the three thematic areas identified as priority topics in our strategic planning process with members: 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. Initiatives feature leading-edge knowledge mobilization approaches and deep interdisciplinarity, hallmarks of the Institute’s approach to research, teaching and outreach.


Introducing ‘Confluences,’ a new strategic knowledge mobilization initiative

The grand challenges facing society – from climate change to global pandemics, inequality and beyond – require solutions at the intersection of science, society and policy. Cutting edge research is being done in this space at the ISSP, but there is untapped opportunity to co-produce and mobilize this knowledge with decision-makers. Confluences takes a strategic, innovative approach to knowledge mobilization, combining the co-creation of an annual knowledge mobilization series with an edited book on science, society and policy. Led by ISSP Executive-in-Residence Jeff Kinder, supported by a multisectoral and interdisciplinary Advisory Group, Confluences aims to: convene established and emerging scholars and practitioners at the SSP interfaces to mobilize research and practical knowledge, build new relationships, understanding and insight; support strategic and “pracademic” knowledge mobilization and impact throughout the year to impact policies, programs, and practices; publish a book that is accessible, understandable and actionable for practitioners; and provide high value training and networking opportunities for students and early career researchers. The Institute’s September Food for Thought event will showcase Confluences, sharing progress to date and next steps on the project.


Institute-led research projects to co-produce knowledge and transform decision-making across a broad range of sectors

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.

Beyond Endless Frontiers: Rethinking the Social Contract for Science and Innovationexamines the postwar social contract that underpins Canada's scientific enterprise and explores the elements of a new policy framework. In this period of significant social, economic and environmental stresses, the need for science and innovation to be central to society's response is growing. It is imperative that Canada rethink (and perhaps replace) the postwar social contract and develop a renewed and strengthened relationship appropriate to the challenges and opportunities of this era. The research program integrates six themes that have emerged through precursor research on deficiencies with the postwar contract: inclusive innovation; interdisciplinary, Indigenous, and other ways of knowing; mission-directed research; science communications, outreach, and public engagement; skills and knowledge; and trust, integrity, and science ethics. The project is led by ISSP Core Member and Inclusive Innovation Cluster Lead Professor Sandra Schillo, in collaboration with ISSP Executive-in-Residence Dr. Jeff Kinder and science policy leader Rhonda Moore of the Institute on Governance. Stay tuned for activities and outputs from the project, including a special feature in the Institute’s Food For Thought Speakers Series in the winter term.

@Risk: Strengthening Canada’s Ability to Manage Risk, aims to advance scholarly and empirical understandings of public participation in risk decision-making, of ways to conceptualize and address differences in public and expert perceptions of risk, and means to foster public trust in risk governance. Effective risk governance requires successfully confronting differences in expert and public perceptions of risk, effectively engaging the public, and fostering public trust in decisions. The study examines cases of how – and how not – to do this in the energy, genomics and public health sectors, with a focus on identifying concrete tools, techniques and approaches to strengthen risk governance. Research findings have recently been published in the open access edited volume, Democratizing Risk Governance: Bridging Science, Expertise, Deliberation and Public Values  (Palgrave MacMillan). Led by ISSP Director Professor Monica Gattinger, the research team included two dozen established and emerging scholars from a dozen institutions in Canada and the United States. The Institute is organizing a variety of public events to discuss the research and how it can be applied by organizations in the ‘real worlds’ of risk governance.

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 Belmont Forum, the Business and Higher Education Roundtable, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CSPC, Genome Canada, Ingenium, and Optonique.


Developing the next generation of science-society-policy leaders

The ISSP helps equip emerging leaders with the skills, sensibilities and competencies 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 offer opportunities for their members to participate in our research, teaching and outreach as researchers, moderators, and advisors.

This year, we are very excited that our Annual Bromley Memorial Event and Lecture  undertaken in partnership with The George Washington University, will take place in Ottawa. This spring 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. The centrepiece of the event is the prestigious Bromley Memorial Lecture, delivered each year by a science policy leader. Stay tuned for the announcement of this year’s speaker and your invitation to the Lecture.


A new Speakers Series

The Inclusive Innovation Research and Engagement Cluster is launching an Inclusive Innovation Speakers Seriesoffering presentations and discussions that view inclusive innovation through multiple lenses, from the current and future effects of science and technology on society, through organizational practices and policy needed to improve inclusion and accessibility. This series is intended for all audiences from policy-makers, practitioners, community members, to academic researchers.

The inaugural speaker is Dr. David Wolfe, Co-Director, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. Professor Wolfe will present on “The Perils and Pitfalls of Integrated Mobility”.  Learn more about the event.

A new approach to monthly communications with our network

In an effort to make our monthly communications more clear and easily digestible, we are moving from a once-a-month newsletter to two monthly emails - a Monthly Feature and Network News.

Our Monthly Feature will gather the latest research, teaching and outreach activities by the ISSP. Each month, we'll identify a different theme, topic or initiative within the science-society-policy space and explore it through blogs, events and other activities organized with our members and partners, with the objective of supporting and establishing links to the ISSP's strategic vision and exploring varying perspectives within our network. 

While the Monthly Feature focuses on a specific theme, topic or initiative, our power lies within our network. That's why we have created a dedicated Network News email that will gather recent and upcoming research activities shared with us by our network members.

Click here to sign up and receive our emails.


Canada must successfully confront a growing number and range of grand challenges

One need look no further than the devastating forest fires and flooding this past year for a heart-wrenching example. And the fall is likely to bring yet another wave of COVID-19. Durable solutions to climate change, global health pandemics and other complex challenges require that we align science, society and policy imperatives. This means weaving together technological, social and policy innovations; fostering robust public trust in expertise and evidence used in decision-making; and convening researchers, governments, business, Indigenous peoples and civil society to co-produce knowledge and policy.

The ISSP is uniquely positioned to help identify how this can be done and, in so doing, help Canada secure prosperity, environmental resilience, health and social equity at home and abroad. This blog outlining our research, teaching and outreach activities is a preview of how we’re advancing our vision this year. We look forward to working with our network to advance our collective efforts to transform decision-making.