Reflections from the 2024 Bromley Memorial Lecture: Spotlight on Science Diplomacy

Institute for Science, Society and Policy
Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts
School of Political Studies

By Yasmina El Harim

Research and Communications Intermediate Administrative Assistant, Institute for Science, Society & Policy

Yasmina El Harim
Dr. Rémi Quirion

Reflections from the longest-standing Chief Science Advisor — from Science Advice to Science Diplomacy

Dr. Rémi Quirion

In his presentation, Professor Rémi Quirion, Quebec's Chief Scientist, focused on his role in providing science advice to government based on his experience since 2011, when he was appointed to the position. Using concrete examples of science advice produced at the request of ministers, he distinguished between the political environment in which science advice to government takes place, and the academic environment specific to researchers.

The relationship of trust between the science advisor and the minister is crucial. Science advice is one of the elements, but not the only one, of a government decision: a decision may not go in the direction of the advice. Elected officials and high-level policy makers should be helped to acquire basic knowledge about the sciences and the scientific method. Science advisors of all types should help. However, in order to practice science advice, it is essential for scientists to have a good understanding of how governments work.

Science advice can be provided at various levels, from local (municipal) to global (international). Professor Quirion demonstrated how the function of science advisor to government can contribute to science diplomacy, a soft power in the foreign relations of a country or jurisdiction. The development of scientific agreements is one way of strengthening diplomacy between countries and jurisdictions: the resulting scientific collaborations can become a diplomatic link in a context of tension, as was the case during the Cold War between the USA and the USSR.

Professor Quirion also emphasized the fact that the development of scientific knowledge is the basis of science advice to governments, and of science diplomacy. With the rise of misinformation-disinformation trends, here and elsewhere in the world, scientific information that is taken into account in decision-making is under threat. As a result, our democracies and confidence in our institutions are challenged.

Capacity building is essential whether it applies to science advice or science diplomacy. From this point of view, the International Network for Governmental Science Advice, chaired by Professor Quirion, aims to strengthen individual and institutional capacities in science policy interfaces (with simulation workshops all over the world), generate and share practice-oriented knowledge, and convene and strengthen communities of practice in science advice and science diplomacy.

Finally, scientific expertise and government decision-making converge towards the same goal: the well-being of citizens. Scientists, science advisors, elected officials and high-level policy makers must take account citizens' opinions and ideas, and truly integrate them into a science-government-citizen dynamic -- ‘a golden triangle’.

Student Respondents

To foster an interest in science policy, a graduate student from each university is invited to respond to the Bromley Memorial lecture. 

Chantal Ripp, Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Arts, Digital Transformation and Innovation Program, uOttawa

I was honoured to have been selected as the graduate student respondent representing the University of Ottawa.  The experience itself was incredibly enriching and has sparked for me an interest to pursue future opportunities in science policy.

What stood out for me in Dr. Quirion’s lecture, and a topic close to my research interests, was the direction for theFonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) to foster a vision that follows an open science model. My doctoral research examines the implementation of open science practices in Canada by federal science-based departments and agencies.

In his lecture, Dr. Quirion noted how the COVID-19 pandemic was an accelerator for open science and science diplomacy. It was inspiring to observe how many governments, organizations, and research communities came together during the peak of the pandemic and agreed that collaborative efforts to provide immediate access to publications and to share data were necessary to remove obstacles to accelerate the critical need for research to combat the disease.  This is a vision that continues to be endorsed by funders and governments around the world today. In the Canadian context, we have seen recently the release of Canada’s Roadmap for Open Science, an announcement regarding changes to the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy, and under Dr. Quirion’s leadership, FRQ joining Plan S.

Establishing policies, however, is only a first step towards inciting behavioral change. Effective implementation of science policies requires leadership, coordination and monitoring of practices. As Dr. Quirion argued in his talk, data is required to understand the impact of various groups in achieving their objectives. It is my hope that my research into monitoring of open science practices in the Canadian federal context will contribute to this dialogue. I hope to participate in future Bromley lectures and to continue exchanging ideas with peers and science policy advisors.

Nathan Harsono, Master’s Student, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this year’s Bromley Memorial event, and to be hosted by our counterparts at uOttawa. I am honoured to have interacted with Quebec’s Chief Scientist Dr. Quirion, several of North America and Europe’s science diplomats, and the esteemed faculty and brilliant students of uOttawa.

Science is a vital foundation to society, and in today’s world, it would be foolish to think any one nation could meaningfully advance its science without international collaboration and engaging with the global scientific community. Science diplomacy is thus not just another foreign policy mechanism or opportunity for collaboration, but essential to expanding our scientific capacity. Capacity that creates innovation. Innovation that invigorates our economies and enriches our quality of life. All while contributing to a global body of knowledge that is humanity's shared legacy.

I highly appreciated Dr. Quirion’s insights on the challenges and ways we can build more effective science diplomacy. As someone who worked in tech before pursuing my current masters in international affairs, Dr. Quirion’s point about the gap between scientists and policymakers is particularly salient to me. Due to differences in training, motives, and other factors, effective science diplomacy is often stifled. Science diplomacy has also often not been a tool for building stronger foreign relations, but instead a lagging indicator of foreign relations.

As a future international affairs practitioner, particularly as one who is focused on science, technology, and innovation policy, the discussions I had at this year's Bromley Memorial have given me much to think about and carry forward into my future career. What does it look like to have diplomacy for science, science for diplomacy, and science in diplomacy? Should science diplomacy have greater agency in foreign relations? It will be interesting to see how we answer these questions in today’s context.

Events like these are the bricks that have built the close bond we share with our northern neighbors. I’m thankful to have been a part of it, and hope that future students of policy and science will continue to contribute to this bond.

2024 Bromley Memorial Discussion

Reflections from Student Participants from uOttawa

Below are selected reflections from student participants in this year’s Bromley Memorial Event from the University of Ottawa.

Thomas Bailey, Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Science, Department of Physics

I was honoured to be able to participate for a second time in the Bromley Memorial Event. Especially with this year’s focus on the growing field of science diplomacy, the event provided a great opportunity for me to learn an area of science policy I am unfamiliar with.

Two years ago, the Bromley event introduced me to the Council of Canadian Academies, and so it was great this time to delve into their recent report on international science partnerships. Hearing from the science attachés from various embassies in Ottawa further illuminated how governments worldwide are actively amplifying international science and innovation collaboration.

Dr. Rémi Quirion's keynote address added another element to the science diplomacy picture, how a growing network of science advisors is stepping up collaboration beyond traditional diplomatic channels. His remarks also highlighted the crucial role of sub-national policymaking, particularly relevant for Canada, a country that has historically struggled to establish a cohesive national science strategy. Quebec's success with their own strategy exemplifies the benefits of a well-defined approach and also the opportunity that other provinces could grasp.

Overall, this Bromley event was an enriching experience, strengthening my understanding of how international partnerships for science can be developed and maintained.

Sarita Cuadros Sanchez, Master’s Student, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

A common misconception is that science only focuses on research and laboratory practices. In reality, working in science is working in an interdisciplinary environment where people with various expertise come together to think about how to use our technology and discoveries best to help people and our environment. In a laboratory, we ask big questions and try to answer them with technical tools and skills. In a business, once a discovery has been made, we use it towards creating a product that would benefit people. In policy, we work towards regulation, funding, and collaboration of science not only within a country but around the world. Evidently, every part of this interdisciplinary environment is imperative so that the innovative and crucial role of science in our society always progresses.  

Throughout my years of working and studying science, I have had opportunities to receive training in the laboratory/technical and business aspects of science. Still, I haven’t had much opportunity to learn about science policy. That is why, when I received notice of acceptance to the Bromley Memorial Event 2024, I was so excited to be able to meet experts and learn from their experience and knowledge. Through the different seminars, I learned about science diplomacy, a tool that countries are starting to use to promote their discoveries, access people with talent, and improve collaborations. I got to understand how Canada’s science policy has progressed throughout the years.

Additionally, I was fortunate to attend the lecture from Dr. Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist for Quebec, whose role has been fundamental in showing the government the importance of science in our society. His lecture was phenomenal, and I have a few take-home messages that I will make sure to take with me throughout my career. First, he recognized the importance of research funding in training and supporting research. Then, he emphasized the importance of considering scientific expertise when making decisions as a government. He also emphasized the importance of engagement and dialogue among citizens to communicate better what science is doing and to fight disinformation.

After this event, a curiosity about science policy sparked in me. I will work on participating in more of these events to educate myself and get more experience on this topic. As a person born and raised in Peru and having worked and studied in Canada, I believe that science diplomacy can help establish more togetherness between nations and aid with helping people all around the world.

Stephen Holland, Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

I was honored to participate in the 2024 Bromley Memorial Event. It was my first year attending, and it proved to be an enriching experience, allowing me to connect and learn from various facets of scientific policy. We engaged in important discussions held during the two-day event, with members from the ISSP and George Washington University in attendance. We were pleased to hear updates on current projections in science policy and diplomacy from members of both institutes. Additionally, we were intrigued by talks from Dr. Geneviève Tanguay (Deputy Chief to the Science Advisor of Canada) and international science advisors from France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. Being located in Ottawa, having these important international leaders in science diplomacy opened my eyes to how international scientific advisors can shape essential collaborations with Canada, thus improving the landscape for advancement in science and technology.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Rémi Quirion, the Chief Scientist for Quebec, provided us with a fantastic overview of Quebec’s research funding platform and diplomacy with countries around the world. Dr. Quirion, Canada’s longest-standing chief science advisor, has been in his role since 2011. During his tenure, he has achieved outstanding results within Quebec’s government by providing input into aggressive yet inspiring research strategies to enhance funding for research and development and by engaging at an international level to collaborate with the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) and the Foreign Ministries Science & Technology Advice Network (FMSTAN). In addition, Dr. Quirion provided important insights into the role of science diplomacy in addressing the rise of misinformation and disinformation, as well as the challenge of restoring public confidence in research. It was intriguing to learn that Quebec, as part of the Canadian confederation, can play such a pivotal role in research funding, guiding scientific policy, and fostering innovation within Quebec, Canada, and among global partners.

As a PhD candidate focusing on basic research, but also exploring additional career paths beyond bench work, the 2024 Bromley Memorial Event provided me with a better understanding of the importance of science diplomacy in international collaborations. Many speakers, including Dr. Quirion and Dr. Tanguay, emphasized that these collaborations are essential for addressing the world’s greatest challenges, such as tackling climate change and advancing greener technologies. As the 2024 Bromley Memorial Event concludes, I am grateful that my application succeeded. It allowed me to connect with like-minded researchers from uOttawa and George Washington University, connections which I hope to build upon into the future. I look forward to participating in more discussions in the future. Thank you to the wonderful speakers, organizers and committee members for making this event possible.

Stephanie Musa, Master’s Student, Faculty of Medicine, School of Epidemiology and Public Health

The 2024 Bromley Memorial Event was a truly enlightening experience, offering a platform for engaging discussions and thought-provoking insights into the intersection of science, policy, and international collaboration. Dr. Rémi Quirion's remarks resonated deeply with me, particularly his emphasis on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in addressing global challenges. As someone coming from an epidemiology/public health background, Dr. Quirion's lecture opened my mind to understanding that there is indeed space for individuals like me in the realm of science policy. His acknowledgment of the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in tackling complex issues was both empowering and validating.

One of the key takeaways for me was witnessing firsthand the role that individuals with research backgrounds, such as myself, can play in shaping science policy. As Dr. Quirion emphasized the need for innovative solutions to pressing global challenges, I realized the potential for leveraging my expertise in epidemiology and public health to contribute to policy decisions aimed at improving public health outcomes and addressing health disparities.

In addition to Dr. Quirion's remarks, the diverse perspectives shared by my peers and the opportunity to exchange ideas with experts in the field left a lasting impression on me. The event not only broadened my understanding of science policy but also inspired me to explore this intersection further in my future plans and career aspirations. I am now keenly interested in pursuing opportunities where I can bridge the gap between scientific research and policy implementation, leveraging my expertise to advocate for evidence-based policies that promote public health and equitable access to healthcare.

Overall, the 2024 Bromley Memorial Lecture was a valuable experience that deepened my appreciation for the importance of collaboration and innovation in shaping the future of science and technology policy. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it and look forward to continuing the dialogue and exchange of ideas in the future. This event has reaffirmed my commitment to making a meaningful impact at the intersection of science and policy, and I am excited to see where this journey will take me.

Valeria Elaine Vasilyeva, Master’s Student, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology

I was very honoured and excited to participate in the 2024 Bromley Memorial Event hosted at the University of Ottawa. This was my first year attending the event, and I had the opportunity to network with our American colleagues and learn about science diplomacy and policymaking in Canada, the United States, and other countries. This experience is incredibly valuable for graduate students interested in science policy, development, and collaboration, as students meet and exchange ideas with senior science and technology policy advisors from various countries, sectors and levels of government.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Rémi Quirion, the inaugural Chief Scientist of Quebec, gave a fascinating lecture on science diplomacy fostering thought-provoking discussion among participants and the crowd. We learned the importance of science collaboration as a diplomatic tool and how it has been used throughout history. Additionally, we gained insights into how the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) supports this by facilitating dialogue with policymakers, elected officials, scientists and scientific advice organizations at different levels of government in Canada and the world. Lastly, Dr. Quirion discussed the great importance of working in close collaboration with citizens and taking their ideas into account to further scientific innovation. This part of the lecture greatly inspired me on a personal level as I have a great interest in community engagement and patient partner engagement in my research field of cancer immunology.

In addition, the opportunity to learn about the similarities and differences between Canada, the US, France, Germany, and Italy in scientific innovation, collaboration and diplomacy was incredibly educational and interesting through presentations led by Dr. Genevieve Tanguay, Dr. Derya Büyüktanir Karacan, Dr. Monica Gattinger, and science attachés from the US, France, Germany, and Italy. These discussions demonstrated the vital role international scientific collaboration plays in driving innovation and tackling current global issues.

Overall, the Bromley Memorial Event was an inspiring and incredibly valuable opportunity to learn about the operations and impact of science policy and diplomacy. This event provides graduate students the opportunity to exchange key knowledge and insights from different sectors and learn how to expand their research and visions in science policy. 

ISSP 2024 Bromley Group Photo
ISSP 2024 Bromley Audience