We’re not done yet: how individuals, institutions, and the ISSP can use ‘good practices’ to continue moving Canada’s science-society-policy community toward greater EDI

Institute for Science Society and Policy

By Marisa Beck

Research Director, ISSP & Positive Energy, uOttawa

Marisa Beck
In early 2022, the ISSP convened its network of scholars, students, and practitioners to discuss a topic that is top of mind for many working at the interface of science, society, and policy (SSP): equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

In recent years, universities, funding agencies, and governments across Canada have adopted objectives, policies, and actions to promote EDI in research, teaching, and knowledge mobilization (KMb) activities. Advancing EDI in Canada’s SSP community is an urgent imperative, but there are gaps between EDI ambitions and EDI know-how.

What can the ISSP offer to the EDI discourse?

Many scholars, students, and practitioners at the ISSP have longstanding experiences in inclusive research and engagement practices at the SSP interface. We designed a project to mobilize this expertise, identify lessons learned, disseminate findings back to the SSP community – and hopefully contribute to closing the EDI ambitions-implementation gaps.

In three virtual workshops in Spring 2022, ISSP network members engaged in conversations about their experiences with EDI in research, teaching and KMb activities at the SSP interface. Participants discussed what EDI means in their research, teaching and KMb activities at the SSP interface, what challenges they are encountering, and how these challenges can be addressed.

The discussion paper that emerged from this project was launched in September. It is structured around seven good practices on EDI at the SSP interface that emerged from the workshop discussions:

  1. Embrace EDI as a broad, multi-dimensional set of ideas that shapes all aspects of research, KMb, and teaching activities at the SSP interface.  
  2. Be intellectually humble.  
  3. Invest in relationships.
  4. Co-create evidence and foster collective learning about EDI at the SSP interface.
  5. Engage the next generation.  
  6. Take small steps to make big changes.  
  7. Advocate for EDI-centred incentive structures.

You can read more about each of these good practices in the paper. What is important here is that these practices touch on both ‘big picture’ ideas about researchers’ roles in knowledge creation and very concrete ideas about how to bring EDI into more focus in current practices. These practices address individuals’ behaviors, relationships with peers, partners, and communities, as well as EDI-centred institutional structures.

Why good practices?

This project intentionally does not identify best practices. Using this superlative could imply that our learning on EDI has been concluded, that we ‘figured out’ how to implement EDI in research, teaching, and KMb at the SSP interface. But workshop discussions showed that EDI is a complex and continuous process – messy at times, and often depending on context.

Conversations like the ones the ISSP convened during this project can be helpful and clarifying in this necessary but complex process. They can promote collective learning and encourage researchers, teachers, and practitioners to share their views and experiences. Over time, conversations and projects such as these will help move Canada’s SSP community toward greater equity, diversity, and inclusion by allowing us to learn from each other.

While the scale of the transformation to meaningfully incorporate EDI principles in Canada’s SSP community can seem daunting at times, workshop participants were confident that many small steps in the right direction will lead to more sustainable progress than rapid change. What is crucial is to continuously learn new ways of thinking and ‘un-learn’ others, and to remain open to being surprised by where EDI-centred practices may lead you.    

Where next?

At the ISSP, we know that our work on EDI has just begun. The Institute will continue this crucial conversation in multiple venues and with different communities in the coming months.

In addition to the ISSP’s Food for Thought panel that launched the discussion paper in September, the ISSP will continue to contribute to the public discussion about EDI in Canada’s SSP community.

On November 3rd, the Canadian Science Policy Conference will host Implementing equity, diversity, and inclusiveness (EDI) in Canadian science policy: What have we learnt so far? What is the path forward?, a virtual panel discussion organized by the ISSP in collaboration with project partners the Institute on Governance and Science & Policy Exchange.

In addition, the ISSP will advance its work on living EDI in its operations. EDI is a core plank in the Institute’s Strategic Plan 2021-2026 and we are keen to implement what we have learned from this project in our own activities. We look forward to continuing the engagement with our network on this next step – stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!