15 Years of CSPC: An Odyssey of Impact and Achievements

Published On: November 2023Categories: 2023 CSPC Opening, 2023 Magazine, Canadian Science Policy Magazine


Mehrdad Hariri

Canadian Science Policy Centre

CEO & President

Disclaimer: The French version of this editorial has been auto-translated and has not been approved by the author.

This year marks 15 years since the CSPC was established as a national inclusive forum to discuss the most pressing issues of science, innovation, and policy. This is a moment to reflect on the CSPC’s legacy and its indelible mark on Canada’s scientific and policy landscape.

Making Science Policy Relevant to Mainstream

CSPC came onto the scene at the time when science policy was not on the radar of the mainstream. The topic was relatively unknown in Canada outside of the National Capital Region and, if it was, mainly limited to advocacy for funding for research which, interestingly enough, was not  a favourable subject to those in Ottawa. What an ideal disconnection. It is fair to say that it was mainly the CSPC, with its annual conference, that gradually brought cross-sectoral attention to science policy by deepening, diversifying, expanding and refreshing the discussions on the intersection of science and policy. It energized and excited the community by bringing many more topics to the conversation, such as mechanisms of evidence-informed decision-making, science advice, science communication, science and international affairs, talent development in science policy, and most importantly, the mechanisms of building systematic connections between science and policy. Over time, CSPC became the place to go in Canada  for meaningful conversation, networking, and learning across the trends in science and innovation policy. It was at CSPC 2019, just a few months before the global pandemic, that international science advisors gathered at a panel organized by  Canada’s Chief Science Advisor to discuss the role of science advice in pandemic and national emergencies.

Forming a National Network and A Community

Since its inception, CSPC has been recognized for its role in building bridges between science, innovation, and policy. It aimed to  serve as a national and inclusive HUB for anyone with a stake in science, technology, and innovation policy. Through the annual conference, a nexus, a community was formed. The fragmented pieces  became better connected, and the organizations and individuals from different sectors and regions found a home to share practices and plans, and exchange ideas.  After 15 years, CSPC has accomplished its goal, and is still expanding to ensure all voices, particularly those of equity-seeking groups, are brought to the national stage.

Empowering and Inspiring the Next Generation 

From the beginning, CSPC was a grassroots organization led by the younger generation of scientists and policymakers, who felt they could move and shake the landscape, and be a source of change. Early career researchers and trainees became increasingly interested in science policy, finding it relevant to their profession, and pursuing careers in science policy. CSPC has become Canada’s most prominent non-profit capacity builder in science policy,  having engaged more than 1500 volunteers over its 15 years. . The impact was not limited to CSPC itself:  a wave of smaller student-run organizations gradually developed across the country, starting with the Science Policy Exchange in Quebec and other student-led university networks of science policy nationwide.

Celebrating and Spotlighting Excellence in Science Policy 

For decades, many people in Canada have been working in science policy, having significantly contributed to research and practice in that areaCSPC, as a centre dedicated to science and innovation policy, recognized this, and began acknowledging and celebrating these achievements  with Youth Awards in Science Policy. Today, CSPC presents five science policy awards, with categories expanding year over year, recognizing the contributions of individuals at different stages of their life. .   The individuals whose stellar contributions could have gone unnoticed are not only being awarded and acknowledged,  but have become a source of inspiration for many others.

A Science Policy Accelerator

Despite limited resources, with ambitious goals and innovative ideas, CSPC has grown  beyond a national inclusive HUB. It has become an enabler with many exciting programs in place: the magazine, online editorials, events, and its signature program, Science Meets Parliament, which is now expanding to provinces. Now, CSPC is considered a science policy accelerator, a connecter, a convener, a capacity builder, a knowledge mobilizer, and a knowledge disseminator.

Looking to Future

The journey of the Canadian Science Policy Centre over the past 15 years has been nothing short of transformative. CSPC has not only profoundly impacted the science and innovation policy ecosystem in Canada, but as the landscape continues to evolve and society grapples with new challenges, the role of the CSPC will only become more paramount. As we embark on the development of our third strategic plan, as always, with ambitious goals on the horizon. Even  more than ever, we are looking to the STI policy community  to provide us with ideas on how CSPC can continue to broaden its impact in Canada.