I never really grasped the full impact of science during my PhD training. Granted, I was very much a basic scientist, and my program was heavily biomedical research-focused where, at least at the time, the only exposure to what you can do with science was either academia or the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. We all understand that the decisions made by various stakeholders in society should be based on data and evidence, but the general concept of how that happens seemed rather abstract. In trying to understand it that I stumbled on CSPC.
Actually, CSPC makes itself easy to find by being the first result on Google when you search “science policy in Canada”. This was an early clue to the extensive reach and impact of this organization. Over more than three years of volunteering with CSPC, I have learned a lot about the Canadian research and policy ecosystem, its many networks and players, and the importance of creating a forum to bring them together towards solutions.
My first conference was in 2018, when I was a very green, eager-eyed volunteer on the Grant Writing and Program Committees (both of which I later co-chaired). The sheer diversity of thought represented at the event, something I realized later as my involvement with the Program Committee grew, was very much by active effort and design. In coordinating the call for panels and panel review processes for the conference, I had the opportunity to see all the remarkable submissions and the extensive discussions to ensure that not only the whole conference, but each individual panel, reflected the Canadian landscape on a given issue. The result is the immense representation of different sectors and topics at the conference, and the ensuing impactful conversations were an incredibly helpful opportunity for an early-career individual like me to learn, interact, and network with current and upcoming leaders in the country.
Volunteering with CSPC has also allowed me to build various skills and competencies. The amount of coordination, management, and leadership that comes with co-chairing the Program Committee has been a valuable learning experience, and the unpredictability of conference planning has taught me to work effectively under pressure. Along with my time on the Grant Writing committee, CPSC has helped improve my communication and team-building skills. Mehrdad and the Office have always been immensely supportive, providing an open space for new ideas on how to continuously improve the event.
I would be remiss to not mention the exceptional team of volunteers. Unsurprisingly, CSPC attracts passionate and driven colleagues from all walks of life and career paths. I have learned so much from them and am always grateful for the time and mentorship they have given me.
The most disappointing thing about having to go online is not being able to hang out with these wonderful people every year. I look forward to when we can all grab a drink together in Ottawa and celebrate another successful conference.