Tales From a CSPC Volunteer: My Journey Into Science Policy


Wendy Zhou

Canadian Science Policy Centre

Program Manager

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

While finishing up my PhD, I spent much of my time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. There are precious few obvious career options for graduate students not wanting to stay in academia.

The one thing I knew was that I didn’t want my life to be a waste of time. I wanted to work on something meaningful, to have an impact on society. This desire led me toward policy and eventually, science policy.

I knew very little about science policy and, in trying to learn more, I discovered the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC). I started out as a volunteer on the Awards Committee in early 2020, and even that limited role already opened my eyes to the deeper world of science policy and the many players in it. In particular, I greatly appreciated the collaborative ecosystem that CSPC nurtured. Part of CSPC’s mission is to build capacity; bringing together a diverse group of science policy enthusiasts and maintaining such a welcoming environment created optimal conditions for this mission.

My goal was to learn more about the science policy landscape and meet new people – and that’s exactly what I was able to do with CSPC. I took on the role of co-lead for the interview series, organizing volunteer interviews with science policy bigwigs throughout Canada. This experience was invaluable for meeting a broad range of individuals and finding out about their work and organizations.

While it was disappointing that the 2020 and 2021 conferences had to be held online, it is a testament to CSPC’s versatility that I still felt immersed in visiting every virtual booth and attending as many sessions as I could. Science diplomacy, science communication, EDI in science: there were so many facets to science policy beyond what I had imagined. The diversity of the panels is remarkable and the range and ability of expert speakers impressive. Upon later joining the Program Committee, I would realize the care and dedication that are taken to ensure this diverse representation through every lens, from gender to geography to subject to sector. I had never before seen such intentional effort put into this type of planning and it reaffirmed that CSPC truly led by example. More than just its panels, the first in-person conference I was able to attend in 2022 was an unprecedented chance for me to expand my science policy network.

My role with CSPC evolved eventually to joining the staff as a Program Manager, overseeing the Awards, Program, and Science Meets Parliament committees. Through this involvement, I have had the opportunity to work on amazing projects and programs and work with even more amazing people. The volunteers and staff members of CSPC are passionate and inspiring, and have given me mentorship, support, and, most importantly, great friendship.

CSPC has enabled me to meet so many wonderful people and partake in so many unique experiences. The subject matter brought me in, but the people are what keep me coming back.