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Measuring Environment Canada's Research and Development Performance (2014)

Principle: Transparency

Transparency - Conduct science in an open manner

Why we measure

The commitment to transparency in science fosters greater collaboration and engagement with the scientific community, the private sector, and the general public. As part of a broader Government of Canada-wide move towards Open Government, it is a priority at Environment Canada (EC) to conduct science in an open manner and facilitate access to our science, including research and development (R&D) publications and data. With EC and Industry Canada as co-leads, science-based departments and agencies have committed to developing a government-wide Open Science Implementation Plan.

The Open Science commitment includes the following streams of activity:

  • Open Access: Maximize open access to publications resulting from federally-funded science and technology (S&T) activities. 
  • Open Data: Maximize open access to data resulting from federally-funded S&T activities, such as data supporting publications and data derived from operational activities.
  • Public Engagement: Make information available on federally-funded S&T activities, and identify opportunities for collaboration and citizen participation.

How we measure

To measure the degree to which EC science is conducted in an open manner, the Department’s publications, and the journals in which they appear, were sorted according to their approach to achieving Open Access. Additionally, analyses were carried out on the availability of datasets through Open Data initiatives.

Results

Environment Canada contributes to the Open Access movement, with nearly half of its 2010-2012 scientific peer-reviewed publications available free and online.

In this report, the definition of an “Open Access” (OA) publication is limited to any scientific peer-reviewed publication with the full text available online and free of charge, for everyone to read. No copyright licence analysis was done to determine the extent of reuse allowed. Open Access makes methodologies and results more widely available, enabling a larger community to view the scientific research. This openness to critical discussion is central to the scientific process, and every effort to facilitate such discussion ultimately contributes to the increased quality of research.

According to a 2013 pilot study by the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST), about 42% of EC publications are OA. That sits in the middle of the range of the six most productive (in terms of number of publications) science-based departments and agencies.

For context, based on a study by Science-Metrix completed in 2013, about 43% of peer-reviewed papers published world-wide between 2008 and 2011 are OA. The study also notes that OA levels tend to differ by scientific field; OA papers are most common in general S&T (64%), biomedical research (61%) and biology (57%). In comparison, about 45% of papers in earth and environmental sciences worldwide are OA. So, overall, EC and other federal departments are in step with the international science community in terms of OA.

Figure 6: Proportion of Open Access federal publications, 2011-2012

Proportion of Open Access federal publications, 2011-2012 (See long description below)

Description of Figure 6

Proportion of Open Access federal publications, 2011-2012. Overall, EC and other federal departments (Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Research Council of Canada, Health Canada) are in step with the international science community in terms of OA (about half).

 

Source: Observatoire des sciences et des technologies, Web of Science (2013)

A follow-up OST study focused specifically on EC, examining all of the Department’s publications from 2010-2012. Through this more comprehensive assessment, it was determined that nearly half (49%) of EC’s publications from those years are OA.

The assessment also examined the journals in which EC work was published, cataloguing how those journals offered Open Access to the articles they published, and sorting journals into four categories:

  • GoldFootnote 1 journals make all their articles OA through their own repositories, either free of charge or through a publication fee paid by the authors, called an “article processing charge” (APC);
  • Green journals achieve OA by allowing authors to self-archive their articles, usually through a disciplinary, institutional or personal repository;
  • Hybrid journals give authors the option to either pay an APC in exchange for immediate OA to their article through journal repositories, or distribute the article for free through journal repositories after a predetermined embargo period;
  • Red journals offer none of the above.

As shown in figure 7, about 12% of EC’s publications are in Gold journals. Although 37% of EC’s publications are published in Green journals, only about half of those articles (18%) are available online free of charge through an external archive. Articles in Hybrid journals make up the largest portion of EC’s publications (49%) and about one third of EC papers published in that category (18%) are freely available (either because the author paid the fee, or because the embargo period had elapsed).

Data is not available for previous levels of Open Access as this was not included in the assessment of EC R&D conducted in 2009. In future reports, these findings can provide an important baseline against which to gauge ongoing efforts to promote transparency at EC.

Figure 7: Breakdown of EC publications by online availability and OA category, 2010-2012

Breakdown of EC publications by online availability and OA category, 2010-2012 (See long description below)

Description of Figure 7

As shown in figure 7, about 12% of EC’s publications are in Gold journals. Although 37% of EC’s publications are published in Green journals, only about half of those articles (18%) are available online free of charge through an external archive. Articles in Hybrid journals make up the largest portion of EC’s publications (49%) and about one third of EC papers published in that category (18%) are freely available (either because the author paid the fee, or because the embargo period had elapsed).

 

Source: Observatoire des sciences et des technologies, Web of Science (2013)

Environment Canada’s scientific datasets are increasingly being made available to employees and the public under Open Data initiatives.

With Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government 2014-16, the Government of Canada is shifting towards an environment where data and information are released openly to the public by default, while respecting privacy, security and confidentiality restrictions. The Government of Canada Open Data Portal was launched in 2011, and as of February 12, 2015, it provides online access to 244 EC datasets on topics such as greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, biodiversity, chemicals and pollution. Where possible, this content is provided in non-proprietary, machine-readable formats, to facilitate re-purposing the data for novel applications.

The Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal is a key example of Open Data.

The Government of Canada and the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency are collaborating to provide the public with data about the impacts of oil sands activity over an area covering some 140 000 km2, including maps of monitoring regions, details of monitoring sites and raw datasets, as well as scientific analysis and interpretation of that data. The portal was launched April 22, 2013. Its content is organized according to the themes of air, biodiversity and land disturbance, water, and wildlife.

In addition to making EC datasets available to the public through the Government of Canada’s Open Data Portal, EC employees have access to 611 datasets and 1343 monitoring sites through the EC Data Catalogue as of August 20, 2015. The EC Data Catalogue had 1979 unique visitors and 7456 total visitors from October 2014 to July 2015. Datasets can include numerous resources, such as methodological information and summary materials. While EC is moving towards a consolidated approach to Open Data, it is important to note that the EC Data Catalogue does not capture all data produced by the Department. For example, MSC produces extensive monitoring and model output data which is not included in the EC Data catalogue.

Transparency - Make science easily accessible

Why we measure

Increasing the availability of EC science, by providing free online access to publications is an important element of transparency; but availability alone does not guarantee that the science will be fully accessible to those who need to use it. For example, comprehension barriers sometimes stand in the way of non-specialists. EC scientists take a number of steps to overcome these kinds of obstacles, contributing to the transparency of Departmental science to users.

How we measure

The degree of accessibility of EC science was assessed based on the provision of plain-language summaries, scientific expert profiles, and traditional and social media activity.

Results

Environment Canada’s science is accessible to non-specialists through initiatives such as EC Science Alert, traditional and social media. 

  • Authors of technical articles write a plain-language summary and discussion of policy implications.

These materials are included with the record of publication in EC Science Alert’s science summary database, and thereby made accessible to policy- and decision-makers, analysts, and the rest of EC staff. In 2014, 724 publication records were added to the database, each of which included a plain-language summary.

This includes Environmental Science Experts, a collection of over 300 profiles of the Department’s scientists and technical experts (including contact information and a description of current research) which is available on EC’s website. It allows colleagues within government, academia, industry and the public to connect with experts in specific scientific fields. In 2014, Expert profiles received 62 086 views--about one third of total views in the S&T Branch section of EC’s website.

  • EC science is accessible to the public through traditional news and social media.

In 2014, EC received close to 5,800 requests for information from media. In response to these requests, more than 4,100 interviews were granted by subject matter experts. Of these, more than 3,800 were handled by Warning Preparedness Meteorologists, and 369 interviews were granted by other subject matter experts, including scientists, climatologists and ice forecasters.

EC engages the public via social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter. The Department also runs special activities for the public, such as lab tours and youth engagement. For example, in early 2015, a group of high school students and media toured the Atlantic Laboratory for Environmental Testing and met the facility’s leading researchers and technicians.

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