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Environment Canada's Science Plan

Executive Summary

Purpose of the Science Plan

Environmental science has a strong role to play in helping society attain and enhance environmental quality, human health and safety, and economic prosperity. This Science Plan sets out a vision for managing and conducting Environment Canada's science over the next 10 years.

The Plan will:

  • Ensure that Environment Canada's science activities continue to contribute to government and departmental priorities;
  • This Science Plan sets out a vision for managing and conducting Environment Canada's science over the next 10 years.
  • Create opportunities for greater integration of science within Environment Canada and improved collaboration with science partners outside the Department;
  • Promote the highest standard of scientific excellence to help the Department deliver on its program, policy and service responsibilities;
  • Ensure that the Department uses its science resources - people, infrastructure and funds - effectively; and
  • Help the Department's corporate-wide functions (such as human resources and finance) better support science.

The Mission

The Science Plan sets out the following mission for Environment Canada's science:

To deliver the high-quality knowledge, information and data that enable the Minister, the Government, the Department and other decision makers to enhance the health and safety of Canadians, protect the quality of the natural environment, and advance Canada's long-term competitiveness.

Challenges and Opportunities for Environment Canada's Science

What environmental science will be needed over the coming years -- what are the challenges where we will need to apply our scientific resources and experience, facilitate the development of new science and influence others?

In the area of environmental sustainability, major challenges for environmental science include: strengthened predictive models, conserving natural capital, cumulative risks, and resilience of ecosystems and the water supply.

In the area of weather and environmental services, major challenges include: environmental prediction capability; cumulative impacts, risks and vulnerabilities; and adaptation and resilience.

Finally, in the area of environmental protection, major challenges for environmental science include: improved predictive models, cumulative risks, integrated risk management tools, and emission reduction tools and mitigation science.

Strategic Directions for Environment Canada's Science

The Science Plan outlines three long-term directions to guide the Department and its science partners as we work together towards the vision of environmental sustainability as a means of improving human and environmental health and promoting long-term competitiveness.

1. Developing an Integrated Environmental Monitoring and Prediction Capability

Better understand the changing state of the environment through the development and use of a multidisciplinary environmental monitoring and prediction capability.

Environment Canada's science should focus on:

  • Moving to more comprehensive and integrated environmental prediction models and environmental monitoring systems;
  • Moving to finer time and spatial scales for predictions and analyses of environmental systems; and
  • Expanding lists of environmental parameters to be measured on finer time and spatial scales.

2. Understanding Cumulative Risks

Develop and implement strategies and tools to anticipate, understand, characterize and communicate:

  • the cumulative impacts on, and risks to, human and ecosystem health and security from multiple stressors interacting over time; and
  • the risks to, and opportunities for, Canada's long-term competitiveness resulting from a changing environment.

Environment Canada's science should focus on:

    Canada's delicate Northern ecosystems are particularly sensitive to environmental stressors. Photo: B. Saunders
    Canada's delicate Northern ecosystems are particularly sensitive to environmental stressors. Photo: B. Saunders
  • Understanding past and present trends, future projections and scenarios for environmental change, and the sensitivities of various ecosystems, societal needs and economic sectors to those changes;
  • Developing tools to increase our ability to assess the cumulative risks and opportunities arising from existing environmental stressors;
  • Developing a capacity to systematically identify and characterize the impact of individual and cumulative threats to human and ecosystem health and long-term competitiveness -- before they occur; and
  • Strengthening our capacity to communicate the results of our science to various user groups, including policy analysts, and to transfer science, technology and information to providers of essential services.

3. Managing Risks, Optimizing Opportunities and Building Resilience

Help clients reduce risks and take advantage of opportunities arising from the changing environment, while building greater resilience in Canada's environment, communities and key economic sectors.

Environment Canada's science should focus on:

  • Developing knowledge-based approaches and systems to assess priorities for action and recommend interventions and risk management strategies;
  • Understanding the costs and benefits of the various risks, and assessing the opportunities and barriers to implementing risk management strategies;
  • Increasing the capacity to apply real-time weather and environmental predictions to meet the short- and long-term needs of Canadians;
  • Developing the full-spectrum approach of adaptation science at local, national and international scales; and
  • Fostering science and technology (S&T) to support innovation on remedial actions that will reduce risks and build resiliency.

Implementing the Plan and Measuring Our Progress

Leadership and Governance

Using the Science Plan as a tool for engagement, the Department will mobilize the national and international science needed to provide solutions to important Canadian environmental issues.

Effective leadership is essential to realizing the mission for Environment Canada's science. Using the Science Plan as a tool for engagement, the Department will mobilize the national and international science needed to provide solutions to important Canadian environmental issues.

Management Support

Environment Canada will provide strong and effective management support for environmental science in several key areas:

  • To ensure the Department can continue to attract and retain excellent scientific professionals and support staff, Environment Canada will develop an S&T human resources plan, and will take steps to develop its cadre of potential science managers.
  • Recognizing the increasing importance of all types of collaboration to sound science, the S&T Branch will lead in streamlining the Department's collaboration policies to encourage S&T partnering.
  • The S&T Branch will develop a stronger relationship with the Department's real property, information technology and capital allocation enabling groups to address the unique infrastructure needs of environmental science.
  • Recognizing that transmitting new scientific knowledge to decision makers is a key role of government science, the S&T Branch will promote more effective communication between scientists and decision makers. The Branch will also standardize and streamline the process within the Department to support scientists as they proceed through the peer-review process into print.
  • The S&T Branch, in partnership with relevant departmental groups, will contribute to improved access to, and management of, scientific information, including data management.

Strengthening the Plan

The Science Plan will evolve over the coming years in response to new scientific knowledge and data, changing environmental concerns and government priorities. To ensure that the Plan remains relevant and effective, the Assistant Deputy Minister S&T will undertake periodic reviews of priority issues, and conduct a comprehensive review of the entire Plan every five years. Periodic audits of the Science Plan will also be undertaken.

The Science Plan's performance measurement framework will provide information to monitor progress, inform future editions of the Science Plan, and ensure a process of continuous improvement within Environment Canada's science.

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