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Environment Canada's Science Plan

Introduction to the Science Plan

The Need for a Science Plan

This Science Plan sets out a vision for managing and conducting Environment Canada's science over the next ten years. It presents the strategic directions for environmental science in the Department so that the highest standards of science are maintained and Canadians can continue to benefit from the Department's scientific skills and resources.

The Plan has been prepared for individuals and organizations with an interest in environmental science in Canada, including scientists and managers within Environment Canada, and the Department's many science partners and clients within Canada and internationally, such as those in other federal departments, other governments, academia, the private sector and civil society.

The Plan strongly reflects and contributes to Environment Canada's mandate to:

  • Preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment, including water, air and soil quality;
  • Conserve Canada's renewable resources, including migratory birds and other flora and fauna;
  • Conserve and protect Canada's water resources;
  • Enforce the rules made by the Canada -- United States International Joint Commission relating to boundary waters;
  • Carry out meteorological research and predictions; and
  • Coordinate environmental policies, regulations and programs for the federal government.

Science and technology (S&T) play a significant part of Environment Canada's efforts to carry out this mandate, accounting for more than 70% of the Department's budget and two-thirds of its employees. The Department's scientific expertise and interests cover a wide range of areas -- water, atmospheric, wildlife, technology and risk assessment. About one-third of the Department's scientific activity focusses on research and development (R&D). The balance covers a variety of non-research science activities, including weather forecasting, risk assessments, regulatory activities, data collection and environmental monitoring, emergency preparedness, and S&T knowledge brokering.

Figure 1 illustrates the complexity of human-environment interrelationships, and the centrality of environmental science to understanding and influencing those interactions. In carrying out its mandate, Environment Canada recognizes that many major public policy challenges -- such as air and water quality, transportation and health care -- cut across scientific, economic and social disciplines, and are intricately connected with one another. Some environmental pressures, such as changes in land use and release of toxins, result from human activities; others flow from natural variations. At the same time, human activities are dependent on the environment, and can be affected by variations such as extreme weather, pest infestations, climate change and invasive species. These pressures and variations can be altered by changes in behaviour by governments, the private sector, and other organizations and individuals.

In the past, Environment Canada has prepared science plans for issue-, region- or discipline-specific parts of the organization. Now there is an opportunity, through this Science Plan, to apply a more comprehensive and integrated approach to the strategic planning of its various natural and physical science activities. This type of integrated approach reflects the reality of responding to today's complex and interrelated environmental challenges.

This integrated approach also reflects and strongly supports the Department's primary planning and reporting mechanism. The recently established results management structure links all departmental activities to results in three priority areas: ecosystem sustainability, weather and environmental services, and environmental protection.

Objectives of the Science Plan

The Science Plan seeks to provide strategic direction for those undertaking, applying and managing science in the Department. The focus of the plan is on the natural and physical sciences, including both R&D and other scientific activities.

Specifically, the Plan will:

  • Ensure that Environment Canada's science activities continue to contribute to government and departmental priorities;
  • 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 policy, regulatory, program 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 Plan also supports and complements more detailed operational plans developed by the Department to guide annual operations and specific initiatives.

Organization of the Science Plan

The Science Plan consists of the following four elements: