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Environment Canada's Science Plan
How Will We Get There?
Implementing the Plan and Measuring Our Progress
The Science Plan has set out a mission to guide Environment Canada's science. It has identified broad areas where that science will be needed in the coming years, and outlined three strategic directions to realize the mission and contribute to departmental and government priorities.
The final element of the Science Plan involves putting the ideas into practice.
This concluding section outlines how the Plan will be implemented. It presents Environment Canada's commitments to support the Plan in terms of leadership and governance, and to provide the enabling management support in key areas such as human resources, capital and infrastructure, and communications. Finally, it articulates the Department's clear commitment to achieving our Science Plan mission over the coming years by measuring progress and maintaining open communications with our departmental scientists and managers, and our partners and clients.
The Science Capacity Challenge
If Environment Canada is to become more proactive over the coming years, then it needs to refocus its science activities to better address the increasingly complex and interrelated nature of environmental issues. The following approaches are particularly relevant to this effort to strengthen science capacity in the Department:
- A multidisciplinary approach that includes the social sciences and economics is needed to effectively monitor and predict changes in the earth system. Climate, air quality, water, environmental and weather modelling, and prediction systems are becoming more closely interconnected, moving to more refined spatial and time scales, and relying on complex systems for merging information from observations and models.
- A consultative and collaborative approach, including domestic and international decision makers, practitioners and researchers, is needed to better coordinate research and monitoring strategies and address environmental challenges spanning sectoral and political boundaries.
- Adaptive solutions that can match a solid foundation of adaptation science with strong partnerships are needed to improve Environment Canada's capacity to address challenges relating to human health and safety (e.g., heat alerts and air quality warning systems), economic competitiveness (e.g., forestry, construction and agriculture), Canada's critical public infrastructure, Canada's water resources, and resilience in natural ecosystems.
- Environmental foresight is needed to better identify and characterize environmental threats before they occur. This involves developing comprehensive, fine-scale models; the capacity to deploy expertise rapidly in the event of emergencies; and supporting infrastructure such as national, multidisciplinary networks and databases.
A solar-powered ocean monitoring buoy gathering data in Lunenburg Bay, N.S., as part of a Centre for Marine Environmental Prediction (CMEP) storm surge prediction project. CMEP is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Dalhousie University, Fisheries & Oceans Canada and EC. Photo: P. Kuhn
Leadership and Governance
Effective leadership is essential to realizing the mission for Environment Canada's science. For science within the Department and the federal government, "leadership is an essential ingredient to success. Leaders can articulate federal S&T goals, establish ethical standards, motivate others, engage partners, and promote S&T success stories."5
A key aspect of leadership for Environment Canada is its role in delivering the credible, high-quality science needed to address environmental priorities, and in mobilizing national and international science capacity. As the largest institutional performer of environmental science in Canada, the Department has a responsibility to act as a catalyst for environmental science within the country and internationally.
The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) S&T has functional responsibility for implementing the Science Plan. The ADM S&T will communicate key elements of the Science Plan to the Department's Executive Management Council at the beginning of the planning cycle each fall to inform the Department's strategic priority-setting process and encourage active participation from all Branches.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- Developing the Science Plan is a major step for Environment Canada in terms of leadership in mobilizing national and international science needed to provide solutions to important Canadian environmental issues. Using the Science Plan as a tool for engagement, the Department will involve external partners in further collaboration, with the aim of building a strong, integrated environmental science system directed towards national and global challenges.
The Results Management Framework and the S&T Branch
The key governance mechanisms for the Science Plan are the Department's Results Management Boards and the S&T Branch.
Environment Canada governs and delivers on its roles and responsibilities through its Results Management Framework. The Framework enables the achievement of departmental strategic outcomes and results by establishing mechanisms and tools to provide a consistent, transparent planning and reporting process department-wide, and to link people and resources to results.
To ensure that the Science Plan contributes to Environment Canada's planning and operational decisions, the Plan's strategic directions and initiatives will be integrated with the Department's Results Management Framework through the Priority Management and Enabling Boards.
The S&T Branch, which consolidates a significant portion of the Department's science into one group, facilitates the integration of science. It also encourages coordination of science management, as with development of this Science Plan. Within the S&T Branch, other governance mechanisms such as the S&T Branch Executive6 and the S&T Branch Management Council7 are ensuring that the Department's science resources contribute to departmental priorities.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- The S&T Branch Executive will continue to work closely with the Results Management Boards to implement, monitor and review the Plan and its impacts. The S&T Branch will also continue to work with Environment Canada's Finance and Corporate Branch to adjust the Results Management Tool to include sections about science and science-related activities.
- S&T Branch Executive will work with the Results Management Boards to use the Results Management Tool to track science activities in the Department and help project leads align those activities with the Science Plan. This will also allow the S&T Branch Executive to assess the scope and breadth of Environment Canada's science activities periodically, and identify synergies across the Department.
- In recognition of the Science Plan's central role in creating a coordinated approach to fulfilling Environment Canada's science responsibilities, a new external Science Advisory Board will be established to provide advice to the ADM S&T. The Board will be asked to advise on where the Department's science activities should be headed and on the content of future versions of the Science Plan.
McMaster University summer student Lisa Melymuk and EC technologist Tara Nelson sample water quality as part of the Hamilton Harbour lakebed sediment stability project. Photo: B. Trapp
Sound science is a fundamental step to fulfilling Environment Canada's mandate. Environment Canada will provide strong and effective management support for this science in several key areas.
Committed, talented people in both scientific and support positions are the core of Environment Canada's scientific strength. They are the single most important contributor to the success of the Department and the Science Plan. Managing a scientific and technical workforce involves many different elements: successfully recruiting well-trained people, retaining them in positions useful to the Department, offering them career-enriching learning and development opportunities, and planning ahead to retain needed skills and knowledge within the Department when individuals retire or move to other opportunities.
For many scientific disciplines, Environment Canada faces significant competition from other organizations in recruiting and retaining scientific talent. The same difficulty is experienced in other federal science-based departments and agencies. The federal S&T community has responded to this concern through several interdepartmental initiatives led by the Science ADMs Advisory Committee on Human Resources (SAAC).8
Within its S&T workforce, Environment Canada must also encourage individuals to develop the skills needed to move into management positions. Several federal S&T community initiatives are addressing the developmental needs of aspiring science managers. For example, the SAAC and the Privy Council Office have launched the Scientists as Leaders initiative, designed to help selected scientists become excellent leaders. This program complements other interdepartmental learning initiatives that help make the transition to management easier for those scientists interested in pursuing leadership roles. Similarly, because science is so integral to the Department's policy and regulatory development processes, Environment Canada needs to facilitate the movement of scientific professionals into policy and regulatory development roles.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- 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 through collaboration between the S&T Branch and the human resources enabling team. This plan will address the Department's S&T human resources needs and integrate the continued commitment to federal S&T community human resources initiatives. The plan will also consider ways to help facilitate the movement of scientific professionals into the policy and regulatory arenas.
- The S&T Branch will also take steps to develop its cadre of potential science managers. The Branch will create a management training program, working closely with Environment Canada's human resources enabling team, and taking full advantage of the Scientists as Leaders initiative. This training program will encourage scientists to consider earlier in their careers a possible future in management, through gradual development of competencies they need to become successful managers. The Department will continue to encourage Environment Canada scientists to take advantage of the many interdepartmental management development programs available. Other developmental options, such as mentoring programs, will also be explored.
Science collaborations -- partnerships, relationships, networks and multidisciplinary approaches -- are essential to address today's complex, interrelated environmental issues. Collaboration can help stimulate innovation and maximize the value of limited resources. Collaboration involves working with colleagues within the Department and its partners across scientific disciplines, organizational structures, cultures and physical locations. New S&T tools and approaches are proving to be significant drivers of collaboration. For example, new computational modelling tools bring together climate and landscape modellers, and ecosystem management approaches help integrate the work of many scientific disciplines.
Environment Canada recognizes the value and necessity of these science partnering relationships and has worked with others to provide opportunities and incentives for greater collaboration.9 In addition, collaboration is the primary concern of the ADM S&T Integration Board,10 which will launch a coordinated effort around several integration themes and develop a unified picture of all federal S&T to help identify potential areas for collaboration. The
Board has also supported the work of the interdepartmental Overcoming Barriers to S&T Collaboration11 initiative developed to identify how federal departmental financial systems, management regimes, human resources policies, and other corporate initiatives can support greater S&T collaboration.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- Recognizing the increasing importance of all types of collaboration to sound science, the S&T Branch will lead Environment Canada in simplifying and streamlining the Department's collaboration policies to encourage S&T partnering. It will focus on better integrating science efforts across the Branch and the Department and will develop a strategy for evaluating collaborations with a view to improving the policies. The Department will also continue to work with the federal S&T community to address government-wide barriers to collaboration.
- Building on the work done by EC's Audit & Evaluation Branch in their Evaluation of the Co-location of Science Research Centres on University Campuses,12 the S&T Branch will continue to explore ways of effectively co-locating research facilities and scientific equipment with external partners.
Capital and Infrastructure
The importance of infrastructure to science cannot be overstated. Environment Canada recognizes that "world-class research is dependent on exceptionally functional and well-equipped work places for scientists."13 Buildings and equipment, tools, facilities, environments and support staff are all essential to excellent science. Moreover, S&T infrastructure contributes to making S&T work in the government attractive to highly qualified potential employees.
Environment Canada's science has special needs for capital and infrastructure. As a result, procedures around forecasting requirements, purchasing, maintaining and managing equipment, facilities and information technology resources should be geared to meet the particular needs of a science culture. For example, competitive bidding processes for procurement may be neither efficient nor effective when specialized scientific equipment is produced by only one supplier.
Environment Canada's science programs also depend on equipment and infrastructure to a greater degree than elsewhere in the Department. A delay in acquiring new specialized equipment or infrastructure is more than an inconvenience -- it could mean a delay in critical research and operational activities planned in anticipation of the new equipment.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- Recognizing that infrastructure and capital assets are uniquely important to Environment Canada's science, the S&T Branch will develop a stronger relationship with the Department's real property, information technology and capital allocation enabling groups. Management mechanisms will be created to help ensure these groups receive proactive and timely advice about science infrastructure and equipment needs. As a first step, the S&T Branch will review the mandate and membership of the Laboratory Coordinating Committee to help contribute to the development of an integrated S&T infrastructure planning capacity.
- The Branch will also continue to support interdepartmental efforts in this area, including work done through the Overcoming Barriers to S&T Collaboration initiative and the S&T infrastructure assessment led by the Treasury Board Secretariat, recognizing that an issue of this scope is best dealt with collaboratively.
Financial resources and effective financial control mechanisms are fundamental to supporting scientific activities in the Department. More than just a level of funding, adequate financial resourcing of S&T means ongoing, stable funding, with processes to accommodate the long-term nature and needs of science programs and facilitate collaborative scientific work within and beyond the Department.
The question of financial resources has long generated considerable interest among federal sciencebased departments and agencies and their science partners. Within the federal government, the goal is to have in place financial management mechanisms for S&T that are both accountable and flexible.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- The Overcoming Barriers to S&T Collaboration initiative, under the direction of the ADM S&T Integration Board, has been used to engage the Treasury Board Secretariat in re-examining its financial management policies in light of the S&T community's unique needs. The S&T Branch will persevere in this interdepartmental process on behalf of Environment Canada's science and will work with the Department's finance enabling team to create as much flexibility as possible within financial management rules.
- The S&T Branch recognizes that funding for science will only be assured if the science serves the needs of the Results Management Structure. Therefore, the Branch will continue to focus on ensuring strong linkages between the Department's priorities and its science activities.
S&T Communications and Knowledge Brokering
Environment Canada directs S&T communications and knowledge brokering activities toward three principal audiences: decision makers, the scientific community and the public. These audiences usually have different information needs and prefer to receive information in different ways.
Decision makers typically have very different training than scientists. They use different vocabularies, work on different timelines, and can have different priorities. This means that a specialized approach is needed for knowledge transfer at the interface of science and policy. From the science side, the S&T Branch must understand the priorities of users of scientific information -- policy managers, program managers and municipal government officials, for example -- so that science advice can be tailored to user needs. This calls for people who can act as information brokers and integrators, able to effectively translate knowledge from the scientific community to the policy community and back again. Within the Department, only a small number of people carry out these tasks on a formal basis.
Expert review of scientific publications is a cornerstone of the scientific process. It helps to uphold standards of excellence within Environment Canada and maintain our credibility with external partners. Scientific publications are also one of the principal methods the Department uses to share its science with other scientists, opening up possibilities for collaboration and new avenues of research. Scientific publications are very different from other kinds of government communication products in terms of their audience, content and purpose.
With respect to public audiences, science communications can foster an S&T culture in Canada by contributing to public understanding of S&T issues. This understanding, in turn, can enhance public confidence in government decision making. These communications can also inform Canadian youth about S&T, developing science literacy and encouraging future scientists. Finally, S&T communications to the public can provide direct information services such as extreme weather warnings.
Environment Canada's Commitment:
- 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. In particular, the Branch will develop practices based on how, where and why scientific information is used in the policy development process.
- Recognizing that scientific publishing is a vital science activity, the S&T Branch will 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 will generate a policy and process for S&T publications that will clarify how the Department approaches these unique communication tools and speed up the process for S&T staff. The Branch will also work with the Intellectual Property group in the Department as it develops a new policy to ensure that Environment Canada's scientific intellectual property is used appropriately.
- The S&T Branch, in partnership with relevant departmental groups, will contribute to improved access to, and management of, scientific information, including data management, through new and effective policies to manage the process.
Strengthening the Plan
Environment Canada is committed to ensuring that the Science Plan remains a vibrant and relevant guide for our scientists and science managers, all branches of the Department, and our science partners and clients. We will review the Plan on a regular basis and apply a performance measurement framework to ensure that Environment Canada's science remains of the highest calibre and continues to contribute to departmental and government priorities.
Reviewing and Revising the Science Plan
The Science Plan will evolve over the coming years in response to new scientific knowledge and data, changing environmental concerns, responsibilities to Aboriginal peoples, and government priorities. To ensure that the Plan remains relevant and effective, the ADM S&T will lead management actions, including undertaking reviews of priority issues as required and conducting a comprehensive review of the entire Plan every five years.
These reviews will include input from the relevant Results Management Boards and project leads, as well as advice from external experts. Final decisions on changes to the Plan will be made by the Department's Executive Management Council, taking into account recommendations provided by the Periodic evaluations of the Science Plan will also be undertaken. These are expected to focus on: specific aspects of Environment Canada's current environmental science activities and long-term science needs; the effectiveness of science management practices; and the effectiveness of the Plan itself. The ADM S&T will seek the advice of the Science Advisory Board on these issues.
Performance measures are an essential component of strategic plans. In the context of the Science Plan, performance measures will provide information to monitor progress, inform future editions of the Plan, and ensure a process of continuous improvement within Environment Canada's science. Performance measures can also be used to promote success within the Department, demonstrating its achievements in a measurable and unbiased manner.
In addition to comprehensive reviews and periodic evaluations of the Science Plan, the ADM S&T will present quarterly reports on the Plan to the Department's Executive Management Council. These reports will assess EC's progress towards the Plan's three long-term strategic directions and towards its commitments under leadership and governance, and management support. The quarterly reports will be rolled up into an annual report for the Executive Management Council. In addition, the S&T Branch Executive will present semi-annual reports on progress in specific science and science management areas to the appropriate Results Management Board.
The progress reports, comprehensive reviews and other performance measures for the Science Plan will be based on the three principles of federal S&T: alignment, linkages and excellence.
Environment Canada will consider these types of questions in monitoring progress of the Science Plan with respect to the principle of alignment:
- Does Environment Canada's science contribute to the Results Management Boards' strategic outcomes and the Department's mandate?
- Is the Science Plan effectively adapting to emerging scientific, environmental and policy issues?
The following types of questions will be applied in monitoring progress of the Science Plan with respect to the principle of linkages:
- Is there an effective feedback loop between the Science Plan and the Priority Management and Enabling Boards?
- Does Environment Canada's science operate as an integrated whole?
- Does the Department collaborate effectively with federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, Aboriginal, national and international partners to deliver the science Environment Canada needs?
Finally, the Department will consider the following types of questions in monitoring progress of the Science Plan with respect to the principle of excellence:
- Is Environment Canada performing demonstrably excellent science according to recognized international measures of scientific excellence?
- Does the Department have adequate mechanisms in place to solicit external advice on the excellence and relevance of its science?
5 Interdepartmental Working Group on Federal Science and Technology Framework. 2005. In the Service of Canadians: A Framework for Federal Science and Technology. Industry Canada, Government of Canada, Ottawa.
6 S&T Branch Executive consists of the ADM and Directors General of the S&T Branch, as well as the Director of the Environmental Technology Centre.
7 S&T Branch Management Council consists of senior scientists, science managers and policy advisors from the S&T Branch.
8 For more information: http://intranet.ec.gc.ca/ST/Default.asp?lang=En (Federal government access only).
9 See, for example: Council of Science and Technology Advisors. 2005. Linkages in the National Knowledge System (LINKS): Fostering a Linked Federal S&T Enterprise. Industry Canada, Government of Canada, Ottawa.
2004. Environment Canada Science and Technology Management Review Report. Environment Canada, Government of Canada, Ottawa.
2000. Science and Technology Partnering: Principles and Practices, S&T Management Committee Report No. 3. Environment Canada, Government of Canada, Gatineau.
10 ADMs from the major science-performing departments and agencies constitute the ADM S&T Integration Board. The Board's mission is to provide strategic leadership, guidance and direction for mobilizing and integrating S&T efforts across departments and disciplines.
11 Barriers Working Group. 2006. Overcoming Barriers to S&T Collaboration. Government of Canada, Ottawa.
12 Audit and Evaluation Branch. 2006. Evaluation of the Co-location of Science Research Centres on University Campuses. Environment Canada, Government of Canada, Gatineau.
13 Science Infrastructure Review Working Group. 2005. Laboratory Assets Review: The Federal Science Infrastructure Challenge. Government of Canada.
14 Council of Science and Technology Advisors. 2004. Environment Canada Science and Technology Management Review Report. Environment Canada, Government of Canada, Ottawa.
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