ISSP 2.0 - A Word from the Director

Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Author: Marc Saner

Marc Saner

Inaugural Director and Core Member, ISSP
​​​​Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Ottawa

As I am entering the final three months of my five-year term, I want to briefly take stock and describe the transition planning. I have in front of me our first four annual reports -- I believe their titles describe the development of the ISSP quite well: First Steps, Creating a Network, Building on Strong Foundations and Towards a Graduate Program.

Within five years, we went from an idea to a thriving network with six faculties that furnish the members of the management team, approximately 30 uOttawa professors affiliated, an additional 25 leading thinkers from across the country in fellowship positions or on our Advisory Committee, and an opt-in bilingual mailing list with approximately 1200 subscribers. 

Our first graduate education program, the Collaborative Masters in Science, Society and Policy will start this fall. Also noteworthy, is our new student club:  The University of Ottawa Science Policy Society (more information later in this newsletter).  There are only two student organizations on this topic in all of Canada (the other is McGill's very impressive Science & Policy Exchange).  Given these developments, our next annual report will be entitled A Focus on Students. 

My personal vision for the ISSP continues to be student-centered.  A good education on science, society and policy requires breadth and an understanding of the healthy tension between those who look forward to a completely transformed world and those who study past and current processes with a critical eye on the pace and nature of scientific and technological developments.  As a scientist and ethicist, I am very aware of this tension - and I am convinced that it's helpful for students to fully understand how these diverging positions are conceived and argued.  

The Collaborative Masters is hopefully just a first step.  On request of the Dean of Science, I drafted the concept of a stand-alone one-year Masters program for scientists. Tentatively named ELITE it would focus on Experiential Learning, Integrative Thinking and Team Essentials.  The ISSP also has the capacity to carry out continuing education and workshops - lots of ideas are on the table! Moreover, we continue to offer a regular undergraduate course: Paul Dufour's Primer on Science Policy at the Faculty of Science.

 Research remains alive and well.  The ISSP has so far played mostly the role of match-maker, facilitator and connective tissue to help scholars tie together our three areas of focus: (1) science for policy (for example, evidence-based decision-making), (2) policy for science (for example, science and innovation policy) and (3) technology governance (for example, regulation and ethics).  There could be an opportunity for the ISSP to play a stronger role, but it's not easy to align dozens of scholars who are justly empowered with academic freedom.  One successful approach to research has been the housing or support of ISSP Fellows.  Senior Fellow Margaret McCuaig-Johnston is rapidly establishing herself as a leading scholar in science and innovation policy in China, Adjunct Professor Paul Dufour is much in demand nationally and internationally as a scholar and pundit on Canadian science history and policy, and Senior Fellow Richard Hawkins (University of Calgary) took the lead authorship of our Innovation Decalogue. Another successful approach was the collaboration with graduate students as our series of briefs on the Science Policy Interface and our Technology Timelines profess.

Our outreach activities are creative and maximize available resources.  In order to secure and develop future resources, I initiated the creation of an ISSP Consortium in collaboration with my close colleagues Profs. Scott Findlay and Patrick Fafard. We were fortunate that the Dean of Social Sciences agreed to take the lead and that the Dean of Science also put his strong support behind this concept.  Thank you, Dean Mérette and Dean Perry! The transfer of leadership from the Faculty of Arts to a Consortium led by the Faculty of Social Sciences means that the internal competition to select my successor will be led by the Social Sciences in collaboration with the Vice-President Research Office.  I am looking forward to the vision of the next Director, as I will remain involved in teaching ISSP courses.

The final quarter of my Directorship will be a busy time with the launch of our first graduate program.  I am very grateful for the highly competent leadership of our Research Consultant Rachel So in collaboration with Interim Program Director Patrick Fafard. We are also preparing the hand-over materials and are fortunate to have a professional archivist, Sarah Farewell, on staff as a workplace student. Sarah completed a beautiful Archive and Process Management Manual for the ISSP.  

There are a series of interesting events coming up.  At the end of April, Prof. Jonathan Linton will lead a delegation of students to Washington DC in the 10th Annual Bromley Memorial Event (which takes place in Ottawa in alternate years).   Under his leadership, this event has become increasingly international.  The collaboration with our Fulbright Scholar Dr. Tee Guidotti has led to additional activities, for example his very successful recent lecture on Health and Sustainability. We continue to host the Ottawa Science Policy Roundtable (more information below in this newsletter) and are looking forward to the first events organized by our enthusiastic students at the new uOttawa Science Policy Society.

Last but not least, I am preparing a major event on Technological Unemployment and the Future of Work in collaboration with Masters student Alin Charrière.  We are excited to be hosting a debate among world-renowned experts from Oxford, Yale and Ryerson as part of Congress 2015.  An advance thank-you to recent Order of Canada recipient, ISSP Fellow and science journalist extraordinaire Peter Calamai for moderating the panel. We hope to see you on campus on the morning of Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - please mark your calendars.

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