Recording available: CSPC panel 128 – Roles & Responsibilities of Academic Science Societies in informing Policy: Lessons & Observations from Around the World

The recording of the CSPC panel from November 17 2020 is now available from the CSPC. Learn more on their website:

CAN President Charles Bourque’s intervention begins at 1:08.

Organized byRyerson University


Imogen R Coe – President, Canadian Society of Molecular Biosciences
Stephen B Heard – President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution
Charles Bourque – President, Canadian Association for Neuroscience
Hilary Lappin-Scott – President, Federation of European Microbiology Societies (FEMS)
Shohini Ghose – Past President , Canadian Association of Physicists
Susan Amara – President, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Context: In contrast to other parts of the world, science societies in Canada have traditionally had limited interaction with policymakers. This separation of collectives of expertise from policymakers who are tasked with dealing with complex issues such as public health, the economic development and environmental stewardship represents a missed opportunity to bring relevant, timely and expert advice to much needed decision making. The panel discussed ways in which science societies can and should play a significant role in filling the gap between scientists and policymakers.


  • Academic science societies play a vital role in promoting academic research but also have a potential for science advocacy outside of academia. This is particularly important when it comes to communicating in a collective voice with policymakers who often do not understand science or scientific infrastructure.
  • Boom and bust cycles of funding of laboratories negatively impact research staff as well as research quality and sustainability. Academic societies can advocate for sustaining science at all levels, including fundamental research which may not have as high a profile as more applied research.
  • Engaging academic members, policymakers, stakeholders and advocacy groups can lead to successful results and collective growth (e.g., Brain Canada).
  • Academic societies can advance science by addressing constraints that affect the growth of science (e.g., public distrust, lack of stewardship of natural resources).


  • Academic societies should increasingly advocate changes in policy to promote sustainable funding and increased support for students and researchers at all stages of careers.
  • Representatives from federal and local government, industry, universities, advocacy groups, and science policy need to work together for the sustainability of the pipeline in science careers.
  • Focus should shift to crafting a long-term plan designed to support staff during downtimes and unforeseen circumstances like the pandemic.
  • Academic societies should come together and proactively organize events, workshops and networking sessions to inform public, policymakers and media about important topics that impact society.
  • There is a need for establishing dialogue with funding agencies, to promote EDI in STEM. For instance, Canadian Association of Physicists collected and evaluated data on the funding rates by gender to assess the gender-based differences in academic funding.
  • Academics and societies need to engage more than just passively providing expert opinions. The aim should be to actively influence policies.
  • Academic curriculum should include training graduate students through engagement in policy-related practices, as well as in building a strong science-informed citizenry.