The Canadian Academies

of Science

January 30, 2002

1 This document defines the sciences as the "full spectrum of sciences", including naturalsciences, engineering, health sciences, social sciences and the humanities.

2 Assessment involves understanding what we know about the sciences underlying an issueand more importantly, what we do not know; it defines what questions remain unanswered; it establishesa holistic view of complex issues and clarifies areas of concurrence, divergence and uncertainty (wherethey exist); and, it examines the validity of the sciences informing the issue.



In response to repeated calls for the creation of an independent national scienceorganization, the former Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development,Dr. Gilbert Normand, hosted a national round table in Aylmer, Quebec in October 2000.

The purpose of the round table was to consider whether Canada requires credible and independent assessments of the sciences 1 that underlie pressing issues of the day.

In February 2001, Dr. Gilbert Normand established a small working group to develop aproposal for a new Canadian national science organization. The working group, whichwas drawn from a cross-section of the participants in the October round table, wasasked to develop a workable proposal that reflected the areas of consensus and issuesof concern raised during the October 2000 round table. A list of working groupmembers is attached as Appendix 1.

The National Science Organization Working Group carried out extensive consultationswith academe, science organizations, learned societies, non-governmentalorganizations, federal government external advisory committees and individuals. Theproposal was posted on public web sites and distributed to participants of the Octoberround table. Targeted consultations were conducted with federal Cabinet ministers,parliamentarians, senior officials in provincial governments, and key individuals inCanadian science-related stakeholder organizations. The proposal was also presentedto the Standing Committee of Finance’s pre-budget consultations. Overall, it wasdetermined that there is a broad and diverse base of support within Canadianstakeholder communities for the establishment of a national science organization, to beknown as The Canadian Academies of Science.

The following proposal reflects feedback received during the course of consultations. Itcalls for the creation a new national science organization, herein referred to as TheCanadian Academies of Science, to ensure that Canada can conduct the assessments 2and maintain the international linkages critical to capturing the opportunities andmeeting the challenges resulting from advances in the sciences.


Scientific advances and new technologies surround us at work, at homeand in our schools. They pervade and increasingly define our health,privacy and leisure. New technologies are becoming embedded in ourhouseholds and industrial products. They underpin our jobs, ourstandards of living, our productivity, our competitiveness, and our ability toprotect our environment. They connect us in ever changing ways andunderlie important social, community, family and economic change thatwe all must evaluate and adjust to. New science is advancing andpushing the frontiers of knowledge, its applications and its impacts inways that cannot be clearly anticipated. These impacts need to be betterunderstood.

John de la Mothe, Working Group MemberUsing Knowledge to Advantage (October 2000)

Given the pervasiveness and impact of science and technology (S&T) on all aspects ofour lives, we need to better understand their intended and unintended consequences.

Citizens want to understand how important advances in S&T will affect and enrich theirlives. Industry relies on S&T to make important decisions that affect new investmentsand product and service development. They also need to understand, to the extentpossible, how their products and services will interact with people and the environment.

The government has similar interests; it needs to make sound decisions for the well-beingof Canada and Canadians.

As the sciences move to the centre of decision-making in all walks of life, considerationmust be given to how Canada, as a society, keeps abreast of the impacts andimplications of advances in the sciences. In the knowledge-based economy, informeddecisions rest on a foundation of independent, multi-disciplinary assessments of thesciences. Canada requires a national science organization to build this base ofunderstanding.

It is important to distinguish between advice and assessment. Advice providesrecommendations for a course of action. Assessment, on the other hand, is the stepprior to advice that identifies scientifically sound evidence with the objective of informingthe deliberative process. At a minimum, assessment establishes an extensive pictureof complex issues and clarifies the lines of debate. At its best, the assessment processbuilds a common base of understanding and establishes a consensus on the questions that remain to be answered.

Science and technology are also at the centre of accelerating changes in the globaleconomy. Globalization has resulted in increasing market integration, greater harmonization of government standards, regulations and policies, and enhancedinternational collaboration in all fields of science. The challenges and opportunities thatarise from advances in the sciences are increasingly international in scope. Effectiveresponses often require a collaborative approach that draws on the scientific andtechnological expertise resident in a number of countries. Establishing a recognizedvoice on behalf of Canadian science, through the creation of a national scienceorganization, will provide an important contribution to Canada’s international S&Trelations and secure the benefits associated with international collaboration.

At present, a number of Canadian science organizations are involved in sciencepromotion and literacy and often represent their own organization internationally.

However, Canada is one of only a few industrialized nations without a national scienceorganization that is recognized internationally as representing Canada on the fullspectrum of the sciences. Furthermore, Canada does not have a mechanism or anorganization that is mandated to carry out assessments on a regular basis.

The Royal Society of Canada has, on an ad-hoc basis, conducted a number ofassessments of science issues of public concern. However, they have found that it isvery difficult to conduct assessments on a "contract basis". Without a standing capacityto deal with complex issues, and given the ascendency of issues involving the sciences,Canada increasingly lacks the ability to keep pace with the impacts and implications ofadvances in the sciences. Furthermore, it is very difficult for Canada to benefit from theexcellent work carried out by foreign national academies without an internationallyrecognized national science organization. Clearly, Canada faces an imperative toestablish a national science organization. As proposed, The Canadian Academies ofScience will not duplicate the work of existing organizations but rather, will build uponand complement the important contribution of these organizations.


The Canadian Academies of Science, an arms-length, not-for-profit organization, willprovide a public service by ensuring independent, unbiased assessments of thesciences and by representing the sciences both within Canada and internationally. The"sciences" are defined as the full spectrum of sciences, including natural sciences,engineering, health sciences, social sciences and the humanities. This organization willbuild on and complement the mandate of existing Canadian science organizations. Itsmission is twofold:1. To provide a source of credible, independent, expert assessments on thesciences underlying pressing issues and matters of public interest; and2. To provide a voice for Canada on behalf of the sciences, both nationally and internationally.


• Involve a diversity of stakeholders (scientists and non-scientists) toindependently identify and formulate the questions requiring expert assessment.

• Ensure credible, independent expert assessments of important issues to supportinformed decision-making by the public, government and other stakeholders;assessments will consider the impact of expanding knowledge on society.

• Widely disseminate the results of assessments, as well as the scientific base forthe assessments, in a form that can be understood by the public.

• Enhance government, industry and the public’s ability to access the bestavailable science on pressing issues with the objective of informing debate anddecision-making.

Voice for Sciences

• Heighten the visibility of Canada’s science community.

• Together with its member organizations, secure the benefits associated withcollaboration in joint activities with national academies around the world.


In developing the model for The Canadian Academies of Science, the working groupconducted an extensive review of other countries’ national academies. In the context of the commonalities that exist between Canada and the United States and Britain,working group members carefully considered the merits of the United States NationalAcademies and the Royal Society in Britain. Although there are differences in theoperational details of each, the success of the both has been attributed to the followingfactors:

• simple, clear structure;

• breadth of interdisciplinary involvement;

• capacity to address complex interdisciplinary issues;

• rigourous quality control;

• transparency;

• independent funding;

• objectivity;

• authority; and,

• trust.

The Canadian proposal incorporates the attributes of success that are common among foreign academy models, while considering Canada’s unique history, geography, and social values in the context of a fast-paced global economy.

The Canadian Academies of Science will be a federally-incorporated, arms-length, not-for-profit organization registered under the Canada Corporations Act, pursuant to an application to the Minister of Industry for the granting of Letters Patent. This application will be made by a number of individuals acting on behalf of the founding MemberOrganizations.

The Board of Governors

The Canadian Academies of Science will be governed by an inclusive, diversifiedand balanced board of 12 to 20 voting members, all of whom must be Canadiancitizens resident in Canada. Individual members and the chair will serve three year terms. Terms can be extended once for an additional three years withBoard approval. Initial terms will vary in length from two to four years in order tosupport a staggered rotation of members.

• The initial composition of the Board of Governors will be as follows:S Two members appointed by each of the Member Organizations

S Six members appointed from the general public

S A Board member will be elected by the members of the Board to serve asthe Chair

S A President of the Administration (non-voting member)

• The size of the Board will increase by four members each time a new MemberOrganization is added (two from the new Member Organization and two from thegeneral public) to a maximum of 20 Board members in total. In the event thatthere are more than five Member Organizations, each Member Organization willbe entitled to appoint only one Board member. As such, the number of MemberOrganizations will be limited to ten.

• Board members appointed by the Member Organizations will always equal thenumber of Board members drawn from the general public.

• The Member Organizations will make their appointments first. Appointments tothe Board from the general public will follow to ensure an inclusive, diverse andbalanced representation on the Board. Board members will not be, and shouldnot be thought of as, delegates of an organization or body. Board members willbe required to adhere to strict conflict of interest guidelines.

• The Board of Governors will appoint members from the general public based onrecognized leadership within their respective communities, a demonstratedcommitment to Canada and its citizens, and on the basis of their personalqualifications. General public board members cannot be directors of MemberOrganizations concurrently. The Canadian Academies of Science's by-laws ofincorporation will include a provision whereby the general public candidates tothe Board of Governors would be selected from the confidentialrecommendations generated by the arms-length selection committee followingconsultation with the Minister of Industry. =The Board of Governors will make thegeneral public appointments and in doing so, they will ensure that the full Boardreflects the breadth of sectors, fields of study and social, economic and culturalcommunities appropriate for effective delivery of The Canadian Academies ofScience’s mandate. The Board will also ensure balance with respect to gender,language, age and geographic representation.

• An arms-length external board member selection committee, appointed by the Board of Governors, will be established to solicit and review nominations for Board members drawn from the general public. The selection committee will bechaired by a member of the Board of Governors. The selection committee willprovide confidential recommendations to the Board of Governors, followingconsultation with the Minister of Industry regarding general public candidates forBoard membership. The selection committee members will serve two year termsthat can be renewed for one or more terms. Initial terms will vary in length fromtwo to three years in order to ensure continuity.

• The Board can establish standing committees in support of the programs of TheCanadian Academies of Science. Standing committees are established by broadfields of study and are responsible for maintaining a current roster of expertise tocall upon for future assessment panel participation; for identifying policy-relevantissues within their fields that may result in the appointment of an assessmentpanel; and for assisting The Canadian Academies of Science in its oversightfunctions. Standing committees, once established, would meet once per year.

• The Board will approve and direct The Canadian Academies of Science’sprograms and administrative operations, through the Administration, in support ofThe Canadian Academies of Science’s mission and mandate. The decision toconduct an assessment panel and the questions to be studied in the assessmentwill be the final decision of the Board. In addition, the Board will actively developand maintain linkages with equivalent international bodies.

• The Board will meet at least three times each fiscal year; at least once withrepresentatives of the Boards of its Member Organizations.

• Board members will not receive remuneration, but will be reimbursed for anyreasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred in performing their duties orattending meetings of the Board of Governors.

Member Organizations

• Member Organizations are, in effect, the shareholders of The CanadianAcademies of Science.

• Founding Member Organizations will include The Canadian Academy ofSciences and Humanities (a registered trade-mark of The Royal Society ofCanada); The Canadian Academy of Engineering; and The Canadian Academyof Health Sciences (to be established by the Canadian Institute for AcademicMedicine later this year).

• Following an initial three year waiting period, the Board can appoint additional Member Organizations, as appropriate, providing they meet stringent andrigorous criteria for membership as judged by the Board of Governors, and havethe consent of the Member Organizations. Specific criteria include: nationalstanding and recognition; the ability to enhance the credibility of The Canadian Academies of Science; recognition as an independent and objective organizationand, the ability to play a substantive role in fulfilling the mission and mandate ofThe Canadian Academies of Science.

• Member Organizations will retain their existing corporate identities, mission,mandates, national and international affiliations, and organizational structures.

The Canadian Academies of Science will not be an honorific organization and as such, it will not elect individual members or award honorary fellowships. The members of The Canadian Academies of Science are organizations NOTindividuals.

• Close collaboration between the Member Organizations and The Canadian Academies of Science is an important component of The Canadian Academies of Science’s operations. The ability to call upon the diverse memberships andnetworks of Member Organizations is key to effective delivery of The CanadianAcademies of Science’s mandate.


• The Board will appoint the officers of The Canadian Academies of Science, whowill in turn appoint employees. Members of the Board of Governors will not beeligible to be employed by The Canadian Academies of Science.

• The Administration will include a President and permanent, salaried staff. ThePresident will be responsible for all aspects of the management of The CanadianAcademies of Science and will ensure that all recommendations and resolutionsof the Board are carried out.

• In addition to the detailed administration of all operations, the Administration’sresponsibilities will include:S coordinating and supporting all standing committees of the Board and thearms-length board member selection committees;S in conjunction with standing committees where established, identifyingpotential issues that warrant assessment (the Board of Governors willmake final decisions with respect to topics chosen);S identifying and screening potential panel members;S coordinating and supporting assessment panels;S developing dissemination and communications strategies for assessmentreports; andS identifying and coordinating international collaboration opportunities inconsultation with Member Organizations.

3 Advisers to the Nation: National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering,Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. Washington, D.C.

Assessment Panels

• Under the auspices of The Canadian Academies of Science, assessment panels will conduct assessments of the sciences underlying pressing issues and mattersof public interest.

• Assessments can be prompted internally or though external requests (e.g. federal government departments, provincial and municipal governments,industry, non-governmental organizations). The Board of Governors makes the final decision to conduct an assessment.

• The Board of Governors will decide on the questions to be asked of the expertpanels. In arriving at its decision, the Board will consider questions such as:

S Are the issues grounded in science and are the data available to address them?

S Are the issues of national or global importance, or if local or regional by nature, will the panel’s findings have broader application?

S Will the panel report contribute understanding to a national dialogue?3

• To authorize the assessment on an approved topic, the Board must approve thebudget and timetable for the process, as well as the composition of theassessment panel.

• Assessment panels will be made up of experts with knowledge and expertiserelevant to the issue being assessed, and may include international experts asappropriate. The membership selection process will ensure that assessmentpanels involve the range of expertise required, are well-balanced, and free fromconflict of interest. All panel members must agree to be bound to hold all reportsin confidence until their release.

• Assessment panel members will not receive remuneration, but will bereimbursed for any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by them inperforming their duties or attending meetings of the assessment panels.

The Canadian Academies of Science will also conduct assessments on acollaborative basis with foreign national academies, as appropriate.

• All assessment reports will undergo formal review procedures to assure theirquality and objectivity. Outside reviewers, anonymous to the assessment panelthat prepared the report, must agree that the findings of the report are fullysupported by the evidence presented before a report can be released.


Reviewers will be required to adhere to strict conflict of interest guidelines.

• Following a successful review, all assessment reports will be widelydisseminated, in both official languages, to the public and stakeholder groups. Adiversity of mechanisms will be employed to disseminate the reports. Panelchairs and members will be actively involved in communicating the findings ofassessments to the public and stakeholders.

• For all assessments, the reports and all relevant working documents remain theproperty of The Canadian Academies of Science.


The Canadian Academies of Science requires base level, stable funding tooperate independently and engender credibility with clients, stakeholders,international science organizations and the public. It is estimated that TheCanadian Academies of Science will require an annual operating budget of approximately $3.5 million to fulfill its basic obligations. It is anticipated that at this budget level, The Canadian Academies of Science would have the standing capacity to conduct up to five to six assessment panels annually.

• The preferred funding model is $31 million, one time funding, provided by theGovernment of Canada to be used by the organization over a ten-year period.

This would ensure stable and continuous funding for the initial period, andreinforce The Canadian Academies of Science’s arms-length relationship withthe Government of Canada. Further funding would be contingent on the resultsof an external evaluation of The Canadian Academies of Science’s effectivenessin fulfilling its mission and mandate.

The Canadian Academies of Science will, through its ongoing operations, secureadditional financial resources from clients and donors. The Canadian Academiesof Science may decide to seek charitable status in future.

• In recognition of its contribution to The Canadian Academies of Science, theGovernment of Canada will pay only the incremental costs associated with theassessments it requests. (i.e. travel related costs for assessment panel members, production costs for the assessment report).

• Resources will be vested in The Canadian Academies of Science. The Board ofGovernors will authorize all budget allocations.


Appendix 1

National Science Organization Working GroupMembers


Howard AlperPast

Chair, Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) Vice Rector - Research, University of Ottawa


Olga A. Barrat

PresidentCanadian Academy for the Advancement of Science


Thomas A. Brzustowski

PresidentNatural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Michel Chrétien

DirectorRegional Protein Chemistry Centre and Diseases of Ageing UnitOttawa Health Research Institute


Patricia Clements

PresidentHumanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada (HSSFC)


Philip Cockshutt

Executive DirectorCanadian Academy of Engineering


John de la Mothe

MemberCouncil of Science and Technology Advisors (CSTA)


Monique Frize

NSERC/Nortel ChairWomen in Science and Engineering (Ontario)


Germain Godbout

Directeur généralAssociation canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (ACFAS)


Joyce Groote

PresidentCrossing Sectors Inc.


Margaret Lefebvre

PresidentCouchiching Institute on Public Affairs


William (Bill) Leiss

PresidentThe Royal Society of Canada


Eliot PhillipsonPresident

Canadian Institute of Academic Medicine


Martha Piper

President and Vice-ChancellorThe University of British Columbia


David Strangway

President and CEOCanada Foundation for Innovation

Appendix 2

Key Characteristics

The Canadian Academies of Science, through its mission, mandate, structure, andoperating processes, will exhibit the following characteristics:

• independence

• inclusiveness

• impartiality

• credibility

• objectivity

• authority

• transparency

• self-criticism

• accountability