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Federal government launches search for a chief science advisor

Candidates have until January 27 to apply.

By LÉO CHARBONNEAU | DEC 05 2016

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan officially launched, on December 5, the search for Canada’s new chief science advisor. Creating the position of chief science officer was one of the key priorities in the science minister’s mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the fall of 2015.

“Our government needs such a position to advise on how to ensure that federal science is available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions,” said Ms. Duncan at a press conference announcing the job search. The chief science advisor “will also provide impartial scientific advice to the prime minister, the minister of science and to the cabinet when requested,” she said.

Minister Kirsty Duncan at the announcement on December 5, 2016. Photo by Helen Murphy, Universities Canada.
Minister Kirsty Duncan at the announcement on December 5, 2016. Photo by Helen Murphy, Universities Canada.

Candidates have until January 27, 2017, to apply. Ms. Duncan said candidates must have “significant experience as a researcher, be a leader in the academic and public policy domains, and have a strong understanding of the science and research landscape in Canada.” Candidates must have a doctoral degree and ideally be proficient in English and French.

“This is very good news,” said Mehrdad Hariri, president of the Canadian Science Policy Centre, speaking at the press conference. Today’s world faces tremendous and increasingly complex challenges and “it is extremely important that the highest political offices have access to the best scientific advice.” Dr. Hariri said the position of science advisor also presents an opportunity for Canada to join with other national science advisors from countries such as the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Israel, who have begun to collaborate and initiate joint projects. “It’s important for Canada to be plugged into that,” he said.

Ms. Duncan said that once the position is filled, “it is my intention to explore a legislative approach to ensure the position has durability and permanence.” Former Prime Minister Paul Martin created the position of chief science officer in 2004, but the position was phased out by the Conservative government in 2008.

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