Chad Gaffield - President (2017-2019)
Dear RSC colleagues and friends,
Let me begin by thanking all selection committee members – nearly 120 of you! – for devoting your talent and time to making the hard choices required to arrive at recommendations for the next cohort of RSC Fellows and Members. Since all nominated dossiers are characteristically exceptionally strong, these choices depend upon careful analysis and assessment at an already-busy time of year. We look forward to completing the selection process this Spring and to announcing the results publicly as classes resume in September.
Progress on the implementation of our new Strategic Plan has been encouraging especially as our G7-related activities began with the Academies Summit here in Ottawa. This inaugural event emphasized both the challenges and opportunities for national academies to help societies in these turbulent times. This event during March 19-20 gave G7 Academy leaders a chance to share top-of-mind concerns as well as examples of promising ways to address them. The discussion ranged widely in keeping with the distinct contexts of each Academy but leaders emphasized common issues especially those related to the increasingly complex science-society interface. The Academies focused specifically on the rapidly changing landscape of research across disciplines as well as on methods for updating our historic role in providing advice to the larger society.
One highlight was a session on gender equity in research that reviewed recent studies before concluding with a “peer-review” of each participant’s top policy suggestion. Organized by Cara Tannenbaum, the Scientific Director of the CIHR’s Institute for Gender and Heath, the session included a dozen leaders from funding agencies and organizations as well as from the G7 Academies. This approach was in keeping with the larger shared responsibility for acting upon the insights from studies of topics such as unconscious bias.
The G7 Academies Summit also included opportunities for public engagement thanks to our location in the national capital. The Canadian Museum of Nature offered our visitors a guided tour of the Arctic Gallery as an illustration of their innovative efforts to share the latest research findings. Similarly, the Canadian Museum of History introduced the Academy leaders to the new historical exhibits that reflect the rapidly changing views of Canada’s past. In addition, we all attended the working breakfast on Parliament Hill jointly organized by The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Entitled “Arctic warming: Land and communities on the cusp of rapid change,” this sold-out event not only enhanced our G7 thematic focus on Arctic Sustainability but also illustrated the success of this format that consistently attracts both parliamentarians and public policy advisers.
Following the G7 tradition, the Academies successfully finalized our collective statements on “Our Digital Future” and on “Arctic Sustainability.” They are now being endorsed by the respective academy governing bodies in anticipation of being presented for consideration at the G7 gathering of political leaders during June 8-9. These statements are one articulation of the RSC’s advisory capacity as examined by last year’s Task Force chaired by Pekka Sinervo, and they will provide a point of departure for the upcoming G7 Research Summits. For an overview of the ways in which the RSC is seizing G7-related opportunities, please click here.
Thanks to local RSC initiatives in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, we are making impressive progress toward our strategic goal of building on the success of RSC Atlantic. Similarly, we will soon be inviting everyone to help us finalize a new web site by “breaking” the beta version that will be released internally later this Spring. At that time, we will also post the updated Guide for those preparing nominations later this year.
Finally, let me encourage you to begin thinking about candidates to replace me as well as the current three Academy Presidents. Even though my first hundred days have just ended, our two-year mandates require that we welcome the next Presidents-elect at our November annual general meeting. Our Governance and Ethics committee has been examining this aspect of our by-laws and will be recommending an election-cycle calendar that will begin with the call for nominations. However, please begin reflecting on who might be an excellent candidate – including, of course, yourself!
Yours in RSC,
Chad Gaffield OC FRSC