Environment Canada's Science Strategy 2014-2020: introduction
Environment Canada is a science-based department. Its science provides the critical information needed to support the Department’s mandate to maintain a clean, safe and sustainable environment for Canada. This means maintaining unique scientific expertise and infrastructure, such as coast-to-coast-to-coast monitoring networks that measure environmental parameters, and large numerical models running on supercomputers that forecast weather, air pollution and climatic changes. Environment Canada performs science to fulfill a key federal role of protecting the environment by supporting environmental regulations, public policies, operations and services. The Department’s science must work to support the needs of present regulatory mandates and timelines as well as identify and develop capacity to address emerging environmental challenges. Protecting the environment also means responding to issues and challenges as they arise. Canada faces a variety of environmental challenges, from safely navigating the country’s vast landscape under sometimes harsh climatic conditions to protecting ecosystems vulnerable to various stressors and pressures such as toxic substances, climatic changes and industrial development. With one of the largest science programs in the federal government, Environment Canada is a national - and indeed, world - leader in advancing, connecting and applying scientific understanding of the environment to anticipate and address the most pressing environmental issues. Future Environment Canada science will contribute to maintaining the Public Service as a world-class institution - the goal of Destination 2020, championed by the Clerk of the Privy Council.
Prior to this Strategy, Environment Canada’s science activities were guided by two documents, a Science Plan, published in 2007, and a Technology Role, published in 2010. These documents outlined broad strategic directions to guide the Department’s science and technology activities and priorities. They introduced scientific themes - such as building an integrated environmental monitoring and prediction capability.Footnote 1 Environment Canada, in collaboration with the Government of Alberta, has since launched the largest integrated environmental monitoring program in Canada to detect possible cumulative environmental impacts of oil sands development in Alberta. Lessons learned through this and other initiatives will be applied to continue addressing complex environmental issues of national importance.
The Science Plan and Technology Role continue to be relevant, but Environment Canada’s science has different needs today than it had when those previous plans were developed. Since the Science Plan was launched in 2007, Environment Canada has reorganized and streamlined some of its activities, including its scientific activities. Today, more than ever, Environment Canada’s science is focused on providing the critical information needed to develop the policies, deliver the programs and provide the services that allow the Department to meet its mandate.
A streamlined and strategic approach to conducting science helps Environment Canada respond to new and emerging issues, as well as to organizational changes such as the evolving role of federal science and the necessity to operate efficiently and demonstrate value for taxpayer money. Moving forward, Environment Canada must continue to direct its science to serve the Government of Canada’s greatest environmental priorities. This involves deploying scientific resources effectively and efficiently, maintaining partnerships, ensuring the right connections are made between producers and users of scientific information, and maintaining the high standards of quality and credibility that Canadians expect from the Department’s science. Quality management happens through established metrics and processes such as peer review and accreditation, as well as targeted assessments of the utility and impact of the application of the Department’s science. All staff contribute to the goal of focusing on federal priorities by continually adjusting and adapting their science activities to contribute to the Department’s current and future priorities.
The Science Strategy is organized into three main parts in order to guide Environment Canada’s science to serve Canada’s federal environmental priorities over the next five years, from 2014 to 2019. The first part, the Science of Environment Canada, briefly describes the Department as a science-based organization and the core science it undertakes to fulfill its mandate. The second part introduces a vision, mission and principles to guide the Department’s science to focus on federal priorities. The third part lays out future directions for science by specifying priority issues for the next five years and introducing mechanisms to integrate the Strategy’s vision and principles into the Department’s operations and strengthen the Department’s ability to respond to emerging issues.
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