Introduction and Context

Background and Context

In June of 2016, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the intent to work with Canada’s ocean science and technology (OST) Footnote 1 community to establish an Oceans Research in Canada Alliance (ORCA). This Alliance of Canada’s funders and performers of OST was envisioned as a means of institutionalizing co-operation to improve the coordination of research efforts, programming, and associated infrastructure so that new and on-going Canadian investments in OST could be leveraged for maximum benefit both domestically and abroad.

The beginning of the Alliance dates back to 2012, when the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) convened a panel of experts to identify ocean science research priorities and assess Canada’s capacities and infrastructure gaps associated with those priorities. They published two reports in 2012 and 2013 respectively: 40 Priority Research Questions for Ocean Science in Canada, and Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity. In addition to research priorities and major themes, the latter report identified three gaps in the coordination and alignment of the ocean science community in Canada that required action:

The two CCA reports represented an important turning point in Canadian OST. For the first time, national priority research questions had been identified together with the challenges and opportunities in Canada to respond to these priorities. In 2013, following the release of the CCA reports, the Canadian Consortium of Ocean Research Universities (CCORU) was instrumental in advancing initial efforts to develop a vision for a Canadian Alliance, what it would look like, how it would function, and its desired outcomes. Not only did CCORU and its members initiate these influential reports, but they also advanced the early stages of coordination within the Canadian ocean science community by hosting an Ocean Science Roundtable in 2014 as well as other workshops, and commissioning the report, Investigating the Establishment of a Canadian Organization for the Coordination of Ocean Science Activities in Canada.

In addition to the efforts of CCORU and the CCA, over recent years, there has been substantial growth in the collective capacity of Canada’s OST community as a result of recent federal investments. This capacity presents opportunities for major Canadian scientific achievement to be realized through an integrated, coordinated approach to the management and conduct of OST, such as envisioned with the Alliance.  

As momentum continued to build within the Canadian OST community to work together, DFO convened the first workshop of leaders from across the community under the theme of “Building an Oceans Research in Canada Alliance” on February 22 – 23, 2017.   The Workshop was an important step forward with over ninety key members of the OST community coming together to discuss a common future.  In building the new Alliance, a draft vision based on foundational principles was articulated at the Workshop and has since guided progress in developing the Alliance.



The 2017 ORCA Workshop also identified six themes or challenge areas, for future collaborative work within ORCA, together with a “preferred future” statement articulated for each of the themes. Furthermore, specific concrete initiatives were identified by the Workshop participants that would help to attain these preferred futures. Recommendations from this first ORCA meeting are highlighted in the workshop report, entitled Final Summary Report – Building an Ocean Research in Canada Alliance Workshop, February 22-23, 2017, Ottawa, Ontario

In the year following the February 2017 Workshop, the ORCA community has worked together to advance specific initiatives from the Workshop that focused on building the Alliance. These actions have assisted in establishing a structure and a platform to enable coordination. For example, ORCA has established a Community of Practice (CoP) as a forum to network the wider OST community, share information, discuss priority issues and work collaboratively on initiatives related to OST in Canada.  All members of the OST community are encouraged to engage.   Three leaders of the CoP have been established from across Canada. These CoP leaders serve as lead advocates for coordination across the CoP OST.

A senior-level Council has been established, as another building block, to advance coordination efforts across sectors (i.e. university, government departments and agencies, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous organizations, private industry). The Council is co-chaired by two senior ocean science managers – one from DFO and the other from an academic institution and CCORU.

A secretariat has also been created within Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The ORCA Secretariat provides support to the ORCA Council and the CoP. The Secretariat also facilitates collaboration through the development of tools, such as the ORCA Community SharePoint Platform. This web-based platform is a space for the ORCA community to share information, coordinate activities and identify collaborative opportunities. Its content is highly relevant to OST in Canada, and it has a high degree of functionality: from identifying partners, to facilitating engagement in OST events, to providing members with a shared workspace.

Whilst the ORCA Secretariat is situated within DFO, the Department does not lead or coordinate ORCA; rather the Alliance is viewed as a coalition of the willing, established by the community for the community. The Alliance is a collective enterprise with shared leadership and ownership of the path forward and associated outcomes.

Purpose of the 2018 ORCA Meeting

The 2017 ORCA Workshop and the work conducted over the past twelve months focussed on building up the foundational components of an Alliance. The OST community determined that a subsequent meeting should be hosted in 2018 that would build on these foundational pieces, sustain the momentum that has emerged, and further develop a culture of collaboration amongst this emerging coordinated community (See Appendix A – ORCA 2018 Program).

The theme of ORCA 2018, held April 24-25, was Creating a Culture of Successful Collaboration. At this second meeting of ORCA, the number of participants grew to over two hundred and fifty participants from one hundred and ten organizations representing academia, governments, private sector, not-for-profit organizations and Indigenous organizations from across Canada (See Appendix B – ORCA 2018 Speakers and Participants). Over the two days of meetings, there were key note presentations that provided strategic direction, best practices and lessons learned on creating successful collaboration.

Several of the ORCA member organizations took the opportunity to showcase their work in the exhibit space provided at the meeting facility. The exhibits provided another venue for members to network with colleagues and learn of new possible collaborative opportunities.

Building on the 2017 Workshop outcomes, break-out sessions were held to advance progress against the “challenge areas”, with focused presentations on specific challenges and opportunities to advance efforts in each area.  The identified challenge areas are listed below.

ORCA 2018 Challenge Areas

Creating a culture of collaboration is foundational to ORCA. The building blocks to create the Alliance organization have been established and efforts now focus on strengthening collaboration amongst the scientists, science managers and science users in Canada that come from government, academia, not-for-profit, private sector and Indigenous organizations. It is recognized that diversity in science is a strength and that by collaborating together, improved solutions relating to OST will be found. Societal challenges surrounding global oceans are increasingly complex and require enhanced collaboration at the local, regional, national and international levels and across disciplines and sectors. The OST work needed in order to respond to these challenges must be multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral.  New partnerships are needed to achieve this and a new culture of collaboration must be encouraged across the OST community. The ORCA 2018 meeting was an opportunity to create a culture of successful collaboration in OST in Canada and to work towards addressing the gaps identified in the CCA reports regarding the coordination and alignment of the ocean science community.

Date modified: