In June of 2016, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the intent to work with Canada’s ocean science and technology community to establish an Oceans Research in Canada Alliance (ORCA or “the Alliance”). The decision to establish the ORCA was predicated on dialogue within the ocean science and technology (OST) community on the need for improved coordination of efforts as a result of the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity, released in 2013.
On February 22 and 23, 2017, DFO convened approximately ninety leaders from the OST community in Ottawa for a two-day Workshop (Appendix A). The objective of the Workshop, Building an Oceans Research in Canada Alliance, was to arrive at a suite of tangible initiatives that will help move the community towards coordination of research efforts, programming, and associated infrastructure so that new and on-going Canadian investments in ocean science technology are leveraged for maximum benefit both domestically and abroad.
On day one, experts presented evidence related to the current challenges as well as the opportunities associated with new investments in OST with a view to building a shared understanding of the current state of ocean science and technology in Canada. On day two, participants worked towards the following preliminary “Vision for an Oceans Research in Canada Alliance” and its desired outcomes:
- An entrenched forum for ocean science which serves as the foundation for advancing community interests.
- The government, academic, non-governmental, Indigenous, and private sector OST community is well networked and features a high degree of research mobility, with strong coordination in the sharing of research infrastructure and resources.
- Decision-makers and funders have established or affirmed a long-term political commitment to ocean research, monitoring and conservation programming.
- A cohesive and comprehensive approach to international engagement where Canada has affirmed its leadership role.
- Open science and open data to the advantage or all science players at both the national and international level.
- A more robust, comprehensive evidence base in support of decision-making on Canada’s oceans.
Following the articulation of the draft vision, during break-out sessions participants identified concrete initiatives to advance OST coordination in Canada along five key themes. Some of the initiatives spanned more than one theme, but generally, the recommendations initiatives were:
- Aligning effort and funding around shared priorities: To better align priorities and efficiently utilize available resources, participants recommended an inclusive community engagement initiative, a coordination office to communicate government research needs, a five-year funding plan for infrastructure and ocean research, and investments that align with Canadian priorities (i.e. Marine Protected Areas) and opportunities for international collaboration (e.g. the European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation).
- Infrastructure: To advance the sharing and efficient use of infrastructure, participants recommended the creation of a national inventory of research expertise, activities, priorities, resources and assets, and the establishment of a working group and forum on multi-organizational infrastructure utilization, funding, and management. The need for a five-year infrastructure and funding plan was reiterated.
- Public policy, regulation and decision-making: To improve the ability of government departments to internalize and harness results of ocean research from the broader community, participants recommended that a policy fellowships program be established, a knowledge mobilization group within government be established and an annual ORCA conference should be held. Creating a culture of communication was also highlighted as an enabling factor to address this issue.
- Commercialization of knowledge and technology: In order to improve the commercialization of ocean knowledge and technology, participants recommended the establishment of a communication and coordination mechanism with small and medium sized enterprises, and the identification of national challenges to be addressed and new marine technologies to be developed and tested through science-engineering cooperation.
- International fora: In order for the Canadian OST community to fully engage in international fora, participants recommended a more coordinated approach supported by a secretariat, and the targeting of specific conferences for Canadian leadership and participation.
A sixth cross-cutting thematic area arose as a result of discussions in which the following initiatives were recommended as foundational/enabling strategies to help to guide the establishment and work of the Alliance:
- Build an inclusive, flexible and resilient ORCA from existing successful models
- Establish and improve regular communication mechanisms and create a culture of communication
- Establish a secretariat to support ORCA
- Develop an ocean data and information strategy to enhance ocean literacy and evidence-based decision making in Canada