2. Introduction and Context

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Purpose of the Workshop

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). This Alliance of Canada’s funders and performers of ocean science and technology (OST) is 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 are leveraged for maximum benefit both domestically and abroad. On February 22 and 23, 2017, DFO convened approximately ninety leaders (Appendix B) from the Canada’s ocean science and technology community in Ottawa, to discuss collectively how an ORCA could improve the overall coordination amongst the community through the identification of tangible forward looking initiatives.


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Renewed Investment: Major Investments in Oceans Science and Technology

There is 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. An overview of recent investments in Canadian OST provided context. In 2016, the federal government made the largest investment in aquatic science within government in over a decade, allocating $197 million over five years to DFO. This revitalization created 135 new science positions and designated significant annual amounts for collaborative science with the OST community. This core science investment was augmented with further funds for science and technology within federal science departments supporting initiatives under Canada’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan (OPP). The federal government has also made considerable new and renewed investments in the OST community beyond federal science-based departments and agencies. These investments include $94 million for the establishment of the Ocean Frontier Institute for science relating to the North Atlantic and the Canadian Arctic gateway and funds to Oceans Network Canada, the Oceans Tracking Network, the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network, Laval University’s science program aboard CCG Amundsen, the academic Canada Research Chairs program among numerous others.


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Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) convened a panel of experts to identify ocean science researchpriorities and assess Canada’s capacities and infrastructure gaps associated with those priorities. Theypublished two reports in 2013: 40 Priority Research Questions for Ocean Science in Canada and Ocean Sciencein Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity. In addition to research priorities and majorthemes, the executive summary to the latter report identified three gaps in the coordination and alignment of the ocean science community in Canada that required action:

  • The vision gap: In contrast to other countries, or other disciplines in Canada, no comprehensive national strategy or vision currently exists for ocean science in Canada. This makes it difficult to prioritize needs and comprehensively plan investments for ocean science.
  • The coordination gap: Addressing the increasingly complex issues of ocean science requires enhanced collaboration at the local, regional, national, and international levels, and across disciplines and sectors. Despite the many instances of successful collaboration in Canada, coordination in key areas, such as ocean observation, is lacking, and support for research networks has often been constrained by temporary funding. More generally, there is no effective national-level mechanism to coordinate the allocation of resources and facilitate the sharing of infrastructure and knowledge among ocean scientists. This also hinders the sharing of resources and knowledge at the international level.
  • The information gap: Limitations in access to, and availability and comparability of, information makes it difficult to assess several categories of ocean science capacity (e.g., the number of active researchers, comprehensive data on research spending, or inventories of large instruments relevant to ocean science).”

In discussing these gaps as well as the ongoing challenges and opportunities identified within these reports, the establishment of an Alliance was affirmed as the mechanism to advance efforts to address a number of these cross-cutting issues.

  • Where Canada lacks a common national vision and up-to-date strategy for ocean science, ORCA could develop a national strategy for OST;
  • Where Canada is facing a fragmented community, with no national coordination of resource allocation efforts, ORCA could play an interface and coordination role across Canada;
  • Where there is an information gap to assess Canadian highly qualified personnel in ocean science and technology, ORCA could collate inventories of university-based networks to provide insights into the intellectual capital.

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Vision for the Oceans Research in Canada Alliance (ORCA)

Since the release of the Council of Canadian Academies reports, a vision for a Canadian Alliance, what it would look like, how it would function, and its desired outcomes has been evolving under the leadership of the Canadian Consortium of Ocean Research Universities (CCORU). In addition to being instrumental in advocating for the Council of Canadian Academies reports, CCORU and its members have held an Ocean Science Roundtable, a number of workshops, and commissioned the report, Investigating the Establishment of a Canadian Organization for the Coordination of Ocean Science Activities in Canada. These efforts and others have informed the following draft vision, tabled at the Workshop as a departure point for further discussion by the community at large:

  • 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.

In keeping with the overarching vision, key functions, such as facilitating networking and connectivity, learning and alignment, and acting together with a focus on tangible results were seen as foundational in moving forward with the Alliance. Though DFO convened the Workshop, the Department views the Alliance as a collective enterprise with shared leadership and ownership of the path forward and associated outcomes. Equally important in discussions shaping the vision for the Alliance is what it is not. The Alliance is not intended to be a lobby group, nor an advisory body to DFO. Additionally, the Alliance is not intended to be a funding mechanism, though it may seek to provide strategic guidance to the community on priorities and coordination of funding.


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