3. Recommended Initiatives: A Coordinated Ocean Science and Technology Community


On the second day, participants took part in targeted discussions to develop recommendations on how to build a more coordinated path forward for OST in Canada. Discussions were framed within the context of five key themes (Table 1). The objective of this exercise was to have the Canadian OST community identify tangible initiatives in each of the thematic areas that the Alliance could undertake to improve and advance the coordination of OST in Canada.

Table 1: Key themes and associated questions discussed by participants in targeted Workshop sessions
Theme Question
1. Funding and Shared Priorities What do we need to do as a community to align efforts, forward looking plans, and associated funding around common/shared priorities?
2. Infrastructure What do we need to do to advance the sharing of infrastructure?
3. Public Policy, Regulation and Decision Making What do we need to do to improve Government departments' ability to internalize/harness the results from ocean science performed outside of Government to inform public policy, regulation, and decision-making?
4. Commercialization of Knowledge and Technology What do we need to do to strengthen the linkages in the ocean science innovation system that will result in improvements in the commercialization of knowledge and technology?
5. International Fora What do we need to do to better engage as a Canadian ocean science community with shared purpose and objectives in International fora?

Two concurrent discussions were facilitated to address each question. Participants were asked to describe their preferred future for OST in Canada, as well as to identify key initiatives to realize the preferred future. The preferred future represents strengths, achievements, and impacts that participants hope to see by 2020 and beyond. Initiatives represent tangible actions that are proposed to achieve the preferred future. This summary integrates the input of the two groups that addressed each question. In some cases, responses to different questions yielded similar solutions, reflecting a growing consensus on what needs to be done to improve coordination of OST in Canada.

1. Aligning Efforts, Plans, and Funding Around Shared Priorities


What do we need to do as a community to align efforts, forward looking plans, and associated funding around common/shared priorities?

Preferred Future

The OST community has rallied around a common, inclusive vision that is accepted by members and decision makers. Greater mutual understanding and alignment has facilitated the leveraging of assets. Funding mechanisms for research and infrastructure are more harmonized, and effectively support the sharing and use of infrastructure. Resources (e.g., information and facilities) and costs (e.g., maintenance) are shared. As ORCA facilitates communication and creates closer connections, funding agencies are putting more money into the sector, recognizing the value of increased collaboration. The coordination of research through ORCA, including national and international at-sea efforts, has increased Canada’s credibility at international meetings. The public supports ORCA’s forward-looking plans, as Canadians become more knowledgeable about the sustainability of our ocean.

Proposed initiatives

In order to achieve this aligned, inclusive, and efficient funding model, the following initiatives were proposed:

  1. Information gathering and gap analysis
  2. As a precursor to the initiatives that follow, in order to align efforts, an initial exercise should be undertaken to ensure that the mandates of different groups have been shared and understood by community members and priorities have been aligned and gaps addressed.

  3. Establish a coordinating office to communicate government research needs to non-government researchers, and to identify (and help augment) funding programs for specific government research needs.
  4. A coordinating office could maintain an inventory of programs and tools from all partners, recognizing each partner’s unique contribution and reducing duplication. A process for incorporating science advice into policy could be initiated.

  5. Launch a community engagement initiative that includes Indigenous communities among key stakeholders
  6. An ORCA strategic plan could include OST projects defined by key stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, and an engagement process with regular meetings and town halls to obtain their input at the beginning of research projects. By being more reflective of key stakeholder positions, needs, and interests, the Alliance could benefit from greater support on the part of community stakeholders.

  7. Develop a five-year funding plan for ocean research and infrastructure
  8. A scientific funding model inclusive of asset, community and training needs across ORCA members would ensure alignment between the infrastructure asset envelope and scientific project work, as well as more effective engagement and involvement of Indigenous and community stakeholders.

  9. Strengthen and sustain investments in strategically important areas for Canada, and align funding with calls for international collaborations
  10. Investment in strategically important areas for Canada, such as the Arctic, should be strengthened and sustained. This could be done through new or existing Networks. ORCA’s role could be to provide proactive Canadian leadership; advising funding agencies of research priorities for ocean science. There is a need to identify areas where Canada is leading in research, and focus on these as priorities to make an even greater global impact. The European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation “Horizon2020” is an example of international opportunity for collaboration that could help frame investment in the Canadian context.

  11. Invest in marine environment hotspots and innovative approaches to the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
  12. This could be a pilot project to demonstrate how ORCA can be a mechanism to connect conservation, economic and social outcomes. Ensuring healthy and productive oceans through the establishment of MPAs is an important priority for Canada, and the government is in the process of establishing more MPAs.

2. Infrastructure


What do we need do to advance the sharing of infrastructure?Footnote 1

Preferred Future

Canada has a long-term plan for world-class ocean infrastructure that is resilient, looking beyond short-term government and political priorities.

A better collaborative process for priority setting, issue identification, and research planning serves to identify infrastructure needs. With new ships on board, the community manages infrastructure in a collective manner. There are shared ocean resources and infrastructure, such as the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) being opened by Polar Knowledge Canada in 2017. Stakeholders have a clear understanding of partners’ inventories and capacity, and there are effective mechanisms to manage, share and store data. The sharing of infrastructure has triggered productive partnerships. Low cost, creative solutions to infrastructure maximize the value of existing capacity, while continuing to look for improved ways to build new capacity.

Proposed initiatives

In order to achieve this long-term, resilient plan for world-class ocean infrastructure, the following initiatives were proposed:

  1. Create an accessible national inventory of ocean science research expertise, activities, priorities, resources and assets, with web-based tools to encourage individuals to contribute research and infrastructure information
  2. This inventory could create a common lexicon and tool to do a gap analysis that would enable better multi-organizational planning of science cruises. A searchable online database could be created to identify scientific facilities interested in multi-organizational collaboration, the capabilities and assets possessed by these facilities, and a contact name for further inquiry. As a “one-stop-shop”, it would improve access to the diversity of resources of ORCA members, such as data and vessels, and reduce the duplication of research efforts.

    Such an open repository of OST resources and products could develop a common understanding of the breadth of the Canadian marine environment, and lead to new collaboration and partnerships. It would require the establishment of transparent standards for access and costing, and a streamlined reservation process. Support and training components also need to be taken into account when involving communities and Indigenous stakeholders. It was suggested that the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) research navigator system could be extended to federal departments, and considered as a starting point.

  3. Make infrastructure an explicit part of the mandate for ORCA, and establish a working group and forum for conversations on infrastructure sharing that would examine innovative mechanisms for multi-organizational infrastructure utilization, funding, and management
  4. Establishing an entrenched forum for scientific collaboration and discussion on infrastructure must form an explicit part of the ORCA mandate. The close involvement of partners is important to address a resource allocation and optimization problem among diverse partners from both governmental and non-governmental entities, with different funding and governance models. ORCA could offer mechanisms for discussion of equipment priorities among a cooperation panel that would identify common infrastructure needs and then purchase equipment. A coordinated process and funding tools could be developed to lease/obtain vessels and vessel time for science missions. Both one-off (highly specific) and broadly based (systemic) solutions should be considered. A short-term result would be more ship time available to do more research.

    With respect to joint ownership and/or joint management of infrastructure, a multi-organizational hub concept is being explored at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO) focused on intelligent marine systems with Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) as partners.

  5. Develop a five-year funding plan for infrastructure and ocean research
  6. A scientific funding model inclusive of asset, community and training needs across ORCA members would ensure alignment between the infrastructure asset envelope and scientific project work, as well as more effective engagement and involvement of Indigenous and community stakeholders.

3. Public Policy, Regulation, and Decision Making


What do we need to do to improve government departments' ability to internalize/harness the results from ocean science performed outside of government to inform public policy, regulation, and decision-making?

Preferred future

Government uses ocean science results generated outside of government as part of its evidence base, and departments have a strategy to internalize how external OST is used to inform policy. Relationships and networks contribute to effective collaborative work and integration between government and external agencies. The Canadian Ice Service (CIS) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) relationship is an example of this, where CSA acts as a conduit through which the entire space industry/knowledge domain is accessed. In the future, knowledge sharing mechanisms and efficiencies that already exist between government, industry and the academic sector will be leveraged fully, resulting in high levels of cooperation and trust. University academics also ensure that their research fits within DFO priority areas; that it is aligned with public policy considerations, and the requirements of users from both industry and government. Robust communication systems that include collaborative discussion on priorities, and standards for data access and management, are in place to facilitate community engagement, and the coordination of research needs.

Proposed initiatives

In order to improve the ability of government departments to internalize and harness results of ocean science from the broader community, the following initiatives were proposed:

  1. Set up a policy fellowships program
  2. Adjunct opportunities for external researchers within DFO could be expanded, in order to align the research agendas of both federal and non-governmental organizations. Encouraging the movement of scientific personnel between government and academia would build personal relationships and networks across organizational lines, and encourage more alignment of scientific programming/research priorities.

  3. Hold annual ORCA conference where government priorities can be presented along with advances in research.
  4. A formal annual event could become a complementary piece of the ORCA infrastructure to meet the objective of synchronizing internal and external science. Another way to describe this is as a coordinated, multi-organizational space where university scientists can work in closer collaboration with DFO scientists, and present results to the DFO community/users. On-demand science panels could assemble all disciplines to answer specific questions such as: “Is climate affecting fishing conditions on the east coast?”

  5. Establish a knowledge mobilization group within government
  6. Drawing on the model already in place for social sciences in Canada, knowledge mobilization groups could be established within government to foster information exchange. The creation of an access point for bringing scientific results to the attention of government that could act as a single window for the reception and direction of knowledge to where it is needed.

Creating a culture of communication was also highlighted as an enabling factor to address this question, and it is discussed further in section 6.

4. Commercialization of Knowledge and Technology


What do we need to do to strengthen the linkages in the ocean science innovation system that will result in improvements in the commercialization of knowledge and technology?

Preferred future

Canada remains a world leader in collecting ocean data. Data are made public in real time; and people are trained to use ocean science data. Open data help to tackle the commercialization issue, by helping to nurture private enterprises that want to conduct research and generate commercial activity in the sector. New technologies deliver advances in science, and create global opportunities for Canadian ocean technology. Industry connects more quickly to researchers with the ability to create knowledge that can be commercialized.

Identified key players in the commercialization of knowledge and technology find creative ways to increase market potential. The engagement and involvement of communities and users of OST have brought resilience to the system. A more resilient ocean science innovation system has also brought new investments. Commercialization to larger markets cycles back to support research and technology in a positive feedback loop.

Enhanced communications and integrated networks that link government departments, provinces, Indigenous organizations, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the country bring attention to national challenges, make better use of existing experts, and also create new career opportunities in OST.

Proposed initiatives

In order to improve the commercialization of knowledge and technology from ocean science, the following initiatives were proposed:

  1. Establish a communications and coordination mechanism between researchers requiring new marine technologies and SME technology developers, to focus on accelerating knowledge transfer and technological development
  2. A coordination office or knowledge mobilization group should be created to bring scientific results to the attention of government, acting as a single window for the reception, extensive review, and direction of knowledge to where it is needed. Another suggestion is to have a coordinated space where government researchers can work with external scientists to define research questions, organize data collection, manage open access to data, plan work ahead of time, and ensure that products of research are used. This would also respond to theme 1 and theme 3. Similarly, more tangible SME and user involvement through connector events at national hubs would result in more rapid adoption of new technologies by research communities. Making it easier for SMEs to connect with researchers doing work relevant to their business would result in more commercialization of research, more rapid adoption of new technologies by researchers, better information for decision-making, more jobs and exports, and better environmental conditions.

  3. Identify national challenges in marine technology development
  4. Taking a long-term, national focus on technologies at the interface of science and engineering, as opposed to individual research initiatives, would allow sufficient time for productive science-engineering collaborations to go from idea to commercialization. Experts should be identified to work on trans-disciplinary projects to address complex issues. This would enhance the sustainable use of ocean resources, and improve marine safety. A focus on grand challenges that includes funding agencies, universities and government departments would develop Canadian leadership in both science and engineering.

  5. Identify new Canadian technologies that can be developed and tested through science-engineering cooperation
  6. Canada should play a leadership role to initiate, plan and fund international OST ventures. Canada should also be proactive in promoting Canadian technology overseas. For example, ORCA could promote the new Ocean Technology Alliance of Canada (OTAC), which supports companies that refine and perfect ocean technology. Canada is known as the go-to country for ocean sensor technology. OTAC and ORCA could work with SMEs across Canada to develop the technology, and then test it in different environments. The creation of international science programs and globally transferrable information would be valuable Canadian contributions to international science. Thinking ahead to 2020, one of the anticipated successes is for Canada to have created international grad student and post doc positions in projects that focus on OST. This also relates to theme 5.

An ocean data and information strategy was also raised as a crosscutting foundational strategy impacting commercialization, and this is described in section 6 below.

5. International Fora


What do we need to do to better engage as a Canadian ocean science community with shared purpose and objectives in international fora?

Preferred Future

Canada is well represented by experts at key international fora, and speaks with one voice that represents the vision of the ocean community. Opportunities to participate in conferences and meetings are identified, prioritized, and coordinated. ORCA engages with other groups within Canada and with Global Affairs Canada to identify entry points into a few select meetings, and ensure optimal representation. Canadian ocean research priorities inform and shape international engagements (i.e. with networks like the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES)).

ORCA plays a leadership role to coordinate national participation in the international Our Ocean conferences. Knowledge gained by sending delegates to conferences internationally is disseminated in Canada. Keys to this success are properly funded research priorities and well established connections with the SME community in Canada. Canadians continue to be sought after as global leaders and partners in international projects. ORCA works with leaders from both developed and developing nations to develop shared resources on big-ticket research initiatives.

Proposed initiatives

In order to enable the OST community to fully engage internationally, the following initiatives were proposed:

  1. Develop a coordinated approach to participation in international fora by prioritizing entry points, building an engagement calendar, engaging all relevant departments (including Global Affairs), and disseminating information to target audiences.
  2. In consultation with the broader science community, and with the collaboration of science-based departments and agencies, create an International ORCA Secretariat that would help to identify how Canadian and international research and priorities are connected. This would be a starting point to build an engagement calendar to participate strategically in international fora. Specific milestones in the establishment of the Secretariat could include the development of a calendar of events, a website or social media communications, a marketing strategy to establish joint ventures, and proposals to obtain extra resources, as needed.

    This initiative would give Canada a stronger global voice, with both developed and developing nations and boost Canada’s ranking in terms of international impact. More consistent messaging and broader dissemination of OST information would reach the general public, who would care more about having a sustainable global ocean. Efficiencies gained from better coordination and information sharing between industry, government and university scientists, within Canada and internationally, would help Canada to capture a greater part of the global ocean economy. Success could be evaluated by increased numbers of co-publications, co-patents, and international collaborations.

    ORCA could also play a leadership role in identifying new Canadian technologies which could be promoted internationally.

  3. Send delegates to international fora such as ICES, PICES and Our Ocean conference. Propose that Canada host Our Ocean conference in 2020 - after Malta, Indonesia, and Norway.
  4. To maximize impact on international positions related to ocean science management, Canada could sponsor an international ocean conference in Canada such as ICES, PICES or Our Ocean conference. This would bring in international expertise, improve engagement, and shine light on what Canadians can do to resolve the world’s ocean challenges.

6. Foundational and Enabling Strategies

Guiding principles and fundamental elements necessary for the successful evolution of the Alliance emerged from the discussions. The importance of incorporating the following elements was reflected in initiatives cutting across all five main themes of the Workshop:

  • Alignment
  • Inclusivity
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Open data
  • Resilience

To reflect these overarching principles, the following initiatives, identified by participants, are presented as foundational and enabling strategies that can help to guide the implementation of the ORCA:

  1. Build an inclusive, flexible and resilient ORCA from existing models, starting with terms of reference
  2. Existing models (e.g., Réseau Québec Maritime, Canadian Fisheries Research Network, Canada Networks Centres of Excellence, JPI Oceans, etc) should be studied to assess the factors that maximize returns, and create terms of reference for an inclusive ORCA model.

  3. Establish and improve regular communication mechanisms and create a culture of communication
  4. Establish regular communications between government departments, Indigenous ocean science organizations, universities and non-governmental organizations to foster the integration of knowledge and skills of all stakeholders to support decision-making. An improved culture of communication would support the coordination of “big picture” innovative opportunities instead of piece-meal projects.

  5. Establish a Secretariat to support ORCA
  6. Establish a secretariat to support ORCA in its collaboration, integration, networking, and data sharing efforts.

  7. Develop an ocean data and information strategy to enhance ocean literacy and evidence-based decision making in Canada
  8. This initiative would bring together a broad user community to define user information needs, and strategies to meet those needs: from open data to modeling to analytics. Participants would include academia, government departments, coastal/Indigenous communities, SMEs and larger enterprises. Stronger user involvement would make science more relevant and resilient. An ocean data and information strategy, built on an open data concept, would support public policy, infrastructure, and commercialization.

The final plenary session at the Workshop included a discussion identifying the proposed initiatives that were “quick start items”: items that are both essential to moving forward with an ORCA and important to begin as soon as possible. The group identified the establishment of an ORCA Secretariat (coordination, support and communication functions), the engagement of Indigenous stakeholders, the inventory and gap analysis of infrastructure, the development of an ocean data and information strategy, and the analysis of current Canadian engagement in international fora as “quick start items” for ORCA.