Canadian Research Knowledge Network Conference: Roadmap for a Successful Science Transition

Speaking points

Dr. Mona Nemer
Chief Science Advisor of Canada

Canadian Research Knowledge Network Conference: Roadmap for a Successful Science Transition

October 6, 2020

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Hello everyone. I'd like to begin by greeting all of you from across the country who are in front of your screens, and thank the conference organizers for inviting me to speak to you this afternoon. Thanks for having me with you.

I have been a long-time supporter of CRKN, first as a researcher, then as vice president of research at the University of Ottawa when I was a board member, and now in my current role. I share your vision to have the world’s knowledge accessible by all. I also want to thank CRKN for all the work you have done over the past 21 years to advance a sustainable access to the world’s research and Canada’s heritage content.

Good public policy, especially in a global emergency like the current pandemic, requires the best and up-to-the-minute science advice. That advice, in turn, relies on high-quality research. And we know that the best way to generate that high-quality research is to openly share our research findings.

When we get this right, we have a better chance of maintaining and generating public trust in science. Increasingly, the public is interested in science and demands access to the information guiding government decisions. We see it clearly in the current pandemic.

So you see, it’s an interconnected web where decision makers, scientists and the public rely on each other, and moreover, we all rely on professionals like you who make vital information accessible to all. Your work is more important and valuable today than ever before.

Today's science is increasingly interdisciplinary. Researchers benefit from having access to information from various fields of expertise. At the same time, the public is increasingly interested in scientific discoveries and feels challenged by the way scientific knowledge informs government decisions.

It is difficult to meet the needs of these two groups if government-funded research is not easily accessible. In fact, research results often remain difficult to access for researchers, students, health professionals and entrepreneurs. This impedes the progress of science and ultimately affects public confidence.

One of my first actions as chief science advisor was to develop a Scientific Integrity Policy to encourage public dissemination of federal research and to affirm researchers’ freedom to speak openly about their findings. It has now been adopted by 20 federal departments.

Earlier this year, I also released a Roadmap for Open Science. I want to thank everyone who helped me in developing it, including the Open Science Roadmap Advisory Committee, chaired by the highly talented Leslie Weir, the keynote of last year’s CRKN conference.

The Roadmap takes into account the fact that moving toward an open science landscape requires a coordinated approach. In doing so, we focus on a few key principles — People, Transparency, Inclusiveness, Collaborations and Sustainability.

Our view is that in implementing these principles, a phased approach is best, starting with making federal science publications open without an embargo period, and as the next stage, make federal science data “FAIR” — that is, findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

Taken together, these frameworks provide a good foundation for helping the government transition to a new open science landscape.

Which underscores one of the key themes of this conference: Access in Transition. Science and research are going through a transition that is as much a digital transition as it is an operational one. It comes from a greater need for collaboration — collaboration between scientists from all disciplines, working together with librarians, knowledge sharers and knowledge seekers.

The sharing of knowledge has always been at the heart of scientific practice, whether in the context of teaching or exchanges between scholars. Over the years, this sharing has taken advantage of technological advances such as Gutenberg's printing press, or today's digital devices.

To succeed in the current transition to an open science environment requires everyone's commitment. This transition will require changes to our technological infrastructure, changes to our regulatory environment, and changes to our culture. That's why we must work together to make it happen.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the community of researchers, librarians, publishers, and funders around the world have made this happen. It is no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world. Among these changes one positive thing has emerged: open science has proven to be an important asset in the search for solutions.

In the beginning of the pandemic, I joined my international colleagues in calling for free and open access to all Covid-related papers and their supporting data. The publishing community responding swiftly and effectively.

Making research data and scientific publications available immediately to all, instead of being locked behind paywalls, allowed for both more equitable dissemination of knowledge and ensured that public health authorities and policy-makers were making decisions on the most up-to-date evidence. I cannot imagine how collectively we could have navigated this pandemic without open access.

But beyond just pandemic-related science, we need to go further and encourage open science across the spectrum of research. Open Science also fosters quality and integrity in research by offering an opportunity for wider evaluation and scrutiny.

Preprints and open sharing of data is accelerating knowledge development and its availability in supporting evidence-based decision making. It also has put the science process out in the open. This comes with its challenges, and is putting an onus on the science community to explain how consensus is built among scientists and how science knowledge is produced.

That’s why this past summer I joined CRKN’s stakeholder alignment group. Together with my colleagues, we are sending a signal to commercial publishers that the Canadian research community cares about increasing access to research and advancing open scholarship — in an affordable and transparent way.

In the long-term, we need to have a harmonized approach to Open Science in Canada, one that is consistent with our international partners. For that, in the coming year, I plan to engage with the science community outside of government to work towards that goal of achieving that harmonized approach through the whole science system in Canada. I will look to your wisdom and expertise in this national effort.

To achieve this, I am counting on your support and collaboration. I look forward to working with you to strengthen open science in Canada. As part of the Open Science Roadmap, my office is committed to engaging in a dialogue beyond the government science community to develop a Canadian approach.

We will be connecting with you in the coming months. I hope that you will join us in this amazing opportunity to help coordinate a successful transition for the Canadian science community, as part of transforming the way to produce and use science for the benefit of all Canadians.

Thank you. I am happy to now answer a few questions.