Foresighting Government Science and Innovation in the New Normal
Jeff Kinder, Executive Director, Science and Innovation, Institute on Governance
Brian Colton, Research Associate, Institute on Governance
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In the closing months of the Second World War, US President Roosevelt asked his science advisor, Vannevar Bush, how the nation could continue to benefit from research in peacetime as it had during the war. Dr. Bush’s report, Science: The Endless Frontier, outlined a basic compact in which society supports science with public funds and assures the scientific community a great deal of autonomy in exchange for the considerable but unpredictable benefits that can flow from the scientific enterprise.
Fast forward 75 years, many of the underlying social, economic, cultural, and political assumptions in The Endless Frontier are outdated. The social contract is showing strain under decreasing trust, rising concerns about scientific integrity, and calls for more inclusion and diversity as Canada grapples with systemic racism and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous people. Science and engineering are still necessary to help address society’s grand challenges and disruptive opportunities, but our approaches to the governance of science and innovation, research funding and performance, and how new knowledge and innovations are put to use must evolve in a ‘post-truth’ / ‘post-trust’ Canadian context.
In December 2020, the Institute on Governance (IOG) launched Government Science and Innovation in the New Normal (GSINN), as a first phase of a multi-year, collaborative research initiative Beyond Endless Frontiers: Rethinking the Social Contract between Science and Society. GSINN is designed to support medium-term planning for the federal science and innovation departments and agencies, and begin an in-depth examination of the evolving relationship among science, innovation and society. Building on a hindsight exercise and multiple foresight workshops, GSINN is exploring how science and innovation can remain relevant in the new reality.
Jeff Kinder, PhD
Executive Director, Science and Innovation
Institute on Governance
Brian Colton had a successful 32-year career with both the federal government and the government of Ontario, where he was well known and highly regarded for his skills and knowledge, both within and outside of government. He has a strong track record and reputation as a “confident leader and facilitator, a strong team builder, and mentor who can reach across organizational boundaries to get things done”. He is the recipient of numerous federal government (departmental and national) awards for his teamwork, and project development.
Brian’s federal experience at IC/ISED, HC, and CFIA focussed on S&T/emerging technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology) primarily in the health, and food sectors involving federal and provincial departments and agencies, academia and industry stakeholders. During his federal career, he gas co-led numerous interdepartmental future-focused projects, a number of them with Jack Smith and Jonathan Calof. From 2013 to 2019 at the National Research Council (NRC), he was the Manager/Senior Analyst of the S&T Outlook/Foresight office where he worked on over ten major projects. He retired from the NRC in August 2019.
Brian’s provincial career included providing clinical and community based developmental supports and services to adults and children with developmental disabilities, and autism. He co-led a 7-year research investigation on the future of community-based support services for those with special needs, and long term care health.
Brian studied at the undergraduate and graduate levels focused on the areas of developmental psychobiology, neuropharmacology, and biochemistry. Brian also studied business administration and supervision management at the Canadian School of Management/Oxford-Brookes University (UK), and Algonquin College. He completed foresight training programs with the University of Ottawa (Telfer), and Houston, and is trained in Advanced Facilitation skills.