The report entitled, The State of Science & Technology in Canada, and
prepared at the request of the Government of Canada, explores Canada’s
strengths in science and technology (S&T) to help set the context for the
government’s consideration of S&T policy.
“This report presents a comprehensive picture of Canada’s strengths in
S&T,” said Peter Nicholson, President and CEO of the Council of Canadian
Academies. “The report does not recommend S&T priorities or specific policies.
It describes what is and what is developing based on the best objective
evidence in the time available.”
The report highlights four principal clusters of prominent Canadian S&T
strengths as judged against international standards of excellence:
– the natural resource sector
– information and communications technologies
– health and related life sciences and technologies
– environmental science and technology
The report, commissioned in June 2006, was to investigate and report on:
– the scientific disciplines in which Canada excels in a global context
– the technology applications where Canada excels in a global context
– the S&T infrastructure that currently provides Canada with unique
– the scientific disciplines and technological applications that have the
potential to emerge as areas of prominent strength for Canada and
generate significant economic of social benefits
The study was overseen by a 10-member expert Committee on the State of
Science & Technology in Canada. Given the lack of a simple, one-dimensional
measure of a country’s S&T strength, the committee used four “lenses” to
increase the confidence of its conclusions. These lenses were:
– Opinion Survey: A large-scale, online survey of the opinion of Canadian
S&T experts. These informed opinions represent, collectively, a broad
and integrated picture.
– Metrics: An analysis of bibliometric data (the quantity and quality of
published research in scientific journals) and technometric data
(patents granted). This gives a narrower, but more precise,
internationally comparable perspective.
– View from Abroad: A summary of reports and comments obtained from
foreign sources that complements the self-assessment of the opinion
– Literature: A review of relevant publications, including
internationally comparable indicators of important aspects of S&T
strength at the national level.
“The results of the opinion survey, which received over 1,500 responses,
are the views of a significant fraction of Canada’s senior S&T community,”
said Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Chair of the committee responsible for the report.
“We believe that one of the most useful aspects of our report is the
foundation it provides to develop a much deeper, and more broadly shared,
understanding of Canada’s S&T system.”
Other findings include:
The view of Canada’s strength overall in science and technology is
somewhat more pessimistic than the survey respondents’ opinion of S&T
strengths in specific areas of research, technology application, and
infrastructure. Fewer than half of respondents to the opinion survey ranked
Canada strong overall in S&T and roughly a quarter believe we are weak
relative to the average of other economically-advanced countries. The
perception of the overall trend is rather pessimistic – about 40% believe
Canada is losing ground. Only 28% see Canada gaining while 32% believe we are
Looking ahead, most authorities concur on where the main action in S&T
will be in the coming years:
– information and communications technologies
– biosciences and technologies
– materials sciences and technologies
– “nano” technologies applied broadly
Survey respondents identified energy technologies – and particularly
‘clean energy’ – as the area where Canada was best positioned to develop
prominent strength in the future. On the other hand, the survey also contained
evidence that Canada is currently not particularly strong in many of the
relevant clean energy technologies.
The survey also identified a set of healthcare technologies – including
tissue engineering (e.g. use of stem cells), targeted drug delivery, and
genetically customized healthcare – as having great potential for Canada over
the next 10-15 years.
The report identifies infrastructure that supports “knowledge production”
as a particular Canadian strength. Survey respondents gave high marks to the
Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Research Chairs program, research
hospitals, universities and the research granting agencies of the federal
government, particularly the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR)
and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
Among elements of infrastructure to support the commercialization of
research, the highest survey ratings went to the Industrial Research
Assistance Program (IRAP), the Scientific Research and Experimental
Development (SR&ED) tax credit, the Networks of Centres of Excellence program,
and Genome Canada.
The committee notes that the S&T capacity of the government of Canada is
a valuable national asset, since the government is often the only feasible
provider of many important services such as standards setting, national
statistical services, public goods such as the meteorological service and the
geological survey, science in support of regulatory functions, and maintenance
of long series of observational data (e.g., to support climate science).
Survey respondents gave high ratings to three major federal institutions: the
infectious diseases laboratories, National Research Council Institutes and
other federal labs, and Statistics Canada.
The survey results pointed to some potential challenges such as the
perceived shortcoming of the financial institution infrastructure to support
S&T, the state of Canada’s capabilities related to transport technologies,
perceived weaknesses in important components of the forest products industry
and the pharmaceutical sector, and the guarded view of survey respondents
concerning the S&T benefits, or otherwise, of Canada’s regulatory systems.
The Council of Canadian Academies is an arm’s length, not-for-profit
organization registered under the Canada Corporations Act. The Council is a
source of independent, expert assessment of the science underlying important
matters of public interest. The Council, which began regular operations in
February 2006, received a founding grant of $30 million from the Government of
Canada to support its basic operations for 10 years through 2015.
For the complete report please visit the Council’s website at
For background information, please visit: