Canada's Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC), released its State of the Nation 2010 report today, which presents indicators of Canada's innovation system and its performance relative to our major trading partners. Youth Science Canada's Smarter Science Initiative is highlighted (p.58) together with Calgary's Galileo Educational Network as a "best practice" in the section on talent indicators, which focuses on the country's ability to nurture talent at all levels, from secondary school to world-class researchers.
Introducing the report, STIC Chair Howard Alper noted that "Canada's strengths include a rich talent pool; growth in the number of science and engineering graduates; higher capital investments in key sectors such as oil and gas extraction, finance and insurance; and above average research and development (R&D) intensity in certain sectors such as information and communication technologies (ICT), transportation, and paper, lumber, and related industries. Our challenges are to increase industry R&D in underperforming sectors, improve the transfer and commercialization of knowledge from universities and research institutions, and achieve greater collaboration in clusters of Canada's research intensive industries."
In 2008, the Council recommended a specific set of R&D priority areas, which were endorsed by the Minister of Industry - Environment, Natural Resources and Energy, Health and Life Sciences, and Information and Communications Technologies. These priorities are strongly reflected in 5 of our Canada-Wide Youth Science Challenges - Energy, Environment, Health, Information, and Resources. The additional two Challenges - Discovery and Innovation - encourage youth to undertake projects in basic scientific research and engineering.
Interestingly, the Council's 2008 State of the Nation report identified "talent" as a specific area for attention, noting that "Young Canadians are excelling in science, mathematics and reading in comparison to their peers around the world, raking in the top five in each of these categories. We must keep up with others who are improving their rankings." In December 2010, the 2009 OECD PISA report showed that while Canada's performance in science remained statistically at the same level as in 2006, the country had slipped from third to eighth place. Youth Science Canada's programs directly address this challenge, and our Smarter Science initiative, supported by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, is providing support for science teachers in grades 1-12 across the province. We are also currently in discussion with other jurisdictions who have expressed interest in introducing Smarter Science in their province.
The report is available for download as a PDF document on the STIC web site.