2. Introduction and Context

Purpose of the Workshop

In June of 2016, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the intent to work with Canada’s ocean science and technology community to establish an Oceans Research in Canada Alliance (ORCA). This Alliance of Canada’s funders and performers of ocean science and technology (OST) is envisioned as a means of institutionalizing co-operation to improve the coordination of research efforts, programming, and associated infrastructure so that new and on-going Canadian investments in OST are leveraged for maximum benefit both domestically and abroad. On February 22 and 23, 2017, DFO convened approximately ninety leaders (Appendix B) from the Canada’s ocean science and technology community in Ottawa, to discuss collectively how an ORCA could improve the overall coordination amongst the community through the identification of tangible forward looking initiatives.

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Renewed Investment: Major Investments in Oceans Science and Technology

There is substantial growth in the collective capacity of Canada’s OST community as a result of recent federal investments. This capacity presents opportunities for major Canadian scientific achievement to be realized through an integrated, coordinated approach to the management and conduct of OST, such as envisioned with the Alliance. An overview of recent investments in Canadian OST provided context. In 2016, the federal government made the largest investment in aquatic science within government in over a decade, allocating $197 million over five years to DFO. This revitalization created 135 new science positions and designated significant annual amounts for collaborative science with the OST community. This core science investment was augmented with further funds for science and technology within federal science departments supporting initiatives under Canada’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan (OPP). The federal government has also made considerable new and renewed investments in the OST community beyond federal science-based departments and agencies. These investments include $94 million for the establishment of the Ocean Frontier Institute for science relating to the North Atlantic and the Canadian Arctic gateway and funds to Oceans Network Canada, the Oceans Tracking Network, the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network, Laval University’s science program aboard CCG Amundsen, the academic Canada Research Chairs program among numerous others.

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Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) convened a panel of experts to identify ocean science research priorities and assess Canada’s capacities and infrastructure gaps associated with those priorities. They published two reports in 2013: 40 Priority Research Questions for Ocean Science in Canada and Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity. In addition to research priorities and major themes, the executive summary to the latter report identified three gaps in the coordination and alignment of the ocean science community in Canada that required action:

In discussing these gaps as well as the ongoing challenges and opportunities identified within these reports, the establishment of an Alliance was affirmed as the mechanism to advance efforts to address a number of these cross-cutting issues.

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Vision for the Oceans Research in Canada Alliance (ORCA)

Since the release of the Council of Canadian Academies reports, a vision for a Canadian Alliance, what it would look like, how it would function, and its desired outcomes has been evolving under the leadership of the Canadian Consortium of Ocean Research Universities (CCORU). In addition to being instrumental in advocating for the Council of Canadian Academies reports, CCORU and its members have held an Ocean Science Roundtable, a number of workshops, and commissioned the report, Investigating the Establishment of a Canadian Organization for the Coordination of Ocean Science Activities in Canada. These efforts and others have informed the following draft vision, tabled at the Workshop as a departure point for further discussion by the community at large:

In keeping with the overarching vision, key functions, such as facilitating networking and connectivity, learning and alignment, and acting together with a focus on tangible results were seen as foundational in moving forward with the Alliance. Though DFO convened the Workshop, the Department views the Alliance as a collective enterprise with shared leadership and ownership of the path forward and associated outcomes. Equally important in discussions shaping the vision for the Alliance is what it is not. The Alliance is not intended to be a lobby group, nor an advisory body to DFO. Additionally, the Alliance is not intended to be a funding mechanism, though it may seek to provide strategic guidance to the community on priorities and coordination of funding.

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