In mid-November, U.S. National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan traveled to Ottawa, Canada, where he signed a bilateral research arrangement during a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Canada. He also served as a featured speaker at the 15th annual Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), themed, “Science & Innovation in a Time of Transformation.”
During his visit, he met with leading proponents of Canadian science, including the Chairman of the Standing House of Commons Committee on Science and Research; the Chief Science Advisor of Canada; the CEO of the Canadian Science Policy Center (CSPC); heads of Canadian research funding agencies; and the Assistant and Associate Deputy Ministers of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada. The high-level discussions were aimed at fostering and strengthening the US-Canada science and technology cooperation.
“Success across our respective spheres depends on our ability to work together and to LEARN: leverage, explore, ask, recommend and network”
– Sethuraman Panchanathan
On November 13th, Panchanathan joined co-panelists, Mona Nemer, the Chief Science Advisor of Canada and Alejandro Adem, the President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, for the CSPC’s opening session and showcase event. Their conversation spanned a variety of societally relevant topics, highlighting the importance of creating pathways into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); the growing need for open science; and enhancing global science.
“Strategic STEM partnerships advance shared national interests and priorities, unlocking even greater possibilities, progress, and prosperity,” stated Panchanathan, who pointed to the NSF-led Global Centers program as a primary example.
“This international research partnership initiative syncs global talent, elevates team science and community-driven research, and translates knowledge into transformative actions through convergent research. Outcomes will inform and generate innovative solutions to clean energy and climate change, empowering resilient communities, everywhere,” he said.
On November 14th, Panchanathan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) at an event hosted by US Ambassador to Canada, David Cohen. The new NSF-SSHRC MOU provides an overarching framework to encourage collaboration between U.S. and Canadian research communities and sets out the principles for developing jointly supported activities.
Panchanathan said, “Today’s grand challenges transcend national borders and scientific disciplines, requiring robust collaborations with like-minded partners. This agreement establishes a unique and exciting opportunity to draw on our nations’ collective strengths and unleash new talent, ideas, and innovations at speed and scale.”
Future activities enabled by the MOU would build on several U.S. -Canada research collaborations already underway. Those include the NSF-led Global Centers ; the NSERC-NSF AI/Quantum Lead Agency Opportunity,; and the Canadian-led New Frontiers in Research Fund, which aims to produce adaptation and mitigation strategies for groups most impacted by the effects of climate change.
Earlier that day, Panchanathan participated in the CSPC’s Breakfast Session Panel, titled, “Making the case for science in the turbulent 21st century.” He joined voices from the worlds of politics, journalism and government in sharing insights on topics such as international collaboration, science communication and the science-public-policy relationship.
“Success across our respective spheres depends on our ability to work together and to LEARN: leverage, explore, ask, recommend and network,” said Panchanathan. This interdisciplinary, team-oriented approach, he added, helps foster openness, transparency and reciprocity—values underpinning Canada’s and U.S’s research models—and which are key to improving society and bettering livelihoods.
Speaking on the capacity of science policy to catalyze positive change, Panchanathan invoked the CHIPS and Science Act. “Last year, ’CHIPS and Science’ was signed into law, empowering NSF to make crucial investments in its core mission,” he said. “This legislation has already enriched the global research landscape by enabling the agency to support more people and ideas, at home and abroad – and NSF will continue to accelerate use-inspired science and curiosity-driven research to solve problems, develop new technologies and produce real-world impacts that benefit everyone.”
Later, Panchanathan co-chaired a meeting between NSF and the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC), which brought together representatives and leaders from multiple Canadian research funding agencies. The participants discussed a range of topics, such as best-practices for deepening the U.S.-Canada science, technology, and innovation relationship and promoting Indigenous leadership in research.
Panchanathan rounded off his trip to Canada with a tour of the University of Ottawa’s Advanced Research Complex, where he met with university leadership to explore potential areas for expanded research collaboration. He also engaged with students, emerging scholars, post-docs, early career researchers and senior scientists, who are shaping critical fields like quantum science, cryptography and molecular biology, and developing new technologies that will drive future industry.
Reflecting on of his visit, Panchanathan said, “Growing equitable and inclusive global innovation ecosystems, that’s the U.S. and Canada’s aim, and it’s what these bilateral conversations and the new collaborative arrangement will accomplish. These impetuses open the door to high-impact work at the nexus of key areas – AI, agriculture, healthcare, energy, pandemic response, and climate change – create jobs, protect our physical and cyber infrastructures, and enhance the health and security of our world.”
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