Improving Measurement and Reporting on the Impacts of Federal Science and Technology

Authors: Alan Painter
Document Type: Policy Brief
Published Date: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 4:00am
ISBN number: PH4-90/2011E-PDF, 978-1-100-18910-9

Project Overview

The federal government invests roughly $5 billion in federally performed science & technology (S&T) annually. The challenge for the federal government is to ensure that its S&T activities provide maximum benefit in relation to costs, and to demonstrate to Canadians that this is the case.

The horizontal policy research project was part of the Federal Science and Technology Strategy implementation plan. The research explored what information is and could be collected about federally performed S&T, and how that information is and could be made available.

Effective reporting requires a combination of good planning, efficient operations, and the assessment and reporting of impacts. Integrated planning and performance and integrated reporting and assessment are required to identify and portray the complex relationship between inputs and impacts on Canadians.

While considerable information is already reported on federal S&T inputs and activities, and on the general objectives of individual departments and agencies, more effort is required to substantiate the relationship between S&T activities and their impacts and objectives within and across federal organizations. The federal government could improve measurement and reporting on the impact of S&T expenditures and increase accountability to Canadians by:

  • Adjusting current reporting policies so that key objectives and relationships across activities and departments are captured more fully. Notably, reporting on related scientific activities could better capture how federal S&T supports other activities, such as regulation;
  • Reporting more detailed and integrated information on S&T planning and performance, drawing from leading practices from Canada and abroad;
  • Inviting externally-funded researchers and clients to play a role in reporting S&T impacts as a matter of course;
  • Investing more in assessing S&T impacts and in related data needs; and
  • Drawing from existing sources to synthesize and make more readily available best practices and guidance on assessing S&T impacts.

The project concluded that over the longer term, policy researchers could usefully explore how to secure benefits and promote information sharing, as well as the objectives of government S&T. Work along the former lines could examine the merits of open innovation, while exploring objectives might help to inform priority-setting as well as impact assessment.

Further to the publication of the report, the federal S&T community continues to work with TBS in support of S&T Deputy Ministers to strengthen measurement and reporting.

For more information

The final project report is accessible from the Policy Horizons Canada website as well as other relevant publications.

An overview and the presentations from a 2008 project event co-sponsored with several partners are accessible. The event explored how governments support researchers and innovators to develop new ideas and bring them to the marketplace.