In mid-November, US National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan traveled to Ottawa, Canada, where he signed a bilateral science agreement during a ceremony hosted by the US Ambassador to Canada. He was also featured as a speaker at the 15th Annual Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), on Science and Innovation in a Time of Transformation.
During his visit, he met with leading supporters of Canadian science, including the Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research; the Chief Scientific Advisor of Canada; the CEO of the Canadian Science Policy Center (CSPC); heads of Canadian research funding agencies; and the Assistant and Deputy Ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The high-level discussions focused on promoting and strengthening US-Canada science and technology cooperation.
“Success in our respective fields depends on our ability to work together and LEARN: use, explore, ask, recommend and network”
– Sethuraman Panchanathan
On November 13th, Panchanathan joined panelists Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, and Alejandro Adem, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, for the CSPC opening session and presentation event. Their conversation covered a variety of societally relevant topics, highlighting the importance of creating pathways in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); the growing need for open science; and improving global science.
“Strategic STEM partnerships advance shared national interests and priorities, unlocking even greater opportunity, progress and prosperity,” said Panchanathan, who pointed to the NSF-led Global Centers program as a prime example.
“This international research partnership initiative synchronizes global talent, elevates team science and community-led research, and turns knowledge into transformative action through convergent research. The results will inform and generate innovative solutions for 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 Memorandum of Understanding provides a comprehensive framework to promote collaboration between the US and Canadian research communities and sets out the principles for developing jointly supported activities.
Panchanathan said, “Today’s grand challenges transcend national boundaries and scientific disciplines, requiring robust collaboration with like-minded partners. This agreement creates a unique and exciting opportunity to draw on the collective strengths of our nations and rapidly deploy new talent, ideas and innovation and scale.”
Future activities enabled by the memorandum of understanding will build on several US-Canada research collaborations already underway. These include the NSF-led Global Centers; the NSERC-NSF AI/Quantum Lead Agency opportunity; and the Canadian-led New Frontiers in Science Research Fund, which aims to create adaptation and mitigation strategies for groups most affected by the effects of climate change.
Earlier in the day, Panchanathan participated in the CSPC Breakfast Panel Session 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 nexus.
“Success in our respective fields depends on our ability to work together and LEARN: use, explore, ask, recommend and network,” Panchanathan said. This interdisciplinary, team-oriented approach, he added, helps foster openness, transparency and reciprocity — values that underpin the Canadian and U.S. research models — and which are key to improving society and improving livelihoods.
Speaking about the capacity of science policy to catalyze positive change, Panchanathan referred to the CHIPS Act and science. “CHIPS and Science was signed into law last year, empowering NSF to make important 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 of new technologies and manufacturing impacts in the real world that benefit everyone.”
Panchanathan later co-chaired a meeting between the NSF and the Canadian Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) that brought together representatives and leaders from multiple Canadian research funding agencies. Participants discussed a range of topics, such as best practices for deepening the US-Canada relationship in science, technology and innovation and fostering local leadership in research.
Panchanathan concluded 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. It also engages with undergraduates, emerging scientists, postdocs, early-career researchers, and senior scientists who are shaping critical fields such as quantum science, cryptography, and molecular biology, developing new technologies that will drive future industry.
Reflecting on his visit, Panchanathan said, “Growing equitable and inclusive global innovation ecosystems is the goal of the US and Canada, and this is what these bilateral talks and the new cooperation agreement will achieve. These pulses open the door to high-impact work at the nexus of key areas—artificial intelligence, agriculture, health, energy, pandemic response, and climate change—creating jobs, protecting our physical and cyber infrastructures, and improving the health and security of our world .”
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