National conversation highlights importance of science literacy, communications and skills for young Canadians

Panelists from across the country gather to reflect on how to support young people with the skills and knowledge they need to make decisions on science-based issues

OTTAWA, June 21, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a public environment where misinformation can strongly influence the attitudes young people have toward science, it is more important than ever that educators, employers, communicators and governments collaborate to ensure the next generation is well equipped to make informed decisions based on evidence, and ultimately contribute to an innovative and prosperous Canada.

This was the clarion call that came from a national conversation on youth and science organized by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Acfas on June 8.

The event, part of the CFI’s 25th and Acfas’s 100th anniversary celebrations, brought together experts in science education, communications and skills development from across the country, to discuss the findings of a survey the CFI and Acfas commissioned last year to shed light on the attitudes 18- to 24-year-old Canadians have toward science.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos, found most young adults in Canada have confidence in science, but that persuasion by social media influencers and difficulties delineating between real and fake information can affect their ability to make informed health, environmental, social and lifestyle choices.

The conversation focused on three themes related to the survey:

  • The role of educators in promoting science literacy
  • The current state of science communication to build public trust
  • The skills in science and technology that will contribute to the Canadian economy.

Among the conclusions were that science should be viewed as a journey that can lead to unpredictable outcomes — and that we need to be better at reflecting this reality in schools; that we should be communicating science in a way that acknowledges the limits of our understanding; and ensuring those interested in careers in science can see themselves in these careers and are provided with the opportunities and pathways to pursue them.

Read: Full summary report of the national conversation on youth and science

To expand on the conversation, CFI president and CEO Roseann O’Reilly Runte spoke to Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor of Canada, and Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist of Québec, about how the scientific community can support future generations to solve worldwide problems.

Watch: Discussion with Roseann O’Reilly Runte, Mona Nemer and Rémi Quirion   

Speaker list for national conversation on youth and science

Plenary discussion:Why science literacy and culture are more critical than ever for young adults
Moderator:Roseann O’Reilly Runte
Panelists: Eric Meslin, President and CEO, Council of Canadian Academies
 Sébastien Dallaire, Ipsos

Breakout sessions:

Literacy and scientific culture: What is the role for educators?

ModeratorFrédéric Bouchard, Dean of Arts and Science, Université de Montréal
Panelists:John Munro, President, British Columbia Science Teachers’ Association
 Bonnie Schmidt, President, Let’s Talk Science

Scientific communication and public trust: Do we need to revisit our approaches?

ModeratorCarly Weeks, Health Reporter, The Globe and Mail
Panelists:Chantal Barriault, Director, Science Communication Graduate Program, Laurentian University
 Sandy Baumgartner, CEO, Saskatchewan Science Centre and President, Canadian Association of Science Centres
 Anna Blakney, Assistant Professor, Michael Smith Laboratories and School of Biomedical Engineering, University of British Columbia

Science and technology skills: What do young adults need to contribute to a strong Canadian economy?

Moderator:    Valerie Walker,CEO, Business + Higher Education Roundtable
Panelists:  Duff Montgomerie, former Deputy Minister, Labour and Advanced Education, Nova Scotia
 Nancy Déziel, Director General, Centre national en électrochimie et en technologies environnementales (CNETE)
 Nadine Spencer, CEO, Brand EQ Group Inc., Black Business and Professional Association


“This discussion illustrates that engaging young people in science requires not just education, communication, technology or the economy. It will require all of these fields together. And working collaboratively, we can make a difference that will take us not away from innocence, but away from ignorance, to a kind of wisdom that will enable us to use human capacity for the greater good.”
– Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation

“We have an obligation to work together to reach 18- to 24-year-old Canadians where they are. We need their ideas, their hopes — and even their misgivings — to enrich our society and allow it to grow and prosper. It is crucial for young people to have an interest in science, and it is our challenge to listen to them and engage with them.

Jean-Pierre Perreault, Chair of the Board, Acfas

Related links

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Canada Foundation for Innovation
For updates, follow us on Twitter @InnovationCA, LinkedIn, Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel to find videos about the CFI and its transformative research projects. Follow our 25th anniversary activities through #PromisingFutureNow.

Follow Acfas on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn. Check out the images from La preuve par l’image on Instagram. Follow our YouTube channel to learn more about the prix Acfas winners, as well as the finalists of Ma thèse en 180 secondes and Génies en affaires competitions.

About the Canada Foundation for Innovation

For 25 years, the Canada Foundation for Innovation has been making financial contributions to Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research organizations to increase their capability to carry out high-quality research. The CFI invests in infrastructure that researchers need to think big, innovate and push the boundaries of knowledge. It helps institutions to attract and retain the world’s top talent, to train the next generation of researchers and to support world-class research that strengthens the economy and improves the quality of life for all Canadians.

A promising future, now
25 years of investing in ideas that change our world

About Acfas
Acfas, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary from May 2022 to June 2023, showcases knowledge as a driver of societal development by grouping together members of the research community from across the broader French-speaking world. Resolutely focused on the future, Acfas represents a powerful vector for the democratization of science and scientific communications. The association champions researchers of all disciplines, while promoting excellence in research.

Find out more about the 100th anniversary of Acfas


Benoît Clément
Media Relations and Social Media Specialist
Canada Foundation for Innovation
C: 613-943-2580

Gabriel Vignola
Director of communications
T: 514-849-0045, ext. 261