Science special response processes (SSRPs) are a vital part of the DFO Science advisory framework (referred as ad hoc reviews and meetings in the framework). They are appropriate for two types of situations. The first situation is to respond to urgent and unforeseen issues. Ideally, there would be ample time to consolidate data and information, conduct analyses, prepare working documents, ensure the participation of the appropriate mix of experts and undertake the appropriate advisory process. However, urgent advisory requirements that are normally unforeseeable may arise and the advisory process must be responsive to such needs. The second situation occurs when a fully inclusive and thorough advisory meeting (e.g. standard peer review meeting or workshop) is not required because an advisory framework for the issue has already been developed by a fully SAGE (Scientific Advice for Government Effectiveness) compliant process and the issue is a straight-forward application of the framework. In both situations, the precise nature of the request and the expected breadth of interest in the results may also have an influence on the choice of the process. Some issues may have such significant implications or high profile that a SSRP would not be appropriate, even if one of the two situations above applies.
The information below develops more fully the rationale for using SSRPs and sets out minimum standards that should be met when conducting these processes. This information represents the guidelines designed to ensure that SSRPs are used and conducted in a way that is compliant with the DFO Science advisory framework and the SAGE principles and guidelines, and to allow the DFO Science advisory process the flexibility necessary to respond to client needs in a timely manner.
The following illustrates situations where Science special response processes (SSRPs) can be used and also highlights particular considerations that should be taken into account given the criteria that may apply.
This situation applies to all urgent requests that would normally require a thorough advisory process for various reasons: information on the issue is abundant and will likely come from many internal and external sources, scientific questions to address are complex, no advisory framework is available, a wide range of disciplines and public groups will be interested in the meeting results, the results could be taken as a precedent for similar issue in other areas, etc. However, time constraints do not permit a full process to be applied. Sometimes such situations are foreseeable, but were not included in the annual planning process. Others are unforeseeable because circumstances outside DFO’s control create the need for a rapid science-based response from the Department.
Examples: Requests for input into Species at Risk emergency listing processes and a number of the requests from Habitat Management under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) could fall into this category (e.g. in-stream flow needs in relation with various mining and energy projects).
The second situation may be categorized into three sub-situations, each of them providing a specific rationale to justify that a full and inclusive advisory process is not required.
Advisory precedents already exist on this issue. DFO is the final advisory body but the incremental consequences of the new information or advice are small when compared to the original information/advice provided or framework developed.
This situation generally applies to urgent and unforeseen advisory requirements (e.g. a new request requiring a response before the next planned peer review on this issue) but the timelines are not the only aspect. There are also advisory precedents on this issue to consider. For an information request, it may be that DFO already conducted previous workshops on this issue and there is a relatively good knowledge of the information available. For an advice request, the science basis is already available and the nature of the request is straight-forward (i.e. the request is similar to requests that have been addressed previously with a complete process, or this specific situation corresponds to a class of requests for which a framework has been fully developed and adopted). Thus, situation 2A may only require a small number of experts to articulate a response based upon the consensus achieved in previous peer reviews/workshops and this situation may not justify adding a new thorough and inclusive advisory meeting in the planning process.
Examples: Some requests from Fisheries and Aquaculture Management (FAM) that deal with alternate harvest forecasts from those given in the Science Advisory Report could fall into this category. In-season requests that rely on real time data (e.g. requests for Pacific salmon management forecasts of sockeye run timing) may also fall under this category.
DFO Science is asked only to review the information available on a specific issue. DFO is the final advisory body but the request is for science guidance at an early stage in development of policies or management measures and the provision of formal science advice is not yet necessary.
This situation is very close to an “Internal Workshop” that is already part of the DFO Science advisory process. DFO Science often initiates internal workshops to establish the status of the knowledge on specific issues whether or not we are asked by a client to provide any specific science advice. In situation 2B, the triggers to use a SSRP are: too little information is available on this issue to justify a formal workshop, the information might come from only a few internal sources, and DFO Science will likely have the opportunity to plan for more thorough and inclusive advisory meetings at a later time to provide formal science advice. In this case, a SSRP could be conducted whether or not the issue is urgent.
Examples: A request for information on the distribution of a species during the spawning season to explore potential in-season restrictions on fishing. The information would be provided only as initial guidance; the final decision would be based on subsequent peer reviewed advice.
Advisory precedents already exist on this issue (as for situation 2A), or the nature of DFO’s contribution to the issue does not require a full process (as for situation 2B). Moreover, DFO Science is not the final advisory body and it is assumed that the inclusiveness and transparency of the process will be ensured by the other advisory body.
Sometimes, the primary reason for DFO to conduct a full process is to ensure the inclusiveness and transparency of the process leading to DFO’s contribution. In this situation, DFO has good reasons to expect that full standards of inclusiveness and transparency will be met by the final advisory body and a SSRP can be used for DFO’s contribution to the larger process. SSRPs corresponding to situation 2C could also be included in advance within the annual work plans.
Examples: Draft reviews of COSEWIC Status Reports could fall into this category. It is difficult to include all reviews in the work plans at the beginning of the fiscal year and several may arise during the year. Some of them may also be technically complex but in such cases, a Pre-COSEWIC review should have already provided a peer-reviewed body of scientific information justifying the use of DFO’s SSRP to review the reports. If no Pre-COSEWIC peer review occurred, it must have been agreed that not enough scientific information exists to justify even an initial peer review meeting. The inclusiveness and transparency of the process is ensured by COSEWIC, as the advisory body who is responsible for making the final recommendations to the appropriate government body which is consistent with the SAGE principles and guidelines.
Various requests from CEAA panels, Co-Management boards and Energy boards (e.g. impact studies from proponents) could also fall under this category.
The minimal standards associated with any Science special response process (SSRP) are as follows: