Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Open Science Action Plan 2021-2022 to 2025-2026 – Enable and Equip

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Providing greater public access to federal science is crucial to help Canadians understand the importance of our research and fulfill the Government of Canada's commitment to a more open government. To guide the department towards increased access to our science and research activities, we are pleased to share Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Open Science Action Plan.

The goal of Open Science is to increase the accessibility of science, but also to help accelerate the pace of new discoveries and innovations within the scientific community. AAFC's Open Science Action Plan outlines how we move forward to conduct science with an open as possible, closed as necessary approach fostering both access and collaboration.

AAFC has an outstanding science community that is ready to implement this Action Plan, which includes leveraging what practices we have already established, while also working together on opportunities for new ideas and improvements.  AAFC is also uniquely positioned amongst science departments leveraging vital industry funding to increase our scientific reach and create socio-economic benefits for Canadians. A balanced approach for the department will allow us to strengthen and extend the reach of our science to the public, industry, and the scientific community. Through our collective efforts, we can realize the benefits of this important initiative.


Background and policy drivers

Canada joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011, an international organization consisting of over 70 member countries who commit to open and transparent governance. As part of this partnership, member countries are tasked to produce biennial plans with measureable outcomes which commit to increasing transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.Footnote 1

Since joining the OGP in 2011, Canada has produced four biennial Open Government Action Plans committing to increasing the transparency of governance in Canada.Footnote 2 Each plan reaffirms Canada's commitment to the principles of the OGP and aims to increase the availability of government information and data, and to increase citizen participation and engagement with government.

As part of those plans, Canada first introduced its commitment to Open Science in the 2014-2016 plan which aimed to increase the availability and discoverability of federally funded research. Each subsequent action plan has included a commitment to Open Science by defining and undertaking a series of actions to enhance the availability of federal science outputs. Canada's 2018-2020 Open Science Commitment states that the Government of Canada will make federal science, scientific data, and scientists more accessible and will:

  • develop a Canada Open Science Roadmap to provide a plan for greater openness in federal science and research activities
  • provide a platform for Canadians to find and access open access publications from federal scientists
  • raise public awareness of federal scientists' work and of open science
  • promote open science and solicit feedback on stakeholder needs
  • measure progress in implementing open science and the benefits it can providecFootnote 3

A Roadmap For Open Science

In response to the 2018-2020 Open Science commitment, and in collaboration with representatives from federal and academic institutions, Canada's Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer published the Roadmap for Open Science on February 26, 2020.Footnote 4 The Roadmap is a guiding policy document that contains a series of ten recommendations and timelines which address the various facets of Open Science to increase the availability of federally funded science. In particular, the summarized recommendations below call for action from federal science departments and agencies by the specified date.Footnote 5 For a complete listing and description of the recommendations, please see Appendix A.

  • Recommendation 2: Consult within each Science Based Department and Agency science community to identify Open Science challenges, benefits and tools (February 2021)
  • Recommendation 3: Develop an Open Science Action Plan (June 2021)
  • Recommendation 4: Open Access for peer-reviewed science articles (January 2022) and; Open Access for all other science publications (January 2023)
  • Recommendation 5: Phased-in implementation of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) Data Principles (January 2025)
  • Recommendation 7: Nominate a Chief Science Data Officer (January 2021)

In response to the Roadmap, Science Based Departments and Agencies (SBDAs) have been tasked to consult with their scientific community, and develop their own respective implementation plans by June 2021.

AAFC Open Science Consultation Survey

In response to the Recommendation 2 science community consultations, and in preparation for the development of this Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Open Science Action Plan, the AAFC Open Science Survey was launched to seek the perspectives of Science and Technology Branch (STB) staff. The survey was designed to assess employees' awareness of the Open Science initiative, the culture of Open Science within AAFC's science community, and to identify any of the barriers, challenges, and opportunities to participating in Open Science activities. The survey took place over the course of a three-week period from November 5-27, 2020 and consisted of 26 questions which addressed four Open Science themes: Culture and Organization, Publications, Data, and Public Engagement. Those same four themes set the foundation for this Open Science Action Plan.

Over the course of the three-week period, the survey was accessed 551 times and received 227 responses from participants. The survey was designed to be anonymous and open to all STB staff but was primarily oriented towards the scientific community in STB. Overall branch participation was modest with a 25.2% response rate from the SE-RES classification. Moreover, all AAFC Research Centres, scientific disciplines, genders, and ages were represented in the survey results.

Some of the main highlights and takeaway messages from the survey are represented below.

  • There is a healthy Open Science culture in STB and within its scientific disciplines as respondents identified that they discuss open science practices with colleagues and most plan to make their research available
  • Respondents identified the need for supporting infrastructure, and access to simple processes, policies and guidance to enable open science participation
  • Most respondents were interested or had already engaged with the public through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or through Open House type events


  • Gold open access publishing fees are expensive and were identified as a limitation to open access publishingFootnote 6
  • Researchers feel that they must choose between Gold open access fees and funding research
  • Respondents identified intellectual property considerations and the administration effort required to participate in Open Science as restrictions to fully participating

Areas that we can improve

  • Very few respondents published a self-archived version of their manuscript in an open access repository (free to do), while 40% had paid for Gold open access fees
  • Many respondents reported that they were consumers of open datasets in their work, but fewer responded that they contributed open datasets

The survey themes, questions, and results set the foundation and are used to inform this AAFC Open Science Action Plan.

AAFC's Open Science Action Plan

Scope and purpose

This  Open Science Action Plan aims to remove the barriers limiting AAFC's participation in Open Science. The Department's implementation of this action plan is geared to making science more readily available and accessible to the public, scientific community, and the agriculture sector. The increased availability and accessibility of AAFC-produced scientific data will contribute to increased transparency and discoverability of the science that the Department performs, as well as increase socio-economic benefits to Canadians, increase public trust in government and federal science, and increase engagement and collaboration opportunities with the public, scientific community, and agricultural sector.

This AAFC Open Science Action Plan spans five fiscal years covering the period of 2021-2022 to 2025-2026. The plan actions and objectives applies to the scienceFootnote 7 funded and conducted internally in AAFC, and defines actions to examine the impacts and implications for AAFC science funded by or in collaboration with external partners.

Through a series of defined actions, this plan will guide the progressive transformation of AAFC's science to be more open and accessible to the public. The actions within the plan will be informed through the internal consultation survey, ongoing consultations with both the scientific and supporting community, and informed through consultation and collaboration with other SBDAs.

The guiding plan will remain stable in its direction, but adjust as necessary to future opportunities and challenges. There will be an evergreen implementation plan which will plan, identify resources, and describe the specific actions that will enable the Department's progression. All action plan and implementation plan dates will be adjusted to reflect the dates found in the most recent version of the recommendations of the Roadmap for Open Science. These plans may adjust as necessary considering the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and other significant events.

AAFC vision for change

AAFC is committed to sharing its science through adoption of a more open approach guided by the Office of the Chief Science Advisors Open-by-Default document.Footnote 8 This approach involves planning and consideration around which science and research outputs can be made available, and makes the research results as open as possible, and as closed as necessary. As an economic and scientific department, this new approach to AAFC science will require a balance between supporting the domestic agricultural economy, while making federally funded science available as possible to the public. This plan will need to balance the value of intellectual property, safeguard sensitive personal and national security information, and recognize the potential value of making our science and research products available to act as catalysts for agricultural innovation and growth in Canada.

A balanced approach will present some challenges and necessitate some cultural adaptation within the department, but this change will also present new opportunities. This new approach will amplify the voice of our researchers, broaden our networks, generate new insights, and foster new collaboration opportunities. All Canadian federal research institutions will be undertaking this transformation together. This collective shift will present opportunities for further federal collaboration, information sharing, and solution development.
To address this challenge this plan intends to undertake actions that will enable and equip the AAFC scientific community by providing the information, knowledge, processes and supports to enable greater participation in Open Science. This plan will also undertake actions to strengthen the department's inter-branch collaboration and align its leadership community towards achieving the goals of this plan.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada actions

The actions found in this plan and the detailed implementation plan are guided by the Roadmap for Open Science, informed through consultations and from the results of the Open Science survey conducted in the fall of 2020. The actions below are designed to enable and equip the AAFC scientific community to make informed decisions leading to improved access to science, and to realize the cultural and organizational change.

The actions below are centered around the same four facets of Open Science that guided the AAFC Open Science Survey. These facets set the foundation for change in AAFC and include: Culture and Organization, Publications, Data, and Public Engagement.

Culture and organization

To address any cultural or organizational barriers to fully participate in Open Science, AAFC will:

  • foster a culture of Open Science approach while maintaining an appropriate balance that supports economic growth in Canada, protects national security, privacy, third party's proprietary results and information, Indigenous data rights, and intellectual property rights
  • ensure appropriate recognition and incentives for the science community and management are in place to acknowledge Open Science efforts
  • enable and equip the scientific community by providing funding, infrastructure and solutions, making simple processes, policies, and guidance material readily available to support participation in Open Science
  • review the Federal Science Guidance for Open-by-Default material; assess the implications to future scientific funding streams and agreements; and articulate decision-making criteria for disclosure


To enable and equip AAFC's scientific community's open access publications, AAFC will:

  • collaborate with the Office of the Chief Science Advisor, Shared Services Canada, and other SBDAs to pilot, develop, and deploy an open access archive for federal science publications where disciplinary repositories do not already exist. This archive will provide a solution for researchers to meet their open access requirements by making their manuscripts openly available through self-archiving, or green publishing
  • clarify the guidelines of the Career Progression Management Framework for Federal Researchers at AAFC to ensure that all forms of open access publishing are recognized and valued
  • develop and disseminate guidance material which:
    • provides a decision tree to inform green vs gold open access publishing decisionsFootnote 9
    • addresses the retention of Crown copyrights
    • supports the green open access publishing process
    • addresses the requirements of the Official Languages Act,
    • addresses the accessibility requirements
    • identifies a series of recommended open access publishers
  • support the adoption of ORCIDs mandatory to ensure appropriate citation and recognition of AAFC researchers and scientistsFootnote 10


To enable and equip AAFC's scientific community's sharing of science data, AAFC will:

  • nominate a Chief Science Data Officer (CSDO) who will work with the ADM STB, the Chief Information Officer (CIO), and the Chief Data Officer (CDO) to support the implementation of the AAFC Open Science Action Plan, and the Departmental Data Strategy. The CSDO will ensure the unique intricacies and requirements of science data are reflected and understood in departmental initiatives
  • adopt the FAIR and CARE data principles in the department by designing and implementing information management practices and solutions such as Data Management Plans, data catalogue, or data portals to increase the discoverability of federally funded science in AAFCFootnote 11 Footnote 12
  • collaborate with the Office of the Chief Science Advisor, Shared Services Canada, and other SBDAs to explore an open data archive for AAFC and federal science data
  • develop and disseminate guidance material which will:
    • support the deposit of open data in disciplinary open repositories, or federal open data repositories
    • address the topics of licensing, intellectual property, data sharing agreements and collaboration
    • promote the minting of DOIs for data to enhance discoverability and cite ability of AAFC datasetsFootnote 13
  • clarify the guidelines of the Career Progression Management Framework for Federal Researchers at AAFC to ensure that all forms of open access publishing are recognized and valued

Public engagement

To enable and equip the AAFC scientific community's public engagement, AAFC will:

  • support the Transformative Workshop series on Science Communications. This workshop series will explore the use of non-traditional scientific communication tools such as story telling, podcasts, using social media, and graphic designs
  • strengthen the connections between the AAFC scientific community with the STB Communications Team, Knowledge and Technology Transfer (KTT) Team, Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization (OIPC), and Public Affairs Branch to further enable and facilitate engagement with the public through a variety of communication vehicles and platforms
  • develop and disseminate guidance material which will:
    • inform the scientific community about the opportunities of social media platforms and provide guidance and best practices for meaningful engagement with the public
    • provide guidance and clarity surrounding engaging the public through social media platforms
    • clarify legal and privacy considerations when engaging in Citizen Science
  • continue to share AAFC science by hosting AAFC Open Houses for the public and Field Days for producers.Footnote 14
  • clarify the guidelines of the Career Progression Management Framework for Federal Researchers at AAFC to ensure that all forms of public engagement are recognized and valued.

The path forward

To deliver this plan, the Planning and Partnerships directorate of the Science and Technology Branch will lead the development and coordinate the execution of the evergreen AAFC Open Science Implementation Plan. These activities will be defined through engagement with the AAFC scientific community, AAFC's enabling branches, and other federal departments. To ensure AAFC's scientific community is enabled and equipped, solutions will be co-developed through working groups, consultations, testing, and continuous improvement. The AAFC Open Science Implementation Plan will also leverage any horizontal inter-departmental solutions which bring economies of scale, or consistency to realizing the benefits of Open Science.

Delivering this plan will need the commitment of the Department to a balanced approach to Open Science. An approach where our science is designed to be as open as possible while also protecting information when necessary such as: privacy, national security, third parties' proprietary information, commercial interests, and Indigenous knowledge and data.

AAFC has an opportunity to benefit by participating in Open Science. Increasing public trust, broadening our impact, increasing science literacy, spurring innovation, and growing new collaboration opportunities are all possible when our science is made available and more accessible.

Appendix A – Roadmap for Open Science recommendations

The following ten recommendations were extracted from the Roadmap for Open Science:Footnote 15   

  1. Canada should adopt an Open Science approach to federally funded scientific and research outputs
  2. Federal departments and agencies should conduct intradepartmental consultations with the science community before February 2021 to seek feedback on, and address in the action plan, the challenges and opportunities of Open Science. These should be led by the Department's Open Science Champion(s),for example, Departmental Science Advisor, Chief Science Officer, Assistant Deputy Minister and Vice President Science.
  3. To achieve the overall objective of Open Science, and taking into consideration feedback from intradepartmental consultation (Recommendation 2), departments and agencies should develop action plans for Open Science by June 2021. This should include plans for a common, phased approach towards making federal science open (taking into account Recommendations 4, 5 and 7) and readily and easily available to Canadians
  4. Federal departments and agencies should make federal science articles openly accessible by January 2022 and federal science publications openly accessible by January 2023, while respecting privacy, security, ethical considerations and appropriate intellectual property protection
  5. Federal departments and agencies should develop strategies and tools to implement FAIR data principles to ensure interoperability of scientific and research data and metadata standards by January 2023, with a phased plan for full implementation by January 2025
  6. In order to enable the "Open by Design and by Default" model for scientific research outputs, the Chief Science Advisor will work with the federal science community and other government departments and agencies to develop by December 2020 a framework identifying criteria for when restricting access to federal scientific research outputs is warranted
  7. The Data Strategy Roadmap and the Open Science Action Plan should be aligned. For this to happen, consideration should be given to scientific and research data when developing and implementing data strategies in response to the 2018 Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service. To facilitate that, deputy heads should designate a Chief Scientific Data Officer by January 2021. As relevant, this can be a stand-alone position or responsibility can be integrated into the scope of an existing position, such as Departmental Science Advisor, Assistant Deputy Minister and Vice President Science
  8. Successful and harmonized implementation of the Open Science Action Plans should be supported by a new high-level Open Science Steering Committee co-chaired by the Chief Science Advisor and either or both the Chief Information Officer of Canada and the President of Shared Services Canada
  9. An Open Science strategy for federally funded research conducted outside of federal government agencies and departments should also be developed. The Chief Science Advisor could conduct such an exercise in partnership with the federal granting agencies (for example, through the Canada Research Coordinating Committee), learned societies and provincial and territorial funders. These consultations should target scientific communities and their administrative leadership. The consultation should be completed by December 2021
  10. The Chief Science Advisor should monitor the dynamic international context and make recommendations to ensure that the Open Science strategy for federally support intramural and extramural science continues to keep pace with international developments