Vik Pant, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Information, was recently appointed Chief Scientist and Chief Science Advisor at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which employs more than 2,800 scientists and researchers, and has annual science expenditures totalling some $500 million.
NRCan scientists partner with academic and industry researchers to conduct fundamental and applied science via a network of 19 major laboratories, science centres, technology facilities and research sites across Canada. As the Chief Scientist, Pant leads research projects with experts from a wide range of disciplines including geology, biology, physics, chemistry and sociology.
Pant – who, as part of his job, also runs the Digital Accelerator, an innovation platform for designing and launching data-driven software products within NRCan – describes himself as a generalist rather than a specialist, a quality which influenced his choice of doctoral programs. By the time he began his PhD studies, he had already worked for more than a decade in strategy and innovation roles in industry, at large and multifaceted organizations. His professional experience taught him that solutions to complicated problems involving many stakeholders require the “co-action of multiple ways of thinking, knowing, and learning”.
Ultimately, Pant says, it was “the rich and diverse set of backgrounds of faculty members” at the Faculty of Information that inspired him to study for his PhD there. He is completing his doctorate in conceptual modeling under the supervision of Professor Eric Yu and is being guided by Professor Chun Wei Choo and Associate Professor Kelly Lyons. He is especially grateful that his advisory committee at the Faculty encouraged him to approach the field of information studies in a “trans-disciplinary” manner. He believes that this perspective was a big part of the reason that he was hired at NRCan.
Along with his new job’s research duties, Pant leads the office of the Chief Scientist at NRCan, reporting directly to the deputy minister. He also participates in the roundtable of science advisors for the Chief Science Advisor to the government of Canada, Mona Nemer. This roundtable prioritizes science on a whole-of-government basis, providing “valuable opportunities for knowledge sharing and transfer learning among Chief Science Advisors in different federal ministries,” says Pant.
In the Chief Science Advisor part of his role, Pant contributes to NRCan’s policy-making process by ensuring that scientific evidence and facts are properly reflected in policy proposals. Essentially, one part of his department focuses on formulation of policies while the other part of it – the “science cadre” as Pant refers to it – provides the expert inputs. “It is important that the fruits of our scientific labour are responsibly incorporated within policy recommendations,” says Pant.
As he commutes back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto while writing his PhD thesis, entitled “Strategic Coopetition – A Conceptual Modeling Framework for Analysis and Design,” Pant says he is spreading the word to fellow students about the many employment opportunities available in the federal government including his department’s Policy Analyst Recruitment and Development Program (PARDP).
“I am proud to be a researcher at the Faculty of Information and am convinced that our student community can be a rich pool of talent for a program such as PARDP,” says Pant, who is already planning to invite representatives from the PARDP program to the Faculty for a Spring 2020 meet-and-greet with the student community.