Next Generation Assessment Project

River at the base of a mountain

The Next Generation Assessment research project focuses on how to design and apply assessment regimes to address two often-competing pressures on assessment law, policy and application:

  • the advancing ambition of assessment theory, expectations and state-of-the-art practice to deal effectively with major issues (cumulative effects, complex system interactions and uncertainties, climate change, equity and legacy effects) and generally to help drive a transition towards sustainability, and
  • concurrent pressures to make assessment processes, and surrounding decision making more efficient, as well as more effective and fair.

The project focuses on Canada, with particular attention to the following:

  • identifying the key generic components of next generation assessment regimes, recognizing that the specifics of design and application will vary among Canadian jurisdictions;
  • exploring how to foster better inter-jurisdictional harmonization and collaboration at a next generation level in Canada, given the overlapping responsibilities of federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous authorities, and pressures for clearer joint expectations and more efficient overall processes; and
  • contributing usefully to current assessment advancement initiatives in Canada, including elaboration and application of the new sustainability-based federal Impact Assessment Act; steps towards more significant roles of Indigenous authorities in Indigenous-led and collaborative assessments; innovations in attention to cumulative effects, broad alternatives and regional and strategic level policy and planning matters; and specification of sustainability-based approaches to assessment in key sectors, regions and issue areas.

The project began formally in 2011, with support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). It is currently supported by a second SSHRC grant centred on application of the next generation assessment principles established in the initial research.

Project leaders are Robert B. Gibson, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo; Meinhard Doelle, Dalhousie Law School, Halifax and World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden; and A. John Sinclair, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.