IJC Directive to the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board


The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement states that the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board (SAB) shall:

  1. provide advice on research to the Commission and to the Great Lakes Water Quality Board; and,

  2. also provide advice on scientific matters referred to it by the Commission, or by the Great Lakes Water Quality Board in consultation with the Commission.

This mandate sets the context for the detailed functions of the SAB.


As requested by the Commission or by Great Lakes Water Quality Board in consultation with the Commission, the SAB shall provide advice, analysis, review or support for the following:

  1. The Commission’s triennial Assessment of Progress Report

  2. The Commission’s or the Parties’ science priorities,

  3. Scientific reports, opinions or ongoing updates related to the identification, evaluation and resolution of current emerging water quality issues in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem,

  4. Science-based materials prepared by Commission staff and contractors,

  5. Identification of specific programs for which binational or international cooperation is desirable and promote communication, cooperation, collaboration, and coordination between these scientists, managers and organizations,

  6. Efforts to identify and solicit the support of binational experts to participate in Board and Commission efforts,

  7. Compilation and synthesis of research activities and findings pertinent to the GLWQA and encouraging others to provide such information.


The Commission will use the principles below as a guide for making appointments to the Board, although the Commission has the discretion to alter membership as required.

Membership of the Board shall include an equal number of Canadians and Americans.

The Board (Figure #1) will consist of two standing Committees: the Research Coordination Committee and the Science Priority Committee.  The Research Coordination Committee will consist predominantly of government research managers and include some non-government research managers. The Science Priority Committee will consist predominantly of non-government scientific experts and include some government experts. Each standing Committee will have two Co-Chairpersons selected by the Commission. It is envisioned that the Board will be composed of not more than 28 members.

The Board will be co-chaired by one Canadian member and one American member. The Commission will select one Co-Chairperson from each of the two sets of Committee Co-Chairpersons to serve as the Board Co-Chairpersons.

A Coordinating Group comprised of the Co-Chairpersons from the two standing Committees will be responsible for ensuring effective collaboration on joint meetings and jointly-produced reports.

Due to the different Great Lakes governance structures on each side of the border, there may not be exact symmetry in Canadian and American appointments.

The Commission shall strive for a balance of government and non-government representatives.

In appointing members to the Board, the Commission will seek to include government research managers, non-government research managers, government scientific experts, academia and representatives from NGOs, industry, Great Lakes Commissions, First Nations, Metis and American Tribes.

The Commission will also seek to include members from across the geographical breadth of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system.

Board members will generally be appointed for 3-year terms and up to two consecutive reappointments, with possible exception of this restriction based on the difficulty of finding a similarly qualified individual.

Member Competencies

In general, members will have to meet these competencies:

  • Extensive knowledge of and experience in addressing Great Lakes environmental issues.

  • Significant specialized scientific knowledge that is essential to meeting the Commission’s science priorities or significant experience working in relevant scientific research or research programs.

  • The membership will be made up of scientific experts from relevant disciplines such as, but not limited to chemistry, biology, aquatic ecology, limnology, environmental science, geology, meteorology, climatology, engineering and socio-economics, as well as professionals  charged with management of major Great Lakes research programs.

In lieu of these competencies, the Commission may appoint members deemed qualified to contribute information and insights not otherwise available among SAB members.

Responsibilities of Co-Chairpersons

With support of a Board Secretary and other staff designated by the GLRO Director, the SAB Coordinating Group under the direction of the Co-Chairpersons will be responsible for the following: scheduling meetings and agendas for the SAB; managing the work of the SAB; reporting to the Commission on work plans, activities and accomplishments.   

With the support of the Board Secretary, each of the Co-Chairpersons shall be responsible for maintaining proper liaison between the SAB and the Commission, ensuring that the members of the SAB are informed of all instructions, inquiries and authorizations received from the Commission and of activities undertaken by or on behalf of the SAB and progress made in implementing its annual work plan.

If in the opinion of the SAB as a whole or of any members, there is a lack of clarity or precision in any instruction, directive or authorization received from the Commission, the Co-Chairpersons will promptly inform the GLRO Director who will refer the matter to the Commission for appropriate action.

Should the SAB be unable to reach agreement regarding any matter within its area of responsibility, the Co-Chairpersons shall promptly inform the GLRO Director who will refer the matter to the Commission for decision.

Responsibilities of Members

Members will be expected to commit to the work of the SAB with the expectation that there may be a significant time commitment required at certain points. Co-Chairpersons will be expected to commit additional effort.

Members are expected to serve in an impartial manner, performing their duties for the common good of both countries.  The work of the SAB must be conducted in a manner that merits public trust and confidence.  Members are to avoid any real, apparent, or potential conflicts of interest. Any questions on conflicts of interest raised by members of the Board should be directed to the Director of the GLRO.  As appropriate, the GLRO Director will direct the question to the Commission’s Legal Advisers.  

Members’ contributions to the work of the whole SAB, as well as area of expertise will be the primary consideration for reappointment. Members will be expected to contribute constructively to the work of the Board throughout the appointed term.  If a member is not able to meet any of the above expectations the member may resign or be excused from service by the Commission at any point during the member’s term.

Members are expected to attend all meetings of the SAB and Committees of which they are members.  Although it is understood that absences may occur, frequent absences may result in the Commission excusing a member from further participation on SAB and the appointment of a replacement member.



The full SAB will, as a rule, conduct most of its work through its two standing Committees, the Science Priority Committee and the Research Coordination Committee. Each Committee will convene every other month and hold at least two meetings in-person on an annual basis, with one meeting being in conjunction with the full SAB at a semi-annual meeting. The other meeting will take place in Windsor or at another location in the Basin. The remainder of the meetings may take place by teleconference or videoconference.

In general, Commissioners and relevant Commission staff are invited to attend to any meetings of the Board and its committees. The Board Secretary will advise the Co-Chairpersons of Commissioners’ participation.  The Board may exclude staff in extraordinary circumstances after notifying the GLRO Director.

With support of its Board Secretary and staff, the SAB Coordinating Group will develop an annual meeting schedule and post it on the IJC website.  Following each meeting, the SAB will approve meeting summaries, which will be posted on the IJC website within a month.

Work Groups

Subject to Commission direction and approval, the SAB will establish, in addition to the standing Committees, such work groups as it deems necessary to conduct its business.  The Commission shall be kept informed of the duties and composition of any such working groups.

Work group participants recruited from outside the regular board membership shall be given a copy of this document, as well as other orientation materials as appropriate.   These individuals are expected to undertake responsibilities similar to SAB members, except with respect to hours of service.  The expected commitment should be appropriate to the tasks of the work group and discussed with potential members when they are recruited.  Less formal arrangements for work groups can also be established.

Work Planning and Reporting

The SAB shall prepare an annual work plan for its proposed activities. Each Committee will be responsible for delivering on their respective work plans and ensuring the scientific integrity of each of their products. In the case of joint Committee products, all efforts will be made to develop a consensus-based product.

The plan will include provision for public information and for public participation in SAB activities to the extent appropriate. This plan will be presented to the Commission for approval prior to each spring semi-annual meeting and be reviewed with the Commission and GLRO Director at the autumn semi-annual meeting, or more frequently if required.

To facilitate preparation of the GLRO annual budget, the SAB will also provide the GLRO Director with proposed resource requirements for its work plan. This budget will be prepared in consultation with the GLRO Director submitted with the work plan.  The Commission will review and approve, disapprove and/or amend the proposed resource requirements.

The SAB will be invited to appear at the Commissions’ spring and fall semi-annual meetings (in person preferably or, if necessary, by video or teleconference) to report on the Board’s activities and discuss any issues related to performance, support, forward planning or any other topic of interest to the SAB or Commissioners.

Liaison with the Great Lakes Water Quality Board

The SAB will establish and maintain effective liaison and cooperation with the Commission's Great Lakes Water Quality Board (WQB) in accordance with arrangements to be made by the Co-Chairpersons, GLRO Director and the Secretaries of the two boards.


Administrative support, public information services and technical assistance to the SAB will be provided by (or through) the GLRO.

The GLRO Director, in consultation with the Commission, will manage staff support, including the appointment of a Secretary for the SAB.  The Board Secretary will be responsible to the SAB on SAB matters and in general will participate in the full proceedings of all SAB meetings. The Secretary will serve as the principal point of contact for Board members and will provide clarity regarding the Commission’s rules and procedures, as required.

The SAB Secretary will periodically report to Commissioners on member attendance and the use of alternates to ensure that Commission policies on attendance and limiting the use of alternates are being followed.

Liaisons from the Commission Section offices are generally invited to participate in the full proceedings of all meetings of the SAB to ensure communication of Commission direction and cross-communication among ongoing efforts by IJC staff, the GLRO Director, the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board, the Health Professionals Advisory Board, the International Air Quality Advisory Board and other relevant Boards and task forces.

Other Commission scientific personnel may be assigned to provide assistance to the Board.

The public relations of the Board will be handled through the public information service of the GLRO.  GLRO staff will also coordinate any interactions with the media.  Particular public relations activities and related resource requirements to be undertaken should be outlined in the Board’s work plan and in documents developed during the year and presented to the GLRO Director for approval or for further consideration by the Commission.

Any official communication with Governments or their agencies regarding SAB matters must be approved by the Commission.

The Coordinating Group of the SAB shall consult with the GLRO Director, and as necessary, with the Commission regarding the SAB's staff support requirements and how they can best be met.

While Science Advisory Board members will seek to reach a consensus on their advice to the Commission, individual members will determine whether their signatures will accompany reports to the Commission. In some circumstances individual members may choose to withhold their signatures or submit an independent report. These independent reports may be submitted directly to the Commissioners, with a copy provided to the Coordinating Group. 


The secretariat of the Board shall be maintained at the GLRO and all pertinent records and supporting documents shall be maintained at GLRO.

Documents, letters, memoranda and communications of every kind in the official records of the Commission are privileged and become available for public information only after release by the Commission. The Commission considers all documents, including SAB reports to the Commission, in the official records of the SAB or of any of its Committees to be similarly privileged. Accordingly, all such documents shall be so identified and maintained in separate files. They will become available for public information only after Commission approval.


For governmental SAB members, their respective agencies are expected to pay their costs for participation in SAB activities. The necessary expenses of non-governmental SAB members for travel to attend Commission, SAB and Committee meetings may be paid by the Commission as per IJC polices. The Commission may approve support of exceptional travel expenses if deemed necessary to conduct the business of the SAB.


The Commission may issue a Directive to the Board for each three year cycle or other other circumstances as needed:

  • guide the Board in the interpretation of the detailed functions,

  • provide specific direction on the requested timing and content of specific reports or advice,

  • specify updated rules and procedures or other operating instructions, as required.