The era of evidence‐informed decision‐making has seen increased use of the scientific advisory committee (SAC) to provide decision‐makers with scientific advice, despite limited evidence of the effectiveness or best strategies for designing these committees. In this study, an in‐depth review of academic and gray literature is undertaken to outline the global landscape of SACs. The development of a typology is also undertaken that categorizes SACs along six dimensions: 1) sector, 2) level of operation, 3) permanence, 4) target audience, 5) autonomy, and 6) nature of advice. It is found that SACs differ profoundly in each of these dimensions and provide examples demonstrating this variation. The landscape and typology can help decision‐makers understand the key elements of SAC design and reform, and the results will also inform future research on the design and effectiveness of SACs. With SACs expected to promote evidence‐informed decision‐making, it is imperative that the design of these committees themselves is guided by evidence.
The roles and responsibilities of Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health (CMOHs) are contested. On the one hand, they are senior public servants who confidentially advise government on public health matters and manage the implementation of government priorities. On the other hand, CMOHs are perceived as independent communicators and advocates for public health. This article analyzes public health legislation across Canada that governs the CMOH role. Our legal analysis reveals that the presence and degree of advisory, communication, and management roles for the CMOH vary considerably across the country. In many jurisdictions, the power and authority of the CMOH is not clearly defined in legislation. This creates great potential for confusion and conflict, particularly with respect to CMOHs’ authority to act as public health advocates. We call on governments to clarify their preferences when it comes to the CMOH role and either amend the relevant statute or otherwise find ways to clarify the mandate of their CMOHs.