Behind the scienceA multidisciplinary team of scientists and practitioners

The BeSci team was established in 2015, and has been growing the practice of BeSci across the Government of Canada (GC) ever since.

Today, our team is composed of a central team of researchers housed in the Privy Council Office and multiple Behavioural Science Fellows who are embedded within line departments. Our Fellows support the integration of BeSci insights and methods into priority program and policy areas within each of their departments.

While our team members have diverse academic backgrounds and an array of methodological specialties, we all share a passion for understanding human behaviour and using that understanding to drive change. Combining our knowledge of the literature with cutting-edge research and experimentation practices is what we do best.

Jessica Leifer

Senior Lead for Behavioural Science.

  • Full bio

    In this role, she is responsible for leading the Behavioral Science team’s collaborations with federal departments and external partners to apply BeSci insights to improve the impact of various government programs and policies. Prior to joining the Privy Council Office, Jess worked for a U.S.-based BeSci organization where she managed a large portfolio of projects applying BeSci insights to improve health and well-being, combat poverty and inequality, and build financial capability in partnership with governments, non-profit organizations, and businesses locally and internationally. Jess also worked as an Social Impact Bond Fellow for the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing where she advised non-profit organizations interested in developing social impact bonds and innovative finance programs. Jess received her Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, she researched self-control and willpower with Dr. Angela Duckworth. Jess is passionate about experimentation, and using data and evidence about what works to drive innovation and demonstrable social impact.

    Currently Reading… I love reading the Behavioural Scientist. With great articles written by wonderful academics and practitioners, it’s a great way to stay up to date on what behavioural scientists are learning and trying.

Dr. Lauryn Conway

Lead for Behavioural Science.

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    In this role, she is responsible for leading central team projects and initiatives, applying insights and methodologies from BeSci to help improve policy, programs and service delivery across the Government of Canada. Previously, Lauryn was a Fellow at the Public Health Agency of Canada where she focused on dual population health aims of preventing chronic disease and reducing health inequalities, identifying opportunities to shift public sector investments into interventions that change the physical and social environment to increase the availability of healthier choices. Lauryn holds a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, Human Development from McGill University and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto. As a Doctoral Researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), her dissertation work examined health-related quality of life in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She also has experience consulting for intergovernmental bodies and not-for-profit research institutes in the areas of educational policy and government-sector relations. For Lauryn, the best part of the job is being surrounded by talented colleagues who are passionate about using science to drive social impact.

    Currently Reading… I’ve recently started working my way through the Behavioural Scientist’s Summer Book List 2020. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to benefit from all the bright minds in the global behavioural science community, and love staying up to speed on the latest insights.


Alyssa Whalen

Advisor for Behavioural Science.

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    In this role, she applies principles and methods from BeSci and other human-centred approaches to address complex policy and program challenges across the Government of Canada. Prior to joining the Privy Council Office, Alyssa researched and studied at Queen’s University, concentrating in consumer behaviour and decision-making research. From Queen’s, she holds a Master of Science in Marketing and an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, as well as certificates in Business and Social Impact. At the IIU, Alyssa is particularly interested in using BeSci to drive meaningful, measurable outcomes related to public well-being (social, economic, physical).

    Currently Following… I enjoy following the fantastic research that comes out of other BeSci shops in Canada - like the Ontario Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) and British Columbia’s Behavioural Insights Group (BC BIG). It’s great to keep a pulse on the behavioural solutions being implemented at every level of government.

Dr. Amanda Desnoyers

Amanda is a Behavioural Science Fellow beginning at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) in the Fall.

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    She is currently supporting central team projects and initiatives, including the COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring (COSMO Canada) study. Previously, Amanda was a Fellow at the RCMP where she focused on enhancing the psychological support services given to members who work in covert operations. Amanda has a Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology from Laurentian University and in 2018 earned a PhD in Social Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University where she studied mindfulness and its impact on mental health. For Amanda, the most meaningful part of her role is using insights from the BeSci literature to help inform innovative approaches as well as helping to build capacity for BeSci in line departments.

    Currently inspired by…..I am constantly inspired by the research coming out of the global BeSci community. It is always helpful to see how the principles of BeSci are being used to help solve complex problems both in and out of Government around the world.


Dr. Kyle Hubbard

Kyle Hubbard is a Behavioural Science Fellow at Environment and Climate Change Canada in the Innovation and Youth Engagement Division.

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    He supports the work of multiple branches at ECCC by leading BeSci research that promotes pro-environmental behaviour change; applying a BeSci lens to the development of program, policy, and service initiatives; and helping to build capacity for using evidence-based practices wherever possible. Kyle joined the Fellowship Program in early 2019 after completing a PhD in Educational Psychology from McGill University. For Kyle, the best part of his role is getting to learn from and work with such an amazing collection of people both at the IIU and ECCC.

    Currently Most Interested in… In the world of BeSci, I’m particularly interested in the role of emotions and emotion regulation in our individual and collective decision-making and behaviour.

Dhawal Selerka

Dhawal is a Behavioural Science Fellow at Transport Canada, where he leads research on improving the safety of transportation workers and those that use Canada's transport network.

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    In this role, Dhawal is also introducing BeSci and experimentation into regulatory formulation and evaluation within the department. Dhawal has a Masters in psychology from the University of Toronto and is working concurrently on his PhD in psychology, with a focus in cognitive neuroscience. Dhawal sees BeSci as a tool to develop evidence-based policies that are informed by academic literature on how individuals make decisions, and the cognitive biases we often fall prey to.

    Currently Most Interested in… Inspired by my graduate work, I’m especially interested in how biases in memory encoding and recollection influence perceptions, attitudes and decision making.


Dr. Meera Paleja

Meera has completed two placements as a Behavioural Science Fellow at Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

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    She will join a third department In October 2020 to continue integrating BeSci into government processes and policy. Meera received her doctorate in neuroscience in 2012. Since then, she has worked in the behavioural insights space as a management consultant in the private sector and as a scientist in the provincial government. In 2016, she also began instructing MBA and upper-level undergraduate courses in Behavioural Economics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Meera is excited to be working in the field of BeSci when its appetite in government is at an all-time high!

    Currently Recommending… What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet is one of my favourite BeSci books. It discusses cutting-edge research into the problem of gender bias in organizations and offers practical solutions for how to overcome them.