Tag Archives: 2012 CSPC

FrogHeart (part 2) at the 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference (or Kennedy Stewart and his proposed science policy)

The last session I attended at the 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) was a bonus as I didn’t see it listed in the conference programme. Kennedy Stewart, NDP Member of Parliament for  Burnaby-Douglas and shadow minister for Science and Technology, released his document, Toward a National Science Policy at an after hours presentation.

As far as I’m concerned, this document represents a seismic shift, whether Stewart and his colleague, Laurin Liu, Deputy Science and Technology critic, are successful or not at introducing any kind of policy into the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) platform.

Given that I was unable to get responses to my questions about the NDP and its science policy from Jim Maloway (not the only one person or party to ignore my requests), one of the party’s former science and technology critics, and that Libby Davies’ constituency assistant dismissively described science to me as a ’boutique’ issue, I’m hugely heartened to see this interest.  (My Jan. 15, 2010 and April 26, 2011 postings [amongst others] recount some of my adventures trying to find information about the science policies of this country’s various political parties.)

If the hope is to set the terms for the discussion of science policy in Canada as Stewart stated during the launch, this document fails. It seems to have been heavily influenced by the Jenkins report (you can find my thoughts on that report in my Oct. 21, 2011 posting). Stewart’s document emphasizes funding for academic and government basic science research as opposed to emphasizing research applications and industrial research as they did in the Jenkins report. In effect, identical to the Jenkins report, Stewart’s document focusses on research and funding to the exclusion of any other concerns. Unlike Tom Jenkins and his expert panel, Stewart was not constrained to a government mandate so this choice of such a narrow view is troubling.

In other news, the launch was a bit of a ‘sausage fest’, mostly men with the few women in the room doing very little talking (while I was there). In effect, the gender issues which are present in so many ways throughout the science enterprise were also present in the room where we met. The question for me these days is: how do we deal with the gender issues without turning the solution into a special project or being heavy-handed (e.g. Now. the women get to speak. So men, shush. Ok?)?

Honestly, I’d like to see this document shredded. Sure, keep some of the material about funding basic research and the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation Development) data for inclusion in a more visionary, wide ranging document which includes the rest of us in an NDP science policy.

Here are my suggestions, start with the recognition that science affects all of us and can be accessible to all of us. Think in terms of culture, not just research funding. Here are some questions I would use to start building a science policy and then I’d ask for more questions.

How do we stimulate a science discussion in Canada? (thank you Marie-Claire Shanahan)

How do we better link education/training with the labour market?

How do we approach risk in an environment with growing uncertainties?

What impact will emerging technologies have on education/environment/society/etc.?

What role could citizen scientists play in the Canadian science enterprise?

How do we address the gender issues in science, recognizing that it’s not always men discriminating against women but it can be women discriminating against women? (my Sept. 24, 2012 posting titled, Uncomfortable truths; favouring males a gender bias practiced by male and female scientists)

How do we do a better job of funding research?

How do we encourage exchanges between artists, scientists, business leaders, politicians, dancers, philosophers, etc. for a more rounded approach to science?

In a nutshell: change the perspective and reframe the discussion. The topic can narrowed later but the time to really open up the thinking is at the beginning of the process, not at the end. It’s a little bit like cooking. At the beginning, you have your choice of ingredients but once you’ve put the bacon in the frying pan, you’ve committed to a dish that contains bacon.

Still, I’m thankful for the interest wish good luck to Kennedy Stewart and Laurin Liu as they develop a national science policy for the NDP.

For a perspective from the outside, David Bruggeman, a US science policy blogger, comments about this NDP document in his Nov. 11, 2012 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog.

ETA Nov. 15, 2012: I realized (early this morning) that my own session “Thinking big … ” could also be described as a bit of a sausage fest. I mention that revelatory moment and some very interesting work on integrating gender ideas into research (and, I hope, policy) taking place place in Europe and the US in this Nov. 15, 2012 posting.

I also want to add a question to my list: What about open access to science research? (I think that research paid for by tax dollars ought to be accessible to those who have funded it.)

FrogHeart (part 1) at the 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference (& Thinking big panel)

Unfortunately, I was only present for one day (Nov. 6, 2012) at the Fourth Canadian Science Policy Conference in Calgary, Alberta. In fact, my one day was more like a 1/2 day due to delays at the airport. It broke my heart to miss most of Panel 13: Dissecting Canada’s Science & Technology Landscape, which featured a discussion of the Council of Canadian Academies’ latest assessment, “The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012.” I have my fingers crossed that a video of the presentation will be posted in the not too distant future.

Jeffrey Simpson, Ph.D and National Affairs Columnist at The Globe and Mail moderated the panel discussion about this latest assessment (the last one was in 2006) which was requested by Industry Canada. The panel included: Dr. Eliot Phillipson, Ph.D, Sir John and Lady Eaton Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Toronto (he led the expert panel which presided over the assessment); Lorraine Whale, Ph.D and Manager of Unconventional Resource Research at Shell Global Solutions (Canada); and R. Peter MacKinnon, former President of the University of Saskatchewan.

I did manage to attend Panel 16: The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: Turning Talk of Creativity Into a Sustainable Creative Economy which featured a slew of creative types such as Mary Anne Moser, Ph.D and Co-Founder of Beakerhead; Jay Ingram, Co-Founder of Beakerhead; Jasmine Palardy, Program Manager of Beakerhead;  Patrick Finn, Ph.D and Performance Expert, University of Calgary; and Haley Simons, Ph.D, Executive Director of Creative Alberta.

Creativity workshops are to hard to pull off, especially when you pepper them with leadership information, an argument for the importance of creativity in examinations of the economy, descriptions of the creative process, etc. while leading the group through the process of designing a better mouse trap. It was an odd choice for a creativity exercise, notwithstanding the metaphor in the group’s panel title. I liked some of the ideas they were trying to discuss and demonstrate but I associate creativity with an element of play and letting loose. Devising a better mouse trap didn’t activate my sense of play nor was there time to let loose any creative/chaotic impulses as we were either listening to someone giving us information or trying to complete the exercises we were given.

For anyone who’s noticed the incidence of the institution, Beakerhead, amongst the panelists, it’s a new  art/engineering event which will be taking place in Calgary during the Calgary Stampede, I believe (from the About page),

Beakerhead is an annual movement that culminates in a five-day citywide spectacle that brings together the arts and engineering sectors to build, engage, compete and exhibit interactive works of art, engineered creativity and entertainment.

Starting annually in 2013, Beakerhead will take place in Calgary’s major educational institutions, arts and culture venues, on the streets and, most importantly, in communities.
From performances and installations to workshops and concerts, Beakerhead is made possible by a continuously growing list of partners who share the desire of staging a collaborative event of epic proportions.

I wish them well with Beakerhead while I’m somewhat unclear as to what the workshop was supposed to achieve. Personally, I would have preferred working on a Beakerhead event for 2013. Imagine if those of us at the 2012 CSPC “Second mouse” presentation had developed something that might actually take place. That’s creativity in action and I think they could have drawn together all that other stuff they were trying to communicate to us by inviting us to participate in something meaningful.

Next up was Panel 19: Thinking big: science culture and policy in Canada, which I was moderating. From my Oct. 1, 2012 posting,

… here’s the description,

Science culture is more than encouraging kids to become scientists to insure our economic future; more than having people visit a science museum or centre and having fun; more than reading an interesting article in a newspaper or magazine about the latest whizbang breakthrough; more than educating people so they become scientifically literate and encourage ‘good’ science policies; it is a comprehensive approach to community- and society-building.

We live in a grand (in English, magnificent and en francais, big) country, the 2nd largest in the world and it behooves us all to be engaged in developing a vibrant science culture which includes

  • artists (performing and visual),
  • writers,
  • scientists,
  • children,
  • seniors,
  • games developers,
  • doctors,
  • business people,
  • elected officials,
  • philosophers,
  • government bureaucrats,
  • educators,
  • social scientists,
  • and others

as we grapple with 21st century scientific and technical developments.

As scientists work on prosthetic neurons for repair in people with Parkinsons and other neurological diseases, techniques for tissue engineering, self-cleaning windows, exponentially increased tracking capabilities for devices and goods tagged with RFID devices, engineered bacteria that produce petroleum and other products (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Living Foundries project), and more, Canadians will be challenged to understand and adapt to a future that can be only dimly imagined.

Composed of provocative thinkers from the worlds of science writing, science education, art/science work, and scientific endeavour, during this panel discussion they will offer their ideas and visions for a Canadian science culture and invite you to share yours. In addition to answering questions, each panelist will prepare their own question for audience members to answer.

The panelists are:

Marie-Claire Shanahan

Marie-Claire Shanahan is a professor of science education and science communication at the University of Alberta. She is interested in how and why students make decisions to pursue their interests science, in high schools, post-secondary education and informal science education. She also conducts research on interactions between readers and writers in online science communications.

Stephen Strauss

Stephen Strauss, Canadian Science Writers’ Association president, has been writing about science for 30 years. After receiving a B.A. (history) from the University of Colorado, he worked as an English teacher, a social worker, an editor before joining the Globe and Mail in 1979. He began writing about science there.

Since leaving the newspaper in 2004 he has written for the CBC.ca, Nature, New Scientist, The Canadian Medical Association Journal as well as authored books and book chapters. He has written for organizations such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Government of Ontario and has won numerous awards.

Amber Didow

Amber Didow is the Executive Director for the Canadian Association of Science Centres. She has over 20 years experience in the non-profit sector and advancing informal education. She has worked within the Science Centre field for many years including the Saskatchewan Science Centre and Science World British Columbia.  Amber’s background includes new business development; educational outreach; programming with at-risk youth; creating community based science events; melding science with art and overseeing the creation and development of both permanent and travelling exhibitions. Amber has a strong passion for community development within the sector.

Maryse de la Giroday (moderator)

Maryse de la Giroday currently runs one of the largest and longest running Canadian science blogs (frogheart.ca) where she writes commentary on  nanotechnology, science policy, science communication, society, and the arts. With a BA in Communication (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and an MA in Creative Writing and New Media (De Montfort University, UK), she combines education and training in the social sciences and humanities with her commitment as an informed member of the science public. An independent scholar, she has presented at international conferences on topics of nanotechnology, storytelling, and memristors.

Dr. Moira Stilwell, MLA

Dr. Moira Stilwell was appointed Minister of Social Development  for the province of British Columbia in September 2012. Elected MLA for Vancouver-Langara in the 2009 provincial general election. She previously served as Parliamentary Secretary for Industry, Research and Innovation to the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health with a focus on Health Innovation. She also served as Vice Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth. In her first cabinet appointment, she served as Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development from June 2009 to October 2010.

Prior to her political career, Stilwell graduated from the University of Calgary Medical School. She received further training in nuclear medicine at the University of British Columbia and in radiology at the University of Toronto after that. She served for several years as the Head of Nuclear Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, Surrey Memorial Hospital, and Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Clinic but left all those positions in 2009 to run for public office.

The driving force behind the province’s Year of Science in BC (2010-11) initiative for schools, Stilwell has a passionate interest and commitment to integrating science awareness and culture in government, education, and society.

Rob Annan

Rob is the Director of Policy, Research and Evaluation at Mitacs, a leading Canadian not-for-profit that supports innovation through skills development, research, and collaboration between students, researchers, and industry. Mitacs supports research across sciences, humanities and social sciences and understands that innovation often occurs at the intersection of science and culture. Mitacs’ approach to innovation is reflected in our outreach activities, most notably Math Out Loud – a theatre musical designed to inspire Canadian students to understand and appreciate the mathematics that surround them. Inspired by Laval University’s renowned Professor of Mathematics Jean-Marie De Koninck and produced by Academy Award winner Dale Hartleben, Math Out Loud explores the relationships between math and culture as an effective outreach tool.

Prior to joining Mitacs, Rob worked as a consultant to universities, researchers and non-profit agencies for strategic planning and policy, and was active as a blogger on science policy issues in Canada. Rob embodies the intersection of arts and science, with a PhD in Biochemistry from McGill University, a BSc in Biology from UVic and a BA in English from Queen’s University.

We started late and I think it went relatively well although next time (assuming there is one) I’ll practice cutting people off in a timely fashion and giving more direction. In other words, any criticisms of the session should be directed at me. The panelists were great.

Marie-Claire Shanahan, professor of science education at the University of Alberta, introduced a provocative question in the context of acknowledging Canada’s excellent science education programmes, Why isn’t there an active science discourse in Canada? Audience members tried to answer that question and came to no general agreement.

Stephen Strauss, president of the Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA), introduced what I thought was a very exciting idea, a science entrepot supported by the CSWA. The entrepot would be a storage webspace for all Canadian science news releases and a place where the people producing the news releases would get feedback on their efforts. The feedback idea is an acknowledgement that, increasingly,  scientists in Canada are writing their own news releases. There wasn’t much uptake from the audience on this idea but perhaps people need more time think about something that changes their relationship to the media.

The Honourable Dr. Moira Stilwell discussed her experiences trying to introduce science into government, that is, trying to use more scientific approaches in the various BC ministries. The former head of Nuclear Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital, Surrey Memorial Hospital, and Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Clinic described the process by which her big idea became part of a government initiative and changed mightily in the process.

Rob Annan, director of policy, research, and evaluation at Mitacs, talked about different approaches Mitacs has taken to embedding science culture in Canada and he challenged the audience about the notion of expertise with regard to science as one of the audience members expressed great distress (sadness mixed with anger/indignation) over the ‘declining’ trust in science experts. I hope Rob will correct me if I get this wrong, I believe his point was that experts need to stop assuming that they are right and the public just has to listen and do as they are told. The audience member did not couch his comments that way but the assumption that we, the unwashed must do as we are told and our concerns are not relevant or wrong, is often at the heart of the ‘expertise’ claim. (Also I’m going to interject, I think the audience member had flipped the issue around. The question I’d be asking is why expertise in science is accepted unthinkingly in some areas and distrusted in others.)

Amber Didow, executive director of the Canadian Association of Science Centres, spoke about the importance of these centres with regard to science culture, the extensive programming they provide, and their relationship to their communities both locally and further afield. The fact that we were in Calgary’s new ‘science world’ (in Calgary, it’s Telus Spark) added greatly to the experience.

I did attend one more session, Kennedy Stewart’s NDP (New Democratic Party) Science Policy session but that’s for part 2.

ETA Nov. 14, 2012: I’ve forgotten my manners and I apologize for not doing this sooner. Thank you to the organizers for an exciting and well paced conference. Special thanks to Marissa Bender who eased my way before, during, and after; Dustin Rivers for making sure that I didn’t fall over from hunger once I finally arrived and  his impeccable graciousness, Mehrdad Hariri for his understanding and for extending a helping hand in the midst of what must have been one of heaviest organizational periods for the 2012 conference (I am impressed), Sean for his invaluable advice regarding rush hour traffic in Calgary, and the two heroic women who managed the portable mikes for my session.

Science public engagement with policy makers—an idea for the Canadian scene?

Athene Donald’s Nov. 2, 2012 posting on Occam’s Corner (hosted by the Guardian) points out that scientists aren’t the only ones who need to engage, policy makers should try it too  (Note: I have removed links),

Recently the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has been consulting on its Science and Society programme, and I for one have fed my thoughts back to their team. On their web pages they also detail the progress they have made against previous objectives, set up a couple of years ago. Progress on some fronts is good, particularly in the way interactions with the media are progressing. Nevertheless, there are hints in the text implying unhealthy mental separation of different groupings. For example, language relating to how “we”, that is the scientists, are expected to engage with “you”, the public, might perhaps benefit from closer scrutiny. There are also some notable omissions of people who don’t seem to be expected to participate in engagement very much at all, notably “them” – those who set the agenda at the centre of power, comprising MP’s, civil servants and policy-makers in general. [emphases mine]

She’s suggesting engagement between scientists and policy makers, not engagement between the public, scientists, and policy makers. Personally, I’d like to see the latter take place, as well as, the former. Donald also goes on to reiterate her support for another suggestion,  (Note: I have removed links),

Nor does success, according to BIS, contain any mention of the suggestion, made by Adam Afriyie (then shadow Science Minister) before the last election, that MPs should get remedial science lessons. To quote my own MP and erstwhile colleague in Physics at the University of Cambridge, Dr Julian Huppert shortly after election as an MP in 2010, who said à propos of this:

“It would be really important for all MPs to have some exposure, because some of them will not have studied any science since they were 15 and it’s important to understand how to engage with it. You would then have a lot of MPs who were able to understand the information they were being presented with.”

Donald’s comments remind me of Preston Manning’s suggestions about Canadian scientists needing to engage more with politicians.  Luckily, Mr. Manning very kindly gave me an interview about those suggestions and more, ‘Preston Manning Interview (part 1 of 2) and PEN’s nanotechnology product inventory‘ and ‘Preston Manning Interview (part 2 of 2); Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Events; ASTC Conference‘ in September 2009. That year, the first Canadian Science Policy Conference was held. Next week (Nov. 5-7, 2012) will see the fourth conference in Calgary, Alberta where Mr. Manning is scheduled to speak on this panel, ‘What is the appropriate division of labour between business, government, and the academy in advancing science-based innovation in Canada?’

2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference and thinking big about Canadian science culture and policy

The 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference is coming up in Calgary, Alberta on Nov. 5-7, 2012. and FrogHeart will be there moderating the Thinking Big: Science Culture and Policy in Canada panel. More about that in a minute but first, here’s the announcement, which I received at about  12:30 pm PDT, Oct. 1, 2012 (so this is pretty fresh off the email) :

Minister of State for Science and Technology, the Hon. Gary Goodyear, and Alberta Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, the Hon. Stephen Khan, will be speaking at the CSPC 2012

Calgary, Alberta November 5th – 7th

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Sept. 28, 2012) - CSPC 2012 is pleased to announce that the Hon. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology will provide the opening keynote address on Monday, November 5th at 8:45 AM.

Also, the Hon. Stephen Khan, Alberta Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education will provide a luncheon keynote speech on Tuesday, November 6th.

CSPC 2012 will feature an impressive program with more than 90 speakers – leaders of science and innovation – from industry, academia, the media and government. These include:

  • Hon. Moira Stilwell,  MLA, Minister of Social Development, BC
  • Bob Fessenden, Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy, Government of Alberta
  • Dan Wicklum, CEO, Canada Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, (COSIA)
  • Antonia Maioni, Incoming President, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Jeffrey Simpson, National Affairs Columnist, The Globe and Mail
  • Jay Ingram, Founder, Beakerhead, Science Journalist
  • Rory McAlpine, Vice President, Maple Leaf Foods
  • Mike Herrington, Executive Director, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)
  • Richard Hawkins, Canada Research Chair, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, University of Calgary

Keynote session: Pulling Together: “What is the appropriate division of labour between business, government, and the academy in advancing science-based innovation in Canada?” a dialogue with the three Honourary Co-Chairs:

  • The Hon. Preston Manning C.C., President & CEO, Manning Centre for Building Democracy
  • Dr. Eric Newell, Chancellor Emeritus, University of Alberta, Former Chair and CEO, Syncrude Canada Ltd.
  • M. Elizabeth Cannon, PhD, FCAE, FRSC, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Calgary

Twenty-one panel sessions, reflecting the four conference themes, submitted from across the country and internationally, including:

  • Innovation, R&D, and Productivity in the Oil and Gas Sector
  • Dissecting Canada’s Science & Technology Landscape
  • Innovation and Agriculture and the Role of Policy
  • Next Generation e-Health: Integrating Research, Policy, Industry
  • Entrepreneurship as a vehicle for innovation
  • “Science Policy 101″ workshop

For the complete agenda please go to http://www.cspc2012.ca/glance.php and for descriptions of all the panel discussions see http://www.cspc2012.ca/paneldescriptions.php.

Don’t miss Canada’s premiere science policy conference as it brings a spotlight to Western Canada!

Follow us on Twitter @sciencepolicy, Facebook, and LinkedIn for the latest in science policy news and conference updates.

Register Now!

Register today at https://www.verney.ca/cspc2012/registration/index.php to benefit from the Early Bird rate (ends October 1, 2012).

The Canadian conference has a major fan in David Bruggeman of the Pasco Phronesis blog as per his Aug. 28, 2012 posting titled ‘Where Canada Might Lead The World – The Fourth Canadian Science Policy Conference‘,

Later this year the fourth Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) will take place in Alberta, Calgary.  I attended the first conference in 2009, when it was held in Toronto.  I found it quite valuable, and not being Canadian, I think that says something.  In the three years since the first conference, the number of presenters and panels has grown consistently, and I think the conference provides an important convening function for the nation’s researchers and practitioners interested in science policy.

I wish we had something like it in the United States. …

As for the Thinking big panel, here’s the description,

Science culture is more than encouraging kids to become scientists to insure our economic future; more than having people visit a science museum or centre and having fun; more than reading an interesting article in a newspaper or magazine about the latest whizbang breakthrough; more than educating people so they become scientifically literate and encourage ‘good’ science policies; it is a comprehensive approach to community- and society-building.

We live in a grand (in English, magnificent and en francais, big) country, the 2nd largest in the world and it behooves us all to be engaged in developing a vibrant science culture which includes

  • artists (performing and visual),
  • writers,
  • scientists,
  • children,
  • seniors,
  • games developers,
  • doctors,
  • business people,
  • elected officials,
  • philosophers,
  • government bureaucrats,
  • educators,
  • social scientists,
  • and others

as we grapple with 21st century scientific and technical developments.

As scientists work on prosthetic neurons for repair in people with Parkinsons and other neurological diseases, techniques for tissue engineering, self-cleaning windows, exponentially increased tracking capabilities for devices and goods tagged with RFID devices, engineered bacteria that produce petroleum and other products (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Living Foundries project), and more, Canadians will be challenged to understand and adapt to a future that can be only dimly imagined.

Composed of provocative thinkers from the worlds of science writing, science education, art/science work, and scientific endeavour, during this panel discussion they will offer their ideas and visions for a Canadian science culture and invite you to share yours. In addition to answering questions, each panelist will prepare their own question for audience members to answer.

The panelists are:

Marie-Claire Shanahan

Marie-Claire Shanahan is a professor of science education and science communication at the University of Alberta. She is interested in how and why students make decisions to pursue their interests science, in high schools, post-secondary education and informal science education. She also conducts research on interactions between readers and writers in online science communications.

Stephen Strauss

Stephen Strauss, Canadian Science Writers’ Association president, has been writing about science for 30 years. After receiving a B.A. (history) from the University of Colorado, he worked as an English teacher, a social worker, an editor before joining the Globe and Mail in 1979. He began writing about science there.

Since leaving the newspaper in 2004 he has written for the CBC.ca, Nature, New Scientist, The Canadian Medical Association Journal as well as authored books and book chapters. He has written for organizations such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Government of Ontario and has won numerous awards.

Amber Didow

Amber Didow is the Executive Director for the Canadian Association of Science Centres. She has over 20 years experience in the non-profit sector and advancing informal education. She has worked within the Science Centre field for many years including the Saskatchewan Science Centre and Science World British Columbia.  Amber’s background includes new business development; educational outreach; programming with at-risk youth; creating community based science events; melding science with art and overseeing the creation and development of both permanent and travelling exhibitions. Amber has a strong passion for community development within the sector.

Maryse de la Giroday (moderator)

Maryse de la Giroday currently runs one of the largest and longest running Canadian science blogs (frogheart.ca) where she writes commentary on  nanotechnology, science policy, science communication, society, and the arts. With a BA in Communication (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and an MA in Creative Writing and New Media (De Montfort University, UK), she combines education and training in the social sciences and humanities with her commitment as an informed member of the science public. An independent scholar, she has presented at international conferences on topics of nanotechnology, storytelling, and memristors.

Dr. Moira Stilwell, MLA

Dr. Moira Stilwell was appointed Minister of Social Development  for the province of British Columbia in September 2012. Elected MLA for Vancouver-Langara in the 2009 provincial general election. She previously served as Parliamentary Secretary for Industry, Research and Innovation to the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health with a focus on Health Innovation. She also served as Vice Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth. In her first cabinet appointment, she served as Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development from June 2009 to October 2010.

Prior to her political career, Stilwell graduated from the University of Calgary Medical School. She received further training in nuclear medicine at the University of British Columbia and in radiology at the University of Toronto after that. She served for several years as the Head of Nuclear Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, Surrey Memorial Hospital, and Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Clinic but left all those positions in 2009 to run for public office.

The driving force behind the province’s Year of Science in BC (2010-11) initiative for schools, Stilwell has a passionate interest and commitment to integrating science awareness and culture in government, education, and society.

Rob Annan

Rob is the Director of Policy, Research and Evaluation at Mitacs, a leading Canadian not-for-profit that supports innovation through skills development, research, and collaboration between students, researchers, and industry. Mitacs supports research across sciences, humanities and social sciences and understands that innovation often occurs at the intersection of science and culture. Mitacs’ approach to innovation is reflected in our outreach activities, most notably Math Out Loud – a theatre musical designed to inspire Canadian students to understand and appreciate the mathematics that surround them. Inspired by Laval University’s renowned Professor of Mathematics Jean-Marie De Koninck and produced by Academy Award winner Dale Hartleben, Math Out Loud explores the relationships between math and culture as an effective outreach tool.

Prior to joining Mitacs, Rob worked as a consultant to universities, researchers and non-profit agencies for strategic planning and policy, and was active as a blogger on science policy issues in Canada. Rob embodies the intersection of arts and science, with a PhD in Biochemistry from McGill University, a BSc in Biology from UVic and a BA in English from Queen’s University.

Hope to see you at the conference!

Canadian Science Policy Conference (in Calgary): call for papers and presentations

The 4th edition of the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) will take place in Calgary, Alberta as I hinted (I also suggested that Edmonton was in contention)  in my Feb. 20, 2012 posting. If you have an interest in presenting at the conference, this is the time to submit your session proposals.  From the April 23, 2012 CSPC notice,

Call for Canadian Science Policy Conference 2012 Sessions

Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2012 is inviting members of the science policy community to submit proposals for the conference program Nov 5-6, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta. All submissions must be received online by end of day June 8, 2012.

This year’s conference sessions will be under the following 4 themes:

  • Innovating on energy supply and demand for more sustainable resource management: a critical test for the integration of science, technology and policy
  • Re-imagining Canadian Healthcare: How innovation in science and policy can contribute to a more sustainable system
  • Food, Fuel and Farmers: Agriculture at the convergence of multi-disciplinary science policy issues
  • Science-Technology-Society-Nexus

CSPC has become the focal point for Canadian science policy issues, in large part because of the active participation it encourages from the science policy community. Bringing together professionals from business, academia, government and non-profit, CSPC provides an annual forum to discuss the most relevant issues to science, technology and innovation in Canada during its conference sessions. Help shape this year’s dialogue by submitting your session proposal now!

There are more details at the CSPC 2012 website including this excerpt from the conference’s Themes page,

Re-imagining Canadian Healthcare: How innovation in science and policy can contribute to a more sustainable system?

Canadian healthcare spending has been rising steadily over the past few decades with health expenditure to GDP ratios rising from 7% in 1979 to a peak at almost 12% in 2009. Canada, like many nations, has a population that is getting older, living longer, and demanding quality care as well as improvements to the universal healthcare system. Innovation can contribute to improved performance of the system, but the impacts of innovation on cost, efficiency, and health outcomes are not always straightforward.

This CSPC theme will explore the policies and approaches for innovation to positively impact the health system. It will examine innovation and policy issues that related to improving effective and efficient care, accessibility, universality, sustainability, and cost versus benefits.

Food, Fuel and Farmers: Agriculture at the convergence of multi-disciplinary science policy issues

Agriculture requires upwards of 40% of the world’s land area and over 70% of the global fresh water reserves, in turn, generating nearly $2 trillion in global revenues while feeding more than 7 billion people. The implications of agricultural practices and policies thus have a direct link to global economic, environmental and societal outcomes and impacts many other sectors. The global challenge for agriculture, therefore, is to increase production while simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint. Canadian farmers, scientists, policy makers and businesses are responding with innovations in water and land use, genetics, bioproducts and bioprocesses. Productivity isn’t just about yields any more; it’s about energy content and optimization as well as issues such as minimizing losses in the transportation and distribution systems.

This CSPC theme will explore how science is at the heart of these questions. Increasingly, we see that the next generation of farmers and ranchers need to be scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs. However, what does this mean for the universities, policies, regulation and markets that these farmers and ranchers need to thrive going forward? And what does today’s science and innovation applied to agriculture mean for agriculture, energy, environmental and trade policies in the future?

Science-Technology-Society-Nexus

Science and technology are significant pillars in our society and are increasingly transforming the world we live in as well as how we live within that world. Society expects solutions to our most pressing issues, and developments in S&T can bring answers and perspective to these issues. However, advances in S&T can also create new questions. Additionally, popular debate can polarize the public, and controversial S&T issues grow in number. It is, therefore, vital for the science policy community to identify such issues, contribute to discourse, and propose solutions or a way forward.

This theme, within the overarching context of S&T and Society, will examine a variety of issues such as engagement; education and public outreach; publication and data; peer-review; the bread and nature of the innovation system; social innovation; communication; and other major or topical issues in Canadian science policy.

Details about the proposal format, etc. are on the conference’s Submissions page,

PROPOSAL FORMAT

  1. Please submit a brief proposal that outlines the title and subject of your session, as well as proposed speakers (including bios), format and goals of the proposed conference session. Please note the word limit on the website.
  2. Proposals must be submitted to the CSPC program committee online at www.cspc2012.ca/presentationsubmissions.php for evaluation prior end of day June 8, 2012. CONFERENCE THEMES:

This year’s conference themes are under the 4 categories of energy, health, agriculture and major issues in science and society. The theme descriptions are under the following titles:

  • Innovating on energy supply and demand for more sustainable resource management: a critical test for the integration of science, technology and policy
  • Re-imagining Canadian Healthcare: How innovation in science and policy can contribute to a more sustainable system
  • Food, Fuel and Farmers: Agriculture at the convergence of multi-disciplinary science policy issues
  • Science-Technology-Society-Nexus

They are intended to spark some insightful exploration and debate on the issues, but more importantly they seek to highlight some of the innovative ways in which science, technology and policy can contribute to an integrated and systemic approach to solving these issues in Canada and the world.

EVALUATION CRITERIA:
The CSPC 2012 Program Committee will review each of the proposals and evaluate them based on the following criteria:

  • Quality of the proposed session: CSPC tries to cover topics that are highly relevant or timely for the science policy community in Canada to discuss. Sessions that can draw together strong speakers or facilitators on subjects that are either garnering much attention publically or politically, or that are enduring societal problems, will rank more competitively than those that don’t. Sessions with confirmed speakers will rank more competitively than those without.
  • Alignment with the conference objectives: The conference objectives seek to support innovation in Canada and build both community and ideas for strengthening the science policy environment. The session proposal will be evaluated on its ability to support these primary objectives.
  • Alignment with the conference themes: CSPC strives for a balance that dives deep enough into the issues to identify specific elements of what works and what doesn’t from planning through to implementation, yet is still able to make the discussion accessible to a broader audience. Sessions should include experts that can provide detailed examples under the CSPC 2012 themes to support their arguments, and translate those details into more transferable lessons learned and best practices.
  • Representation of a diverse range of speakers: CSPC doesn’t have a specific formula for evaluating session speakers, but it does embrace diversity as one of its core values. The more diverse the range of perspectives that your speakers can offer in terms of roles (government, business, academia, non-profit etc.) or discipline, gender, ethnicity, geography, experience or other aspects, the stronger your proposal will be relative to the others.

SESSION FORMAT & AUDIENCE:

Sessions are 90 minutes. Typically they have followed a panel presentation format, but some adopt more of a workshop or facilitated discussion style. CSPC has received enthusiastic feedback regarding sessions that allow for more interaction between the speakers and the delegates, and also those that bring a lively debate. Case studies and stories are easier for people to engage with than lists, facts and rhetoric. Consider challenging your speakers to be more creative when sharing their ideas.

The majority of the delegates will be fairly educated on different fields of science policy, but may not understand your field. You may want to include materials to prime the audience in order to allow your session to explore things to a greater depth. Many of the delegates are also practitioners in the science policy community, hungry for things to take back to their work beyond education and awareness. Often we’re asking people to “step outside their comfort zones” in order to foster more creativity in the way we think about and approach science, technology, policy and innovation. The more you can challenge your audience to participate in some way, such as writing down their biases or the first things that come to their mind, sharing with the person next to them what they think the key issues are, or hosting full break-out discussions the better.

Based on past attendance the majority is from academic, government, or non-profit institutions. CSPC is trying to target participants from the private sector for whom science policy is highly relevant, yet underrepresented. If you can propose a session which will engage this audience or if you have suggestions on how to better engage this sector please let us know!

Conference registration is free for speakers and facilitators.

As for suggestions about how to engage with folks from the private sector, that’s an interesting problem. I find it encouraging that they want to extend the discussion to a larger audience but I’m  not sure which part of the private sector they want to engage.  Investors? Venture capitalists? Bankers? Lawyers? Startup business owners? Big business? Accountants? Youthful entrepreneurs? New media? Gamers? etc.This gives me a lot to think about.

One small historical note, the first CSPC conference led to the creation of the Canadian Science Policy Centre which exists online here.

Good luck with your submissions!

AAAS 2012, the Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 experience: art/sci, HUBzero, and a news scoop from the exhibition floor

“New Concepts in Integrating Arts and Science Research for a Global Knowledge Society” at the AAAS 2012 annual meeting provided some thought provoking moments courtesy of Gunalan Nadarajan, Vice Provost at the Maryland Institute College of Art. It’s always good to be reminded that art schools are only about 300 years old and the notion of studying science as a separate discipline is only about 200 years old. We tend talk about the arts and the sciences as if they’ve always been separate pursuits when, as Nadarajan pointed out, they were part of a larger pursuit, which included philosophy and religion as well. That pursuit was knowledge.

Nadarajan mentioned a new network (a pilot project) in the US called the Network for Science Engineering Art and Design where they hope to bring scientists and artists together for collaborative work. These relationships are not always successful and Nadarajan noted that the problems tend to boil down to relationship issues (sometimes people don’t get along very well even with the best of intentions). He did say that he wanted to encourage people to get to know each other first in nonstressful environments such as sharing a meal or coffee. It sounded a little bit like dating but rather than a romantic encounter (or that might be a possibility too), the emphasis is on your work compatibility.

According to a blog posting by one of the organizers of the Network for Science Engineering Art and Design, Roger Malina, it is searching for a new name (search engine issues). You can get more information about the new network in Malina’s Feb. 19, 2012 posting.

“HUBzero: Building Collaboratories for Research on a Global Scale” was a session I anticipated with much interest and I’m glad to say it was very good with all the speakers being articulate and excited about their topics. I did not realize that there are a number of hubs in the US; I’m familiar only with the nanoHUB based at Purdue University in Indiana. (My most recent posting about this was the Dec. 5, 2011 posting about their NanoHUB-U initiative.)

nanoHUB and the others all run on an open source software designed for scientific collaboration. What I found most fascinating was the differences between the various hubs. Michael McLennan spoke about both the HUBzero software (which can be downloaded for free from the HUBzero website) and the nanoHUB, which services the nanotechnology community and has approximately 200,000 registered users at this time (they double their numbers every 12 – 18 months according to McLennan).

There are videos, papers, courses, social networking opportunities and more can be made available through the HUBzero software but uniquely configured to each group’s needs. Ellen M. Rathje (University of Texas, Austin) spoke at length about some of the challenges the earthquake engineers (NEES.org) addressed when developing their hub with regard to sharing data and some of the analytical difficulties associated with earthquake data.

Each group that uses the software to create a hub has its own culture and customs and the software has to be tweaked such that the advantages to adopting new work strategies outweigh the disadvantages of making changes. William K. Barnett whose portfolio includes encouraging the use of collaborative technologies for the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CSTI) had to adopt an approach for doctors who typically have very little time to adopt new technologies and who have requirements regarding confidentiality that are far different than that of nanoscientists or earthquake engineers.

I got my ‘scooplet’ when I visited the exhibition floor. The 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference (2012 CSPC) will be held in Alberta as you can see in this Feb. 19, 2012 posting on the Government of Canada science site.

Apparently, there are two cities under consideration and, for anyone  who’s been hoping for a meeting in Wetaskawin, I must grind your dreams into dust. As most Canadians would expect, the choice is between Edmonton and Calgary. I understand the scales are tipped towards Calgary (that’s the scooplet) but these things can change in a heartbeat (no, don’t get your hopes up about Wetaskawin). I understand we should be learning the decision soon (I wonder if Banff might emerge as a dark horse contender).