Science Borealis, a Canadian science blogging aggregator, being launched at the 2013 (5th annual) Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) in Toronto, Ontario (from Nov. 20 – 22, 2013). Mike Spear will be giving a preview of sorts at today’s luncheon and later there will a panel session about science blogger where Sarah Boon (one of the founding members) will officially launch the aggregator. Here’s more from the Nov. 21, 2013 Science Boreaiis news release (full disclosure: I am a member of the founding team),
Science Blogging Discussion Marks the Launch of Science Borealis
Science Borealis plans to feature up to 150 Canadian science blogs
Calgary and Toronto, November 21, 2013 – After months in the making, a new chapter in Canadian science communication will launch tomorrow at the Canadian Science Policy Conference at Toronto’s Allstream Centre.
The community-driven Science Borealis blogging network will grow Canada’s science communication community, while raising awareness of – and support for – Canadian science. After a group of bloggers started talking about the idea in late 2012, the not-for-profit organizations Canadian Science Publishing and Genome Alberta added their support, funding, and time, and Science Borealis is now ready to move out of the developer’s lab and into the forefront of Canadian science communication.
Join us tomorrow (Friday) from 1:30p – 3:00p at the Allstream Centre in Toronto for a special panel presentation on science blogging that is part of CSPC 2013. You’ll hear a discussion covering the challenges facing science blogging in Canada, find out the success stories, and meet some of Canada’s science bloggers. The Science Borealis members will be easily recognizable by their distinctive t-shirts and will be pleased to answer your questions.
The panel, ‘Science blogging in Canada: Making use of a valuable resource’ will be moderated by Genome Alberta’s Mike Spear and feature speakers:
- Rees Kassen, Associate Professor and University Research Chair, University of Ottawa
- Sarah Boon, Associate Professor of Environmental Science, University of Lethbridge
- Kennedy Stewart, Member of Parliament (NDP), Burnaby-Douglas
- David Kent, Research Associate, University of Cambridge, UK
- Lisa Willemse, Director of Communications, Stem Cell Network
Here’s more about the CSPC 2013 science blogging session from the conference’s P22: Science blogging in Canada: Making use of a valuable resource webpage,,
This session will take you into the revealing, thought-provoking and sometimes wild world of science blogs. They’re out there, they’re more numerous than you might think and they have impact. They validate successful science and challenge weak conclusions. And, in today’s climate, in which research has been shadowed and/or kept silent, and traditional print media is in decline, science blogs have emerged as an increasingly important tool for providing valuable context and understanding of research via an open and public forum that encourages debate. Searching the online world for credible information is not without its challenges. The Internet is often a source of misinformation, and blogs still suffer under an outdated perception that they are simply a place for writers and ideas that can’t get published anywhere else. But this has changed dramatically in the past 10 years as powerhouse media entities such as National Geographic, Scientific American and Nature have drawn high-profile science bloggers to their staff ranks to report and comment on scientific discoveries. Many professional researchers have also turned to blogging as a way to bring avid followers, both within and outside of academia, to the front lines of research, addressing current outcomes, methods and challenges within their scientific communities. There are numerous talented science bloggers in Canada, representing both the science reporting and documentary approaches. The proposed panel will address how science blogs can be useful for policy making, and present some upcoming initiatives designed to make blogs more accessible to government, the broader scientific community, industry and the public. The session will look at traditional methods of communicating science to policymakers and identify the role of online resources that, as a new and younger generation joins the political ranks, is increasingly relied upon as a primary source of information. It will outline the emergence of science blogs, and present specific examples of their impact on both the advancement of science and public perception of science. The panel will provide some strategies for how blogs can be used by parliamentarians, advisors and policy makers. The final speaker will take stock of science blogging resources in Canada and present the Canadian science blog network.
Here’s a list of the speakers along with their bios. (from the 2013 CSPC panel webpage),
Global Young Academy
Dr. Rees Kassen is professor and University Research Chair in Experimental Evolution at the University of Ottawa. He is also co-chair of the Global Young Academy (www.globalyoungacademy.net), an international organization of early-career researchers acting as the voice of young scientists around the world and past chair of the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE; www.pagse.org), an association of 26 professional and scientific organizations acting on behalf of over 50,000 members from academia, industry and government in Canada. Dr Kassen completed his PhD at McGill University and then went on to an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship and Elizabeth Wordsworth Research Fellowship at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. He is known internationally for his integrative approach to the study of biodiversity and pioneering work using microbes to study evolutionary and ecological processes in the laboratory. He was awarded an NSERC Steacie Fellowship in 2010 and was a World Economic Forum/IAP Young Scientist in 2010 and 2011.
Associate Professor of Environmental Science
University of Lethbridge
Sarah Boon is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Lethbridge. She has worked in the Arctic and the western Cordillera on topics ranging from mountain pine beetle effects on snow processes, to stream temperature and salmonids. She’s also a science writer and editor, and blogs at Watershed Moments. A hydrologist by training, Sarah has written opinion pieces on both science policy and science communication. She is part of a team developing a Canadian science blog aggregator, to build Canadian science communication networks.
Member of Parliament (NDP)
Kennedy Stewart was elected to the riding of Burnaby-Douglas for the New Democratic Party in May 2011. He is the Official Opposition Critic for Science and Technology, and member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in Government from the London School of Economics and is a tenured associate professor on leave from Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy. While at SFU, Kennedy authored numerous refereed publications and was awarded grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada and other organizations as principal investigator and was joint investigator on a $2.5 Million SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative on Multilevel Governance and Public Policy in Canadian Municipalities. Before coming to SFU in 2002, Kennedy held a number of positions at Canadian and UK universities and was Director of the Public Policy and Management Master’s Program at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has served as a referee for various academic journals including British Columbia Studies, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Canadian Journal of Sociology, Canadian Political Science Review, Canadian Journal of Urban Research, Thomson/Nelson Press and has been reviewed grants for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. As an academic, Kennedy frequently provided commentary on on local, national and international issues and was a regular guest columnist for the Vancouver Sun. He served as policy advisor to the British Columbia Local Government Elections Task Force, City of Vancouver Electoral Reform Commission, British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly, British Columbia Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, the Great Bear Rainforest Solutions Project, City of Vancouver Mayor’s Office, City of Calgary, and the Vancouver Public Library. His latest co-authored book, Local Government in Canada, was published in 2012 by Nelson. Kennedy is married to Jeanette Ashe, a political science instructor at Douglas College completing her Ph.D. in politics at the University of London.
University of Cambridge, UK
Dr. David Kent is a research associate at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2009 he created The Black Hole website which provides analysis of issues related to the education and training of scientists in Canada. He also writes for Signals blog, a leading source of commentary on stem cells and regenerative medicine. Previously, Dr. Kent served as joint coordinator for the UBC branch of the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program (2004-07), an award winning national science outreach program. Dr. Kent grew up in St. John’s, NL, obtained a B.Sc. in Genetics and English Literature at the University of Western Ontario and completed his Ph.D. in blood stem cell biology at the University of British Columbia. He has been awarded scholarships or fellowships from the CIHR, NSERC, the Canadian Stem Cell Network, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the Lady Tata Memorial Trust. His current laboratory research focuses on normal blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. He also sits on the executive of the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars.
Director of Communications
Stem Cell Network
Lisa Willemse has worked within government-funded research networks for the past 13 years as a project manager and communications specialist. She is currently the Director of Communications for the Stem Cell Network, one of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence, a position she has held since 2008. In addition to more traditional forms of communications, such as the creation of two science exhibitions, Lisa was an early adopter of new media and has used social media platforms such as Twitter to establish the Stem Cell Network as a leader among its peers. In 2008, she began developing a blog dedicated to sharing findings and commentary related to stem cell research that would also serve as a training/mentorship platform for young scientists interested in acquiring science communications skills. She serves as the blog’s editor in chief and an occasional contributor. This blog, Signals, is widely regarded as one of the best in the stem cell field and enjoys a robust following by readers from across the globe.
Director of Corporate Communications
Mike Spear is currently Director of Corporate Communications for Genome Alberta, a non-profit genetic research funding organization based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Prior to that much of his career was spent as a Producer, Executive Producer, and Program Manager with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. While there he received a CBC President’s award, a Farm Writer’s Award and his newsrooms and current affairs programs received several CBC Peer Awards and RTNDA Awards. He has worked in broadcast news, current affairs, music and drama and was a media trainer with the National Democratic Institute in Croatia. He has launched the conservative world of biotechnology communications into the 21st century with the creation of GenOmics, a news aggregator based on an Open Source platform Genome Alberta has supported with U.S. based partners. He and Genome Alberta are heavily involved in the Fall 2013 launch of Science Borealis, a new Canadian Science blogging network.
I would prefer a little more description, in each précis, about what the individuals will be discussing. I could do with a little less biography. For example, congratulations to Kennedy Steward for being married but I don’t find the information pertinent here. Also, I would have liked to have seen a little more information about the panel members’ blogs, although it seems only Sarah Boon and David Kent write on a blog(s).
One other session caught my attention and that was the one concerning intellectual property (patents) which was held on Nov. 21, 2013. The session was organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. From the P9: Courting Confusion: the Patent Act, legal decisions, and impacts on Canada’s science and innovation landscape webpage,,
“Canada’s Patent Act exists to encourage progress in science and the useful arts. It achieves this by securing inventors’ property rights in their inventions, thus establishing a market-based regime of incentives to foster innovation. Securing a patent is based on following logical, sound principles, unchanged in two centuries. The Patent Act itself establishes an order of steps that, if correctly followed, would resolve many controversial issues.
Under the act, a patentable invention must satisfy four main criteria: patent-eligible subject-matter; novelty; utility, and; non-obviousness. Novelty means new anywhere in the world. Utility is met where a person of ordinary skill, reading the specification, would understand the utility of the claimed invention. Non-obviousness requires that a persons of ordinary skill would not have been led to the claimed invention directly by the earlier teachings of others.
Recently, the scope of patent-eligible subject-matter has been controversial in pharmaceuticals, the life sciences; and in business methods, particularly involving computer software.
However, in the past few years, Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), have issued rulings which may be seen as inconsistent or confusing in areas of patent-eligibility, novelty, utility, and non-obviousness . Canada does not have a specialized patent court, and the volume of litigation is insufficient to yield a finely developed body of law. Few judges have a technical or scientific background; fewer still have a background in patents.
This session will discuss how these issues have played out in several recent high profile cases and their implications for Canada’s science and innovation landscape.
In a modern agricultural context, the patenting of higher life forms is controversial, and has been the subject of two high-profile SCC decisions: Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents) (the “Harvard Mouse” case), and Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser (2004), which centered on patent infringement for genetically-engineered (GE) canola.
The 5-4 decision in the Schmeiser case led to concerns amongst anti-GE and some civil society and consumer groups about the ability to patent “the genes of life” and quasi-related unease about corporate concentration in the agriculture and food sectors. However, stakeholders in the agricultural biotechnology sector received the decision positively, as it affirmed the validity of their gene and cell patents and demonstrated that they could successfully seek redress for infringement.
In the Amazon.com case, the Federal Court of Appeal faced the issue of patent-eligibility of business methods, particularly those implemented by software applications. Although there had been hope that the Amazon.com case would bring clarity to the law, the outcome has been enigmatic. The patenting of business methods was also the subject of considerable debate in submissions before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology for their March 2013 report on the Intellectual Property Regime in Canada.
Recently, the courts have had difficulty with utility. Odd decisions in the pharmaceutical field are now yielding equally surprising results in other business sectors. These cases and other practice changes have altered the balance between inventors and the public, and their effects now working their way through the economy.”
The moderator and the panelists are (from the session webpage),
Albert L. Abaunza
Abaunza McLeod LLP – Intellectual Property Law Canada
Albert L. Abaunza graduated from Université de Montréal in 2006 with a B.Sc. in biomedical science. During his undergraduate studies, Albert worked as a research assistant in pharmacology and biochemistry, where he studied the effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on the catalytic activity of the hepatic cytochrome P450 and participated in a high-throughput screening project for protein-protein interactions in a yeast model by using Protein-fragment complementation assay.
While studying biomedical science, Albert became involved in the planning and orchestration of the McGill Bioethics Conference for two consecutive years as VP Administration and VP External
After graduating in 2006, Albert decided to pursue his law studies at the Université de Sherbrooke and at Queen’s University where he was admitted to the national joint program and was granted a dual law degree; a Bachelors of laws (LL.B.) and a Juris Doctor (J.D.), in 2009 and 2010, consecutively.
During his last year of law school, Albert was concurrently focused on a specialization in health technology assessment and management. After having successfully completed the international program in four different cities; Barcelona, Rome, Montréal and Toronto, Albert was granted a M.Sc. degree in health technology assessment from Université de Montréal in 2012.
In 2013, Albert joined forces with Dr. Mark C. McLeod and co-founded Abaunza McLeod LLP – Intellectual Property Law Canada, where together and with the support of other well-seasoned IP practitioners, they provide a full spectrum of intellectual property law services in English, French and Spanish.
Bereskin and Parr
Mr. Bousfield has significant experience in the railroad industry and has also obtained protection for consumer goods, oil field equipment, and a wide variety of mechanical and electro-mechanical other devices. He is a member of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada’s (IPIC) Information Technology Committee.
Prior to being admitted to the bar, Mr. Bousfield obtained significant industry experience working as a designer and test engineer for an electronic equipment manufacturer and for an aircraft company.
Brian Gray’s practice at Norton Rose focuses on litigation and dispute resolution in patent, copyright, trade-mark and advertising matters. He provides strategic advice concerning intellectual property matters and advises on the intellectual property and technology aspects of transactions.
Mr. Gray has taught patent and trade-mark law at the University of Toronto and has taught copyright law at McGill University. Mr. Gray has authored numerous papers on patent, trade-mark, trade secret, copyright and technology transfer.
He is on the editorial board of World Intellectual Property Report, Federated Press Intellectual Property Quarterly and of World E-Commerce Report and has also served on the editorial board of the Trade-Mark Reporter.
From 1989 to 1999 Mr. Gray was a member of Canada’s National Biotechnology Advisory Committee, appointed by the Minister of Industry to advise on science policy. He has also served as counsel for the intervener – Canadian Banking Association and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association – in the Amazon case.
James McGill Professor
McGill University – Faculty of Law
Dr. Richard Gold is a James McGill Professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Law where he was the founding Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy. He is also an Associate Member of the Department of Human Genetics at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine. He teaches in the area of intellectual property and innovation. His research centres on the nexus between innovation systems and intellectual property,with an emphasis on the life sciences.
Professor Gold has provided advice to Health Canada, Industry Canada, the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (where he was the lead author of the OECD Guidelines on the Licensing of Genetic Inventions and a report on Collaborative Mechanisms in Life Science Intellectual Property), the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Health Organization and UNITAID.
His research has been published in high-impact journals in science, law, philosophy, international relations including Nature Biotechnology, The Lancet, PLoS Medicine, the McGill Law Journal, Public Affairs Quarterly and the European Journal for International Relations.
Senior Policy Officer
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Giuliano Tolusso is a senior policy officer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa. He has spent most of the past decade at AAFC working on biotechnology and emerging technology issues from a number of perspectives including communications and issues management, intellectual property policy and international trade policy. Prior to joining AAFC in 2001, Giuliano was a marketing and communications executive for a number of trade and professional associations in Toronto. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa.
At last year’s CSPC, he organized and moderated a provocative panel discussion entitled Talking to Canadians about Biotechnology: Should we wake up the neighbourhood
Anyone who has read this blog with any frequency knows I’m not a maximalist where intellectual property is concerned. Further, I have observed that most lawyers seem interested in having more patents rather than fewer patents. After all, that’s how they make their money.
Getting back to the panel, it can’t escape anyone’s notice that it is almost entirely made up of lawyers with two exceptions being a policy officer from the agency listed as the session organizer and an academic lawyer. The whole thing seems odd as it is a discussion on points of law and would appear to be of interest to lawyers only. How would attending this session help a ‘would be’ scientist innovator/inventor/entrepreneur? Perhaps it’s meant for policy makers but if that’s the case, wouldn’t a comprehensive discussion about patents and their utility be more useful than a discussion about specific legal decisions? (They say they will discuss more general points but first they’ll have to describe the cases pertaining to the specific decisions under discussion which will take up much of the time allotted for the session.)
Given the 2013 CSPC conference theme: ScienceNext: Incubating Innovation and Ingenuity, I would have thought that perhaps an opinion from potential investors or successful entrepreneurs might be of interest in a discussion about patents. For example, Mike Masnick writes in his Nov. 14, 2013 posting for Techdirt about research which suggests venture capitalists find the current US patent regime problematic (Canadians and others file many of their patents in the US),
… The idea that patents are what drive investments definitely does not appear to be the case.
The related bit of information is a new research study, done by Robin Feldman, looking at the view of patents from the venture capital perspective, surveying around 200 venture capitalists and their portfolio companies about their views on patents — which are decidedly negative:
Both the companies and the venture capitalists overwhelming believe that patent demands have a negative impact on the venture-backed community, with all or most of those assertions coming from entities whose core activity involves licensing or litigating patents. These impacts are described in terms of the specific costs expended by the companies and by the distraction to management, engineers, and other employees. Most important, participants described the human toll that patent demands have had on entrepreneurs. In addition, when making funding decisions, the vast majority of venture capitalists do not consider the potential for selling to assertion entities if the company fails. On the flip side, 100% of venture capitalists indicated that if a company had an existing patent demand against it, it could potentially be a major deterrent in deciding whether to invest.
In other words: having patents does not significantly impact the decision to invest, but being the target of patent trolls has significant consequences for entrepreneurs, and makes investors less willing to invest in important innovations.
In any event, I hope the science blogging panel is a huge success and for anyone who’s curious about an outside perspective on the 2013 CSPC, there’s David Bruggeman’s Nov. 19, 2013 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog (where he regularly comments on science policy).