Tag Archives: Mike Masnick

Cardiac pacemakers: Korea’s in vivo demonstration of a self-powered one* and UK’s breath-based approach

As i best I can determine ,the last mention of a self-powered pacemaker and the like on this blog was in a Nov. 5, 2012 posting (Developing self-powered batteries for pacemakers). This latest news from The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is, I believe, the first time that such a device has been successfully tested in vivo. From a June 23, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily,

As the number of pacemakers implanted each year reaches into the millions worldwide, improving the lifespan of pacemaker batteries has been of great concern for developers and manufacturers. Currently, pacemaker batteries last seven years on average, requiring frequent replacements, which may pose patients to a potential risk involved in medical procedures.

A research team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), headed by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST and Professor Boyoung Joung, M.D. of the Division of Cardiology at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University, has developed a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker that is operated semi-permanently by a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator.

A June 23, 2014 KAIST news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more details,

The artificial cardiac pacemaker is widely acknowledged as medical equipment that is integrated into the human body to regulate the heartbeats through electrical stimulation to contract the cardiac muscles of people who suffer from arrhythmia. However, repeated surgeries to replace pacemaker batteries have exposed elderly patients to health risks such as infections or severe bleeding during operations.

The team’s newly designed flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator directly stimulated a living rat’s heart using electrical energy converted from the small body movements of the rat. This technology could facilitate the use of self-powered flexible energy harvesters, not only prolonging the lifetime of cardiac pacemakers but also realizing real-time heart monitoring.

The research team fabricated high-performance flexible nanogenerators utilizing a bulk single-crystal PMN-PT thin film (iBULe Photonics). The harvested energy reached up to 8.2 V and 0.22 mA by bending and pushing motions, which were high enough values to directly stimulate the rat’s heart.

Professor Keon Jae Lee said:

“For clinical purposes, the current achievement will benefit the development of self-powered cardiac pacemakers as well as prevent heart attacks via the real-time diagnosis of heart arrhythmia. In addition, the flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator could also be utilized as an electrical source for various implantable medical devices.”

This image illustrating a self-powered nanogenerator for a cardiac pacemaker has been provided by KAIST,

This picture shows that a self-powered cardiac pacemaker is enabled by a flexible piezoelectric energy harvester. Credit: KAIST

This picture shows that a self-powered cardiac pacemaker is enabled by a flexible piezoelectric energy harvester.
Credit: KAIST

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Self-Powered Cardiac Pacemaker Enabled by Flexible Single Crystalline PMN-PT Piezoelectric Energy Harvester by Geon-Tae Hwang, Hyewon Park, Jeong-Ho Lee, SeKwon Oh, Kwi-Il Park, Myunghwan Byun, Hyelim Park, Gun Ahn, Chang Kyu Jeong, Kwangsoo No, HyukSang Kwon, Sang-Goo Lee, Boyoung Joung, and Keon Jae Lee. Advanced Materials DOI: 10.1002/adma.201400562
Article first published online: 17 APR 2014

© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall.

There was a May 15, 2014 KAIST news release on EurekAlert announcing this same piece of research but from a technical perspective,

The energy efficiency of KAIST’s piezoelectric nanogenerator has increased by almost 40 times, one step closer toward the commercialization of flexible energy harvesters that can supply power infinitely to wearable, implantable electronic devices

NANOGENERATORS are innovative self-powered energy harvesters that convert kinetic energy created from vibrational and mechanical sources into electrical power, removing the need of external circuits or batteries for electronic devices. This innovation is vital in realizing sustainable energy generation in isolated, inaccessible, or indoor environments and even in the human body.

Nanogenerators, a flexible and lightweight energy harvester on a plastic substrate, can scavenge energy from the extremely tiny movements of natural resources and human body such as wind, water flow, heartbeats, and diaphragm and respiration activities to generate electrical signals. The generators are not only self-powered, flexible devices but also can provide permanent power sources to implantable biomedical devices, including cardiac pacemakers and deep brain stimulators.

However, poor energy efficiency and a complex fabrication process have posed challenges to the commercialization of nanogenerators. Keon Jae Lee, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST, and his colleagues have recently proposed a solution by developing a robust technique to transfer a high-quality piezoelectric thin film from bulk sapphire substrates to plastic substrates using laser lift-off (LLO).

Applying the inorganic-based laser lift-off (LLO) process, the research team produced a large-area PZT thin film nanogenerators on flexible substrates (2 cm x 2 cm).

“We were able to convert a high-output performance of ~250 V from the slight mechanical deformation of a single thin plastic substrate. Such output power is just enough to turn on 100 LED lights,” Keon Jae Lee explained.

The self-powered nanogenerators can also work with finger and foot motions. For example, under the irregular and slight bending motions of a human finger, the measured current signals had a high electric power of ~8.7 μA. In addition, the piezoelectric nanogenerator has world-record power conversion efficiency, almost 40 times higher than previously reported similar research results, solving the drawbacks related to the fabrication complexity and low energy efficiency.

Lee further commented,

“Building on this concept, it is highly expected that tiny mechanical motions, including human body movements of muscle contraction and relaxation, can be readily converted into electrical energy and, furthermore, acted as eternal power sources.”

The research team is currently studying a method to build three-dimensional stacking of flexible piezoelectric thin films to enhance output power, as well as conducting a clinical experiment with a flexible nanogenerator.

In addition to the 2012 posting I mentioned earlier, there was also this July 12, 2010 posting which described research on harvesting biomechanical movement ( heart beat, blood flow, muscle stretching, or even irregular vibration) at the Georgia (US) Institute of Technology where the lead researcher observed,

…  Wang [Professor Zhong Lin Wang at Georgia Tech] tells Nanowerk. “However, the applications of the nanogenerators under in vivo and in vitro environments are distinct. Some crucial problems need to be addressed before using these devices in the human body, such as biocompatibility and toxicity.”

Bravo to the KAIST researchers for getting this research to the in vivo testing stage.

Meanwhile at the University of Bristol and at the University of Bath, researchers have received funding for a new approach to cardiac pacemakers, designed them with the breath in mind. From a June 24, 2014 news item on Azonano,

Pacemaker research from the Universities of Bath and Bristol could revolutionise the lives of over 750,000 people who live with heart failure in the UK.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is awarding funding to researchers developing a new type of heart pacemaker that modulates its pulses to match breathing rates.

A June 23, 2014 University of Bristol press release, which originated the news item, provides some context,

During 2012-13 in England, more than 40,000 patients had a pacemaker fitted.

Currently, the pulses from pacemakers are set at a constant rate when fitted which doesn’t replicate the natural beating of the human heart.

The normal healthy variation in heart rate during breathing is lost in cardiovascular disease and is an indicator for sleep apnoea, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

The device is then briefly described (from the press release),

The novel device being developed by scientists at the Universities of Bath and Bristol uses synthetic neural technology to restore this natural variation of heart rate with lung inflation, and is targeted towards patients with heart failure.

The device works by saving the heart energy, improving its pumping efficiency and enhancing blood flow to the heart muscle itself.  Pre-clinical trials suggest the device gives a 25 per cent increase in the pumping ability, which is expected to extend the life of patients with heart failure.

One aim of the project is to miniaturise the pacemaker device to the size of a postage stamp and to develop an implant that could be used in humans within five years.

Dr Alain Nogaret, Senior Lecturer in Physics at the University of Bath, explained“This is a multidisciplinary project with strong translational value.  By combining fundamental science and nanotechnology we will be able to deliver a unique treatment for heart failure which is not currently addressed by mainstream cardiac rhythm management devices.”

The research team has already patented the technology and is working with NHS consultants at the Bristol Heart Institute, the University of California at San Diego and the University of Auckland. [emphasis mine]

Professor Julian Paton, from the University of Bristol, added: “We’ve known for almost 80 years that the heart beat is modulated by breathing but we have never fully understood the benefits this brings. The generous new funding from the BHF will allow us to reinstate this natural occurring synchrony between heart rate and breathing and understand how it brings therapy to hearts that are failing.”

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “This study is a novel and exciting first step towards a new generation of smarter pacemakers. More and more people are living with heart failure so our funding in this area is crucial. The work from this innovative research team could have a real impact on heart failure patients’ lives in the future.”

Given some current events (‘Tesla opens up its patents’, Mike Masnick’s June 12, 2014 posting on Techdirt), I wonder what the situation will be vis à vis patents by the time this device gets to market.

* ‘one’ added to title on Aug. 13, 2014.

Green chemistry and zinc oxide nanoparticles from Iran (plus some unhappy scoop about Elsevier and access)

It’s been a while since I’ve featured any research from Iran partly due to the fact that I find the information disappointingly scant. While the Dec. 22, 2013 news item on Nanowerk doesn’t provide quite as much detail as I’d like it does shine a light on an aspect of Iranian nanotechnology research that I haven’t previously encountered, green chemistry (Note: A link has been removed),

Researchers used a simple and eco-friendly method to produce homogenous zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles with various applications in medical industries due to their photocatalytic and antibacterial properties (“Sol–gel synthesis, characterization, and neurotoxicity effect of zinc oxide nanoparticles using gum tragacanth”).

Zinc oxide nanoparticles have numerous applications, among which mention can be made of photocatalytic issues, piezoelectric devices, synthesis of pigments, chemical sensors, drug carriers in targeted drug delivery, and the production of cosmetics such as sunscreen lotions.

The Dec. 22, 2013 Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) news release, which originated the news item, provides a bit more detail (Note: Links have been removed),

By using natural materials found in the geography of Iran and through sol-gel technique, the researchers synthesized zinc oxide nanoparticles in various sizes. To this end, they used zinc nitrate hexahydrate and gum tragacanth obtained from the Northern parts of Khorassan Razavi Province as the zinc-providing source and the agent to control the size of particles in aqueous solution, respectively.

Among the most important characteristics of the synthesis method, mention can be made of its simplicity, the use of cost-effective materials, conservation of green chemistry principals to prevent the use of hazardous materials to human safety and environment, production of nanoparticles in homogeneous size and with high efficiency, and most important of all, the use of native materials that are only found in Iran and its introduction to the world.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Sol–gel synthesis, characterization, and neurotoxicity effect of zinc oxide nanoparticles using gum tragacanth by Majid Darroudi, Zahra Sabouri, Reza Kazemi Oskuee, Ali Khorsand Zak, Hadi Kargar, and Mohamad Hasnul Naim Abd Hamidf. Ceramics International, Volume 39, Issue 8, December 2013, Pages 9195–9199

There’s a bit more technical information in the paper’s abstract,

The use of plant extract in the synthesis of nanomaterials can be a cost effective and eco-friendly approach. In this work we report the “green” and biosynthesis of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs) using gum tragacanth. Spherical ZnO-NPs were synthesized at different calcination temperatures. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging showed the formation most of nanoparticles in the size range of below 50 nm. The powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) analysis revealed wurtzite hexagonal ZnO with preferential orientation in (101) reflection plane. In vitro cytotoxicity studies on neuro2A cells showed a dose dependent toxicity with non-toxic effect of concentration below 2 µg/mL. The synthesized ZnO-NPs using gum tragacanth were found to be comparable to those obtained from conventional reduction methods using hazardous polymers or surfactants and this method can be an excellent alternative for the synthesis of ZnO-NPs using biomaterials.

I was not able to find the DOI (digital object identifier) and this paper is behind a paywall.

Elsevier and access

On a final note, Elsevier, the company that publishes Ceramics International and many other journals, is arousing some ire with what appears to be its latest policies concerning access according to a Dec. 20, 2013 posting by Mike Masnick for Techdirt Note: Links have been removed),

We just recently wrote about the terrible anti-science/anti-knowledge/anti-learning decision by publishing giant Elsevier to demand that Academia.edu take down copies of journal articles that were submitted directly by the authors, as Elsevier wished to lock all that knowledge (much of it taxpayer funded) in its ridiculously expensive journals. Mike Taylor now alerts us that Elsevier is actually going even further in its war on access to knowledge. Some might argue that Elsevier was okay in going after a “central repository” like Academia.edu, but at least it wasn’t going directly after academics who were posting pdfs of their own research on their own websites. While some more enlightened publishers explicitly allow this, many (including Elsevier) technically do not allow it, but have always looked the other way when authors post their own papers.

That’s now changed. As Taylor highlights, the University of Calgary sent a letter to its staff saying that a company “representing” Elsevier, was demanding that they take down all such articles on the University’s network.

While I do feature the topic of open access and other issues with intellectual property from time to time, you’ll find Masnick’s insights and those of his colleagues are those of people who are more intimately familiar (albeit firmly committed to open access) with the issues should you choose to read his Dec. 20, 2013 posting in its entirely.

About GoldiBlox, the Beastie Boys, girls in science, and intellectual property

This story about GoldiBlox, was supposed to be a ‘feel good’ piece about the company, girls,  and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)—but that was last week. At this point (Nov. 26, 2013), we can add a squabble over intellectual property (copyright) to the mix.

GoldiBlox, a company that makes engineering toys for girls (previously mentioned in my Dec. 6, 2012 posting) has produced an advertisement that has been attracting a lot of interest on the internet including this Nov. 19, 2013 story by Katy Waldman for Slate (Note: Links have been removed),

This is a stupendously awesome commercial from a toy company called GoldieBlox, which has developed a set of interactive books and games to “disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.” The CEO, Debbie Sterling, studied engineering at Stanford, where she was dismayed by the lack of women in her program. (For a long look at the Gordian knot that is women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields,  … . Sterling wants to light girls’ inventive spark early, supplementing the usual diet of glittery princess products with construction toys “from a female perspective.”

We love this video because it subverts a bunch of dumb gender stereotypes—all to the strains of a repurposed Beastie Boys song. [emphasis mine] In it, a trio of smart girls could not be less impressed by the flouncing beauty queens in the commercial they’re watching. So they use a motley collection of toys and household items (including a magenta feather boa and a pink plastic tea set) to assemble a huge Rube Goldberg machine. …

Here’s the video (no longer available with Beastie Boys parody song as of Nov. 27, 2013; I have placed the latest version at the end of this posting),,

You can find GoldieBlox here.

Things have turned a little since Waldman’s rapturous story. The Beastie Boys do not want their music to be used in advertisements, of any kind. From Christina Chaey’s Nov. 25, 2013 article for Fast Company,

Beastie Boys members Mike D and Ad-Rock, who survive the late Adam “MCA” Yauch, have issued the following open letter addressed to GoldieBlox:

Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.

Chaey’s article goes on to document responses from other musicians about this incident and notes that GoldiBlox has not commented.

Techdirt’s Mike Masnic, also has a Nov. 25, 2013 article on the topic where he notes that neither party has filed suit  (at least, not yet),

Now, it is true that some in the press have mistakenly stated that the Beastie Boys sued GoldieBlox, and that’s clearly not the case. GoldieBlox filed for declaratory judgment, which is a fairly standard move after someone claims that you violated their rights. It’s not a lawsuit seeking money — just to declare that the use is fair use. While the Beastie Boys say they made no threat or demand, the lawsuit notes that their letter (which still has not been revealed in full) made a direct claim that the video was copyright infringement, and also that this was a “big problem” that has a “very significant impact.”

As Masnick goes on to mention (Note: A link has been removed),

.. in fact, that in Adam Yauch’s  [deceased band member] will, it explicitly stated that none of their music was ever to be used in advertising. And, from the Beastie Boys’ open letter, it appears that was their main concern.

But, here’s the thing: as principled as Yauch was about this, and as admirable as it may be for him and the band to not want their music appearing in advertisements that does not matter under the law. If the use is considered fair use, then it can be used. Period. There is no clause in fair use law that says “except if someone’s will says otherwise.” The very point of fair use is that you don’t need permission and you don’t need a license.

Sometimes (often) the resolution to these disagreements has more to do with whomever can best afford legal costs and less to do with points of law, even if they are in your favour. From Masnick’s article,

I’ve spoken to a bunch of copyright lawyers about this, and almost all of them agree that this is likely fair use (with some arguing that it’s a totally clear-cut case). Some have argued that because it’s an advertisement for a company that precludes any possibility of fair use, but that’s absolutely not true. Plenty of commercial efforts have been considered fair use, and, in fact, many of the folks who rely the most on fair use are large media companies who are using things in a commercial context.

It’s nice when the good guys are clearly distinguishable from the bad guys but it appears this may not entirely be the case with GoldiBlox, which apparently believes it can grant licences to link to their website, as per Mike Masnick’s Nov. 26, 2013 Techdirt posting on the topic (Note: Links have been removed),

… as noted in Jeff Roberts’ coverage of the case over at Gigaom, it appears that Goldieblox might want to take a closer look at their own terms of service, which makes some absolutely ridiculous and laughable claims about how you can’t link to their website …

… Because just as you don’t need a license to create a parody song, you don’t need a license to link to someone’s website.

I do hope things work out with regard to the parody song and as for licencing links to their website, that’s just silly.  One final note, Canadians do not have ‘fair use’ provisions under the law, we have ‘fair dealing’ and that is a little different. From the Wikipedia essay on Fair Dealing (Note: Links have been removed),

Fair dealing is a statutory exception to copyright infringement. It is a defence, with the burden of proof upon the defendant.

Should I ever learn of the outcome of this GoldiBlox/Beastie Boys conflict I will provide an update.

ETA Nov. 27, 2013: GoldiBlox has changed the soundtrack for their video as per the Nov. 27, 2013 article by Kit Eaton for Fast Company,

The company explains it has replaced the video and is ready to quash its lawsuit “as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from [the band's] legal team.”

Eaton has more quotes from the letter written by the GoldiBlox team in his article. For the curious, I have the latest version of the commercial here,

I don’t think the new music is as effective but if I remember the video properly, they’ve made some changes and I like those.

ETA Nov. 27, 2013 (2): I can’t believe I’m adding material to this posting for the second time today. Ah well. Katy Waldman over at Slate has weighed in for the second time with a Nov. 27, 2013 article discussing the Beastie Boys situation briefly while focussing primarily on whether or not the company actually does produce toys that encourage girls in their engineering and science efforts. It seems the consensus, such as it is, would be: not really. Not having played with the toys myself, I have no worthwhile opinion to offer on the topic but you might want to check Waldman’s article to see what more informed folks have to say.

Mary Elizabetth Williams in her Nov. 27, 2013 article for Salon.com seems more supportive of the Beastie Boys’ position than the Mike Masnick at Techdirt. She’s also quite critical of GoldieBlox’s open letter mentioned in today’s first ETA. I agree with many of her criticisms.

Hopefully, this will be it for this story.

Science Borealis (new Cdn. science blog aggregator) and intellectual property sessions at the 5th Canadian Science Policy Conference

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

Visit Science Borealis on the web at http://scienceborealis.ca , follow @ScienceBorealis on Twitter, or check out the #cancomm hashtag on Twitter.

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),

Rees Kassen
Co-Chair
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.

Sarah Boon
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.

Kennedy Stewart
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.

David Kent
Research Associate
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.

Lisa Willemse
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.

Mike Spear
Director of Corporate Communications
Genome Alberta

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
Co-founder
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.

Ken Bousfield
Partner
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
Senior Partner
Norton Rose

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.

Richard Gold
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.

Giuliano Tolusso
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).

The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012 report—examined (part 2: the rest of the report)

The critiques I offered in relation to the report’s  executive summary (written in early Oct. 2012 but not published ’til now) and other materials can remain more or less intact now that I’ve read the rest of the report (State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012 [link to full PDF report]). Overall, I think it’s a useful and good report despite what I consider to be some significant shortcomings, not least of which is the uncritical acceptance of the view Canada doesn’t patent enough of its science and its copyright laws are insufficient.

My concern regarding the technometrics (counting patents) is definitely not echoed in the report,

One key weakness of these measures is that not all types of technology development lead to patentable technologies. Some, such as software development, are typically subject to copyright instead. This is particularly relevant for research fields where software development may be a key aspect of developing new technologies such as computer sciences or digital media. Even when patenting is applicable as a means of commercializing and protecting intellectual property (IP), not all inventions are patented. (p. 18 print, p. 42 PDF)

In my view this is a little bit like fussing over the electrical wiring when the foundations of your house are  in such bad repair that the whole structure is in imminent danger of falling. As noted in my critique of the executive summary, the patent system in the US and elsewhere is in deep, deep trouble and, is in fact, hindering innovation. Here’s an interesting comment about patent issues being covered in the media (from a Dec. 27, 2012 posting by Mike Masnick for Techdirt),

There’s been a recent uptick in stories about patent trolling getting mainstream media attention, and the latest example is a recent segment on CBS’s national morning program, CBS This Morning, which explored how patent trolls are hurting the US economy …

… After the segment, done by Jeff Glor, one of the anchors specifically says to him [Austin Meyer of the Laminer company which is fighting a patent troll in court and getting coverage on the morning news]: “So it sounds like this is really stifling innovation and it hurts small businesses!”

Getting back to the report, I’m in more sympathy with the panel’s use of  bibliometrics,

As a mode of research assessment, bibliometric analysis has several important advantages. First, these techniques are built on a well-developed foundation of quantitative data. Publication in peer-reviewed journals is a cornerstone of research dissemination in most scientific and academic disciplines, and bibliometric data are therefore one of the few readily available sources of quantitative information on research activity that allow for comparisons across many fields of research. Second, bibliometric analyses are able to provide information about both research productivity (i.e., the quantity of journal articles produced) and research impact (measured through citations). While there are important methodological issues associated with these metrics (e.g., database coverage by discipline, correct procedures for normalization and aggregation, self-citations, and negative citations, etc.), [emphasis mine] most bibliometric experts agree that, when used appropriately, citation based indicators can be valid measures of the degree to which research has had an impact on later scientific work … (p. 15 print, p. 39, PDF)

Still, I do think that a positive publication bias (i.e., the tendency to publish positive results over negative or inclusive results) in the field medical research should have been mentioned as it is a major area of concern in the use  of bibliometrics and especially since one of the identified areas of  Canadian excellence is  in the field of medical research.

The report’s critique of the opinion surveys has to be the least sophisticated in the entire report,

There are limitations related to the use of opinion surveys generally. The most important of these is simply that their results are, in the end, based entirely on the opinions of those surveyed. (p. 20 print, p. 44 PDF)

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. Counting the number of citations a paper, which was peer-reviewed (i.e., a set of experts were asked for their opinions about the paper prior to publication) and which may have been published due to a positive publication, bias yields data (bibliometrics) which are by definition more reliable than an opinion. In short, the Holy Grail (a sacred object in Christian traditions) is data even though that data or ‘evidence’  is provably based on and biased by opinion which the report writers identify as a limitation. Talk about a conundrum.

Sadly the humanities, arts, and social sciences (but especially humanities and arts) posed quite the problem regarding evidence-based analysis,

While the Panel believes that most other evidence-gathering activities undertaken for this assessment are equally valid across all fields, the limitations of bibliometrics led the Panel to seek measures of the impact of HASS [Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences] research that would be equivalent to the use of bibliometrics, and would measure knowledge dissemination by books, book chapters, international awards, exhibitions, and other arts productions (e.g., theatre, cinema, etc.). Despite considerable efforts to collect information, however, the Panel found the data to be sparse and methods to collect it unreliable, such that it was not possible to draw conclusions from the resulting data. In short, the available data for HASS-specific outputs did not match the quality and rigour of the other evidence collected for this report. As a result, this evidence was not used in the Panel’s deliberations.

Interestingly, the expert panel was led by Dr. Eliot Phillipson, Sir John and Lady Eaton Professor of Medicine Emeritus, [emphasis mine] University of Toronto, who received his MD in 1963. Evidence-based medicine is the ne plus ultra of medical publishing these days. Is this deep distress over a lack of evidence/data in other fields a reflection of the chair’s biases?  In all the discussion and critique of the methodologies, there was no discussion about reflexivity, i. e., the researcher’s or, in this case, the individual panel members’ (individually or collectively) biases and their possible impact on the report. Even with so called evidence-based medicine, bias and opinion are issues.

While the panel was not tasked to look into business-led R&D efforts (there is a forthcoming assessment focused on that question) mention was made in Chapter 3 (Research Investment) of the report. I was particularly pleased to see mention of the now defunct Nortel with its important century long contribution to Canadian R&D efforts. [Full disclosure: I did contract work for Nortel on and off for two years.]

A closer look at recent R&D expenditure trends shows that Canada’s total investment in R&D has declined in real terms between 2006 and 2010, driven mainly by declining private-sector research performance. Both government and higher education R&D expenditures increased modestly over the same five-year period (growing by 4.5 per cent and 7.1 per cent respectively), while business R&D declined by 17 per cent (see Figure 3.3). Much of this decline can be attributed to the failing fortunes and bankruptcy of Nortel Networks Corporation, which was one of Canada’s top corporate R&D spenders for many years. Between 2008 and 2009 alone, global R&D expenditure at Nortel dropped by 48 per cent, from nearly $1.7 billion to approximately $865 million (Re$earch Infosource, 2010) with significant impact on Canada. Although growth in R&D expenditure at other Canadian companies, particularly Research In Motion, partially compensated for the decline at Nortel, the overall downward trend remains. (p. 30 print, p. 54 PDF)

Chapter 4 of the report (Research Productivity and Impact) is filled with colourful tables and various diagrams and charts illustrating areas of strength and weakness within the Canadian research endeavour, my concerns over the metrics notwithstanding. I was a bit startled by our strength in Philosophy and Theology (Table 4.2 on p. 41 print, p. 65 PDF) as it was not touted in the initial publicity about the report. Of course, they can’t mention everything so there are some other pleasant surprises in here. Going in the other direction, I’m a little disturbed by the drop (down from 1.32 in 1999-2004 to 1.12 in 2005-1010) in the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) specialization index but that is, as the report notes, a consequence of the Nortel loss and ICT scores better in other measures.

I very much appreciated the inclusion of the questions used in the surveys and the order in which they were asked, a practice which seems to be disappearing elsewhere. The discussion about possible biases and how the data was weighted to account for biases is interesting,

Because the responding population was significantly different than the sample population (p<0.01) for some countries, the data were weighted to correct for over- or under-representation. For example, Canadians accounted for 4.4 per cent of top-cited researchers, but 7.0 per cent of those that responded. After weighting, Canadians account for 4.4 per cent in the analyses that follow. This weighting changed overall results of how many people ranked each country in the top five by less than one per cent.

Even with weighting to remove bias in choice to respond, there could be a perception that self-selection is responsible for some results. Top-cited Canadian researchers in the population sample were not excluded from the survey but the results for Canada cannot be explained by self-promotion since 37 per cent of all respondents identified Canada among the top five countries in their field, but only 7 per cent (4.4 per cent after weighting) of respondents were from Canada. Similarly, 94 per cent of respondents identified the United States as a top country in their field, yet only 33 per cent (41 per cent after weighting) were from the United States. Furthermore, only 9 per cent of respondents had either worked or studied in Canada, and 28 per cent had no personal experience of, or association with, Canada or Canadian researchers (see Table 5.2). It is reasonable to conclude that the vast majority of respondents based their evaluation of Canadian S&T on its scientific contributions and reputation alone. (p. 65 print, p. 89 PDF)

There is another possible bias  not mentioned in the report and that has to do with answering the question: What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are? If somebody asks you that question and you are replying directly, you are likely to focus on their strong points and be as gentle as possible about their weaknesses. Perhaps the panel should consider having another country ask those questions about Canadian research. We might find the conversation becomes a little more forthright and critical.

Chapter 6 of the report discusses research collaboration which is acknowledged as poorly served by bibliometrics. Of course, collaboration is a strategy which Canadians have succeeded with not least because we simply don’t have the resources to go it alone.

One of the features I quite enjoyed in this report are the spotlight features. For example, there’s the one on stem cell research,

Spotlight on Canadian Stem Cell Research

Stem cells were discovered by two Canadian researchers, Dr. James Till and the late Dr. Ernest McCulloch, at the University of Toronto over 50 years ago. This great Canadian contribution to medicine laid the foundation for all stem cell research, and put Canada firmly at the forefront of this field, an international leadership position that is still maintained.

Stem cell research, which is increasingly important to the future of cell replacement therapy for diseased or damaged tissues, spans many disciplines. These disciplines include biology, genetics, bioengineering, social sciences, ethics and law, chemical biology, and bioinformatics. The research aims to understand the mechanisms that govern stem cell behaviour, particularly as it relates to disease development and ultimately treatments or cures.

Stem cell researchers in Canada have a strong history of collaboration that has been supported and strengthened since 2001 by the Stem Cell Network (SCN) (one of the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence), a network considered to be a world leader in the field. Grants awarded through the SCN alone have affected the work of more than 125 principal investigators working in 30 institutions from Halifax to Vancouver. Particularly noteworthy institutions include the Terry Fox Laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency; the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Calgary; Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital, University Health Network, and the University of Toronto; the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research in Ottawa; and the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer in Montréal. In 2010, a new Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine was formed to further support stem cell initiatives of interest to industry partners.

Today, Canadian researchers are among the most influential in the stem cell and regenerative medicine field. SCN investigators have published nearly 1,000 papers since 2001 in areas such as cancer stem cells; the endogenous repair of heart, muscle, and neural systems; the expansion of blood stem cells for the treatment of a variety of blood-borne diseases; the development of biomaterials for the delivery and support of cellular structures to replace damaged tissues; the direct conversion of skin stem cells to blood; the evolutionary analysis of leukemia stem cells; the identification of pancreatic stem cells; and the isolation of multipotent blood stem cells capable of forming all cells in the human blood system. (p. 96 print, p. 120 PDF)

Getting back to the report and my concerns, Chapter 8 on S&T capacity focuses on science training and education,

• From 2005 to 2009, there were increases in the number of students graduating from Canadian universities at the college, undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, with the largest increase at the doctoral level.

• Canada ranks first in the world for its share of population with post-secondary education.

• International students comprise 11 per cent of doctoral students graduating from Canadian universities. The fields with the largest proportions of international students include Earth and Environmental Sciences; Mathematics and Statistics; Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry; and Physics and Astronomy.

• From 1997 to 2010, Canada experienced a positive migration flow of researchers, particularly in the fields of Clinical Medicine, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Engineering, and Chemistry. Based on Average Relative Citations, the quality of researchers emigrating and immigrating was comparable.

• In three-quarters of fields, the majority of top-cited researchers surveyed thought Canada has world-leading research infrastructure or programs. (p. 118 print, p. 142 PDF)

Getting back to more critical matters, I don’t see a reference to jobs in this report. It’s all very well to graduate a large number of science PhDs, which we do,  but what’s the point if they can’t find work?

  • From 2005 to 2009, there were increases in the number of students graduating from Canadian universities at the college, undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, with the largest increase at the doctoral level.
  • Canada ranks first in the world for its share of population with post-secondary education.
  • International students comprise 11 per cent of doctoral students graduating from Canadian universities. The fields with the largest proportions of international students include Earth and Environmental Sciences; Mathematics and Statistics; Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry; and Physics and Astronomy.
  • From 1997 to 2010, Canada experienced a positive migration flow of researchers, particularly in the fields of Clinical Medicine, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Engineering, and Chemistry. Based on Average Relative Citations, the quality of researchers emigrating and immigrating was comparable.
  • In three-quarters of fields, the majority of top-cited researchers surveyed thought Canada has world-leading research infrastructure or programs. (p. 118 print, p. 142 PDF)

The Black Whole blog on the University Affairs website has discussed and continues to discuss the dearth of jobs in Canada for science graduates.

Chapter 9 of the report breaks down the information on a regional (provincial) bases. As you might expect, the research powerhouses are Ontario, Québec, Alberta and BC. Chapter 10 summarizes the material on a field basis, i.e., Biology; Chemistry; Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry; Econ0mics; Social Sciences; etc.  and those results were widely discussed at the time and are mentioned in part 1 of this commentary.

One of the most striking results in the report is Chapter 11: Conclusions,

The geographic distribution of the six fields of strength is difficult to determine with precision because of the diminished reliability of data below the national level, and the vastly different size of the research enterprise in each province.

The most reliable data that are independent of size are provincial ARC scores. Using this metric, the leading provinces in each field are as follows:

  • Clinical Medicine: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta
  • Historical Studies: New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia
  • ICT: British Columbia, Ontario
  •  Physics and Astronomy: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec
  • Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario
  • Visual and Performing Arts: Quebec [emphasis mine] (p. 193 print, p. 217 PDF)

Canada has an international reputation in visual and performing which is driven by one province alone.

As for our national fading reputation in natural resources and environmental S&T that seems predictable by almost any informed observer given funding decisions over the last several years.

The report does identify some emerging strengths,

Although robust methods of identifying emerging areas of S&T are still in their infancy, the Panel used new bibliometric techniques to identify research clusters and their rates of growth. Rapidly emerging research clusters in Canada have keywords relating, most notably, to:

• wireless technologies and networking,

• information processing and computation,

• nanotechnologies and carbon nanotubes, and

• digital media technologies.

The Survey of Canadian S&T Experts pointed to personalized medicine and health care, several energy technologies, tissue engineering, and digital media as areas in which Canada is well placed to become a global leader in development and application. (p. 195 print; p. 219 PDF)

I wish I was better and faster at crunching numbers because I’d like to spend time examining the data more closely but the reality is that all data is imperfect so this report like any snapshot is an approximation. Still, I would have liked to have seen some mention of changing practices in science. For example, there’s the protein-folding game, Foldit, which has attracted over 50,000 players (citizen scientists) who have answered questions and posed possibilities that had not occurred to scientists. Whether this trend will continue to disappear is to be answered in the future. What I find disconcerting is how thoroughly this and other shifting practices (scientists publishing research in blogs) and thorny issues such as the highly problematic patent system were ignored. Individual panel members or the report writers themselves may have wanted to include some mention but we’ll never know because the report is presented as a singular, united authority.

In any event, Bravo! to the expert panel and their support team as this can’t have been an easy job.

If you have anything to say about this commentary or the report please do comment, I would love to hear more opinions.

To Be Or Not To Be; a book publishing Kickstarter project

There’s not much time left if you want to participate in this Kickstarter project (20 hours and counting when I accessed it at 0930 PST Dec. 20, 2012) but I want to feature it here because it illustrates how writers can succeed with new publishing models and because of the intellectual property nonissues.

Ryan North, writer and self-publisher, asked for $20,000 to publish his “To Be Or Not To Be; A chooseable-path adventure” book allowing you to “be” Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet and, at this time, has raised over $480,000.

Prototype cover with art by Noelle Stevenson, she is the best [downloaded from http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/breadpig/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-adventure]

Prototype cover with art by Noelle Stevenson, she is the best [downloaded from http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/breadpig/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-adventure]

Here’s a link to the Kickstarter “To Be Or Not To Be” book project and if you’re not ready to go there quite yet, here’s a bit more about the project (from the title webpage),

The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure!

Now the #1 most funded publishing project on Kickstarter ever!

To Be Or Not To Be is an illustrated, chooseable-path book version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written by me, Ryan North:

  • “William Shakespeare” you may know from single-handedly giving us some of our most evocative phrases, such as “all that glitters is not gold”, “too much of a good thing”, and “the game is afoot” (Sherlock Holmes said this too I guess.)
  • “Ryan North” you may know from my work on the critically-acclaimed comic Dinosaur Comics, writing the incredibly popular Adventure Time comic book series, or from co-editing the #1 Amazon bestselling short story anthology Machine of Death.
  • “Chooseable-path” you may recognize as a trademark-skirting version of a phrase and book series you remember from childhood.  Remember?  Books in which… an adventure is chosen??

These three things got mashed up together into one BASICALLY AMAZING BOOK full of JOKES and also SWORDFIGHTS and GHOSTS and AWESOME AS A MASS NOUN …

UPDATE: TO BE OR NOT TO BE IS NOW THE PERFECT GIFT!

While we won’t be delivering the books in time for Christmas, if you pledge $30 or more, you unlock a Kickstarter-exclusive Holiday Hamlet ecard that can be sent directly to your gift recipient.  You can read about that here!  It’s the perfect last-minute gift for anyone on your list (assuming they are good at waiting for things) (and also like to read)!  Also we’ve unlocked lots of new prizes at each reward level: be sure to check the updated list!

H/T to Mike Masnick’s Dec. 19, 2012 posting at Techdirt for the  pointer to this project and for noting some interesting non copyright and trademark issues,

…  how does that hit on copyright and trademark issues?

  • Copyright: Even if the head of the Author’s Guild doesn’t seem to know this, Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, meaning that anyone can use them however they want — whether it’s to make an exact copy (and, yes, there are plenty of those on the market) or to do a derivative work. There have been tons of remakes and updates on Shakespeare’s work, and many of them are super creative, such as this one. Kinda demonstrates just how ridiculous it is for copyright maximalists to argue that without strong copyright protection, creativity gets killed off. Just the opposite, it seems. The ability to build on the works of the past quite frequently inspires amazing new creativity.
  • Trademark: North refers to this as a “choosable path adventure” because:

“Chooseable-path” you may recognize as a trademark-skirting version of a phrase and book series you remember from childhood. Remember? Books in which… an adventure is chosen??

Yes, they’re not using the widely known phrase “choose your own adventure,” because it’s trademarked, and the owner of the mark has sued before. Of course, the story of the mark is interesting in its own right. Apparently, Bantam Books who helped popularize the original choose your own adventure books let the trademark lapse, and it was bought up by Ray Montgomery, who had run the small press that published the original books, but had not held the original trademark on it.

So we have examples of how a lack of a common “intellectual property” law enabled greater creativity, and how a current “intellectual property” law stupidly limits the option of using the most reasonable description of the work. …

Congratulations to North!

Free the nano—stop patenting publicly funded research

Joshua Pearce, a professor at Michigan Technological University, has written a commentary on patents and nanotechnology for Nature magazine which claims the current patent regimes strangle rather than encourage innovation. From the free article,  Physics: Make nanotechnology research open-source by Joshua Pearce in Nature 491, 519–521 (22 November 2012) doi:10.1038/491519a (Note: I have removed footnotes),

Any innovator wishing to work on or sell products based on single-walled carbon nanotubes in the United States must wade through more than 1,600 US patents that mention them. He or she must obtain a fistful of licences just to use this tubular form of naturally occurring graphite rolled from a one-atom-thick sheet. This is because many patents lay broad claims: one nanotube example covers “a composition of matter comprising at least about 99% by weight of single-wall carbon molecules”. Tens of others make overlapping claims.

Patent thickets occur in other high-tech fields, but the consequences for nanotechnology are dire because of the potential power and immaturity of the field. Advances are being stifled at birth because downstream innovation almost always infringes some early broad patents. By contrast, computing, lasers and software grew up without overzealous patenting at the outset.

Nanotechnology is big business. According to a 2011 report by technology consultants Cientifica, governments around the world have invested more than US$65 billion in nanotechnology in the past 11 years [my July 15, 2011 posting features an interview with Tim Harper, Cientfica CEO and founder, about the then newly released report]. The sector contributed more than $250 billion to the global economy in 2009 and is expected to reach $2.4 trillion a year by 2015, according to business analysts Lux Research. Since 2001, the United States has invested $18 billion in the National Nanotechnology Initiative; the 2013 US federal budget will add $1.8 billion more.

This investment is spurring intense patent filing by industry and academia. The number of nanotechnology patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is rising each year and is projected to exceed 4,000 in 2012. Anyone who discovers a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent that prevents others from using that development unless they have the patent owner’s permission.

Pearce makes some convincing points (Note: I have removed a footnote),

Examples of patents that cover basic components include one owned by the multinational chip manufacturer Intel, which covers a method for making almost any nanostructure with a diameter less than 50 nm; another, held by nanotechnology company NanoSys of Palo Alto, California, covers composites consisting of a matrix and any form of nanostructure. And Rice University in Houston, Texas, has a patent covering “composition of matter comprising at least about 99% by weight of fullerene nanotubes”.

The vast majority of publicly announced IP licence agreements are now exclusive, meaning that only a single person or entity may use the technology or any other technology dependent on it. This cripples competition and technological development, because all other would-be innovators are shut out of the market. Exclusive licence agreements for building-block patents can restrict entire swathes of future innovation.

Pearce’s argument for open source,

This IP rush assumes that a financial incentive is necessary to innovate, and that without the market exclusivity (monopoly) offered by a patent, development of commercially viable products will be hampered. But there is another way, as decades of innovation for free and open-source software show. Large Internet-based companies such as Google and Facebook use this type of software. Others, such as Red Hat, make more than $1 billion a year from selling services for products that they give away for free, like Red Hat’s version of the computer operating system Linux.

An open-source model would leave nanotechnology companies free to use the best tools, materials and devices available. Costs would be cut because most licence fees would no longer be necessary. Without the shelter of an IP monopoly, innovation would be a necessity for a company to survive. Openness reduces the barrier for small, nimble entities entering the market.

John Timmer in his Nov. 23, 2012 article for Wired.co.uk expresses both support and criticism,

Some of Pearce’s solutions are perfectly reasonable. He argues that the National Science Foundation adopt the NIH model of making all research it funds open access after a one-year time limit. But he also calls for an end of patents derived from any publicly funded research: “Congress should alter the Bayh-Dole Act to exclude private IP lockdown of publicly funded innovations.” There are certainly some indications that Bayh-Dole hasn’t fostered as much innovation as it might (Pearce notes that his own institution brings in 100 times more money as grants than it does from licensing patents derived from past grants), but what he’s calling for is not so much a reform of Bayh-Dole as its elimination.

Pearce wants changes in patenting to extend well beyond the academic world, too. He argues that the USPTO should put a moratorium on patents for “nanotechnology-related fundamental science, materials, and concepts.” As we described above, the difference between a process innovation and the fundamental properties resulting in nanomaterial is a very difficult thing to define. The USPTO has struggled to manage far simpler distinctions; it’s unrealistic to expect it to manage a moratorium effectively.

While Pearce points to the 3-D printing sector admiringly, there are some issues even there, as per Mike Masnick’s Nov.  21, 2012 posting on Techdirt.com (Note:  I have removed links),

We’ve been pointing out for a while that one of the reasons why advancements in 3D printing have been relatively slow is because of patents holding back the market. However, a bunch of key patents have started expiring, leading to new opportunities. One, in particular, that has received a fair bit of attention was the Formlabs 3D printer, which raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter earlier this year. It got a ton of well-deserved attention for being one of the first “low end” (sub ~$3,000) 3D printers with very impressive quality levels.

Part of the reason the company said it could offer such a high quality printer at a such a low price, relative to competitors, was because some of the key patents had expired, allowing it to build key components without having to pay astronomical licensing fees. A company called 3D Systems, however, claims that Formlabs missed one patent. It holds US Patent 5,597,520 on a “Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.” While I find it ridiculous that 3D Systems is going legal, rather than competing in the marketplace, it’s entirely possible that the patent is valid. It just highlights how the system holds back competition that drives important innovation, though.

3D Systems claims that Formlabs “took deliberate acts to avoid learning” about 3D Systems’ live patents. The lawsuit claims that Formlabs looked only for expired patents — which seems like a very odd claim. Why would they only seek expired patents? …

I strongly suggest reading both Pearce’s and Timmer’s articles as they both provide some very interesting perspectives about nanotechnology IP (intellectual property) open access issues. I also recommend Mike Masnick’s piece for exposure to a rather odd but unfortunately not uncommon legal suit designed to limit competition in a relatively new technology (3-D printers).

Media cycles for science stories

Here’s something amusing and educational I found in Mike Masnick’s Aug. 27, 2012 posting on Techdirt,

Originally published 05/18/2009 on the PhD comics website (http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1174)

You can find the full size version here at the PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) Comics website, which features insight into the graduate school experience rendered in comic book style.

This particular ‘strip’ about a science story news cycle can be true but more usually, a science story will pass through without any or very little notice.

Scientists are usually in the position of trying to attract attention for their work. Sometimes that can lead to another kind of science story where the scientists have been overenthusiastic and reached exciting conclusions, which are unsupported by the data. Arsenic life is a good example. In my Dec. 8, 2010 posting, I apologized for getting caught up in the frenzy and included analysis from at least one other source as to how the frenzy started in the first place.

Particle Man and Marian Call at CERN

I like to collect (desultorily) items about science-themed music and Marian Call’s recently completed (very successful) Kickstarter campaign (she received $63,0000 in pledges having asked for $11,000 originally) fits that bill, more or less.  Here’s an excerpt from Mike Masnick’s, July 24, 2012 posting on Techdirt describing Call’s campaign approach,

… she created Marian Call’s European Adventure Quest, in which she effectively “gamified” Kickstarter, such that the more she earned, the more levels would be “unlocked.” The main idea was that she would tour Europe and record a live album, but the more she raised, the more places she would visit and the more cover songs she would do (she usually does originals, but people have requested covers, and she was worried about the licensing fees if she didn’t raise money in support).

At the $55,000 level, she offered a cover of ‘Particle Man’ by They Might Be Giants to be recorded live at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory).

Here’s Particle Man by They Might Be Giants as found on YouTube,

By the way, at $44,000 level she offered ‘The Elements Song’ by Tom Lehrer. Even though the campaign has ended, it’s well worth checking out.

Billions lost to patent trolls; US White House asks for comments on intellectual property (IP) enforcement; and more on IP

It becomes clear after a time that science, intellectual property (patents, copyright, and trademarks), and business interests are intimately linked which is why I include items on the topic of intellectual property (where I am developing some strong opinions). As for business topics, I am more neutral as my understanding of business is quite limited.

All of this is to explain why I’m taking ‘another kick at the IP (intellectual property) can’. I’m going to start with patents and move on to copyright.

A June 26, 2012 news item from BBC News online highlights the costs associated with patent trolls,

The direct cost of actions taken by so-called “patent trolls” totalled $29bn (£18.5bn) in the US in 2011, according to a study by Boston University.

It analysed the effect of intellectual rights claims made by organisations that own and license patents without producing related goods of their own.

Such bodies say they help spur on innovation by ensuring inventors are compensated for their creations.

But the study’s authors said society lost more than it gained.

A June 27, 2012 commentary by Mike Masnick for Techdirt provides more detail,

The report then goes further to try to figure out whether the trolls are actually benefiting innovation and getting more money to inventors, as the trolls and their supporters like to claim. Unfortunately, the research shows quite a different story — with very little of the money actually flowing back to either inventors or actual innovation. In other words, we’re talking about a pretty massive economic dead-weight loss here. Money flowing from actual innovators and creators… to lawyers, basically. Innovators grow the economy. Lawyers do not.

Masnick’s commentary includes a table from the report showing how the costs have increased since 2005 (approximately $6B) to 2011 (approximately $29B).

The researchers are James E. Besson and Michael J. Meurer at Boston University and the open access report, The Direct Costs from NPE [non-practicing entities] Disputes, is available from the Social Science Research Network.

Interestingly the same day the study from Boston University was released was the same day that the US White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, announced she wanted comments about US IP enforcement efforts (from Espinel’s June 25, 2012 blog posting),

Today my office is starting the process of gathering input for the Administration’s new strategy for intellectual property enforcement. The overarching objective of the Strategy is to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. Government’s efforts to protect our intellectual property here and overseas. I want to make sure as many people as possible are aware that we are working on this so we can get the very best thoughts and recommendations possible. Part of the process of gathering public input is to publish a “Federal Register Notice” where we formally ask the public to give us their ideas. We will read all of your submissions – and we will make them publicly available so everyone can see them.

You can do so by following this link to Regulations.gov where you will find more details for submitting your strategy recommendations beginning today.

I believe that essential to the development of an effective enforcement strategy, is ensuring that any approaches that are considered to be particularly effective as well as any concerns with the present approach to intellectual property enforcement are understood by policymakers. [emphasis Mike Masnick of Techdirt] Recommendations may include, but need not be limited to: legislation, regulation, guidance, executive order, Presidential memoranda, or other executive action, including, but not limited to, changes to agency policies, practices or methods.

Beyond recommendations for government action as part of the next Strategy, we are looking for information on and recommendations for combating emerging or future threats to American innovation and economic competitiveness posed by violations of intellectual property rights. Additionally, it would be useful to the development of the Strategy to receive submissions from the public identifying threats to public health and safety posed by intellectual property infringement, [emphasis mine] in the U.S. and internationally as well as information relating to the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from infringement of intellectual property rights.

Aside: That bit about public health and safety being endangered by infringement is going to have to be explained to me. Moving along, Mike Masnick’s June 26, 2012 commentary about this matter on Techdirt includes an exhortation to participate,

I will be submitting my own thoughts, which I will also publish here, but for those thinking about what to say, I would focus on this sentence above [emphasized in the previous excerpt from the Espinel posting "I believe that essential ..."]. Historically, many of the government’s approaches have not been at all effective, and have created a number of significant problems — most of which have been ignored by the government (either willfully or through ignorance). This really is a chance to provide examples of why the current policy is not effective (and will never be effective if it keeps on the current path) as well as the “concerns” with the current approach, such as the criminalization of expressive behavior and the outright censorship of media publications.

Meanwhile, we here in Canada are focused on copyright.

Michael Geist (the Canadian copyright guru) notes in his June 26, 2012 posting (Note: I have removed some links.),

Brian Brett, the former Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada and an award winning author, has issued an explosive public letter that “breaks the ‘cone of silence’ that has obscured for too long some of the ugly practices of Access Copyright.”

You can get an idea why Geist described the letter as “explosive” from this excerpt (from the June 26, 2012 commentary in the Georgia Straight),

As a former Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada (I’ve been a member more than thirty years), I have been asked to sign a letter to educational institutions supporting Access Copyright’s efforts to obtain collective licensing agreements with those institutions. I will not sign. I believe the time has come for action, not words. …

For the first time in history it has become too complex and expensive to quote the music of our era for many young writers. Writers are being charged exorbitantly for quoting other writers in their poems, fictions, and essays; yet are losing their own rights and income. Meanwhile, the Canadian Government has made legislation favouring educational institutions and media empires (at the expense of creators) in the name of supporting our nation’s culture.

As we earnestly discuss these issues, but do nothing to protect ourselves, we are seeing the rights of creators to fair compensation eroded to the point of where many are at risk of receiving nothing for their work.

Access Copyright, created specifically to collect fair compensation for creators, is central to this discussion. While I believe that educational institutions must pay writers, and will eventually pay them, it’s also necessary to call out the ugly regime of Access Copyright, which is collecting our copyright income. …

6. Access Copyright rewards textbook companies who demand that authors relinquish their copyright to their work by paying them both the publisher and creator copyright payment. Academic authors often consider textbook authorship crucial to tenure. Thus academic authors are open to being pressured by publishers out of their copyright. In effect Access Copyright is encouraging textbook publishers to undermine copyright by demanding a creators’ total copyright, and doubling the publisher’s payment for this ugly practice.

So, the academics who write those science and math (and other subject) texts are being pressured by financially motivated publishers to give up copyright while they are also being being pressured to publish for the well-being of their careers. Nicely done Access Copyright! (sarcasm)

While I suspect that I don’t agree with Betts on some issues, I do believe that content creators should receive some financial benefit from their work.

On a more hopeful note, the recent passage of Bill C-11 (Copyright) has some very good things indeed (from the June 21, 2012 commentary by Leigh Beadon on Techdirt [Note: I have removed a link.]),

Michael Geist has an excellent summary of C-11 with a comparison to previous phases of copyright law in Canada. The victories for smarter copyright law in C-11 sound almost like fantasy when compared to the American copyright debate. They include:

  • New fair dealing provisions (our version of fair use) to cover educational uses, plus parody and satire
  • New backup, format-shifting and time-shifting allowances that remove previous restrictions on networked DVRs and internet TV services (similar to those that have suffered in American courts)
  • Explicit copyright exceptions for “user-generated content”, aimed at protecting non-commercial fan-art and remixes
  • A bunch of explicit exceptions for schools, such as the right to stage public performances
  • A notice-and-notice system, not a notice-and-takedown system
  • A $5,000 cap on statutory damages for all non-commercial infringement

Sadly, there is the issue of the ‘digital lock’ provision which was rammed through Parliament despite almost universal condemnation from Canadians of all walks of life. Geist provides much more detail about this issue than I can. In fact, he offers two postings outlining both Canada’s Justice Dept. discussion about the digital lock provisions (June 25, 2012 posting) and the Competition Bureau’s (June 26, 2012 posting) and possible issues with constitutional rights.

On a much happier note for me personally is a recent Federal Court of Canada ruling about linking and posting, from the June 25, 2012 posting on the Michael Geist blog (Note: I have removed links.),

The Federal Court of Canada has issued an important decision involving copyright and posting content online. The case involves a lawsuit launched by Richard Warman and the National Post against Mark and Constance Fournier, who run the FreeDominion website. Warman and the National Post sued the site over the appearance of two articles and an inline link to photograph that appeared on the forum. The court dismissed all three claims.

While the first claim (Warman’s article) was dismissed on the basis that it took too long to file the lawsuit, the legal analysis on the National Post claim involving an article by Jonathan Kay assesses the copyright implications of posting several paragraphs from an article online. In this case, the article was 11 paragraphs long.  The reproduction on the Free Dominion site included the headline, three complete paragraphs and part of a fourth. The court ruled that this amount of copying did not constitute a “substantial part” of the work and therefore there was no infringement. The court added that in the alternative, the reproduction of the work was covered by fair dealing, concluding that a large and liberal interpretation of news reporting would include posts to the discussion forum.  The decision then includes an analysis of the six factor test and concludes that the use was fair.

So I can link to and quote from Canadian publications in peace, for now. (Great news!)

There is some additional analysis of the ruling in a (h/t) June 26, 2012 posting by Leigh Beadon on the Techdirt website.

No grand thoughts here. I just find this very fluid situation with regard to intellectual property important as I believe the outcomes will affect us all in many ways, including how we practice science.