Tag Archives: Natural Resources Canada

Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation welcomes Alex Benay as president and chief executive officer (CEO)

The search took over one year as the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC) cast about for a new president and CEO in the wake of previous incumbent Denise Amyot’s departure. From the June 17, 2014 CSTMC announcement,

The Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC) welcomes the appointment by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Honourable Shelly Glover, of Alex Benay as its new President and CEO. Mr Benay will assume the role beginning July 2, 2014 for a 5-year term.

“This is excellent news,” said Dr Gary Polonsky, Chair of the CSTMC Board of Trustees. “Alex Benay is an exceptional leader with the capacity to heighten the CSTMC profile as the only national museum institution entirely dedicated to tracking Canada’s rich history and heritage in science, technology and innovation.”

“Alex’s appointment demonstrates the government’s support toward our museums”, added Dr Polonsky. “I wish to recognize Minister Glover’s leadership in this nomination process and express our gratitude for the appointment of a leader with vast experience in managing people, processes and resources. Alex’s significant networks in the private and public sectors in Canada and internationally, and leadership experience with Canada’s digital industry, will be great assets in developing the Corporation.”

Mr Benay was previously Vice-President, Government Affairs and Business Development at Open Text, Canada’s largest software company since 2011.

As President and CEO, Mr Benay will be responsible for the CSTMC’s day-to-day operations and a staff of about 225 employees and an annual budget of $33 million. The CSTMC includes the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Collectively, they are responsible for preserving and protecting Canada’s scientific and technological heritage, while also promoting, celebrating, and sharing knowledge of that heritage and how it impacts Canadians’ daily lives.

I took a look at Mr. Benay’s LinkedIn profile and found this,

President and Chief Executive Officer
Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation

Government Agency; 201-500 employees; Museums and Institutions industry

June 2014 – Present (1 month) Ottawa, Canada Area

VP, Government Relations
OpenText

Public Company; 5001-10,000 employees; OTEX; Computer Software industry

August 2012 – June 2014 (1 year 11 months) Ottawa

VP, Enterprise Software and Cloud Services
Maplesoft Group

Privately Held; 51-200 employees; Information Technology and Services industry

March 2012 – August 2012 (6 months) Canada

VP, Government Relations
OpenText

Public Company; 5001-10,000 employees; OTEX; Computer Software industry

July 2011 – March 2012 (9 months) Ottawa, Ontario

Manage government relations including :
- trade relations
- trade promotion
- global strategic investment programs (G20, Commonwealth, etc.)
- senior level delegations and engagements
- manage government grant and industry investment programs
- Etc.

Provide company wide government thought leadership and strategic planning

Director, Industry Marketing
Open Text

Public Company; 5001-10,000 employees; OTEX; Computer Software industry

August 2010 – March 2012 (1 year 8 months) Ottawa, Ontario

Responsible for marketing and communication strategies for OpenText’s major industry sectors, enabling field sales and providing thought leadership in key priority sectors.

Director, Eastern Canadian Sales
Open Text

Public Company; 5001-10,000 employees; OTEX; Computer Software industry

January 2010 – August 2010 (8 months) Ottawa, Ontario

Responsible for all product, solutions and services sales for Ottawa, Québec and the Maritimes.

Senior Director, Customer Enablement
Open Text

Public Company; 5001-10,000 employees; OTEX; Computer Software industry

2009 – 2010 (1 year) Ottawa, Ontario

Responsible, throughout the Canadian public sector (including healtcare), for all professional services delivery, establishing a national training program, managing partner relations, pubic speaking engagements, technical support and overall existing customer relations.
Strong focus on strategic communications and planning throughout the Canadian Public Sector.

Director, Information Management
Canadian International Development Agency

Government Agency; 1001-5000 employees; Government Administration industry

2006 – 2009 (3 years) Gatineau, Québec

Responsible for all information and communications aspects within the organisation : enterprise technologies, communication strategies, strategic planning, etc. Including all policy, operational and management aspects of managing organisational information and knowledge

Director, Policy
Canadian International Development Agency

Government Agency; 1001-5000 employees; International Affairs industry

2004 – 2006 (2 years)

Define ICT policy framework for CIDA
coordinate with central agencies and other large multilateral organisations

Senior Program Manager
Canadian International Development Agency

Government Agency; 1001-5000 employees; International Affairs industry

2003 – 2004 (1 year)

Managed all information and communications elements for the Multilateral Programs Branch. Responsible for relations with United Nations, World Bank, etc.; ensuring all systems (technical and human) were properly enabling multilateral development; developed large and complex global engagement and communications strategies pertaining to Canadian multilateralism

Manager, Information, Communications and Knowledge Management
Natural Resources Canada

Government Agency; 1001-5000 employees; Government Administration industry

2001 – 2003 (2 years)

Responsible for the Energy Sector information, communication and knowledge management strategies, thought leadership, events, strategic planning and operational management.

Information Services Officer
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

2000 – 2001 (1 year)

Provide global briefing and communications support to various senior Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers

Medical Assistant
Canadian Armed Forces

Government Agency; 10,001+ employees; Military industry

1999 – 2001 (2 years)

Medical Assistant duties included : emergency response, first aid, suturing, orderly duties, basic military training, etc.

Archival Assistant
Library and Archives Canada

Government Agency; 1001-5000 employees; Government Administration industry

1998 – 2000 (2 years)

He certainly brings an interesting and peripatetic work history to the position. Given his previous work record and that he looks to be relatively young (I estimate he’s a few years shy of 40), my most optimistic prediction is that he will last five to six years in this job, assuming he makes it past his first six months.

Alex Benay, president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation

Alex Benay, president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation

Getting back to his work record, I’m not sure how Mr. Benay manged to be both an archival assistant for Library and Archives Canada and a medical assistant for the Canadian Armed Forces from 1999 – 2000. (Possibly he was working in the Reserves, which, as I understand it, requires weekends and the occasional longterm stint easily contained within one’s work vacation.) There is one other niggling thing, wouldn’t 1998 – 2000 be three years not two?

Interestingly, the company with which Benay has been most closely associated is OpenText whose Chairman, Tom Jenkins, led a  panel to review government funding programmes for research and development (R&D, a term often synonymous with science and technology). The resultant report is known familiarly as the Jenkins Report (Innovation Canada: A Call to Action; Review of Federal Support to R&D;–Expert Panel Report). I’m guessing Mr. Benay brings with him some important connections both corporately and governmentally, which could potentially extend to the University of British Columbia where Arvind Gupta (a member of Jenkins’ expert panel) is due to take up the reins as president when Stephen Toope officially vacates the position June 30, 2014.

I’m not sure how much insight one can derive from this March 6, 2014 article (for Canadian Government Executive) written by Mr. Benay while he was enjoying his second stint as VP Government Relations for Open Text,

With the rise of “smart power,” distinct from “hard” and “soft” power of traditional theories of international relations, the use of online collaboration has become an integral part of government communication.

Public sector employees who adopt partner-based collaboration models will find that they are able to effectively achieve their goals and generate results. Ideas shared through open-platform communication technologies, peer-to-peer networks, and enterprise-grade secure collaboration platforms can help foster greater dialogue and understanding between governments and citizens, ultimately leading to more effective attainment of foreign policy goals.

Increasingly, public-private partnerships are driving this new era of e-diplomacy.

As an example, governments worldwide are achieving tremendous success through their use of Public Service Without Borders (PSWB), the secure, cloud-enabled collaboration and social media environment developed in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).

Using secure social software solutions, PSWB helps to connect all levels of public service employees to one another to network, engage, share ideas and impart valuable lessons learned in such areas as governance, healthcare, technology and the environment. Whether via desktops or through mobile devices, participants can connect, network, plan and deliver exciting new partnerships and initiatives anytime, from anywhere in the world. This online collaboration platform ultimately fosters better, faster and more efficient services to all constituencies.

Another case in point is the G-20 Summit in Toronto. For the first time in history, policymakers from around the world were able to collaborate over secure social networking software in advance of and during the Toronto G-20 Summit. A confidential and secure social networking application was created to enhance the sharing of government leaders’ stances on important world financial issues. [emphasis mine]

Providing the secure, hosted social networking platform to G-8 and G-20 participants was in itself a collaboration between Open Text, the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) – the organization that attracted high-tech companies to the event – and the then-called Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). [emphasis mine] In addition to secure Web access from anywhere in the world in real time, delegates were also able to access the application from their BlackBerrys, iPhones and iPads. The application supported multiple languages to enhance the ability of delegates to network productively.

The leap from ‘soft power’ in paragraphs one and two  to ‘public-private partnerships’ in paragraph three is a bit startling and suggests Benay’s tendency is towards ‘big picture’ thinking buttressed by a weakness for jumping from one idea to the next without much preparation. This is not a deal breaker as all leaders have weaknesses and a good one knows that sort of thing about him or herself so compensates for it.

Benay’s association with OpenText and, presumably, Jenkins suggests * strongly, when added to his article on public-private partnerships, that the CSTMC museums will be corporatized to a new degree. After all, it was Jenkins who delivered a report with recommendations to tie research funding more directly to business and economic needs. (This report was submitted to then Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear on Oct. 17, 2011 according to this Review of Federal Support to Research and Development  website. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian science and technology scene, this is considered a junior ministry and is part of the Industry Canada portfolio.) Since 2011, a number of these recommendations have been adopted, often accompanied by howls of despair (this May 22, 2013 posting delves into some of the controversies,which attracted attention by US observers).

I am somewhat intrigued by Benay’s experience with content management and digital media. I’m hopeful he will be using that experience to make some changes at the CSTMC such that it offers richer online and outreach experiences in the museums (Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum) for those of us who are not resident in Ottawa. Amyot, during her* tenure, made some attempts (my Oct. 28, 2010 posting makes note of one such attempt) but they failed to take root for reasons not known* to me.

Returning to Benay’s old boss for a moment, Tom Jenkins has some connections of his own with regard to digital media and the military (from the OpenText Board of Directors page) ,

Mr. Jenkins was Chair of the Government of Canada’s military procurement review Panel which reported “Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement through Key Industrial Sectors (KICs) in February 2013 and reviewed the $490 Billion of federal public spending on defence to determine means by which the Canadian economy could benefit from military procurement.   Mr. Jenkins was Chair of the Government of Canada’s Research and Development Policy Review Panel which reported “Innovation Canada: A Call to Action” in October 2011 and reviewed the $7 Billion of federal public spending on research to assist the Canadian economy in becoming more innovative.   He was also chair of the November 2011 report to the Government of Canada on Innovation and Government Procurement.  He is also the Chair of the federal centre of excellence Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) which co-ordinates commercialization activity in the digital economy throughout Canada.  He is a member of the Canadian Government’s Advisory Panel on Open Government.  He is also an appointed member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), past appointed member of the Government of Canada’s Competition Policy Review Panel (the Wilson Panel) which reported “Compete to Win” in June 2008, and past appointed member of the Province of Ontario’s Ontario Commercialization Network Review Committee (OCN) which reported in February 2009.  … Mr. Jenkins is also one of the founders of Communitech – the Waterloo Region Technology Association.  Mr. Jenkins served as a commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserve and he currently serves as Honorary Colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada (RHFC), a reserve infantry regiment in the Waterloo Region. [emphases mine]

Meanwhile, Mr. Benay’s appointment takes place within a larger context where the Council of Canadian Academies will be presenting two assessments with direct bearing on the CSTMC. The first, which is scheduled for release in 2014, is The State of Canada’s Science Culture (an assessment requested by the CSTMC which much later was joined by Industry Canada and Natural Resources Canada). The assessment is featured in my Feb. 22, 2013 posting titled: Expert panel to assess the state of Canada’s science culture—not exactly whelming. I will predict now that a main focus of this report will be on children, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and the economy (i.e., how do we get more children to study STEM topics?). Following on that thought, what better to way to encourage children than to give them good experiences with informal science education (code for science museums and centres).

The second assessment is called Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution and was requested by Library and Archives Canada (museums too perform archival functions). in the context of a Jan. 30,2014 posting about digitizing materials in Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries I excerpted this from an earlier posting,

Library and Archives Canada has asked the Council of Canadian Academies to assess how memory institutions, which include archives, libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions, can embrace the opportunities and challenges of the changing ways in which Canadians are communicating and working in the digital age.

Background

Over the past three decades, Canadians have seen a dramatic transformation in both personal and professional forms of communication due to new technologies. Where the early personal computer and word-processing systems were largely used and understood as extensions of the typewriter, advances in technology since the 1980s have enabled people to adopt different approaches to communicating and documenting their lives, culture, and work. Increased computing power, inexpensive electronic storage, and the widespread adoption of broadband computer networks have thrust methods of communication far ahead of our ability to grasp the implications of these advances.

These trends present both significant challenges and opportunities for traditional memory institutions as they work towards ensuring that valuable information is safeguarded and maintained for the long term and for the benefit of future generations. It requires that they keep track of new types of records that may be of future cultural significance, and of any changes in how decisions are being documented. As part of this assessment, the Council’s expert panel will examine the evidence as it relates to emerging trends, international best practices in archiving, and strengths and weaknesses in how Canada’s memory institutions are responding to these opportunities and challenges. Once complete, this assessment will provide an in-depth and balanced report that will support Library and Archives Canada and other memory institutions as they consider how best to manage and preserve the mass quantity of communications records generated as a result of new and emerging technologies.

The Council’s assessment is running concurrently with the Royal Society of Canada’s [RSC] expert panel assessment on Libraries and Archives in 21st century Canada. Though similar in subject matter, these assessments have a different focus and follow a different process. The Council’s assessment is concerned foremost with opportunities and challenges for memory institutions as they adapt to a rapidly changing digital environment. In navigating these issues, the Council will draw on a highly qualified and multidisciplinary expert panel to undertake a rigorous assessment of the evidence and of significant international trends in policy and technology now underway. The final report will provide Canadians, policy-makers, and decision-makers with the evidence and information needed to consider policy directions. In contrast, the RSC panel focuses on the status and future of libraries and archives, and will draw upon a public engagement process.

While this could be considered a curse, these are interesting times.

* ‘a’ removed from ‘a strongly’ and ‘strongly’ moved to closer proximity with ‘suggests’, ‘her’ added to ‘her tenure’ and ‘know’ corrected to ‘known’ on June 19, 2014 at 1200 hours PDT.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Vive Crop, two projects, and $14.7M in funding

The Canadian government used to create Crown Corporations, a kind of quasi-government agency/ business corporation that was run as a not-for-profit operation. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) bears some of the marks of a crown corporation (completely government-funded) but it’s self-described as a not-for-profit foundation. Before getting to the main event (Vive Crop) here’s a little bit from the SDTC Profile page,

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a not-for-profit foundation that finances and supports the development and demonstration of clean technologies which provide solutions to issues of climate change, clean air, water quality and soil, and which deliver economic, environmental and health benefits to Canadians.

SDTC operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative technological solutions. The SD Tech Fund™ supports projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil. The NextGen Biofuels Fund™ supports the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels.

SDTC is clearly focused on the economy and entrepreneurship in addition to sustainability as per their Sept. 9, 2013 news release about  a recent $14.7M investment,

The Government of Canada is showing its commitment to a green Canadian economy with an in investment of $14.7 million to help four new clean technology projects from across the country reach commercialization. The announcement was made today by the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, and Dr. Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).

“Canada must nurture highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs,” said Minister Oliver. “By supporting advanced research and technology, our government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment.”

“The projects announced today are great examples of the Canadian innovation and entrepreneurship that characterizes SDTC’s portfolio, valued at more than $2 billion and brimming with innovative technological solutions,” said Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of SDTC. “Canadian cleantech leaders are continuing to create economic opportunities and open up avenues to new export markets.”


The newly-funded projects are representative of the investment priorities established in the SD Business Cases™, a series of six reports published by SDTC that provide strategic insights into specific economic sectors (available in the Knowledge Centre section of the SDTC website at http://www.sdtc.ca/).

SDTC’s SD Tech Fund™ has committed $598 million to 246 clean technology projects. These figures include adjustments made to the portfolio.

Vive Crop, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario,  is a recipient for two of the four projects being funded. Here’s more about one of the projects from the Sept. 18, 2013 Vive Crop news release,

Vive Crop Protection is pleased to announce that it received an investment of $3.7 million from the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to develop an improved pesticide application distribution method that will translate into greater efficiency and reduced wastage.

Vive’s Allosperse® particle will be used to hold pesticides and deliver them precisely where they need to go.

“Canada must nurture highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs,” said Minister Oliver. “By supporting advanced research and technology, our government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment.”

“Canadian farmers want a more economical and effective way to protect their crops from pests,” said Keith Thomas, CEO, Vive Crop Protection. “Thanks to support from the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Vive Crop Protection will further develop the Allosperse platform, precisely targeting pesticides where they act on crops.”

The best crop protection happens when pesticides stay where they are intended to protect the crop, for example on a crop’s leaves or at its roots. Vive has developed Allosperse®, a tiny particle that has unique properties: it has a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and an oleophillic (oil-loving) interior. Pesticides, which are also oleophillic, are loaded into the particle before application to crops. The next generation of Allosperse particles will have increased stickiness to leaves, avoiding run-off during the rain, and will penetrate leaves and seeds to offer systemic plant protection. Finally, the specially-designed particles will control the movement of the particle through the soil, allowing it to target pests at the plant’s roots. Less product, and therefore less cost, would be required to achieve equivalent results, and growers can get better protection with less accidental surface water run-off and soil contamination.

I have written about Vive Crop previously (most recently in an Aug. 7, 2013 posting when they received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency for an insecticide) and my curiosity about Allosperse particles has not yet been satisfied. What are the chemical constituents? In lieu of an answer to that question (it’s nowhere on the company website), I found more information about Vive Crop and its SDTC-funded projects in this latest round of funding. As I noted previously, Vive Crop is involved in two of the funded projects as per the Sept. 9, 2013 SDTC backgrounder,

2. Lead organization: Macrotek

Project Title: Novel MVI Acid Gas Scrubbing Technology Project

Environmental Benefits: Climate Change/Clean Air/Clean Water/Clean Soil

Economic Sector: Waste management

SDTC Investment: $2 million

Consortium Members:

Macrotek

Vive Crop Protection [emphasis mine]

Plasco Energy Group

Project Description:

To avoid injecting contaminants into the atmosphere, industries use chemical reactions to “scrub” exhaust before it is emitted from smokestacks. However, current scrubbing techniques use caustic and oxidizing reagents (materials used to produce a chemical reaction). Macrotek has developed a groundbreaking suite of technologies that scrub in a novel, cost-effective and efficient way. The technology is developed initially to eliminate hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is a major component of acid rain, from industrial gas streams. The technology uses a regenerative reagent, drastically reducing reagent consumption. It also converts H2S into its elemental form of sulphur, eliminating the current need to treat sulphate byproduct in wastewater streams. When full life-cycle costs are considered, this technology could cost less than 50 percent of the operating costs of traditional scrubber technologies, while maintaining or improving contaminant removal efficiency. This technology has the potential to address a multitude of other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, simultaneously.

3. Lead organization: Vive Crop Protection

Project Title: Targeted Delivery for Crop Protection

Environmental Benefits: Clean water/clean soil

Economic Sector: Agriculture

SDTC Investment: $3.7 million

Consortium Members:

Vive Crop Protection

Dow AgroSciences LLC

Loveland Products Inc. (a division of crop production services)

Makhteshim Agan of North America Inc.

Halltech Inc.

University of Alberta – Office of Environmental NanoSafety

University of Toronto – Institute for Optical Sciences

McGill University

Project Description:

The best crop protection happens when pesticides stay where they are intended to protect the crop, for example on a crop’s leaves or at its roots. Vive has developed Allosperse®, a tiny particle that has unique properties: it has a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and an oleophilic (oil-loving) interior. Pesticides, which are also oleophilic, are loaded into the particle before application to crops. The next generation of Allosperse particles will have increased stickiness to leaves, avoiding run-off during the rain, and will penetrate leaves and seeds to offer systemic plant protection. Finally, the specially designed particles will control the movement of the particle through the soil, allowing it to target pests at the plant’s roots. Less product, and therefore less cost, would be required to achieve equivalent results, and growers can get better protection with less accidental surface water run-off and soil contamination.

Congratulations to Vive Crop and all of the other funding recipients!

Council of Canadian Academies tries to answer question: What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

The Council of Canadian Academies is an organization designed to answer questions about science in Canada. From the Council’s About Us webpage on their website,

The Council is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that supports science-based, expert assessments (studies) to inform public policy development in Canada. The Council began operation in 2005 and consists of a Board of Governers, a Scientific Advisory Committee and Secretariat. The Council draws upon the intellectual capital that lies within its three Member Academies the Royal Society of Canada (RSC); the Canadian Academy of Engineering;  and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Our mission is to contribute to the shaping of evidence-based public policy that is in the public interest. This is achieved by appointing independent, multidisciplinary panels of expert volunteers. The Council’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the natural, social and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities.

Expert Panels directly address the question and sub-questions referred to them. Panel assessments may also identify: emerging issues, gaps in knowledge, Canadian strengths, and international trends and practices. Upon completion, assessments provide government decision-makers, academia and stakeholders with high-quality information required to develop informed and innovative public policy.

Several months ago, Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of State (Science and Technology), requested on behalf of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC), Natural Resources Canada, and Industry Canada an assessment of science culture in Canada. From the State of Canada’s Science Culture webpage on the Council of Canadian Academies website,

Over the past 30 years, public interest and debate has been steadily growing in Canada and abroad over the need to foster a science culture as part of the national science and technology agenda. In this period, significant government and private investments have contributed to the development of hundreds of individual science culture programs and institutions.

Now more than ever the volume of programs and data support the need for a national examination of issues, such as the performance indicators that best reflect the vitality of Canada’s science culture, and a need to understand where Canada ranks internationally. The expert panel will be asked to consider these and other questions such as what factors influence an interest in science among youth; what are the key components of the informal system that supports science culture; and what strengths and weaknesses exist in the Canadian system.

Assessments of science culture can focus either on science in the general culture, or the culture among scientists. This assessment will focus principally on the former, with additional interest in understanding the underlying connections among entrepreneurship, innovation and science. …

The full assessment process includes a rigorous peer review exercise to ensure the report is objective, balanced and evidence-based. Following the review and approval by the Council’s Board of Governors, the complete report will be made available on the Council’s website in both official languages. …

Question

What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

Sub-questions:

  1. What is the state of knowledge regarding the impacts of having a strong science culture?
  2. What are the indicators of a strong science culture? How does Canada compare with other countries against these indicators? What is the relationship between output measures and major outcome measures?
  3. What factors (e.g., cultural, economic, age, gender) influence interest in science, particularly among youth?
  4. What are the critical components of the informal system that supports science culture (roles of players, activities, tools and programs run by science museums, science centres, academic and not-for-profit organizations and the private sector)? What strengths and weaknesses exist in Canada’s system?
  5. What are the effective practices that support science culture in Canada and in key competitor countries?

Hopefully, the expert panel will have a definition of some kind for “science culture.”

After waiting what seems to be an unusually long period, the Council announced the chair for the  “science culture” expert panel (from the CCA Dec. 19, 2012 news release),

Arthur Carty to Serve as Expert Panel Chair on the State of Canada’s Science Culture

The Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Arthur Carty, O.C., as Chair of the Expert Panel on the State of Canada’s Science Culture. In 2011, the Minister of State (Science and Technology) on behalf of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC), Natural Resources Canada, and Industry Canada requested the Council conduct an in-depth, evidence-based assessment on the state of Canada’s science culture.

As Chair of the Council’s Expert Panel, Dr. Carty will work with a multidisciplinary group of experts, to be appointed by the Council, to address the following question: What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

Dr. Carty is currently the Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Carty also serves as Special Advisor to the President on international science and technology collaboration, and as Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry. Prior to this, Dr. Carty served as Canada’s first National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada from 2004-2007 and as President of the National Research Council Canada from 1994-2004.

You can find out more on Carty’s biography webpage, on the CCA website,

Arthur Carty is the Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo, Special Advisor to the President on international science and technology collaboration, and Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry

From 2004-2008, Dr. Carty served as Canada’s first National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada. Prior to this appointment, he was President of the National Research Council Canada for 10 years. Before this, he spent 2 years at Memorial University and then 27 years at the University of Waterloo, where he was successively Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chair of the Department of Chemistry, and Dean of Research.

….

Carty’s profile page on the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology (WIN) website offers the same information but in more detail.

It’s difficult to divine much from the biographical information about Carty as it is very purpose-oriented to impress the reader with Carty’s international and national involvements in the field of science advice and collaboration. Carty may have extensive experience with multi-disciplinary teams and an avid interest in a science culture that includes informal science education and the arts and humanities, unfortunately, it’s not visible on either the CCA or WIN website biographies.

Hopefully,  Carty and the CCA will assemble a diverse expert panel. (Warning: blatant self-promotion ahead) If they are looking for a person of diverse personal and professional interests

  • who has an MA in Creative Writing (nonfiction and fiction) and New Media from De Montfort University in Leicester, UK and
  • a BA (Communication – Honors) from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada and
  • who has built up one of the largest and longest-running independent science blogs in the country thereby contributing to science culture in Canada,
  • neatly combining the social sciences, the humanities, and an informed perspective on science and science culture in Canada in one person,

they may want to contact me at [email protected] I have more details in the CV and can supply references.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC): killer app for Canadian forestry industry?

Bertrand Marotte, a writer from one of Canada’s better known newspapers, The Globe and Mail, contacted me a few weeks ago regarding his proposed story on Canada’s nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) efforts. May 6, 2012, he posted his article, Domtar leading the way to market eco-friendly NCC. I was a little curious about what he’d done with the information I’d given him and happy to see this article.

Compared to the amount of hype and excitement I’ve seen and sometimes contributed to myself, Marotte offers a more restrained perspective. From the May 6, 2012 article,

Industry leaders say the forestry sector – hammered over the past 10 years by declining demand for newsprint and paper in the digital revolution, competition from low-cost producers in developing countries and a surfeit of inefficient old mills – has to re-invent itself by creating new revenue streams if it is to survive.

Innovations being pursued by forestry companies come none too soon, but the risks are huge and a payoff is far from guaranteed.

Tom Rosser, assistant deputy minister at Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service, agrees the risk factor is high.

“These are very risky technologies that make it hard to attract private capital,” he said.

Tim Harper, the CEO of London-based Cientifica, a consultant on advanced technologies, describes the market for NCC as “very much a push, without signs of any pull.”

Mention of an AbitiBowater lignin project in Marotte’s article helped to underline the forestry industry’s urgency.

Interestingly, there’s no mention of the NCC project plant in Alberta (mentioned in my July 5, 2011 posting) or Canada’s worldwide NCC production lead.

Canadians are taking a huge risk and, so far, we’re taking the lead on the production side of things but, in a quintessentially Canadian fashion, the article casts doubt on the whole enterprise and ends on that note.

We tout innovation but at the same are deeply disconcerted by and hesitant about the risktaking required to be truly innovative. (I have to note that I too write pieces that can be quite restrained and critical of these types of endeavours.) Really, it’s as much a question of culture as anything else. How do we support innovation and risktaking while maintaining some of our quintessential character?

FPInnovations and a $25M investment from Natural Resources Canada

The federal government’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, made a big announcement in Vancouver on July 14, 2011 (from the FPInnovations news release),

Canada’s  forestry  innovation  hub,  FPInnovations,  today  welcomed  Federal  Natural  Resources  Minister  Joe  Oliver’s  announcement  of  $25.5‐million  towards  the  2011‐2012  Transformative  Technologies  Research  Program  (TTP).  This  program  focuses  on  the  development,  adaptation,  and  deployment  of  emerging  and  breakthrough  technologies  relating  to  forest  biomass  utilization,  forest  biotechnology,  nanotechnology,  green  chemistry,  bio‐materials,  innovative  wood‐based  building  systems  as  well  as  information  and  communications  technologies.

“Today’s  announcement  extends  a  unique  industry/government  partnership  that  is  transforming  the  forest  sector  through  innovation.  This  announcement  will  help  build  and  strengthen  an  innovative  and  diversified  forest  products  sector  in  Canada.   That  is  good  news  for  job  growth  and  new  economic  opportunities  for  hard  hit  forestry  communities,”  stated  Alan  Potter,  Vice‐President  of  FPInnovations.

I have posted about FPInnovations and their nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) research previously. I was hoping that there might be some information about whether these funds will be applied to NCC research but no details were given.

Canadian federal scientists (or their union) have launched a media campaign and website

These are interesting times. A union representing scientists employed by the Canadian federal government has launched a campaign and website promoting science. From the CBC October 18, 2010 news item,

A union representing federal scientists has launched a campaign targeting what it calls the government’s “worrying trend away from evidence-based policy-making.”

“If the science isn’t supported … then you’re going to find that decisions are going to be made more at the political level,” Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Monday as the union launched a website called publicscience.ca.

The site aims to highlight science done for the public good — much of it taxpayer-funded and carried out by government scientists — and to “mobilize” scientists and the public to pressure politicians to support it. It features interviews with federal scientists about their work, along with interviews with science policy experts.

The other goal of the campaign is to create a more positive public image of federal scientists by highlighting their work, Corbett said.

He said what the public hears about civil servants these days is mainly criticism of their pensions and salaries.

The union represents 59,000 federal and provincial public servants, including 23,000 involved in scientific research, testing advice and other “knowledge products.”

As of 3 p.m. ET, Natural Resources Canada said it was preparing a response to the union’s news release.

I find this quite interesting not just for the science aspect but for what it says about how the union is positioning itself, i.e., as a voice speaking out for its members’ contributions to society rather than a voice stridently demanding more money and benefits.

As for the response promised from Natural Resources Canada on this union initiative, I’m waiting with some anticipation, given the recent kerfuffle over seeming attempts to muzzle scientists in that ministry as per my Sept. 16, 2010 posting).

The timing for this union initiative seems quite auspicious, or well-timed, given that this is Canada’s National Science and Technology Week (Oct. 15-24, 2010) and the Canadian Science Policy Conference is on from Oct. 20-22, 2010 in Montréal, Québec.

The union’s website is here at http://www.publicscience.ca. I notice that Adam Holbrook (a.k.a. J. Adam Holbrook) is featured on the front page. He’s a Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia), a member of the Advisory Committee for the Canadian Science Policy Conference coming up in Montréal, and a speaker at 2010′s public service science policy conference this spring (both conferences are mentioned in my April 22, 2010 posting).

Nanocrystalline cellulose interview with Dr. Richard Berry of FPInnovations

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) is one of the most searched items on this blog so it seemed like a good idea to send some questions about it to a Canadian company, FPInnovations, that has been a leader in  its development.  [Edited for typo, July 7, 2011] Dr. Richard Berry, program manager for FPInnovations very kindly answered. First a little biographical information,

Dr. Richard Berry is the manager of the FPInnovations Chemical Pulping Program and he has been the leader of the nanotechnology initiative at FPInnovations for the last several years. Dr. Berry is a key contributor to ArboraNano. His scientific accomplishments include work on the elimination of chlorinated dioxins and the development of a variety of bleaching technologies. Dr. Berry has overseen the industrial application of his numerous inventions. He is the author of more than eighty peer-reviewed publications and patents. The prestigious 2009 Nano-industry award from NanoQuébec was given to him for his exceptional contribution to the development of Nanocrystalline Cellulose. The initiatives Dr. Berry has spearheaded in recent years have allowed Canada to position itself as a world leader in the development of this new nanotechnology industry.

Now for the  interview:

Q: In light of the new Domtar-FPInnovations plant [mentioned here in my July 16, 2010 posting] which is going to be built in Windsor, Québec, could you tell me a little about nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC). I have looked at your information sheet which notes that cellulose is: milled then hydrolyzed with the NCC separated and concentrated so it can be treated chemically for new uses.  In layperson’s terms, what’s cellulose?

A:         Cellulose is the most abundant polymer on earth and is the major constituent of all plants; cotton is 100% cellulose. Cellulose is made of chains of glucose molecules and these arrange into amorphous (soft) and crystalline (hard) regions. These structures provide flexibility and strength respectively to the fibres that are made of cellulose.

The hard crystalline regions are separated from the soft amorphous regions in the process that we are using which also causes the separation of the crystallites in the crystalline regions. These crystallites are nanocrystalline cellulose and have a needle shape approximately 200nm in length and 10 nm in diameter

Q: What does hydrolyze mean, in simple terms?

A:         Hydrolyze in this process means that we break the bonds between the glucose molecules. This reaction occurs far more rapidly in the soft amorphous regions of the cellulose structure leaving the hard crystalline regions largely intact

Q: After [Edited for grammar, July 7, 2011] all this processing, do you have nanocrystalline cellulose and how would you describe what nanocrystalline cellulose is?

A:         The process is to produce nanocrystalline cellulose but many of the processing steps are to ensure that the process is closed cycle and that the acid used is recovered and that the dissolved glucose can be separated to make energy, ethanol or higher value chemical products.

Nanocrystalline cellulose is the basic physical building block of plants which therefore have used nanotechnology for eons. The crystallites are the reinforcement elements providing strength in wood, paper and fibres.

Q: Does the process use up the entire log or are parts of it left over? What happens to any leftover bits?

A:         We are starting from the bleached chemical pulp which is, to a large extent, cellulose. The left over bits have actually been processed as part of the chemical pulp mill processes. The acid used is recovered and reused and the sugars are converted into other products; in the demonstration plant they will be converted into biogas.

Q: I understand you won’t want to give away any competitive advantages but could you describe at least partially the sort of chemical processing involved for these new applications?

A:         In some applications, there is no processing needed at all. In other applications, the formulation used allows the NCC to be effective. In further applications, surface modification is required to maximize the properties.

Q: Is the new plant (Domtar-FPInnovations) meant to be used for producing nanocrystalline cellulose particles for shipment elsewhere? Or will there be work on applications using the nanoparticles? If so, on which application(s) are you concentrating your efforts?

A:         The plant presently is for producing various grades of nanocrystalline cellulose for shipment elsewhere. The applications are being developed with partners in the new industry sectors that we are targeting. Amongst others, we have partners for applications in coatings, films and textiles.

Q: Is FPInnovations involved with the ArboraNano Centre of Excellence programme and its efforts to encourage NCC use in industries not usually associated with forest products? What might involvement entail?

A:         FPInnovations is one of the founding members and had a significant role in setting up ArboraNano.  Our involvement presently is as a supplier of NCC through our pilot plant in Pointe Claire and as members of both the Scientific Committee and Board of Arboranano.

Q: Assuming FPInnovations is attending the 2010 TAPPI [International Conference on Nanotechnology for the Forest Product Industry] in Finland, can you give me a preview of the company’s proposed presentation(s) at the conference?

A:         Representatives of FPInnovations will be at the conference but our involvement will be limited because much of the material we have developed is proprietary to ourselves and to the partners that we have. Our focus at this stage is commercial development.

Q: What kind of research is being done on possible health, safety and environment issues with regard to NCC?

A:         From the very beginning of our project, 20% of our funding has been spent on these issues. We are glad to say that the research has shown that NCC is in the category of “practically non toxic”, and mammalian studies done to assess inhalation, ingestion and dermal risk have all shown the material to be in the lowest category of risk. These results show that the size of a particle is not a determinant of its risk but as with chemicals it is the specific material that is critical in determining toxicity.

Q: Are there plans, at some point in the future, to list NCC on Charles McGovern’s Integrated Nano-Science Commodities Exchange or will your product be listed on some other commodities exchange?

A:         We do not view NCC at the moment as a commodity; it is a very specialized group of materials. We hope it will take a long time before it becomes a commodity.

Thank you very much Dr. Berry.

On a related matter, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the documentation that the Canadian federal government provided in response to Member of Parliament, Peter Julian’s (NDP), question about nanotechnology funding from 2005/6 – 2008/9. The response from Natural Resources Canada highlighted funding provided to FPInnovations in fiscal year 2007/8 of $2,308,000 and in fiscal year 2008/9,  a further, $3,2570,000 for a total of $5,565,000. Natural Resources Canada did not fund any nanotechnology research in 2005/6 or 2006/7.

One final note, former president and chief executive officer of FPInnovations, Ian de la Roche, PhD, will be the keynote speaker at the 10th Pacific Rim Bio-Based Composites Symposium Oct. 5-8, 2010 in Banff, Alberta. (Thanks to Joel Burford at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures for the information.)