Tag Archives: New Democrat Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we do a better job of funding research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) poems at lunchtime June 2012

Coming up tomorrow (June 20, 2012) is another entry in the Lunch poems @sfu (Simon Fraser University) series in downtown Vancouver (Canada):

This month lunch poems @sfu presents:

Sonnet L’Abbé and her guest poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar

When: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, 12 noon to 1 pm

Where: Teck Gallery (on main floor), SFU Harbour Centre,

515 West Hastings Street,

Vancouver, BC

Sonnet L’Abbé is the author of two collections of poetry, A Strange Relief and Killarnoeand a reviewer of Canadian fiction and poetry for The Globe and Mail. She is currently at the University of British Columbia writing a dissertation on botanical metaphors in representations of human cognition in the work of American poet Ronald Johnson.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle. Work from thecanadaproject appears online and in newspapers and literary journals. Poems from thecanadaproject will be the focus of a seminar at the Association of Cultural Studies Crossroads conference, Paris, July 2012. Renée is working on her first book, a sequence of elegies about Canada / Air India.

Neither poet appears to have a website but I did find this about L’Abbé in a Wikipedia essay (Note: I have removed links and footnotes.),

Sonnet L’Abbé is a Canadian poet and critic. As a poet, L’Abbé writes about national identity, race, gender and language. She has been shortlisted for the 2010 CBC Literary Award for poetry and has won the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award for most promising writer under 35.As a critic, she is a regular reviewer of fiction and poetry for The Globe and Mail and has written scholarly articles on Canadian contemporary poetry.

And, I found this poem of Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s (from the Leaf Press website),

Carnarvon Street Lament

Oh I like the fog bound morning
hours when light casts a shadow
on my raggedy sweater and shoes cause
I’m now what I always knew I’d be
a raggedy woman just off the streets Oh
I sing in my veins a trapped noise
not let to the air cause I’m a raggedy girl
gone home from high towers to the ground
Oh watch me that’s where I’ll be
learning to spin wool to plant carrots in the dark soil Oh
I pound my feet ‘neath the big box towers
driven from road to road I’m the Raggedy One
claiming the moon oh the stars the sun.

As it turns out, Saklikar is married to Adrian Dix, leader of the New Democratic Party and of the opposition in the BC (British Columbia)  Legislative Assembly according to an April 17, 2011 article by Charlie Smith for the Georgia Straight newspaper when Dix was chosen to be party leader.

Peter Julian’s interview about proposing Canada’s first nanotechnology legislation (part 2 of 3); more on the UK Nanotechnologies Strategy; Dylan Thomas, neuroscience and an open reading

This is part 2 of an interview with Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, NDP (New Democrat Party) who tabled the first Canadian bill to regulate nanotechnology. Yesterday’s part of the interview featured some biographical notes about Mr. Julian and his answers to questions about why he, in particular, tabled the bill; the NDP’s shadow science minister’s (Jim Malloway) involvement; and the NDP’s commitment to science policy. Today, Julian explains why he favours the application of the precautionary principle to nanotechnology, notes the research he used before writing his bill, and comments on a national inventory scheme. NOTE: As some folks may prefer other media or summaries/commentaries on these reports, in situations where I have additional material, I’ve taken the liberty of giving links, clearly marking my additions.

Why do you favour applying the precautionary principle which has received some criticism as it favours the status quo?

I believe that the precautionary principle does not favour the status quo. The status quo hinders appropriate applications of precaution. Environmental, health, and safety gaps in the application of Nanotechnology are a shared concern between countries, as reflected in recent reports to Congress and the EU and at the OECD. Precaution towards discovery, product, production, use and eventual disposal is simple common sense.

The precautionary principle deters action without reflection. When a product is massively put on the market we have to be sure that it will not have adverse effects on health and the environment, and not just a short lived positive effect on the bottom line.

What research materials support your (BILL) and are these materials that you would recommend interested citizens read?

I have a list of links concerning these materials:

ED. NOTE:  I offered some commentary here and links to other commentaries here about this report.

  • The Chatham House briefing paper, Regulating Nanomaterials: A Transatlantic Agenda (September 2009) an excellent eight page read:

http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/papers/view/-/id/774/

ED. NOTE: There is a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN)webcast of a presentation by the folks who authored the report. The webcast and speaker presentations can be found here and my commentary on the webcast here.

ED. NOTE: PEN webcast a presentation by J. Clarence Davies on Oversight of Next Generation Nanotechnology available here along with a speaker’s presentation and additional materials.

  • The National Nanotechnology Initiative document lays out a substantive, and sound, research program. Canada’s strategy remains limited in scope and vision.

http://www.nano.gov/NNI_EHS_Research_Strategy.pdf

I noticed mention of a public inventory for nanomaterials and it reminded me of a proposed Environment Canada nanomaterials inventory or reporting plan that was announced in January 2008. Do you know if this inventory ever took place or what its current status is?

The inventory is not completed yet. The bill develops a mandatory requirement for an inventory and there have been no prior operational inventories regarding nanotechnology products, which is why this bill is so important.

I would like to stress that in addition to the precautionary principle, Bill C-494 is built on a definition of Nanotechnology that adopts a broader and more inclusive definition of nanomaterials. This is consistent with the findings of the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee:

  • We recommend that the Government should work towards ensuring that any regulatory definition of nanomaterials proposed at a European level, in particular in the Novel Foods Regulation, should not include a size limit of 100nm but instead refer to ‘the nanoscale’ to ensure that all materials with a dimension under 1000nm are considered.A change in functionality, meaning how a substance interacts with the body, should be the factor that distinguishes a nanomaterial from its larger form within the nanoscale.

UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee
Nanotechnologies and Food (8 January 2010)
Recommendation 12, p.76

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldsctech.htm

This is in contrast with Health Canada policy which looks at narrow definition of nanomaterials:

  • Health Canada’s Science Policy Directorate announced the adoption of the Interim Policy Statement on Health Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials and its posting on the Health Canada website 2 March 2010. This Government of Canada policy adopts a 1-100nm “inclusive” regulatory benchmark, effective immediately, with a public comment period underway.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/sr-sr/consult/_2010/nanomater/index-eng.php

ED. NOTE: I made an error in my question, the proposed nano inventory by Environment Canada was announced in Jan. 2009. My postings on the announcement are here and here. The odd thing about the announcement was that it was made initially by PEN which is located in Washington, DC and subsequently picked up by Canadian news media. As far as I know, Environment Canada has never offered comment about its 2009 plan for a nanotechnology inventory.

Tomorrow Julian wraps up with answers to questions about why someone who’s shadow portfolio includes international trade is interested in nanotechnology and the potential costs for his proposed legislation.

Peter Julian interview Part 1, Part 3, Comments: Nano Ontario, Comments: nanoAlberta

More on the UK 2010 Nanotechnologies Strategy Report

Dexter Johnson over on Nanoclast has done some detective work in a bid to understand why the market numbers used in the report differ wildly from anyone else’s. From Dexter’s posting,

It [the report] quotes market numbers for nano-enabled products that are such a drastic departure from most estimates that it leaves one questioning why tens of billions of dollars are being poured in by governments around the world to fund research.

If you have it, do take the time to follow along as Dexter  trails the company that the UK government used as its source for their market numbers. Amongst other names, I recognized one, ObservatoryNANO. (It was an organization I followed briefly and dismissed as being frivolous.)

One other commenter has emerged, Tim Harper. Now as the  principle of a nanotechnology business consulting company (Cientifica) some might be inclined to dismiss his comments but they have the ring of honest frustration and a sincere desire to contribute. From Harper’s posting,

Every UK nanotech report to date has excluded any data provided by UK companies. Even offers of free copies of our market research to government committees looking into various bits of nanotechnology provoke the same response as if we’d offered them a fresh dog turd wrapped in newspaper.

And now for a complete change of pace,

Dylan Thomas and neuroscience

There‘s an event tonight  (Thursday, March 25, 2010) in Vancouver being put on by the Dylan Thomas Circle (he lived in North Vancouver for a time as he worked on Under the volcano). It’s being held at the Red Dragon Pub at the Cambrian Hall on 17th & Main St.  Doors open at 6:45 pm and the presentation starts at 7:30 pm followed by an open reading. From the news release,

THE DYLAN THOMAS CIRCLE OF VANCOUVER presents

“Dylan Thomas, Creativity and Neuroscience”

Ariadne Sawyer will lead an exploration into creativity and the creative process as manifest through the works and the life of Dylan Thomas. She will investigate why we are creative, what happens during the creative process and what effect it has upon us.

This will be followed by an intermission and an: ‘OPEN READING’: an invitation to everyone who is interested to read aloud a poem or literary excerpt of their choice. This can be your own work, Dylan’s work or any other writer’s material. Most importantly, it is our chance to indulge in a little of our own creativity and to do it in a relaxed and in a friendly atmosphere.

About Ariadne Sawyer:

Ariadne has done on line Performance Plus Coaching with trainees from England, France, Canada and the United States for the last two years. She has received the Award of Excellence given by McLean-Hunter for the Brain Bulletin Series. Ariadne publishes an electronic newsletter called: Ariadne’s Performance Plus Newsletter along with Performance Plus Tips which are sent to all the participating trainees. She also co-hosts a weekly radio program on CFRO 102.7 FM, which has been on the air for the past two years. The Performance Plus Mini Course has been presented on the show with astounding success. She has two electronic courses available soon on the Internet. Performance Plus Level One and the Performance Plus Diplomacy Course. Ariadne has worked with trainees from Europe, the US and across Canada.

Peter Julian interview on tabling the first nanotechnology bill in Canada’s parliament (part 1 of 3); musings on oil-rich regions and nanotechnology

In mid-March 2010, Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, NDP (New Democrat Party) tabled the first Canadian bill (ETA June 22, 2010: Bill C-494) to regulate nanotechnology. Kudos to him for bringing nanotechnology into a national public forum and hopefully inspiring some discussion and debate.

Mr. Julian kindly agreed (thank you!) to answer some e-mail interview questions which I will be posting in a 3-part interview starting today where he answers questions about why he tabled the bill, the involvement of the NDP’s science shadow minister, and the state of the NDP’s science policy.

For anyone who’s not familiar with Mr. Julian, I got some biographical information from his constituency website,

Peter Julian

Member of Parliament, Burnaby–New Westminster
International Trade
Asia-Pacific Gateway
Deputy Critic Fisheries (West Coast Fisheries)
2010 Olympics

  • Has been the most active MP from Western Canada so far in the 40th Parliament.
  • First elected Member of Parliament for Burnaby-New Westminster in 2004 (by a narrow margin of 300 votes), and re-elected in 2006 (by 4,000 votes) and again in 2008 (by 7,000 votes).
  • Served as Critic on International Trade, Transportation, Persons with Disabilities, Gateways and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in 39th Parliament; Critic on International Trade, the Treasury Board, Transportation and Persons with Disabilities in 38th Parliament.
  • Ranked fifth of 308 MPs in crafting of Private Member’s legislation in 39th Parliament including tougher drunk driving laws and eliminating toxic substances found in fire retardants.
  • Most active rookie in the House of Commons in the 38th Parliament.
  • Prominent critic of Harper Conservatives’ softwood lumber sellout. Called “the Iron Man” by CTV’s David Akin for determination to stop the sellout.
  • Previously a financial administrator, community activist and manual labourer. Served as National Executive Director of Council of Canadians – (founding member), former Executive Director of the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WIDHH).
  • Instrumental in building the British Columbia Disability Employment Network
  • Former National Policy Coordinator and Assistant and Acting Federal Secretary of the New Democratic Party of Canada.

Now on to the interview:

What was the impetus for including nanotechnology as part of this bill? i.e. was there some specific incident or has this been an ongoing concern?

The major forces for including my bill on nanotechnology were; the concerns raised by constituents, the progressive work done by the European Union (including the EU Council Directive on cosmetic products and the January 2010 report of the UK’s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report). In contrast Canada has made minimal progress towards ensuring that nanotechnology discoveries are safely introduced into the marketplace, environment, and to Canadians.

The exponential increase in applications and products using this type of technology makes updating the regulatory framework necessary. A regulatory vacuum cannot persist if the commercial and societal promises of nanotechnologies are to be fulfilled. There are trade and safety implications involved.

A modernized regulatory framework, based on precaution given the rapid evolution of nanotechnologies, would help ensure that Canadians will be protected from unintended effects. At the same time, it would enable Canadian businesses to enjoy a predictable regulatory environment for investment and innovation, for nanotechnology is a key driver in Canada’s continued growth via sustainable development.

The following are the key components of Bill C-494:

A) A definition of Nanotechnology definition based on “nanometre scale” (1-1000nm),

B) Prescribed Government of Canada research and studies, with the precautionary principle providing direction for a ‘life-cycle’ approach to nanotechnology, and,

C) A Nanotechnology Inventory established and published.

I believe that the definition contained in Bill C-494 constitutes the first legislative body effort since UK House of Lords Committee recommended a similar nanometre scale definition.

Was the NDP’s science shadow minister involved in this bill? What was Jim Malloway’s contribution?

As you may know, private members bills are at the initiative of individual MPs. I have consulted with the NDP Environment and Health critics, in addition to our own research, library of Parliament support, and input from civil society. Jim Malloway and the NDP caucus support the principle of Bill C-494 and share the view that Nanotechnologies present a tremendous opportunity for Canada and that is why safety must be ensured.

Is there going to be more interest in science policy from the NDP?

The NDP is focused on securing sound foundations for science policy by making sure the government has enough resources to support the development of science while monitoring the consequences. We are also focused on ensuring that funding for post secondary education is appropriate and the resources and knowhow of the public sector are not trivialized and outsourced. The civil service needs a critical mass of expertise to support a healthy science development policy. We must encourage and preserve independent research at the university level and make sure that it is not subservient to corporate funding. Science must be allowed to evolve regardless of the commercial aspect. Our small caucus is focused on helping create these conditions where Canadian science and its applications can flourish in both private and not-for-profit spheres, with appropriate regulatory safeguards.

Tomorrow: Mr. Julian answers questions about the ‘precautionary principle’ and the research that supports his bill.

Peter Julian interview Part 2, Part 3, Comments: Nano Ontario, Comments: nanoAlberta

Oil-rich regions and nano

I had a few idle thoughts on seeing a notice on Nanowerk in mid-March that Iran has published a national nanotechnology standard. From the notice on Nanowerk,

The committee of Iranian nanotechnology standardization chose 49 main words in nanotechnology by means of ISO, BSI, and ASTM published standards and translated their definitions into Persian in cooperation with a team from Persian Language and Literature Academy.

The words like nanotechnology, nanomaterials, nanoparticle, nanoscale, nanotube, nanosystem etc have been defined in this standard.

(I did click on the link for the publication but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an English language version available.)

I find it interesting that there is so much activity on the nanotechnology front in Iran and other other oil-producing regions including Alberta (Canada) which hosts the National Institute for Nanotechnology and gets a great deal of funding from the Alberta provincial government. Texas, also known for its oil, hosts a leader in nanotechnology research, Rice University which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as the site where ‘bucky balls’ or buckminster fullerenes were first discovered. In Saudi Arabia, they opened KAUST (King Abdullah University for Science and Technology) in September 2009. While the ambitions range far beyond (the Saudis hope to establish a modern ‘House of Wisdom’) nanotechnology, its research is an important element in the overall scheme of things. I guess the reason that all these areas which are known for their oil production are so invested in nanotechnology is that they know time is running out and they need new ways to keep their economies afloat.

Science policy and Canada’s political parties

After yesterday’s discussion of the Nature editorial on Canadian science policy or the lack thereof, I went in search of four federal political parties and their science policies. I looked at the websites for the Green Party, New Democrat Party, the Liberal Party, and the Conservative Party for their platforms and/or policy documents.

Coincidentally I found a mention of policy and the Liberal party in Barbara Yaffe’s Vancouver Sun column today (here) and discovered that the party leader, Michael Ignatieff, is making a campus tour of the country as part of a Liberal party public consultation. All this activity is leading up to a Liberal party policy convention in Montreal, March 26-28, 2010.

Back to my search, I did not dig deeply as I don’t believe these documents should be difficult to find. I could not find a set of policies or platform on the Liberal party website. The Green Party has a very easily found policy platform (Vision Green) which has no mention of science or research. Initially I couldn’t find any mention of the arts but those policies are to be found in the People section, Beauty and Integrity subsection. The New Democrat Party has its easily found platform here but no mention of science in it. As for the Conservative party, my hat’s off to them. Their policy declaration (found here and dated November 2008) was the only specific reference to science that I found. Like it or not, it’s in the section on Economic Development,

27. Science, Research and Development
i) The Conservative Party supports the establishment [sic] a single authority or single window to review big
science projects according to published guidelines. These types of projects are often tied up in the
bureaucracy because, under the current system, they are forced to seek funding from a myriad ofdepartments and agencies. A single-window approach would be more transparent for the research community and more accountable to Canadian taxpayers.
ii) We support the creation of an independent Chief Scientist who would advise and report to Parliament
on scientific matters, and help coordinate science policy issues within government, and internationally.
This office would be modeled on the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in the United
Kingdom. The Chief Scientist should be mandated by Parliament to provide independent and balanced
analysis of public policy issues related to science and technology. This information should be provided
openly to Parliamentarians and Canadians to enable informed decisions.
iii) We support the funding of innovation, technology and research through the granting councils. We
support a competitive peer review process and enhanced transparency and accountability to determine
who shall receive grants through these councils.
iv) We recognize the importance of private sector investment in research and development of commercial
applications. We recognize that the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax
credit has been successful in spurring private investment in research and development. The government should work with stakeholders in all fields of research and various industry sectors to expand this tax credit. We support the elimination of the capital tax and the reduction of the capital gains tax because the
effectiveness of the SR&ED tax credit relies upon the general level of tax on capital and investment. In
principle, we believe the government should provide more scientific research and experimental
development tax incentives.

You’ll notice that item ii) supports the notion of an independent adviser or Chief Scientist. It sounds like an attempt to revive the now defunct science adviser position, eliminated after Harper took office, but they do mention modeling it on a UK institution. Of course, they haven’t actually created the position yet. Still, they’re the only Canadian political party that appears to have a science policy.

As per some of my comments yesterday about science and policy advisers in the US, I received a response from David Bruggeman who kindly clarified the situation for me here. You can read more about US science and technology policy (and other related issues) at David’s blog Pasco Phronesis. He does comment on the Nature editorial about Canadian science policy here as per their perspective on the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a lobby group.