Tag Archives: UNESCO

Does digitizing material mean it’s safe? A tale of Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans scientific libraries

As has been noted elsewhere the federal government of Canada has shut down a number of Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries in a cost-saving exercise. The government is hoping to save some $440,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year by digitizing, consolidating, and discarding the libraries and their holdings.

One would imagine that this is being done in a measured, thoughtful fashion but one would be wrong.

Andrew Nikiforuk in a December 23, 2013 article for The Tyee wrote one of the first articles about the closure of the fisheries libraries,

Scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

Glyn Moody in a Jan. 7, 2014 post on Techdirt noted this,

What’s strange is that even though the rationale for this mass destruction is apparently in order to reduce costs, opportunities to sell off more valuable items have been ignored. A scientist is quoted as follows:

“Hundreds of bound journals, technical reports and texts still on the shelves, presumably meant for the garbage or shredding. I saw one famous monograph on zooplankton, which would probably fetch a pretty penny at a used science bookstore… anybody could go in and help themselves, with no record kept of who got what.”

Gloria Galloway in a Jan. 7, 2014 article for the Globe and Mail adds more details about what has been lost,

Peter Wells, an adjunct professor and senior research fellow at the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said it is not surprising few members of the public used the libraries. But “the public benefits by the researchers and the different research labs being able to access the information,” he said.

Scientists say it is true that most modern research is done online.

But much of the material in the DFO libraries was not available digitally, Dr. Wells said, adding that some of it had great historical value. And some was data from decades ago that researchers use to determine how lakes and rivers have changed.

“I see this situation as a national tragedy, done under the pretext of cost savings, which, when examined closely, will prove to be a false motive,” Dr. Wells said. “A modern democratic society should value its information resources, not reduce, or worse, trash them.”

Dr. Ayles [Burton Ayles, a former DFO regional director and the former director of science for the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg] said the Freshwater Institute had reports from the 1880s and some that were available nowhere else. “There was a whole core people who used that library on a regular basis,” he said.

Dr. Ayles pointed to a collection of three-ringed binders, occupying seven metres of shelf space, that contained the data collected during a study in the 1960s and 1970s of the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline. For a similar study in the early years of this century, he said, “scientists could go back to that information and say, ‘What was the baseline 30 years ago? What was there then and what is there now?’ ”

When asked how much of the discarded information has been digitized, the government did not provide an answer, but said the process continues.

Today, Margo McDiarmid’s Jan. 30, 2014 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news online further explores digitization of the holdings,

Fisheries and Oceans is closing seven of its 11 libraries by 2015. It’s hoping to save more than $443,000 in 2014-15 by consolidating its collections into four remaining libraries.

Shea [Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea] told CBC News in a statement Jan. 6 that all copyrighted material has been digitized and the rest of the collection will be soon. The government says that putting material online is a more efficient way of handling it.

But documents from her office show there’s no way of really knowing that is happening.

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ systems do not enable us to determine the number of items digitized by location and collection,” says the response by the minister’s office to MacAulay’s inquiry. [emphasis mine]

The documents also that show the department had to figure out what to do with 242,207 books and research documents from the libraries being closed. It kept 158,140 items and offered the remaining 84,067 to libraries outside the federal government.

Shea’s office told CBC that the books were also “offered to the general public and recycled in a ‘green fashion’ if there were no takers.”

The fate of thousands of books appears to be “unknown,” although the documents’ numbers show 160 items from the Maurice Lamontagne Library in Mont Jolie, Que., were “discarded.”  A Radio-Canada story in June about the library showed piles of volumes in dumpsters.

And the numbers prove a lot more material was tossed out. The bill to discard material from four of the seven libraries totals $22,816.76

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not rare books were given away or put in dumpsters, It’s not confidence-building when the government minister can’t offer information about which books have been digitized and where they might located online.

Interestingly,  Fisheries and Oceans is not the only department/ministry shutting down libraries (from McDiarmid’s CBC article),

Fisheries and Oceans is just one of the 14 federal departments, including Health Canada and Environment Canada, that have been shutting physical libraries and digitizing or consolidating the material into closed central book vaults.

I was unaware of the problems with Health Canada’s libraries but Laura Payton’s and Max Paris’ Jan. 20, 2014 article for CBC news online certainly raised my eyebrows,

Health Canada scientists are so concerned about losing access to their research library that they’re finding workarounds, with one squirrelling away journals and books in his basement for colleagues to consult, says a report obtained by CBC News.

The draft report from a consultant hired by the department warned it not to close its library, but the report was rejected as flawed and the advice went unheeded.

Before the main library closed, the inter-library loan functions were outsourced to a private company called Infotrieve, the consultant wrote in a report ordered by the department. The library’s physical collection was moved to the National Science Library on the Ottawa campus of the National Research Council last year.

“Staff requests have dropped 90 per cent over in-house service levels prior to the outsource. This statistic has been heralded as a cost savings by senior HC [Health Canada] management,” the report said.

“However, HC scientists have repeatedly said during the interview process that the decrease is because the information has become inaccessible — either it cannot arrive in due time, or it is unaffordable due to the fee structure in place.”

….

The report noted the workarounds scientists used to overcome their access problems.

Mueller [Dr. Rudi Mueller, who left the department in 2012] used his contacts in industry for scientific literature. He also went to university libraries where he had a faculty connection.

The report said Health Canada scientists sometimes use the library cards of university students in co-operative programs at the department.

Unsanctioned libraries have been created by science staff.

“One group moved its 250 feet of published materials to an employee’s basement. When you need a book, you email ‘Fred,’ and ‘Fred’ brings the book in with him the next day,” the consultant wrote in his report.

“I think it’s part of being a scientist. You find a way around the problems,” Mueller told CBC News.

Unsanctioned, underground libraries aside, the assumption that digitizing documents and books ensures access is false.  Glyn Moody in a Nov. 12, 2013 article for Techdirt gives a chastening example of how vulnerable our digital memories are,

The Internet Archive is the world’s online memory, holding the only copies of many historic (and not-so-historic) Web pages that have long disappeared from the Web itself.

Bad news:

This morning at about 3:30 a.m. a fire started at the Internet Archive’s San Francisco scanning center.

Good news:

no one was hurt and no data was lost. Our main building was not affected except for damage to one electrical run. This power issue caused us to lose power to some servers for a while.

Bad news:

Some physical materials were in the scanning center because they were being digitized, but most were in a separate locked room or in our physical archive and were not lost. Of those materials we did unfortunately lose, about half had already been digitized. We are working with our library partners now to assess.

That loss is unfortunate, but imagine if the fire had been in the main server room holding the Internet Archive’s 2 petabytes of data. Wisely, the project has placed copies at other locations …

That’s good to know, but it seems rather foolish for the world to depend on the Internet Archive always being able to keep all its copies up to date, especially as the quantity of data that it stores continues to rise. This digital library is so important in historical and cultural terms: surely it’s time to start mirroring the Internet Archive around the world in many locations, with direct and sustained support from multiple governments.

In addition to the issue of vulnerability, there’s also the issue of authenticity, from my June 5, 2013 posting about science, archives and memories,

… Luciana Duranti [Professor and Chair, MAS {Master of Archival Studies}Program at the University of British Columbia and Director, InterPARES] and her talk titled, Trust and Authenticity in the Digital Environment: An Increasingly Cloudy Issue, which took place in Vancouver (Canada) last year (mentioned in my May 18, 2012 posting).

Duranti raised many, many issues that most of us don’t consider when we blithely store information in the ‘cloud’ or create blogs that turn out to be repositories of a sort (and then don’t know what to do with them; ça c’est moi). She also previewed a Sept. 26 – 28, 2013 conference to be hosted in Vancouver by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation.” (UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme hosts a number of these themed conferences and workshops.)

The Sept. 2013 UNESCO ‘memory of the world’ conference in Vancouver seems rather timely in retrospect. The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) announced that Dr. Doug Owram would be chairing their Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution assessment (mentioned in my Feb. 22, 2013 posting; scroll down 80% of the way) and, after checking recently, I noticed that the Expert Panel has been assembled and it includes Duranti. Here’s the assessment description from the CCA’s ‘memory institutions’ webpage,

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 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.

So, the government is shutting down libraries in order to save money and they’re praying (?) that the materials have been digitized and adequate care has been taken to ensure that they will not be lost in some disaster or other. Meanwhile the Council of Canadian Academies is conducting an assessment of memory institutions in the digital age. The approach seems to backwards.

On a more amusing note, Rick Mercer parodies at lease one way scientists are finding to circumvent the cost-cutting exercise in an excerpt (approximately 1 min.)  from his Jan. 29, 2014 Rick Mercer Report telecast (thanks Roz),

Mercer’s comment about sports and Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper’s preferences is a reference to Harper’s expressed desire to write a book about hockey and possibly a veiled reference to Harper’s successful move to prorogue parliament during the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver in what many observers suggested was a strategy allowing Harper to attend the games at his leisure.

Whether or not you agree with the decision to shutdown some libraries, the implementation seems to have been a remarkably sloppy affair.

Mathematics of Planet Earth lives on past 2013

A Université de Montréal (Québec, Canada) Dec. 11, 2013 news release (also on EurekAlert) proclaims a new life for a worldwide mathematics initiative (Note: I have added paragraph breaks for this formerly single paragraph excerpt),

Although you might not know it, mathematics is able to shed light on many of the issues facing Planet Earth – from the structure of the core of our planet to the understanding of biodiversity, from finding ways to advance cutting edge solar technology to better understanding the Earth’s climate system, and from earthquakes and tsunamis to the spread of infectious diseases – and so mathematicians around the world have decided to launch an international project, Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE), to demonstrate how their field of expertise contributes directly to our well being.

Mathematics of Planet Earth is growing out of a year-long initiative that was the brainchild of Christiane Rousseau, professor of mathematics at Université de Montréal and vice-president of the International Mathematics Union.

Beginning in 2014, the program will continue under the same name with the same objectives: identify fundamental research questions about Planet Earth and reach out to the general public. As Prof Rousseau observed, “Mathematics of Planet Earth has been a great start. But identifying the research problems is not enough. Mathematics moves slowly, the planetary problems are very challenging, and we cannot expect great results in just one year.” “The International Mathematical Union enthusiastically supports the continuation of Mathematics of Planet Earth. The success of this initiative attests to the foundational role of the mathematical sciences and interdisciplinary partnerships in research into global challenges, increasingly valued by society,” says Ingrid Daubechies, President of the International Mathematical Union.

How did I not hear about this project before now? Well, it’s better to get there late then never get to the party at all. From the news release,

Under the patronage of UNESCO, the MPE initiative brought together over 100 scientific societies, universities, research institutes, and foundations from around the world to research fundamental questions about Planet Earth, nurture a better understanding of global issues, and help inform the public about the essential mathematics of the challenges facing our planet. “The Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) initiative resonates strongly with UNESCO’s work to promote the sciences and science education, especially through our International Basic Sciences Programme. Math advances fundamental research and plays an important role in our daily life. More than ever we need to develop relevant learning materials and to spark in every student, especially girls, a sense of joy in the wondrous universe of mathematics and the immense potential unleashed by this discipline. In this spirit, we commend this initiative and fully endorse the proposal to continue this programme beyond 2013,” said Irena Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.

It’s not about preaching to the converted. “The curriculum material developed for Mathematics of Planet Earth provides schools and educators a free-of-charge wealth of material for and will be used for many years to come. The initiative has presented the public, schools and the media with challenging applications of mathematics, with significant answers to questions like ‘What is mathematics useful for?’” said Mary Lou Zeeman, MPE coordinator for Education. “Mathematics of Planet Earth wonderfully contributed to diffuse an informed culture of environment and helps to get a common mathematical toolkit necessary to deal the dramatic challenges faced today by our planet,” said Ferdinando Arzarello, President of the International Commission of Mathematical Instruction (ICMI).

It’s not only the mathematicians and mathematics pedagogues who’ve gotten excited about this initiative,

MPE2013 has drawn the attention of other disciplines as well. Among its partners are the American Geophysical Union, the International Association for Mathematical Geosciences, and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG). The research on planetary issues is interdisciplinary, and collaboration and networking are essential for progress. “Great mathematicians understood the importance of research into planet Earth many centuries ago,” said Alik Ismail-Zadeh, a mathematical geophysicist and the Secretary General of the IUGG. “Pierre Fermat studied the weight of the Earth; Carl Friedrich Gauss contributed to the development of geomagnetism and together with Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel made significant contribution to geodesy; Andrei Tikhonov developed regularization techniques intensively used in studies of inverse problems in many areas of geophysics. Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 highlighted again the importance of international multidisciplinary cooperation and stimulated mathematicians and geoscientists to work together to uncover Earth’s mysteries.”

The news release closes with these interesting bits of information,

About Mathematics of Planet Earth

On January 1, 2014, Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE2013) will continue as “Mathematics of Planet Earth” (MPE). The objectives remain unchanged – identify fundamental research questions about Planet Earth and reach out to the general public. With support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, MPE will maintain a website where additional educational and outreach materials will be posted. New modules will be developed and added to the MPE Exhibition. Plans for more MPE activities exist in several countries in the form of workshops, summer schools, and even the creation of new graduate programs in Mathematics of Planet Earth.

About Christiane Rousseau

Christian Rousseau is a professor at Université de Montréal’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Vice-President of the International Mathematics Union, and a member of the Centre de recherches mathématiques. Professor Rousseau conceived and coordinated Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013.

About Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013′s Achievements

MPE2013 activities have included more than 15 long-term programs at mathematical research institutes all over the world, 60 workshops, dozens of special sessions at society meetings, two major public lecture series, summer and winter schools for graduate students, research experiences for undergraduates, an international competition, and an Open Source MPE Exhibition. In addition, MPE2013 has supported the development of high-quality curriculum materials for all ages and grades available on the MPE2013 Web site.

Encouraging Research

The scientific activities of MPE2013 were directed both to the mathematical sciences community, whose members are encouraged to identify fundamental research questions about Planet Earth and their potential collaborators in other disciplines. The program provides evidence that many issues related to weather, climate, sustainability, public health, natural hazards, and financial and social systems lead to interesting mathematical problems. Several summer and winter schools have offered training opportunities for junior researchers in these areas.

Reaching Out

The outreach activities of MPE2013 were as important as the scientific activities. More than sixty public lectures have been given with audiences on all five continents. Particularly noteworthy were the MPE Simons Public Lectures, now posted on the MPE2013 Web site, which were supported financially by the Simons Foundation. MPE2013 has maintained a speakers bureau, supported the development of curriculum materials, maintained a collection of posters, and produced special issues of mathematical magazines and other educational materials. Many activities took place at schools in several countries. The permanent MPE Open Source Exhibition is now hosted on the website of IMAGINARY and can be used and adapted by schools and museums.

Daily Blog

The dual mission of MPE2013 – stimulating the mathematics research community and reaching out to the general public – is reflected in the Daily Blogs (one in English, the other in French), each of which has featured more than 250 posts on topics ranging from astronomy to uncertainty quantification. The blog gets several hundred hits a day.

You can find out more about MPE 2013 and its future here. (English language version website) or go here for the French language version. For those who prefer to read the news release about the ‘morphing’ MPE in French, go here.

Nano, agriculture, and water

Surprisingly, the Council of Canadian Academies’ (CCA) Water and Agriculture in Canada: Towards Sustainable Management of Water Resources assessment (published Feb. 2013) had very little to with regard to how emerging technologies such as synthetic biology and nanotechnology are having and will have an impact on water and agriculture. Here’s the bit on synthetic biology,

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology is defined as the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems and the re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes (RAE, 2009). It is an emerging technology that is expected to have wide-ranging implications for agriculture in the future (RAE, 2009). The agricultural technology sector anticipates that synthetic biology will lead to greater productivity, profitability, and sustainability by increasing, for example: crop water productivity; nitrogen use efficiency; yields; pest, disease, and drought resistance; and the quality, quantity, and processing characteristics of agricultural products Dunbar, 2011). However, as with current methods of transgenic manipulation, concerns relating to the safety and health impacts of synthetic biology will need to be responsibly and carefully addressed (RAE, 2009). (print version pp. 134-5)

Surely they could have found a more recent reference than 2009. I don’t disagree with the overall assessment of synthetic biology but I think they were a bit miserly to confine themselves to a single paragraph.

As for nanotechnologies,

5.11 Nanotechnologies

Nanotechnology applications are being developed for different agricultural uses including: the detection of pathogenic and parasitic organisms; sensing of environmental conditions and properties (such as humidity, soil moisture, and soil and groundwater contaminants); the controlled release of fertilizers and pesticides; improved water retention in soils and uptake by plants; drug delivery and improved nutrient utilization in livestock; degradation of organic contaminants; and water treatment (Kabiri et al., 2011; Knauer & Bucheli, 2009; Manimegalai et al., 2011; Thornton, 2010). Wireless nanosensors, for example, can be used in combination
with remote sensing and precision irrigation systems to greatly enhance WUE.

Nanoscale technologies for fertilizer and pesticide application can greatly reduce runoff and water contamination. Most nanotechnologies are still in their infancy, and associated risks and benefits must be carefully evaluated. Nonetheless, they represent a promising approach towards greater improvements in WUE (OECD, 2010). However, the potential for negative impacts of nanotechnologies on the environment and health needs to be researched (Knauer & Bucheli, 2009) and their application supported by risk assessment. (pp. 144-5; print version)

Not much attention paid to nanotechnology either, although they did manage to find some more recent references. I wonder why they didn’t organize the information about synthetic biology and nanotechnology  in a section on emerging technologies and discuss some of the implications and research  at more length. Certainly there’s a lot of interest and concern regarding nanotechnology impacts on agriculture and water.

I have two more items for this posting (to prove my point at least in part), one is about nanomaterials and fertilizer and the other one is about two UN organizations and their nanotechnology and water purification initiative.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has released a report about nanomaterials in soil fertilizers according to an April 26, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

Nanomaterials added to soil via fertilizers and treated sewage waste used to fertilize fields could threaten soil health necessary to keep land productive, says a new report released today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Peer-reviewed scientific research also indicates possible negative impacts of nano-fertilizers on public health and the food supply.

IATP’s report, Nanomaterials in Soil: Our Future Food Chain? (pdf), draws attention to the delicate soil food chain, including microbes and microfauna, that enable plant growth and produce new soil. Laboratory experiments have indicated that sub-molecular nanoparticles could damage beneficial soil microbes and the digestive systems of earthworms, essential engineers in maintaining soil health.

The IATP April 24, 2013 news release, which originated the news item,

Nanomaterials are advertised as a component of market-available fertilizers—designed to increase the effectiveness of fertilizers by making them the same size as plant and root pores—but because nanotechnology is an unregulated global industry, there is no pre-market safety assessment. Several researchers assume that nanomaterials are increasingly present in biosolids (also known as sewage sludge) used as fertilizer on about 60 percent of U.S. agricultural land. [emphasis mine]

“In light of published research, the Obama administration should institute an immediate moratorium on fertilizing with biosolids from sewage treatment plants near nanomaterial fabrication facilities. A moratorium would give researchers time to determine whether nanomaterials in soil can be made safe and to research alternatives to building soil heath, rather than depending on fertilization with biosolids.” says IATP’s Dr. Steve Suppan.

Over time, the report explains, nanomaterials in these agricultural inputs can accumulate and harm soil health. More research is urgently needed to adequately understand possible long-term impacts of nanotechnology.

“As agri-nanotechnology rapidly enters the market, can soil health and everything that depends on it can be sustained without regulation?” asks Suppan. “That’s the question regulators, researchers and anyone involved in our food system should be asking themselves.”

The report also details risks specific to farmers and farmworkers applying dried biosolids that incorporate nanomaterials, including inflammation of the lungs, fibrosis and other toxicological impacts.

With no regulatory system in place—in the U.S. or elsewhere—for producing, and selling nano-fertilizers, IATP’s report concludes by asking for governments to require robust technology assessments involving biological engineers, soil scientists, public health professionals, farmers and concerned citizens before allowing indiscriminate application by industry.

It seems to me IATP could have cited some facts, rather than assumptions,  in the news release, and perhaps even referenced a study or two relative to their claim of risks “specific to farmers and farmworkers applying dried biosolids that incorporate nanomaterials, including inflammation of the lungs, fibrosis and other toxicological impacts.” I have looked at the report briefly and there is some interesting and valuable research in there although I haven’t looked closely enough to see if any of it supports the claims in their news release.  I suspect not since they usually trumpet those findings and numbers loudly.

As for the two UN agencies and their water purification and nanotechnology initiative, this May 31, 2013 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Culture Organization) news release explains,

Providing access to clean water is one of the most pressing challenges in developing countries. Lack of access to safe drinking water impacts the lives and well-being of millions of people, whereas non-existent, or inadequate, wastewater treatment is threatening the quality of water resources, as well as ecosystems that we depend on.  Conventional water purification and wastewater treatment technologies often require large infrastructure, high initial capital investment, and considerable operating costs associated with the use of energy and chemicals.

What is the potential that nanotechnology holds to address these water problems?   What nanotechnologies offer the most immediate promise in water purification and wastewater treatment? Which areas of water use are in the largest need of a technological upgrade and innovation?

These were the main questions raised by a joint UNESCO-UNIDO  session on “Nanotechnology Applications in Water Purification and Wastewater Treatment”, which was the kick-off event of cooperation between UNESCO and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which the two organizations have recently embarked on in the area of nanotechnology for clean water in developing countries.

Under this cooperation, the two organizations will work together on a number of joint activities to explore the potential of nanotechnology in water purification and wastewater treatment, as an emerging technology that may provide sustainable and innovative solutions to reach the Millennium Development Goals on safe drinking water and basic sanitation, as well as to contribute towards the post-2015 development agenda and future Sustainable Development Goals.  Complementing ongoing activities of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme aimed at promoting water sciences, the cooperation with the Investment and Technology Unit of UNIDO brings a perspective on how advances in emerging technological developments, such as those in nanotechnology, can be utilized to enhance existing solutions to water problems and make a paradigm shift in water treatment systems, as industrial applications of nanotechnology are expanding rapidly.

Experts participating in the session presented research findings on promising nanotechnology applications in water such as improved membrane technologies, removal of bacteria and other pollutants, including pharmaceuticals and trace contaminants, water quality monitoring, remediation of polluted water systems, greater wastewater reuse, desalinization, as well as less-water intensive agriculture.  The session did not focus on the optimistic technological aspect alone.   Discussions touched upon also on how to draw the line between opportunities and challenges that limit nanotechnology applications in water.

The session emphasized the need for a balanced approach to nanotechnology applications in water and underlined the risks associated with toxicology and wider impacts on human health and the environment as of importance for further deliberations given that water is a basic human need and integral to health and well-being.  Another issue of consideration was ethical issues of nanotechnology applications in water that arise from uncertainties related to environmental and health risks. Participants of the session also shared experiences on community engagement in making nanotechnologies relevant to local needs by presenting an example of using nanotechnology to provide clean water in a school in a developing country village.

Given these recent doings with IATP and UNIDO/UNESCO, I was truly surprised at how little attention the CCA paid to nanotechnologies and, by extension, the other emerging technologies.

Memories, science, archiving, and authenticity

This is going to be one of my more freewheeling excursions into archiving and memory. I’ll be starting with  a movement afoot in the US government to give citizens open access to science research moving onto a network dedicated to archiving nanoscience- and nanotechnology-oriented information, examining the notion of authenticity in regard to the Tiananmen Square incident on June 4, 1989, and finishing with the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution.

In his June 4, 2013 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog, David Bruggeman features information and an overview of  the US Office of Science and Technology Policy’s efforts to introduce open access to science research for citizens (Note: Links have been removed),

Back in February, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum to federal science agencies on public access for research results.  Federal agencies with over $100 million in research funding have until August 22 to submit their access plans to OSTP.  This access includes research publications, metadata on those publications, and underlying research data (in a digital format).

A collection of academic publishers, including the Association of American Publishers and the organization formerly known as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science), has offered a proposal for a publishing industry repository for pubic access to federally funded research that they publish.

David provides a somewhat caustic perspective on the publishers’ proposal while Jocelyn Kaiser’s June 4, 2013 article for ScienceInsider details the proposal in more detail (Note: Links have been removed),

Organized in part by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which represents many commercial and nonprofit journals, the group calls its project the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS). In a fact sheet that AAP gave to reporters, the publishers describe CHORUS as a “framework” that would “provide a full solution for agencies to comply with the OSTP memo.”

As a starting point, the publishers have begun to index papers by the federal grant numbers that supported the work. That index, called FundRef, debuted in beta form last week. You can search by agency and get a list of papers linked to the journal’s own websites through digital object identifiers (DOIs), widely used ID codes for individual papers. The pilot project involved just a few agencies and publishers, but many more will soon join FundRef, says Fred Dylla, executive director of the American Institute of Physics. (AAAS, which publishes ScienceInsider, is among them and has also signed on to CHORUS.)

The next step is to make the full-text papers freely available after agencies decide on embargo dates, Dylla says. (The OSTP memo suggests 12 months but says that this may need to be adjusted for some fields and journals.) Eventually, the full CHORUS project will also allow searches of the full-text articles. “We will make the corpus available for anybody’s search tool,” says Dylla, who adds that search agreements will be similar to those that publishers already have with Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search.

I couldn’t find any mention in Kaiser’s article as to how long the materials would be available. Is this supposed to be an archive, as well as, a repository? Regardless, I found the beta project, FundRef, a little confusing. The link from the ScienceInsider article takes you to this May 28, 2013 news release,

FundRef, the funder identification service from CrossRef [crossref.org], is now available for publishers to contribute funding data and for retrieval of that information. FundRef is the result of collaboration between funding agencies and publishers that correlates grants and other funding with the scholarly output of that support.

Publishers participating in FundRef add funding data to the bibliographic metadata they already provide to CrossRef for reference linking. FundRef data includes the name of the funder and a grant or award number. Manuscript tracking systems can incorporate a taxonomy of 4000 global funder names, which includes alternate names, aliases, and abbreviations enabling authors to choose from a standard list of funding names. Then the tagged funding data will travel through publishers’ production systems to be stored at CrossRef.

I was hoping that clicking on the FundRef button would take me to a database that I could test or tour. At this point, I wouldn’t have described the project as being at the beta stage (from a user’s perspective) as they are still building it and gathering data. However, there is lots of information on the FundRef webpage including an Additional Resources section featuring a webinar,

Attend an Introduction to FundRef Webinar – Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 11:00 am EDT

You do need to sign up for the webinar. Happily, it is open to international participants, as well as, US participants.

Getting back to my question on whether or not this effort is also an archive of sorts, there is a project closer to home (nanotechnologywise, anyway) that touches on these issues from an unexpected perspective, from the Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies in Society (NETS); sharing research and learning tools About webpage,

The Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies in Society: Sharing Research and Learning Tools (NETS) is an IMLS-funded [Institute of Museum and Library Services] project to investigate the development of a disciplinary repository for the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) of nanoscience and emerging technologies research. NETS partners will explore future integration of digital services for researchers studying ethical, legal, and social implications associated with the development of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies.

NETS will investigate digital resources to advance the collection, dissemination, and preservation of this body of research,  addressing the challenge of marshaling resources, academic collaborators, appropriately skilled data managers, and digital repository services for large-scale, multi-institutional and disciplinary research projects. The central activity of this project involves a spring 2013 workshop that will gather key researchers in the field and digital librarians together to plan the development of a disciplinary repository of data, curricula, and methodological tools.

Societal dimensions research investigating the impacts of new and emerging technologies in nanoscience is among the largest research programs of its kind in the United States, with an explicit mission to communicate outcomes and insights to the public. By 2015, scholars across the country affiliated with this program will have spent ten years collecting qualitative and quantitative data and developing analytic and methodological tools for examining the human dimensions of nanotechnology. The sharing of data and research tools in this field will foster a new kind of social science inquiry and ensure that the outcomes of research reach public audiences through multiple pathways.

NETS will be holding a stakeholders workshop June 27 – 28, 2013 (invite only), from the workshop description webpage,

What is the value of creating a dedicated Nano ELSI repository?
The benefits of having these data in a shared infrastructure are: the centralization of research and ease of discovery; uniformity of access; standardization of metadata and the description of projects; and facilitation of compliance with funder requirements for data management going forward. Additional benefits of this project will be the expansion of data curation capabilities for data repositories into the nanotechnology domain, and research into the development of disciplinary repositories, for which very little literature exists.

What would a dedicated Nano ELSI repository contain?
Potential materials that need to be curated are both qualitative and quantitative in nature, including:

  • survey instruments, data, and analyses
  • interview transcriptions and analyses
  • images or multimedia
  • reports
  • research papers, books, and their supplemental data
  • curricular materials

What will the Stakeholder Workshop accomplish?
The Stakeholder Workshop aims to bring together the key researchers and digital librarians to draft a detailed project plan for the implementation of a dedicated Nano ELSI repository. The Workshop will be used as a venue to discuss questions such as:

  • How can a repository extend research in this area?
  • What is the best way to collect all the research in this area?
  • What tools would users envision using with this resource?
  • Who should maintain and staff a repository like this?
  • How much would a repository like this cost?
  • How long will it take to implement?

What is expected of Workshop participants?
The workshop will bring together key researchers and digital librarians to discuss the requirements for a dedicated Nano ELSI repository. To inform that discussion, some participants will be requested to present on their current or past research projects and collaborations. In addition, workshop participants will be enlisted to contribute to the draft of the final project report and make recommendations for the implementation plan.

While my proposal did not get accepted (full disclosure), I do look forward to hearing more about the repository although I notice there’s no mention made of archiving the materials.

The importance of repositories and archives was brought home to me when I came across a June 4, 2013 article by Glyn Moody for Techdirt about the Tiananmen Square incident and subtle and unsubtle ways of censoring access to information,

Today is June 4th, a day pretty much like any other day in most parts of the world. But in China, June 4th has a unique significance because of the events that took place in Tiananmen Square on that day in 1989.

Moody recounts some of the ways in which people have attempted to commemorate the day online while evading the authorities’ censorship efforts. Do check out the article for the inside scoop on why ‘Big Yellow Duck’ is a censored term. One of the more subtle censorship efforts provides some chills (from the Moody article),

… according to this article in the Wall Street Journal, it looks like the Chinese authorities are trying out a new tactic for handling this dangerous topic:

On Friday, a China Real Time search for “Tiananmen Incident” did not return the customary message from Sina informing the user that search results could not be displayed due to “relevant laws, regulations and policies.” Instead the search returned results about a separate Tiananmen incident that occurred on Tomb Sweeping Day in 1976, when Beijing residents flooded the area to protest after they were prevented from mourning the recently deceased Premiere [sic] Zhou Enlai.

This business of eliminating and substituting a traumatic and disturbing historical event with something less contentious reminded me both of the saying ‘history is written by the victors’ and of Luciana Duranti and her talk titled, Trust and Authenticity in the Digital Environment: An Increasingly Cloudy Issue, which took place in Vancouver (Canada) last year (mentioned in my May 18, 2012 posting).

Duranti raised many, many issues that most of us don’t consider when we blithely store information in the ‘cloud’ or create blogs that turn out to be repositories of a sort (and then don’t know what to do with them; ça c’est moi). She also previewed a Sept. 26 – 28, 2013 conference to be hosted in Vancouver by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation.” (UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme hosts a number of these themed conferences and workshops.)

The Sept. 2013 UNESCO ‘memory of the world’ conference in Vancouver seems rather timely in retrospect. The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) announced that Dr. Doug Owram would be chairing their Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution assessment (mentioned in my Feb. 22, 2013 posting; scroll down 80% of the way) and, after checking recently, I noticed that the Expert Panel has been assembled and it includes Duranti. Here’s the assessment description from the CCA’s ‘memory institutions’ webpage,

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 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.

Question

How might memory institutions embrace the opportunities and challenges posed by the changing ways in which Canadians are communicating and working in the digital age?

Sub-questions

With the use of new communication technologies, what types of records are being created and how are decisions being documented?
How is information being safeguarded for usefulness in the immediate to mid-term across technologies considering the major changes that are occurring?
How are memory institutions addressing issues posed by new technologies regarding their traditional roles in assigning value, respecting rights, and assuring authenticity and reliability?
How can memory institutions remain relevant as a trusted source of continuing information by taking advantage of the collaborative opportunities presented by new social media?

From the Expert Panel webpage (go there for all the links), here’s a complete listing of the experts,

Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution

Dr. Doug Owram, FRSC, Chair
Professor and Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus (Kelowna, BC)

Sebastian Chan     Director of Digital and Emerging Media, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (New York, NY)

C. Colleen Cook     Trenholme Dean of Libraries, McGill University (Montréal, QC)

Luciana Duranti   Chair and Professor of Archival Studies, the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

Lesley Ellen Harris     Copyright Lawyer; Consultant, Author, and Educator; Owner, Copyrightlaws.com (Washington, D.C.)

Kate Hennessy     Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts and Technology (Surrey, BC)

Kevin Kee     Associate Vice-President Research (Social Sciences and Humanities) and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, Brock University (St. Catharines, ON)

Slavko Manojlovich     Associate University Librarian (Information Technology), Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. John’s, NL)

David Nostbakken     President/CEO of Nostbakken and Nostbakken, Inc. (N + N); Instructor of Strategic Communication and Social Entrepreneurship at the School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University (Ottawa, ON)

George Oates     Art Director, Stamen Design (San Francisco, CA)

Seamus Ross     Dean and Professor, iSchool, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

Bill Waiser, SOM, FRSC     Professor of History and A.S. Morton Distinguished Research Chair, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)

Barry Wellman, FRSC     S.D. Clark Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

I notice they have a lawyer whose specialty is copyright, Lesley Ellen Harris. I did check out her website, copyrightlaws.com and could not find anything that hinted at any strong opinions on the topic. She seems to feel that copyright is a good thing but how far she’d like to take this is a mystery to me based on the blog postings I viewed.

I’ve also noticed that this panel has 13 people, four of whom are women which equals a little more (June 5, 2013, 1:35 pm PDT, I substituted the word ‘less’ for the word ‘more’; my apologies for the arithmetic error) than 25% representation. That’s a surprising percentage given how heavily weighted the fields of library and archival studies are weighted towards women.

I have meandered somewhat but my key points are this:

  • How we are going to keep information available? It’s all very well to have repository but how long will the data be kept in the repository and where does it go afterwards?
  • There’s a bias certainly with the NETS workshop and, likely, the CCA Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution toward institutions as the source for information that’s worth keeping for however long or short a time that should be. What about individual efforts? e.g. Don’t Leave Canada Behind ; FrogHeart; Techdirt; The Last Word on Nothing, and many other blogs?
  • The online redirection of Tiananmen Square incident queries is chilling but I’ve often wondered what happen if someone wanted to remove ‘objectionable material’ from an e-book, e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird. A new reader wouldn’t notice the loss if the material has been excised in a subtle or professional  fashion.

As for how this has an impact on science, it’s been claimed that Isaac Newton attempted to excise Robert Hooke from history (my Jan. 19, 2012 posting). Whether it’s true or not, there is remarkably little about Robert Hooke despite his accomplishments and his languishment is a reminder that we must always take care that we retain our memories.

ETA June 6, 2013: David Bruggeman added some more information links about CHORUS in his June 5, 2013 post (On The Novelty Of Corporate-Government Partnership In STEM Education),

Before I dive into today’s post, a brief word about CHORUS. Thanks to commenter Joe Kraus for pointing me to this Inside Higher Ed post, which includes a link to the fact sheet CHORUS organizers distributed to reporters. While there are additional details, there are still not many details to sink one’s teeth in. And I remain surprised at the relative lack of attention the announcement has received. On a related note, nobody who’s been following open access should be surprised by Michael Eisen’s reaction to CHORUS.

I encourage you to check out David’s post as he provides some information about a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) collaboration between the US National Science Foundation and companies such as GE and Intel.

NanoForArt in Mexico

Mexico recently hosted (Feb. 7 – 8, 2013) a pair of conferences focused on nanotechnology and art conservation. The country is part of an international consortium in the European Commision’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), NanoForArt project. Before mentioning the conference, here’s a little information about the NanoForArt project from its homepage,

The main objective of the NANOFORART proposal is the development and experimentation of new nano-materials and responsive systems for the conservation and preservation of movable and immovable artworks. [emphasis mine]

While the progress in material science has generated sophisticated nanostructured materials, conservation of cultural heritage is still mainly based on traditional methods and conventional materials that often lack the necessary  compatibility with the original artworks and a durable performance in responding to the changes of natural environment and man-made activities.

The main challenge of NANOFORART is the combination of sophisticated functional materials arising from the recent developments in nano-science/technology with innovative techniques in the restoration and preventive conservation of works of art, with unprecedented efficiency.

Immovable artworks tend to be things like cave art, frescoes, and other forms of wall and rock art. The Feb. 2013 conferences in Mexico as per a Feb. 27, 2013 Agencia EFE news item on the Global Post website featured (Note: Links have been removed),

Baglioni [Piero Baglioni, a researcher and professor at the University of Florence] and Dr. Rodorico Giorgi, also of the University of Florence, traveled to Mexico earlier this month to preside over a conference on Nanotechnology applied to cultural heritage: wall paintings/cellulose, INAH [Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia] said.

The project includes specialists from Italy, Spain, Britain, France, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Germany,  Slovenia and Mexico and is coordinated by the CSGI center [Center for Colloids and Surface Science] at the University of Florence.

NANONFORART is set to conclude in December 2014 with the “validation of the technology and the methods developed, as well as training activities,” INAH said.

Until now, preservation of cultural treasures has been carried out using conventional materials that are often incompatible with the works and can, over time, alter the appearance of the object.

Baglioni has worked with INAH personnel to clean and restore pre-Columbian murals at the Cacaxtla, Cholula, Tlatelolco, Mayapan, El Tajin, Monte Alban and Teotihuacan sites.

I have mentioned Baglioni’s work in Mexico previously in a Sept. 20, 2010 posting about  some work at La Antigua Ciudad Maya de Calakmul, an archaeological site which is located in the Campeche state.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many details about the conferences, the Feb. 7, 2013 conference sported the previously noted title (in the Agencia EFE news item), Nanotechnology Applied to Cultural Heritage: Wall Paintings/Cellulose, and the Feb. 8, 2013 conference was titled, Nanotechnology for the Cleaning of Cultural Heritage.

There’s more information about nanotechnology aspects on the NanoForArt Overall page (Note: Links have been removed),

The work plan will start with design and formulation of nanostructured systems with special functionalities (WP1) such as deacidification of movable artworks (paper, parchment, canvas, leather), cleaning of movable artworks (paper, parchment, canvas paintings), protection of movable artworks (paper, canvas), consolidation of immovable artworks (wall-paintings, plaster and stones), and cleaning of immovable artworks (wallpaintings, plaster and stones). These systems, whose formulation will be optimized according to their functions, will include microemulsions, micellar solutions, gels and dispersions of different kinds of nanoparticles. A physico-chemical characterization of the developed materals (WP2) will constantly support the formulation activity. This will allow to understand and control the nature of interaction mechanisms between these nanostructures and the target substances/supports.

Assessment of the applicability of materials (WP3) will start in the second half of the first year. In this phase the up-scale of the technologies from the laboratory to the market level will be tackled. All the partners will interact in order to clarify and merge the priority from all the points of view. Evaluation of possible human health effects and environmental impacts of developed nanomaterials for restoration (WP7) will also start in the second half of the first year. Special emphasis will be given to potential hazardousness of nanoparticles used for design and formulation of nanostructured systems, as well as environmental impacts associated with the use of these nano-based products.

Nanotechnology developed by NANOFORART will aim also to significantly reduce the use of harmful solvents, as well as to introduce new environmentally friendly nanomaterials. Once the applicability and safety of the developed materials will be assessed, the development of industry process (WP4, WP5) will start in order to transfer technology on the market by the standardization of the applicative protocols and production of the nanomaterials on medium and large scale. Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) partners will have their main competence in this phase, that should start at the beginning of the second year. Safety and health risks of the industry processes will be also assessed. At the end of the first year, a study of the long-term behavior of the products and of the treated works of art (WP6) will be started by means of artificial ageing, in order to avoid damages due to unforeseen phenomena. The partners will have their main competence in ageing, monitoring of environmental pollution, and control of exhibitions and museums conditions.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

The aspect I find most interesting is the ‘immovable art’. There was a controversy in Spain in 2011 over the prospect of opening some caves to tourists, from the Oct. 26, 2011 news item on ScienceDaily,

Plans to reopen Spain’s Altamira caves are stirring controversy over the possibility that tourists’ visits will further damage the 20,000-year old wall paintings that changed views about the intellectual ability of prehistoric people. That’s the topic of an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. The caves are the site of Stone Age paintings so magnificent that experts have called them the “Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art.”

Carmen Drahl, C&EN associate editor, points out in the article that Spanish officials closed the tourist mecca to the public in 2002 after scientists realized that visitors were fostering growth of bacteria that damage the paintings. Now, however, they plan to reopen the caves. Declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Altamira’s rock paintings of animals and human hands made scientists realize that Stone Age people had intellectual capabilities far greater than previously believed.

You can find an Oct. 6, 2011 piece about the Altamira rock paintings by Drahl titled, Keeping Visitors Out To Keep Cave Paintings Safe, on the Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) blog. For anyone interested in more about rock art, there’s a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Rock Archives project or, as they call them, activity,

Due to their long sequence chronology, susceptibility to climate changes and vandalism, rock art sites are also among the most vulnerable on the World Heritage List.

Rock art, in the form of paintings and engravings, is a clear and lasting evidence of the transmission of human thoughts and beliefs through art and graphic representations. It functions as a repository of memory, enabling each culture to speak about themselves and their origins in all geographical settings.

I have two more items on cave art. The first is a piece I’ve been wanting to feature for almost two years. It’s an article on Slate by John Jeremiah Sullivan dated March 21, 2011 and titled, America’s Ancient Cave Art
Deep in the Cumberland Plateau, mysterious drawings, thousands of years old, offer a glimpse of lost Native American cultures and traditions. It’s an excerpt of an essay Sullivan wrote for the Paris Review. A fascinating exploration of a cave system that isn’t nearly as well known as France’s Lascaux Caves, here’s a snippet,

Over the past few decades, in Tennessee, archaeologists have unearthed an elaborate cave­-art tradition thousands of years old. The pictures are found in dark­ zone sites—places where the Native American people who made the artwork did so at personal risk, crawling meters or, in some cases, miles underground with cane torches—as opposed to sites in the “twilight zone,” speleologists’ jargon for the stretch, just beyond the entry chamber, which is exposed to diffuse sunlight. A pair of local hobby cavers, friends who worked for the U.S. Forest Service, found the first of these sites in 1979. They’d been exploring an old root cellar and wriggled up into a higher passage. The walls were covered in a thin layer of clay sediment left there during long­ ago floods and maintained by the cave’s unchanging temperature and humidity. The stuff was still soft. It looked at first as though someone had finger­-painted all over, maybe a child—the men debated even saying anything. But the older of them was a student of local history. He knew some of those images from looking at drawings of pots and shell ornaments that emerged from the fields around there: bird men, a dancing warrior figure, a snake with horns. Here were naturalistic animals, too: an owl and turtle. Some of the pictures seemed to have been first made and then ritually mutilated in some way, stabbed or beaten with a stick.

That was the discovery of Mud Glyph Cave, which was reported all over the world and spawned a book and a National Geographic article. No one knew quite what to make of it at the time. The cave’s “closest parallel,” reported the Christian Science Monitor, “may be caves in the south of France which contain Ice Age art.” A team of scholars converged on the site.

The sites range from Missouri to Virginia, and from Wisconsin to Florida, but the bulk lie in Middle Tennessee. Of those, the greater number are on the Cumberland Plateau, which runs at a southwest slant down the eastern part of the state, like a great wall dividing the Appalachians from the interior.

If you do decide to read the excerpt, you may want to reserve 30 to 45 minutes (at least).

For the last tidbit, here’s an introduction to TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Fellow, Genevieve von Petzinger’s work on cave art,

Genevieve von Petzinger’s [from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada] database of prehistoric geometric shapes in cave art reveals some startling insights. More than mere doodles, the signs used across geological boundaries suggest there may have been a common iconography before people first moved out of Africa. When did people begin graphic communication, and what was its purpose? Genevieve studies these questions of our common heritage.

A very interesting interview follows that introduction.

As I more often cover movable art, I thought it was time to devote, again, at least part of a posting to immovable art.

Memory of the world

The fact that UNESCO will be holding its International Conference: “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation” in Vancouver (Canada), Sept. 26 – 28, 2012 was one of the many snippets of information that Luciana Duranti, Chair and Professor at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, passed on during her talk on Thursday, May 17, 2012 in Vancouver.

Organized by ARPICO (Society of Italian Researchers and Professionals in Western Canada), Duranti’s talk Trust and Authenticity in the Digital Environment: An Increasingly Cloudy Issue, first delved into definitions of trust, authenticity and cloud computing before focusing on the issues presented by storing our data on the  ‘cloud’. As Duranti noted, this is a return, of sorts, to the 60s and its mainframe environment.  However, unlike the 60s our data is not stored on one server, it may be split amongst many servers in many countries making our data quite vulnerable. For example, different laws in different countries means you can lose data if the legal situation changes as it did in the US recently.  According to Duranti (as best as I can recall), one of Megaupload’s servers has been shut down in the state of Virginia because of a problem with data from one business. Unfortunately, all of the data held there was also destroyed.

On investigating this further, I found a more general discussion of the situation with Megaupload on Techdirt (May 1, 2012 posting by Mike Masnick) which highlights law professor Eric Goldman’s extraordinary indictment of the government’s action in his April 20, 2012 posting, excerpt of 2nd point,

2) Taking Megaupload offline. Megaupload’s website is analogous to a printing press that constantly published new content. Under our Constitution, the government can’t simply shut down a printing press, but that’s basically what our government did when it turned Megaupload off and seized all of the assets. Not surprisingly, shutting down a printing press suppresses countless legitimate content publications by legitimate users of Megaupload. Surprisingly (shockingly, even), the government apparently doesn’t care about this “collateral,” entirely foreseeable and deeply unconstitutional effect. The government’s further insistence that all user data, even legitimate data, should be destroyed is even more shocking. Destroying the evidence not only screws over the legitimate users, but it may make it impossible for Megaupload to mount a proper defense. It’s depressing our government isn’t above such cheap tricks in its zeal to win.

As Masnick notes on Techdirt,

The more we hear and see about the government’s case against Megaupload, it really appears that the government was relying almost entirely on the fact that Megaupload looked bad. It’s hard to deny that there were plenty of things that Kim (in particular) [CEO Kim Dotcom] did that makes him appear pretty obnoxious. But being a crass showoff doesn’t automatically make you a criminal.

The Jan. 19, 2012 article by Nate Anderson for Ars Technica seems more sympathetic to the government’s position, initially,

The US government dropped a nuclear bomb on “cyberlocker” site Megaupload today, seizing its domain names, grabbing $50 million in assets, and getting New Zealand police to arrest four of the site’s key employees, including enigmatic founder Kim Dotcom. In a 72-page indictment unsealed in a Virginia federal court, prosecutors charged that the site earned more than $175 million since its founding in 2005, most of it based on copyright infringement.

As for the site’s employees, they were paid lavishly and they spent lavishly. Even the graphic designer, 35-year-old Slovakian resident Julius Bencko, made more than $1 million in 2010 alone.

The indictment goes after six individuals, who between them owned 14 Mercedes-Benz automobiles with license plates such as “POLICE,” “MAFIA,” “V,” “STONED,” “CEO,” “HACKER,” GOOD,” “EVIL,” and—perhaps presciently—”GUILTY.” The group also had a 2010 Maserati, a 2008 Rolls-Royce, and a 1989 Lamborghini. They had not one but three Samsung 83″ TVs, and two Sharp 108″ TVs. Someone owned a “Predator statue.” …

Yet the indictment seems odd in some ways. When Viacom made many of the same charges against YouTube, it didn’t go to the government and try to get Eric Schmidt or Chad Hurley arrested.

Anderson mentions that Megaupload had 525 servers in Virginia state and many more around the world. (I’m not sure why Duranti stated that one server had been shut down in Virginia but perhaps she was using it as an example to demonstrate what happens when just one server is shut down.) Regardless of whether it’s one server or 525 , I’m with Eric Goldman when he points out that destroying legitimate data is shocking.

Duranti’s talk was illuminating and I look forward to hearing more about these issues when the UNESCO conference takes place here in Vancouver next September. From the conference news webpage,

Digital information has economic value as a cultural product and as a source of knowledge. It plays a major role in national sustainable development as, increasingly, personal, governmental and commercial information is created in digital form only. But digitized national assets also constitute an immense wealth of the countries concerned and of society at large. The disappearance of this heritage will engender economic and cultural impoverishment and hamper the advancement of knowledge.

Ensuring digital continuity of content can only be overcome if a range of legal, technological, social, financial, political and other obstacles are addressed. The Vancouver Conference therefore seeks to achieve:

  • the launch of specific initiatives related to digital preservation and to the fostering of access to documentary heritage through digitization;
  • the revision of the UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage;
  • the identification of the legal frameworks and solutions to facilitate long-term digital preservation;
  • the agreement on the promotion and/or development of exchange standards;
  • the definition of the respective roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders and elaboration of a cooperation model.

I have mentioned Duranti and issues relating to digitization and archives before (March 8, 2012 posting: Digital disaster).

“Occupy” Science for the 21st century

Colin Macilwain‘s Nov. 23, 2011 column, Science’s attitudes must reflect a world in crisis, for Nature reminded me of the “Occupy” movement and ‘the 99% who are effectively supporting 1% of the population. Excerpted from Macilwain’s Nov. 23, 2011 column,

At the World Science Forum in Budapest last week, some scientific leaders finally acknowledged the new reality. In particular, representatives of developing countries — which account for a fast-growing share of global science — talked of radical reorientation of research priorities to better match the pressing needs of their populations. And behind the scenes, analysts are mapping out fascinating, and sometimes alarming, possible scenarios for global science after the crash.

Questions were soon raised, however, when Princess Sumaya bint el Hassan of Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society captured the mood of the developing world. “We must ask ourselves why so much scientific research is driven by the consumer needs of a tiny elite,” she said. “We’re being naive if we envisage business-as-usual for science in the new century.”

Apparently, the International Council for Science (ICSU) has been conducting a foresight exercise led by Dr. John Mark s. From the presentation description on the World Science Forum 2011 programme speakers page,

Dr. John Marks is an independent science policy consultant and research manager. Recent assignments include the interim directorship of the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis and Chair of the international review panel of the research of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. He is Chair of the ICSU Taskforce on Foresight, a member of the Netherlands UNESCO Committee and a member of the Board of the Netherlands space research organisation SRON.

In the current foresight a scenario approach is used to define four world views differing in economic, social, political, and environmental context and with different positions of science. These worlds lead to different challenges and consequences for international collaboration in science.
ICSU’s global multi-disciplinary membership composed of professional scientific societies and national academies of science, as well as its partners and stakeholders, have been engaged through consultations. The aim was to solicit viewpoints and, ultimately, buy‐in on the organization’s future direction. The collection and analysis of potential key drivers and creation of exploratory scenarios is designed also to assist ICSU Members and others in their own strategic thinking.
Using these insights, ICSU is designing a ‘success scenario’ to imagine how the international science landscape would look if it is optimally serving the needs of societies across the globe; to consider what actions ICSU and other actors would need to take to realise this; and to test the plausibility and  robustness of such actions.

According to Macilwain, these were the four scenarios presented (from Macilwain’s Nov. 23, 2011 column),

The first and most sunny, with more globalization and high engagement, would see a series of positive outcomes, including much more interdisciplinary research. The second — more globalization but low engagement — is rather like what we had before the crash, only worse. The ICSU PowerPoint slide for this showed bunches of vainglorious yuppies with mobile phones and portable computers, doubtless creating more gizmos and expensive drugs that most people in the world can’t afford. The third scenario would have more nationalism, with high engagement. That might create a series of little Denmarks pulling away from each other to deal with their own problems, with their own research strategies and regulatory regimes.

Finally, and most ominously, there’s more nationalism, with less engagement. This predicts old-fashioned, stick-to-your-knitting, single-discipline science, aligned with resurgent nationalism.

The ICSU foresight exercise will be completed in February 2012.

The 2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference (Nov. 16-18, 2011) was being held at roughly the same time as the World Science Forum 2011 (Nov. 16-19, 2011) and it is tempting to consider the new political interest being shown by scientists in Canada as being reflective of an international movement.

I’m not sure that notion stands up to scrutiny since the World Science Forum was first convened in 1999 and has been convened bianually since. From the History page,

In convening a World Conference on Science for the Twenty-First Century: a New Commitment, from 26 June to 1 July 1999 in Budapest, Hungary, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU), in co-operation with other partners, initiated a unique forum for a much-needed debate between the scientific community and society.
Inspired by the success of the World Conference on Science, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in partnership with UNESCO, ICSU and AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science] established a series of follow-up events called World Science Forum, taking place biannually in Budapest.
During the three days of each Forum over 500 scientists, decision-makers from the world of politics, industry, representatives of the civil society and the media express their views on the new challenges facing science in the 21st century. Participants from almost 100 countries convene every second year on and around World Science Day, the 10th of November – a day dedicated to science by UNESCO. To commemorate this day, the UNESCO Science Prizes are awarded here at World Science Forum.

The 2011 event is a beginning of a new era in the history of World Science Forum. In order to distribute the achievements of this enterprise and to make it a true world event, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences with the consent of UNESCO, ICSU, and AAAS has proposed to change the format of WSF so that it is organised on every second occasion in a partner country. What with the welcome offer of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences it has been decided that the 2013 World Science Forum will be organized in Rio de Janeiro.

The question I have is this, are Canadian scientists even asking some of the questions that are being considered on the international stage (even with Macilwain’s misgivings)?

UNESCO and nanotechnology/nanoscience

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has awarded another of its medals for nanoscience and nanotechnologies (I first wrote about this medal in my November 11, 2010 posting when it was awarded to “Russian Academician Zhores Ivanovich Alferov, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics; and Chunli Bai, Professor of Chemistry at the Laboratory of Molecular Nanostructure and Nanotechnology in Beijing and Executive Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.”

This time the award has gone to Victor Bykov. From the April 12, 2011 news item on Azonano,

Director General of NT-MDT Co. Victor Bykov has been awarded by the UNESCO medal and a diploma for “Contribution to development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies”.

The UNESCO medal “Contribution to development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies” was established on the 1st of March 2010 in the framework of the theme “Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies” in the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS) published by UNESCO and EOLSS Publishers.

The medal is awarded by UNESCO Director General to representatives of nanoscience and nanotechnologies and scientific and public agencies, as well as politicians that contributed to the development of the above mentioned institutions in the spirit UNESCO’s priorities.

There sure seems to a strong Russian connection (from my Nov.11, 2010 posting),

The Medal was established at the initiative of the International Commission responsible for developing the Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies theme for the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)* published by UNESCO and EOLSS Publishers. This initiative was supported by the Russian Federation’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. The EOLSS constitutes one of the world’s biggest web-based archives as a trans-disciplinary science base for sustainable development.

It’s early days, not even six months since the launch for this award, so it’s a little difficult to do much more than to note an interesting coincidence.

While UNESCO gives out medals, it’s also holding meetings like this one, Meeting of the COMEST (World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology) Working Group on the Ethics of Nanotechnologies, which was held on April 27 and 28, 2011. Excerpted from the April 28, 2011 news article by Narab Khan for the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA),

The Working Group on the Ethics of Nanotechnologies which is part of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) is meeting in Brussels Wednesday and Thursday to examine the ethical dimension of Nanotechnolgies.

Alain Pompidou, President of COMEST, told a press conference here Wednesday that the body is composed of 18 members from all over the world representing different disciplines.

However, [the first concern is that] the rapid pace of development in Nanotechnolgoies is creating difficulties in the identification of and response to potential impacts, especially long term impacts.

Secondly, the science and technology are being driven by the wrong kind of interests, not in interest of humanity but in particular military interests, noted Crowley.

The military is the main supporters of nano research in many parts of the world especially in the US.

“There is a concern that the scientific research might be distorted by the search for specific military applications that might serve as a distraction from the focus of achieving the Millennium Development goals and putting science to work for the benefit of humankind as a whole,” warned the UNESCO official.

The third concern is that developing countries might be left behind by rapid new developments in science which might be regarded from the ethical point of view as unacceptable.

The fourth concern is risk-management of using nano-materials. They are in the shops and one might buy them without knowing it.

(It seems the Kuwait News Agency is the only one to report on this meeting.) This item served to pique my interest in UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology and so I’m providing this link so you can read more about them here. I’ve also found the agenda for the April 27 – 28, 2011 meeting of the Working Group on the Ethics of Nanotechnologies.

Five new laureates for the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards

There will be a ceremony in March 2011 to welcome the five women being hnoured with the 2011 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards. From the news item on Nanowerk,

More than 1,000 high-level scientists from around the world were involved in the nomination of the Awards’ candidates, who come from five continents. The International Awards Jury, comprised of 16 eminent members of the scientific community, and presided by Professor Ahmed Zewail, recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, then selected the five women researchers in the Physical Sciences as the Laureates of the 2011 Awards. Their pioneering projects contribute to finding solutions to major challenges for our planet.

Professor Faiza AL-KHARAFI
Professor of Chemistry, Kuwait University, Safat, KUWAIT

For her work on corrosion, a problem of fundamental importance to water treatment and the oil industry.

Born in Kuwait, Faiza Al-Kharafi earned a BSc degree from Am Shams University in Egypt before returning to Kuwait to pursue her MSc and PhD degrees from Kuwait University. She has filled in a number of teaching and research positions at the Kuwait University, including serving as the first female president of the university from 1993 to 2002. The first Kuwait-France Chemistry Symposium was held under her patronage in 2009, and she is currently Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.

Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM
Professor of Chemistry and Energy, The University of Hong Kong, CHINA

For her work on light-emitting materials and innovative ways of capturing solar energy.

Vivian Wing-Wah Yam was born in Hong Kong, where she pursued her university studies, obtaining her PhD at the University of Hong Kong. After two years at the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, she moved to the University of Hong Kong in 1990 where she became Professor in 1997 and Chair Professor in 1999. She was Head of Chemistry for 6 years from 2000 to 2005, and became the Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy in 2009 at the University of Hong Kong. She is an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, and has been awarded a Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) Centenary lectureship and medal.

Professor Anne L’HUILLIER
Professor of Atomic Physics, Lund University, SWEDEN

For her work on the development of the fastest camera for recording events in attoseconds (a billionth of a billionth of a second).

Anne L’Huillier obtained her PhD in Physical Sciences in France, the country of her birth, at the Université de Paris VI. After postdoctoral research in Sweden and the United States, she spent the years 1986-1995 as a researcher at the French Atomic Energy Commission. She then transferred to Lund Unversity, where she has been Professor Atomic Physics since 1997. She has received numerous awards, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Professor Silvia TORRES-PEIMBERT
Professor Emeritus, Institute of Astronomy, Mexico City University (UNAM), Mexico City, MEXICO

For her work on the chemical composition of nebulae which is fundamental to our understanding of the origin of the universe.

A native of Mexico, Silvia Torres-Peimbert obtained her PhD at the University of California Berkeley, USA. She then became Professor in the Faculty of Sciences and the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM. Today she is Emeritus Professor and since 2009 has been Coordinator of Physical, Mathematical and Engineering Sciences at the university. She is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, and is a past Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union.

Professor Jillian BANFIELD
Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, UNITED STATES

For her work on bacterial and material behaviour under extreme conditions relevant to the environment and the Earth.

Originally from Australia, Jillian Banfield received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Geology from the Australian National University. She subsequently completed a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science at Johns Hopkins University, USA. From 1990-2001 she was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since then she has been a professor at the University of California-Berkeley and an affiliate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, The Dana Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America, and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

Congratulations to all of the recipients! (Earlier this year I noted the L’Oréal Singapore for Women in Science Fellowships in my Sept. 2, 2010 posting as part of my informal series on women in science.)

UNESCO, science, and nanotechnology?

It’s funny how you can forget that acronyms are in fact abbreviations and that UNESCO, which I associate with children and culture [ETA Nov. 29, 2010: I appear to have briefly conflated this organization with UNICEF which focuses on children], stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. [emphasis mine] I was reminded of the science part of their mandate with the recent news of a new award. From the Nov. 4, 2010 news item on Azonano,

The first UNESCO Medals “For contributions to the development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies” were awarded on 2 November at Paris headquarters to two laureates: Russian Academician Zhores Ivanovich Alferov, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics; and Chunli Bai, Professor of Chemistry at the Laboratory of Molecular Nanostructure and Nanotechnology in Beijing and Executive Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The information (accompanied by a photograph featuring Irina Bokova [UNESCO Director-General] and Zhores Alferov [recipient able to attend in person])  is also available as a news item on the Nanowerk website. The reason this new medal/award has been established isn’t entirely clearly to me despite this description (from the news items),

The Medal was established at the initiative of the International Commission responsible for developing the Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies theme for the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)* published by UNESCO and EOLSS Publishers. This initiative was supported by the Russian Federation’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. The EOLSS constitutes one of the world’s biggest web-based archives as a trans-disciplinary science base for sustainable development.

Yesterday (November 10, 2010), UNESCO released its UNESCO Science Report; The Current Status of Science Around the World for 2010. This is the fifth report in the series with the next most recent report in the series being released in 2005. From the UNESCO website page for the report,

Europe, Japan and the USA (the Triad) may still dominate research and development (R&D) but they are increasingly being challenged by the emerging economies and above all by China. This is just one of the findings of the UNESCO Science Report 2010, which is being launched at UNESCO headquarters in Paris today [Nov. 10, 2010].

Written by a team of independent experts who are each covering the country or region from which they hail, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 analyses the trends and developments that have shaped scientific research, innovation and higher education over the past five years, including the impact of the current global economic recession, which has hit the Triad harder than either Brazil, China or India. The report depicts an increasingly competitive environment, one in which the flow of information, knowledge, personnel and investment has become a two-way traffic. Both China and India, for instance, are using their newfound economic might to invest in high-tech companies in Europe and elsewhere to acquire technological expertise overnight. Other large emerging economies are also spending more on research and development than before, among them Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

If more countries are participating in science, we are also seeing a shift in global influence. China is a hair’s breadth away from counting more researchers than either the USA or the European Union, for instance, and now publishes more scientific articles than Japan.

Even countries with a lesser scientific capacity are finding that they can acquire, adopt and sometimes even transform existing technology and thereby ‘leapfrog’ over certain costly investments, such as infrastructure like land lines for telephones. Technological progress is allowing these countries to produce more knowledge and participate more actively than before in international networks and research partnerships with countries in both North and South. This trend is fostering a democratization of science worldwide. In turn, science diplomacy is becoming a key instrument of peace-building and sustainable development in international relations.

I found the report thanks to Jenara Nerenberg’s article, USA to Soon Trail Developing Countries in R&D, Asia on the Rise: UNESCO Report, on the Fast Company website,

The United States has decreased its research and development (R&D) prowess and is increasingly threatened by the scientific capabilities and innovations of developing countries like India and China, indicates a UNESCO report released today. The UNESCO Science Report reveals that Asia has increased its global share of R&D to 32%, up from 27% in 2002, and the global share of R&D out of the EU, Japan, and the U.S. combined has decreased from 83% to 76%, though they remain the leader in number of yearly patents initiated.

The news is in line with recent Fast Company reporting about the decline of America’s competitiveness and dwindling quality of math and science education, as well as emerging “South-South” collaborations between India and African nations, especially in infrastructure development and vaccine research.The changing trends point to the ever-increasing role of India and China and to some extent South Africa in providing the world with leading scientific and technological discoveries.

Canada is also covered in the report. The author, Paul Dufour, is a Canadian science policy expert as per this contributor biography on The Mark website,

Mr. Dufour was most recently based at Natural Resources Canada, on executive interchange from the Canadian-based International Development Research Centre. He was previously the interim Executive Director at the former Office of the National Science Advisor in the federal Government advising on international S&T matters and broad questions of R&D directions for the country. He has a rich experience in addressing the interaction between science and international relations, especially in the context of research capacity with the developing world.

He has travelled extensively; he lectures regularly on science policy; he has authored numerous articles on international S&T relations and Canadian innovation policy. He is series co-editor of the Cartermill Guides to World Science and past North American editor to Outlook on Science Policy.

I have glanced through the report and it notes that Canada provides excellent support and gets correspondingly good results for academic science and that the practice of science research in the industrial sector is poorly supported by Canadian business interests (sometimes termed as a lack of business innovation). Happily, he does discuss the poverty of ‘science culture’  in Canada, albeit briefly,

Developing a science culture

In addition to the pursuit of priority-setting and the examination of its appropriate place in shaping future public policy and investment in innovation and R&D, other debates are emerging. These are centred on improving the science culture and outreach in the country, including by augmenting the participation of women and the Aboriginal population in the knowledge society (Dufour, 2009). Women account for 47% of the labour force and 57% of university graduates but only 20% of doctoral degrees awarded in science and engineering. Some of the responsibility for Canada’s deteriorating appreciation of the value of knowledge centres on its lack of a science culture in its widest form, both in the political realm and among certain segments of the population and research community. There is an antagonism here between what some have termed a ‘politically clueless research community versus a scientifically illiterate political class’. A Science Media Centre has been proposed to improve science communication within the media. Efforts are also under way at various science centres and museums across the country to strengthen public understanding. Events include a National Science and Technology Week and a major physics festival organized by the Perimeter Institute. Some provinces, especially in Quebec, have long-standing traditions and tools in support of science outreach, given the promotion of science in the French language. Overall, however, the science culture gap remains. The scientific communities must share some of the responsibility for this. Often poorly organized, with limited means of outreach and inadequate communication tools, the research lobbies are increasingly faced with having to make a better case for why the future of the country lies with more, rather than less, research and technology – innovation in its broadest sense.

The private sector is also struggling to be more effective in articulating its own needs and concerns over the lack of necessary resources and strategic vision. (p. 74, print & PDF)

I have a few nits to pick but not the time to do it. If you are interested, this chapter on Canada’s science provides a good overview of the national situation and how that compares globally.