Tag Archives: University of Guelph

Kick up your heels to the periodic table of elements sung to the sounds of the can-can (Offenbach’s Infernal Galop)

First the fun,

You may to want to check out Jennifer Miller’s May 20, 2013 Fast Company article about this effort where she highlights one of the cheekier illustrations in this periodic table of elements song from AsapSCIENCE (Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown).

I found out more about AsapSCIENCE and the duo (former classmates at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada) in a Sept. 18, 2012 article by Chase Hoffberger for the Daily Dot,

Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown are the two former University of Guelph classmates behind asapSCIENCE, a young but massively informative and entertaining YouTube channel that produces three-minute lessons on all the scientific questions that you actually want answered: “The Scientific Power of Naps.” …

“We’re trying to keep a balance of the things that people want to know as well as cool tidbits that people would never have any idea about,” Moffit, 23, told the Daily Dot from his home in Ontario, where he holds down production and most video voiceovers while Brown spends the year teaching science in England.

“We’re interested in inspiring people who maybe don’t know a lot about science and think of it as this hard subject in school,” Moffit said.

The perfect example’s “The Science of Orgasms,” which more than 380,000 people have viewed in the past week and comes packed with far more knowledge and insight than the time your dad tried to put a condom on a cucumber.

At the time of the Daily Dot article (Sept. 2012), AsapSCIENCE had been making videos for three months and already had more than 40,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel. After checking this morning (May 21, 2013), I see the channel has over 784,000 subscribers. Bravo!

I have written about the periodic table of elements before. This Feb. 8, 2012 posting features Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) singing Tom Lehrer’s classic Periodic Table of Elements song.

Canadian government withdraws from UN treaty, recycles old news, and undergoes a ‘muzzled’ science probe

Every once in a while, there’s a slew of announcements that seem to reveal a pattern of sorts with regard to political doings. In this case, I’m looking at three announcements about recent moves by the  Canadian Conservative government and which seem, to me, curiously interlinked.

First there was the announcement (CBC Mar. 27, 2013 news item) that Canada is withdrawing from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in those Countries Experiencing Severe Drought and/or Desertification (to become the only country in the world not party to it) and its annual commitment of $350,000. The CBC Mar. 28, 2013 news item provided more detail,

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said less than one-fifth of the $350,000 Canada contributes to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification goes to programming.

“This particular organization spends less than 20 per cent — 18 per cent — of the funds that we send it are actually spent on programming, the rest goes to various bureaucratic measures.That’s not an effective way to spend taxpayers’ money,” Harper told MPs during question period Thursday.

The Canadian Press reported Wednesday [Mar. 27, 2013?] the UN secretariat that administers the program was unaware of Canada’s decision until contacted by its reporter.

A spokesperson for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) [emphasis mine] told CBC News the head of the secretariat was informed of the decision on Monday [Mar. 25, 2013?], and written confirmation was delivered to the UN Secretary General’s office in New York the same day.

But a UN official in Bonn told CBC News that Canada notified the UN about its withdrawal “informally last week by telephone” and “this is not considered proper notification… or protocol.”

The proper protocol is to formally write to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York and formally provide a notice that Canada is withdrawing from the treaty.

Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN and chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, wrote an Apr. 1, 2013 essay for the Globe and Mail about some recent history between Canada and the UN, this latest withdrawal, and its implications (Note: A link has been removed),

Following the Harper government’s failure in 2010 to win a Canadian seat on the UN Security Council, its disregard of the UN gave way to disdain. Ottawa’s rare appearances at the UN have tended to stress what it regards as Canada’s uniquely “principled” foreign policy, bringing to mind U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s characterization of Canadian foreign policy in the fifties as “the stern voice of the daughter of God,” and cementing Canada’s long-standing reputation as global mother-in-law.

Because of the links between drought, land degradation, desertification and climate change, withdrawal from the Desertification Convention comes with potentially significant costs. …

Heinbecker develops this line of thought by noting that the withdrawal makes it seem that Canada does not care about climate change (let’s not forget the withdrawal from Kyoto protocol, the UN Convention on Climate Change, a UN initiative from which the Canadian Conservative government withdrew in 2011) and noting this,

Given that the government of Alberta as well as ministers and departments in Ottawa have been going to considerable effort and expense to argue in the U.S. that Canada does care, it is self-harming to hand America’s Keystone opponents a stick to beat the pipeline with.

Also, because the locus of most of the devastation arising from desertification is in Africa, walking away from a treaty whose creation was led by the Mulroney and Chrétien governments reinforces the impression that Ottawa no longer cares about Africa. It is an impression that this government also went to some trouble and expense to try to reverse. Further, because the worst destruction from desertification is happening in the Sahara region, abandoning the treaty sends a mixed signal about the security issues at stake in Mali and the Sahel, and about Canadian mining interests there as well.

Thankfully, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the conservative government are ensuring that our annual $350,000 contribution, after 2014, will no be longer wasted on what they termed a ‘talkfest’. To combat this negative impression being made on the rest of the world, there’s been an announcement (Azonano Apr. 6, 2013 news item) recycling some old government news about monies for the second phase of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF),

 “The Harper Government is committed to increasing food security to those most in need as part of Canada’s effective international assistance through investing in scientific research and innovation,” said Parliamentary Secretary Brown [Lois Brown]. “Canadian universities, businesses, and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations]  have expertise that they can share with the world. Together, we can use innovation to put an end to global hunger.”

The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund is a joint initiative between the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). [emphases mine] It supports innovative research partnerships between Canadian and developing-country researchers to respond to immediate food needs while increasing access to quality, nutritious food over the long term. Phase 2 will focus on connecting promising research results to public and private sector organizations that can get them to end users on a larger scale.

“IDRC and CIDA have a long history of supporting Canada’s leadership in agricultural research and innovation for development,” said Jean Lebel, Acting President of IDRC. “CIFSRF demonstrates our mutual commitment to achieving sustainable results that put Canada’s considerable experience in agricultural and nutrition science to work globally to ensure farmers have access to new technologies and specialized expertise to keep pace with the growing demand for food.  Through CIFSRF, we are also expanding Canada’s scientific base and contributing to the country’s science and technology strategy.”

The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, first launched in 2009, currently supports 19 projects, bringing together some of the best researchers from 11 Canadian and 26 developing-country organizations, as well as partners from scientific, private sector and civil society organizations, to develop innovative solutions to improve global food security.

The part where it got really interesting for me was the April 4, 2013 article by Rick Westhead for  star.com about the funds some of which are bound for the University of Guelph as per its Apr. 5, 2013 news release about the matter. Not to be too confusing but the following excerpt is from the April 4, 2013 Westhead article,

Manish Raizada, a University of Guelph agriculture professor, is changing lives in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka by showing farmers how to boost crop yields with weeding and planting techniques and by adding new crops.

Other Canadian researchers are bolstering Ethiopia’s agriculture sector, introducing farmers to rhizobia, a bacteria that naturally adds nitrogen to the soil and helped Saskatchewan, nearly a century ago, become a leading soybean exporter.

Then there are Canadian-led efforts in India that use nanotechnology to improve the lifespan of mangoes, efforts that should help improve livelihoods in a country where half of children under five are malnourished. [In fact, this an India, Sri Lanka, and Canada effort which I mentioned in a June 21, 2012 posting and again in a Nov. 1, 2012 posting.]

For instance, McGurk [Dr. Stephen McGurk, IDRC director of agriculture programmes] said one government-funded project is helping lengthen the shelf life of mangoes by as much as two weeks by introducing a nanoparticle-based coating that prevents them from ripening as fast.

“That way they’re attractive when they get to market, not looking like pulp,” McGurk said. “That science, once it has been tried in India can be equally applied to fruits here like plums or raspberries.”

Interestingly, McGurk gives this quote to Westhead,

“In no way would Canadian scientists in the agriculture sector say they are muzzled,” said Stephen McGurk, director of IDRC’s agriculture programs. [emphasis mine] “We’re engaged outside our borders and doing research now that’s valuable to Canadians but has to prove its salt somewhere else first.”

What makes McGurk an interesting spokesperson regarding ‘muzzles and Canadian scientists’ is that he  is an economist and a sinologist who prior to his latest appointment as IDRC director of agriculture programmes seems to have lived in Asia for the last 12 years and given this career description is likely from the US originally (from the Oct. 9, 2012 IDRC announcement of McGurk’s appointment),

Stephen McGurk is a Sinologist and economist who has spent more than two decades studying Asia’s rural development.Since 2006, he has been Director of IDRC’s Regional Office for South Asia and China in New Delhi (now the Asia Regional Office). From 2000 to 2006, he led IDRC’s office in Singapore.

Before joining IDRC, McGurk worked with the Ford Foundation in Beijing, where he was responsible for its economic security program in China. He has also taught at the University of California and worked with the World Bank on investments in China’s rural development. McGurk has a PhD from Stanford University’s [California] Food Research Institute.

I am curious as to how Dr. McGurk comes by his information about Canadian government agricultural scientists and their views on muzzles or lack thereof.

In looking at all of these bits of information, the desertification treaty withdrawal seems odd, almost as if it were designed to divert attention from something else the Conservative government is doing. Or, perhaps it’s an example of meanspirited shortsightedness something this government has been accused of before.

The recycled news item seems like it might not be as helpful as one would hope, although governments of all stripes are known to announce monies for projects that have been previously announced making it seem that a great deal more money is being dispersed than is the case. These announcements are always excellent for distraction but one would think the government would be eager to emphasize funding for projects in African countries rather than Asian countries given the conservatives’ current public relations problems in that region, as noted by Heinbecker.

As for McGurk’s quote about muzzles and agricultural scientists, while it does seem a bit ‘facey’ of him, he, at least, is not afraid to say something (although it’s not clear why he was asked about the muzzle since the news release was strictly about funding). For more about the ‘muzzles’,  there’s this excerpt from the Apr. 2, 2013 Canadian Press news item found at macleans.ca on campus,

Federal policies that restrict what government scientists can say publicly about their work are about to be put under the microscope.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has agreed to investigate how government communications rules on taxpayer-funded science impact public access to information.

Legault is responding to a detailed complaint lodged by the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch.

Their lengthy report — “Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy?” — laid out repeated examples of taxpayer-funded science being suppressed or limited to pre-packaged media lines across six different government departments and agencies.

Chris Tollefson, the executive director of UVic’s law centre, said their research into suppressed science revealed both the wide scope of the practice and that it “represents a significant departure” in government practice over the last five to seven years.

…Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, was not available Monday to defend Conservative practices. His office provided an email stating government scientists “are readily available to share their research with the media and the public.”

“Last year, Environment Canada participated in more than 1,300 media interviews, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued nearly 1,000 scientific publications, and Natural Resources Canada published nearly 500 studies,” said the statement.

It came the same day that the Globe and Mail reported that the National Research Council declined to make available its lead engineer for a front page story on research into truck safety. [emphases mine]

“Great spin — but missing the point,” Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher said of the government response.

“It’s not the number of documents, it’s what percentage of documents are being released.”

Truck safety? That seems an odd topic for which to suppress or restrict any discussion with the lead engineer. But then, why withdraw from a treaty to save $350,000? As for the recycled announcement about funding for food and agriculture projects in Asia when you have substantive perception issues regarding  Africa and having someone who hasn’t lived in the country for 12 years defending your policies, the whole thing seems rather inept.

Simon Fraser University completes a successful mating dance while TRIUMF (Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics) gets its groove on

The Federal Government of Canada in the guise of the Canada Foundation for Innovation has just awarded $7.7M to Simon Fraser University (SFU) and its partners for a global innovation hub. From the Jan. 15, 2013 Canada Foundation for Innovation news release,

British Columbia’s research-intensive universities are coming together to create a global hub for materials science and engineering. Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Institute of Technology have received $7.7 million in funding from the Canada Foundation of Innovation to create the Prometheus Project — a research hub for materials science and engineering innovation and commercialization.

“Our goal with the Prometheus Project is to turn our world-class research capacity into jobs and growth for the people of British Columbia,” said Neil Branda, Canada Research Chair in Materials Science at Simon Fraser University and leader of the Prometheus Project. “We know that materials science is changing the way we create energy and fight disease. We think it can also help B.C.’s economy evolve.”

This project builds on a strong collective legacy of collaborating with industry. Researchers involved in the Prometheus Project have created 13 spin-off companies, filed 67 patents and have generated 243 new processes and products. [emphasis mine] Branda himself has founded a company called Switch Materials that seizes the power of advanced chemistry to create smarter and more efficient window coatings.

This funding will allow members of the research team to build their capacity in fabrication, device testing and advanced manufacturing, ensuring that they have the resources and expertise they need to compete globally.

There’s a bit more information about the Prometheus project in a Jan.15, 2013 backgrounder supplied by SFU,

Led by Neil Branda, a Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and SFU chemistry professor, The Prometheus Project is destined to become a research hub for materials science and engineering innovation, and commercialization globally.

It brings together 10 principal researchers, including Branda, co-founder of SFU’s 4D LABS (a materials research facility with capabilities at the nanoscale], and 20 other scientists at SFU, University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. They will create new materials science and engineering (MS&E) technology innovations, which will trigger and support sustained economic growth by creating, transforming and making obsolete entire industries.

Working with internationally recognized industrial, government, hospital and academic collaborators, scientists at the Prometheus partners’ labs, including 4D LABS, a $40 million materials science research institute, will deliver innovations in three areas. The labs will:

  • Develop new solar-industry related materials and devices, including novel organic polymers, nanoparticles, and quantum dots, which will be integrated in low cost, high efficiency solar cell devices. The goal is to create a new generation of efficient solar cells that can compete in terms of cost with non-renewable technologies, surpassing older ones in terms of miniaturization and flexibility.
  • Develop miniaturized biosensors that can be used by individuals in clinical settings or at home to allow early detection of disease and treatment monitoring. They will be integrated into flexible electronic skins, allowing health conditions to be monitored in real-time.
  • Develop spintronics (magnetic devices) and quantum computing and information devices that will enable new approaches to significantly improve encrypted communication and security in financial transactions.

“This project will allow B.C.’s four most research intensive institutes to collaborate on fundamental materials research projects with a wide range of potential commercial applications,” notes Branda. “By engaging with a large community of industry, government and NGO partners, we will move this research out of the lab and into society to solve current and future challenges in important areas such as energy, health and communications.”

The Prometheus team already has a strong network of potential end users of resulting technologies. It is based on its members’ relationships with many of more than 25 companies in BC commercializing solar, biomedical and quantum computing devices.

Researchers and industries worldwide will be able to access Prometheus’s new capabilities on an open-access basis. [emphasis mine]

There are a few things I’d like to point out (a) 13 spin-off companies? There’s no mention as to whether they were successful, i.e., created jobs or managed a life beyond government funding. (b) Patents as an indicator for innovation? As I’ve noted many, many times that’s a very problematic argument to make. (c) New processes and products? Sounds good but there are no substantiating details.  (d) Given the emphasis on commercializing discoveries and business, can I assume that open-access to Prometheus’ capabilities means that anyone willing and able to pay can have access?

In other exciting SFU news which also affects TRIUMF, an additional $1M is being awarded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation to upgrade the ATLAS Tier-1 Data Analysis Centre. From the SFU backgrounder,

Led by Mike Vetterli, a physics professor at SFU and TRIUMF, this project involves collaborating with scientists internationally to upgrade a component of a global network of always-on computing centres. Collectively, they form the Worldwide Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid (WLCG).

The Canadian scientists collaborating with Vetterli on this project are at several research-intensive universities. They include Carleton University, McGill University, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, Université de Montréal, and York University, as well as TRIUMF. It’s Canada’s national lab for particle and nuclear physics research.

The grid, which has 10 Tier-1 centres internationally, is essentially a gigantic storage and processing facility for data collected from the ATLAS  experiment. The new CFI funding will enable Vetterli and his research partners to purchase equipment to upgrade the Tier-1 centre at TRIUMF in Vancouver, where the equipment will remain.

ATLAS is a multi-purpose particle detector inside a massive atom-smashing collider housed at CERN, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics in Geneva, Switzerland.

More than 3,000 scientists internationally, including Vetterli and many others at SFU, use ATLAS to conduct experiments aimed at furthering global understanding of how the universe was physically formed and operates.

The detector’s fame for being a window into nature’s true inner workings was redoubled last year. It helped scientists, including Vetterli and others at SFU, discover a particle that has properties consistent with the Higgs boson.

Peter Higgs, a Scottish physicist, and other scientists theorized in 1964 about the existence of the long-sought-after particle that is central to the mechanism that gives subatomic particles their mass.

Scientists now need to upgrade the WLCG to accommodate the massive volume of data they’re reviewing to confirm that the newly discovered particle is the Higgs boson. If it is, it will revolutionize the way we see mass in physics.

“This project will enable Canadian scientists to continue to play a leading role in ATLAS physics analysis projects such as the Higgs boson discovery,” says Vetterli. “Much more work and data are required to learn more about the Higgs-like particle and show that it is indeed the missing link to our understanding of the fundamental structure of matter.

There is one more Canada Foundation for Innovation grant to be announced here, it’s a $1.6M grant for research that will be performed at TRIUMF, according to the Jan. 13, 2013 news release from St. Mary’s University (Halifax, Nova Scotia),

Dr. Rituparna Kanungo’s newest research collaboration has some lofty goals: improve cancer research, stimulate the manufacturing of high-tech Canadian-made instrumentation and help explain the origin of the cosmos.

The Saint Mary’s nuclear physicist’s goal moved one step closer to reality today when the federal government announced $1.6 million in support for an advanced research facility that will allow her to recreate, purify, and condition rare isotopes that haven’t existed on the planet for millions of years.

The federal fiscal support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation together with additional provincial and private sector investment will allow the $4.5 million project to be operational in 2015.

“The facility will dramatically advance Canada’s capabilities for isolating, purifying, and studying short-lived isotopes that hold the key not only for understanding the rules that govern the basic ingredients of our everyday lives but also for crafting new therapies that could target and annihilate cancers cell-by-cell within the human body, “ said Dr Kanungo.

The CANadian Rare-isotope facility with Electron-Beam ion source (CANREB) project is led by Saint Mary’s University partnering with the University of Manitoba and Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Inc. in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, Simon Fraser University, and TRIUMF. TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. It is owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of Canadian universities that includes Saint Mary’s University.

As one of the nation’s top nuclear researchers (she was one of only two Canadians invited to speak at a Nobel Symposium last June about exotic isotopes), Dr. Kanungo has been conducting research at the TRIUMF facility for many years, carrying out analyses from her office at Saint Mary’s University together with teams of students. Her students also often spend semesters at the Vancouver facility.

As the project leader for the new initiative, she said TRIUMF is the ideal location because of its world leading isotope-production capabilities and its ability to produce clean, precise, controlled beams of selected exotic isotopes not readily available anywhere else in the world.

In recent studies in the U.S., some of these isotopes have been shown to have dramatic impact in treating types of cancer, by delivering radioactive payloads directly to the cancerous cells. Canada’s mastery of the technology to isolate, study, and control these isotopes will change the course of healthcare.

An integral part of the project is the creation of a new generation of high resolution spectrometer using precision magnets. Advanced Cyclotron Systems, Inc. a company in British Columbia, has been selected for the work with the hope that the expertise it develops during the venture will empower it to design and build precision-magnet technology products for cutting-edge projects all around the world.

Exciting stuff although it does seem odd that the federal government is spreading largesse when there’s no election in sight. In any case, bravo!

There’s one last piece of news, TRIUMF is welcoming a new member to its board, from its Jan. 14, 2013 news release,

Dr. Sylvain Lévesque, Vice-President of Corporate Strategy at Bombardier Inc., a world-leading manufacturer of innovative transportation solutions, has joined the Board of Management for TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, for a three-year term.  Owned and operated by a consortium of 17 Canadian universities with core operating funds administered via a contribution agreement through National Research Council Canada, TRIUMF is guided by a Board that includes university vice-presidents of research, prestigious scientists, and leading members of Canada’s private sector.

Paul Young, Chair of TRIUMF’s Board and Vice President, Research at the University of Toronto, said, “We welcome the participation of Sylvain and his extensive experience at Bombardier.  TRIUMF is a national resource for basic research and yet we also fulfill a technological innovation mission for Canada.  Dr. Lévesque will be a valuable addition to the Board.”

Dr. Sylvain Lévesque earned his Ph.D. from MIT in Engineering and worked at McKinsey & Company before joining Bombardier in 1999.  He brings deep experience with large, technical organizations and a passion for science and engineering. [emphasis mine]  He said, “I am excited to work more closely with TRIUMF.  It has a track record of excellence and I am eager to provide guidance on where Canada’s industrial sector might draw greater strength from the laboratory.”

TRIUMF’s Board of Management reflects the unique status of TRIUMF, a laboratory operating for more than forty years as a joint venture from Canada’s leading research universities.  The consortium includes universities from Halifax to Victoria.

Is deep experience like wide experience or is it a whole new kind of experience helpful for ‘getting one’s groove on’? For anyone who’s curious, ‘getting one’s groove on’ involves dancing.

Protective clothing made of slime

Researchers at the University of Guelph have struck again! (See also my June 21, 2012 posting about their work on packaging for mangoes.) This time, it’s hagfish slime. From the Nov. 28, 2012 news item on ScienceDaily,

… If new scientific research pans out, people may be sporting shirts, blouses and other garments made from fibers modeled after those in the icky, super-strong slime from a creature called the hagfish. The study appears in ACS’ journal Biomacromolecules.

Lead author Atsuko Negishi, her supervisor Douglas S. Fudge and colleagues explain that petroleum is the raw material for making modern synthetics. Rising prices and the quest for more sustainable alternatives have led scientists to consider the possibilities of using protein-based raw materials, such as spider silk. Another candidate comes from the hagfish, an eel-like fish that produces a thick slime to protect itself against predators. A single Atlantic Hagfish can produce quarts of slime in seconds. It clogs the gills and may suffocate other fish. The slime consists of tens of thousands of remarkably strong threads, each 100 times thinner than a human hair. The scientists set out to investigate spinning spider-silk-like fibers from the proteins of these slime threads.

I gather the scientists were successful given the title of their scientific paper,

The Production of Fibers and Films from Solubilized Hagfish Slime Thread Proteins by Atsuko Negishi, Clare L. Armstrong, Laurent Kreplak, Maikel C. Rheinstadter, Loong-Tak Lim, Todd E. Gillis, and Douglas S. Fudge in Biomacromolecules, 2012, 13 (11), pp 3475–3482 DOI: 10.1021/bm3011837 Publication Date (Web): September 27, 2012 Copyright © 2012 American Chemical Society

Interesting to note that the American Chemical Society has a copyright notice for an article about research that was funded at least partially by taxpayers. From the ScienceDaily news item,

The authors acknowledge funding from the Advanced Foods and Materials Network and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation.

Good luck to the researchers at the University of Guelph in their pursuit of protective clothing made of hagfish slime to replace materials using petroleum products.

FrogHeart at the 2012 S.NET conference, part 2: Canada, nano, and the mango

I was delighted to learn more about the nanotechnology collaboration between Canada, India, and Sri Lanka (mentioned in my India, Sri Lanka, and Canada team up for nanotechnology-enabled food packaging posting of June 21, 2012) at the S.Net 2012 conference.

Rumana Bukht and Sally Randles from the University of Manchester’s Business School titled their presentation, Intervention of the State on Responsible Development of Nanotechnology in Canada.

Before discussing the presentation, here’s a summary of the project from my June 21, 2012 posting,

From the June 20, 2012 University of Guelph news release,

University of Guelph scientists led by Prof. Jayasankar Subramanian will work with South Asian colleagues to develop innovative packaging using state-of-the-art nanotechnology to reduce post-harvest losses in mangoes, a vital fruit crop in South Asia.

The $2.3 million project, announced today by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will improve livelihoods for nearly one-third of the populations of India and Sri Lanka, mostly small-scale farmers.

The Guelph scientists will work with researchers from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India and Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute.

“Invented in part at U of G, this new packaging system should reduce post-harvest losses in fruits in India and Sri Lanka, where optimal storage conditions are not readily available.”

Mangoes are the second largest fruit crop in India and third in Sri Lanka. Farmers lose 35 to 40 per cent of their crops ─ worth $800 million a year ─ because of poor storage.

The researchers will combine patented technologies to develop special fruit cartons, dividers and wraps lined with nanoparticles from coconut husks and banana plants. Using these farm waste products will help provide income for small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly women.

During her talk, Rumana mentioned hexanal as an important ingredient in this new packaging. While my notes don’t provide much information about this ingredient, I did find this great April 26, 2012 article by Arun P Mathew for the Times of India, which provides more technical detail,

K S Subramanian, head of the department of Nano Science and Technology, who is involved in the project said that the University of Guelph, Canada discovered that hexanal, a chemical extracted from plants could successfully enhance the shelf-life and quality of fruits and vegetables. A researcher at TNAU [Tamil Nadu Agricultural University] has come [up] with a nano-film, he said.

“A combination of these two technologies could help develop a nano film with hexanal, which will improve the longevity of these fruits. Through this technology, around 30 percent of the losses could be avoided. This will improve the export of fruits and vegetables and increase the sales of fruits making farming more economically viable,” he said. Subramanian said that they would first be applied on mangoes and later on other fruits, based on its success.

He said that this will be an eco-friendly product. “Hexanal has been approved by United States based, FDA ( Food and Drug Administration). …

Rumana noted there will be safety testing of this hexanal-based nano-film and the testing will take place in India (not Canada) because India has better safety equipment and personnel with the appropriate skill sets. Canada will contribute the safety protocols. If the mango project is successful, researchers are considering plums and peaches for future projects.

I did want to get more  information about this collaboration and about the Canadian nano scene. As I have noted many times, getting information is difficult and I gather Rumana experienced some of the same difficulties. At least, I’m inferring difficulty from the fact that she refused, due to confidentiality agreements, to tell me which Canadian government officials she’d spoken with although she did identify departments (Health Canada and Industry Canada). Given all the secrecy you’d think something nefarious was happening instead of an attempt to minimize food wastage.

Next: OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and public engagement at S.NET 2012

India, Sri Lanka, and Canada team up for nanotechnology-enabled food packaging

Canada’s University of Guelph keeps coming up on my radar these days. The latest news concerns a nanotechnology-enabled food packaging technology. From the June 20, 2012 University of Guelph news release,

University of Guelph scientists led by Prof. Jayasankar Subramanian will work with South Asian colleagues to develop innovative packaging using state-of-the-art nanotechnology to reduce post-harvest losses in mangoes, a vital fruit crop in South Asia.

The $2.3 million project, announced today by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will improve livelihoods for nearly one-third of the populations of India and Sri Lanka, mostly small-scale farmers.

The Guelph scientists will work with researchers from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India and Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with leading scientists and institutes in Asia to raise the income of poor farmers and make food more nutritious and secure,” said Subramanian, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Plant Agriculture.

“Invented in part at U of G, this new packaging system should reduce post-harvest losses in fruits in India and Sri Lanka, where optimal storage conditions are not readily available.”

Mangoes are the second largest fruit crop in India and third in Sri Lanka. Farmers lose 35 to 40 per cent of their crops ─ worth $800 million a year ─ because of poor storage.

The researchers will combine patented technologies to develop special fruit cartons, dividers and wraps lined with nanoparticles from coconut husks and banana plants. Using these farm waste products will help provide income for small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly women.

I hope to hear more about this project as it progresses and hopefully next time, there’ll be a few more technical details. The mention of coconut husks and banana plants makes me wonder if they are talking about nanocellulose in some form or other.

For anyone who’s interested in the international aid aspects (from the news release),

The project is among six new initiatives funded by IDRC and CIDA under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF). The five-year, $62-million project links researchers in Canada and developing countries to address hunger and food insecurity in the developing world.

I last wrote about Sri Lanka and its nanotechnology efforts in my June 4, 2012 posting and I have mentioned India’s nanotechnology efforts several times but perhaps the most relevant, as per this item was in my April 4, 2012 posting.

ETA Oct. 31,2012: Minor grammatical changes were made in the final sentence. ‘Time’ was changed to ‘times’ and I removed the words ‘recent mention’ as they made no sense in the sentence.

Bioengineers hang out at July 2012 conference in Orillia, Ontario (Canada)

This morning (June 15, 2012) I got a notice about Suresh Neethirajan’s July 15, 2012 workshop at the upcoming NABEC-CSBE conference in Orillia, Ontario. First, here’s a bit about the conference, from the NABEC-CSBE 2012  Conference webpage,

The organizing committee has the pleasure of inviting you to the 2012 NABEC-CSBE/SCGAB joint meeting and Technical Conference on ecological engineering [July 15 – 18, 2012]. This meeting and technical conference will take place at the Orillia campus of Lakehead University, located in Orillia, Ontario.

This is the time to relax and develop professionally, socialize with your peers at evening receptions, and contribute to your profession. The technical tours will include opportunities to visit the research farms, greenhouses, and other facilities leading the way in renewable energy.

CSBE is Canadian Society for Bioengineering, NABEC is Northeast Agricultural and Biological Engineering Conference- a community of ASABE, and SCGAB is La Société Canadienne de Génie Agroalimentaire et de Bioingénierie.

René Morissette in an Oct. 22, 2011 posting highlighted some of Orillia, Ontario’s appeal,

Located an hour north of Toronto, this area between Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay, has long been one of Ontario’s premier outdoor playgrounds. Here you will find:

As for Suresh Neethirajan’s workshop, from the conference’s 2012 program webpage,

Workshop 4 (1:00 PM): Nanotechnology: Exploring Practical Solutions in Agriculture, Food and Biological Systems. Dr. Suresh Neethirajan, PhD., P.Eng, CIM

Thankfully, a commenter (David in a June 15, 2012 comment on my About and Contact page) provided more details,

Time: 1:00 Pm to 4:00 pm

Venue: Lakehead University – Orillia Campus
500 University Avenue, Orillia
Ontario, Canada

Event: Canadian Society for Bioengineering

Presenter: Dr. Suresh Neethirajan, University of Guelph

Web Link: http://www.tinyurl.com/cth5eo9

Who Should Attend: Professionals from the industry, academia and government who are interested in nanotechnology and its applications in the agriculture, food and biological systems.

Workshop Description: The aims of this workshop are to:
• Create awareness about the development and advancement of nanotechnology in the agricultural and food industry;
• Focus on key areas where nanoscience and nanotechnology can impact agricultural production systems, food and biological industries;
• Identify and address potential barriers for adoption of nanotechnology solutions in the agri-food industries.

Suresh Neethirajan is an Assistant Professor of Bionanotechnology at the School of Engineering, University of Guelph. He is also a board member of the Grand River Chapter of the Professional Engineers Ontario. Information on bionanotechnology research at the University of Guelph can be found at http://www.bionanolab.ca.

I don’t usually include photographs but this radiates happiness,

Suresh Neethirajan (from http://uoguelph.academia.edu/SURESHNEETHIRAJAN)

Good luck to the organizers, may your conference be very, very popular!

Nearby Nature GigaBlitz—Summer Solstice 2012—get your science out

The June 20 – 26, 2012 GigaBlitz event is an international citizen science project focused on biodiversity. From the June 13, 2012 news item on physorg.com,

A high-resolution image of a palm tree in Brazil, which under close examination shows bees, wasps and flies feasting on nectars and pollens, was the top jury selection among the images captured during last December’s Nearby Nature GigaBlitz. It’s also an example of what organizers hope participants will produce for the next GigaBlitz, June 20-26 [2012].

Here’s a close up from the Brazilian palm tree image,

Bee close up from Palmeira em flor, by Eduardo Frick (http://gigapan.com/gigapans/95168/)

This bee close up does not convey the full impact of an image that you can zoom from a standard size to extreme closeups of insects, other animals, portions of palm fronds, etc. To get the full impact go here.

Here’s more about the Nearby Nature GigaBlitz events from the June 13, 2012 Carnegie Mellon University news release,

The Nearby Nature GigaBlitz events are citizen science projects in which people use gigapixel imagery technology to document biodiversity in their backyards — if not literally in their backyards, then in a nearby woodlot or vacant field. These images are then shared and made available for analysis via the GigaPan website. The events are organized by a trio of biologists and their partners at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab.

December’s GigaBlitz included contributors from the United States, Canada, Spain, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. Ten of the best images are featured in the June issue of GigaPan Magazine, an online publication of CMU’s CREATE Lab.

The issue was guest-edited by the organizers of the GigaBlitz: Ken Tamminga, professor of landscape architecture at Penn State University; Dennis vanEngelsdorp, research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology; and M. Alex Smith, assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

The inspiration for the gigablitz comes from the world of ornithology (bird watching), from the Carnegie Mellon University June 13, 2012 news release,

Tamminga, vanEngelsdorp and Smith envisioned something akin to a BioBlitz, an intensive survey of a park or nature preserve that attempts to identify all living species within an area at a given time, and citizen science efforts such as the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

“We imagined using these widely separated, but nearby, panoramas as a way of collecting biodiversity data – similar to the Christmas bird count – where citizen scientists surveyed their world, then distributed and shared that data with the world through public GigaPans,” they wrote. “The plus of the GigaPan approach was that the sharing was bi-directional – not merely ‘This is what I saw,’ but also hearing someone say, ‘This is what I found in your GigaPan.’”

Here’s an excerpt from the Nearby Nature gigablitz June 20 -26, 2012 Call for Entries,

The challenge: Gigapixel imaging can reveal a surprising range of animal and plant species in the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary settings in which we live, learn, and work. Your challenge is to capture panoramas of Nearby Nature and share them with your peers at gigapan.org for further exploration. We hope that shared panoramas and snapshotting will help the GigaPan community more deeply explore, document, and celebrate the diversity of life forms in their local habitats.

Gigablitz timing: The event will take place over a 7-day period – a gigablitz – that aligns with the June solstice. Please capture and upload your images to the gigapan.org website between 6am, June 20 and 11pm, June 26 (your local time).

Juried selections:    Panoramas that meet the criteria below are eligible for inclusion in the science.gigapan.org Nearby Nature collection. The best panoramas will be selected by a jury for publication in an issue of GigaPan Magazine dedicated to the Nearby Nature collection.  Selection criteria are as follows:

  • Biodiversity: the image is species rich.
  • Uniqueness: the image contains particularly interesting or unique species, or the image captures a sense of the resilience of life-forms in human-dominated settings.
  • Nearby Nature context: image habitat is part of, or very near, the everyday places that people inhabit.
  • Image quality: the image is of high quality and is visually captivating.

Subjects and locations: The gigablitz subject may be any “nearby” location in which you have a personal interest:  schoolyard garden, backyard habitat, balcony planter, village grove, nearby remnant woods, vacant lot meadow next door and others.  Panoramas with high species richness (the range of different species in a given area) that are part of everyday places are especially encouraged.  It is the process of making and sharing gigapans that will transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when choosing a place:

  • The panorama should focus on organisms in a habitat near your home, school or place of work.
  • Any life-forms are acceptable, such as plants, insects, and other animals.
  • Rich, sharp detail will encourage snapshotters to help identify organisms in your panorama.  Thus, your gigapan unit should be positioned close to the subject habitat – within 100 feet (30 meters) away, and preferably much closer.  Up close mini-habitats in the near-macro range are welcome.

Please do check the Call for Entries for additional information about the submissions.

As for the website which hosts the contest, I checked the About GigaPan page and found this,

What is a GigaPan?

Gigapans are gigapixel panoramas, digital images with billions of pixels. They are huge panoramas with fascinating detail, all captured in the context of a single brilliant photo. Phenomenally large, yet remarkably crisp and vivid, gigapans are available to be explored at GigaPan.com. Zoom in and discover the detail of over 50,000 panoramas from around the world.

A New Dimension for Photography

GigaPan gives experienced and novice photographers the technology to create high-resolution panorama images more easily than ever before, and the resulting GigaPan images offer viewers a new, unique perspective on the world.

GigaPan offers the first solution for shooting, viewing and exploring high-resolution panoramic images in a single system: EPIC series of robotic camera mounts capture photos using almost any digital camera; GigaPan Stitch Software automatically combines the thousands of images taken into a single image; and GigaPan.com enables the unique mega-high resolution viewing experience.

GigaPan EPIC

GigaPan EPIC robotic mounts empower cameras to take hundreds, even thousands of photos, which are combined to create one highly detailed image with amazing depth and clarity.

The GigaPan EPIC and EPIC 100 are compatible with a broad range of point-and-shoot cameras and small DSLRs to capture gigapans, quickly and accurately. Light and compact, they are easy-to-use, and remarkably efficient. The EPIC Pro is designed to work with DSLR cameras and larger lenses, features advanced technology, and delivers stunning performance and precision. Strong enough to hold a camera and lens combination of up to 10 lbs, the EPIC Pro enables users to capture enormous panoramas with crisp, vivid detail.

Bringing Mars Rover Technology to Earth

The GigaPan EPIC series is based on the same technology employed by the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to capture the incredible images of the red planet. Now everyone has the opportunity to use technology developed for Mars to take their own incredible images.

GigaPan was formed in 2008 as a commercial spin-off of a successful research collaboration between a team of researchers at NASA and Carnegie Mellon University. The company’s mission is to bring this powerful, high-resolution imaging capability to a broad audience.

The original GigaPan prototype and related software were devised by a team led by Randy Sargent, a senior systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon West and the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

If I understand this rightly, this commercial enterprise (GigaPan), which offers hardware and software,  also supports a community-sharing platform for the types of images made possible by the equipment they sell.

Opening up Open Access: European Union, UK, Argentina, US, and Vancouver (Canada)

There is a furor growing internationally and it’s all about open access. It ranges from a petition in the US to a comprehensive ‘open access’ project from the European Union to a decision in the Argentinian Legislature to a speech from David Willetts, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science to an upcoming meeting in June 2012 being held in Vancouver (Canada).

As this goes forward, I’ll try to be clear as to which kind of open access I’m discussing,  open access publication (access to published research papers), open access data (access to research data), and/or both.

The European Commission has adopted a comprehensive approach to giving easy, open access to research funded through the European Union under the auspices of the current 7th Framework Programme and the upcoming Horizon 2020 (or what would have been called the 8th Framework Pr0gramme under the old system), according to the May 9, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

To make it easier for EU-funded projects to make their findings public and more readily accessible, the Commission is funding, through FP7, the project ‘Open access infrastructure for research in Europe’ ( OpenAIRE). This ambitious project will provide a single access point to all the open access publications produced by FP7 projects during the course of the Seventh Framework Programme.

OpenAIRE is a repository network and is based on a technology developed in an earlier project called Driver. The Driver engine trawled through existing open access repositories of universities, research institutions and a growing number of open access publishers. It would index all these publications and provide a single point of entry for individuals, businesses or other scientists to search a comprehensive collection of open access resources. Today Driver boasts an impressive catalogue of almost six million taken from 327 open access repositories from across Europe and beyond.

OpenAIRE uses the same underlying technology to index FP7 publications and results. FP7 project participants are encouraged to publish their papers, reports and conference presentations to their institutional open access repositories. The OpenAIRE engine constantly trawls these repositories to identify and index any publications related to FP7-funded projects. Working closely with the European Commission’s own databases, OpenAIRE matches publications to their respective FP7 grants and projects providing a seamless link between these previously separate data sets.

OpenAIRE is also linked to CERN’s open access repository for ‘orphan’ publications. Any FP7 participants that do not have access to an own institutional repository can still submit open access publications by placing them in the CERN repository.

Here’s why I described this project as comprehensive, from the May 9, 2012 news item,

‘OpenAIRE is not just about developing new technologies,’ notes Ms Manola [Natalia Manola, the project's manager], ‘because a significant part of the project focuses on promoting open access in the FP7 community. We are committed to promotional and policy-related activities, advocating open access publishing so projects can fully contribute to Europe’s knowledge infrastructure.’

The project is collecting usage statistics of the portal and the volume of open access publications. It will provide this information to the Commission and use this data to inform European policy in this domain.

OpenAIRE is working closely to integrate its information with the CORDA database, the master database of all EU-funded research projects. Soon it should be possible to click on a project in CORDIS (the EU’s portal for research funding), for example, and access all the open access papers published by that project. Project websites will also be able to provide links to the project’s peer reviewed publications and make dissemination of papers virtually effortless.

The project participants are also working with EU Members to develop a European-wide ‘open access helpdesk’ which will answer researchers’ questions about open access publishing and coordinate the open access initiatives currently taking place in different countries. The helpdesk will build up relationships and identify additional open access repositories to add to the OpenAIRE network.

Meanwhile, there’s been a discussion on the UK’s Guardian newspaper website about an ‘open access’ issue, money,  in a May 9, 2012 posting by John Bynner,

The present academic publishing system obstructs the free communication of research findings. By erecting paywalls, commercial publishers prevent scientists from downloading research papers unless they pay substantial fees. Libraries similarly pay huge amounts (up to £1m or more per annum) to give their readers access to online journals.

There is general agreement that free and open access to scientific knowledge is desirable. The way this might be achieved has come to the fore in recent debates about the future of scientific and scholarly journals.

Our concern lies with the major proposed alternative to the current system. Under this arrangement, authors are expected to pay when they submit papers for publication in online journals: the so called “article processing cost” (APC). The fee can amount to anything between £1,000 and £2,000 per article, depending on the reputation of the journal. Although the fees may sometimes be waived, eligibility for exemption is decided by the publisher and such concessions have no permanent status and can always be withdrawn or modified.

A major problem with the APC model is that it effectively shifts the costs of academic publishing from the reader to the author and therefore discriminates against those without access to the funds needed to meet these costs. [emphasis mine] Among those excluded are academics in, for example, the humanities and the social sciences whose research funding typically does not include publication charges, and independent researchers whose only means of paying the APC is from their own pockets. Academics in developing countries in particular face discrimination under APC because of their often very limited access to research funds.

There is another approach that could be implemented for a fraction of the cost of commercial publishers’ current journal subscriptions. “Access for all” (AFA) journals, which charge neither author nor reader, are committed to meeting publishing costs in other ways.

Bynner offers a practical solution, get the libraries to pay their subscription fees to an AFA journal, thereby funding ‘access for all’.

The open access discussion in the UK hasn’t stopped with a few posts in the Guardian, there’s also support from the government. David Willetts, in a May 2, 2012 speech to the UK Publishers Association Annual General Meeting had this to say, from the UK’s Dept. for Business Innovation and Skills website,

I realise this move to open access presents a challenge and opportunity for your industry, as you have historically received funding by charging for access to a publication. Nevertheless that funding model is surely going to have to change even beyond the positive transition to open access and hybrid journals that’s already underway. To try to preserve the old model is the wrong battle to fight. Look at how the music industry lost out by trying to criminalise a generation of young people for file sharing. [emphasis mine] It was companies outside the music business such as Spotify and Apple, with iTunes, that worked out a viable business model for access to music over the web. None of us want to see that fate overtake the publishing industry.

Wider access is the way forward. I understand the publishing industry is currently considering offering free public access to scholarly journals at all UK public libraries. This is a very useful way of extending access: it would be good for our libraries too, and I welcome it.

It would be deeply irresponsible to get rid of one business model and not put anything in its place. That is why I hosted a roundtable at BIS in March last year when all the key players discussed these issues. There was a genuine willingness to work together. As a result I commissioned Dame Janet Finch to chair an independent group of experts to investigate the issues and report back. We are grateful to the Publishers Association for playing a constructive role in her exercise, and we look forward to receiving her report in the next few weeks. No decisions will be taken until we have had the opportunity to consider it. But perhaps today I can share with you some provisional thoughts about where we are heading.

The crucial options are, as you know, called green and gold. Green means publishers are required to make research openly accessible within an agreed embargo period. This prompts a simple question: if an author’s manuscript is publicly available immediately, why should any library pay for a subscription to the version of record of any publisher’s journal? If you do not believe there is any added value in academic publishing you may view this with equanimity. But I believe that academic publishing does add value. So, in determining the embargo period, it’s necessary to strike a suitable balance between enabling revenue generation for publishers via subscriptions and providing public access to publicly funded information. In contrast, gold means that research funding includes the costs of immediate open publication, thereby allowing for full and immediate open access while still providing revenue to publishers.

In a May 22, 2012 posting at the Guardian website, Mike Taylor offers some astonishing figures (I had no idea academic publishing has been quite so lucrative) and notes that the funders have been a driving force in this ‘open access’ movement (Note: I have removed links from the excerpt),

The situation again, in short: governments and charities fund research; academics do the work, write and illustrate the papers, peer-review and edit each others’ manuscripts; then they sign copyright over to profiteering corporations who put it behind paywalls and sell research back to the public who funded it and the researchers who created it. In doing so, these corporations make grotesque profits of 32%-42% of revenue – far more than, say, Apple’s 24% or Penguin Books’ 10%. [emphasis mine]

… But what makes this story different from hundreds of other cases of commercial exploitation is that it seems to be headed for a happy ending. That’s taken some of us by surprise, because we thought the publishers held all the cards. Academics tend to be conservative, and often favour publishing their work in established paywalled journals rather than newer open access venues.

The missing factor in this equation is the funders. Governments and charitable trusts that pay academics to carry out research naturally want the results to have the greatest possible effect. That means publishing those results openly, free for anyone to use.

Taylor also goes on to mention the ongoing ‘open access’ petition in the US,

There is a feeling that the [US] administration fully understands the value of open access, and that a strong demonstration of public concern could be all it takes now to goad it into action before the November election. To that end a Whitehouse.gov petition has been set up urging Obama to “act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research”. Such policies would bring the US in line with the UK and Europe.

The people behind the US campaign have produced a video,

Anyone wondering about the reference to Elsevier may want to check out Thomas Lin’s Feb. 13, 2012 article for the New York Times,

More than 5,700 researchers have joined a boycott of Elsevier, a leading publisher of science journals, in a growing furor over open access to the fruits of scientific research.

You can find out more about the boycott and the White House petition at the Cost of Knowledge website.

Meanwhile, Canadians are being encouraged to sign the petition (by June 19, 2012), according to the folks over at ScienceOnline Vancouver in a description o f their June 12, 2012 event, Naked Science; Excuse: me your science is showing (a cheap, cheesy, and attention-getting  title—why didn’t I think of it first?),

Exposed. Transparent. Nude. All adjectives that should describe access to scientific journal articles, but currently, that’s not the case. The research paid by our Canadian taxpayer dollars is locked behind doors. The only way to access these articles is money, and lots of it!

Right now research articles costs more than a book! About $30. Only people with university affiliations have access and only journals their libraries subscribe to. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, journalists, students, scientists, all pay for research, yet they can’t read the articles about their research without paying for it again. Now that doesn’t make sense.

….

There is also petition going around that states that research paid for by US taxpayer dollars should be available for free to US taxpayers (and others!) on the internet. Don’t worry if you are Canadian citizen, by signing this petition, Canadians would get access to the US research too and it would help convince the Canadian government to adopt similar rules. [emphasis mine]

Here’s where you can go to sign the petition. As for the notion that this will encourage the Canadian government to adopt an open access philosophy, I do not know. On the one hand, the government has opened up access to data, notably Statistics Canada data, mentioned by Frances Woolley in her March 22, 2012 posting about that and other open access data initiatives by the Canadian government on the Globe and Mail blog,

The federal government is taking steps to build the country’s data infrastructure. Last year saw the launch of the open data pilot project, data.gc.ca. Earlier this year the paywall in front of Statistics Canada’s enormous CANSIM database was taken down. The National Research Council, together with University of Guelph and Carleton University, has a new data registration service, DataCite, which allows Canadian researches to give their data permanent names in the form of digital object identifiers. In the long run, these projects should, as the press releases claim, “support innovation”, “add value-for-money for Canadians,” and promote “the reuse of existing data in commercial applications.”

That seems promising but there is a countervailing force. The Canadian government has also begun to charge subscription fees for journals that were formerly free. From the March 8, 2011 posting by Emily Chung on the CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Quirks and Quarks blog,

The public has lost free online access to more than a dozen Canadian science journals as a result of the privatization of the National Research Council’s government-owned publishing arm.

Scientists, businesses, consultants, political aides and other people who want to read about new scientific discoveries in the 17 journals published by National Research Council Research Press now either have to pay $10 per article or get access through an institution that has an annual subscription.

It caused no great concern at the time,

Victoria Arbour, a University of Alberta graduate student, published her research in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, one of the Canadian Science Publishing journals, both before and after it was privatized. She said it “definitely is too bad” that her new articles won’t be available to Canadians free online.

“It would have been really nice,” she said. But she said most journals aren’t open access, and the quality of the journal is a bigger concern than open access when choosing where to publish.

Then, there’s this from the new publisher, Canadian Science Publishing,

Cameron Macdonald, executive director of Canadian Science Publishing, said the impact of the change in access is “very little” on the average scientist across Canada because subscriptions have been purchased by many universities, federal science departments and scientific societies.

“I think the vast majority of researchers weren’t all that concerned,” he said. “So long as the journals continued with the same mission and mandate, they were fine with that.”

Macdonald said the journals were never strictly open access, as online access was free only inside Canadian borders and only since 2002.

So, journals that offered open access to research funded by Canadian taxpapers (to Canadians only) are now behind paywalls. Chung’s posting notes the problem already mentioned in the UK Guardian postings, money,

“It’s pretty prohibitively expensive to make things open access, I find,” she {Victoria Arbour] said.

Weir [Leslie Weir, chief librarian at the University of Ottawa] said more and more open-access journals need to impose author fees to stay afloat nowadays.

Meanwhile, the cost of electronic subscriptions to research journals has been ballooning as library budgets remain frozen, she said.

So far, no one has come up with a solution to the problem. [emphasis mine]

It seems they have designed a solution in the UK, as noted in John Bynner’s posting; perhaps we could try it out here.

Before I finish up, I should get to the situation in Argentina, from the May 27, 2012 posting on the Pasco Phronesis (David Bruggeman) blog (Note: I have removed a link in the following),

The lower house of the Argentinian legislature has approved a bill (en Español) that would require research results funded by the government be placed in institutional repositories once published.  There would be exceptions for studies involving confidential information and the law is not intended to undercut intellectual property or patent rights connected to research.  Additionally, primary research data must be published within 5 years of their collection.  This last point would, as far as I can tell, would be new ground for national open access policies, depending on how quickly the U.S. and U.K. may act on this issue.

Argentina steals a march on everyone by offering open access publication and open access data, within certain, reasonable constraints.

Getting back to David’s May 27, 2012 posting, he offers also some information on the European Union situation and some thoughts  on science policy in Egypt.

I have long been interested in open access publication as I feel it’s infuriating to be denied access to research that one has paid for in tax dollars. I have written on the topic before in my Beethoven inspires Open Research (Nov. 18, 2011 posting) and Princeton goes Open Access; arXiv is 10 years old (Sept. 30, 2011 posting) and elsewhere.

ETA May 28, 2012: I found this NRC Research Press website for the NRC journals and it states,

We are pleased to announce that Canadians can enjoy free access to over 100 000 back files of NRC Research Press journals, dating back to 1951. Access to material in these journals published after December 31, 2010, is available to Canadians through subscribing universities across Canada as well as the major federal science departments.

Concerned readers and authors whose institutes have not subscribed for the 2012 volume year can speak to their university librarians or can contact us to subscribe directly.

It’s good to see Canadians still have some access, although personally, I do prefer to read recent research.

ETA May 29, 2012: Yikes, I think this is one of the longest posts ever and I’m going to add this info. about libre redistribution and data mining as they relate to open access in this attempt to cover the topic as fully as possible in one posting.

First here’s an excerpt  from  Ross Mounce’s May 28, 2012 posting on the Palaeophylophenomics blog about ‘Libre redistribution’ (Note: I have removed a link),

I predict that the rights to electronically redistribute, and machine-read research will be vital for 21st century research – yet currently we academics often wittingly or otherwise relinquish these rights to publishers. This has got to stop. The world is networked, thus scholarly literature should move with the times and be openly networked too.

To better understand the notion of ‘libre redistribution’ you’ll want to read more of Mounce’s comments but you might also  want to check out Cameron Neylon’s comments in his March 6, 2012 posting on the Science in the Open blog,

Centralised control, failure to appreciate scale, and failure to understand the necessity of distribution and distributed systems. I have with me a device capable of holding the text of perhaps 100,000 papers It also has the processor power to mine that text. It is my phone. In 2-3 years our phones, hell our watches, will have the capacity to not only hold the world’s literature but also to mine it, in context for what I want right now. Is Bob Campbell ready for every researcher, indeed every interested person in the world, to come into his office and discuss an agreement for text mining? Because the mining I want to do and the mining that Peter Murray-Rust wants to do will be different, and what I will want to do tomorrow is different to what I want to do today. This kind of personalised mining is going to be the accepted norm of handling information online very soon and will be at the very centre of how we discover the information we need.

This moves the discussion past access (taxpayers not seeing the research they’ve funded, researchers who don’t have subscriptions, libraries not have subscriptions, etc.)  to what happens when you can get access freely. It opens up new ways of doing research by means of text mining and data mining redistribution of them both.