Tag Archives: University of Saskatchewan

Creative destruction for Canada’s fundamental science

After receiving an ‘invitation’ from the Canadian Science Policy Centre, I wrote an opinion piece, drawing on my submission for the public consultation on Canada’s fundamental science research. It seems the invitation was more of a ‘call’ for submissions and my piece did not end up being selected for inclusion on the website. So rather than waste the piece, here it is,

Creative destruction for Canada’s fundamental science

At a time when we are dealing with the consequences of our sins and virtues, fundamental science, at heart, an exercise in imagination, can seem a waste of precious time. Pollution and climate change (sins: ill-considered uses of technology) and food security and water requirements (virtues: efforts to improve health and save more lives) would seem to demand solutions not the flights of fancy associated with basic science. After all, what does the ‘big bang’ have to do with potable water?

It’s not an unfair question despite the impatience some might feel when answering it by citing a number of practical applications which are the result of all that ‘fanciful’ or ‘blue sky’ science. The beauty and importance of the question is that it will always be asked and can never be definitively answered, rendering it a near constant goad or insurance against complacency.

In many ways Canada’s review of fundamental science (deadline for comments was Sept. 30, 2016) is not just an examination of the current funding schemes but an opportunity to introduce more ‘goads’ or ‘anti-complacency’ measures into Canada’s fundamental science efforts for a kind of ‘creative destruction’.

Introduced by economist Joseph Schumpeter, the concept is derived from Karl Marx’s work but these days is associated with disruptive, painful, and regenerative innovation of all kinds and Canadian fundamental science needs more ‘creative destruction’. There’s at least one movement in this direction (found both in Canada and internationally) which takes us beyond uncomfortable, confrontative questions and occasional funding reviews—the integration of arts and humanities as an attempt at ‘creative destruction’ of the science endeavour.

At one point in the early 2000s, Canada developed a programme where the National Research Council could get joint funding with the Canada Council for the Arts for artists to work with their scientists. It was abandoned a few years later, as a failure. But, since then, several informal attempts at combining arts, sciences, and humanities have sprung up.

For example, Curiosity Collider (founded in 2015) hosts artists and scientists presenting their art/science pieces at various events in Vancouver. Beakerhead has mashed up science, engineering, arts, and entertainment in a festival founded and held in Calgary since 2013. Toronto’s ArtSci Salon hosts events and installations for local, national, and international collaborations of artists and scientists. And, getting back to Vancouver, Anecdotal Evidence is a science storytelling series which has been appearing sporadically since 2015.

There is a tendency to dismiss these types of collaboration as a form of science outreach designed to amuse or entertain but they can be much more than that. Illustrators have taught botanists a thing or two about plants. Markus Buehler at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has used his understanding of music to explore material science (spider’s webs). Domenico Vicinanza has sonified data from space vehicle, Voyager 1, to produce a symphony, which is also a highly compressed means of communicating data.

C. P. Snow’s ‘The Two Cultures’ (lecture and book) covered much of the same territory in 1959 noting the idea that the arts and sciences (and humanities) can and should be linked in some fashion was not new. For centuries the sciences were referred to as Natural Philosophy (humanities), albeit only chemistry and physics were considered sciences, and many universities have or had faculties of arts and sciences or colleges of arts and science (e.g., the University of Saskatchewan still has such a college).

The current art/sci or sci-art movement can be seen as more than an attempt to resuscitate a ‘golden’ period from the past. It could be a means of embedding a continuous state of regeneration or ‘creative destruction’ for fundamental science in Canada.

Silicene in Saskatchewan (Canada)

There’s some very exciting news coming out of the province of Saskatchewan (Canada) about silicene, a material some view as a possible rival to graphene (although that’s problematic according to my Jan. 12, 2014 posting) while others (US National Argonne Laboratory) challenge its existence (my Aug. 1,  2014 posting).

The researchers in Saskatchewan seem quite confident in silicene’s existence according to a Sept. 9, 2014 news item on phys.org,

“Once a device becomes too small it falls prey to the strange laws of the quantum world,” says University of Saskatchewan researcher Neil Johnson, who is using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to help develop the next generation of computer materials. Johnson is a member of Canada Research Chair Alexander Moewes’ group of graduate students studying the nature of materials using synchrotron radiation.

His work focuses on silicene, a recent and exciting addition to the class of two-dimensional materials. Silicene is made up of an almost flat hexagonal pattern of silicon atoms. Every second atom in each hexagonal ring is slightly lifted, resulting in a buckled sheet that looks the same from the top or the bottom.

A Sept. 9, 2014 Canadian Light Source news release, which originated the news item, provides background as to how Johnson started studying silicene and some details about the work,

In 2012, mere months before Johnson began to study silicene, it was discovered and first created by the research group of Prof. Guy Le Lay of Aix-Marseille University, using silver as a base for the thin film. The Le Lay group is the world-leader in silicene growth, and taught Johnson and his colleagues how to make it at the CLS themselves.

“I read the paper when the Le Lay announced they had made silicene, and within three or four months, Alex had arranged for us to travel down to the Advanced Light Source with these people who had made it for the first time,” says Johnson. It was an exciting collaboration for the young physicist.

“This paper had already been cited over a hundred times in a matter of months. It was a major paper, and we were going to measure this new material that no one had really started doing experiments on yet.”

The most pressing question facing silicene research was its potential as a semiconductor. Today, most electronics use silicon as a switch, and researchers looking for new materials to manage quantum effects in computing could easily use the 2-D version if it was also semiconducting.

Calculations had shown that because of the special buckling of silicene, it would have what’s called a Dirac cone – a special electronic structure that could allow researchers to tune the band gap, or the energy space between electron levels. The band gap is what makes a semiconductor: if the space is too small, the material is simply a conductor. Too large, and there is no conduction at all.

Since silicene has only ever been made on a silver base, the materials community also wondered if silicene would maintain its semiconducting properties in this condition. Though its atomic structure is slightly different than freestanding silicene, it was still predicted to have a band gap. However, silver is a metal, which may make the silicene act as a metal as well.

No one really knew how silicene would behave on its silver base.

To adapt the Le Lay group’s silicene-growing process to the equipment at the CLS took several days of work. Though their team had succeeded in silicene synthesis at the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley lab, they had no way to keep those samples under vacuum to prevent them from oxygen damage. Thanks to the work of fellow beamteam members Drs. David Muir and Israel Perez, samples grown at the CLS could be produced, transported and measured in a matter of hours without ever leaving a vacuum chamber.

Johnson grew the silicene sheets at the Resonant Elastic and Inelastic X-ray Scattering (REIXS), beamline, then transferred them in a vacuum to the XAS/XES endstation for analysis. Finally, Johnson could find the answer to the silicene question.

“I didn’t really know what to expect until I saw the XAS and XES on the same energy scale, and I thought to myself, that looks like a metal,” says Johnson.

And while that result is unfortunate for those searching for a new computing wonder material, it does provide some vital information to that search.

“Our result does help to guide the hunt for 2-D silicon in the future, suggesting that metallic substrates should be avoided at all costs,” Johnson explains. “We’re hopeful that we can grow a similar structure on other substrates, ideally ones that leave the semiconducting nature of silicene intact.”

That work is already in process, with Johnson and his colleagues planning to explore three other growing bases this summer, along with multilayers and nanoribbons of silicene.

Like the Dutch researchers in the Jan. 12, 2014 posting, Johnson finds that silicene is not serious competition for graphene (as regards to its electrical properties), but he does not challenge its existence. He does note problems with the silver substrate although he comes to a different conclusion than did the Argonne National Laboratory researchers (Aug. 1,  2014 posting).

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

The Metallic Nature of Epitaxial Silicene Monolayers on Ag(111) by Neil W. Johnson, Patrick Vogt, Andrea Resta, Paola De Padova, Israel Perez, David Muir, Ernst Z. Kurmaev, Guy Le Lay, and Alexander Moewes. Advanced Functional Materials Volume 24, Issue 33, pages 5253–5259, September 3, 2014 DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201400769 Article first published online: 10 JUN 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

Canadian government funding announced for nanotechnology research in Saskatchewan and Alberta

Canada’s Western Economic Diversification and Canada Research Chairs (CRC) programmes both made nanotechnology funding announcements late last week on March 28, 2014.

From a March 28, 2014 news item on CJME radio online,

Funding for nanotechnology was announced at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) on Friday [March 28, 2014].

Researchers will work on developing nanostructured coatings for parts of artificial joints and even mining equipment.

The $183,946 investment from the Western Economic Diversification Canada will go towards purchasing tailor-made equipment that will help apply the coating.

A March 29, 2014 article by Scott Larson for the Leader-Post provides more details,

In the near future when someone has a hip replacement, the new joint might actually last a lifetime thanks to cutting edge nanotechnology research being done by Qiaoqin Yang and her team. Yang, Canada Research Chair in nanoengineering coating technologies and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, has received $183,946 from Western Economic Diversification (WD) to purchase specially made equipment for nanotechnology research.

The equipment will help in developing and testing nanostructured coatings to increase the durability of hard-to-reach industrial and medical components.

“The diamond-based coating is biocompatible and has high wear resistance,” Yang said of the coating material.

There will be four industry-specific coating prototypes tested for projects such as solar energy systems, artificial joints, and mining and oilsands equipment.

Yang said artificial joints usually only last 10-20 years.

I have written about hip and knee replacements and issues with the materials most recently in a Feb. 5, 2013 posting.

As for the CRC announcement about the University of Alberta, here’s more from the March 28, 2014 article by Catherine Griwkowsky for the Edmonton Sun,

The Canadian Research Chairs funding announcement means 11 chair appointments, renewals and tier advancements, part of the 100 faculty who are chair holders at the university.

Carlo Montemagno, Canada Research Chair in Intelligent Nanosystems, said the funding will usher in the next generation in nanotechnology.

“It’s not just the money, it’s the recognition and the visibility that comes with the title,” Montemagno said. “That provides an opportunity for me to be more effective recruiting talent into my laboratory.”

He said the chair position at the University of Alberta allows him to go after riskier projects with a higher impact.

“It provides a nucleating force that allows us to gravitationally pull in talent and resources to position ourselves as global leaders,” Montemagno said.

Previously, he had worked at Cornell University, department head at University of California Los Angeles and dean of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

Minister of State for Science and Technology Ed Holder said the $88 million will help with Canada’s economic prosperity and will attract more researchers to the country from around the world. …

“I think it’s a huge compliment to what the government of Canada is doing in terms of research and I think it’s a great, great credit to those Canadians who say I can do the best and the greatest research right here in Canada.

He said the success is attracting Canadians back.

Holder, who took over as science boss just over a week ago, said the government has received acknowledgment from granting councils. …

Holder said the proposed budget has an additional $1.5 billion in new money in the budget for research.

Upcoming research projects from the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta:

Artificially engineered system that incorporates the process of photosynthesis in a non-living thing with living elements to convert CO2 emissions to a sellable commodity like rare earth and precious metals.
Extracting minerals and chemicals in waste treatment such as tailings ponds, to clean up polluted water and take out valuable resources.
Cleaning and purifying water with an engineered variant of a molecule 100 times more efficient than current technology, opening land for agricultural development, or industrial plants.

Montemagno has an intriguing turn of phrase “a nucleating force that allows us to gravitationally pull in talent and resources” which I think could be summed up as “money lets us buy what we want with regard to researchers and equipment.” (I first mentioned Montegmagno in a Nov. 19, 2013 post about Alberta’s nanotechnology-focused Ingenuity Lab which he heads.) Holder’s comments are ‘on message’ as they say these days or, as old-timers would say, his comments follow the government’s script.

The listing of the National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT) projects in Griwkowsky’s article seems a bit enigmatic since there’s no explanation offered as to why these are being included in the newspaper article. The confusion can be cleared up by reading the March 28, 2014 University of Alberta news release,

“Our work is about harnessing the power of ‘n’—nature, nanotechnology and networks,” said Montemagno, one of 11 U of A faculty members who received CRC appointments, renewals or tier advancements. “We use living systems in nature as the inspiration; we use nanotechnology, the ability to manipulate matter at its smallest scale; and we build systems in the understanding that we have to make these small elements work together in complex networks.”

The physical home of this work is Ingenuity Lab, a collaboration between the U of A, the National Institute for Nanotechnology and Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures. Montemagno is the director, and he has assembled a team of top scientists with backgrounds in biochemistry, organic chemistry, neurobiology, molecular biology, physics, computer science, engineering and material science.

Turning CO2 in something valuable

Reducing greenhouse gases is one of the challenges his team is working to address, by capturing carbon dioxide emissions and converting them into high-value chemicals.

Montemagno said the process involves mimicking photosynthesis, using engineered molecules to create a structure that metabolizes CO2. Unlike fermentation and other processes used to convert chemicals, this method is far more energy-efficient, he said.

“You make something that has the same sort of features that are associated with a living process that you want to emulate.”

In another project, Montemagno’s team has turned to cells, viruses and bacteria and how they identify chemicals to react to their environment, with the aim of developing “an exquisite molecular recognition technology” that can find rare precious metals in dilute quantities for extraction. This type of bio-mining is being explored to transform waste from a copper mine into a valuable product, and ultimately could benefit oilsands operations as well.

“The idea is converting waste into a resource and doing it in a way in which you provide more economic opportunity while you’re being a stronger steward of our natural resources.”

Congratulations to the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta!

(A University of British Columbia CRC founding announcement was mentioned in my March 31, 2014 posting about Ed Holder, the new Minister of State (Science and Technology).

Cindy Patton talks about evidence and the invention of a Crystal Meth-HIV connection via press release

Canada’s Situating Science research cluster is launching a national lecture series (from a Jan. 30, 2014 announcement)

The Lives of Evidence
A multi-part national lecture series examining the cultural, ethical, political, and scientific role of evidence in our world.

They are kicking the series off with what appears to be a two city tour of Vancouver and Saskatoon (from the announcement),

The Press and the Press Release: Inventing the Crystal Meth-HIV Connection
Cindy Patton, Canada Research Chair in Community, Culture, and Health
Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University

What does the rise and fall of a scientific fact look like? In her analysis of the Crystal Meth-AIDS superbug connection in US media coverage, Dr. Patton explores scientific evidence as it circulates through the lab, the media, and society. Scientific studies, expertise, and anecdotal human-interest stories are used to “prove” a causal relationship between the (probably temporary) rise in crystal use and a (less than clear) rise in HIV rates. But far from helping to avoid hasty and ill-conceived policy in a moment of panic, the media coverage justifies something more problematic: discrimination and medical policing that appear to rest on scientific proof.

Monday February 3, 2014, 4 PM
Buchanan A-201, University of British Columbia, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC

Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 4 PM CST / 5 PM ET
Room 18, Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan, 25 Campus Drive, Sakatoon, Saksatchewan
Watch the U. Sask reprise live online here:
www.livestream.com/situsci

Maybe I’ll see you at the Vancouver event.

Situating Science and the future

The end is in sight (2014) for Canada’s Situating Science; Science in Human Contexts network or rather,  the organization’s funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will be exhausted sometime soon. According to their Fall 2013 newsletter, they are making plans for the future,

I. SUSTAINING THE NETWORK AND ACTIVITIES BEYOND 2014
While this year is the last for the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster, it is an opportunity to celebrate and build upon our successes. As part of our plans, we will follow up on last year’s “think-tank” and management meetings to set out concrete plans for sustaining the network and activities of Cluster scholars beyond its 7 years. A number of Cluster partners and stakeholders will meet during a second “think-tank” to discuss best strategies for moving forward.

The “think-tank” will dovetail nicely with a special symposium in Ottawa on Science and Society Oct. 21-23. For this symposium, the Cluster is partnering with the Institute for Science, Society and Policy to bring together scholars from various disciplines, public servants and policy workers to discuss key issues at the intersection of science and society. [emphasis mine]  The discussions will be compiled in a document to be shared with stakeholders and the wider public.

The team will continue to seek support and partnerships for projects within the scope of its objectives. Among our top priorities are a partnership to explore sciences, technologies and their publics as well as new partnerships to build upon exchanges between scholars and institutions in India, Singapore and Canada.

There’s not much information about the Science & Society symposium (mentioned in the excerpt from the newsletter)  being held Oct. 21-23, 2013 in Ottawa other than this, from the About page (the text seems as if it was lifted out of a grant proposal),

Science and Society 2013 Symposium
Emerging Agendas for Citizens and the Sciences
From the evening of Mon. Oct. 21 through Wed. Oct. 23, 2013
University of Ottawa
scienceandsociety2013@gmail.com

What?

The Mission of the symposium is to create an open forum, in the Nation’s capital, to understand and address the key issues at the interface of science, technology, society and policy. The event will display the importance of connecting disparate themes and will bring together groups not usually in contact to discuss subjects of common interest and brainstorm solutions to common challenges. It will demonstrate that collaboration among academics, students, policy makers, stakeholders and the public at large can lead to new insights, new perspectives, and a deeper understanding of the social implications of science and technology.  It will also make the discussion of science more prominent in the national dialogue.

The symposium will be a major event in Ottawa during National Science and Technology Week. It is a collaboration between the Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster and Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP).

Fostering dialogue between scholars, students, public servants and the general public will not only shed new light on the common challenges and opportunities facing these groups but will also point the way towards novel solutions and courses of action.

The uniqueness of the symposium consists in its aim to provide recommendations on how to envision and improve the science-society interface.  As part of their involvement in the event, all speakers and participants will be asked to address the following question:

How can we understand and improve the interplay between science and society, and improve science policies for the future?

On the basis of the debate and answers, a results document will be created in which the potentially diverging views of different groups will be analyzed and distributed among media and key decision makers.

Science and Society 2013 aims to connect different communities and uncover common goals, competing concerns and the possibility of joint strategies. It will involve and reach out to practitioners from various sectors, academics of diverse disciplines and an increasingly interested public.  At its broadest level it will explore the relationships between public policy, scientific research and the study of science itself – including but limited to how these inform one another.

The symposium will have an academic component during much of the day; and a public component designed for a truly broad audience and potentially involving additional collaborators.

How?

The proposed Session Themes include:
Science and Democracy; Value-Laden Science; International Lessons in Science Policy; Citizen Science; Technology and Media; Responsible Innovation and the Future of Technology; Art, Science and Technology; Open Science; Government Science; Education and the Culture of Science; and Innovation and Society.

The event will produce the following outcomes:

  • New media and political interest, in particular with respect to key issues (e.g. muzzling scientists, evidence-based decision making, the importance of public science);
  • A results document, published by the ISSP, summarizing key insights regarding science and society for distribution among media and key decision makers;
  • New thinking and debate among scholars, policymakers, scientists, students and the public;
  • New networks;
  • Dissemination of conference content in print and/or www formats and/or video/podcast/live streaming;
  • Student training and engagement.

Why?

Science and technology shape our world. They present great promise but they are also the source of much controversy and social anxiety. Like never before, there is a need for broad and informed discussion of science and technology and their place in our society.

Yet the communities that engage in, benefit from, and seek to understand science and technology are often disconnected.  Their shared interests are often misunderstood, and their common goals overlooked.  This disconnect not only impoverishes our grasp of science and technology and their social implications but can also have negative consequences for the public good, particularly at a time when Canadian science faces such profound challenges.

Who?

The partners and co-organizers of the event are the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster and the University of Ottawa Institute for Science, Society and Policy.

The Organizing Committee consists of:

  • Marc Saner, Director, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa
  • Jeremy Geelen, Project and Public Affairs Manager, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa
  • Dara Marcus, Student Event Organizer, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa
  • Gordon McOuat, Director, Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster, University of King’s College
  • Emily Tector, Project Coordinator, Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster, University of King’s College.

Each partner has a proven track record of organizing events on science and society.
Situating Science, through the various conferences, symposium and public events it has supported across Canada with its many partners from different disciplines and sectors, has explored the social and cultural significance of science and technology.  And the ISSP has held and supported several events in Ottawa dealing with cutting-edge technologies and their social and political implications.

Both partners have brought diverse groups together before.  Each has its own networks, resources and strengths that align with select themes and audiences of the symposium.  The successful combination of these capacities will make Science and Society 2013 a multi-sectorial, multi-disciplinary event that addresses issues of concern to all Canadians.

The following organizations are current supporters:

The organizers expect approximately 60 participants at the event during the day, with a much larger audience at the public sessions.

Getting back to the Situating Science Fall 2013 newsletter, there will be a number of workshops and events across the country this fall,

ATLANTIC:
Can We Sustain the Plant, and Democracy too?
Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
Oct. 3, 2013 7pm
Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

Isaac Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia: Science, Religion and Metaphysics Tercentenary Workshop
October 24-26, 2013
University of King’s College, Halifax, NS

MONTREAL:

Canadian Science and Technology Historical Association Conference
UQAM, Montreal, Qc.
November 1-3, 2013

Fall Lecture Series at UQAM
All held at 12:30pm in Local N-8150, Pavillon Paul-Gérin-Lajoie, UQAM, Montreal, Qc.

Schedule:
Expérience et expérimentalisme chez John Dewey
Joëlle Zask, maître de conférences en philosophie, Université de Provence
September 11, 2013

Une fuite de phosgène à l’usine Tolochimie en 1973. Réflexions sur ce que contenir veut dire en matière de pollution atmosphérique ?
Florian Charvolin, Centre Max Weber et Université Jean Monnet
September 13, 2013

In the Kingdom of Solovia: The Rise of Growth Economics at MIT, 1956-1970
Mauro Boianovsky, Département d’économie, Universidade de Brasília
et Kevin Hoover (conférencier), Département d’économie et de philosophie, Duke University.
Coorganisée avec le Département  de sciences économiques de l’UQAM
December 6, 2013

Thomas Jefferson, Count Buffon, and a Giant Moose: When Natural History and History Collide?
Lee Dugatkin, Department of Biology, University of Louisville.
Coorganisée avec la Faculté de sciences de l’UQAM
December 13, 2013

Fall Lecture Series at McGill
Full details to be posted shortly.

Highlights:
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Director, Max-Plank Institute for the History of Science.
In partnership with the department of Social Studies of Medicine.

Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University.
In conjunction with McGill’s Mossman Lecture.

Liquid Intelligence and the Aesthetics of Fluidity Workshop
October 25-26, 2013
McCord Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Qc.

ONTARIO:

Reading Artifacts Summer Institute
August 19-23, 2013
Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ont.

Science and Society Symposium
Oct. 21-23, 2013
University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.

Technoscience Salon on Critical Itineraries
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.

Preliminary Schedule:
Celia Lowe, Anthropology, University of Washington
September 26, 2013

Kavita Philip, Women’s Studies, UC Irvine
November 8, 2013

Others confirmed:
Fa-Ti Fan, History, Binghamton University

Stacey Langwick, Anthropology, Cornell University

Alondra Nelson, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Columbia University

SASKATCHEWAN:

Connections and Communities in Health and Medicine Conference
Manitoba-Northwest Ontario-Minnesota-Saskatchewan (MOMS) & Society for the Social History of Medicine Postgraduate (SSHM) / Early Career History of Medicine (ECHM) Conference
September 12-14, 2013
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

ALBERTA:
More than Natural Selection: A Lecture Series on Alfred Russell Wallace
October 2-30, 2013 Wednesdays at 3:30pm
Tory Building 2-58, University of Alberta

Kathleen Lowrey, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta
October 2, 2013

Robert Smith, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta
October 9, 2013

Andrew Berry, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
October 16, 2013

Martin Fichman, Department of Humanities, York University
October 23, 2013

Christine Ferguson, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow
October 30, 2013

UBC [University of British Columbia]:
Details will become available online shortly.

IN THE WORKS:
Keep abreast of all the latest developments of events and activities online via our website and social media.

Planning for a national lecture series for late winter/early spring is underway. The focus of this series will be on the timely issue of science and evidence. The Cluster is also in the process of planning a special Cluster Summer Institute for next summer.

I have some news about the University of British Columbia and a Science and Technology Studies event for Fall 2013. Bruno Latour will be in Vancouver giving both lectures and seminars. There’s a lecture for which there are absolutely no tickets (but there will be a standby line)  on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, from the Peter Wall Downtown Lecture Series event page (Note: Since this is an ‘event’ page, once the Bruno Latour lecture has been delivered, they will likely list the next lecture in their series on the page),

War and Peace in an Age of Ecological Conflict

The Vogue Theatre — Monday, September 23, 2013, at 7:30 pm

Tickets are now sold out. A standby line will be available the night of the event.

Dr. Bruno Latour is professor at Sciences Po Paris. Trained in philosophy, he has been instrumental in the development of an anthropology of science and technology. This field has had a direct impact on the philosophy of ecology and on an alternative definition of modernity. He has taught for many years in North American universities. Most of his books have been published with Harvard University Press. The most recently published is An Inquiry into Modes of Existence ‐ An Anthropology of the Moderns. All references and most articles may be found on www.bruno‐latour.fr. Bruno Latour gave the six Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion for 2013, under the title Facing Gaia, Six Lectures on the Political Theology of Nature, and was awarded the prestigious Holberg Prize for 2013 http://www.holbergprisen.no/en.

While politics has always been linked to geography, the Earth itself has largely been seen as playing a backstage role, the mere window-dressing for human intention and interest. With the advent of the epoch known as the ‘Anthropocene’, the Earth is no longer in the background, but very much in the foreground, in constant rivalry with human intentionality. In the meantime, human action has taken on a dimension that matches that of nature itself, and consequently the definition of geo‐politics has been transformed. Appeals to nature, therefore, do not seem to have the same pacifying and unifying effect that they did in earlier ecological movements. By drawing on anthropological and philosophical literature, this lecture will discuss this new geopolitical framework and show how the extension of politics into nature must modify our views on war and peace in the future.

About the Venue

Designed as a dual-purpose theatre to showcase both live performances and movies, the Vogue has been a preferred venue for performers, filmmakers, and audiences alike since 1941 and is prominent landmark of Vancouver’s theatre district.

The Vogue Theatre is located at:
918 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L2

Parking
The closest pay parking available is behind the theatre on the 900 block of Seymour St.

Accessibility
Wheelchair spaces are located to the right of the center aisle, on the orchestra level (row 19).

Other opportunities to see Bruno Latour in Vancouver include, from a July 10, 2013 posting on the UBC Geographer blog,

Sept 25 [2013]: STS seminar

BRUNO LATOUR, Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris
An Inquiry into Modes of Existence
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Location: TBA 10am-12pm
DAY’S SCHEDULE IN DETAIL
10-12pm Discussion with Bruno about An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (Harvard UP, 2013)
5:30pm Debate with Philippe Descola at MOA [Museum of Anthropology]
“Approaches to the Anthropocene”
Contact neil.safier@ubc.ca  if you have any questions about Bruno Latour’s visit to UBC

I offer one hint about contacting Neil Safier, he was not responsive when I sent a query earlier this summer (2013) about another public workshop  (Simon Schaffer of Leviathan and the Air Pump fame) so, you may need to send more than one query to get a response.

Returning one more time to Situating Science, for those who want to see the whole Fall 2013 newsletter, here’s the PDF.

Blue Goose Biorefineries scales up production of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and more

I last mentioned Saskatchewan’s (Canada) Blue Goose Biorefineries in a Jan. 22, 2013 posting about its activities with regard to cellulose nanocrystals. I’m a little late to the party but there’s an Apr. 11, 2013 news release on the Advanced Foods and Materials website which notes that Blue Goose Biorefineries’ production of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC also sometimes known as nanocrystalline cellulose, NCC) has been scaled up,

Advanced Foods and Materials (AFM) Canada and Blue Goose Biorefineries Inc. (BGB), are pleased to announce the successful scale up of biorefining technology for the production of high value microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), lignin, and green platform chemicals from flax and hemp straw.

In collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources Bioprocessing Pilot Plant, and POS Bio-Sciences, BGB’s proprietary Renewable Residuals RefiningTM (R3TM) biorefining technology was successfully scaled up to process 100 kg of pulp in a reaction volume of 2500L to produce microcrystalline cellulose and cellulose nanocrystals of high purity, along with lignin and green platform chemicals as by-products. Throughout this process, the technology has shown promising advantages over existing biorefining methods including cost, yield, environmental impact, and flexibility. Necessary process steps demonstrated include biomass preparation, dewatering and washing, reaction mixing and crystalline cellulose washing. The project also successfully demonstrated the spray drying of the cellulose crystals at POS Bio-Sciences.

It’s exciting to hear that there might be more production of CNC in Canada, as well as, microcrystalline cellulose, lignin, and other by-products,. It seems where CNC is concerned that demand exceeds supply (I get the occasional query from someone trying to find a supplier).

I have more information about Advanced Foods and Materials Canada in my Jan. 22, 2013 posting. As well, here are links to the POS Bio-Sciences website and more information about the University of Saskatchewan’s Bioprocessing Pilot Plant.

ETA May 7, 2013 4:30 pm PDT: Dr. Bernard Laarveld of Blue Goose Biorefineries (BGB) very kindly noted this in an email to me today,

… we are now planning to develop a pilot plant for the production of NCC (aka CNC) and MCC and are raising the funding. This development through BGB is more driven from the private sector in partnership with Advanced Food Materials Canada.  We intend to process about 500 kg  of flax or hemp straw per day, and this would generate about 250 kg per day of crystalline cellulose. BGB has an advantage through low cost of production.

Very exciting news and I wish the Dr. Laarveld and the folks at BGB all the best.

Saskatchewan’s Blue Goose Biorefineries and cellulose at the nanoscale and microscale

Thank you to the reader who put me onto this Saskatchewan-based company that claims to produce nanoscale (sometimes called nanocrystalline cellulose [NCC] or nanocellulose crystals [CNC]) and microscale cellulose in an environmentally friendly fashion. From the Blue Goose Biorefineries’ home page,

BLUE GOOSE BIOREFINERIES INC. TM

Blue Goose Biorefineries Inc. introduces the R3TM (Renewable Residual Refining) technology and process to the Canadian marketplace.  R3TM is the world’s most advanced process and technology for the conversion of  carbon-based biomass into high-value, in-demand market commodities

 Economical, Sustainable, Efficient, Benign

 The Patent-Pending technology and process, together with closely held trade secrets, have created an entirely new, efficient and economically viable perspective on the treatment of biomass for the production of high value-added, sustainable and renewable commodities and energy sources.

 Microcrystalline Cellulose, Nanocrystalline Cellulose, Green Platform Chemicals

 Blue Goose Biorefineries Inc. is a Canadian innovation leader resolving environmental issues and generating economic opportunities through innovative, green, and renewable materials manufactured by our unique process and technology.

There doesn’t seem to be any information about the company’s management team, its products, or its technologies on its website. As well, the Blue Goose website does not host any press releases relating to company developments and/or business deals but there is a July 20, 2012 notice on the Advanced Foods and Materials (AFM) Canada website about a joint project,

Advanced Foods and Materials (AFM) Canada and Blue Goose Biorefineries Inc. (BGB) are pleased to announce they have been awarded a $500,000 grant from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agricultural Innovation Program. The project will focus on the pre-commercialization and development of biorefining methods for flax and hemp straw in order to produce high value cellulose products, lignin, and green platform chemicals in Saskatchewan. BGB’s core technology is a “green chemistry” based, nano-catalytic biorefining process, Renewable Residuals RefiningTM (R3TM).  The R3TM process fractionates and breaks down the major components in lignocellulosic biomass: lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose. This green technology offers many process advantages over existing biorefining methods including cost, yield, environmental impact, and flexibility. Specifically, the technology offers a very strong industry transforming potential for the production of high value microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), lignin and green platform chemicals from flax and hemp straw.

The process has been proven at the lab bench scale for flax and hemp straw. Through this project, Advanced Foods and Materials Canada will manage institutional research activities and the pilot plant scale-up of the biorefining process. The production of larger quantities of bioproducts for testing, process development and lock-down including design parameters, engineering costs and tuning, will facilitate the development of a demonstration plant for Blue Goose Biorefineries. The impact of this project’s activities will add-value to Canadian hemp, flax and other cereal crops by creating a more efficient and economical source of high-quality MCC, NCC, lignin, and green platform chemicals for food, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications across North America.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s July 18, 2012 news release can be read here.

There is one other piece of information, Dr. Bernard Laarveld of the University of Saskatchewan lists Blue Goose Biorefineries as a current employer on his LinkedIn profile.

http://www.afmcanada.ca/event/BGBAIP

Three sciencetype jobs: two in Canada and one in Australia

The Situating Science Cluster (an academic project connecting social scientists and humanists focused on the study of science and technology mentioned in my Aug. 16, 2011 posting) has a couple of announcements for postdoctoral positions.

The first science job is at the University of Saskatchewan,

Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Philosophy and History of Science and Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan

The Departments of Philosophy and History at the University of Saskatchewan invite candidates for a one-year (renewable for a second year) post-doctoral fellowship. This award is associated with the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant, “Situating Science”, a national cluster promoting communication and networking between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology.

The successful candidate should have completed a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2011. (ETA Feb. 7, 2010: The qualifications have been changed so that candidates are required to complete a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2012 and not by September 2011.) Applicants exploring sub-themes of epistemology and/or history of experimentation are preferred.

The successful candidate will work closely with faculty and graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan associated with the Situating Science Cluster.  In particular, the post-doctoral fellow will help coordinate an international conference and a smaller workshop associated with the Cluster’s activities.  Salary and benefits to $35,000 with the possibility of teaching opportunities that may be negotiated.  Office space will be provided.

More information on the objectives and themes of the Situating Science Cluster can be found on the website: www.situsci.ca/project-summary

More information on the University of Saskatchewan Node can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-saskatchewan-0

More details about the job such as the deadline for applications (April 1, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The other job is in Halifax,

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science and Technology Studies/History and Philosophy of Science at the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Halifax.

King’s and Dalhousie announce a postdoctoral fellowship award in science and technology studies(STS)/history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine (HPS), associated with the SSHRC Cluster Grant, “Situating Science,” a national research cluster promoting communication between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology. The award provides a base salary (stipend) equivalent to $35,000, with the possibility of augmenting the salary through teaching or other awards, depending on the host department.

The successful applicant is expected to have completed a Ph.D. in an STS/HPS-related field, within the last five years and before taking up the fellowship. The candidate will be associated with the University of King’s College and housed in one of the departments associated with STS/HPS. In addition to carrying out independent or collaborative research under the supervision of one or more faculty members on campus, the successful candidate will be expected to take a leadership role in the Cluster, to actively participate in the development of Situating Science activities held on campus, supporting the networking and outreach activities of the local Node.

While the research topic is entirely open, we are particularly interested in projects concerning the history and philosophy of scientific instruments. A candidate with this interest could participate in the collection of an important number of instruments found around Halifax with the long-term goal of establishing a small museum in the new Life Sciences building on campus.

Full applications will contain a cover letter that includes a description of current research projects, an academic CV, a writing sample, and the names and contact information of three referees. Applicants must articulate how their research projects fit within one or more of the four themes of the cluster (these themes can be found at www.situsci.ca/en/aboutus.html), and should indicate which faculty members and departments they intend to work with at Dal/Kings. Applications (hardcopies only please) should be sent to:

A detailed description of the Cluster grant behind “Situating Science” can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/project-summary.

Faculty members and activities in the “Atlantic Node” of Situating Science can be found at http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-kings-college-0.

More details such as the deadline for applications (Feb. 15, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The next job is in Australia (I assume) with the Friends of the Earth (FoE) who are looking for a Nanotechnology Project Coordinator. Here is more information from the posting on the Pro Bono Australia website,

Are you an environment or social justice campaigner who’s passionate about science and technology issues? Friends of the Earth is looking for a new Coordinator for our nanotechnology work.

Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) is a decentralised, volunteer-driven organisation committed to achieving ecological sustainability and social justice. The FoEA Nanotechnology Project has existed since 2005. Its aim is to achieve precautionary management of nanotechnology’s environment and health risks, just oversight of social and economic dimensions, and to ensure that public participation guides nanotechnology decision making (see http://nano.foe.org.au).

The Nanotechnology Project coordinator’s primary responsibility is to facilitate the development, and ensure implementation, of the strategic plan agreed on an annual basis by the Nanotechnology Project collective. The coordinator maintains an overarching view of the political, commercial and scientific landscapes, and supports other members of the collective to contribute effectively to achieve the project’s aims.

Details such as salary and the deadline for applications (Feb. 14, 2012) are in the Pro Bono Australia posting or here on the FoE website.

Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist, speaks at 2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference

When the 3rd Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) opens tomorrow (Nov. 16, 2011), attendees will find a large number of sessions focussed on innovation. In fact, the keynote panel is titled, Big Picture Perspective on Science & Innovation Policy, and features three speakers all of whom are academics including Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb. The other two speakers are Rémi Quirion, OC, Ph.D., CQ, FRSC, Chief Scientist & Chariman of the Board, Fonds de recherche du Québec and R. Peter MacKinnon, President, University of Saskatchewan
& member of the STIC [Science and Technology Innovation Council] State of the Nation Working Group. Here’s a description of the panel topic from the 2011 CSPC agenda page,

With continuing uncertainty about the global economy and with persistent public policy challenges that respect no borders, science and innovation policy is of increasing importance for governments and organizations across Canada and around the world.  How do leaders from various perspectives view the “big picture”?  What are the key challenges and opportunities in the decade ahead and how can science, technology and innovation help to address them?  How can states [nations] improve the performance of their science, technology and innovation systems to ensure better health outcomes, a safe and secure environment, and sustainable prosperity for their citizens?  How are macro-decisions on the state of science and innovation policy being made, and what foundations can support efficient national innovation systems?

Given that the world of academe is not known for its innovation, I always find it a bit odd to see these panels peopled by academics, especially when the speakers’ biographies don’t feature much in the way of innovative accomplishments.

I was a little curious to find out why an Australian (Ian Chubb) was included in this panel and on the ‘science culture’ panel. I did try to interview Chubb but he is making an extensive tour of Europe, Canada, and the US and did not have time to answer my questions. Luckily, I was able to find some information in a June 15, 2011 article by Lucinda Schmidt for the Sydney Morning Herald,

He began his third career, as chief scientist, on May 23 [2011].

”I’ve always loved science,” says the 67-year-old who grew up on the rural fringe of Melbourne, where there were plenty of opportunities for a curious boy to poke about in ant nests and wonder what made the stars twinkle.

He worked part time in a lab while completing his undergraduate degree then headed overseas for almost a decade, including six years at Oxford University doing his PhD.

”It was there that I realised I could probably cut the mustard [as a neuroscientist],” says Chubb, who returned to Australia in 1978 to lecture at Flinders University in South Australia.

After working as a neuroscientist for a number of years, Chubb changed career direction,

His second career included stints as deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Wollongong, chair of the federal government’s Higher Education Council, vice-chancellor of Flinders University for six years, then vice-chancellor of ANU for the past decade.

Chubb earned a reputation as a fearless but politically pragmatic advocate for tertiary education.

It would appear this second career will stand him in good stead as Australia’s chief scientist,

As chief scientist, Chubb’s political skills and forceful advocacy will be invaluable. His predecessor, the US physicist Penny Sackett, resigned halfway through her five-year term reportedly because of lack of government interest in her role.

Hopefully, Chubb will reach past the platitudes and give some insight into how he sees the role of a chief scientist and the political acumen necessary to make the position meaningful.

As I noted earlier, Chubb will also be speaking on the ‘science culture’ panel (along with Denise Amyot who was interviewed in my Nov. 15, 2011 posting here). He will be speaking about the ‘Inspiring Australia‘ initiative. The webpage for the initiative is a little disappointing in that it consists mostly of strategy documents, listings for two programmes which have the appearance of having predated this initiative (Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and National Science Week Grants), and information about two Expert Working Groups ( Science and the media and Developing an Evidence Base for Science Engagement). The initiative itself is barely one year old.

I wish the organizers, speakers, and attendees an excellent conference.

2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference

It’s the third year for the Canadian Science Policy Conference. The first two were held in Toronto and Montréal, respectively. For a refreshing change of pace, they’re holding this year’s conference in Ottawa. (For anyone not familiar with Canadian geography, these locations are all relatively close to each other and this type of scheduling is the source of much grumbling from those of us in the ‘other’ provinces and the territories.)

You’ll be happy to know that the theme for the 2011 conference is: Building Bridges for the Future of Science Policy in Canada. Being held from Nov. 16 – 18, 2011, the conference features a keynote address from three speakers, Rémi Quirion, OC, Ph.D., CQ, FRSC, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Fonds de recherche du Québec; Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist for Australia; and R. Peter MacKinnon, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, there is no information about what they might discuss although one imagines they will focus on the theme for the conference. (Note: One cannot always depend on one’s speakers to keep to the theme. I know this from bittersweet [it’s funny afterwards] experience.)

I’m a little more interested in the talk which ushers in the first full day of the conference. Scheduled for 8:40 am on Thursday, November 17, 2011 the talk is titled, Building Stronger Communities Through Innovation. Here’s a preview from the 2011 CSPC agenda page,

How do we build innovative communities? This is a central challenge for Canada in the 21st century since innovative communities form the foundation of a prosperous country. As more than a decade of research on industry clusters has shown, a robust innovation system can have a profoundly positive impact on local communities when it translates into high quality jobs, industrial growth, new enterprises, improved public infrastructure and services and a cleaner, healthier environment.

But building innovation into our communities takes the involvement of individuals and institutions across the spectrum of society. Universities, colleges, research hospitals, private companies, governments and non-profit agencies, along with the talented, creative people that work in these organizations, must be free to work together and share their knowledge and ideas.

Yet fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange between different organizations, with different interests and capacities can be challenging. Successful collaboration requires time, resources, communication, shared goals, commitment and risk-taking.

A panel of leading Canadian thinkers in inter-sectoral and inter-organizational collaboration will discuss how university and college researchers can work with local businesses to translate new knowledge into new creative products and beneficial services. They will look at the role of research hospitals in contributing to both the health and wealth of local communities. And they will discuss best practices in overcoming the institutional and cultural barriers to collaboration.

The speakers for this session are:

Gilles G. Patry, Ph.D, President and CEO,Canada Foundation for Innovation; Chad Gaffield,, Ph.D, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; Dr. Kevin Smith, President and CEO, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, St Joseph’s Lifecare Centre Brantford; Fred Morley, Executive VP & Chief Economist, Greater Halifax Partnership; Fassi Kafyeke Director, Strategic Technology,Bombardier Aerospace; Hon. Mike Harcourt, Lawyer, Community Activist, and former BC Premier

Given that the report of the Review of Federal Support to R&D has just been released (my posting will be out later today), it would be nice if they mention the report and its likely impact on the science community. It’s probably too late but it would be fabulous if someone from the expert panel could be persuaded to give a talk.

I’m mentioning these two panels simply because I know a speaker on each. David Kent ( CIHR Postdoctoral, University of Cambridge) is moderating the Education and Training of Scientists panel. David is 1/2 of the blogging team for The Black Hole; Science in Canada Issues Affecting Science Trainees blog (Beth Swan is the other 1/2). You can find out more about the conference and David’s latest panel doings in his Oct. 18, 2011 posting. The other panelist is Tim Meyer (Head of Strategic Planning & Communications, TRIUMF) who’s on the Reaching out with Big Science panel. Are they going to talk about blogging and social media or are they going to focus primarily on mainstream media. Given that two of the other speakers are Penny Park (Science Media Centre of Canada) and Jay Ingram (until recently a host for the Daily Planet programme on the Discovery Channel and author), I’m guessing the focus will be mainstream media.

Note Oct. 20, 2011: A few minor grammatical changes made in a bid to make this piece readable. We’ll see how that works.

ETA Oct. 24, 2011: I can’t believe missed this panel (Science Culture, Organized and Prioritized: Three National and International Initiatives) which features another person I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, Denise Amyot, President and Chief Executive Office of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC). In order to make up for my oversight I’m including a description here,

Culture is big: annually, some 290 million citizens actively participate in the exhibitions, programs, events and outreach initiatives organized by 2,400 science centres worldwide. Other types of institutions, radio, internet, and film build further on that reach. This session will examine three recent initiatives that seek to organize, define, and take strategic advantage of the work of hundreds of diverse science engagement and knowledge creation organisations nationally and internationally. Increasingly, strategic focus among this diverse set of content and communication partners is bringing new attention to science engagement for the benefit of national and global society.

This session will examine Inspiring Australia, an initiative of the Australian government to create regional networks of diverse engagement organizations and connect them effectively with the science knowledge creators in order to better execute science engagement in that country. We will also examine an initiative to benchmark “science culture” in order to better measure future progress . And finally we will examine a global initiative by science centres to use science engagement in a truly global context.

Well, the first initiative is clearly from Australia (perhaps this explains Ian Chubb’s role as one of the conference’s opening keynote speakers and as one of three speakers on this panel) and the third initiative is coming from the science centres (one of the panelists is from the Ontario Science Centre) so perhaps the second initiative is coming from the CSTMC?