Category Archives: sscience education

For better science literacy change science education

Zahilyn D. Roche Allred’s July 12, 2022 essay for The Conversation (h/t July 13, 2022 news item on phys.org) suggests that even people with undergraduate science degrees have some issues with science literacy (Note: Links have been removed),

To graduate with a science major, college students must complete between 40 and 60 credit hours of science coursework. That means spending around 2,500 hours in the classroom throughout their undergraduate career.

However, research has shown that despite all that effort, most college science courses give students only a fragmented understanding of fundamental scientific concepts. The teaching method reinforces memorization of isolated facts, proceeding from one textbook chapter to the next without necessarily making connections between them, instead of learning how to use the information and connect those facts meaningfully.

The ability to make these connections is important beyond the classroom as well, because it’s the basis of science literacy: the ability to use scientific knowledge to accurately evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence.

As a chemistry education researcher, I have been working since 2019 with my colleague Sonia Underwood to learn more about how chemistry students integrate and apply their knowledge to other scientific disciplines.

A large body of research shows that traditional science education, for both science majors and non-majors, doesn’t do a good job of teaching science students how to apply their scientific knowledge and explain things that they may not have learned about directly.

With that in mind, we developed a series of cross-disciplinary activities guided by a framework called “three-dimensional learning.”

In short, three-dimensional learning, known as 3DL, emphasizes that the teaching, learning and assessing of college students should involve the use of fundamental ideas within a discipline. It should also involve tools and rules that support students in making connections within and between disciplines. Finally, it should engage students in the use of their knowledge. The framework was developed on the basis of how people learn as a way to help all students gain a deep understanding of science.

Allred goes on to describe a piece of previously published research. Here’s a link to and citation for that work

Students’ use of chemistry core ideas to explain the structure and stability of DNA by Zahilyn D. Roche Allred, Anthony J. Farias, Alex T. Kararo, Kristin N. Parent, Rebecca L. Matz, Sonia M. Underwood. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education Volume 49, Issue 1 (January/February 2021) Pages 55-68 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/bmb.21391 First published: 09 September 2020

This paper is behind a paywall.

Photonic synapses with low power consumption (and a few observations)

This work on brainlike (neuromorphic) computing was announced in a June 30, 2022 Compuscript Ltd news release on EurekAlert,

Photonic synapses with low power consumption and high sensitivity are expected to integrate sensing-memory-preprocessing capabilities

A new publication from Opto-Electronic Advances; DOI 10.29026/oea.2022.210069 discusses how photonic synapses with low power consumption and high sensitivity are expected to integrate sensing-memory-preprocessing capabilities.

Neuromorphic photonics/electronics is the future of ultralow energy intelligent computing and artificial intelligence (AI). In recent years, inspired by the human brain, artificial neuromorphic devices have attracted extensive attention, especially in simulating visual perception and memory storage. Because of its advantages of high bandwidth, high interference immunity, ultrafast signal transmission and lower energy consumption, neuromorphic photonic devices are expected to realize real-time response to input data. In addition, photonic synapses can realize non-contact writing strategy, which contributes to the development of wireless communication. The use of low-dimensional materials provides an opportunity to develop complex brain-like systems and low-power memory logic computers. For example, large-scale, uniform and reproducible transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) show great potential for miniaturization and low-power biomimetic device applications due to their excellent charge-trapping properties and compatibility with traditional CMOS processes. The von Neumann architecture with discrete memory and processor leads to high power consumption and low efficiency of traditional computing. Therefore, the sensor-memory fusion or sensor-memory- processor integration neuromorphic architecture system can meet the increasingly developing demands of big data and AI for low power consumption and high performance devices. Artificial synaptic devices are the most important components of neuromorphic systems. The performance evaluation of synaptic devices will help to further apply them to more complex artificial neural networks (ANN).

Chemical vapor deposition (CVD)-grown TMDs inevitably introduce defects or impurities, showed a persistent photoconductivity (PPC) effect. TMDs photonic synapses integrating synaptic properties and optical detection capabilities show great advantages in neuromorphic systems for low-power visual information perception and processing as well as brain memory.

The research Group of Optical Detection and Sensing (GODS) have reported a three-terminal photonic synapse based on the large-area, uniform multilayer MoS2 films. The reported device realized ultrashort optical pulse detection within 5 μs and ultralow power consumption about 40 aJ, which means its performance is much better than the current reported properties of photonic synapses. Moreover, it is several orders of magnitude lower than the corresponding parameters of biological synapses, indicating that the reported photonic synapse can be further used for more complex ANN. The photoconductivity of MoS2 channel grown by CVD is regulated by photostimulation signal, which enables the device to simulate short-term synaptic plasticity (STP), long-term synaptic plasticity (LTP), paired-pulse facilitation (PPF) and other synaptic properties. Therefore, the reported photonic synapse can simulate human visual perception, and the detection wavelength can be extended to near infrared light. As the most important system of human learning, visual perception system can receive 80% of learning information from the outside. With the continuous development of AI, there is an urgent need for low-power and high sensitivity visual perception system that can effectively receive external information. In addition, with the assistant of gate voltage, this photonic synapse can simulate the classical Pavlovian conditioning and the regulation of different emotions on memory ability. For example, positive emotions enhance memory ability and negative emotions weaken memory ability. Furthermore, a significant contrast in the strength of STP and LTP based on the reported photonic synapse suggests that it can preprocess the input light signal. These results indicate that the photo-stimulation and backgate control can effectively regulate the conductivity of MoS2 channel layer by adjusting carrier trapping/detrapping processes. Moreover, the photonic synapse presented in this paper is expected to integrate sensing-memory-preprocessing capabilities, which can be used for real-time image detection and in-situ storage, and also provides the possibility to break the von Neumann bottleneck. 

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

Photonic synapses with ultralow energy consumption for artificial visual perception and brain storage by Caihong Li, Wen Du, Yixuan Huang, Jihua Zou, Lingzhi Luo, Song Sun, Alexander O. Govorov, Jiang Wu, Hongxing Xu, Zhiming Wang. Opto-Electron Adv Vol 5, No 9 210069 (2022). doi: 10.29026/oea.2022.210069

This paper is open access.

Observations

I don’t have much to say about the research itself other than, I believe this is the first time I’ve seen a news release about neuromorphic computing research from China.

it’s China that most interests me, especially these bits from the June 30, 2022 Compuscript Ltd news release on EurekAlert,

Group of Optical Detection and Sensing (GODS) [emphasis mine] was established in 2019. It is a research group focusing on compound semiconductors, lasers, photodetectors, and optical sensors. GODS has established a well-equipped laboratory with research facilities such as Molecular Beam Epitaxy system, IR detector test system, etc. GODS is leading several research projects funded by NSFC and National Key R&D Programmes. GODS have published more than 100 research articles in Nature Electronics, Light: Science and Applications, Advanced Materials and other international well-known high-level journals with the total citations beyond 8000.

Jiang Wu obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville in 2011. After his Ph.D., he joined UESTC as associate professor and later professor. He joined University College London [UCL] as a research associate in 2012 and then lecturer in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL from 2015 to 2018. He is now a professor at UESTC [University of Electronic Science and Technology of China] [emphases mine]. His research interests include optoelectronic applications of semiconductor heterostructures. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Senior Member of IEEE.

Opto-Electronic Advances (OEA) is a high-impact, open access, peer reviewed monthly SCI journal with an impact factor of 9.682 (Journals Citation Reports for IF 2020). Since its launch in March 2018, OEA has been indexed in SCI, EI, DOAJ, Scopus, CA and ICI databases over the time and expanded its Editorial Board to 36 members from 17 countries and regions (average h-index 49). [emphases mine]

The journal is published by The Institute of Optics and Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, aiming at providing a platform for researchers, academicians, professionals, practitioners, and students to impart and share knowledge in the form of high quality empirical and theoretical research papers covering the topics of optics, photonics and optoelectronics.

The research group’s awkward name was almost certainly developed with the rather grandiose acronym, GODS, in mind. I don’t think you could get away with doing this in an English-speaking country as your colleagues would mock you mercilessly.

It’s Jiang Wu’s academic and work history that’s of most interest as it might provide insight into China’s Young Thousand Talents program. A January 5, 2023 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) news release describes the program,

In a systematic evaluation of China’s Young Thousand Talents (YTT) program, which was established in 2010, researchers find that China has been successful in recruiting and nurturing high-caliber Chinese scientists who received training abroad. Many of these individuals outperform overseas peers in publications and access to funding, the study shows, largely due to access to larger research teams and better research funding in China. Not only do the findings demonstrate the program’s relative success, but they also hold policy implications for the increasing number of governments pursuing means to tap expatriates for domestic knowledge production and talent development. China is a top sender of international students to United States and European Union science and engineering programs. The YTT program was created to recruit and nurture the productivity of high-caliber, early-career, expatriate scientists who return to China after receiving Ph.Ds. abroad. Although there has been a great deal of international attention on the YTT, some associated with the launch of the U.S.’s controversial China Initiative and federal investigations into academic researchers with ties to China, there has been little evidence-based research on the success, impact, and policy implications of the program itself. Dongbo Shi and colleagues evaluated the YTT program’s first 4 cohorts of scholars and compared their research productivity to that of their peers that remained overseas. Shi et al. found that China’s YTT program successfully attracted high-caliber – but not top-caliber – scientists. However, those young scientists that did return outperformed others in publications across journal-quality tiers – particularly in last-authored publications. The authors suggest that this is due to YTT scholars’ greater access to larger research teams and better research funding in China. The authors say the dearth of such resources in the U.S. and E.U. “may not only expedite expatriates’ return decisions but also motivate young U.S.- and E.U.-born scientists to seek international research opportunities.” They say their findings underscore the need for policy adjustments to allocate more support for young scientists.

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

Has China’s Young Thousand Talents program been successful in recruiting and nurturing top-caliber scientists? by Dongbo Shi, Weichen Liu, and Yanbo Wang. Science 5 Jan 2023 Vol 379, Issue 6627 pp. 62-65 DOI: 10.1126/science.abq1218

This paper is behind a paywall.

Kudos to the folks behind China’s Young Thousands Talents program! Jiang Wu’s career appears to be a prime example of the program’s success. Perhaps Canadian policy makers will be inspired.

Building Transdisciplinary Research Paths [for a] Sustainable & Inclusive Future, a December 14, 2022 science policy event

I received (via email) a December 8, 2022 Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) announcement about their various doings when this event, which seems a little short on information, caught my attention,

[Building Transdisciplinary Research Paths towards a more Sustainable and Inclusive Future]

Upcoming Virtual Event

With this workshop, Belmont Forum and IAI aim to open a collective reflection on the ideas and practices around ‘Transdisciplinarity’ (TD) to foster participatory knowledge production. Our goal is to create a safe environment for people to share their impressions about TD, as a form of experimental lab based on a culture of collaboration.

This CSPC event page cleared up a few questions,

Building Transdisciplinary Research Paths towards a more Sustainable and Inclusive Future

Global environmental change and sustainability require engagement with civil society and wide participation to gain social legitimacy, also, it is necessary to open cooperation among different scientific disciplines, borderless collaboration, and collaborative learning processes, among other crucial issues.

Those efforts have been recurrently encompassed by the idea of ‘Transdisciplinarity’ (TD), which is a fairly new word and evolving concept. Several of those characteristics are daily practices in academic and non-academic communities, sometimes under different words or conceptions.

With this workshop, Belmont Forum and IAI [Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research?] aim to open a collective reflection on the ideas and practices around ‘Transdisciplinarity’ (TD) to foster participatory knowledge production. Our goal is to create a safe environment for people to share their impressions about TD, as a form of experimental lab based on a culture of collaboration.

Date: Dec 14 [2022]

Time: 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST

Website [Register here]: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZArcOCupj4rHdBbwhSUpVhpvPuou5kNlZId

For the curious, here’s more about the Belmont Forum from their About page, Note: Links have been removed,

Established in 2009, the Belmont Forum is a partnership of funding organizations, international science councils, and regional consortia committed to the advancement of transdisciplinary science. Forum operations are guided by the Belmont Challenge, a vision document that encourages:

International transdisciplinary research providing knowledge for understanding, mitigating and adapting to global environmental change.

Forum members and partner organizations work collaboratively to meet this Challenge by issuing international calls for proposals, committing to best practices for open data access, and providing transdisciplinary training.  To that end, the Belmont Forum is also working to enhance the broader capacity to conduct transnational environmental change research through its e-Infrastructure and Data Management initiative.

Since its establishment, the Forum has successfully led 19 calls for proposals, supporting 134 projects and more than 1,000 scientists and stakeholders, representing over 90 countries.  Themes addressed by CRAs have included Freshwater Security, Coastal Vulnerability, Food Security and Land Use Change, Climate Predictability and Inter-Regional Linkages, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Arctic Observing and Science for Sustainability, and Mountains as Sentinels of Change.  New themes are developed through a scoping process and made available for proposals through the Belmont Forum website and its BF Grant Operations site.

If you keep scrolling down the Bellmont Forum’s About page, you’ll find an impressive list of partners including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

I’m pretty sure IAI is Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, given that two of the panelists come from that organization. Here’s more about the IAI from their About Us page, Note: Links have been removed,

Humans have affected practically all ecosystems on earth. Over the past 200 years, mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere have changed its radiative properties and are causing a rise in global temperatures which is now modifying Earth system functions globally. As a result, the 21st-century is faced with environmental changes from local to global scales that require large efforts of mitigation and adaptation by societies and ecosystems. The causes and effects, problems and solutions of global change interlink biogeochemistry, Earth system functions and socio-economic conditions in increasingly complex ways. To guide efforts of mitigation and adaptation to global change and aid policy decisions, scientific knowledge now needs to be generated in broad transdisciplinary ways that address the needs of knowledge users and also provide profound understanding of complex socio-environmental systems.

To address these knowledge needs, 12 nations of the American continent came together in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1992 to establish the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI). The 12 governments, in the Declaration of Montevideo, called for the Institute to develop the best possible international coordination of scientific and economic research on the extent, causes, and consequences of global change in the Americas.

Sixteen governments signed the resulting Agreement Establishing the IAI which laid the  foundation for the IAI’s function as a regional intergovernmental organization that promotes interdisciplinary scientific research and capacity building to inform decision-makers on the continent and beyond. Since the establishment of the Agreement in 1992, 3 additional nations have acceded the treaty, and the IAI has now 19 Parties in the Americas, which come together once every year in the Conference of the Parties to monitor and direct the IAI’s activities.

Now onto the best part, reading about the panelists (from CSPC event page, scroll down and click on the See bio button), Note: I have made some rough changes to the formatting so that the bios match each other more closely,

Dr. Lily House-Peters is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. House-Peters is a broadly trained human-environment geographer with experience in qualitative and quantitative approaches to human dimensions of environmental change, water security, mining and extraction, and natural resource conservation policy. She has a decade of experience and expertise in transdisciplinary research for action-oriented solutions to global environmental change. She is currently part of a team creating a curriculum for global change researchers in the Americas focused on the drivers and barriers of effective transdisciplinary collaboration and processes of integration and convergence in diverse teams.

Dr. Gabriela Alonso Yanez, Associate Professor, Werklund School of Education University of Calgary. Learning and education in the context of sustainability and global change are the focus of my work. Over the last ten years, I have participated in several collaborative research projects with multiple aims, including building researchers’ and organizations’ capacity for collaboration and engaging networks that include knowledge keepers, local community members and academics in co-designing and co-producing solutions-oriented knowledge.

Marshalee Valentine, MSc, BTech. Marshalee Valentine is Co-founder and Vice President of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance Jamaica (IWCA), a charitable organization responsible for the development and implementation of social impact and community development projects geared towards improving the livelihoods of women along the coffee value chain in Jamaica. In addition, she also owns and operates a Quality, Food Safety and Environmental Management Systems Consultancy. Her areas of expertise include; Process improvement, technology and Innovation transfer methods, capacity building and community-based research.

With a background in Agriculture, she holds a Bachelor of Technology in Environmental Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management. Marshalee offers a unique perspective for regional authenticity bringing deep sensibility to issues of gender, equity and inclusion, in particular related to GEC issues in small countries.

Fany Ramos Quispe, Science Technology and Policy Fellow, Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research. Fany Ramos Quispe holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Mexico, and an MSc. in Environmental Change and International Development from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She worked with a variety of private and public organizations at the national and international levels. She has experience on projects related to renewable energies, waste and water management, environmental education, climate change, and inter and transdisciplinary research, among others. After her postgraduate studies, she joined the Bolivian government mainly to support international affairs related to climate change at the Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth, afterwards, she joined the Centre for Social Research of the Vicepresidency as a Climate Change Specialist.

For several years now she combined academic and professional activities with side projects and activism for environmental and educational issues. She is a founder and former chair (2019-2020) of the environmental engineers’ society of La Paz and collaborates with different grassroots organizations.

Fany is a member of OWSD Bolivia [Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World {OWSD}] and current IAI Science, Technology and Policy fellow at the Belmont Forum.

Dr. Laila Sandroni, Science Technology and Policy Fellow, InterAmerican Institute for Global Change Research. Laila Sandroni is an Anthropologist and Geographer with experience in transdisciplinary research in social sciences. Her research interests lie in the field of transformations to sustainability and the role of different kinds of knowledge in defining the best paths to achieve biodiversity conservation and forest management. She has particular expertise in epistemology, power-knowledge relations, and evidence-based policy in environmental issues.

Laila has a longstanding involvement with stakeholders working on different paths towards biodiversity conservation. She has experience in transdisciplinary science and participatory methodologies to encompass plural knowledge on the management of protected areas in tropical rainforests in Brazil.

This event seems to be free and it looks like an exciting panel.

Unexpectedly, they don’t have a male participant amongst the panelists. Outside of groups that are explicitly exploring women’s issues in the sciences, I’ve never before seen a science panel composed entirely of women. As well, the organizers seem to have broadened the range of geographies represented at a Canadian event with a researcher who has experience in Brazil, another with experience in Bolivia, a panelist who works in Jamaica, and two academics who focus on the Americas (South, Central, and North).

Transdisciplinarity and other disciplinarities

There are so many: crossdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity, that the whole subject gets a little confusing. Jeffrey Evans’ July 29, 2014 post on the Purdue University (Indiana, US) Polytechnic Institute blog answers questions about three (trans-, multi-, and inter-) of the disciplinarities,

Learners entering the Polytechnic Incubator’s new program will no doubt hear the terms “multidisciplinary (arity)” and “interdisciplinary (arity)” thrown about somewhat indiscriminately. Interestingly, we administrators, faculty, and staff also use these terms rather loosely and too often without carefully considering their underlying meaning.

Recently I gave a talk about yet another disciplinarity: “transdisciplinarity.” The purpose of the talk was to share with colleagues from around the country the opportunities and challenges associated with developing a truly transdisciplinary environment in an institution of higher education. During a meeting after I returned, the terms “multi”, “inter”, and “trans” disciplinary(arity) were being thrown around, and it was clear that the meanings of the terms were not clearly understood. Hopefully this blog entry will help shed some light on the subject. …

First, I am not an expert in the various “disciplinarities.” The ideas and descriptions that follow are not mine and have been around for decades, with many books and articles written on the subject. Yet my Polytechnic Incubator colleagues and I believe in these ideas and in their advantages and constraints, and they serve to motivate the design of the Incubator’s transdisciplinary environment.

In 1992, Hugh G. Petrie wrote a seminal article1 for the American Educational Research Association that articulates the meaning of these ideas. Later, in 2007, A. Wendy Russell, Fern Wickson, and Anna L. Carew contributed an article2 discussing the context of transdisciplinarity, prescriptions for transdisciplinary knowledge production and the contradictions that arise, and suggestions for universities to develop capacity for transdisciplinarity, rather than simply investing in knowledge “products.” …

Multidisciplinarity

Petrie1 discusses multidisciplinarity as “the idea of a number of disciplines working together on a problem, an educational program, or a research study. The effect is additive rather than integrative. The project is usually short-lived, and there is seldom any long-term change in the ways in which the disciplinary participants in a multidisciplinary project view their own work.”

Interdisciplinarity

Moving to extend the idea of multidisciplinarity to include more integration, rather than just addition, Petrie writes about interdisciplinarity in this way:

“Interdisciplinary research or education typically refers to those situations in which the integration of the work goes beyond the mere concatenation of disciplinary contributions. Some key elements of disciplinarians’ use of their concepts and tools change. There is a level of integration. Interdisciplinary subjects in university curricula such as physical chemistry or social psychology, which by now have, perhaps,themselves become disciplines, are good examples. A newer one might be the field of immunopharmocology, which combines the work of bacteriology, chemistry, physiology, and immunology. Another instance of interdisciplinarity might be the emerging notion of a core curriculum that goes considerably beyond simple distribution requirements in undergraduate programs of general education.”

Transdisciplinarity

Petrie1 writes about transdisciplinarity in this way: “The notion of transdisciplinarity exemplifies one of the historically important driving forces in the area of interdisciplinarity, namely, the idea of the desirability of the integration of knowledge into some meaningful whole. The best example, perhaps, of the drive to transdisciplinarity might be the early discussions of general systems theory when it was being held forward as a grand synthesis of knowledge. Marxism, structuralism, and feminist theory are sometimes cited as examples of a transdisciplinary approach. Essentially, this kind of interdisciplinarity represents the impetus to integrate knowledge, and, hence, is often characterized by a denigration and repudiation of the disciplines and disciplinary work as essentially fragmented and incomplete.

It seems multidisciplinarity could be viewed as an ad hoc approach whereas interdsciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are intimately related with ‘inter-‘ being a subset of ‘trans-‘.

I think that’s enough for now. Should I ever stumble across a definition for crossdisciplinarity, I will endeavour to add it here.

Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence launched at Harvard University and University of Manchester pushes the boundaries of smart robotics and AI

Before getting to the two news items, it might be a good idea to note that ‘artificial intelligence (AI)’ and ‘robot’ are not synonyms although they are often used that way, even by people who should know better. (sigh … I do it too)

A robot may or may not be animated with artificial intelligence while artificial intelligence algorithms may be installed on a variety of devices such as a phone or a computer or a thermostat or a … .

It’s something to bear in mind when reading about the two new institutions being launched. Now, on to Harvard University.

Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence

A September 23, 2022 Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) news release (also on EurekAlert) announces a symposium to launch a new institute close to Mark Zuckerberg’s heart,

On Thursday [September 22, 2022], leadership from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Harvard University celebrated the launch of the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University with a symposium on Harvard’s campus. Speakers included CZI Head of Science Stephen Quake, President of Harvard University Lawrence Bacow, Provost of Harvard University Alan Garber, and Kempner Institute co-directors Bernardo Sabatini and Sham Kakade. The event also included remarks and panels from industry leaders in science, technology, and artificial intelligence, including Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Andy Jassy, Daniel Huttenlocher, Sam Altman, Joelle Pineau, Sangeeta Bhatia, and Yann LeCun, among many others.

The Kempner Institute will seek to better understand the basis of intelligence in natural and artificial systems. Its bold premise is that the two fields are intimately interconnected; the next generation of AI will require the same principles that our brains use for fast, flexible natural reasoning, and understanding how our brains compute and reason requires theories developed for AI. The Kempner Institute will study AI systems, including artificial neural networks, to develop both principled theories [emphasis mine] and a practical understanding of how these systems operate and learn. It will also focus on research topics such as learning and memory, perception and sensation, brain function, and metaplasticity. The Institute will recruit and train future generations of researchers from undergraduates and graduate students to post-docs and faculty — actively recruiting from underrepresented groups at every stage of the pipeline — to study intelligence from biological, cognitive, engineering, and computational perspectives.

CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Mark Zuckerberg [chairman and chief executive officer of Meta/Facebook] said: “The Kempner Institute will be a one-of-a-kind institute for studying intelligence and hopefully one that helps us discover what intelligent systems really are, how they work, how they break and how to repair them. There’s a lot of exciting implications because once you understand how something is supposed to work and how to repair it once it breaks, you can apply that to the broader mission the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has to empower scientists to help cure, prevent or manage all diseases.”

CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Priscilla Chan said: “Just attending this school meant the world to me. But to stand on this stage and to be able to give something back is truly a dream come true … All of this progress starts with building one fundamental thing: a Kempner community that’s diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational, because incredible ideas can come from anyone. If you bring together people from all different disciplines to look at a problem and give them permission to articulate their perspective, you might start seeing insights or solutions in a whole different light. And those new perspectives lead to new insights and discoveries and generate new questions that can lead an entire field to blossom. So often, that momentum is what breaks the dam and tears down old orthodoxies, unleashing new floods of new ideas that allow us to progress together as a society.”

CZI Head of Science Stephen Quake said: “It’s an honor to partner with Harvard in building this extraordinary new resource for students and science. This is a once-in-a-generation moment for life sciences and medicine. We are living in such an extraordinary and exciting time for science. Many breakthrough discoveries are going to happen not only broadly but right here on this campus and at this institute.”

CZI’s 10-year vision is to advance research and develop technologies to observe, measure, and analyze any biological process within the human body — across spatial scales and in real time. CZI’s goal is to accelerate scientific progress by funding scientific research to advance entire fields; working closely with scientists and engineers at partner institutions like the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Chan Zuckerberg Institute for Advanced Biological Imaging to do the research that can’t be done in conventional environments; and building and democratizing next-generation software and hardware tools to drive biological insights and generate more accurate and biologically important sources of data.

President of Harvard University Lawrence Bacow said: “Here we are with this incredible opportunity that Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg have given us to imagine taking what we know about the brain, neuroscience and how to model intelligence and putting them together in ways that can inform both, and can truly advance our understanding of intelligence from multiple perspectives.”

Kempner Institute Co-Director and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and of Statistics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Sham Kakade said: “Now we begin assembling a world-leading research and educational program at Harvard that collectively tries to understand the fundamental mechanisms of intelligence and seeks to apply these new technologies for the benefit of humanity … We hope to create a vibrant environment for all of us to engage in broader research questions … We want to train the next generation of leaders because those leaders will go on to do the next set of great things.”

Kempner Institute Co-Director and the Alice and Rodman W. Moorhead III Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School Bernardo Sabatini said: “We’re blending research, education and computation to nurture, raise up and enable any scientist who is interested in unraveling the mysteries of the brain. This field is a nascent and interdisciplinary one, so we’re going to have to teach neuroscience to computational biologists, who are going to have to teach machine learning to cognitive scientists and math to biologists. We’re going to do whatever is necessary to help each individual thrive and push the field forward … Success means we develop mathematical theories that explain how our brains compute and learn, and these theories should be specific enough to be testable and useful enough to start to explain diseases like schizophrenia, dyslexia or autism.”

About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our communities. Through collaboration, providing resources and building technology, our mission is to help build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

Principled theories, eh. I don’t see a single mention of ethicists or anyone in the social sciences or the humanities or the arts. How are scientists and engineers who have no training in or education in or, even, an introduction to ethics or social impacts or psychology going to manage this?

Mark Zuckerberg’s approach to these issues was something along the lines of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” I understand there have been changes but it took far too long to recognize the damage let alone attempt to address it.

If you want to gain a little more insight into the Kempner Institute, there’s a December 7, 2021 article by Alvin Powell announcing the institute for the Harvard Gazette,

The institute will be funded by a $500 million gift from Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, which was announced Tuesday [December 7, 2021] by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The gift will support 10 new faculty appointments, significant new computing infrastructure, and resources to allow students to flow between labs in pursuit of ideas and knowledge. The institute’s name honors Zuckerberg’s mother, Karen Kempner Zuckerberg, and her parents — Zuckerberg’s grandparents — Sidney and Gertrude Kempner. Chan and Zuckerberg have given generously to Harvard in the past, supporting students, faculty, and researchers in a range of areas, including around public service, literacy, and cures.

“The Kempner Institute at Harvard represents a remarkable opportunity to bring together approaches and expertise in biological and cognitive science with machine learning, statistics, and computer science to make real progress in understanding how the human brain works to improve how we address disease, create new therapies, and advance our understanding of the human body and the world more broadly,” said President Larry Bacow.

Q&A

Bernardo Sabatini and Sham Kakade [Institute co-directors]

GAZETTE: Tell me about the new institute. What is its main reason for being?

SABATINI: The institute is designed to take from two fields and bring them together, hopefully to create something that’s essentially new, though it’s been tried in a couple of places. Imagine that you have over here cognitive scientists and neurobiologists who study the human brain, including the basic biological mechanisms of intelligence and decision-making. And then over there, you have people from computer science, from mathematics and statistics, who study artificial intelligence systems. Those groups don’t talk to each other very much.

We want to recruit from both populations to fill in the middle and to create a new population, through education, through graduate programs, through funding programs — to grow from academic infancy — those equally versed in neuroscience and in AI systems, who can be leaders for the next generation.

Over the millions of years that vertebrates have been evolving, the human brain has developed specializations that are fundamental for learning and intelligence. We need to know what those are to understand their benefits and to ask whether they can make AI systems better. At the same time, as people who study AI and machine learning (ML) develop mathematical theories as to how those systems work and can say that a network of the following structure with the following properties learns by calculating the following function, then we can take those theories and ask, “Is that actually how the human brain works?”

KAKADE: There’s a question of why now? In the technological space, the advancements are remarkable even to me, as a researcher who knows how these things are being made. I think there’s a long way to go, but many of us feel that this is the right time to study intelligence more broadly. You might also ask: Why is this mission unique and why is this institute different from what’s being done in academia and in industry? Academia is good at putting out ideas. Industry is good at turning ideas into reality. We’re in a bit of a sweet spot. We have the scale to study approaches at a very different level: It’s not going to be just individual labs pursuing their own ideas. We may not be as big as the biggest companies, but we can work on the types of problems that they work on, such as having the compute resources to work on large language models. Industry has exciting research, but the spectrum of ideas produced is very different, because they have different objectives.

For the die-hards, there’s a September 23, 2022 article by Clea Simon in Harvard Gazette, which updates the 2021 story,

Next, Manchester, England.

Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI

Robotots take a break at a lab at The University of Manchester – picture courtesy of Marketing Manchester [downloaded from https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/manchester-ai-summit-aims-to-attract-experts-in-advanced-engineering-and-robotics/]

A November 22, 2022 University of Manchester press release (also on EurekAlert) announces both a meeting and a new centre, Note: Links to the Centre have been retained; all others have been removed,

How humans and super smart robots will live and work together in the future will be among the key issues being scrutinised by experts at a new centre of excellence for AI and autonomous machines based at The University of Manchester.

The Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI will be a new specialist multi-disciplinary centre to explore developments in smart robotics through the lens of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous machinery.

The University of Manchester has built a modern reputation of excellence in AI and robotics, partly based on the legacy of pioneering thought leadership begun in this field in Manchester by legendary codebreaker Alan Turing.

Manchester’s new multi-disciplinary centre is home to world-leading research from across the academic disciplines – and this group will hold its first conference on Wednesday, Nov 23, at the University’s new engineering and materials facilities.

A  highlight will be a joint talk by robotics expert Dr Andy Weightman and theologian Dr Scott Midson which is expected to put a spotlight on ‘posthumanism’, a future world where humans won’t be the only highly intelligent decision-makers.

Dr Weightman, who researches home-based rehabilitation robotics for people with neurological impairment, and Dr Midson, who researches theological and philosophical critiques of posthumanism, will discuss how interdisciplinary research can help with the special challenges of rehabilitation robotics – and, ultimately, what it means to be human “in the face of the promises and challenges of human enhancement through robotic and autonomous machines”.

Other topics that the centre will have a focus on will include applications of robotics in extreme environments.

For the past decade, a specialist Manchester team led by Professor Barry Lennox has designed robots to work safely in nuclear decommissioning sites in the UK. A ground-breaking robot called Lyra that has been developed by Professor Lennox’s team – and recently deployed at the Dounreay site in Scotland, the “world’s deepest nuclear clean up site” – has been listed in Time Magazine’s Top 200 innovations of 2022.

Angelo Cangelosi, Professor of Machine Learning and Robotics at Manchester, said the University offers a world-leading position in the field of autonomous systems – a technology that will be an integral part of our future world. 

Professor Cangelosi, co-Director of Manchester’s Centre for Robotics and AI, said: “We are delighted to host our inaugural conference which will provide a special showcase for our diverse academic expertise to design robotics for a variety of real world applications.

“Our research and innovation team are at the interface between robotics, autonomy and AI – and their knowledge is drawn from across the University’s disciplines, including biological and medical sciences – as well the humanities and even theology. [emphases mine]

“This rich diversity offers Manchester a distinctive approach to designing robots and autonomous systems for real world applications, especially when combined with our novel use of AI-based knowledge.”

Delegates will have a chance to observe a series of robots and autonomous machines being demoed at the new conference.

The University of Manchester’s Centre for Robotics and AI will aim to: 

  • design control systems with a focus on bio-inspired solutions to mechatronics, eg the use of biomimetic sensors, actuators and robot platforms; 
  • develop new software engineering and AI methodologies for verification in autonomous systems, with the aim to design trustworthy autonomous systems; 
  • research human-robot interaction, with a pioneering focus on the use of brain-inspired approaches [emphasis mine] to robot control, learning and interaction; and 
  • research the ethics and human-centred robotics issues, for the understanding of the impact of the use of robots and autonomous systems with individuals and society. 

In some ways, the Kempner Institute and the Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI have very similar interests, especially where the brain is concerned. What fascinates me is the Manchester Centre’s inclusion of theologian Dr Scott Midson and the discussion (at the meeting) of ‘posthumanism’. The difference is between actual engagement at the symposium (the centre) and mere mention in a news release (the institute).

I wish the best for both institutions.

Science Communication Skills for Journalists; A Resource Book for Universities in Africa (a new book on teaching science journalism)

This new book has been published by an organization with an organizational history that started in the United Kingdom (UK). Founded in 1910, it was called the Entomological Research Committee (Tropical Africa).

(Then, tor many years, CABI was known as the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, the Commonwealth Institute of Entomology, and the Commonwealth Mycological Institute before melding themselves together into to CAB, and more recently with the addition of the word international, as CABI or CAB International.)

An October 19, 2022 CABI press release on EurekAlert announces an initiative (book) to improve science communication in Africa,

Script’s new book aimed at helping to improve the communication of science in Africa has now been published. The book is available for free electronically and to buy in paperback in the CABI Digital Library.

Science Communication Skills for Journalists: A Resource Book for Universities in Africa,’ is edited and authored by Dr Charles Wendo who is himself a qualified vet and science journalist as well as Training Coordinator for SciDev.Net.

Further contributors to the book include Dr Abraham Kiprop Mulwo (Moi University, Kenya), Dr Darius Mukiza (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), and Dr Aisha Sembatya Nakiwala, Dr Samuel George Okech and Dr William Tayeebwa – the latter of whom are all from Makerere University in Uganda.

Future of science journalism

In the book Dr Abraham Kiprop Mulwo, Dean of the School of Information Sciences at Moi University, Kenya, reviews the current status and future of science journalism and communication in Africa.

Dr Wendo uses his detailed knowledge and experience in the field to package engaging and informative content for journalists, students of science journalism and communication, and educators.

The book, that was recently launched at a science journalism conference at Moi University, provides hands-on advice on the practice of science journalism. It also includes learning activities and discussion questions to deepen the readers’ understanding of the topic.

With 22 chapters of engaging content, the book is divided into two parts. Part 1 lays down the theoretical foundation of science communication while Part 2 has 16 chapters of hands-on advice about science journalism.

Real life experiences

Five academic papers are also included that identify, review and synthesize available literature and experiences on science journalism and communication issues in Africa.

The book also includes a case study detailing the experience of Makerere University in introducing science journalism and communication into their undergraduate and post-graduate curricula.

This is after some of the content of the book was tried and tested by lecturers at Makerere University, Nasarawa State University in Nigeria, Moi University and University of Dar es Salaam.

Samuel Musungu Muturi, a third-year student of journalism and media studies at Moi University, said science journalism training and the book will increase the relevance of journalists.

Bridging gaps in communication

Mr Muturi said, “This book is part of a training that will enable us to claim our position as journalists who are vital in the science communication process, bridging the gap between scientists, the public, and policymakers.”

Science Communication Skills for Journalists: A Resource Book for Universities in Africa,’ is published as part of SciDev.Net’s Script science communication training programme.

Script was funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. This is a free training and networking resource. It is aimed at journalists, scientists and anyone who wants to communicate science in an engaging and accurate way. The programme was launched in 2018 to bridge the gap in science communication in sub-Saharan Africa.

Emanuel Dandaura, Professor of Development Communication and Performance Aesthetics at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria, said, “Part of the challenge for scientists is to communicate often complex science to journalists who then help analyse and disseminate that information to a range of stakeholders including the general public.

“This new resource will go a long way towards bridging the gap in Africa between science communication and audiences, such as policymakers, who we hope will take heed of our findings for the betterment of society.”

Accurate and ethical reporting

At the launch event, Dr Wendo, who is also SciDev.Net’s Training Coordinator, discussed a paper on reporting science in a local language. He also chaired a session on the ethical reporting of science.

Dr Wendo said, “Science Communication Skills for Journalists: A Resource Book for Universities in Africa,’ equips the reader to not only understand often complex scientific findings but also to communicate research in layman’s terms.

“The book also highlights the need to take a critical and analytical viewpoint of new scientific endeavours to ensure that reporting is accurate, fair and balanced. This is particularly important in our age of ‘fake news’ and misleading information.”

You can view the book online for free here or order a paperback version for $65 (USD?) when it’s available.

I took a very quick look at the online version of the book and found a surprise or two. From Science Communication Skills for Journalists, Note: Links have been removed.

Nakkazi (2012) reports on the growth of science journalism in Africa from the early 2000s. Whereas science journalism in the Global North was experiencing a crisis during this period, with science desks shutting down and science journalists changing to other news beats, the reverse was true in Africa [emphasis mine]. Editors in African countries cited an improvement in the number of journalists reporting science stories, the quality of stories and the number of media outlets with dedicated science space. Nakkazi attributes the growth of science journalism in Africa to the activities of professional associations: for example, SjCOOP, a science journalism training and mentoring programme run by the World Federation of Science Journalists. About 100 African journalists benefited from the programme between 2006 and 2012. During the same period several new science journalism associations were formed in Africa, and scientists’ trust in journalism increased. Lugalambi et al. (2011) also reported an improvement in the trust and engagement between scientists and journalists over time, with scientists being more willing than before to share information with journalists.

This positive outlook of science journalism in Africa was confirmed by the Global Science Journalism Report (Massarani et al., 2021). According to the report, science journalists in Africa were more satisfied with their work than those in most other parts of the world, even though most of them worked as freelancers, as opposed to being staff reporters.

You’ll find the excerpt above in the chapter titled: Current Status and Future of Science Journalism and Communication in Africa by Dr Abraham Kip.

The book offer a good basic grounding on science journalism and communication in Africa. Perhaps future editions will see the addition of South Africa; that omission was surprising to me since that country is the one that pops up most often on my radar. As for data visualization and other graphic arts as they relate science communication and journalism, that’s, in all probability, another book.

The physics of the multiverse of madness

The Dr. Strange movie (Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness released May 6, 2022) has inspired an essay on physics. From a May 9, 2022 news item on phys.org

If you’re a fan of science fiction films, you’ll likely be familiar with the idea of alternate universes—hypothetical planes of existence with different versions of ourselves. As far from reality as it sounds, it is a question that scientists have contemplated. So just how well does the fiction stack up with the science?

The many-worlds interpretation is one idea in physics that supports the concept of multiple universes existing. It stems from the way we comprehend quantum mechanics, which defy the rules of our regular world. While it’s impossible to test and is considered an interpretation rather than a scientific theory, many physicists think it could be possible.

“When you look at the regular world, things are measurable and predictable—if you drop a ball off a roof, it will fall to the ground. But when you look on a very small scale in quantum mechanics, the rules stop applying. Instead of being predictable, it becomes about probabilities,” says Sarah Martell, Associate Professor at the School of Physics, UNSW Science.

A May 9, 2022 University of New South Wales (UNSW; Australia) press release originated the news item,

The fundamental quantum equation – called a wave function – shows a particle inhabiting many possible positions, with different probabilities assigned to each. If you were to attempt to observe the particle to determine its position – known in physics as ‘collapsing’ the wave function – you’ll find it in just one place. But the particle actually inhabits all the positions allowed by the wave function.

This interpretation of quantum mechanics is important, as it helps explain some of the quantum paradoxes that logic can’t answer, like why a particle can be in two places at once. While it might seem impossible to us, since we experience time and space as fixed, mathematically it adds up.

“When you make a measurement in quantum physics, you’re only measuring one of the possibilities. We can work with that mathematically, but it’s philosophically uncomfortable that the world stops being predictable,” A/Prof. Martell says.

“If you don’t get hung up on the philosophy, you simply move on with your physics. But what if the other possibility were true? That’s where this idea of the multiverse comes in.”

The quantum multiverse

Like it is depicted in many science fiction films, the many-worlds interpretation suggests our reality is just one of many. The universe supposedly splits or branches into other universes any time we take action – whether it’s a molecule moving, what you decide to eat or your choice of career. 

In physics, this is best explained through the thought experiment of Schrodinger’s cat. In the many-worlds interpretation, when the box is opened, the observer and the possibly alive cat split into an observer looking at a box with a deceased cat and one looking at a box with a live cat.

“A version of you measures one result, and a version of you measures the other result. That way, you don’t have to explain why a particular probability resulted. It’s just everything that could happen, does happen, somewhere,” A/Prof. Martell says.

“This is the logic often depicted in science fiction, like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where five different Spider-Man exist in different universes based on the idea there was a different event that set up each one’s progress and timeline.”

This interpretation suggests that our decisions in this universe have implications for other versions of ourselves living in parallel worlds. But what about the possibility of interacting with these hypothetical alternate universes?

According to the many-worlds interpretation, humans wouldn’t be able to interact with parallel universes as they do in films – although science fiction has creative licence to do so.

“It’s a device used all the time in comic books, but it’s not something that physics would have anything to say about,” A/Prof. Martell says. “But I love science fiction for the creativity and the way that little science facts can become the motivation for a character or the essential crisis in a story with characters like Doctor Strange.”

“If for nothing else, science fiction can help make science more accessible, and the more we get people talking about science, the better,” A/Prof. Martell says.

“I think we do ourselves a lot of good by putting hooks out there that people can grab. So, if we can get people interested in science through popular culture, they’ll be more interested in the science we do.” 

The university also offers a course as this October 6, 2020 UNSW press release reveals,

From the morality plays in Star Trek, to the grim futures in Black Mirror, fiction can help explore our hopes – and fears – of the role science might play in our futures.

But sci-fi can be more than just a source of entertainment. When fiction gets the science right (or right enough), sci-fi can also be used to make science accessible to broader audiences. 

“Sci-fi can help relate science and technology to the lived human experience,” says Dr Maria Cunningham, a radio astronomer and senior lecturer in UNSW Science’s School of Physics. 

“Storytelling can make complex theories easier to visualise, understand and remember.”

Dr Cunningham – a sci-fi fan herself – convenes ‘Brave New World’: a course on science fact and fiction aimed at students from a non-scientific background. The course explores the relationship between literature, science, and society, using case studies like Futurama and MacGyver.

She says her own interest in sci-fi long predates her career in science.

“Fiction can help get people interested in science – sometimes without them even knowing it,” says Dr Cunningham.

“Sci-fi has the potential to increase the science literacy of the general population.”

Here, Dr Cunningham shares three tricky physics concepts best explained through science fiction (spoilers ahead).

Cunningham goes on to discuss the Universal Speed Limit, Time Dilation, and, yes, the Many Worlds Interpretation.

The course, “Brave New World: Science Fiction, Science Fact and the Future – GENS4015” is still offered but do check the link to make sure it takes you to the latest version (I found 2023). One more thing, it is offered wholly on the internet.

Science Fuse: a STEM initiative for children in Pakistan and beyond

A June 3, 2022 article by Abdullahi Tsanni for Nature journal features an interview with Lalah Rukh, founder of Science Fuse, a non-governmental agency dedicated to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for youth and which is located in Lahore, Pakistan, Note: Links have been removed,

My interest in science began when I was 12, after reading an article about personalized medicine in a children’s magazine published by a leading newspaper in Pakistan. I was fascinated by this idea, and I cut out the article and pasted it by my bedside so that I could see it every morning when I woke up.

In 2003, I moved back to Norway, where I was born, and studied molecular biology and biotechnology at university. But I realized that I didn’t enjoy doing science in the laboratory as much as I enjoyed engaging people with science. So, I joined Forskerfabrikken, a non-profit organization based in Oslo that encourages children to engage with science. We organized hands-on science programmes for schoolchildren. I worked there for five years as a science communicator, and I learnt about science engagement and social entrepreneurship. I discovered the core features that make for great small-scale school exhibits, and I saw how the organization established revenue streams and structures to expand its team and expertise across Norway. And I realized that science communication is where my passion truly lies.

In summer 2013, when I was in Pakistan to get married, I visited a small charity-run school for children living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Karachi. I did a 3-hour science workshop for the children with fun demonstrations — from creating giant bubbles to making beads that change colour under sunlight, and chemical reactions that make water ‘pop’. There were big smiles on the children’s faces and the experiments sparked their curiosity. It felt more meaningful for me to do this kind of work in Pakistan. Since 2016, Science Fuse has reached more than 45,000 children, trained 650 teachers and nurtured a community of more than 200 science communicators. We have worked closely with about 250 schools and partner organizations to deliver world-class science education across the country.

In Pakistan, 44% of children are out of school, one of the highest percentages in the world — and the majority of those who do go to school attend low-income private or government schools. Many low-income families don’t have access to good-quality STEM education. …

Tsanni’s June 3, 2022 article is a short read that offers insight into STEM, youth, girls,and science in Pakistan, if you have the time.

Science Fuse creates posters featuring Pakistani women in science to break stereotypes and encourage children to follow their science passion.Credit: Sana Nasir, Maria Riaz & Sana Kirmani/Science Fuse [downloaded from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01566-6]

You can find Science Fuse here. At a guess, they, along with so many other groups, were affected by COVID and this interview in Nature is intended as a relaunch of their programmes. It’s good to see these initiatives coming back and, in the meantime, you can access their older (the most recent being from November 2020) ‘Incredible Questions of Science’ podcasts here or here at Anchor.fm.

H/t to Gary McFarlane (@GaryM) for his tweet about the interview.

Ethọ́s Lab (youth STEAM academy) launches physical space in Vancouver (Canada) with a block party on June 18, 2022

The Ethọ́s Lab offers extra-curricular programming through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) for youths between 12 and 18 . Here’s more from Rebecca Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article on her Miss604.com website, Note: A link has been removed,

… has been offering virtual, STEAM-based education (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) within an antiracist, technology-forward framework throughout the pandemic, and will now be able to add in-person programming.

Ethọ́s Lab was founded to increase access and representation in STEAM,” says parent and founder Anthonia Ogundele.

“These past two years have shown us that this goal is more important than ever before. The ‘metaverse’ has become a hot topic since Facebook’s name change to Meta, the rise of NFTs, and the digital pivot the world underwent at the start of the pandemic. Parents are realizing that their kids need equitable access to tools and information that will help them challenge and shape a digital future that is quickly arriving upon us. We need young, diverse voices co-creating innovative solutions and leading change, in order to ensure we aren’t just perpetuating antiquated, unjust systems — whether those hierarchies are found in coding, urban planning, or the art market. We can’t wait to connect with even more young people with our new home in Mount Pleasant.”

Here’s the Grand Opening/party information (from Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article),

Ethọ́s Lab Opens in Mount Pleasant

  • What: Opening Block Party
  • When: Saturday, June 18 from 10:00am to 8:00pm
  • Where: 177 East 3rd Ave, Vancouver
  • Admission: Free!

According to Katie Hyslop’s February 26, 2021 article for The Tyee, Ethọ́s Lab began with a search,

When Anthonia Ogundele was looking for after-school programs for her 11-year-old daughter in 2019, she was frustrated by the lack of options. Particularly when it came to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs.

“Innovation in STEM is often reserved to gifted, enrichment-type kids or programs, streams and mini-schools,” she said.

“And if you don’t have access, you end up missing out on really great project-based learning, or competitions, or even just the basic tools and equipment to be able to innovate within that space.”

Access to current STEM after-school programs can be limited by an inability to afford program fees, but also by class, race and who you know.

When Ogundele, who is Black, spoke to other parents about after-school program options, she found she wasn’t alone in her struggle. She wondered: what would a program look like that provided access for all young people, but especially Black youth, to technology and STEM skills and addressed needs like belonging and self-worth?

Hyslop’s February 26, 2021 article provides a couple of examples of early Ethọ́s Lab programmes,

… a four-week session on 3D modelling exposed young people to 3D technology and skills. The session had young people design housing specifically for Hogan’s Alley, the Black community in Vancouver that was razed in 1970 to make way for the Georgia Viaducts.

“The theme was ‘place, race and space.’ So the young people come in to learn about place, race and space, but it’s actually a 3D modelling course and they learn how to build homes in a geographical context of Hogan’s Alley,” said Ogundele, who has a master’s in urban planning and launched the Hogan’s Alley Land Trust, now known as the Hogan’s Alley Society.

“We would talk about monuments, and what it means to create or build things that have meaning and place. That’s how we contextualize it.”

Korinne Tsang’s first introduction to Ethọ́s Lab was a screen-printing session last summer [2020]. The 16-year-old student was a bit reluctant to participate at first due to shyness, but she eventually decided to give it a try.

Eight months later, Tsang is still taking Ethọ́s Lab workshops, including sessions on bias in artificial intelligence, coding and creating a personal avatar.

“One of the interesting things is we look at the bias in every part of technology, where I may try to go make an avatar in a video game. And you can’t always make one that looks like yourself because we don’t have those features, and figuring out how to change that,” said Tsang, who is of Chinese and European descent.

I gather the A (arts) was added to this STEM initiative after Hyslop’s article was written.

Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article describes the building which will house Ethọ́s Lab, Note: A link has been removed)

The organization is housed inside a new building owned by the City of Vancouver and operated over the next 60 years by non-profit cultural organization 221A [emphasis mine] in collaboration with the Community Land Trust. In addition to a nearly 1,000-sq.-ft. dedicated space, Ethọ́s Lab has shared access to a 2,700-sq.-ft. production facility.

The site is the physical manifestation of the thriving community that Ethọ́s Lab built in their own proprietary metaverse over the pandemic, a virtual hub called Atlanthọ́s that was co-created with youth members and developed by local tech start-up Active Replica. Now, the organization will be a hub for the broader community, a place for members and their families to gather and collaborate. 

The space features a mix of organic, sustainable materials and digital elements, and makes use of the site’s natural light. Local firm Tectonic Architecture, which prioritizes community-based work, led design discussions with youth members — also known as Ethósians — to ensure their vision was incorporated into the space. Comic artist and illustrator Jazz Gordon-Gillquist and Chase Gray (who recently designed the Vancouver Canucks’ First Nations Night warmup jersey) created an original mural in collaboration with curator Krystal Paraboo. Microsoft, Sony, and Heritage Office Furnishings equipped and furnished the space. 

Given 221A’s involvement (see my June 17, 2021 posting; scroll down to the “Arts and blockchain events in Vancouver” subhead), it’s no surprise that Ethọ́s Lab offers a course on blockchain and NFTs (nonfungible tokens).

As for events at the block party and information about Ethọ́s Lab’s summer programmes, check out Bollwitt’s May 17, 2022 article or, for events at the block party only, the Ethos Lab 3rd & Main Grand Opening page on eventbrite. Finally, the organization is fundraising and, as of May 17, 2022, was 3/4 of the way ($75,000) to their goal of $100,000.

Enjoy!