Category Archives: science communication

‘Find the Birds’ mobile game has a British Columbia (Canada) location

Adam Dhalla in a January 5, 2022 posting on the Nature Conservancy Canada blog announced a new location for a ‘Find the Birds’ game,

Since its launch six months ago …, with an initial Arizona simulated birding location, Find the Birds (a free educational mobile game about birds and conservation) now has over 7,000 players in 46 countries on six continents. In the game, players explore realistic habitats, find and take virtual photos of accurately animated local bird species and complete conservation quests. Thanks in a large part to the creative team at Thought Generation Society (the non-profit game production organization I’m working with), Find the Birds is a Canadian-made success story.

Going back nine months to an April 9, 2021 posting and the first ‘Find the Birds’ announcement by Adam Dhalla for the Nature Conservancy Canada blog,

It is not a stretch to say that our planet is in dire need of more conservationists, and environmentally minded people in general. Birds and birdwatching are gateways to introducing conservation and science to a new generation.

… it seems as though younger generations are often unaware of the amazing world in their backyard. They don’t hear the birdsong emanating from the trees during the morning chorus. …

This problem inspired my dad and me to come up with the original concept for Find the Birds, a free educational mobile game about birds and conservation. I was 10 at the time, and I discovered that I was usually the only kid out birdwatching. So we thought, why not bring the birds to them via the digital technology they are already immersed in?

Find the Birds reflects on the birding and conservation experience. Players travel the globe as an animated character on their smartphone or tablet and explore real-life, picturesque environments, finding different bird species. The unique element of this game is its attention to detail; everything in the game is based on science. …

Here’s a trailer for the game featuring its first location, Arizona,

Now back to Dhalla’s January 5, 2022 posting for more about the latest iteration of the game and other doings (Note: Links have been removed),

Recently, the British Columbia location was added, which features Sawmill Lake in the Okanagan Valley, Tofino on the coast and a journey in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the local bird species included are Steller’s jays (BC’s provincial bird), black oystercatchers and western meadowlarks. Conservation quests include placing nest boxes for northern saw-whet owls and cleaning up beach litter.

I’ve always loved Steller’s jays! We get a lot of them in our backyard. It’s far lesser known bird than blue jay, so I wanted to give them some attention. That’s the terrific thing about being the co-creator of the game: I get to help choose the species, the quests — everything! So all the birds in the BC locations are some of my favourites.

The black oystercatcher is another underappreciated species. I’ve seen them along the coasts of BC, where they are relatively common. …

To gauge the game’s impact on conservation education, I recently conducted an online player survey. Of the 101 players who completed the survey, 71 per cent were in the 8–15 age group, which means I am reaching my peers. But 21 per cent were late teens and adults, so the game’s appeal is not limited to children. Fifty-one per cent were male and 49 per cent female: this equality is encouraging, as most games in general have a much smaller percentage of female players.

And the game is helping people connect with nature! Ninety-eight per cent of players said the game increased their appreciation of birds. …

As a result of the game’s reputation and the above data, I was invited to present my findings at the 2022 International Ornithological Congress. So, I will be traveling to Durban, South Africa, next August to spread the word on reaching and teaching a new generation of birders, ornithologists and conservationists. …

You can find the game here at FindtheBirds.com and you can find Thought Generation here.

For the curious, here’s a black oystercatcher caught in the act,

Black oystercatcher (Photo by Tracey Chen, CC BY-NC 4.0) [downloaded from https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/find-the-birds-british-columbia.html#.YdcjWSaIapr]

Science and stories: an online talk January 5, 2022 and a course starting on January 10, 2022

So far this year all I’ve been posting about are events and contests. Continuing on that theme, I have an event and, something new, a course.

Massey Dialogues on January 5, 2022, 1 – 2 pm PST

“The Art of Science-Telling: How Science Education Can Shape Society” is scheduled for today (Wednesday, January 5, 5022 at 1 pm PST or 4 pm EST), You can find the livestream here on YouTube,

Massey College

Join us for the first Massey Dialogues of 2022 from 4:00-5:00pm ET on the Art of Science-Telling: How Science Education Can Shape Society.

Farah Qaiser (Evidence for Democracy), Dr. Bonnie Schmidt (Let’s Talk Science) and Carolyn Tuohy (Senior Fellow) will discuss what nonprofits can do for science education and policy, moderated by Junior Fellow Keshna Sood.

The Dialogues are open to the public – we invite everyone to join and take part in what will be a very informative online discussion. Participants are invited to submit questions to the speakers in real time via the Chat function to the right of the screen.

——-

To ensure you never miss a Massey Event, subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/masseyco…

We also invite you to visit masseycollege.ca/calendar for upcoming events.

Follow us on social media:

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Support our work: masseycollege.ca/support-us

You can find out more about the Massey Dialogues here. As for the college, it’s affiliated with the University of Toronto as per the information on the College’s Governance webpage.

Simon Fraser University (SFU; Vancouver, Canada) and a science communication course

I stumbled across “Telling Science Stories” being offered for SFU’s Spring 2022 semester in my twitter feed. Apparently there’s still space for students in the course.

I was a little surprised by how hard it was to find basic information such as: when does the course start? Yes, I found that and more, here’s what I managed to dig up,

From the PUB 480/877 Telling Science Stories course description webpage,

In this hands-on course, students will learn the value of sharing research knowledge beyond the university walls, along with the skills necessary to become effective science storytellers.

Climate change, vaccines, artificial intelligence, genetic editing — these are just a few examples of the essential role scientific evidence can play in society. But connecting science and society is no simple task: it requires key publishing and communication skills, as well as an understanding of the values, goals, and needs of the publics who stand to benefit from this knowledge.

This course will provide students with core skills and knowledge needed to share compelling science stories with diverse audiences, in a variety of formats. Whether it’s through writing books, podcasting, or creating science art, students will learn why we communicate science, develop an understanding of the core principles of effective audience engagement, and gain skills in publishing professional science content for print, radio, and online formats. The instructor is herself a science writer and communicator; in addition, students will have the opportunity to learn from a wide range of guest lecturers, including authors, artists, podcasters, and more. While priority will be given to students enrolled in the Publishing Minor, this course is open to all students who are interested in the evolving relationship between science and society.

I’m not sure if an outsider (someone who’s not a member of the SFU student body) can attend but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

The course is being given by Alice Fleerackers, here’s more from her profile page on the ScholCommLab (Scholarly Communications Laboratory) website,

Alice Fleerackers is a researcher and lab manager at the ScholCommLab and a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, where she works under the supervision of Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin to explore how health science is communicated online. Her doctoral research is supported by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from SSHRC and a Michael Stevenson Graduate Scholarship from SFU.

In addition, Alice volunteers with a number of non-profit organizations in an effort to foster greater public understanding and engagement with science. She is a Research Officer at Art the Science, Academic Liaison of Science Borealis, Board Member of the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC), and a member of the Scientific Committee for the Public Communication of Science and Technology Network (PCST). She is also a freelance health and science writer whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, and Nautilus, among other outlets. Find her on Twitter at @FleerackersA.

Logistics such as when and where the course is being held (from the course outline webpage),

Telling Science Stories

Class Number: 4706

Delivery Method: In Person

Course Times + Location: Tu, Th 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
HCC 2540, Vancouver

Instructor: Alice Fleerackers
afleerac@sfu.ca

According to the Spring 2022 Calendar Academic Dates webpage, the course starts on Monday, January 10, 2021 and I believe the room number (HCC2540) means the course will be held at SFU’s downtown Vancouver site at Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street.

Given that SFU claims to be “Canada’s leading engaged university,” they do a remarkably poor job of actually engaging with anyone who’s not member of the community, i.e., an outsider.

Science Says 2022 SciArt Contest (Jan. 3 – 31, 2022) for California (US) residents

Science Says is affiliated with the University of California at Davis (UC Davis). Here’s a little more about the UC Davis group from the Science Says homepage,

We are a team of friendly neighborhood scientists passionate about making science accessible to the general public. We aim to cultivate a community of science communicators at UC Davis dedicated to making scientific research accessible, relevant, and interesting to everyone. 

As for the contest, here’s more from the 2022 Science Art Contest webpage,

Jan 3-31, 2022 @ 12:00am – 11:59pm

We want to feature your science art in our second annual science art competition! The intersection of science and art offers a unique opportunity for creative science communication.

To participate in our contest you must:

1. Submit one piece of work considered artistic and creative: beautiful microscopy, field photography, paintings, crafts, etc.

2. The work must be shareable on our social media platforms. We encourage you to include your handle or name in the submitted image.

3. You must live within California to be considered for prizes.

You may compete in one of three categories: UC Davis affiliate (student, staff, faculty), the local Davis/Sacramento area or California. *If out of state, you can submit your work for honorable mention to be featured on our social media and news release, although you can’t be considered for prizes.

Winners will be determined by popular vote via a Google Form offered through our February newsletter, social media and website. Prizes vary depending on the contest selected. For entrants in either the UC Davis affiliate contest or local Davis/Sacramento contest, first prize will receive a cash prize of $75 and second place will receive a cash prize of $50. For entrants in the California contest, first place will receive a cash prize of $50.

Submit Here

Submissions open the first week of January and close on January 31, 2022. Voting begins February 2, 2022 and ends February 16, 2022. Winners will be announced by social media and a special news release on our website and contacted via email on February 23, 2022. Prizes will be awarded by March 4, 2022.

H/t to Raymond K. Nakamura for his retweet of the competition announcement by the Science Says team on Twitter.

Art/Sci or SciArt?

It depends on who’s talking. An artist will say art/sci or art/science and a scientist will say sciart. The focus, or pride of place, of course, being placed on the speaker’s primary interest.

A newsletter from the Pan-Canadian AI strategy folks

The AICan (Artificial Intelligence Canada) Bulletin is published by CIFAR (Canadian Institute For Advanced Research) and it is the official newsletter for the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy. This is a joint production from CIFAR, Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute), Mila (Quebec’s Artificial Intelligence research institute) and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence (Toronto, Ontario).

For anyone curious about the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, first announced in the 2017 federal budget, I have a March 31, 2017 post which focuses heavily on the, then new, Vector Institute but it also contains information about the artificial intelligence scene in Canada at the time, which is at least in part still relevant today.

The AICan Bulletin October 2021 issue number 16 (The Energy and Environment Issue) is available for viewing here and includes these articles,

Equity, diversity and inclusion in AI climate change research

The effects of climate change significantly impact our most vulnerable populations. Canada CIFAR AI Chair David Rolnick (Mila) and Tami Vasanthakumaran (Girls Belong Here) share their insights and call to action for the AI research community.

Predicting the perfect storm

Canada CIFAR AI Chair Samira Kahou (Mila) is using AI to detect and predict extreme weather events to aid in disaster management and raise awareness for the climate crisis.

AI in biodiversity is crucial to our survival

Graham Taylor, a Canada CIFAR AI Chair at the Vector Institute, is using machine learning to build an inventory of life on Earth with DNA barcoding.

ISL Adapt uses ML to make water treatment cleaner & greener

Amii, the University of Alberta, and ISL Engineering explores how machine learning can make water treatment more environmentally friendly and cost-effective with the support of Amii Fellows and Canada CIFAR AI Chairs — Adam White, Martha White and Csaba Szepesvári.

This climate does not exist: Picturing impacts of the climate crisis with AI, one address at a time

Immerse yourself into this AI-driven virtual experience based on empathy to visualize the impacts of climate change on places you hold dear with Mila.

The bulletin also features AI stories from Canada and the US, as well as, events and job postings.

I found two different pages where you can subscribe. First, there’s this subscription page (which is at the bottom of the October 2021 bulletin and then, there’s this page, which requires more details from you.

I’ve taken a look at the CIFAR website and can’t find any of the previous bulletins on it, which would seem to make subscription the only means of access.

Job at the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA); application deadline: December 15, 2021

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) is looking for a research associate. Before launching into the job description, here’s a little more about the CCA from their About page,

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) [which include The Royal Society of Canada {RSC}, The Canadian Academy of Engineering {CAE}, and The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences {CAHS}] is a not-for-profit organization that convenes the best experts in their respective fields to assess the evidence on complex scientific topics of public interest to inform decision-making in Canada. Led by a Board of Directors and guided by a Scientific Advisory Committee and its founding Academies, the CCA’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the natural, social, and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities.

Assessments are conducted by multidisciplinary and multisectoral panels of experts from across Canada and abroad who volunteer their time and lend their expertise and knowledge to the CCA. The overarching goal of CCA assessments is to evaluate the best available evidence on particularly complex issues where the science may be challenging to understand, contradictory, or difficult to assemble. Upon completion, assessments provide key decision-makers, as well as researchers and stakeholders, with high-quality information and evidence to develop informed and innovative public policy. Assessments can be referred to the CCA (or “sponsored”) by foundations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, or any level of government.

The CCA assessment process is guided by a professional staff and is completed through in-person meetings, teleconferences, and hundreds of hours of research. To protect the independence of the assessment process, sponsors do not participate in the production of assessments, review drafts of reports, or propose any changes to reports before their release. This process ensures the highest integrity and objectivity of the work. All reports undergo formal peer review and are made available to the public free of charge in both official languages.

Now for the job description and other particulars, from the November 22, 2021 job posting page on the CCA website,

Job Title: Research Associate

Organization: Council of Canadian Academies (CCA)

Job Categories: Research and Analysis; Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Location: Ottawa, Ontario [under current COVID-19 restrictions will be working remotely but expected to work in Ottawa at future date]

Application deadline: December 15, 2021

Position Status: Full time, permanent

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) is looking for an experienced research associate to join our team of diverse professionals committed to supporting evidence-informed policy and practice in Canada.  

Reporting directly to one or more Project Directors as a member of one or more assessment teams, Research Associates carry out research and writing in support of multidisciplinary expert panels on wide ranging policy areas related to innovation, economics, science and society, health and life sciences, environment, energy and security.

Responsibilities include: Leading the development and execution of assigned elements of assessment-specific research plans in support of panel deliberations and report production, including: conduct of literature searches, synthesis of material and data and determining relevance of data for purposes of study; Draft assessment report content; Provide leadership in the design and implementation of the assessment specific research plan; and, Engage in active relationship management with external contributors, including panel members (correspondence, co-production of material, facilitating feedback, etc.).

Requirements

At least 5 years of relevant work experience; Ability to quickly develop a working knowledge of unfamiliar subject matter; and synthesize complex discussions, documentation, and literature into summary documents; Excellent written communication skills ― particularly an ability to translate scientific concepts and results into text for non-specialists; Team player with a commitment to excellence; Excellent oral communication skills; and A [sic] post-graduate or professional degree.

Assets

A background in economics or other social sciences; and French bilingualism.

How to Apply

Please send a cover letter and résumé summarizing your experience and suitability for the position to careers@cca-reports.ca by December 15, 2021.
-Why are you interested in this position with the CCA?
-What are your long-term career goals, and how will this position with CCA contribute to meeting those goals?
-What strengths and areas of expertise would you bring this position?
-What else would you like us to know about you?

We thank all applicants and will contact those selected for an interview. CCA is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Please let us know if you require accommodation.

CCA staff are currently working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions. The new hire will work remotely, until those restrictions are lifted, at which time they will be expected to be able to work on-site at our office in Ottawa.

Applicants must be legally eligible to work in Canada.

Well, well, well. No mention of a salary? What an intriguing approach to recruiting new staff members.

I’m also intrigued by this responsibility, “… Engage in active relationship management with external contributors, including panel members (correspondence, co-production of material, facilitating feedback, etc.).” Relationship management, eh?

First off, there’s always at least one prima donna in the group, someone who requires delicate handling and, often, that person is not particularly pleasant to deal with. As well, imagine getting people to deliver materials on deadline and these people are volunteers, which means more occasions for delicate handling.

I’m struck by this requirement, “Excellent written communication skills ― particularly an ability to translate scientific concepts and results into text for non-specialists.”

I have read more than one CCA assessment and I would not describe any of them as excellent writing. They are written in a clear, competent fashion but excellent writing is something more than competent; it requires imagination and, as far as I can tell, that quality is not encouraged at the CCA.

On the plus side, this is an opportunity to make a lot of contacts both nationally and internationally and the work will be varied as the assessments cover quite a range of topics from Public Safety in the Digital Age to Canada’s Carbon Sink Potential to The Socio-Economic Impacts of Science and Health Misinformation to AI for Science and Engineering, and more.

Good luck!

Jean-Pierre Luminet awarded UNESCO’s Kalinga prize for Popularizing Science

Before getting to the news about Jean-Pierre Luminet, astrophysicist, poet, sculptor, and more, there’s the prize itself.

Established in 1951, a scant five years after UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was founded in 1945, the Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is the organization’s oldest prize. Here’s more from the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science webpage,

The UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is an international award to reward exceptional contributions made by individuals in communicating science to society and promoting the popularization of science. It is awarded to persons who have had a distinguished career as writer, editor, lecturer, radio, television, or web programme director, or film producer in helping interpret science, research and technology to the public. UNESCO Kalinga Prize winners know the potential power of science, technology, and research in improving public welfare, enriching the cultural heritage of nations and providing solutions to societal problems on the local, regional and global level.

The UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is UNESCO’s oldest prize, created in 1951 following a donation from Mr Bijoyanand Patnaik, Founder and President of the Kalinga Foundation(link is external) Trust in India. Today, the Prize is funded by the Kalinga Foundation Trust(link is external), the Government of the State of Orissa, India(link is external), and the Government of India (Department of Science and Technology(link is external)).

Jean-Pierre Luminet

From the November 4, 2021 UNESCO press release (also received via email),

French scientist and author Jean-Pierre Luminet will be awarded the 2021 UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science. The prize-giving ceremony will take place online on 5 November as part of the celebration of World Science Day for Peace and Development.

An independent international jury selected Jean-Pierre Luminet recognizing his longstanding commitment to the popularization of science. Mr Luminet is a distinguished astrophysicist and cosmologist who has been promoting the values of scientific research through a wide variety of media: he has created popular science books and novels, beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogues, poetry, audiovisual materials for children and documentaries, notably “Du Big Bang au vivant” with Hubert Reeves. He is also an artist, engraver and sculptor and has collaborated with composers on musicals inspired by the sounds of the Universe.

His publications are model examples for communicating science to the public. Their scientific content is precise, rigorous and always state-of-the-art. He has written seven “scientific novels”, including “Le Secret de Copernic”, published in 2006. His recent book “Le destin de l’univers : trous noirs et énergie sombre”, about black holes and dark energy, was written for the general public and was praised for its outstanding scientific, historical, and literary qualities. Jean-Pierre Luminet’s work has been translated into a many languages including Chinese and Korean.

There is a page for Luminet in both the French language and English language wikipedias. If you have the language skills, you might want to check out the French language essay as I found it to be more stylishly written.

Compare,

De par ses activités de poète, essayiste, romancier et scénariste, dans une œuvre voulant lier science, histoire, musique et art, il est également Officier des Arts et des Lettres.

With,

… Luminet has written fifteen science books,[4] seven historical novels,[4] TV documentaries,[5] and six poetry collections. He is an artist, an engraver, a sculptor, and a musician.

My rough translation of the French,

As a poet, essayaist, novelist, and a screenwriter in a body of work that brings together science, history, music and art, he is truly someone who has enriched the French cultural inheritance (which is what it means to be an Officer of Arts and Letters or Officier des Arts et des Lettres; see English language entry for Ordre des Arts et des Lettres).

In any event, congratulations to M. Luminet.