Continuing on from yesterday’s (Sept. 30, 2009) posting about the ISEA 2009 panel discussion, Is the (Art) World Ready for Bioart?, the most striking comment was from Laura Sillars of FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology located in Liverpool, UK) who suggested that risk assessments could be included as part of the presentation/curating process for bioart exhibitions. It never occurred to me that I’d hear the term risk assessment applied to an art exhibition and it was a revelation.
When I compared Tangy Duff’s (the artist whose work was first accepted but ultimately not exhibited) mindset to scientists, it was this comment of Laura Sillars’ that stimulated my insight. I was reminded of the scientists in the biotechnology sector who were thoroughly unprepared for the GM (genetically modified) food panics (Europe, US, UK, Canada, and elsewhere) and stem cell research (largely in the US) panics, which affected public acceptance and public funding for their research.
The scientists (and government policy makers) did learn that public awareness and public engagement as well as discussions about risk assessments are important with bio and other new, emergent technologies.
Upon reflection and after considering Duff’s experience, it now seems obvious that emerging practices such as bioart which are so closely aligned to new and emergent technologies/sciences require at least some of the same discussions.
(Kudos to the organizers at ISEA 2009 for opening up the discussion about this situation with Duff’s canceled art exhibit to the attendees. I found much of the programming quite thought-provoking and this panel was just a sample of what was on offer.)
As for public awareness about new and emerging technology such as nanotechnology, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced (here) a new research strategy to study nanomaterials. The EPA also has a website where they provide general information. (Scroll down and click on the links down the page below the image and the title Nanotechnology Research. The links above the title take you to the general EPA information.) This announcement and the website come on the heels of the UK public information website (Nano & Me) that was recently launched. (I posted about this and other UK initiatives earlier this week, here.) I will come back to these initiatives when I post part 4 of my Science communication in Canada series.
There’s a tempest brewing over the alleged government (of Canada) interference in a conference, Israel/Palestine Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. I first mentioned the controversy here. From the G&M, this last June. It has emerged again as a story in the Globe and Mail (G&M) and in the international journal, Science. From the G&M article, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009, Government threatened grant agency over Mideast conference by Anne McIlroy, science reporter,
The Science Minister’s [Gary Goodyear] chief of staff warned the arm’s-length agency that finances social-science research in Canada that it could lose any chance of an increase in the next federal budget over a controversial conference on Israel and Palestine, according to an internal e-mail.
At the time of the e-mail, the minister’s office was pressing SSHRC to revisit its decision to provide $19,750 to Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace, hosted June 22-24 in Toronto by York and Queen’s universities.
Jewish groups had been complaining about federal support for the conference, which they objected to because it questioned Israel’s right to exist
I’ve read the conference description and I find that last claim (if accurately described) to be a leap. I understand the concern but the conference description is carefully neutral, while noting the strife and proposing a discussion about a number of possible models that might better address the needs of the peoples in that region. I have no doubt that the question of Israel’s right to exist arose but the conference was not designed to stimulate that particular discussion rather it was to consider all the possibilities and the impact that the current situation has had on the people in the region.
Thanks to Rob Annan for posting about the SSSHRC funding situation and possible federal budget fallout. If you want to read more about it, pursue links, and enjoy a few pithy comments, go to Rob Annan’s postings for the last few days at Don’t leave Canada behind.