Tag Archives: science funding

Grand Challenges Canada funds 83 projects to improve global health

For the third year in a row (as per my Dec. 22, 2011 posting and my Nov. 22, 2012 posting), I’m featuring Grand Challenges Canada funding for its ‘Stars in Global Health’ programme . From the Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) Nov. 21, 2013 news release,

Imaginative: 83 Bold Innovations to Improve Global Health Receive Grand Challenges Canada Funding

Among novel ideas to reduce disease, save lives in developing world:
Diagnostic diapers to detect deadly rotavirus; Rolling water barrel;
Special yogurt offsets pesticides, heavy metals, toxins in food;
Inventive shoe, boot material releases bug repellent when walking

50 innovators from low- and middle-income countries,
plus 33 from Canada, share $9.3 million in seed grants

Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, today extends seed grants of $100,000 each to 83 inventive new ideas for addressing health problems in resource-poor countries.

The Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” program seeks breakthrough and affordable innovations that could transform the way disease is treated in the developing world — innovations that may benefit the health of developed world citizens as well.

Of the 83 grants announced today, 50 are given to innovators in 15 low- and middle-income nations worldwide and 33 to Canadian-originated projects, to be implemented in a total of 30 countries throughout the developing world.

“Innovation powers development leading to better health and more jobs. I feel proud that Canada, through Grand Challenges Canada, has supported almost 300 bold ideas to date in our Stars in Global Health program,” says Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada.  “This is one of the largest pipelines of innovations in global health in the world today.”

Says the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie: “Grand Challenges Canada’s portfolio of projects shows how innovators with bold ideas have the potential to make a big impact on global health.  By connecting game-changing ideas with some of the most pressing global health challenges, these projects will lead to sustainable and affordable health solutions in low- and middle-income countries.”

The portfolio of 83 creative, out-of-the-box ideas, selected through independent peer review from 451 applications, includes projects submitted by social entrepreneurs, private sector companies and non-government organizations as well as university researchers.  Among them:


  • A simple, portable, dry, yeast-based blood screening test (Belize, Jamaica).  WHO estimates almost half of 46 million blood donations in low-income countries are inadequately tested;  in Africa up to 10% of new HIV infections are caused by transfusions.  A University of Toronto-developed yeast-based blood screening tool will detect combinations of diseases. Like baking yeast, it can be stored dry, and can be grown locally with minimal equipment and training, improving accessibility in rural areas.
  • A bedside, Litmus paper-like test to detect bronchitis (Brazil, India). Being pioneered at McMaster University with international collaborators, a simple sputum test will detect infectious and allergic bronchitis in adults and children, reducing mis-diagnosis in developing countries and saving resources: time, steroids, antibiotics.

Water, sanitation, hygiene and general health

  • Special yogurts formulated to offset the harm to health caused by heavy metals, pesticides and other toxics in food (Africa).  Between 2006-2009 in Nairobi, only 17% of the total maize sampled and 5% of feed was fit for human and animal consumption respectively. University of Western Ontario researchers have developed novel yogurts containing a bacteria that, in the stomach, sequesters certain toxins and heavy metals and degrades some pesticides.
  • Addressing arsenic-laced groundwater. In Bangladesh, 1 in 5 deaths (600,000 per year) occur due to groundwater arsenic, dubbed by WHO as the largest mass poisoning in history, with some 77 million people at risk.  Project 1) Toronto-based PurifAid will deploy new filtration units via franchised villagers who will filter and deliver purified water, perform maintenance, acquire new filters and dispose of old ones, which can be used to produce biofuels.  Project 2) A project based at the University of Calgary, meanwhile, will work to increase the use of Western Canadian lentils in Bangladeshi diets.  The crop is rich in selenium, which can decrease arsenic levels and improve health.
  • “WaterWheel” (India, Kenya, Mongolia).  This simple, innovative device from India is a wheeled water container that enables the collection and transport of 3 to 5 times as much water as usual per trip, as well as hygienic storage, saving valuable time for productive activities and improving health.


  • A vaccine based on a newly-discovered antibody in men that prevents malaria infection in the placenta (Benin, Colombia).  Colombian men exposed to malaria are found to have antibodies that can prevent infection in the placenta of a pregnant woman. This University of Alberta finding forms the basis for developing a novel vaccine against several forms of malaria, which cause 10,000 maternal deaths and 200,000 stillbirths annually.
  • Insect-repellent clothing, footwear and wall plaster (East Africa).  1) In Tanzania, the Africa Technical Research Institute will lead the design and manufacture of attractive, affordable insecticide-treated clothing while 2) the Ifakara Health Institute will develop anti-mosquito footwear material that slowly releases repellents from the friction of walking.  A key advantage: no compliance or change in habits required.  3) Uganda’s Med Biotech Laboratories, meanwhile, will produce a colorful, insecticide-infused ‘plaster’ for the outside walls of African village homes.

Maternal and child health

  • Mothers Telling Mothers: improving maternal health through storytelling (Uganda).  Work by Twezimbe Development Association has found that stories told by mothers in their own words and reflecting shared realities are most likely to increase the number of moms seeking skilled health care, and convince policymakers to improve healthcare access.  This project will capture 3 to 5 minutes stories to be shared through digital media platforms and health clinics.

Mobile technology

  • Digital African Health Library (Sub-Saharan Africa).  The University of Calgary-led project is creating an app to support bedside care by medical doctors in Africa: a smartphone-accessible resource providing evidence-based, locally-relevant decision support and health information.  A pilot involving 65 doctors in Rwanda showed point of care answers to patient questions more than tripled to 43%, with self-reported improvement in patient outcomes.

Health care

  • Simple sticker helps track clean surfaces in healthcare facilities (Philippines).  WHO estimates that 10% to 30% of all patients in developing country health care facilities acquire an infection.   An innovative sticker for hospital surfaces developed by Lunanos Inc. changes colour when a cleaner is applied and fades color after a predetermined period of time, helping staff track and ensure cleanliness of equipment and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • “Mystery clients” to assess and improve quality of TB care (India).  India accounts for 25% of global tuberculosis (TB) incidence.  To evaluate variations in practice quality, and identify ways to improve TB management in India, this project, led by Canada’s McGill University, will send researchers into clinics posing as a patient with standard TB symptoms.  The project builds on earlier work related to angina, asthma and dysentery, which revealed incorrect diagnoses and treatment.

And many more.

A complete set of 83 short project descriptions, with links to additional project details, available photos / video, and local contact information, is available in the full news release online here: http://bit.ly/HOLt5b

Here’s a video for the one of the projects (filtering arsenic out of Bangladesh’s water),

I chose this project somewhat haphazardly. It caught my attention as I have written more than once about purification efforts and as it turns out, this is a Canada-based project (with a Bangladeshi partner, BRAC) from the University of Toronto.

You may have heard the video’s narrator mention scotch whiskey, here’s why (from the YouTube page hosting the project video,page),

We plan to roll out a new generation of filtration units which run on an organic by-product of the beverage industry. The units address many of the failings of existing devices (they require no power or chemicals and are very low maintenance).

This project gets still more interesting (from the full project description page),

Device for the Remediation and Attenuation of Multiple Pollutants (DRAM) removes 95% of arsenic from contaminated water within 5 minutes of exposure. With an estimated 600,000 deaths directly attributable to arsenic poisoning every year, these units hold the potential to save millions of lives. Existing solutions are too complicated and suffer from significant usability issues (2012 UNICEF study).

We will deploy our units through a franchise business model. [emphasis mine] Local villagers will filter and deliver purified water, perform maintenance, acquire new media, and dispose spent media. The current market leader, the Sono Filter, has less than 20% uptake (according to UNICEF). DRAM costs only 25% of this solution, has lower maintenance requirements (4-6 month media cycle vs. 2 week media cycle), higher durability, and can be retrofitted onto existing tube wells villagers use thereby requiring no behavior change. The spent media (which must be replaced every 4-6 months) can be used to produce biofuels, giving PurifAid a decisive capability over competitors.

With the assistance of our local partner BRAC (ranked #1 on Global Journal’s list of top NGOs in 2012) we will retrofit our units onto existing tubewells. Contaminated water is pumped from the tubewell into the unit where it passes into the bottom of the unit, rising up through a bed of the organic filter media, binding the arsenic. Clean water is displaced and forced out of the top of the unit and out through the built-in tap. Our community based solution will begin with a proof-of-concept installation in the Mujibnagar District (pop. 1.3 million). BRAC will assist in testing our filter water quality on the ground and these results will be used to obtain regulatory approval for our technology. We will then operationalize our community-run DRAM systems. A council of local stakeholders will nominate prospective franchisees amongst villagers. These villagers will replace filter media in 4 month intervals and order annual delivery of new media. We are securing partnerships with nearby distilleries to locally source the filter media. [emphasis mine] Disposal will be handled by a local caretaker who will store spent media in bulk before transferring it for use as biofuel. Caretaker salary, media sourcing, and delivery costs will be paid by charging a levy on customer households. PurifAid will monitor behavioural and health indicators to ascertain DRAM’s immediate and long-term impact. To this end PurifAid has partnered with Ashalytics, a start-up global health analytics company, to report operational issues, measure impact, and communicate important metrics to key staff and stakeholders via mobile phones. This results in an environmentally-friendly value chain that uses beverage industry waste, maximizing positive impact. If the Bangladesh installations are a success then this system can be introduced across the Indian subcontinent and in west Africa, where arsenic in groundwater poses a serious health problem. DRAM has the potential to improve the lives of millions globally.

After 18 months we envisage having installed 15 DRAM systems supplying 45 liters of purified water per day to 2,700 households. In order to ensure maintenance, 15 paid caretakers will operate the pumps and a driver will supply the caretakers with fresh media every 4-6 months. Biannually, new bulk media will be provided to storage unit in the village, spent media will in turn be taken to a plant and converted to biofuel. Villagers will invest collectively to purchase, install and operate DRAM on pre-existing tube wells – thus no behavioral changes needed.

Our filters employ a new water filtration technology. Our franchise model involves social and business innovation, empowering communities to manage their own water treatment under the stewardship of a local partner that manages 17 social businesses with combined annual revenues of $93m in 2011.

(Aside: Don’t they ask for a ‘dram’ of whiskey in the movies?) This project is intended to do more than purify water; it’s designed to create jobs. Bravo!

Now back to the news release for details about the countries and agencies involved,

The global portfolio of grants, broken down by region and country:

30 projects based in 6 African countries (16 in Kenya, 5 in Tanzania, 5 in Uganda, 2 in Nigeria and 1 each in Senegal and Ghana)
17 projects based in 7 countries in Asia (7 in India, 2 in Pakistan 4 in Thailand and 1 each in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia and the Philippines)
Two projects based in South America (Peru) and one in Europe (Armenia)
33 projects based in 11 Canadian cities (14 in Toronto, 3 each in Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, 2 each in Winnipeg, Edmonton and London, and 1 each in Halifax, Hamilton, Ottawa and Saskatoon)

The Canadian-based projects will be implemented worldwide (a majority of them implemented simultaneously in more than one country):

15 countries in Africa (5 in Kenya, 4 in Tanzania, 3 each in Uganda and Ethiopia, 2 each in Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Zambia, and 1 each in Benin, Botswana, Ghana,  Malawi, Nigeria, and DR Congo)
8 countries in Asia (8 in India, 6 in Bangladesh, 1 each in Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand)
5 countries in South and Latin America (Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Peru.) and
1 in the Middle East (Egypt)

Including today’s grants, total investments to date under the Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” program is $32 million in 295 projects.

For full details: http://bit.ly/HOLt5b

* * * * *

About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact in global

health. We are funded by the Government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget. We fund innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. Grand Challenges Canada works with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and other global health foundations and organizations to find sustainable, long-term solutions through Integrated Innovation − bold ideas that integrate science, technology, social and business innovation. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre.

Please visit grandchallenges.ca  and look for us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

About Canada’s International Development Research Centre

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most. As the Government of Canada’s lead on the Development Innovation Fund, IDRC draws on decades of experience managing publicly funded research projects to administer the Development Innovation Fund. IDRC also ensures that developing country researchers and concerns are front and centre in this exciting new initiative.


About Canadian Institutes of Health Research

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada. CIHR will be responsible for the administration of international peer review, according to international standards of excellence. The results of CIHR-led peer reviews will guide the awarding of grants by Grand Challenges Canada from the Development Innovation Fund.


About the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The mandate of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada is to manage Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country’s international trade, and to lead Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance.


About Sandra Rotman Centre

The Sandra Rotman Centre is based at University Health Network and the University of Toronto. We develop innovative global health solutions and help bring them to scale where they are most urgently needed. The Sandra Rotman Centre hosts Grand Challenges Canada.


I have found it confusing that there’s a Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a Grand Challenges programme, both of which making funding announcements at this time of year. I did make some further investigations which I noted in my Dec. 22, 2011 posting,

Last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $21.1 M grant over three years for research into point-of-care diagnostic tools for developing nations. A Canadian nongovermental organization (NGO) will be supplementing this amount with $10.8 M for a total of $31.9 M. (source: Dec. 16, 2011 AFP news item [Agence France-Presse] on MedicalXpress.com)

At this point, things get a little confusing. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a specific program called Grand Challenges in Global Health and this grant is part of that program. Plus, the Canadian NGO is called Grand Challenges Canada (couldn’t they have found a more distinctive name?), which is funded by a federal Canadian government initiative known as the Development Innovation Fund (DIF). …

Weirdly, no one consulted with me when they named the Bil & Melinda Gates Foundation programme or the Canadian NGO.

The 2013 US government shutdown and its eventual impact on Canadian science and elewhere

While there’s a growing list of commentaries and editorials, notably, the Oct. 1, 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) news release, about the impact that the 2013 US government shutdown is having on US Science, I haven’t yet come across anything specific about the potential impact on science in Canada (and elsewhere). From the AAAS news release (Note: A link has been removed),,

“If the Government shutdown continues for a week or more, it is going to make the United States less desirable as an international research collaborator,” said Joanne Carney, director of the AAAS Office of Government Relations. [emphasis mine] “When funding is no longer reliable, many of our research partners may be unable to continue collaborating with us. That could eventually have longer-term impacts on American innovation and competitiveness.”

Furloughs will impact the vast majority of staff at the National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, except for those directly responsible for the protection of life and property, which likely would include support for the agency’s Antarctic research facilities and personnel. “NSF will be sending notices to research grant awardees, informing them that payments won’t be made during the disruption, although research that doesn’t require federal employee intervention may proceed,” said Matthew Hourihan, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.

Within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 40,512 employees, or 52 percent of all staff are expected to be furloughed. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in particular, the furloughs will send 73 percent of employees home. Remaining NIH employees will continue to provide both in-patient and out-patient care, but the NIH Clinical Center will not be able to accept new patients.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” according to an agency statement. “The FDA will also have to cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs, and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.”

Most of the 13,814 employees of the U.S. Department of Energy will be furloughed, leaving only a few hundred staff at the National Nuclear Security Administration. “Literally a handful of regular DOE staff would remain on the job within the Office of Science and programs for efficiency, renewables, nuclear power, and fossil energy, including ARPA-E, but as contractor entities the labs will be shielded for a time,” Hourihan said. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is responsible for identifying “out-of-the-box” energy solutions not supported by industry research.

NASA’s shutdown contingency plan ensures support for the International Space Station and its astronauts as well as other satellite missions now underway. No new contracts or grants will be issued by NASA, however, and most pre-launch development work will end.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) offers a listing which breaks down the percentages of staff being furloughed in an Oct. 1, 2013 news item. Here are the numbers for some of the departments and agencies which are considered part of the US science establishment:

  • Department of Defense 50% on furlough
  • Department of Energy 69% on furlough
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 93% on furlough
  • Department of Health and Human Services 52% on furlough
  • Department of the Interior 81% on furlough
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 97% on furlough
  • National Science Foundation 99% on furlough
  • The Smithsonian 83% on furlough

Neither the list on the CBC website nor the AAAS news release offers furlough numbers, if any, for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Given the importance of collaboration on the Canadian science scene this shutdown doesn’t bode well. I don’t have numbers but I’m assuming that the US is Canada’s largest single country source for collaborative research. On a related note,, I had someone tell me (at the 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference) that the US National Institutes of Health fund a significant portion of the medical and health research performed in Canada. (If someone knows the numbers, please add a comment or contact me at nano@frogheart.ca).

Closer to my home, I wonder how *MDA (headquartered in Richmond, BC, Canada; *I mentioned the company and its space robotics programme in a May 1, 2013 posting concerning the than new Canadian $5 bill) which has US Department of Defense contracts and NASA contracts is going to fare? As well, Nigel Lockyer, the executive director for TRIUMF, Canada’s particle and nuclear physics laboratory, who announced his Fall 2013 departure for the US Fermi Lab (my June 21, 2013 posting) is walking into a rather thorny situation.

On a personal note, I received a travel stipend last year (to present at the Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies 2012 conference) from US National Science Foundation (NSF) funds disbursed by the University of California at Santa Barbara. Something tells me the NSF may not be offering that type of funding for a long time to come.

Canadians talk a lot about ‘punching above our weight’ with regard to our research but that ability has been aided immeasurably by US funding and collaboration. We ride, to some extent, on our neighbour’s coattails. (I am aware that simultaneously while ‘punching above our weight’ we have also complained our international standing in science research is deteriorating,, which makes for a lively, if at times confusing discourse.)

Canada will not be the only country to experience an impact from the shutdown as the US science community has enthusiastically embraced the notion of international collaboration.

As this shutdown continues another financial deadline will be reached on Oct. 17, 2013 when Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, ceases to have money in the US Treasury to pay bills unless Congress passes a motion to raise the limit on government borrowing (CBC, via *Associated Press, Oct. 2, 2013 news item).

One final thought, I can’t help but wonder what impact this financial instability will have on US scientists and their desire to pursue their research interests. It is possible the US will lose some of its best and its brightest, not necessarily the established researchers but those who have yet to fully establish their careers.

* Links to MDA website, mention and link to May 1, 2013 added and ‘Association’ changed to ‘Associated’ on Oct. 3, 2013.

Origins of Pacific sea life: crowdfunding a scientific expedition to the Danajon Bank

The Danajon (pronounced Dana [as in dada] hon) Bank, a reef  in the Philippines, is believed to be where much of Pacific marine life originated. According to a March 5, 2013 University of British Columbia news release, a team of researchers and photographers have started a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo to document and raise awareness of the beautiful and endangered Danajon Bank,

Marine scientists and the world’s top nature photographers are teaming up to reveal for the first time the beauty of a rare double-barrier reef in the Philippines – and the imminent threats it faces – with the help of citizens around the world.

One of only six double-barrier reefs in the world, Danajon Bank is an important evolutionary birthplace of fish and other animal species found all over the Pacific Ocean today. However, Danajon Bank suffers from overfishing and other human pressures, and is home to nearly 200 threatened species.

Expedition: Danajon Bank will send a team of conservationists and award-winning photographers to document this “centre of the centre” of biodiversity, with the ultimate goal of legally protecting the fragile reef system.

“Not many people have heard of Danajon Bank. We plan to change that,” says Prof. Amanda Vincent, director of Project Seahorse, a UBC-Zoological Society of London initiative. “Crowdfunding is a fantastic way to raise funds and inspire the public to take ownership of issues such as marine conservation, so we thought: why not start there?”

“There really is no better way to communicate the urgent need for marine conservation than through images that hit you in the head and the heart,” says Thomas P. Peschak, an International League of Conservation Photographers Fellow and one of the expedition photographers. His résumé includes multiple BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and World Press Photo awards.

The team is requesting $30,000 to fund their expedition, which will take place April 5 – 15, 2013, and each level of donation promises rewards, all of them photographic in nature (wordplay intended).

Sample photo by ILCP photographer Luciano Candisani, who is part of Expedition: Danajon Bank. (Photo: Luciano Candisani/ILCP) [downloaded from http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/2013/03/05/ubc-scientists-nature-photographers-launch-philippines-expedition-with-crowdfunding/]

Sample photo by ILCP photographer Luciano Candisani, who is part of Expedition: Danajon Bank. (Photo: Luciano Candisani/ILCP) [downloaded from http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/2013/03/05/ubc-scientists-nature-photographers-launch-philippines-expedition-with-crowdfunding/]

Here’s a little more about the team from the University of British Columbia (UBC) news release,

The Expedition: Danajon Bank team also includes world-renowned photographers Luciano Candisani, Claudio Contreras, and Michael Ready. Project Seahorse co-founders Amanda Vincent (UBC), Heather Koldewey (ZSL [Zoological Society of London]) and Nicholas Hill (ZSL) will act as scientific advisors.

In April, the expedition team will blog from the field at danajon-bank.tumblr.com, and you can follow their exploits on Twitter @projectseahorse and @ilcp.

Beginning in June, the photographs will be shown in a series of public exhibitions in Chicago, Hong Kong, Manila and London and published in a new book.

I wonder why Vancouver is not included as a stop for one of the public exhibitions. After all, Vancouver is between Hong Kong and Manila to the west and Chicago to the east. As well, it is a little unexpected to note the involvement of Project Seahorse as the campaign notes don’t make the reasons for that group’s participation obvious but the campaign video clarifies matters somewhat,

As of today, March 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm PST, they have raised $225 towards their goal with 28 days remaining. Surprisingly, the team doesn’t offer any ‘science’ rewards. You can get photographs, the project’s book of photographs, postcards, etc. but not a single reward features a chat with one of the scientists, or a special visit to a facility such as the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, or an opportunity to be a member of the expedition.

In any event, I wish the expedition the best of luck both with raising funds and with their work.

Science research spending and innovation in Europe and reflections on the Canadian situation

I thought I’d pull together some information about science funding and innovation for closer examination. First, in early July 2011 the European Union announced plans for a huge spending increase, approximately 45%, for science. Their current programme, the Seventh Framework Programme (US$79B budget) is coming to an end in 2013 and the next iteration will be called, Horizon 2020 (proposed US$114B budget).  Here’s more from Kit Eaton’s July 6, 2011 article on Fast Company,

The proposal still awaits approval by the E.U.’s parliament and member states, but just getting this far is a milestone. The next phase is to forge spending into the next generation of the E.U.’s Framework Programme, which is its main research spending entity, to produce a plan called Horizon 2020. The spending shift has been championed by E.U. research commissioner Márie Geoghan-Quinn, and means that the share of the E.U. budget portioned out for scientific research will eventually double from its 4.5% figure in 2007 to 9% in 2020.

How will Europe pay for it? This is actually the biggest trick being pulled off: More than €4.5 billion would be transferred from the E.U.’s farm subsidies program, the Common Agricultural Policy. This is the enormous pile of cash paid by E.U. authorities to farmers each year to keep them in business, to keep food products rolling off the production line, and to keep fields fallow–as well as to diversify their businesses.

Nature journal also covered the news in a July 5, 2011 article by Colin Macilwane,

Other research advocates say that the proposal — although falling short of the major realignment of funding priorities they had been hoping for — was as good as could be expected in the circumstances. “Given the times we’re in, we couldn’t realistically have hoped for much more,” says Dieter Imboden, president of Eurohorcs, the body representing Europe’s national research agencies.

Geoghegan-Quinn told Nature that the proposal was “a big vote of confidence in science” but also called on researchers to push to get the proposal implemented — especially in their home countries. “The farmers will be out there lobbying, and scientists and researchers need to do the same,” she says.

While the European Union wrangles over a budget that could double their investment in science research, Canadians evince, at best, a mild interest in science research.

The latest Science, Technology and Innovation Council report, State of the Nation 2010: Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation System, was released in June 2011 and has, so far, occasioned little interest despite an article in the Globe & Mail and a Maclean’s blog posting by Paul Wells. Hopefully,  The Black Hole Blog, where Beth Swan and David Kent are writing a series about the report, will be able to stimulate some discussion.

From Beth’s July 12, 2011 posting,

The report – at least the section I’m talking about today – is based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment and Statistics Canada. Some of the interesting points include:

  • 15-year-old Canadians rank in the top 10 of OECD countries for math and science in 20091.
  • 80% of 15-19 year-old Canadians are pursuing a formal education, which is lower than the OECD average
  • But Canada ranks 1st in OECD countries for adults (ages 25–64 years) in terms of the percentage of the population with a post-secondary education (49%)
  • The numbers of Canadian students in science and engineering at the undergraduate level increased (18% increase in the number of science undergraduate degrees, 9% increase in the number of engineering undergraduate degrees) in 2008 compared to 2005

This all begs the question, though, of what those science-based graduates do once they graduate. It’s something that we’ve talked about a fair bit here on the Black Hole and the STIC report gives us some unhappy data on it. Canada had higher unemployment rates for science-based PhDs (~3-4%) compared to other OECD countries (e.g., in the US, it’s about ~1-1.5%).  Specifically, in 2006 Canada had the highest rate of unemployment for the medical sciences -3%- and engineering -4%- and the third highest rate of unemployment for the natural sciences -3%- among the OECD countries: the data are from 2006.

David, in his July 16, 2011 posting, focuses on direct and indirect Canadian federal government Research & Development (R&D) spending,

It appears from a whole host of statistics, reports, etc – that Canada lags in innovation, but what is the government’s role in helping to nurture its advancement.  Is it simply to create fertile ground for “the market” to do its work?  or is it a more interventionist style of determining what sorts of projects the country needs and investing as such?  Perhaps it involves altering the way we train and inspire our young people?

Beth then comments on Canadian business R&D investment, which has always been a low priority according to the material I’ve read, in her July 25, 2011 posting on ,

Taken together, this shows a rather unfavourable trend in Canadian businesses not investing in research & development – i.e, not contributing to innovation. We know from Dave’s last posting that Canada is not very good at contributing direct funds to research and my first posting in this series illustrated that while Canada is pretty good at getting PhDs trained, we are not so good at having jobs for those PhDs once they are done their schooling.

The latest July 27, 2011 posting from David asks the age old question, Why does Canada lag in R&D spending?

Many reports have been written over the past 30 years about Canada and its R&D spending, and they clamour one after the other about Canada’s relative lack of investment into R&D.  We’ve been through periods of deep cutbacks and periods of very strong growth, yet one thing remains remarkably consistent – Canada underspends on R&D relative to other countries.

The waters around such questions are extremely murky and tangible outcomes are tough to identify and quantify when so many factors are at play.  What does seem reasonable though is to ask where this investment gap is filled from in other countries that currently outstrip Canada’s spending – is it public money, private money, foreign money, or domestic money?  Hopefully these questions are being asked and answered before we set forth on another 30 year path of poor relative investment.

As I stated in my submission to the federal government’s R&D review panel and noted in my March 15, 2011 posting about the ‘Innovation’ consultation, I think we need to approach the issues in more imaginative ways.

Crowdsourcing science funding cuts in the US

There’s a variation of an old political game being played out in the US these days. I can’t remember exactly the last time Canadians played it but here’s the setup, a politician looks up the grant information for a funding organization such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada, scans the titles for the research papers, picks out a few at random, holds them up for ridicule and as an example of poor government investment, then asks the public to speak out or protest this waste of money.

Recently in the US, the Republican party decided to create a website titled, YouCut (I appreciate the word play on the YouTube brand), featuring a video of a very personable politician holding up a few recent research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as examples of ridiculous research and a waste of money. The site also features instructions for how citizens can look up NSF research grants for themselves and nominate their choices to be included in a YouCut report.

Pasco Phronesis (David Bruggeman) outlined concerns about the program’s execution (he notes that the US politician spearheading is looking at a wide range of government programmes, not just NSF funding)  in a Dec. 3, 2010 posting,

The execution of this project is pretty lousy, targeted at political outcomes much, much more than making meaningful policy changes. Looking at the targeted programs in the YouCut program, most of them are relatively small in terms of funding (this week’s candidates are all under $50 million – a tiny fraction of a percentage point of the federal budget), and many seem to be targets more for political purposes than actual fraud, waste, unnecessary duplication or abuse. The reporting mechanism is particularly lousy as it won’t be able to collect any meaningful data about grants or programs. It’s more about what people don’t like, without room for any explanation. Finally, a program like this, placed on the website of a political operation, makes it really easy to politicize the whole thing, and roll it into some pale imitation of Senator William Proxmire’s grandstanding back in the 1980s. ‘Great soundbites’ lousy policies.

Pasco Phronesis goes on to support the principle of asking for feedback,

That said, I see no reason why the public shouldn’t provide feedback to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its grantees about grant proposals that they think are duplicative or wasteful. It is public money being spent, and if grantees can’t explain their work to the public, I don’t think they’ve earned the right to it. There is the matter of how such feedback is conducted.

Dan Vergano in his USA Today article about politicians and science funding, How some politicians stumble on science, gives a little more detail about the ‘ridiculous’ research cited in the YouCut video,

So, as you might expect, when we asked the National Science Foundation about the two grants that Smith [Republican politician] mentioned, we learned a little more about them.

For example, the soccer study turns out to be computer scientists studying how remotely connected teams form to conduct “nanoscience, environmental engineering, earthquake engineering, chemical sciences, media research and tobacco research.”

And the “breaking things” study turns out to be acoustics experts ” pursuing fundamental advances in computational methods while solving several particularly challenging sound rendering problems,” so that the U.S. military, among others, can create more realistic combat simulators for troops.

“These aren’t about soccer research,” says the NSF’s Maria Zacharias. “All of these projects go through our very rigorous peer-review process,” she adds, part of what made the NSF the only one of 26 federal agencies to receive a “green” rating from the Bush administration in its initial rating of government management practices.

Vergano concludes his article by noting that history behind some of these tensions in the US,

Since 1950, when NSF was founded, a tension has existed between the decision made then that peer review — scientists scoring each other’s work to fund the most worthy efforts — would be the way to fund research, rather than doling it out as earmarks from politicians, which was the other big idea favored by some then. “Experts are in a better position to know what’s worth the money and what isn’t,” Teich [Al Teich, science budget expert for the American Association for the Advancement of Science] says.

Zacharias suggests that researchers need to work harder to let the public know “lab mice, soccer players, other critters” are just tools for scientists trying to answer complex questions, not an end in themselves.

“In the laboratory there are no fustian ranks, no brummagem aristocracies,” wrote Twain, putting it a bit more elegantly. “The domain of Science is a republic, and all its citizens are brothers and equals.”

From a science communication perspective, the YouCut website/video, the discussion on the Pasco Phronesis blog, and the article by Dan Vergano provide some useful insight.

Impact that latest elections could have on US science hotspots and brief comment of UK bugdet

There’s some interesting commentary on the US mid-term elections and its potential impact on various types of science by Dan Gilmour in his Nov. 3, 2010 posting (on his Salon blog) notes,

The Democrats weren’t the only big loser in yesterday’s election. Science got clobbered, too.

Fueled by disdain for government interference with business and tanker loads of cash from the energy industry and its allies, the Republican party has been moving steadily into the denial camp on global climate change, or at least deep skepticism. And it’s practically an article of faith among the tea-party activist crowd. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed a yawning gap between Democrats and Republicans over the issue, with just 38 percent of Republicans believing that the earth is getting warmer — a belief that drops to 23 percent among tea party Republicans.

By every account, the Republican takeover of the House is likely to derail any possibility of serious action on climate change during at least the next two years, longer if President Obama is defeated for reelection in 2012.

Gilmour goes on at more length about the ‘attack’ on science. The British journalist Andy Coughlan offers a more measured but still pessimistic view in his Nov. 3, 2010 article for The New Scientist,

President Barack Obama suffered a serious setback in the US midterm elections, with the Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans but hanging onto the Senate by a whisker.

Alongside the anger directed at the president, the elections were battlegrounds for ideological disputes over how to tackle climate change, abortion rights, and whether American children should be taught about biblical creationism alongside evolution.

Coughlan goes on to break it down by state and by science, for example, California and a proposition about greenhouse gas emissions,

One of the most significant results was the defeat in California of Proposition 23, a proposal bankrolled by the Texan oil giants to suspend the state’s pioneering law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California’s famously green conscience shone through in the vote, defeating the proposition by a resounding 58 to 42 per cent, according to the latest results available. The Los Angeles Times was in no doubt that the “oily club” from Texas was sent packing through being outspent and out-organised, campaign-wise by wealthy philanthropists and celebrity backers.

Chief architect of the original global warming law in 2006, and outgoing Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was jubilant at the result, according to The Bay Citizen, and took the opportunity to criticise the administration for failing to follow the example set by California.

Presumably the elections in the US will result is some not just to legislation that affects science but also science funding. I find it interesting to contrast the situation as it currently exists in the US with the situation in the UK where scientists achieved 0% reduction in a federal budget that featured serious cutbacks in every other domain as the UK continues to grapple with its economic woes. It does seem that the Science is Vital campaign, (mentioned in my Oct. 19, 2010 posting) was effective. From the Oct. 27, 2010 news item on the Nature website,

An unexpected bouquet of white lilies and roses greeted David Willetts, Britain’s minister for science, when he arrived at a press conference on 20 October to announce the government’s plans for research spending over the next four years.

In better times, he might have been met with a barrage of rotten fruit. The research base will continue to be funded at its current level, £4.6 billion (US$7.2 billion), for the four-year review period — which amounts to an effective cut of 10% if inflation projections are factored in. In addition, an essential funding stream for large projects will probably be substantially cut, along with research in many government departments.

I’m not sure what to make of it all but it does give me food for thought as I wait for Canada’s next federal budget and/or election.

Grassroots science organizing in the UK

There’s a lot of concern about impending cuts for funding science in the UK as signaled by Vince Cable’s (UK Secretary of State – Department for Business Innovation & Skills Sept, 8, 2010 speech), excerpted from Cable’s speech Science, Research and Innovation on the Dept. for Business Innovation & Skills webpage,

Over the next few weeks and months, major decisions will be made on Government spending priorities as part of a wider move to stabilise the country’s finances and rebalance the economy. They will help to define what we value as a nation and the direction in which we want to head. Investing in science and research is a critical part of that. I cannot prejudge the outcome but I know that my colleagues, including at the Treasury, value the contribution of UK science.

I have been arguing for years my concern over the way the British economy was distorted. Money borrowed for property speculation rather than productive investment and innovation. Too many top performing graduates heading straight for high finance rather than science and engineering.

It was clear to me and my colleagues that the British economy was becoming increasingly unbalanced in the short term, as the mountain of household debt built up. We were also unprepared for a long-term future where we need to earn our living in the world through high-tech, high-skills and innovation.

There is a school of thought which says that Government commitment to science and technology is measured by how much money we spend. Money is important both for the quality and quantity. But it is an input, not an output, measure. The question I have to address is can we achieve more with less?

In deciding priorities, there is a limit to how much I can dictate the course of events. Nor do I wish to. Research priorities and technical priorities are set at arms length from Government, and through peer review. That is right. Yet the Government spends £6bn a year supporting science and research and it is right that I should speak about strategic priorities.

I feel I should start by registering a personal interest when it comes to science. I’m one of few MPs to have at least started a science degree – well, it began as natural science and ended up as economics.

My constituency, Twickenham, is one of the major centres of scientific enquiry. It contains the National Physical Laboratory, a world-leading centre; the Laboratory of the Government Chemist; and a wide variety of companies involved in science, research and innovation.

I recently discovered one accidentally as a result of a parking dispute with local residents: FT Technologies which is one of two major companies in the world making wind monitoring and airflow measurement applications, much of its production being exported to China.

And one of my constituents is inventor Trevor Bayliss, best known for inventing the wind-up radio. He constantly reminds me of the parlous status and minimal support given to inventors whose ideas so often fail to find commercial application in the UK but are used overseas.

I would add that my youngest son, Hugo, is a very theoretical quantum physicist – based in Singapore.

You could say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But I am familiar with the language of science and the sorts of difficulties faced by scientists, researchers and inventors.

My preference is to ration research funding by excellence and back research teams of international quality – and screen out mediocrity – regardless of where they are and what they do.

Its is worth noting in the last RAE 54 per cent of submitted work was defined as world class and that is the area where funding should be concentrated.

Even a rationing of this kind presents problems. How do we allow room for new, unknown but bright people? How do we reduce, not increase, the time spent on applying for funding in a more competitive market?

There is a separate but critically important question of how we maximise the contribution of Government supported research to wealth creation.

I support, of course, top class “blue skies” research, but there is no justification for taxpayers money being used to support research which is neither commercially useful nor theoretically outstanding. [emphasis mine]

As I said earlier, it would be wrong to measure this in monetary terms alone. [emphasis mine] There are wider questions, regarding the UK’s openness as a society and its attractiveness as a destination for the brightest scientists, researchers and engineers from all over the world.


The Hauser review suggested a sensible approach – establishing a network of Technology and Innovation Centres, based on international models such as the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany. Both science minister David Willetts and I agree that it is a good way forward, and I am looking closely at the recommendations in the review and the value of investing in these in the context of the Spending Review.

But we should not simply be copying overseas models. The key point is that what works are business driven high technology clusters with academic links. [emphasis mine] We already have several: such as the Research Council campus at Harwell, and others such as Cambridge and potentially St Pancras – and we are working at how to develop this model further.

Despite Cable’s protests  to the contrary and his attempts to ally himself with the scientific community, the focus here is on the bottom line and how science should be made to contribute.  The reference to ‘blue skies research’ is notable as a way of diminishing it while simultaneously claiming its importance. Plus, it’s not just any ‘blue skies’ research, it must be ‘top class’. Unfortunately history, including science history, is littered with stories about theoretical work that was so far ahead of its time that it was dismissed by contemporaries.

I do understand that the UK’s economy is seriously troubled at this time, hard decisions will have to be made, and that scientists will not be happy with any cuts so I can appreciate why Cable has tried to present himself as ‘almost’ a scientist and mention his ‘support’ of blue skies research. He had to know that no matter how he phrased things there’d be some sort of response from the UK’s scientific community, From Jennifer Rohn’s guest post for The Lay Scientist (Guardian Blog),

When you deal with science on a daily basis, it is difficult to take its fruits for granted. Science gives most people the luxury to forget, at least for a while, that the world can be a brutal and dangerous place. On a planet fraught with dwindling resources, burgeoning population, emerging disease and uncertain climate, we abandon science at our peril.

It is with this backdrop that a new chapter in my life began: Science Is Vital, a grassroots campaign to support UK research. I’d like to tell you that I thought long and hard about it, but the truth is that it was an almost instantaneous reaction: I read Vince Cable’s now infamous speech signalling crippling cuts to science funding, dashed off an angry blog post, and proposed marching in the streets on Twitter all in the space of about 15 minutes.

Science is vital. And it’s not just scientists who think so: our petition, which has more than ten thousand contributors and rising, has been signed by a wonderfully diverse array of people, from artists, social workers and builders to ministers, legal secretaries, and fire fighters, even a self-professed “house hubby”. Our campaign, in partnership with the Campaign for Science and Engineering, has been endorsed by groups such as the British Heart Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK and many scientific societies.

If you agree, please sign our petition, write to your MP , consider joining us on our Parliamentary Lobby on Tuesday 12 October, and above all, come to our rally this Saturday 9 October in central London – we’re expecting thousands.

Think of it: scientists and their supporters, massing in the streets! We’d like as many people as possible visibly displaying their pride in science, whether it is by wearing their white coat, T-shirts with their favorite scientific image or wielding scientific objects and placards.

As a Canadian, I’m fascinated that the scientific community in the UK is organizing a public rally. When Canada’s Conservative government effectively cut scientific funding in a budget a few years ago, the Canadian science community responded  months later with a letter carrying 2000 signatures. A blog evolved from that letter, Don’t leave Canada behind which is now run by Rob Annan. I believe that was the sum total of the public grassroots organizing in the face of a perceived crisis.

I realize that Canadian geography and population density do not lend themselves to centrally located or even regionally located public rallies. Distance and population numbers are always a problem.Although, I have to admit that I sometimes think that we use these problems as excuses for doing very little at all.

I hope that the folks in the UK are able to find a means of meaningful dialogue in the face of some very difficult circumstances. As for the Canadian scientific community, I imagine they are watching and waiting as they ponder future moves by the Canadian government (after all, there is a 2011 budget to look forward to).

Could science funding in the European Union have an impact on Canadian nanotechnology?

Unexpectedly they’re upping the research budget in the European Union. According to the item online at  BBC News,

The EU has announced 6.4bn euros (£5.4bn) of funding for scientific research and innovation next year – a 12% increase on this year’s allocation.

The programme is aimed at creating more than 165,000 jobs and developing “a more competitive and greener Europe”, the European Commission says.

The focus is on tackling climate change, energy projects, food security, health and Europe’s ageing population.

Grants will be awarded to about 16,000 research bodies and businesses.

“Research and innovation are the only smart and lasting route out of crisis and towards sustainable and socially equitable growth,” said the EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.

“There is no other way of creating good and well-paid jobs that will withstand the pressures of globalisation.”

EU-funded research currently accounts for about 5% of the total public funding for research in the EU, she said.

The investment includes more than 600m euros for health research, about 206m euros of which will go into clinical trials for new drugs.

Nanotechnologies will get 270m euros, while about 600m euros is earmarked for advanced computer technologies. [emphasis mine]

Another 400m euros is to be spent on computer applications that address the challenges of building a low-carbon economy and managing ageing populations.

I was inclined to view it as a piece of delightful news without really analyzing it, then David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis) made a salient comment,

I suspect that the European spending will be insufficient even if individual nations hold the line on their own science funding. Because even those nations are looking at significant cuts to their universities, which affect both the training of the next generation of researchers and a certain amount of research. At best the funding boosts and cuts will be a wash, but the future doesn’t look like the best. What might happen is a greater shift in attention to European Union level research compared to country level research.

David also provides a brief description of the  ‘framework programme’ that the European Union uses to fund science research so that readers (such as me) have a better understanding of the bigger picture. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, do check out his posting.

David’s commentary was particularly timely as, this morning, I came across an article about the French government funding nanotechnology research in Canada (Sherbrooke, Québec to be precise). Since the article is in French, I’m going to be relying on my translation skills (Note: I will reproduce at least some of the French, so do let me know if you spot any errors.)

There is an abbreviated version of the article (Nanotechnologies: un petit bout de France à L’UdeS) by Jonathan Custeau for the Sherbrooke Tribune here (fyi, somebody sent me a copy of the full article).

The University of Sherbrooke’s current nanotechnology laboratory (Laboratoire international associé en nanotechnologies et nanosystèmes [LIA-LN2]) is about to receiving funding to the tune of ! million Euros over three years from France’s CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) putting  it in a category occupied by only eight other labs in the world.

I gather the lab’s current LIA-LN2 status is a consequence of previous French funding since the university’s vice-president of research describes the current bonanza as ‘jumping to a new level’, i.e. jumping to Unité mixte international (UMI) status,

“Nous étions tellement en avance que nous sautons à un autre niveau”, fait valoir Jacques Beauvais, vice-recteur à la recherche de l’Université de Sherbrooke.

L’autre niveau, c’est l’Unité mixte internationale, un laboratoire financé par le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS français. Il n’en existe que huit à travers le monde.

“Une UMI coûte très cher, parce que c’est un vrai laboratoire, avec des chercheurs financés par le CNRS, des fonds de recherches français et européens. C’est comme s’il y avait un bout de France sur le campus de l’Université de Sherbrooke”, fait valoir Vincent Aimez, codirecteur du LIA-LN2.

The nanotechnology researchers at the University of Sherbrooke (L’UdeS) have been liaising and collaborating with researchers in Varennes, Lyon, and Grenoble, France for over two years,  so this new funding is an acknowledgment of the quality of their work.

Bravo—the award is all the more extraordinary given the concerns about science and university funding in Europe.

January 2012 is the launch date for the University of Sherbrooke’s UMI which will have a focus on bringing at least some of the academic research to the market. Miniaturized integrated circuit boards are mentioned specifically and my translation skills failed a bit here,

Les applications des recherches pourraient notamment permettre de relever le défi de la miniaturisation des puces électroniques [integrated circuit boards?]. “Nous cherchons à faire des puces avec plus de fonctions, mais qui consomment moins d’énergie, pour qu’elles restent efficaces pendant un mois par exemple. Nous voulons aussi développer des biocapteurs [?] pour des contrôles environnementaux [?] ou des analyses médicales [medical diagnostics?]”, précise Abdelkader Souifi, également codirecteur du LIA-LN2.

I found the comments regarding products quite interesting in light of the Québec government’s recent moves to improve innovation in that province as per the article (June 30, 2010) by Peter Hadekel in the Montréal Gazette. (Idle thought: This casts a new light on the recent Domtar-FPInnovations collaboration on nanocrystalline cellulose (my July 16, 2010 posting).

The problem with patents

After recently (January 7, 2010) posting comments about the problems of patents being used as a measure of scientific innovation and progress, I found this eloquent description on Techdirt,

Almost a third of our portfolio is under attack by patent trolls. Is it possible that one third of the engineering teams in our portfolio unethically misappropriated technology from someone else and then made that the basis of their web services? No! That’s not what is happening. Our companies are driven by imaginative and innovative engineering teams that are focused on creating social value by bringing innovative new services to market.

Our companies are being attacked by companies that were not even in the same market, very often by companies they did not even know existed….

I know of no case where the engineers in one of our companies were aware of the patents that are now being used to attack them. The moral rightness of this screams at me. If, as an engineer focused on solving a problem, I happened to come up with an idea that is in some way similar to yours, then that in itself should suggest that it was obvious and not patentable. Unfortunately, that does not really help. There, the burden of proof is still on the startup and it is still smarter to settle than to burn precious capital on a defense.

If, on the other hand, the troll was required to show the startup had some prior knowledge of their technology, the burden would be shifted to the attacker, and this blatant abuse would come to a grinding halt. If you believe as I do that innovation is key to social progress, please support patent reform. It is a complicated issue, but an independent invention defense is an obvious place to start.

The individual making the comments is a partner in a well respected venture capital firm that specializes in internet-related issues. You can read more of the Techdirt article here.

The US records many patents but are they good patents or patents that are intended to the lay groundwork for a payout? I assume the practice of filing nuisance patents is not confined to the US alone although the practice is not as common in Canada. I’m not sure I’d ascribe that to our better national character so much as there is less financial incentive. All of which takes me back to the 2009 OECD scoreboard which uses patents as a measure of scientific progress and my idle thoughts about it all here.

You might want to take a look at one of Rob Annan’s (Don’t leave Canada behind) postings about Canada’s Green brain drain? This is more fallout from the last federal budget.