Tag Archives: Science Rendezvous

The decade that was (2010-19) and the decade to come (2020-29): Science culture in Canada (2 of 5)

As noted in part 1, I’ve taken a very broad approach to this survey of science culture in Canada over the last 10 years. It isn’t exhaustive but part 1 covers science communication, science media (mainstream and others such as blogging) and arts as exemplified by music and dance. Now it’s time for part 2 and the visual arts, festivals, science slams, and more..

Art/Sci or Art/Science or SciArt—take your pick

In 2005 my heart was broken. I had to give up on an event I’d conceived and tried to organize for five years, ‘Twisted: an art/science entrée’. Inspired by an art/science organization in New York, it just wasn’t the right timing for Vancouver or, it seems, for Canada, if the failure of an art/science funding collaboration between the Canada Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) during roughly during that time period could be considered as another indicator.

The situation has changed considerably during this last decade (or so it seems). There are more performing and visual artists using scientific ideas and principles as inspiration for their work or they’re collaborating outright with scientists, or scientists are expressing themselves through artistic endeavours. Of course, of consequences of all this activity is a naming issue. (Isn’t there always?) I’m not taking sides all i want is clarity.

Part 1 featured more of the ‘inspirational’ art/science efforts. Here you’ll find the more ‘science’ inflected efforts.

ArtSci Salon located at the University of Toronto was founded in 2010 according to its About webpage,

This website documents the activity of the ArtSci Salon, a group of artists, scientists and art-sci-tech enthusiasts meeting once a month to engage in critical discussions on topics at the intersection between the arts and science.

Started in 2010 as a spin-off of the Subtle Technologies Festival, ArtSciSalon responds to the recent expansion in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] of a community of scientists and artists increasingly seeking collaborations across disciplines to successfully accomplish their research projects and inquiries.

Based on the demographic, the requisites, and the interests of our members, the goal of ArtSci Salon is:

  • To provide outreach opportunities for local and international innovative research projects in the Sciences and in the Arts;
  • To foster critical dialogue on topics and concerns shared by the sciences and the arts;
  • To facilitate new forms of collaboration across fields.

Our guests deliver short presentations, demonstrations or performances on a series of shared topic of interest to artists and scientists.

Many, many ArtSci Salon events have been listed here. I mention it because the ArtSci Salon website doesn’t have a complete listing for its previous events. While I can’t guarantee completeness, you can perform an ‘ArtSci Salon’ search on the blog search engine and it should get you enough to satisfy your curiosity.

Curiosity Collider‘s first event seems to have been in April 2015 (as noted in my July 7, 2015 posting). i wonder what they’ll do to celebrate their fifth anniversary? Anyway, they describe themselves this way (from the Mandate webpage),

Curiosity Collider Art-Science Foundation is a Vancouver based non-profit organization that is committed to providing opportunities for artists whose work expresses scientific concepts and scientists who collaborate with artists. We challenge the perception and experience of science in our culture, break down the walls between art and science, and engage our growing community to bringing life to the concepts that describe our world.

You can find Curiosity Collider here. I see they don’t have anything scheduled yet for 2020 but they had a very active Fall 2019 season and I expect they needed a breather and now there’s ‘flattening the COVID-19 curve’.

Once Curiosity Collider gets started again, you’ll find they put on different kinds of events, usually evening get togethers featuring various artists and scientists in a relaxed environment or joint events with other groups such Nerd Nite, Science Slam, and others. In 2019, Curiosity Collider hosted its first festival. You’ll find more about that in the Festivals subsection further down in this posting.

ArtSci at Cape Breton University (Nova Scotia) seems to have existed from March 2017 to November 2018. At. least, that’s the period its Twitter feed was active.

Art the Science is according to its homepage, “A Canadian Science-Art non-profit organization.” According to their About webpage,

… Art the Science facilitates cross-disciplinary relationships between artists and scientists with a goal of fostering Canadian science-art culture. In doing so, we aim to advance scientific knowledge communication to benefit the public, while providing opportunities for artists to exhibit their work in unconventional and technologically innovative ways. By nurturing the expression of creativity, be it in a test-tube or with the stroke of a brush, Art the Science has become one of the most beloved and popular online SciArt (science + art) communities in the world. Since 2015, it has developed numerous digital SciArt exhibitions, and has highlighted the work of both pioneering and upcoming SciArt artists internationally. The organization also promotes the role of SciArt by conducting various outreach initiatives, including delivering lectures and keynote presentations designed to foster public engagement and a deeper appreciation of science and art.

Volunteer Run: Since 2015, Art the Science has been operating with the hard work and dedication of volunteer hours from our board and supporters. We have been busy generating evidence to show the impact and reach of our initiatives. We believe this evidence will help us secure financial support as we move forward.

Their site features information about artist residencies in research laboratories, online exhibitions, and a blog focused on the artists and scientists who create.

National events, festivals, and conferences

These days it’s called Science Odyssey and takes place in May of each year. I first came across the then named National Science and Technology Week in 1993. The rebranding occurred in 2016 after the Liberals swept into victory in October 2015 federal election.

Science Odyssey

In 2020, Science Odyssey (as noted previously, prior to 2016 this was known as National Science and Technology Week and was held in October each year) it was slated to take place from May 2 to May 17. In most years, it functions as a kind of promotional hub for science events independently organized across the country. The focus is largely on children as you can see in the 2019 promotional video,

Cancelled for 2020, its events have ranged from an open house at a maker lab to lectures at universities to festivals such as Pint of Science and Science Rendezvous that occur during Science Odyssey. (I profiled Science Odyssey, Pint of Science, Science Rendezvous and more in my May 1, 2019 posting.)

Pint of Science

Beer and science is a winning combination as they know in the UK where Pint of Science was pioneered in 2012. Pint of Science Canada was started in 2016 and is scheduled for May 11 – 13, 2020,

Pint of Science Canada invites scientists to your favorite local bars to discuss their latest research and discoveries over a drink or two. This is the perfect opportunity to meet scientists and ask questions. You have no excuse not to come and share a drink with us!

Démystifier la recherche scientifique et la faire découvrir au grand public dans un cadre détendu, avec une bière à la main c’est possible. Parce que oui, la science peut être le fun!

There isn’t a cancellation notice on the website as of April 15, 2020 but I suspect that may change.

Science Rendezvous

Billing itself as a free national kick-off festival for Science Odyssey and the country’s largest celebration of science and engineering, it was founded in 2008 and was confined to Toronto in that first year. In 2019, they promoted over 300 events across the country.

This year, Science Rendezvous is scheduled for May 9, 2020. Please check as it is likely cancelled for 2020.

Science Literacy Week

This week first crossed my radar in 2015 and because I love this passage, here’s an excerpt from my Sept 18, 2015 posting where it’s first mentioned,

Just as Beakerhead ends, Canada’s 2015 Science Literacy Week opens Sept. 21 – 27, 2015. Here’s more about the week from a Sept. 18, 2015 article by Natalie Samson for University Affairs,

On Nov. 12 last year [2014], the European Space Agency landed a robot on a comet. It was a remarkable moment in the history of space exploration and scientific inquiry. The feat amounted to “trying to throw a dart and hit a fly 10 miles away,” said Jesse Hildebrand, a science educator and communicator. “The math and the physics behind that is mindboggling.”

Imagine Mr. Hildebrand’s disappointment then, as national news programs that night spent about half as much time reporting on the comet landing as they did covering Barack Obama’s gum-chewing faux pas in China. For Mr. Hildebrand, the incident perfectly illustrates why he founded Science Literacy Week, a Canada-wide public education campaign celebrating all things scientific.

From Sept. 21 to 27 [2015], several universities, libraries and museums will highlight the value of science in our contemporary world by hosting events and exhibits on topics ranging from the lifecycle of a honeybee to the science behind Hollywood films like Jurassic World and Contact.

Mr. Hildebrand began developing the campaign last year, shortly after graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. He approached the U of T Libraries for support and “it really snowballed from there,” the 23-year-old said.

In 2020, Science Literacy Week will run from September 21 – 27. (I hope they are able to go forward with this year’s event.) Here’s how the ‘Week’ has developed since 2015, from its About webpage,

The latest edition of Science Literacy Week came to include over 650 events put on by more than 300 partners in over 250 cities across Canada. From public talks to explosive chemistry demos, stargazing sessions to nature hikes, there was sure to be an interesting activity for science lovers of all ages. Science Literacy Week is powered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

According to Science Literacy Week founder Jesse Hildebrand’s LinkedIn profile, he doesn’t seem to be involved with the ‘Week’ (as of December 2019). However, he does remain involved with Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, from the homepage,

Beaming Science, Exploration, Adventure and Conservation into Classrooms Across North America 

Guest Speakers and Virtual Field Trips with Leading Experts from Around the World 

Using Technology to Broadcast Live into Classrooms from the Most Remote Regions on the Planet Since

September 2015, We’ve Run Well over 1,000 Live Events Connecting Hundreds of Thousands of Students to Scientists and Explorers in over 70 Countries

Onto another standalone festival.

Beakerhead

Calgary’s big art/science/engineering festival, Beakerhead got its start in 2013 as a five-day event as per my December 7, 2012 post. It’s gone through a few changes since then including what appears to be a downsizing. The 2019 event was on September 21, 2019 from 5 pm to 11 pm.

According to his profile on LinkedIn, Jeff Popiel is Beakerhead’s interim CEO and has been since 2018. Mary Anne Moser (one of Breakerhead’s co-founders; the other is Jay Ingram, formerly of the Daily Planet science television show) was welcomed as the new Executive Director for Calgary’s science centre, Telus Spark, in April 2019.

Beakerhead’sr Wikipedia entry, despite being updated in December 2019, lists as its most current iteration of the festival that one that place in 2018.

All organizations experience ups and downs; I certainly hope that this represents a temporary lull. On the plus side, the Beakerhead Twitter feed is being kept current. and there is a February 18, 2020 entry on the Beakerhead’s homepage.

Invasive Species (Curiosity Collider) & Special Projects (ArtSci Salon)

The first and possibly only Collisions Festival (from the Curiosity Collider folks), Invasive Species took place in November 2019. A three-day affair, it featured a number of local (Vancouver area) artist/scientist collaborations. For a volunteer-run organization, putting on a three-day festival is quite an accomplishment. So, brava and bravo!

The ArtSci Salon in Toronto hasn’t held any festivals as such but has hosted a number of ‘special projects’ which extend over days and/or weeks and/or months such as The Cabinet Project, which opened in April 2017 (not sure how long it ran) and featured a number of artists’ talks and tours; Emergent Form from April 1 -30, 2018; EDITED (gene editing) from October 25 – November 30, 2018; and, FACTT-Evolution from March 29 – May 15, 2019.

International conferences and the Canadian art/technology scene

I am sure there are others (I’d be happy to hear about them in the comments) but these two organizations seem particularly enthused about holding conferences in Canada. I would like to spend more time on art and technology in Canada but that’s a huge topic in itself so I’m touching on it lightly.

ISEA 2015 and 2020

Formerly the Inter-Society of Electronic Arts, the organization has rebranded itself as ISEA (pronounced as a word [acronym] with a long ‘s’ like ‘z’). The acronym is used both for the organization’s name, the International Society for Electronic Arts, and its annual International Symposium of Electronic Arts, known familiarly as ISEA (year).

ISEA 2015 took place in Vancouver and was held in August of that year (you can read more about in my April 24, 2015 posting where I announced my presentation of a paper and video “Steep (1): A digital poetry of gold nanoparticles.”).

The upcoming ISEA 2020 was to take place in Montréal from May 19 – 24 but has been rescheduled for October 13 – 18. The theme remains: Why Sentience? Here’s more from the 2020 symposium About page,

Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) is proud to present ISEA2020 from October 13 to 18, 2020 in Montreal.

ISEA2020 will be the Creativity Pavilion of MTL connect; using digital intelligence as the overarching theme, this international event aims to look across the board at the main questions related to digital development, focusing on its economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts in various sectors of activity.

Montreal was awarded host of the next edition of ISEA in the closing ceremony of ISEA2019, held in Gwangju, South Korea. Soh Yeong Roh, Director of Art Center Nabi in Seoul, hand over the eternal light to Mehdi Benboubakeur, Executive Director of Montreal Digital Spring. As Benboubakeur stated: “ISEA returns to Montreal after 25 years. Back in 1995, ISEA positioned Montreal as a digital art center and brought emerging local artists into the international spotlight. In 2020, Montreal will once more welcome the international community of ISEA and will use this opportunity to build a strong momentum for the future.”

SEA 2020 turns towards the theme of “Why Sentience? Sentience describes the ability to feel or perceive. ISEA2020 will be fully dedicated to examining the resurgence of sentience—feeling-sensing-making sense—in recent art and design, media studies, science and technology studies, philosophy, anthropology, history of science and the natural scientific realm—notably biology, neuroscience and computing. We ask: why sentience? Why and how does sentience matter? Why have artists and scholars become interested in sensing and feeling beyond, with and around our strictly human bodies and selves? Why has this notion been brought to the fore in an array of disciplines in the 21st century?

I notice Philippe Pasquier of Simon Fraser University (Surrey campus, Vancouver area) is a member of the organizing committee. If memory serves, he was also on the organizing committee for ISEA 2015. He was most recently mentioned here in a November 29, 2019 where I featured his Metacreation Lab and when I mentioned the ISEA 2020 call for submissions.

The call for submissions has since been closed and the statistics announced, from the ‘Thank You for all your submissions’ webpage,

… We received a total of 987 submissions from 58 countries. Thank you to those who took the time to create and submit proposals for ISEA2020 under the theme of sentience. We look forward to seeing you in Montreal from May 19 to 24, 2020 during MTL connect/ISEA2020!

Statistics by categories:

  1. Artworks: 536
  2. Artist talks: 121
  3. Full papers: 108
  4. Short papers: 96
  5. Workshops / Tutorials: 53
  6. Panels / Roundtables: 24
  7. Institutional presentations: 22
  8. Posters / Demos: 18

Good luck to everyone who made a submission. I hope you get a chance to present your work at ISEA 2020. I wonder if I can attend. I’ll have to make up my mind soon as they stop selling early bird tickets on and around March 16, 2020.

SIGGRAPH

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), founded in 1947, has a special interest group (SIG) dedicated to computer GRAPHics. Hence, there is SIGGRAPH, which holds an annual conference each in North America and in Asia.

Vancouver hosted SIGGRAPH in 2011, 2014, and 2018 and will host it again in 2022. It is the only Canadian city to have hosted a SIGGRAPH conference since the conference’s inception in 1974. It is a huge meeting. In 2018, Vancouver hosted 16,637 attendees.

If you have a chance, do check out the next SIGGRAPH that you are able to attend. As inspiration you can check out the profile I wrote up for the most recent conference in Vancouver (my August 9, 2018 posting). They’re not as open to the public as I’d like but there are a few free events.

Coffee, tea, or beer with your science?

There are many ways to enjoy your science.Here are various groups (volunteer for the most part) that host regular (more or less) science nights at cafés and/or pubs and/or bars. Although I mentioned Café Scientifique Vancouver in part 1, it doesn’t really fit into either part 1 or part 2 of this review of the last decade but it’s being included (in a minor way) because the parent organization, Café Scientifique, is in a sense the progenitor for all the other ‘Café’ type efforts (listed in this subsection) throughout Canada. In addition, Café Scientifique is a truly global affair, which means if you’re traveling, it’s worth checking out the website to see if there’s any event in the city you’re visiting.

Science Slam Canada

I’m so glad to see that we have a Science Slam community in Canada (the international phenomenon was featured here in a July 17, 2013 posting). Here’s more about the phenomenon from the Science Slam Canada homepage,

Science slams have been popular in Europe for more than a decade but have only recently gained traction in North America. Science Slam Canada was founded in 2016 and now runs regular science slams in Vancouver. Given wide interest and support, Science Slam Canada is continuing to grow, with upcoming events in Edmonton and Ottawa.

Based on the format of a poetry slam, a science slam is a competition that allows knowledge holders, including researchers, students, educators, professionals, and artists to share their science with a general audience. Competitors have five minutes to present on any science topic and are judged based on communication skills, audience engagement, and scientific accuracy. Use of a projector or slideshow is not allowed, but props and creative presentation styles are encouraged.

The slam format provides an informal medium for the public and the scientific community to connect with and learn from each other. Science slams generally take place in bars, cafes, or theaters, which remove scientists from their traditional lecture environments. The lack of projector also takes away a common presentation ‘crutch’ and forces competitors to engage with their audience more directly.

Competitors and judges are chosen through a selection process designed to support diversity and maximize the benefit to speakers and the audience. Past speakers have ranged from students and researchers to educators and actors. Judges have included professors, media personalities, comedians and improvisers. And since the event is as much about the audience as about the speakers, spectators are asked to vote for their favourite speaker.

Our dream is to create a national network of local science slams, with top competitors meeting at a national SUPER Slam to face off for the title of Canadian Science Slam Champion. This past year, we ran a regional slam in Vancouver, bringing together speakers from across BC’s Lower Mainland. Next year, we hope to extend our invitation even further.

Their last Vancouver Slam was in November 2019. I don’t see anything scheduled for 2020 either on the website or on their Twitter feed. Of course, they don’t keep a regular schedule so my suggestion is to keep checking. And, there’s their Facebook site.

Alan Shapiro who founded Science Slam Canada maintains an active Twitter feed where his focus appears to be water but he includes much more. If you’re interested in Vancouver’s science scene, check him out. By the way, his day job is at STEMCELL Technologies, which you may remember, if you read part 1, funds the Science in the City website mentioned under the Science blogging in Canada subhead (scroll down about 50% of the way).

Nerd Nite

Sometime around 2003, Chris Balakrishnan founded Nerd Nite. Today, he’s a professor with his own lab (Balakrishnan Laboratory of Evolution, Behavior and Other Fine Sciences) at East Carolina University; he also maintains an active interest in Nerd Nite.

I’m not sure when it made its way to Canada but there are several cities which host Nerd Nites (try ‘nerd nite canada’ in one of the search engines). In addition to Nerd Nite Vancouver (which got its start in 2013, if it’s existence on Twitter can be used as evidence), I found ones in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Edmonton, Calgary, and, I believe there is also one in North Vancouver.

Their events are monthly (more or less) and the last one was on February 26, 2020. You can read more about it here. They maintain an active Twitter feed listing their own events and, on occasion, other local science events.

Story Collider

This US organization (Story Collider; true personal stories about science) was founded in 2010 and was first featured here in a February 15, 2012 posting. Since then, it has expanded to many cities including Vancouver. Here’s more about the organization and its worldwide reach (from the Story Collider About Us webpage), Note: Links have been removed,

The Story Collider is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to true, personal stories about science. Since 2010, we have been working with storytellers from both inside and outside science to develop these stories, and we share them through our weekly podcast and our live shows around the world.

We bring together dedicated staff and volunteers from both science and art backgrounds to produce these shows — starting with our executive director, Liz Neeley, who has a background in marine biology and science communication, and our artistic director, Erin Barker, a writer and experienced storyteller — because we believe both have value in this space. Currently, The Story Collider has a home in fourteen cities — New York, Boston, DC, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Milwaukee, Toronto, Vancouver, Cambridge, UK, and Wellington, New Zealand — where events organized by local producers are held on a monthly or quarterly basis. We’ve also been delighted to work with various partners — including publishers such as Springer Nature and Scientific American; conferences for organizations such as the American Geophysical Union and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative; and universities such as Yale University, North Carolina State University, Colorado University, and more — to produce shows in other locations. Every year, we produce between 50 and 60 live events featuring more than 250 stories in total, and we share over a hundred of these stories on our podcast.

Vancouver’s first Story Collider of 2020, ‘Misfits’ was scheduled for February 1 at The Fox Cabaret at 2321 Main Street . You can see more about the event (which in all likelihood took place) and the speakers here.

As for when Story Collider set down a few roots in Vancouver, that’s likely to be some time after February 2012. The two Vancouver Story Collider organizers, Kayla Glynn and Josh Silberg each have active Twitter feeds. Glynn is focuses mainly on local events; Silberg provides a more eclectic experience.

Brain Talks

This is a series of neuroscience’ talks held monthly (more or less) held at Vancouver General Hospital. They served wine out of a box and cheese and crackers at the one talk (it was about robots) I attended. Here’s more about the inspiration for this series from the University of British Columbia Brain Talks Vision page

BrainTalks is a forum for academics and members of the general public to create a dialogue about the rapidly expanding information in neuroscience. The BrainTalks series, was inspired in part by the popularity of the TED Talks series. Founded by Dr. Maia Love in October 2010, the goal is for neuroscientists, neurologists, neuroradiologists, psychiatrists, and people from affiliated fields to meet and dialogue monthly, in the hopes of promoting excellence in research, facilitating research and clinician connections and discussion, and disseminating knowledge to the general public. Additionally, the hope to reduce stigma associated with mental illness, and promote compassion for those suffering with brain illnesses, be they called neurologic or psychiatric, was part of the reason to create the series.

The structure is a casual environment with brief presentations by local experts that challenge and inspire dialogue. Discussions focus on current knowledge about the mind and our understanding of how the mind works. Presentations are followed by a panel discussion, catered snacks, and networking.

BrainTalks is now part of the programming for the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry. The Department of Education, and the Department of Continuing Professional Development include BrainTalks at UBC as part of their goal to enhance public knowledge of psychiatry, enhance clinician knowledge in areas that may affect psychiatric practice, and disseminate recent research in brain science to the public.

SoapBox Science

Thanks to Alan Shapiro (founder of Science Slam Canada) and his Twitter feed for information about a new science event that may be coming to Vancouver, SoapBox Science founded in the UK in 2011 puts on events that can be found worldwide (from the homepage),

Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do. Our events transform public areas into an arena for public learning and scientific debate; they follow the format of London Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, which is historically an arena for public debate. With Soapbox Science, we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, learn from, heckle, question, probe, interact with and be inspired by some of our leading scientists. No middle man, no PowerPoint slide, no amphitheatre – just remarkable women in science who are there to amaze you with their latest discoveries, and to answer the science questions you have been burning to ask. Look out for bat simulators, fake breasts or giant pictures of volcanoes. Or simply hear them talk about what fascinates them, and why they think they have the most fantastic job in the world!

2020 is an exciting year for us. We are running 56 events around the world, making this the biggest year yet! Since 2011 we have featured over 1500 scientists and reached 150,000 members of the public! Soapbox Science was commended by the Prime Minister in 2015, and was awarded a Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in June 2016. Both Soapbox Science co-founders were also invited to provide oral evidence at a 2016 Parliamentary inquiry on science communication.

I believe 2020 is/was to have been the first year for a SoapBox Science event in Vancouver. There aren’t any notices of cancellation for the Vancouver event that I’ve been able to find. I expect there will although with a planned June 2020 date there’s still hope, In any case, you might find it interesting to view their ‘Apply to speak’ webpage, (Note: I have rearranged the order of some of these paragraphs),

Are you a woman* who works in science and who is passionate about your research? Are you eager to talk to the general public about your work in a fun, informal setting?  If so, then Soapbox Science needs YOU! We are looking for scientists in all areas of STEMM, from PhD students to Professors, and from entry-level researchers to entrepreneurs, to take part in this grassroots science outreach project.

*Soapbox Science uses an inclusive definition of ‘woman’ and welcomes applications from Non-binary and Genderqueer speakers.

The deadline for applications has now passed but you’ll find on their ‘Apply to speak’ webpage, a list of cities hosting 2020 SoapBox Science events,

Argentina:
Tucumán- 12th September

Australia:
Armidale- August
Sydney- 15th August
Queensland- August

Belgium:
Brussels- 27th June

Brazil:
Maceio- 22nd November
Rio de Janeiro- 18th July
Salvador- 5th June

Canada:
Calgary- 2nd May
Halifax- July
Hamilton- Date TBC
Ottawa- 19th September
Québec- June
Toronto- 27th September
St John’s- 5th September
Vancouver- June
Waterloo- 13th June
Winnipeg- May

Germany:
Berlin- June
Bonn- May
Düsseldorf- 25th July
Munich- 27th June

Ireland:
Dublin- Date TBC
Cork- July
Galway- July

Nigeria:
Lagos- August
Lagos- 7th November

Malaysia:
Kuala Lumpur- April

Portugal:
Lisbon- 19th Sept

South Africa:
Cape Town- September

Sweden:
Uppsala- 16th May
Gothenburg- 24th April- Closing date 31st January

Tanzania:
Arusha- 8th August

UK:
Aberdeen- 30th May
Birmingham- Date TBC
Brighton- 30th May
Bristol- 4th July
Cardiff- Date TBC
Edinburgh- Date TBC
Exeter- June
Keswick- 26th May
Leicester- 6th June
Leeds- July
London- 23rd May
Milton Keynes- 27th June
Newcastle- 13th June
Nottingham- Date TBC
Plymouth- 30th May
Stoke-on-Trent, Date TBC
Swansea- Date TBC
York- 13th June

USA:
Boulder- 26th April
Denver- Date TBC
Detroit- September
Philadelphia- 18th April

SoapBox Science maintains an active Twitter feed.

If you’re interested in the SoapBox Science Vancouver event,there’s more on this webpage on the University of British Columbia website and/or this brochure for the Vancouver event.

Now, onto part 3 with its comedy, do-it-yourself (DIY) biology, chief science advisor, science policy, mathematicians, and more.

For anyone who missed it, part 1 covers science communication, science media (mainstream and others such as blogging) and arts as exemplified by music and dance: ‘The decade that was (2010-19) and the decade to come (2020-29): Science culture in Canada (1 of 5)‘.

A SciArt Gallery @ Science Rendezvous call for artists and a SciFi and Fantasy screenplay contest and

I’ve got two ‘creativity’ opportunities, one for people working on an art/sci (sciart) project and another for people with scripts,

SciArt Gallery @ Science Rendezvous

This notice arrived in a January 31, 2018 email from the ArtSci Salon people in Toronto (Ontario, Canada),

Science Rendezvous is a free Canada‐wide outreach festival that spurs interest in scientific research among the general public and last year at U of T, we attracted over 30,000 guests! This year we are hosting our first science-inspired art gallery called the SciArt Gallery! We are actively recruiting artists for the gallery to display their science-inspired works! Painting, design, music, dance, theatre, textiles, ceramics: We welcome all artists to apply!

To apply and for more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/SciArtGallery2018

The open call deadline is Friday, February 23rd, 2018 at 11:59pm!

To learn more about Science Rendezvous and this year’s festival on Saturday, May 12th, please visit www.ScienceRendezvousUofT.ca.

So you know what you might be getting into, the About Science Rendezvous webpage has this to say about what the organization does and about its origins,

We work with Canada’s top research institutes to present a coast-to-coast open house and festival that is FREE for everyone. With over 300 events across 30 cities and 1000’s of mind-blowing activities, Science Rendezvous is Canada’s largest celebration of the amazing feats of science and engineering happening right here at home.

In 2017, more than 210,000 attendees participated in our unique brand of hands-on science, a new landmark for such events in Canada. Science Rendezvous is the only organization that generates this level of public engagement with science, and direct face-to-face involvement with those at the very frontiers of innovation.

This SATURDAY, MAY 12th 2018 [emphasis mine] over 6,000 of Canada’s greatest innovators, researchers, engineers, and scientists from 125 partner organizations will open their doors and close city streets to present exciting demonstrations, hands-on activities, and explosive experiments. From the physics of rock and roll to the chemistry of ice-cream, Science Rendezvous has something for everyone!

History

Science Rendezvous began as a joint program between the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in 2008. These founding partners saw the need to work together in order to launch an event of great enough scale and exciting content to engage the public in the vast wonders of science and engineering. Since that time, Science Rendezvous has grown to include 40 of Canada’s top research institutions and over 85 community partnerships across 30 cities in 10 provinces and 2 territories. Today, it is a marquee event and signature partner of Science Odyssey [Note: This is a government of Canada annual national “celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, featuring fun and inspiring experiences in museums, research centres, laboratories and classrooms from coast to coast” which will run from May 11 – 20, 2018 this year], and is the single largest science festival in Canada.

Science Rendezvous is a science outreach pioneer in Canada. Offering direct engagement with 6,000 of Canada’s top researchers and scientists at 300 simultaneous events and 1000’s of hands-on experiments for the public to try themselves.

The Science Rendezvous head office acts as an umbrella organization that coordinates the efforts of all participating institutions, reinvents public engagement with science through festival programming, and offers direction for event organizers all while promoting both the festival and Canadian science on a national level.

To be clear, the call for sciart projects is from the physics department at the University of Toronto (U of T) and the deadline is February 23, 2018. I went to the U of T Science Rendezvous SciArt Gallery artist application page and found more details about the call,

The theme for SR 2018 is “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead!” – We’re placing an emphasis on the Art in S.T.E.M. [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] this year and hosting our first and hopefully annual SciArt Gallery! We want to create a gallery full of science-inspired art and showcase the talent of our local Toronto artists! We hope that artists will be able to share their enthusiasm and teach visitors about how science inspired you to create and the science behind the art!

Artists will be permitted to sell their wares and will be provided with tents, chairs, volunteers, t-shirts, and lunch if accepted to the gallery. SR2018 is currently accepting applications for its SciArt Gallery taking place on Saturday, May 12, 2018 from 11am to 5pm.

There will be a $20 table deposit fee that will be refunded upon your attendance at SR. SR hopes to showcase science-inspired works of art and host workshops to allow artists to inspire kids and adults about their art medium.

*** Applications will close on Friday, February 23rd, 2018 at 11:59pm! ***

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at uoftsr.sciartgallery@gmail.com

For more information and to keep up-to-date about the SciArt Gallery, please visit our:

Website: http://www.sciencerendezvousuoft.ca/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UofTSR/

The name and photo associated with your Google account will be recorded when you upload files and submit this form.

I don’t know if you noticed but the application page specifies Toronto artists while the email did not. You may want to contact the organizers for more details. At a guess, they don’t want to fund any trips or accommodation for out-of-town artists but if you’re willing to self-fund they’ll consider your application.

One final thing worth mentioning, there may be opportunities in your home community. So, it may be worthwhile to check out the Science Rendezvous website.

SciFi and fantasy screenplay contest

I got this January 31, 2018 withoutabox.com announcement via email,

… the 4th Annual ScreenCraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy Screenplay Contest, an out of this world screenplay competition set to discover talented writers. The 2018 contest judges are Steven Douglas-Craig, Development at Sony Pictures, the studio behind Passengers, Ghostbusters, Men In Black, Resident Evil, and Spider-Man; Jonathan Wu, Development Executive at 20th Century Fox, the studio behind Avatar, X-Men, Another Earth, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Prometheus ; and Michael Doven, CEO of United Pictures, producer of such celebrated movies as Mission: Impossible, Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, and The Last Samurai.

The Grand Prize winner will receive a $1,000 USD cash award and personal introductions to producers, managers, agents and studio executives. Additionally, the top finalists will be circulated to ScreenCraft’s vetted network of over 60 producers, studio executives, managers and agents. Whether you’re writing a contained science fiction drama or an epic fantasy saga, ScreenCraft wants to read your sci-fi or fantasy feature film screenplay. Great science fiction explores the human condition against the backdrop of a heightened imagined world, impacted by technology and human creativity and imagination.

Past ScreenCraft winners have optioned their projects and signed with top representatives at top Hollywood companies including WME, CAA, 3Arts Entertainment, Anonymous Content, Paradigm Talent Agency, ICM, Bellevue Productions Zero Gravity Management, Kaplan/Perrone and many more.

UPCOMING DEADLINE
February 9, 2018 – Earlybird Deadline [March 30,2018 final deadline]

View submission details

MISSION AND OBJECTIVE
ScreenCraft’s screenwriting contests are dedicated to discovering talented screenwriters and connecting them with producers, agents and managers.

MORE ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
ScreenCraft runs a suite of screenwriting competitions that have a long history of getting writers represented and working. The secret is that ScreenCraft actually determines the winners with judges who work in the particular genre or space – real industry executives (not just readers). The winners get actual meetings with actual executives, so that a relationship forms beyond just a great script.

I checked for more details and found this (from the withoutabox.com 4th Annual ScreenCraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy Screenplay Contest Submission webpage),

RULES:
Submissions are accepted via electronic submission only, between January 10, 2018 and March 30, 2018.
Entry fee for each feature film screenplay is $49 until the early deadline on February 9, 2018, then $69 until the final deadline on March 30, 2018.
Optional feedback from a professional reader may be requested at the time of entry. Requests for feedback after an entry is submitted will not be accepted.
Screenplays must be a minimum of 75 pages and a maximum of 150 pages.
There is no limit to the number of projects you may submit.
Entries must be received on or before the deadline dates by 11:59PM Pacific Time, and submission fee payment must be made in full at time of the submission. All entry fees are non-refundable.
All submitted material must be original, and all rights must be wholly owned by the writer(s).
Material must be submitted by the writer. Material written by writing teams must be submitted by one of the writers, with consent of the other(s). All writers must be credited on title page.
If a writing team is chosen as a winner, prizes will be given to the person who submits the project. Each team is responsible for dividing or sharing the prize money.
Substitutions of either corrected pages or new drafts of the entered material will be allowed for a limited time with a $5 reentry fee through Coverfly. Please proofread your script carefully before submitting.
It is recommended that original material be registered with the WGA or The Library of Congress before submitting to any competition, however we do not require registration.
Contact info may be included on the cover page of the screenplay, however it is not required.
All ownership and rights to the scripts submitted to this contest remains with the original rights holders.

ELIGIBILITY:
All writers at least 18 years of age are eligible. However, a writer who has earned more than $50,000 (or equivalent currency) from professional writing services for film or TV in the preceding year is not. (Contest winnings not included.)
All persons from anywhere in the world are eligible; however the material submitted must be in English (occasional dialogue in other languages is acceptable, if subtitle translation is provided).
All material submitted to other competitions or contests are eligible for this contest.
There are no requirements as to when the material was written.
Screenplay and intellectual property must be wholly owned and submitted by the writer(s).
Material should be submitted in standard screenplay format, font, spacing and margin.
We have no preferences regarding title page content. Title and name of writer would suffice.
Entries for this competition are managed on the submission platform Coverfly.
Adaptations are ineligible unless the underlying rights are owned by the writer or the work is in the public domain.
Feature screenplays longer than 150 pages will not be eligible.
All material must be submitted electronically as a PDF or it will not be eligible.

You can find out more about ScreenCraft here.

To everyone: good luck!

The insanity of Canadian science outreach (Science Odyssey, May 12 – 21, 2017 and Science RendezVous on May 13, 2017)

When was the last time you saw a six-year old or a twelve-year old attend a political candidates’ meeting or vote in an election? Sadly, most creative science outreach in Canada is aimed at children and teenagers in the misbegotten belief that adults don’t matter and ‘youth are the future’. There are three adult science outreach scenarios although they didn’t tend to be particularly creative. (1) Should scientists feel hard done by elected representatives, they reach out to other adults for support. (2) Should those other adults become disturbed by any scientific or technological ‘advance’ then scientific experts will arrive to explain why that’s wrong. (3) Should the science enterprise want money, then a call goes out (see my May 12, 2017 posting about the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation gala and, yes, they were a bit creative about it).

I am oversimplifying the situation but not by much especially if one considers two upcoming national Canadian science events: Science Rendezvous which is a day-long (May 13, 2017) cross country science event taking place during while the Science Odyssey holds a 10-day (May 12 – 2017) cross country science event. The two groups arranged their events separately and then decided to coordinate their efforts. Science Odyssey is a rebranding of the Canada Science and Technology Week organized by the federal government for at least two decades and which was held (until 2016) in the fall of each year. Science Rendezvous (About page) was launched in Toronto in 2008 (University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)).

Regardless, both events are clearly aimed at children (and families).

I’m not suggesting that exciting science outreach for children should be curtailed. Let’s expand the efforts to9 include the adult and senior populations too.

In all the talk about Canada’s adult and ageing populations, perhaps we could approach it all more creatively. For example, there’s this (from an April 18, 2017 University of California at San Diego University news release (also on EurekAlert) by Inga Kiderra,

Philip Guo caught the coding bug in high school, at a fairly typical age for a Millennial. Less typical is that the UC San Diego cognitive scientist is now eager to share his passion for programming with a different demographic. And it’s not one you’re thinking of – it’s not elementary or middle school-aged kids. Guo wants to get adults age 60 and up.

In the first known study of older adults learning computer programming, Guo outlines his reasons: People are living and working longer. This is a growing segment of the population, and it’s severely underserved by learn-to-code intiatives, which usually target college students and younger. Guo wants to change that. He would like this in-demand skill to become more broadly accessible.

“Computers are everywhere, and digital literacy is becoming more and more important,” said Guo, assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, who is also affiliated with UC San Diego’s Design Lab and its Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “At one time, 1,000 years ago, most people didn’t read or write – just some monks and select professionals could do it. I think in the future people will need to read and write in computer language as well. In the meantime, more could benefit from learning how to code.”

Guo’s study was recently awarded honorable mention by the world’s leading organization in human-computer interaction, ACM SIGCHI. Guo will present his findings at the group’s premier international conference, CHI, in May [2017].

When prior human-computer interaction studies have focused on older adults at all, Guo said, it has been mostly as consumers of new technology, of social networking sites like Facebook, say, or ride-sharing services. While a few have investigated the creation of content, like blogging or making digital music, these have involved the use of existing apps. None, to his knowledge, have looked at older adults as makers of entirely new software applications, so he set out to learn about their motivations, their frustrations and if these provided clues to design opportunities.

The Study

For his study, Guo surveyed users of pythontutor.com. A web-based education tool that Guo started in 2010, Python Tutor helps those learning to program visualize their work. Step by step, it displays what a computer is doing with each line of code that it runs. More than 3.5 million people in more than 180 countries have now used Python Tutor, including those around the world taking MOOCs (massive open online courses). Despite its legacy name, the tool helps people supplement their studies not only of the Python programming language but also Java, JavaScript, Ruby, C and C++, all of which are commonly used to teach programing. The users of Python Tutor represent a wide range of demographic groups.

Guo’s survey included 504 people between the ages of 60 and 85, from 52 different countries. Some were retired and semi-retired while others were still working.

What Guo discovered: Older adults are motivated to learn programming for a number of reasons. Some are age-related. They want to make up for missed opportunities during youth (22 percent) and keep their brains “challenged, fresh and sharp” as they age (19 percent). A few (5 percent) want to connect with younger family members.

Reasons not related to age include seeking continuing education for a current job (14 percent) and wanting to improve future job prospects (9 percent). A substantial group is in it just for personal enrichment: 19 percent to implement a specific hobby project idea, 15 percent for fun and entertainment, and 10 percent out of general interest.

Interestingly, 8 percent said they wanted to learn to teach others.

Topping the list of frustrations for older students of coding was bad pedagogy. It was mentioned by 21 percent of the respondents and ranged from the use of jargon to sudden spikes in difficulty levels. Lack of real-world relevance came up 6 percent of the time. A 74-year-old retired physician wrote: “Most [tutorials] are offered by people who must know how to program but don’t seem to have much training in teaching.”

Other frustrations included a perceived decline in cognitive abilities (12 percent) and no human contact with tutors and peers (10 percent).

The study’s limitations are tied in part to the instrument – self-reporting on an online survey – and in part to the survey respondents themselves. Most hailed from North America and other English-speaking nations. Most, 84 percent, identified themselves as male; this stat is consistent with other surveys of online learning, especially in math and science topics. There was a diverse array of occupations reported, but the majority of those surveyed were STEM professionals, managers and technicians. These learners, Guo said, likely represent “early adopters” and “the more technology-literate and self-motivated end of the general population.” He suggests future studies look both at in-person learning and at a broader swath of the public. But he expects the lessons learned from this group will generalize.

The Implications

Based on this first set of findings and using a learner-centered design approach, Guo proposes tailoring computer-programming tools and curricula specifically for older learners. He notes, for example, that many of his respondents seemed to take pride in their years and in their tech-savvy, so while it may be good to advertise products as targeting this age group, they should not appear patronizing. It might make sense to reframe lessons as brain-training games, like Lumosity, now popular among the older set.

Just as it’s key to understand who the learners are so is understanding where they have trouble. Repetition and frequent examples might be good to implement, as well as more in-person courses or video-chat-based workshops, Guo said, which may lead to improvements in the teaching of programming not just for older adults but across the board.

Context matters, too. Lessons are more compelling when they are put into domains that people personally care about. And Guo recommends coding curricula that enable older adults to tell their life stories or family histories, for example, or write software that organizes health information or assists care-givers.

Guo, who is currently working on studies to extend coding education to other underrepresented groups, advocates a computing future that is fully inclusive of all ages.

“There are a number of social implications when older adults have access to computer programming – not merely computer literacy,” he said. “These range from providing engaging mental stimulation to greater gainful employment from the comfort of one’s home.”

By moving the tech industry away from its current focus on youth, Guo argues, we all stand to gain. [emphasis mine]

Guo joined the UC San Diego cognitive science faculty in 2016 after two years as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from MIT in 2006 and his Ph.D. from Stanford in 2012. Before becoming a professor, he built online learning tools as a software engineer at Google and a research scientist at edX. He also blogs, vlogs and podcasts at http://pgbovine.net/

When was the last time you heard about a ‘coding’ camp for adults and seniors in Canada? Also,, ask yourself if after you’d reached a certain age (40? 50? more? less?) you’d feel welcome at the Science Rendezvous events (without a child in tow), Science Odyssey events (without a child in tow), or the May 17, 2017 National Science and Innovation Gala in Ottawa (from my May 12, 2017 posting “It would seem the only person over the age of 30 who’s expected to attend is the CBC host, Heather Hiscox.”)?

Let’s open the door a bit wider, eh?

Science Odyssey replaces National Science and Technology Week (Canada)

Canada’s National Science and Technology Week was a ten-day (yes, not a week) affair held annually in October. At one time, it had some decent funding but over the years (under Liberal and Conservative governments) that funding became less adequate. So, I’m delighted to see the current government has decided to pump some new life into the effort, which has been rebranded as Science Odyssey and is taking place from May 6 – May 15, 2016. Here’s more from the event’s homepage (you can find links to event(s) taking place in your community there),

Embark with us on a Science Odyssey, a collaborative event geared to engage and inspire Canadians of all ages with accomplishments and activities in science, technology and engineering and mathematics.

Science Odyssey brings together a series of fun activities across the country from Friday, May 6 to Sunday, May 15, 2016. Events go from science-to-the –streets celebrations, to visits to labs, science fairs, talks and conferences, school field trips, encounters with researchers and scientists, museums and science centres special exhibits, community organizations hosting scientific events, online activities, and much more.

What is Science Odyssey?

Science Odyssey evolved from the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) to a celebration of science from the whole of Canada’s prolific scientific community.

Events will come from federal government scientific research and technological initiatives; it will also serve as an occasion to showcase the excellence in science, technology and engineering housed at Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics; it is also an opportunity to highlight the work of many other institutions, community organizations and groups dedicated to science promotion activities.

Science Odyssey is a collaborative event led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in collaboration with many other federal departments and agencies and community organizations.

A May 6, 2016 NSERC news release provides some information about funding,

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced $4.8 million dollars in awards today for 43 recipients to be supported by the PromoScience program, which enables science outreach across Canada. The announcement was made at the Canadian Association of Science Centres annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. The program provides funding to science centres, day camps, after-school programs, science outreach organizations, networks and more to support youth engagement in science

Minister Duncan, along with Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), made the announcement at the start of ScienceOdyssey, a 10-day national celebration of science-based activities and events across Canada. The focus of Science Odyssey is to showcase the wonders of Canadian science, technology, engineering and math to youth and the public at large.

Interestingly, there was another nationwide STEM event taking place. Science Rendezvous was held on Saturday, May 7, 2016. They seem to have allied themselves with Science Odyssey (listed as a sponsor), from the ScienceRendezvous homepage,

Science Rendezvous is an annual festival that takes science out of the lab lab and onto the street! We work with Canada’s top research institutes to present a coast-to-coast open house and festival that is  for everyone. With over 300 events across 30 cities and 1000’s of mind-blowing activities, Science Rendezvous is Canada’s largest celebration of the amazing feats of science and engineering happening right here at home.

In 2015, more than 200,000 attendees participated in our unique brand of hands-on science, a new landmark for such events in Canada.

Science Rendezvous is the only organization that generates this level of public engagement with science, and direct face-to-face involvement with those at the very frontiers of innovation.

I’m glad to see more science outreach.

Part 2 (b) of 3: Science Culture: Where Canada Stands; an expert assessment (reconstructed)

Carrying on from part 2 (a) of this commentary on the Science Culture: Where Canada Stands assessment by the Council of Canadian Academies (CAC).

One of the most intriguing aspects of this assessment was the reliance on an unpublished inventory of Canadian science outreach initiatives (informal science education) that was commissioned by the Korean Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity,

The system of organizations, programs, and initiatives that supports science culture in any country is dynamic. As a result, any inventory provides only a snapshot at a single point in time, and risks quickly becoming out of date. No sustained effort has been made to track public science outreach and engagement efforts in Canada at the national or regional level. Some of the Panel’s analysis relies on data from an unpublished inventory of public science communication initiatives in Canada undertaken in 2011 by Bernard Schiele, Anik Landry, and Alexandre Schiele for the Korean Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity (Schiele et al., 2011). This inventory identified over 700 programs and organizations across all provinces and regions in Canada, including over 400 initiatives related to museums, science centres, zoos, or aquariums; 64 associations or NGOs involved in public science outreach; 49 educational initiatives; 60 government policies and programs; and 27 media programs. (An update of this inventory completed by the Panel brings the total closer to 800 programs.) The inventory is used throughout the chapter [chapter five] to characterize different components of the Canadian system supporting public science outreach, communication, and engagement. (p. 130 PDF; p. 98 print)

I’m fascinated by the Korean interest and wonder if this due to perceived excellence or to budgetary considerations. The cynic in me suspects the Korean foundation was interested in the US scene but decided that information from the Canadian scene would be cheaper to acquire and the data could be extrapolated to give a perspective on the US scene.

In addition to the usual suspects (newspapers, television, radio, science centres, etc.), the Expert Panel did recognize the importance of online science sources (they would have looked foolish if they hadn’t),

Canadians are increasingly using the internet to seek out information relating to science. This activity can take the form of generalized searches about science-related issues or more targeted forms of information acquisition. For example, Canadians report using the internet to seek out information on health and medical issues an average of 47 times a year, or nearly every week. Other forms of online exposure to scientific content also appear to be common. For example, 46% of Canadians report having read a blog post or listserv related to science and technology at least once in the last three months, and 62% having watched an online video related to science and technology.

An increasing reliance on the internet as the main source of information about science and technology is consistent with the evolution of the media environment, as well as with survey data from other countries. Based on the Panel’s survey, 17% of Canadians, for example, report reading a printed newspaper daily, while 40% report reading about the news or current events online every day. (p. 13/2 PDF; p. 100/1 print)

In common with the rest of the world, Canadians are producing and enjoying science festivals,

In Canada there are two established, large-scale science festivals. Science Rendezvous [founded in 2008 as per its Wikipedia entry] takes place in about 20 cities across the country and combines a variety of programming to comprise a day-long free event (Science Rendezvous, 2013).

The annual Eureka! Festival in Montréal (see Figure 5.6 [founded in 2007 as per its program list]) has over 100 activities over three days; it attracted over 68,000 attendees in 2012 (Eureka! Festival, 2013). More science festivals have recently been created. The University of Toronto launched the Toronto Science Festival in fall 2013 (UofT, 2013), and Beakerhead, a new festival described as a “collision of art and culture, technology, and engineering,” was launched in 2013 in Calgary (Beakerhead, 2013). Two Canadian cities have also recently won bids to host STEMfest (Saskatoon in 2015 and Halifax in 2018), an international festival of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Global STEM States, 2014). (pp. 145/6 PDF; pp. 113/4 PDF)

The assessment notes have a grand total of five radio and television programmes devoted to science: The Nature of Things, Daily Planet, Quirks and Quarks, Découverte, and Les années lumière (p. 150 PDF; p. 118 print) and a dearth of science journalism,

Dedicated science coverage is notably absent from the majority of newspapers and other print journalism in Canada. As shown in Table 5.3, none of the top 11 newspapers by weekly readership in Canada has a dedicated science section, including nationals such as The Globe and Mail and National Post. Nine of these newspapers have dedicated technology sections, which sometimes contain sub-sections with broader coverage of science or environment stories; however, story coverage tends to be dominated by technology or business (or gaming) stories. Few Canadian newspapers have dedicated science journalists on staff, and The Globe and Mail is unique among Canadian papers in having a science reporter, a medicine and health reporter, and a technology reporter. (p. 152 PDF; p. 120 print)

Not stated explicitly in the assessment is this: those science and technology stories you see in the newspaper are syndicated stories, i.e., written by reporters for the Associated Press, Reuters, and other international press organizations or simply reprinted (with credit) from another newspaper.

The report does cover science blogging with this,

Science blogs are another potential source of information about developments in science and technology. A database compiled by the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, as of March of 2013, lists 143 Canadian science blogs, covering all areas of science and other aspects of science such as science policy and science culture (CSWA, 2013). Some blogs are individually authored and administered, while others are affiliated with larger networks or other organizations (e.g., Agence Science-Presse, PLOS Blogs). Canadian science blogger Maryse de la Giroday has also published an annual round-up of Canadian science blogs on her blog (www.frogheart.ca) for the past three years, and a new aggregator of Canadian science blogs was launched in 2013 (www.scienceborealis.ca). [emphases mine]

Data from the Panel’s survey suggest that blogs are becoming a more prominent source of information about science and technology for the general public. As noted at the beginning of the chapter, 46% of Canadians report having read a blog post about science or technology at least once in the past three months. Blogs are also influencing the way that scientific research is carried out and disseminated. A technical critique in a blog post by Canadian microbiologist Rosie Redfield in 2010, for example, catalyzed a widely publicized debate on the validity of a study published in Science, exploring the ability of bacteria to incorporate arsenic into their DNA. The incident demonstrated the potential impact of blogs on mainstream scientific research. CBC highlighted the episode as the Canadian science story of the year (Strauss, 2011), and Nature magazine identified Redfield as one of its 10 newsmakers of the year in 2011 as a result of her efforts to replicate the initial study and publicly document her progress and results (Hayden, 2011).

The impact of online information sources, however, is not limited to blogs, with 42% of Canadians reporting having heard about a science and technology news story though social media sources like Twitter and Facebook in the last three months. And, as noted earlier, the internet is often used to search for information about specific science and technology topics, both for general issues such as climate change, and more personalized information on medical and health issues.(pp. 153/4 PDF; pp. 121/2 print)

Yes, I got a shout out as did Rosie Redfield. We were the only two science bloggers namechecked. (Years ago, the Guardian newspaper was developing a science blog network and the editor claimed he couldn’t find many female science bloggers after fierce criticism of its first list of bloggers. This was immediately repudiated not only by individuals but someone compiled a list of hundreds of female science bloggers.) Still, the perception persists and I’m thrilled that the panel struck out in a different direction. I was also pleased to see Science Borealis (a Canadian science blog aggregator) mentioned. Having been involved with its founding, I’m also delighted its first anniversary was celebrated in Nov. 2014.

I doubt many people know we have a science press organization in Canada, Agence Science-Presse, but perhaps this mention in the assessment will help raise awareness in Canada’s English language media,

Founded in 1978 with the motto Parce que tout le monde s’intéresse à la science (“because everyone is interested in science”), Agence Science-Presse is a not-for-profit organization in Quebec that supports media coverage of science by distributing articles on scientific research or other topical science and technology issues to media outlets in Canada and abroad. The organization also supports science promotion activities aimed at youth. For example, it currently edits and maintains an aggregation of blogs designed for young science enthusiasts and science journalists (Blogue ta science). (p. 154 PDF; p. 122)

The final chapter (the 6th) of the assessment makes five key recommendations for ‘Cultivating a strong science culture’:

  1. Support lifelong science learning
  2. Make science inclusive
  3. Adapt to new technologies
  4. Enhance science communication and engagement
  5. Provide national or regional leadership

Presumably the agriculture reference in the chapter title is tongue-in-cheek. Assuming that’s not one of my fantasies, it’s good to see a little humour.

On to the first recommendation, lifelong learning,

… Science centres and museums, science programs on radio and television, science magazines and journalism, and online resources can all help fulfil this function by providing accessible resources for adult science learning, and by anticipating emerging information needs based on topical issues.

Most informal science learning organizations already provide these opportunities to varying degrees; however, this conception of the relative roles of informal and formal science learning providers differs from the traditional understanding, which often emphasizes how informal environments can foster engagement in science (particularly among youth), thereby triggering additional interest and the later acquisition of knowledge (Miller, 2010b). [emphasis mine] Such a focus may be appropriate for youth programming, but neglects the role that these institutions can play in ongoing education for adults, who often seek out information on science based on specific, well-defined interests or needs (e.g., a medical diagnosis, a newspaper article on the threat of a viral pandemic, a new technology brought into the workplace) (Miller, 2012). [emphases mine] Informal science learning providers can take advantage of such opportunities by anticipating these needs, providing useful and accessible information, and then simultaneously building and deepening knowledge of the underlying science through additional content.

I’m glad to see the interest in adult informal science education although the emphasis on health/medical and workplace technology issues suggests the panel underestimates, despite the data from its own survey, Canadians’ curiosity about and interest in science and technology. The panel also underestimates the tenacity with which many gatekeepers hold to the belief that no one is interested in science. It took me two years before a local organizer would talk to me about including one science-themed meeting in his programme (the final paragraph in my April 14, 2014 post describes some of the process  and my April 18, 2014 post describes the somewhat disappointing outcome). In the end, it was great to see a science-themed ‘city conversation’ but I don’t believe the organizer found it to be a success, which means it’s likely to be a long time before there’s another one.

The next recommendation, ‘Making science inclusive’, is something that I think needs better practice. If one is going to be the change one wants to see that means getting people onto your expert panels that reflect your inclusiveness and explaining to your audience how your expert panel is inclusive.

The ‘Adapting to new technologies’ recommendation is where I expected to see some mention of the social impact of such emerging technologies as robotics, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, etc. That wasn’t the case,

Science culture in Canada and other countries is now evolving in a rapidly changing technological environment. Individuals are increasingly turning to online sources for information about science and technology, and science communicators and the media are also adapting to the new channels of communication and outreach provided over the internet. As people engage more with new forms of technology in their home and work lives, organizations may be able to identify new ways to take advantage of available technologies to support learning and foster science interest and engagement. At the same time, as noted in Chapter 2, this transition is also challenging traditional models of operation for many organizations such as science centres, museums, and science media providers, forcing them to develop new strategies.

Examples of the use of new technologies to support learning are now commonplace. Nesta, an innovation-oriented organization based in the United Kingdom, conducted a study investigating the extent to which new technologies are transforming learning among students (Luckin et al., 2012) (p. 185 PDF; p. 153 print)

Admittedly, the panel was not charged with looking too far into the future but it does seem odd that in a science culture report there isn’t much mention (other than a cursory comment in an early chapter) of these emerging technologies and the major changes they are bringing with them. If nothing else, the panel might have wanted to make mention of artificial intelligence how the increasing role of automated systems may be affecting science culture in Canada. For example, in my July 16, 2014 post I made described a deal Associated Press (AP) signed with a company that automates the process of writing sports and business stories. You may well have read a business story (AP contracted for business stories) written by an artificial intelligence system or, if you prefer the term, an algorithm.

The recommendation for ‘Enhancing science communication and engagement’ is where I believe the Expert Panel should be offered a bouquet,

… Given the significance of government science in many areas of research, government science communication constitutes an important vector for increasing public awareness and understanding about science. In Canada current policies governing how scientists working in federal departments and agencies are allowed to interact with the media and the public have come under heavy criticism in recent years …

Concerns about the federal government’s current policies on government scientists’ communication with the media have been widely reported in Canadian and international
press in recent years (e.g., Ghosh, 2012; CBC, 2013c; Gatehouse, 2013; Hume, 2013; Mancini, 2013; Munro, 2013). These concerns were also recently voiced by the editorial board of Nature (2012), which unfavourably compared Canada’s current approach with the more open policies now in place in the United States. Scientists at many U.S. federal agencies are free to speak to the media without prior departmental approval, and to
express their personal views as long as they clearly state that they are not speaking on behalf of the government. In response to such concerns, and to a formal complaint filed by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria and Democracy Watch, on April 2, 2013 Canada’s Information Commissioner launched an investigation into whether current policies and policy instruments in seven federal departments and agencies are “restricting or prohibiting government scientists from speaking with or sharing research with the media and the Canadian public” (OICC, 2013).

Since these concerns have come to light, many current and former government scientists have discussed how these policies have affected their interactions with the media. Marley Waiser, a former scientist with Environment Canada, has spoken about how that department’s policies prevented her from discussing her research on chemical pollutants in Wascana Creek near Regina (CBC, 2013c). Dr. Kristi Miller, a geneticist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was reportedly prevented from speaking publicly about a study she published in Science, which investigated whether a viral infection might be the cause of declines in Sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River (Munro, 2011).

According to data from Statistics Canada (2012), nearly 20,000 science and technology professionals work for the federal government. The ability of these researchers to communicate with the media and the Canadian public has a clear bearing on Canada’s science culture. Properly supported, government scientists can serve as a useful conduit for informing the public about their scientific work, and engaging the public in discussions about the social relevance of their research; however, the concerns reported above raise questions about the extent to which current federal policies in Canada are limiting these opportunities for public communication and engagement. (pp. 190/1 PDF; p. 158/9 print)

Kudos for including the information and for this passage as well,

Many organizations including science centres and museums, research centres, and even governments may be perceived as having a science promotion agenda that portrays only the benefits of science. As a result, these organizations are not always seen as promoters of debate through questioning, which is a crucial part of the scientific process. Acknowledging complexity and controversy is another means to improve the quality of public engagement in science in a range of different contexts. (p. 195 PDF; p. 163 print)

One last happy note, which is about integrating the arts and design into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics communities),

Linking Science to the Arts and Design U.S. advocates for “STEM to STEAM” call for an incorporation of the arts in discussions of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in an effort to “achieve a synergistic balance” (Piro, 2010). They cite positive outcomes such as cognitive development, reasoning skills, and concentration abilities. Piro (2010) argues that “if creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking — all touted as hallmark skills for 21st-century success — are to be cultivated, we need to ensure that STEM subjects are drawn closer to the arts.” Such approaches offer new techniques to engage both student and adult audiences in science learning and engagement opportunities.

What I find fascinating about this STEM to STEAM movement is that many of these folks don’t seem to realize is that until fairly recently the arts and sciences recently have always been closely allied.  James Clerk Maxwell was also a poet, not uncommon amongst 19th century scientists.

In Canada one example of this approach is found in the work of Michael R. Hayden, who has conducted extensive genetic research on Huntington disease. In the lead-up to the 2000 Human Genome Project World Conference, Hayden commissioned Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre to fuse “the spheres of science and art in a play that explored the implications of the revolutionary technology of the Human Genome Project” (ECT, n.d.). This play, The Score, was later adapted into a film. Hayden believes that his play “transforms the scientific ideas explored in the world of the laboratory into universal themes of human identity, freedom and creativity, and opens up a door for a discussion between the scientific community and the public in general” (Genome Canada, 2006). (p. 196 PDF; p. 164 print)

I’m not sure why the last recommendation presents an either/or choice, ‘Providing national or regional leadership’, while the following content suggests a much more fluid state,

…  it should be recognized that establishing a national or regional vision for science culture is not solely the prerogative of government. Such a vision requires broad support and participation from the community of affected stakeholders to be effective, and can also emerge from that community in the absence of a strong governmental role.

The final chapter (the seventh) restates the points the panel has made throughout its report. Unexpectedly, part 2 got bigger, ’nuff said.

Part 2 (a) of 3: Science Culture: Where Canada Stands; an expert assessment (reconstructed)

Losing over 2000 words, i.e., part 2 of this commentary on the Science Culture: Where Canada Stands assessment by the Council of Canadian Academies (CAC) on New Year’s Eve 2014 was a bit of blow. So, here’s my attempt at reconstructing my much mourned part 2.

There was acknowledgement of Canada as a Arctic country and an acknowledgement of this country’s an extraordinary geographical relationship to the world’s marine environment,

Canada’s status as an Arctic nation also has a bearing on science and science culture. Canada’s large and ecologically diverse Arctic landscape spans a substantial part of the circumpolar Arctic, and comprises almost 40% of the country’s landmass (Statistics Canada, 2009). This has influenced the development of Canadian culture more broadly, and also created opportunities in the advancement of Arctic science. Canada’s northern inhabitants, the majority of whom are Indigenous peoples, represent a source of knowledge that contributes to scientific research in the North (CCA, 2008).

These characteristics have contributed to the exploration of many scientific questions including those related to environmental science, resource development, and the health and well-being of northern populations. Canada also has the longest coastline of any country, and these extensive coastlines and marine areas give rise to unique research opportunities in ocean science (CCA, 2013a). (p. 55 PDF; p. 23 print)

Canada’s aging population is acknowledged in a backhand way,

Like most developed countries, Canada’s population is also aging. In 2011 the median age in Canada was 39.9 years, up from 26.2 years in 1971 (Statistics Canada, n.d.). This ongoing demographic transition will have an impact on science culture in Canada in years to come. An aging population will be increasingly interested in health and medical issues. The ability to make use of this kind of information will depend in large part on the combination of access to the internet, skill in navigating it, and a conceptual toolbox that includes an understanding of genes, probability, and related constructs (Miller, 2010b). (p. 56 PDF; p. 24 print)

Yes, the only science topics of interest for an old person are health and medicine. Couldn’t they have included one sentence suggesting an aging population’s other interests and other possible impacts on science culture?

On the plus side, the report offers a list of selected Canadian science culture milestones,

• 1882 – Royal Society of Canada is established.
• 1916 – National Research Council is established.
• 1923 – Association canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (ACFAS) is established.
• 1930 – Canadian Geographic is first published by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
• 1951 – Massey–Lévesque Commission calls for the creation of a national science and technology museum.
• 1959 – Canada sees its first science fairs in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver; volunteer coordination eventually grows into Youth Science Canada.
• 1960 – CBC’s Nature of Things debuts on television; Fernand Séguin hosts “Aux frontières de la science.”
• 1962 – ACFAS creates Le Jeune scientifique, which becomes Québec Science in 1970.
• 1966 – Science Council of Canada is created to advise Parliament on science and technology issues.
• 1967 – Canada Museum of Science and Technology is created.
• 1969 – Ontario Science Centre opens its doors (the Exploratorium in San Francisco opens the same year).
• 1971 – Canadian Science Writers’ Association is formed.
• 1975 – Symons Royal Commission on Canadian Studies speaks to how understanding the role of science in society is important to understanding Canadian culture and identity.
• 1975 – Quirks and Quarks debuts on CBC Radio.
• 1976 – OWL children’s magazine begins publication.
• 1977 – Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Québec is established.
• 1978 – L’Agence Science-Presse is created.
• 1981 – Association des communicateurs scientifiques creates the Fernand-Séguin scholarship to identify promising young science journalists.
• 1982 – Les Débrouillards is launched in Quebec. (p. 58 PDF; p. 26 print)

The list spills onto the next page and into the 2000’s.

It’s a relief to see the Expert Panel give a measured response to the claims made about science culture and its various impacts, especially on the economy (in my book, some of the claims have bordered on hysteria),

The Panel found little definitive empirical evidence of causal relationships between the dimensions of science culture and higher-level social objectives like stronger economic performance or more effective public policies. As is the case with much social science research, isolating the impacts of a single variable on complex social phenomena is methodologically challenging, and few studies have attempted to establish such relationships in any detail. As noted in 1985 by the Bodmer report (a still-influential report on public understanding of science in the United Kingdom), although there is good reason prima facie to believe that improving public understanding of science has national economic benefits, empirical proof for such a link is often elusive (RS & Bodmer, 1985). This remains the case today. Nevertheless, many pieces of evidence suggest why a modern, industrialized society should cultivate a strong science culture. Literature from the domains of cognitive science, sociology, cultural studies, economics, innovation, political science, and public policy provides relevant insights. (p. 63 PDF; p. 31 print)

Intriguingly, while the panel has made extensive use of social science methods for this assessment there are some assumptions made about skill sets required for the future,

Technological innovation depends on the presence of science and technology skills in the workforce. While at one point it may have been possible for relatively low-skilled individuals to substantively contribute to technological development, in the 21st century this is no longer the case. [emphasis mine] Advanced science and technology skills are now a prerequisite for most types of technological innovation. (p. 72 PDF; p. 40 print)

Really, it’s no longer possible for relatively low-skilled individuals to contribute to technological development? Maybe the expert panel missed this bit in my March 27, 2013 post,

Getting back to Bittel’s Slate article, he mentions Foldit (here’s my first piece in an Aug. 6, 2010 posting [scroll down about 1/2 way]), a protein-folding game which has generated some very exciting science. He also notes some of that science was generated by older, ‘uneducated’ women. Bittel linked to Jeff Howe’s Feb. 27, 2012 article about Foldit and other crowdsourced science projects for Slate where I found this very intriguing bit,

“You’d think a Ph.D. in biochemistry would be very good at designing protein molecules,” says Zoran Popović, the University of Washington game designer behind Foldit. Not so. “Biochemists are good at other things. But Foldit requires a narrow, deeper expertise.”

Or as it turns out, more than one. Some gamers have a preternatural ability to recognize patterns, an innate form of spatial reasoning most of us lack. Others—often “grandmothers without a high school education,” says Popovic—exercise a particular social skill. “They’re good at getting people unstuck. They get them to approach the problem differently.” What big pharmaceutical company would have anticipated the need to hire uneducated grandmothers? (I know a few, if Eli Lilly HR is thinking of rejiggering its recruitment strategy.) [emphases mine]

It’s not the idea that technical and scientific skills are needed that concerns me; it’s the report’s hard line about ‘low skills’ (which is a term that is not defined). In addition to the notion that future jobs require only individuals with ‘high level’ skills; there’s the notion (not mentioned in this report but gaining general acceptance in the media) that we shouldn’t ever have to perform repetitive and boring activities. It’s a notion which completely ignores a certain aspect of the learning process. Very young children repeat over and over and over and over … . Apprenticeships in many skills-based crafts were designed with years of boring, repetitive work as part of the training. It seems counter-intuitive but boring, repetitive activities can lead to very high level skills such as the ability to ‘unstick’ a problem for an expert with a PhD in biochemistry.

Back to the assessment, the panel commissioned a survey, conducted in 2013, to gather data about science culture in Canada,

The Panel’s survey of Canadian science culture, designed to be comparable to surveys undertaken in other countries as well as to the 1989 Canadian survey, assessed public attitudes towards science and technology, levels and modes of public engagement in science, and public science knowledge or understanding. (The evidence reported in this chapter on the fourth dimension, science and technology skills, is drawn from other sources such as Statistics Canada and the OECD).

Conducted in April 2013, the survey relied on a combination of landline and mobile phone respondents (60%) and internet respondents (40%), randomly recruited from the general population. In analyzing the results, responses to the survey were weighted based on Statistics Canada data according to region, age, education, and gender to ensure that the sample was representative of the Canadian public. 7 A total of 2,004 survey responses were received, with regional breakdowns presented in Table 4.1. At a national level, survey results are accurate within a range of plus or minus 2.2% 19 times out of 20 (i.e., at the 95% confidence interval), and margins of error for regional results range from 3.8% to 7.1%). Three open-ended questions were also included in the survey, which were coded using protocols previously applied to these questions in other international surveys. 8 All open-ended questions were coded independently by at least three bilingual coders, and any discrepancies in coding were settled through a review by a fourth coder. (p. 79 PDF; p. 47 print)

The infographic’s data in part 1 of this commentary, What Do Canadians Think About Science and Technology (S&T)? is based on the survey and other statistical information included in the report especially Chapter four focused on measurements (pp. 77  – 127 PDF; pp. 45 – 95 print). While the survey presents a somewhat rosier picture of the Canadian science culture than the one I experience on a daily basis, the data seems to have been gathered in a thoughtful fashion. Regardless of the assessment’s findings and my opinions,  how Canadians view science became a matter of passionate debate in the Canadian science blogging community (at least parts of it) in late 2014 as per a Dec. 3, 2014 posting by the Science Borealis team on their eponymous blog (Note: Links have been removed),

The CBC’s Rick Mercer is a staunch science advocate, and his November 19th rant was no exception. He addressed the state of basic science in Canada, saying that Canadians are “passionate and curious about science.”

In response, scientist David Kent wrote a post on the Black Hole Blog in which he disagreed with Mercer, saying, “I do not believe Mr. Mercer’s idea that Canadians as a whole are interested although I, like him, would wish it to be the case.”

Kent’s post has generated some fierce discussion, both in the comments on his original post and in the comments on a Facebook post by Evidence for Democracy.

Here at Science Borealis, we rely on a keen and enthusiastic public to engage with the broad range of science-based work our bloggers share, so we decided to address some of the arguments Kent presented in his post.

Anecdotal evidence versus data

Kent says “Mr. Mercer’s claims about Canadians’ passions are anecdotal at best, and lack any evidence – indeed it is possible that Canadians don’t give a hoot about science for science’s sake.”

Unfortunately, Kent’s own argument is based on anecdotal evidence (“To me it appears that… the average Canadian adult does not particularly care about how or why something works.”).

If you’re looking for data, they’re available in a recent Council of Canadian Academies report that specifically studied science culture in Canada. Results show that Canadians are very interested in science.

You can find David Kent’s Nov. 26, 2014 post about Canadians, Rick Mercer and science here. Do take a look at the blog’s comments which feature a number of people deeply involved in promoting and producing Canadian science culture.

I promised disturbing statistics in the head for this posting and here they are in the second paragraph,

Canadian students perform well in PISA [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)] , with relatively high scores on all three of the major components of the assessment (reading, science, and mathematics) compared with students in other countries (Table 4.4). In 2012 only seven countries or regions had mean scores on the science assessment higher than Canada on a statistically significant basis: Shanghai–China, Hong Kong–China, Singapore, Japan, Finland, Estonia, and Korea (Brochu et al., 2013). A similar pattern holds for mathematics scores, where nine countries had mean scores higher than Canada on a statistically significant basis: Shanghai–China, Singapore, Hong Kong–China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Macao–China, Japan, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland (Brochu et al., 2013). Regions scoring higher than Canada are concentrated in East Asia, and tend to be densely populated, urban areas. Among G8 countries, Canada ranks second on mean science and mathematics scores, behind Japan.

However, the 2012 PISA results also show statistically significant declines in Canada’s scores on both the mathematics and science components. Canada’s science score declined by nine points from its peak in 2006 (with a fall in ranking from 3rd to 10th), and the math score declined by 14 points since first assessed in 2003 (a fall from 7th to 13th) (Brochu et al., 2013). Changes in Canada’s standing relative to other countries reflect both the addition of new countries or regions over time (i.e., the addition of regions such as Hong Kong–China and Chinese Taipei in 2006, and of Shanghai–China in 2009) and statistically significant declines in mean scores.

My Oct. 9, 2013 post discusses the scores in more detail and as the Expert Panel notes, the drop is disconcerting and disturbing. Hopefully, it doesn’t indicate a trend.

Part 2 (b) follows immediately.

Like Goldilocks, too late for the 2013 World Science Festival and too early the 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival

The 2013 World Science Festival in New York City just ended yesterday (June 2, 2013) and the 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival is scheduled, for  a date approximately 10 months from now, April 26 – 27, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Congratulations to the 2013 World Science Festival organizers as they have sold out most of their shows for this year’s extravaganza. Fear not, there’s still a way to enjoy the 2013 festival’s main event in June and some of its other events during the year: read the event summaries and preview on the festival blog. There’s this June 2, 2013 summary by Julian Taub in a posting titled, Small Wonder: Imagine the Medical Miracles of Nanotechnology,

What is it like to be on the nanoscale, the size thousands of times thinner than a human hair?

This is what an esteemed panel, moderated by Robert Krulwich, focused on throughout Cellular Surgeons: The New Era of Nanomedicine. [emphasis mine] Peter Hoffman, a panelist who wrote a book on molecular machines making order from chaos, tried to paint a picture of a very different world. Imagine a place where gravity is a non-issue and you are constantly bombarded by high-speed particles coming from random directions. …

….

Now, scientists are trying to design their own molecular machines. How are they going to keep up with millions of years of evolution that created the machines inside our body? Metin Sitti, a professor at Carnegie Melon who works on medical nanorobots explained, “As human beings, we are now going beyond nature, as engineers, as scientists. We don’t have the same constraints it has. We have the luxury and knowledge to play with these systems.”

Sitti presented one of his creations to the panel: a robot that rolls around in a patient who swallows it, capable of performing tissue biopsies and dispensing drugs at will. The robot rolls around the stomach, controlled by a magnet from outside the body. Sitti and his team came up with the soft, biodegradable body for the robot to make it more comfortable to use. Right now they are testing the bots on pigs.

Another panelist, Harvard biomedical professor and entrepreneur Omid Farokhzad, created a nanoparticle that carries drugs and attaches to specific receptors on a tumor’s surface. The tumor then engulfs it, in Trojan Horse style, and meets its demise. The particle also disguises itself from the immune system by coating itself with water. As it journeys through your body, it veers toward tumors by sensing their leaky blood vessels.

Then, there’s this Nov. 16, 2013 preview of one of the festival’s other event series, Oliver Sacks—The Justin Bieber of Neurologists,

“The Justin Bieber of Neurologists”—that’s how NPR’s John Hockenberry, noting that the World Science Festival program, “Hallucinations with Oliver Sacks,” had sold out in a matter of hours, described the celebrated doctor and best-selling author.  Their conversation at The Cooper Union on Friday, November 9, was both humorous and compelling, and marked the debut of Sacks’ new book, Hallucinations.  The evening also kicked off the Festival’s new year-round series, Science & Story.

Sacks, renowned for investigating the odd workings of the human mind, described vivid accounts of people who see, hear, smell, even feel things that aren’t actually there. “You think it’s real but other people don’t agree with you,” Sacks explained.

Sacks has said that he regards everything he writes as being at “the intersection of the first and third person, biography and autobiography.”

The USA Science and Engineering Festival is a biannual event and the third festival debuts in April 2014. Here’s a bit of information about festival sponsor, Lockheed Martin and the festival’s beginnings, from the organization’s Dec. 5, 2012 news release,

The Festival is a signature program for Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company that employs nearly 60,000 engineers, scientists, and technologists worldwide. The company co-founded the festival in 2010, helped expand the program in 2012, and serves as the founding and presenting host again in 2014.
“Lockheed Martin is a national leader in promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our education system,” said high-tech serial entrepreneur Larry Bock and festival co-founder. “Thanks tothe leadership of Lockheed Martin and other sponsors, the festival provides students direct exposure to the most innovative employers in the field. It also allows prospective employers to demonstrate the coolest engineering and technology applications to young people firsthand, getting them excited to become tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.”
More than 500,000 people attended 2012 festival events, with over 250,000 attending the 3-day Finale Expo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, making it the second most attended event in the convention center’s history.

Here are the plans announced in the Dec. 2012 news release,

Festival highlights leading up to the Finale Expo in April 2014 include:
Lockheed Martin returns as presenting host sponsor
New website :www.usasciencefestival.com featuring “Role Models in Science & Engineering,” with a current focus on women and minorities
 Facebook page with more than 35,000 fans and approximately 500 new fans each day
 Throughout 2013 and early 2014:
 Lunch with a Laureate program connecting students with Nobel Prize winning scientists
 Nifty Fifty (times 3) speaker program offering more than 150 leading scientists and engineers to speak in schools, with sessions videotaped for use in classrooms worldwide
 Hundreds of satellite and affiliate events across the country
In April 2014 during the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC:
 Nifty Fifty All Star Symposium, VIP Event and student Sneak Peek on April 24 – 25, 2014
 Finale Expo open to the public April 26 – 27, 2014, with 750+ exhibiting organizations

As always, many thanks to David Bruggeman whose May 31, 2013 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog brought the two festivals to my attention,

The World Science Festival started on Wednesday [May 29, 2013] in New York City.  While the USA Science and Engineering Festival is growing, the World Science Festival is likely the biggest annual science festival (in scope, if not in numbers) in the U.S.  (At a minimum, the World Science Festival is definitely more all-ages than it’s younger cousin in D.C.)

There is the Science Rendezvous festival here in Canada, an event I described as peculiarly Canadian in my May 10, 2013 posting. It seems of an entirely different order than these two in the US.

A peculiarly Canadian, national science festival: Science Rendezvous

I stumbled across the notice in my Twitter feed (@frogheart) this morning (May 10, 2013) about Science Rendezvous, a Canadian national science festival which is taking place on Sat., May 11, 2013. You can find a map which lists all of the events across the country here.

I gather they are taking a low key (peculiarly Canadian) approach to publicizing this event, which I am happy to see. (The festival was first mentioned here in my Dec. 31, 2012 posting.) More than one event has foundered once the initial enthusiasm has foundered so, it’s usually better to build slowly.

There are events in Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia (BC). As I live in BC I will focus on the three cities hosting events.

Here are the events in Vancouver (Note: Links have been removed.),

Come and explore real science at UBC [University of British Columbia] Science Rendezvous. Meet and talk to scientists from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Chemistry, Environmental Interfaces Laboratory, Genetic Data Centre, Let’s Talk Science, Mathematics, Michael Smith Labs, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Physics and Astronomy and Pollution Control and Waste Management Group. Learn and play through hands-on activities and exclusive tours of some of UBC’s research facilities.

Join us for this family-friendly event on Saturday May 11, 2013 from 11am to 3pm at the Michael Smith Laboratories (2185 East Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4)


Activities Schedule:

Friday 10 May 2013
Location: Earth Sciences Building (2207 Main Mall V6T 1Z4)

Free Public Lecture*: The Role of Gender in Science Communication (5:30 – 7pm), panel moderated by Dr. Jennifer Gardy (Genome Research Laboratory, BC Centre for Disease Control; Adjunct Professor, Microbiology & Immunology, UBC)

Note: * This public talk is part of the Creating Connections Conference 2013 [mentioned here in my May 2, 2013 posting]

Saturday 11 May 2013
Location: Michael Smith Labs (2185 East Mall V6T 1Z4)

“The Wonderful World of Cooties in the Pond” (Room 105)

The Michael Smith Teaching Labs will have their suite of dissecting microscopes out, where kids can collect pond samples, and then try to see what they can find.  Be working on a real research laboratory lab bench, and hang out with Dr. David Ng who will be on hand for general science-y goodness.  All welcome!

“Maps, Raps and Infinite Gaps” (Foyer)

Math is everywhere — you just have to have the right glasses. Drop by to try your hand at some demonstrations revealing the math behind snowflakes, plea bargains, game shows, and much more.

“Physics and Astronomy” (Room 101)

Come visit the Physics & Astronomy booth to learn about electricity, ride on our hovercraft, and check out cool physical prototypes made by students in the Engineering Physics Program.

Pollution Control and Waste Management Group (Civil Engineering) (Room 101)

The BC Water and Waste Association’s UBC student chapter looks at the science of drinking water and waste water. Join us at Science Rendezvous in anticipation of Drinking Water Week 2013. Get hands-on experience trying out water treatment processes yourself; take the bottled vs tap taste challenge; take a pledge to reduce your water use (and enter to win awesome prizes!!); and behold the mighty wall of water!

The Amazing Science Chase

Presented by Let’s Talk Science and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Have fun with science challenges, make a rocket and win prizes! (Sign up for the race at the Science Chase Booth in front of the MSL)

Beaty Biodiversity Museum (Foyer)

Getting to know your backyard better. Meet the backyard biodiversity specimens and other collections!
Location: Chemistry Building D-wing (2036 Main Mall, V6T 1Z1) Click here for campus map.

“Look, I’m a Chemist!” (12:30pm – 3pm) Room D211/D213

Experience the wonders of chemistry with our entertaining hands-on activities, a chemistry-themed photo booth, balloons and our delicious liquid nitrogen ice cream! Make slime, lava lamps and marshmallow molecules. Click here to check out Chemistry event preview on CityTV’s Breakfast Television
Location: Genetic Date Centre, Forestry Science Centre Building (Tour starts at MSL room 102)

Genetic Data Centre Lab tours (11:30am, 12:15pm, 1pm) – learn about DNA sequencing and genetic markers of killer whales, mountain beavers and blueberries.
The number of participants is limited at 20 per tour; please sign up to secure your spot at the information booth!

Location: Environmental Interfaces Laboratory, Earth Sciences Building (Tour starts at MSL room 102)

Environmental Interfaces Laboratory tours (12pm, 1pm, 2pm) – learn how scientists measure and monitor greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, soil and water!
The number of participants is limited at 20 per tour; please sign up to secure your spot at the information booth!

Here is the listing for Burnaby,

Join us for Simon Fraser University’s [SFU] Science Rendezvous 2013. An exciting day full of interesting things to see and do, artistic performances and educational demonstrations and explorations at SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus on Saturday, May 11, 2013, from 11:00am – 4:00pm, rain or shine. We’re opening our doors to showcase the spirit and essence of Simon Fraser University. Programs and staff from all campuses will participate at the event.

Educational demonstrations
Interactive activities
Magic of Science shows
Engaging science lectures
The Great Space Ship Debate

And the Amazing Science Chase: just like it sounds, it’s the concept of the hit TV show with a twist. Don’t miss it on May 11th, compete in this Amazing Race-style science challenge of mind AND body!

Finally, there are also events being held in Langley,

Kwantlen Polytechnic University [KPU]
presents ….
Science Rendezvous 2013

KPU is a proud sponsor of the Science Rendezvous event being held on

Saturday, May 11th from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Our Langley Campus will be transformed into a spectacular science experience where the general public will get a chance to participate in hands-on experiments, walk through chemistry, biology, physics and geography labs, see a demonstration of the high-tech patient simulators in the nursing labs, discover our state-of-the-art greenhouses and learn about how KPU is making its mark in science in Canada.

Other activities will include:

The Chemistry Magic Show

I SPY …. lawn weeds

What’s Bugging You? Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs

Dancing Fire

Wireless Robots

Strawberry DNA Extraction

Make Your Own Slime

Film Canister Rockets

Show & Tell Marine Micro Organisms

and so much more ….

Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are!

FrogHeart’s 2012, a selective roundup of my international online colleagues, and other bits

This blog will be five years old in April 2013 and, sometime in January or February, the 2000th post will be published.

Statisticswise it’s been a tumultuous year for FrogHeart with ups and downs,  thankfully ending on an up note. According to my AW stats, I started with 54,920 visits in January (which was a bit of an increase over December 2011. The numbers rose right through to March 2012 when the blog registered 68,360 visits and then the numbers fell and continued to fall. At the low point, this blog registered 45, 972 visits in June 2012 and managed to rise and fall through to Oct. 2012 when the visits rose to 54,520 visits. November 2012 was better with 66,854 visits and in December 2012 the blog will have received over 75,000 visits. (ETA Ja.2.13: This blog registered 81,0036 in December 2012 and an annual total of 681,055 visits.) Since I have no idea why the numbers fell or why they rose again, I have absolutely no idea what 2013 will bring in terms of statistics (the webalizer numbers reflect similar trends).

Interestingly and for the first time since I’ve activated the AW statistics package in Feb. 2009, the US ceased to be the primary source for visitors. As of April 2012, the British surged ahead for several months until November 2012 when the US regained the top spot only to lose it to China in December 2012.

Favourite topics according to the top 10 key terms included: nanocrystalline cellulose for Jan. – Oct. 2012 when for the first time in almost three years the topic fell out of the top 10; Jackson Pollock and physics also popped up in the top 10 in various months throughout the year; Clipperton Island (a sci/art project) has made intermittent appearances; SPAUN (Semantic Pointer Arichitecture Unified Network; a project at the University of Waterloo) has made the top 10 in the two months since it was announced); weirdly, frogheart.ca has appeared in the top 10 these last few months; the Lycurgus Cup, nanosilver, and literary tattoos also made appearances in the top 10 in various months throughout the year, while the memristor and Québec nanotechnology made appearances in the fall.

Webalizer tells a similar but not identical story. The numbers started with 83, 133 visits in January 2012 rising to a dizzying height of 119, 217 in March.  These statistics fell too but July 2012 was another six figure month with 101,087 visits and then down again to five figures until Oct. 2012 with 108, 266 and 136,161 visits in November 2012. The December 2012 visits number appear to be dipping down slightly with 130,198 visits counted to 5:10 am PST, Dec. 31, 2012. (ETA Ja.2.13: In December 2012, 133,351 were tallied with an annual total of 1,660,771 visits.)

Thanks to my international colleagues who inspire and keep me apprised of the latest information on nanotechnology and other emerging technologies:

  • Pasco Phronesis, owned by David Bruggeman, focuses more on science policy and science communicati0n (via popular media) than on emerging technology per se but David provides excellent analysis and a keen eye for the international scene. He kindly dropped by frogheart.ca  some months ago to challenge my take on science and censorship in Canada and I have not finished my response. I’ve posted part 1 in the comments but have yet to get to part 2. His latest posting on Dec. 30, 2012 features this title, For Better Science And Technology Policing, Don’t Forget The Archiving.
  • Nanoclast is on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) website and features Dexter Johnson’s writing on nanotechnology government initiatives, technical breakthroughs, and, occasionally, important personalities within the field. I notice Dexter, who’s always thoughtful and thought-provoking, has cut back to a weekly posting. I encourage you to read his work as he fills in an important gap in a lot of nanotechnology reporting with his intimate understanding of the technology itself.  Dexter’s Dec. 20, 2012 posting (the latest) is titled, Nanoparticle Coated Lens Converts Light into Sound for Precise Non-invasive Surgery.
  • Insight (formerly TNTlog) is Tim Harper’s (CEO of Cientifica) blog features an international perspective (with a strong focus on the UK scene) on emerging technologies and the business of science. His writing style is quite lively (at times, trenchant) and it reflects his long experience with nanotechnology and other emerging technologies. I don’t know how he finds the time and here’s his latest, a Dec. 4, 2012 posting titled, Is Printable Graphene The Key To Widespread Applications?
  • 2020 Science is Dr. Andrew Maynard’s (director of University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center) more or less personal blog. An expert on nanotechnology (he was the Chief Science Adviser for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, located in Washington, DC), Andrew writes extensively about risk, uncertainty, nanotechnology, and the joys of science. Over time his blog has evolved to include the occasional homemade but science-oriented video, courtesy of one of his children. I usually check Andrew’s blog when there’s a online nanotechnology kerfuffle as he usually has the inside scoop. His latest posting on Dec. 23, 2012 features this title, On the benefits of wearing a hat while dancing naked, and other insights into the science of risk.
  • Andrew also produces and manages the Mind the Science Gap blog, which is a project encouraging MA students in the University of Michigan’s Public Health Program to write. Andrew has posted a summary of the last semester’s triumphs titled, Looking back at another semester of Mind The Science Gap.
  • NanoWiki is, strictly speaking, not a blog but the authors provide the best compilation of stories on nanotechnology issues and controversies that I have found yet. Here’s how they describe their work, “NanoWiki tracks the evolution of paradigms and discoveries in nanoscience and nanotechnology field, annotates and disseminates them, giving an overall view and feeds the essential public debate on nanotechnology and its practical applications.” There are also Spanish, Catalan, and mobile versions of NanoWiki. Their latest posting, dated  Dec. 29, 2012, Nanotechnology shows we can innovate without economic growth, features some nanotechnology books.
  • In April 2012, I was contacted by Dorothée Browaeys about a French blog, Le Meilleur Des Nanomondes. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been much action there since Feb. 2010 but I’m delighted to hear from my European colleagues and hope to hear more from them.

Sadly, there was only one interview here this year but I think they call these things ‘a big get’ as the interview was with Vanessa Clive who manages the nanotechnology portfolio at Industry Canada. I did try to get an interview with Dr. Marie D’Iorio, the new Executive Director of Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT; BTW, the National Research Council has a brand new site consequently [since the NINT is a National Research Council agency, so does the NINT]), and experienced the same success I had with her predecessor, Dr. Nils Petersen.

I attended two conferences this year, S.NET (Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies) 2012 meeting in Enschede, Holland where I presented on my work on memristors, artificial brains, and pop culture. The second conference I attended was in Calgary where I  moderated a panel I’d organized on the topic of Canada’s science culture and policy for the 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference.

There are a few items of note which appeared on the Canadian science scene. ScienceOnlineVancouver emerged in April 2012. From the About page,

ScienceOnlineVancouver is a monthly discussion series exploring how online communication and social media impact current scientific research and how the general public learns about it. ScienceOnlineVancouver is an ongoing discussion about online science, including science communication and available research tools, not a lecture series where scientists talk about their work. Follow the conversation on Twitter at @ScioVan, hashtag is #SoVan.

The concept of these monthly meetings originated in New York with SoNYC @S_O_NYC, brought to life by Lou Woodley (@LouWoodley, Communities Specialist at Nature.com) and John Timmer (@j_timmer, Science Editor at Ars Technica). With the success of that discussion series, participation in Scio2012, and the 2012 annual meeting of the AAAS in Vancouver, Catherine Anderson, Sarah Chow, and Peter Newbury were inspired to bring it closer to home, leading to the beginning of ScienceOnlineVancouver.

ScienceOnlineVancouver is part of the ScienceOnlineNOW community that includes ScienceOnlineBayArea, @sciobayarea and ScienceOnlineSeattle, @scioSEA. Thanks to Brian Glanz of the Open Science Federation and SciFund Challenge and thanks to Science World for a great venue.

I have mentioned the arts/engineering festival coming up in Calgary, Beakerhead, a few times but haven’t had occasion to mention Science Rendezvous before. This festival started in Toronto in 2008 and became a national festival in 2012 (?). Their About page doesn’t describe the genesis of the ‘national’ aspect to this festival as clearly as I would like. They seem to be behind with their planning as there’s no mention of the 2013 festival,which should be coming up in May.

The twitter (@frogheart) feed continues to grow in both (followed and following) albeit slowly. I have to give special props to @carlacap, @cientifica, & @timharper for their mentions, retweets, and more.

As for 2013, there are likely to be some changes here; I haven’t yet decided what changes but I will keep you posted. Have a lovely new year and I wish you all the best in 2013.