CSPC 2009 Conference Coverage
- Conference Welcome,<br class="hidethis" /> Keynotes by Hon. John Milloy,<br />Dr. Bruce Alberts<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/tv.png" alt="" ></div>
- Plenary I: <br />Canada’s National Science & Technology Strategy<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/tv.png" alt="" ></div>
- Plenary II:<br />The Canadian Economy – From Resource-Based to Knowledge-Driven<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/tv.png" alt="" ></div>
- Keynote:<br />Preston Manning<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/tv.png" alt="" ></div>
- Keynote:<br />Hon. Gary Goodyear<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/tv.png" alt="" ></div>
- Closing Plenary:<br />Next Steps<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/tv.png" alt="" ></div>
Conference Welcome: Dr. Mehrdad Hariri
Keynotes by Hon. John Milloy
and Dr. Bruce Alberts
- Lessons learned and New models for implementing scientific knowledge in decision making process<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Governance of emerging technologies<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- The Democratization of Science<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Best practices in science policy from other nations<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Private sector research and development: Role of R&D in the globaleconomy<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- The next generation of scientists: Science education and a newculture of civic engagement<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
Lessons learned and New models for implementing scientific knowledge in decision making process
Moderator Adam Holbrook, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, began the panel presentation on implementing scientific knowledge in the decision-making process by asking each participant to propose one question for their co-panelists at the end of their presentations. Dr. John Leggat, an associate consultant with CFN Consultants began the discussion by talking about the relationship between science and decision-making. He identified a number of areas where scientific advice can significantly contribute to decision making, including risk assessment, defining what realistically can be done, defining what is known, and giving advice on how to deal with hard problems. Leggat said that to fully connect with any organization—be it business or government—scientists need to understand the motivations of the organization. He pointed out that there is often a mismatch between the two groups. “We, as scientists, tend to go very deep and not very broad. The decision maker tends to be very broad and not very deep,” Leggat said. One way of dealing with this problem, he said, is to do more operational research. He suggested the need for networks that involve scientists, decision makers, and the people in between. Leggat’s question for the group was how to organize such a network. Bryn Lander, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, talked about how to motivate scientists who work at universities to pursue non-research activities. She suggested expanding what is defined as translational activities and reward involvement in them. This can be done, Lander said, through funding agencies. Many of these agencies, however, have guidelines in their policies that ask scientists to show how their research has potential economic benefits. The focus of government policy, she said, is now on economic benefits over social benefits. “Scientists need to find a way to look at social benefits as well as economic benefits, she said, and the funding needs to reflect this. Lander’s question for the group was what measures can be developed for a broader view of what is translational.
Dr. Ann McMillan of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) discussed science assessment. It is important, McMillan argued, that the questions in scientific assessments be developed by scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders together. The assessment should be done by experts in the field and deliver advice for policy makers. McMillan said that science assessments have been successful in organizing the scientific community and addressing important policy concerns, but they do not have as much impact on policy decisions as they ought to have. She suggested that over the last decade, science processes have been modernized to be more responsive to policy needs, but the policy side within Canada requires modernization to make it more receptive to science. Science assessments are most useful when they feed into defined policy processes. Her question for the group was how this best could be done within Canada.
Jeff Kinder of Natural Resources Canada and a PhD candidate at Carleton University discussed the science advisory mechanisms that exist in Canada. He first gave a brief history of major science advisory bodies in Canada. He then noted the two strands of science policy—science for policy and policy for science—in order to identify the focus of different organizations. Under science for policy, various groups give advice depending on the sector, while organizations like the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) provide assessments. Under policy for science, organizations like the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) give advice, but there is a lack of organizations providing assessments. Kinder suggested Canada needs to fill this gap with some sort of organization, as the British and Americans have. “There’s room for analysis... that informs public debate and parliamentarians,” Kinder said. His question for the group was what is missing from the Canadian scientific landscape.
Eleanor Fast, program director at CCA, gave an overview of the CCA. She argued that independence and quality are vital for scientific advice, and that these elements are at the core of the CCA model. She noted that there has been a change in the way the public accesses and processes information, from depth to speed, from elite to more public “wiki” models, and from old to new media. The CCA, however, remains committed to standards of quality, Fast said. Most assessments take between 12 and 24 months, and all evidence, including any public input, is filtered through a multi¬disciplinary group of experts. Her question for the group was whether there is a model that combines the values of independence and quality with speed and real public engagement. In response to Kinder’s question, Leggat said that many people on the policy side do not have the time to read long scientific assessments. Those who have a stake in the issue must explain the position to policy makers. McMillan said that various government agencies are stepping into that role.
In response to Leggat’s question, Kinder said that the science and policy communities function in such different ways that it is necessary to have people who understand both sides act as a bridge. Holbrook then asked the panel to speculate on the state of science policy 25 years from now. McMillan suggested giving someone the responsibility to do just that.
During the question and answer period, one questioner from the audience asked about how best to situate science to respond quickly to the issues of the day. Leggat answered by saying that there was difficulty in trying to find a single answer on issues for which there might be disagreement in the scientific community. Alastair McIver of Atomic Energy of Canada responded to the question posed by Lander by saying that the government needs to create mandates for non-economic research.
Governance of emerging technologies
Moderator Patricia Kosseim of Genome Canada introduced the panel discussion on governance of emerging technologies by distinguishing the concept of “governance” from that of “legislation”—terms that are commonly used (or at least thought of) interchangeably. By the time proposed legislation or regulations are being considered, they are usually an attempt to play “catch up” to emerging technologies, and are often invoked as a last resort to address a threat or “mischief” which has already materialized and requires the firm intervention of “law-makers.” Governance, on the other hand, encompasses all of the upstream policies, resource allocation choices, multi-stakeholder mechanisms, structures, and processes designed to proactively anticipate, manage, and address both the risks and opportunities associated with innovative technologies as they develop. This panel on “Governance of Emerging Technologies,” Kosseim said, is about “governance” in the latter, broader sense. Dr. Christian Burks, president and CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute, briefly discussed his work with the Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI), which partners with Genome Canada, Ontario's Ministry of Research & Innovation, and international funders of genomics work to develop, fund, and manage genomics projects led by Ontario scientists. Burks said that while most “research resources,” which can include methodologies, datasets, and software, are either best placed in universities or with industry, there are some resources developed to be kept in academia that have matured to the point of requiring a production mindset which makes it difficult to maintain them in academic settings as by-products of basic research grants, but that are insufficiently commercial to be placed in the private sector. Such resources, Burks said, ought to be supported by the public sector when there is clear benefit to Canada and the world in doing so.
Burks then explained that “genomics” is a holistic, systematic and high throughput experimental strategy to develop vital life sciences resources. It does so with the aid of new methods, software, databases, and technology platforms.
He gave examples of two research resource programs OGI has funded, and which had both successfully created or contributed to large-scale resources: the first, the Structural Genomics Consortium, has determined over 1,000 protein 3D structures and made them available through the global open access protein databank, PDB, funded by the U.S. and other countries; a second project created a major global resource, the Biomolecular Interaction Network Database (BIND), which focused on protein interaction maps. Unfortunately, when research funding ended, there were no separate funds to sustain the BIND resource, and the project halted. Burks concluded by calling for more sustainable, extended funding for research resource maintenance once resources have moved past the “research” phase in which they are initially developed, and when they have clearly established themselves as vital for the international community. He was hopeful that the upcoming Science, Technology, and Innovation Council of Canada report might recommend that Canada do so, and thus move to a position of leadership with respect to research resources, and as established by other countries, such as the
U.K. and the U.S.
Dr. Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister of research at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, argued that scientists and policy makers need to move from “industrial age governance,” which consolidates bodies of knowledge in separate departments (e.g. departments of biochemistry and physics in academia, or departments of health and environment in government) to “information age governance,” where “knowledge is distributed across broad and flat networks,” and where policy makers can react more nimbly to complex problems. Fortin noted that the concerns he gets in his inbox often do not “fit neatly into one department” but deal with broad issues, like sustainable economies, climate change, energy and materials, and the health of our citizens. He argued that while reshaping government to better address these problems will be difficult, “We all own part of the solution.”
A first step towards adopting “information age governance,” Fortin said, is to set up cross-department innovation platforms. He noted that in April, the federal government put forward $158 million to fund proposals for such platforms. A second step would be for government to move beyond funding only research, to partnering with the venture capital community and other sectoral actors to support policy and research skills development, commercialization and markets, address regulatory reform, and move towards high-risk, longer-term initiatives for the public good. Fortin wants government not to “get out of the way,” but to become “a catalyst where a different set of relationships are created.” Government needs to create the space and the conditions for the right people to interact with each other and encourage pure knowledge discovery, unfettered by intellectual property or commercial considerations. Advocates for this approach, Fortin argued, could gain backing by asking bold questions, such as, “How can we make Canadians the healthiest people on the planet?” If the science policy community can answer these questions, Fortin said, they will win decision-makers' support.
Dr. Nils Petersen, director-general at the National Institute for Nanotechnology, argued that nanotechology is here to stay and that it will “change everything;” therefore, governing it will require more than a “one-size-fits-all” model. Nanotechnology, Petersen said, began with the invention of the X-Ray in 1895. It is seen as new because it was only 30 years ago that it let scientists “put atoms where we want to put them” rather than simply observe them. Petersen argued that nanotechnology is so powerful because it lets scientists reduce materials to very small sizes, unlocking new properties in the process; it allows scientists to make solders without lead because the melting point of pure materials lowers naturally as they are made smaller; it could find a way to remove the tiny solids suspended in Alberta tar sand oil without expending as much energy; and, quantum dots, which emit at different colours—depending on their size—could help physicians follow individual molecules in the body and diagnose disease. Petersen noted that the nanotechnology industry generated revenues of $50 billion in 2006 and $127 billion in 2007. He expects it to become a $2.5.-3-trillion industry by 2015. Nanotechnology is already used to make everything from crayons to baby mugs, the latter of which contain silver nanoparticles that have antimicrobial properties. What nanotechnology has so far avoided, Petersen said, is the sort of public relations crisis—like what the GMO industry has suffered from—that invites public criticism and misinformation, and weakens technologies' commercial potential. This means that nanotechnology scientists and policy makers have the luxury to anticipate problems with nanotechnology and work out regulatory issues early.
But Petersen warned against “one-size-fits¬all” regulation, adding that regulating “nanotechnology” as a whole, rather than tailoring regulations to specific nanotechnology products, is problematic. Berkeley made this mistake when it issued Ordinance 6,960-NS, which defined anything less than 100nm as nanotechnology. It meant that everything from soap film to ice cream—its crystallites are less than 100nm in width—would be considered nanotechnology, and would therefore be subject to stricter regulation than, for example, 500kg of mercury. Petersen concluded by calling on nanotechnology researchers to provide and be cognizant of the benefits and risks of their products, and to be careful to make accurate claims while correcting false ones.
Dr. Bryn Williams-Jones, assistant professor at the University of Montreal’s School of Public Health, said that while most discuss genomics in exclusive reference to medical tests, consumer genomics increasingly includes tests for nutrition, ancestry, paternity, and forensics. He added that there is a global market for this testing—over 35 labs sell the results of 1,700 clinical genetic tests online, often directly to the public. He noted that these tests are often complex and, therefore, speak in terms of risk, rather than certainty. For example, while a test for Huntington's disease deals with only one gene, and therefore can give certain results, new tests, like those for certain kinds of cancers, test several genes and therefore are useful only in assessing risk.
These tests, Williams-Jones said, raise two traditional ethical challenges: One is informed consent—patients will be making decisions based on ambiguous, less-than¬reliable test results; another is justice and access—the public needs to determine which of these tests are important enough to be made accessible to everyone. Firms like 23andMe, Navigenics, and deCODEme are engaging an interested public in science. People use social networking to communicate with others about health conditions their online tests indicate they are at risk of developing. “Fun” tests, like those on ancestry, could be shared with friends for entertainment.
Williams-Jones concluded that the debate over how these tests should be regulated fits into the same dialogues the science policy community has been having for the past 20 years. If one views genetic tests as a medical procedure, the regulatory approach one advocates for is a paternalistic one, which bans tests not mediated by physicians. If one views them as a consumer product, however, the answer is to educate the public and let them buy the tests they want.
Williams-Jones emphasized that there are no easy answers to this dilemma and that any regulation governments impose will likely need to be international rather than national, as globalization makes it easy for consumers to cross national borders to evade individual countries' regulations.
A questioner noted that the National Centres of Excellence (NCEs) seem to fly in the face of Fortin's assertion that government is not working across sectors. He asked the participants if they could discuss who should be making the rules with regard to emerging technologies. Fortin responded that investment in the NCEs is modest, only $4-10 million per centre, per year, and that government should not dictate new rules, as it can't solve many of the big problems with regard to technology alone. Petersen added that much of this governance will need to be international, as national borders are becoming less important.
Williams-Jones noted that it is difficult for governments to engage with the public on these matters; while the EU has done a lot of engagement, he wonders “whether they've made a damn bit of a difference.”
The Democratization of Science
Moderator Kathleen Bloom, president and CEO of Knowledge Impact Strategies Consulting, began the panel discussion on the democratization of science by presenting her belief that stakeholders should drive knowledge transfer. She remarked that scientists—especially those 50 per cent who do not go into research—should be trained to provide this, and cited the University of Waterloo’s “Science Shop” as a model example.
Ramin Jahanbegloo, professor of Political Science and research fellow, Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto, said he was disappointed with the turnout: “If you organize a conference on democratizing science in China or Iran, you will get 1,200 people.” He described his concept of “The Science of Peace,” saying science without democracy is arbitrary, and democracy without science is ignorance, but the interface between them is problematic; “We need a third concept of non-violence,” he said. “Scientific inventions alone will not bring about a peaceful democratic world unless it includes non-violence as one of its goals.” Jahanbegloo subscribes to the Ghandian principle that science’s ideology of absolute truth is incompatible with humanity and nature. He said this ideology promotes a culture devoid of spirituality and casts anyone who believes otherwise as irrational. “Scientific enterprise must be informed of the deep awareness of potential values it will create,” he said.
Elana Brief, research scholar with the National Core for Neuroethics and president of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, remarked, “Democratizing science is about expanding who can participate in science, and this involves science appreciating and valuing other people’s ways of understanding this world.” She said science’s implicit quantitative and qualitative valuation of objectivity and impartiality over relationships can be problematic, and called this an example of science not working in the service of the community or the experts —as certain evidence is ignored. She then outlined how to conduct community-based or participatory research by involving stakeholders starting from developing research questions to disseminating findings. Quoting Sandra Harding, she said, “If we start research from a woman’s life we ask different questions, gather different data, and end up with a less partial—and less distorted—picture of the world.”
However, Brief does not believe science is ready (yet) to invite the public to participate in basic science. She made a number of suggestions for democratizing science: she wants scientists and engineers to have a solid grounding in social sciences and humanities, and recommends they serve on government committees; and, she wants the public to have free access to scientific results and an obligation for public education to be linked to research funding. The public could get more involved via community-initiated research and citizen sabbaticals, or by paying people in the community to do research.
Marc Saner, Executive Director of the Regulatory Governance Initiative in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University, outlined a practical plan to democratize science by pinpointing areas where democratization is important and feasible. He proposed doing this by making more room for the public to determine where resource allocation in science and technology research, but he said this has to be done carefully and should not be applied to basic science, which should be left to the experts. He recommends measuring what Canadians value and “connecting it to high-level strategy setting”—as the government has done with bioscience; “leaving these value-judgements to the ‘experts’ is neither fair to the experts nor helpful to society,” he said. “It’s not the role of scientists to choose what part of the environment to protect, for example.” He also wants to see the next version of the government’s national Science and Technology Strategy to systematically build in societal preferences. Finally, he described a role for public engagement on risk issues in regulation, for example when the scope of regulations are decided, because these are values questions and cannot be left to technical experts.
Hiromi Matsui, researcher at Simon Fraser University and co-chair of the Women in Science, Engineering, Trades, and Technology (SETT project) for the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades, and Technology (CCWESTT), said the “scientific enterprise in Canada is a ‘power elite’—their knowledge gives them status and power.” Canada needs to improve its innovation measures by supporting increased recruitment and retention of women and men into science and technology. She said fewer women are studying science and engineering, and only 14 per cent of faculty in those areas are women. She hopes the CCWESTT’s Women in SETT Centre, opening in Alberta on January 14, 2010, will improve recruitment, retention, and leadership from women in SETT.
During the question and answer period, Denise Amyot, president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation, said, “I would like to propose that we transform the way we think about museums and begin to use them as place to engage citizens, democratize science, and nurture scientific culture.” Jahanbegloo responded that he dislikes museums and taking children to the Smithsonian to show them Apollo 13 will not teach them about the nature of science; other panelists and the audience disagreed, citing various examples of how museums are democratizing science (i.e. showing politicians exhibits on climate change and holding “citizen cafes” for scientists and public to converse). Saner suggested museums “are great forums for scientists to be challenged by the public in thinking about the kind of work they’re doing, and can act as a venue for scientists to be transformed because they have room to speak with the public.”
Best practices in science policy from other nations
Paul Dufour of Natural Resources Canada moderated the panel presentation on science policy from other nations.
Dr. Alex Bielak of Environment Canada (EC) began by rejecting the premise that Canada “lags behind the rest of the world” in science policy. He argued that much is being done by individuals and small groups with relatively few resources, and that others nationally and internationally are paying attention to what is happening in Canada. Bielak noted the increased importance of— and rising demand for—knowledge brokers to bring the scientific and policy communities together. “They need to be skilled in both worlds; they need to be trusted; they need to be able to formulate researchable questions,” he said. Bielak described how EC created a dedicated knowledge translation and brokering unit for its Science and Technology Branch to improve science-policy linkages by targeting audiences to facilitate policy development and refine research directions.
Tony McBride, head of strategy at The Royal Society Science Policy Centre in the U.K., gave an overview of the work of the Society. He spoke about the U.K.’s science and innovation framework as a tool for strategic investment, linking science to the country’s economic performance. “The primary language of government remains economics and science policy must speak in that language too,” he said. McBride also spoke about an evidence-based approach to policy development and the importance of having parties outside of government shape science policy. McBride stressed the importance of non-governmental advice for policy that is independent and peer reviewed, and said that governments should draw the best available scientific expertise, wherever in the world it is to be found.
Dr. Margaret Dalziel, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, discussed the evolution of innovation intermediaries in China over the last 30 years. After going over the role of intermediaries in science innovation, she noted that China has made particular use of research institutes, numbering eight thousand at the peak, now down to four thousand. Dalziel also noted the growth of Chinese universities both in size and number. She listed several observations about the Chinese science and innovation system, including that government plays a leading role in fostering innovation; that there is a focus on technology development; and, that “the Chinese approach to innovation . . . is drawing on the legacy of the commune, or the danwei —the collocation of work and private life together.”
Valerie La Traverse, a science and technology counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. who took the place of Kei Koizumi from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), discussed how science and technology has changed since U.S. President Barack Obama’s election victory in late 2008. “In the last eight months, there has been a huge frenzy of activity,” she said. After running through the state of American science and technology before Obama, she noted a few of the major changes, including support for the American Competes Act, releasing a memorandum on scientific integrity, large amounts of science spending in the stimulus package, and a speech by the president at the National Academies of Science where he promised to invest three per cent of GDP in research and development. La Traverse identified three priorities for the U.S. government: first, investment in the “building blocks,” including education and infrastructure; second, the promotion of competitive markets; and third, catalyzing breakthroughs for national priorities including clean energy and health care. La Traverse also noted some challenges, including whether or not sustained funding would be made available.
Brian Wixted, formerly of the University of Western Sydney, spoke about research networks that bring together stakeholders, researchers, and potential collaborators as an innovative Canadian approach to science and technology. These networks are now being copied in other countries, including Australia, the U.K., and the Nordic countries. “This experiment has sort of taken off as a best practice,” he said. Wixted then asked whether or not such research networks work, while admitting the difficulty in evaluating collaborations. He noted some advantages of networks, including bringing together stakeholders to widen the scope of research and more easily allow collaborations between researchers. Networks, he said, seem to work well in countries with large geographies like Canada and Australia, especially in scientific areas of particular strength.
Dr. Sun Yongjian, science and technology consul at the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Toronto, gave another perspective on China. He first discussed the main achievements in science and technology in the country over the last 60 years, pointing out the high level of
investment, and going through a brief history of Chinese policy, starting with Mao’s march to science between 1950 and 1977, and ending with the 2006 National Medium and Long Term Science and Technology Development Plan. Yongjian also spoke about Chinese systems of policy research, including strategic views of science and soft science research.
During the question and answer period, Dr. Caroline Wagner of George Washington University asked what role culture had to play in the implementation of science policy. Dalziel agreed that culture impacts how we do innovate, but questioned how much it impacts how we can innovate. She expressed doubt that country can depart significantly from its culture to spark innovation. Another participant asked about scientific misconduct. Dalziel noted that plagiarism is a major problem in China, in part because there is a large amount of pressure to produce measurable work. She gave the example that Chinese PhD students must publish an article prior to beginning work on their theses.
Private sector research and development: Role of R&D in the global economy
Rachel Woen Tjoen Soen of Bombardier moderated the panel on the private sector’s research and development role in the global economy. Dr. Peter Frise, professor of Engineering at the University of Windsor and CEO of AUTO21, presented on the current state of the auto industry, research partnerships in the auto industry, and how Canadian research and development and the global auto industry affect each other. He argued that while the auto industry is here to stay, it is undergoing profound change—and for the auto industry, change is expensive. It costs $1–5 billion to develop a new car design, and $600 million to $1 billion to perform a tooling upgrade. New U.S. fuel economy regulations will cost the auto sector at least $140 billion in research and development, and the need to retool to face rapidly changing consumer preferences will inflate the industry's costs even further. In 2006, trucks and SUVs represented the bulk of the Canadian auto market but Frise expects an even split in demand between cars, crossovers, and trucks and SUVs by 2012.
Frise emphasized the auto industry's importance to Canada. Canada is home to 18 vehicle assembly plants and 400 parts suppliers and manufacturers. The auto sector is a $119 billion-a-year industry for Canada, employing 100,000 Canadians directly and 300,000 Canadians indirectly. Frise argued that researchers looking to gain funding from the auto sector should find out what the industry needs and align their research proposals to those needs, and show strong respect for firms' intellectual property. Frise added that the federal government should support the auto sector by strengthening its intellectual property laws and gear its funding policies to recognize that commercialization, rather than research, which is a hurdle for the auto sector: for every dollar spent on research, it costs $500–$1,000 to turn that research into a product. Frise concluded by speaking about AUTO21, which works to reconcile the goals of academics (publishing research), industry (gaining patents), and the public (innovations and products that improve their quality of life). AUTO21 employs 548 graduate students across the country.
Dr. Eric Archambault, President of Science-Metrix, presented on Canada's trade deficit in high-tech goods. This deficit grew from $20 billion in 1990 to $70 billion in 2008, the result of which is that Canada's performance lagged far behind eight other small countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Archambault noted that all of these countries, like Canada, are social democracies with relatively high taxes and wages. Norway also resembles Canada in that it has a largely resource-based economy. However, Archambault found that Canada spends far less on research and development (R&D) relative to its GDP than these eight comparable countries: while Canadian R&D spending ranks 14 per cent better than the OECD index, the other countries perform over 100 per cent better than this index. In addition, Canadian firms obtain fewer international patents than most of these countries. Canada's OECD patent index is 1.73, while Finland's, for example, is 5.91. Canada does hold a large number of U.S. patents, but Archambault argued that Canada should take a global approach to intellectual property rather than a continental one. Archambault told participants that firms, rather than academia or government, are to blame for Canada's high-tech trade deficit. They are not investing enough in commercialization and do not obtain enough international patents to create a comparative advantage for Canada.
Dr. Philip Schwab, vice-president of Industry Relations at BIOTECanada, argued that by the year 2020, Canada will “become the world's leading bio-based economy.” Over 500 companies in Canada are engaged in biotech that generate $4.2 billion in revenue per year and invest $1.7 billion per year in research and development, representing 12.3 per cent of Canada's business expenditures on research and development. He cautioned against paying attention to “headline-grabbing activists” who, after 15 years of safe use of biotech food products, still insist that the precautionary principle apply to biotech. He added that government needs to align its policies to enable more research and commercialization to ensure Canada leads in the biotech industry. This means stronger intellectual property protection, and coherent public-private intellectual property transfer policies. It also means following the United States in investing in “orphan products” (medications for people with rare diseases) that will never be able to cater to a large market alone.
Schwab gave two measures for success: the extent to which the world is investing in Canadian companies and the extent to which biotech improves Canadians' lives. Biotech products currently under development include non-browning apples, drought-resistant crops, and alternative fuels. He noted that foreign firms have invested $2.2 billion dollars to acquire Canadian companies in the past two to three years, a sign of confidence in Canadian researchers and executives. Schwab concluded by telling participants, “science policy is more than how much funding flows to research organizations; it is also tax, market access, and regulatory policy. These policies need to develop along with our science to realize a return on our investment.”
Dr. Brian Underdown, managing director at the Lumira Group, argued innovation policy should foster an “ecosystem” of cooperation between academic research institutions, innovative companies, and government. He added that university research should continue to focus on “fundamental curiosity-oriented research,” but also suggested that Canada's university system should be open to differentiation in which some universities would be known as research-intensive institutions while others would adopt the tradition of smaller liberal arts universities where a spirit of inquiry is fostered through high-intensity faculty contact with students. Canadian government support of SME’s should include strategies that would promote lasting footprints including manufacturing facilities that would be difficult to move offshore once established, such as highly-validated vaccine or drug manufacturing facilities. Funding should also be directed to companies that build the type of plants that will train and maintain a strong, talented workforce, as many of those workers will spin off and found their own small and medium enterprises in Canada.
Underdown argued that Canada's Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit (SHRED) programs should be supplemented by direct government grant programs such as SBIR-type grants as are available in the U.S. Such direct grants are non-dilutive and create value without driving up valuations that venture investors look for when investing. While the SHRED program has been very valuable for Canadian companies, accessing SHRED dollars requires dilutive dollars and indirectly provides upward pressure on valuations of tech companies. Underdown suggested that Canada build specific research and development strengths into concentrated areas—like Waterloo did for software engineering—to create economies of scale that serve as a magnet for entrepreneurs. He added that foreign-owned companies should be encouraged to work in Canada because they create highly¬skilled Canadian jobs and, in turn, Canadian spin-off companies. Underdown also recommended that Canada position its academic technology transfer offices as “open for business.” But he added that while these transfer offices should ensure inventors receive adequate benefit for their products, the offices themselves should not be profit-driven, as this will make deals more expensive and therefore less enticing to venture capital.
During the question and answer period, Bruce Radburn, senior advisor for Innovation Policy at Agriculture Canada, asked how government can respond to the increasing globalization on innovation. Schwab replied that a lot of new companies go public because they lack late-stage capital. But when they do, their SHRED tax credit is halved, because they are no longer considered Canadian-owned. He said he called this policy “parochial” and argued that any company that creates Canadian jobs and intellectual property should receive government help. Frise said that while SHRED has been a “terrific instrument,” its requirement that a company make a profit is unhelpful in a recession.
Dr. John Leggat, president of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, asked panellists what Canada can do to find the capital to bring Canadian products to market. Frise replied that government should stop
worrying about whether it should directly support commercial research and development, and “just do it.”
Jeffrey Crelinsten, president and co-founder of The Impact Group, cited a study his group had conducted that found failed biotech companies were well-funded, even though a third never had a customer. Many, he added, performed contract research to help pay for the unprofitable idea they were founded to sell. He asked why anyone would want to fund biotech companies when their attitude towards profits amounts to “oh we're biotech . . . of course we can't make money, of course we can't have customers.”
Underdown replied that there are many barriers to entry for biotech companies, and that it's up to investors to decide whether a company should sustain itself by directing attention away from their “big idea” towards contract research. Underdown also argued that to be successful, Canada needs to create companies that are targeted to global markets. For example, it has been alleged that government might be reluctant to invest in the life sciences sector because of fear that new products would inevitably drive up health-care costs. Underdown suggested that the emphasis should be on supporting companies that develop products with high cost/benefit as opposed to focusing solely on costs. Such products would find customers around the world, generating more exports, and more revenue, for Canada.
A master's student from the University of Toronto asked whether the panellists felt universities were graduating enough PhDs. Underdown and Schwab agreed that Canada is not short of PhDs, it's short of PhDs with experience as managers and entrepreneurs. Frise argued this was one of the reasons Canada underperforms in innovation. Underdown noted that he was aware that a National Centre of Excellence had offered a program allowing graduate students to work at a biotech company for a year, but few had applied, possibly because students and their professors had not embraced the value that working with industry would bring. Archambault predicted that the difficult academic job market would push more Canadian PhDs into industry.
The next generation of scientists: Science education and a new culture of civic engagement
Bonnie Schmidt, president of Let’s Talk Science, opened the panel on science education and civic engagement as they relate to a new generation of scientists by asking panelists to address several questions: “What does a scientific literate culture look like? Do we even need one? How do we benchmark it? Are we preparing the workforce for the future?” After brief introductions, the session was open for questions and discussion. Dr. Sunny Marche, associate dean in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University, said his definition of scientific literacy is “knowledge about science and the scientific thought process that will bring to bear protocols to reduce our cognitive bias.” Marche said we have failed to produce scientific literacy in society because “critical thinking has been replaced with the rise of the opinion.” He said every scientist should be able to explain their work to the public in three or four sentences and cite the cost, but that few, at least at the PhD level, are able to do so.
Dr. David Rose, chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo, said he approaches scientific literacy from an educational viewpoint. He believes the best way to raise the profile of scientific issues is “to provide as much education in school systems from the start, and to have an interactive and communicative scientific community that is visible and respected.” He said the public is clamouring for information on issues like H1N1 and climate change, underlining the urgency of better interaction between scientists and the public. Schmidt said that while the coverage of science by mainstream media has skyrocketed in the last ten years, “no one says we have a science literate community.” She asked panelists to define science literacy. Rose responded, “It’s when society takes a reasoned over emotional approach.” Donna Francis, a researcher at the Ontario Science Centre, said, “people are scientifically literate if they have the information or the ability to obtain the information they need to make rational decisions about issues in their lives.” Marche cited an OECD and StatsCan study on literacy in Canada identifying four different kinds of literacy at five different levels; in the assessment, individuals must be at levels three, four, or five to participate in the knowledge economy, but 42 per cent of Canadians are at levels one or two. “So the prospect of developing science literacy among these Canadians … is relatively low,” he said.
Dr. Andrew Miall, a geologist at the University of Toronto and researcher on energy and environment, said the “hopelessly simplistic” and “lazy” media coverage of energy and environmental issues has created a misinformed public. He asked, “How do we get over this in a time of declining resources for the media?” Miall said he wants people to understand the scale of the issue. In particular, understanding that renewable energy cannot replace oil and gas, and considering nuclear power as a viable option.
Mike Spear, director of Corporate Communications at Genome Canada and a former journalist, said, “The media’s job has always been to tell a story compactly; if you want to tell a complete story, write a book.” He said even if the public were to become science literate, this would not automatically lead people to behave according to the best scientific information. Instead, publicly-funded scientists have an obligation to communicate how the public can use science to better their lives. He slammed one of the panelists’ condemnation of Twitter, saying, “If you apply a scientific method to it and figure out how to use it, it’s a killer application.”
Marche asked Spear, “What happens in between what the scientist says and what ends up in final media product?” He suspected editors were the gravest source of distortion. Spear said that while editors make mistakes, scientists need media and communication training. A post-doctoral fellow from the Princess Margaret Hospital suggested the problem with scientific literacy stems from the way science is taught. He asked, “How can we build an interdisciplinary approach in Canada from university all the way down to elementary?” Rose said undergraduate curricula should delay specialization in one element of science for as long as possible.
Dr. David Castle, Canada Research Chair in Science and Society at the University of Ottawa, said that before answering that question, Canada must know something much more basic: why we want science literate citizens. “OECD indicators show we spend a lot of money on research and we’re leading on scientific publications, but we are lousy at translating science into products, services, and having a strong R&D culture. So, if that’s what we want to address—if we continue to produce generalists who become specialists—that may or may not work. But, if you want citizens to be generally educated in science . . . changes in pedagogy could come into play. But you have to know your goals,” said Castle.
Schmidt asked panelists what role the general public should have in science policy. Castle responded that it is easy to attract people with an interest in science to public forums on these issues, but it is difficult to convert those who are disinterested. “We need to get out there and get our hands dirty” by exploiting media connections and making science interesting, he said.
In closing, Rose said working with curious students and members of the public keeps him optimistic about the future; Marche said “the scientific community has a big opportunity to help us develop more effective thinking processes;” while Castle said pessimism drives him, particularly the drop in postgraduate science and engineering students, which needs to be addressed now lest Canada fall behind most other developed countries in its standard of living.
- Meeting the challenges ahead: Canada’s policies on environment and energy<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Who speaks for science? Stakeholder communication in theCanadian scientific community<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Science journalism, media and communication<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Science diplomacy and international cooperation<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
- Innovation commercialization: From bench to market<br class="hidethis" /> <div style="float:right;"><img style="padding:0px;margin-top:0px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://sciencepolicy.ca/sites/images/mic.png" alt="" ></div>
Meeting the challenges ahead: Canada’s policies on environment and energy
Julia Deans, CEO of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, moderated the panel on meeting the challenges ahead and Canada’s policies on environment and energy. Dr. Andrew Miall, president of the Academy of the Royal Society of Canada at the Innovation and Energy Technology Sector at Natural Resources Canada, identified two intersecting problems: First, energy depletion—the world's remaining oil reserves will likely be exhausted within 40 years; and second, greenhouse gasses—32 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted worldwide every year. The government's response to these problems, Miall said, has been “confusing and contradictory,” while media coverage has centred around conflict, rather than facts. Meanwhile, the world will need to turn to high-cost, high-risk reserves —like those off the coast of Angola—and offshore reserves with water depths of five kilometres or more. Prices will not gradually rise as oil supply falls but jump suddenly; market forces will not prepare consumers to switch to alternatives. Miall argued that it is unrealistic to believe renewable energy can replace nuclear power. All of the wind projects under development in Ontario will provide only 1.8 per cent of its energy needs. One would need a solar panel large enough to cover downtown Toronto to rival the amount of power generated by one nuclear plant. Dedicating all U.S. corn and soybean production to ethanol, Miall added, would meet only 12 per cent of U.S. gasoline demand and six per cent of its diesel demand. The Alberta oilsands, Miall said, are expected to provide only three per cent of world demand—“little more than a rounding error.” Nuclear, Miall said, is the only large-scale, efficient energy source. Ontario nuclear plants are very safe, Miall added; spent fuel rods can be buried in the Canadian Shield. Miall concluded by calling on governments to impose higher gas taxes and on the media to stop talking down to its viewers. He recalled that in the early 1990s the Chrétien government managed to convince Canadians to make sacrifices to eliminate the federal deficit; he believes a similar effort should be made to balance Canada's carbon budget.
Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Canada research chair and professor of Applied Mathematics and Global Change at the University of British Columbia, echoed Miall's sentiments about there being a disconnect between “high¬level” and “low-level” action on energy in government. He noted that this disconnect has led to misinformed positions in Kyoto and Copenhagen. Al Gore, for example, attended Kyoto and set a seven per cent reduction target without talking to his technical team. Canada decided to set its targets one per cent lower than Gore's, despite Canada having a faster-growing population and a lower reliance on fossil fuels than the United States. Dowlatabadi argued that environmental concerns must carry far greater weight in government, saying it “is not something you can treat like an extra vegetable on the plate. Environment is the plate.” He added that if he were environment minister, he would want the power to control other ministries' budgets.
Dowlatabadi cited several technologies Canada should place greater emphasis on, including canola biodiesel, ground source heat pumps, and distributed polygeneration. He projects that ground source heat pumps and polygen would save 60 million and 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, respectively. Though heat pumps are expensive, cities could create an inexpensive ground source infrastructure by using public lands for heat exchange with the earth and laying an extra pipeline along with water and sewer to provide low-grade heat to consumers (and take away heat where needed). Dowlatabadi added that there is not going to be anywhere near enough GHG mitigation to prevent substantial climate change. Hence, Canada needs to adapt to climate change and its impacts. “When we find these impacts to be unacceptably high we will resort to geo-engineering,” he said. Dowlatabadi concluded that governments need to build their internal capacity to solve environmental and energy problems, integrate policies across different portfolios and levels of government, and create more
“extension programs” for research.
Dr. Geoff Munro, chief scientist and assistant deputy minister of the Innovation and Energy Technology Sector at Natural Resources Canada, described his job at the federal government as two-fold: to drive innovation in government and ensure relevant actors are working together. He urged scientists to try to design their research to work within the infrastructure of the actors that will need to implement it, whether that's the federal or provincial governments, or industry. If they don't, Munro said, “We'd might as well just pack up and go home.” Munro outlined some of the challenges the world will face over the next half century: by 2050, world population is predicted to reach nine billion and energy demand will have increased 145 per cent. Canada has committed to cut emissions 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020, and 60¬70 per cent below 2006 levels by 2050. Munro added that we must recognize that the energy industry constitutes seven per cent of Canada's GDP.
Munro argued that Canada can reach its 2020 climate goal using a “silver buckshot”—a mix of currently available green technologies. The missing ingredient is a “culture change” toward conservation on the part of Canadians. In Munro's view, scientists need to direct their attention toward Canada's 2050 climate goals, which today's technology cannot achieve. This will require more collaboration between scientists, policymakers, and industry—and more commercial investment in research and development. Munro argued that Ottawa can mobilize innovation by putting in place the right policies, institutions, and incentives for industry and scientists to work towards Canada's goals. He noted that Minister Lisa Raitt was talking to industry and scientists in a series of renewable energy roundtables. He also cited new Integrated Community Energy Systems in Guelph, Ontario, which is building a ‘greenfield’ in its downtown core, and Okotoks, Alberta, which has selected a block of 50 homes to run on 90 per cent solar power.
Randal Goodfellow, senior vice president of Corporate Relations at Ensyn, discussed his company’s work. Ensyn is a second-generation biofuels company supported by private and public funds. They use rapid thermal processing technology (RTP) to turn non-food cellulosic feedstock into pyrolysis oil. The fuel can be used where it is produced, stored, and transported, and will soon be refined for use in cars, trucks, and airplanes. Goodfellow added that the fuel is virtually carbon-neutral. Ensyn, Goodfellow added, answers the oil industry's demand for a biologically-based fuel that can be processed in the same manner and use much of the same refinery infrastructure as crude oil. It is far more efficient than ethanol, Goodfellow noted, gaining 70 per cent yield from its biomass, rather than the 20 per cent yielded from cellulosic ethanol.
Goodfellow argued that the environmental benefits that are being sought are only realized when new less environmentally impactful products are being consumed in the market. He urged governments to look closely at the material flow chains and to identify where technology or science is deficient, and to focus research on these areas. He added that the federal government should be the first to adopt new Canadian products and technologies, adding that the first question he is often asked when selling to foreign firms is, “Does your government use this product?” He also urged scientists not to focus solely on “hot topics” like genomics and nanotechnology.
During the question and answer period, Dr. Mihaela Ulieru, a Canada Research Chair at the University of New Brunswick, asked Munro, “How can we untangle the policy web” to help companies like Ensyn develop new technologies. Munro responded that some solutions being pursued now include institutes that bring together government and industry to work on common issues— like the National Institute on Nanotechnology.
Dr. Dominic Ryan, a professor of Physics at McGill University, asked Munro why the federal government had no plan in place to deal with the Chalk River reactor crisis. He also argued that to avoid “trading off 40 years of oil for 60 years of uranium, Canada should adopt more efficient Gen-4 nuclear technology. Miall added that Ottawa's drive to “outsource and privatize everything” severely weakened the government's corps of scientists. Munro replied that while
current government efforts are “not enough, no argument,” looking at how and where to develop nuclear capacity is “a very weighty and costly decision.” Ryan noted that he sat on a selection committee for a new site for the Chalk River plant ten years ago and denounced Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt for not addressing the crisis, saying, “She recognized it was sexy then and was still doing nothing.”
Dr. Duncan Stewart, research physicist at the National Research Council, recalled that 50 years ago, Chalk River employed the best neutron scientists in the world. He wondered whether the federal government's move over the past 20 years to fund universities to a greater extent than laboratories was the right one. Dowlatabadi replied that there “need to be less paper-pushers” in government. He recounted “my horror” when he found out the funding for his Canada Research Chair was taken from the National Research Council of Canada's budget, calling it—“a ridiculous position to put me in.” Miall compared research scientists to “footballs” being kicked around to and from mercurial politicians' pet projects. Dowlatabadi noted the need to foster greater science and technology literacy in government and to support many more researchers and technicians with the understanding that they serve society by doing relevant research as well as performing critically needed extension services.
Dr. Jason McKeever, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, doubted that given frequent cost overruns and the dwindling uranium supply, governments should continue to rely on nuclear plants. Miall responded that large-scale energy capacity can only come from coal, natural gas, or nuclear power. Dowlatabadi added that renewables are difficult to integrate with the existing grid due to their intermittent supply necessitating a great deal of back-up power and noise that is difficult to mask without significant investment in power electronics.
A participant interjected, “Fifty years of uranium, 300 years of thorium, am I wrong?” Ryan added that India recently reverse-engineered Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) technology it bought from Canada, so that it could be powered by thorium—a far more plentiful radioactive material.
Dr. Martin Taylor, president and CEO of Ocean Networks Canada, said he felt encouraged by Munro's remarks, adding that some participants were “belabouring some of the bad examples [from government], and not talking about some of the good examples.”
Who speaks for science? Stakeholder communication in the Canadian scientific community
Kevin Shortt, president of Canadian Space Society, moderated the panel presentation on who speaks for science and stakeholder communication in the Canadian scientific community. Dr. Rees Kassen, University Research Chair in Experimental Evolution at the University of Ottawa and chair of the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), began by presenting PAGSE’s communication strategy, which, since 1995, has aimed to move past the myriad voices of the scientific community and present the consensus opinion of scientists and engineers to the federal government. “We are not a lobby group. We do not ask for money and we do not advocate on behalf of any particular organization,” said Kassen. One way they pursue their mandate is through PAGSE’s flagship program, “Bacon and Eggheads,” a breakfast meeting series on Parliament Hill featuring presentations by top scientists— like Jeffrey Dahn, Dalhousie University on fuel cells—targeting parliamentarians. Four hundred and sixty-seven MPs and 76 senators have attended these breakfasts, with coverage from CBC and Reuters. They also deliver briefs to House and Senate Committees and meet decision makers. PAGSE has executive monthly meetings to decide policy directions. Some PAGSE recommendations have been adopted by the House of Commons, which PAGSE considers an indicator of success. Kassen said PAGSE’s positions matter because it is not perceived as a lobby group and represents a consensus opinion.
Deb de Bruijn, executive director of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), gave an overview of the CRKN’s goal, design, and operation: “CRKN coordinates and makes available high cost, high impact research papers, books, and other content digitally to 73 Canadian post¬secondary institutes to build Canada’s capacity for research and innovation,” she said. The guiding philosophy is that digital content available for research should be considered infrastructure; it needs long-term commitment and investment, it’s designed with public policy in mind, and, therefore, should be eligible for infrastructure investment. CRKN spends $95 million annually on content licenses with a near 50/50 split between sciences and science and technology. DeBruijn recounted lessons learned: start at the pilot level; take a broad and holistic view of science; forge partnerships; look for opportunities to shape policy; and, approach funders with the attitude that, “It is easy to say yes, hard to say no.”
Dr. Robert Mann, physics professor at the University of Waterloo and the president of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP), described how CAP is advocating for excellence in physics education and research in a rapidly changing research landscape (i.e. the Science Policy Advisor replaced by Science & Technology Innovation Council; the launch of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation; the NSERC’s grant selection process undergoing its biggest change in history; and, the rise of new research labs like the Canadian Light Source and the Institute for Quantum Computing). CAP’s activities include Annual Congress, National Physics Journal, prize exams, and a new award for excellence in teaching high school physics. Its science policy committee works independently and with groups like PAGSE to lobby the federal government. CAP is lobbying for physics education research, basic research funding, and a design study for a Canada Neutron Centre to replace the Chalk River Reactor, which is scheduled to shut down in 2016. Mann said that CAP is under-resourced with just 2.5 full-time employees, giving it an inadequate ability to analyze “science for policy and policy for science,” and limited media contact and coverage.
Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier, professor and department chair of Biochemistry, University of Toronto talked about how the Canadian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (of which he is former president) messages decision-makers. He said scientists’ key messages to the public should be: “not what we do but why what we do is important; that scientists are very ordinary people but they do extraordinary things; and, investing in discovery research provides the biggest payoffs.” To illustrate his last point Reithmeier recounted being introduced to lasers as an undergraduate student in the late 1960s. “They told us that one day we were going to have these big powerful lasers that were going to cut metal. Now we use lasers to buy our groceries, play our music, and do our surgery—we never dreamt of this in the late 1960s.” Reithmeier made a plea for unrelenting support of research and innovation, and for support of youth interested in science.
During the question and answer period, Karen Hecht, a Canadian graduate researcher in biosciences at the University of Pittsburgh asked, “What can organizations like PAGSE do to involve graduate students and provide an outlet for their enthusiasm to get involved in promoting science?” Kassen said PAGSE is talking about different models, suggested following U.K. and U.S. programs where PhDs or postdoctoral students intern in government, but said he’s not sure if PAGSE is the right group to organize it. Many panelists told Hecht that it’s up to the graduate student to show initiative, commitment, and to seek out opportunities, and said that informing academic supervisors about these activities is also important.
Amanda Barry, a science and technology policy analyst for Environment Canada asked, “How do you conceptualize government researchers and technologists as part of your community?” Kassen said at PAGSE “government researchers are an integral part of our group. They come and speak to us at our monthly meetings. We’ve got a fairly close connection.” Reinhart responded that the Canadian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has many members who work in National Research Council labs and other government spaces; Mann said CAP has some connections but would like to enhance them admitting the organization is dominated by university academics; and, de Bruijn said CRKN’s membership is exclusively universities—it’s working closely with government to find ways for academia and government to share content, but given the dearth of cooperation between government departments themselves, it’s a major challenge; Shortt suggested government employees should become members of scientific organizations that match their interests to build relationships, and share knowledge.
Science journalism, media and communication
Moderator Paul Wells, senior columnist for Maclean’s, began the panel presentation on science journalism and media by expressing his belief in the importance of science journalism and policy, which he said was reflected in his previous writing for the National Post. Peter Calamai, a science reporter from the Toronto Star, who, absent due to sickness, submitted his talk via text read by Wells, focused on three main points: first, the decline of traditional Canadian journalism as an institution; second, observations of the vulnerability of science coverage in particular; and third, how Canada might improve its public discourse on science policy in light of these circumstances. Calamai described the dissolution of robust, “passionately disinterested” reportage in Canadian media since the 1960s into superficial coverage that stems largely from promotional press releases, attributing this decline to the advent of the Internet, which has reduced newspapers’ annual revenues by as much as a third. He said that the rarity of strong Canadian science journalism, in particular, is a result of the increasingly common view among editorial boards that robust science reportage is inessential to their subscribers and, therefore, bottom line. He then pointed to a few causes of the moribund state of public discourse around science policy in Canada, including the impenetrable Canadian Council of Academies reports, the minister of science and technology’s conflict over evolution, and the Science Technology and Innovation Council’s (STIC) lack of transparency. Calamai concluded by suggesting the creation of an online magazine or forum dedicated to “boisterous” coverage of science policy issues, written by academics, policymakers, and journalists—akin to the Science Forum, a bi-monthly publication published from 1968 until the early 1980s— to fill the void. Mark Henderson, managing editor of Research Money, spoke next, saying that as a professional who follows science funding issues closely, he is “astounded by the lack of attention that the media pays to science funding issues” given the enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars that are at stake. Citing the same recent Statistics Canada report on research and development (R&D) funding as did Minister Gary Goodyear in his keynote address earlier that day, Henderson acknowledged that the federal government is allocating a record amount of funding to science and technology this year, totalling $10.7 billion. However, in contrast to Minister Goodyear’s glowing praise of the move, Henderson said he “wasn’t sure if he was looking at the same report;” as a percentage of total federal spending, the funds amounted to the lowest allocation to science and technology in ten years, and—between cuts to science programs from new government review processes and exceptionally targeted funding efforts of late—overall government spending for science and technology is “flat¬lining,” not improving, as Minister Goodyear had implied in his speech.
As a result of the lack of critical science reporting and public interest in Canadian science that Calamai cited, Henderson said the 2007 national science and technology strategy lacked public consultation in its conception, and is the strongest effort by the government thus far “to usher in a new era in targeted investment” where projects such as oil sands extraction are well-supported, and others, such as Genome Canada competitions, lack the money to even be considered. Henderson’s suggestion for improving this situation, besides improving science media communication and journalism, is to push for the appointment of a senior science policy advisor with direct links to the Prime Minister’s Office—or better still, an entire department.
Nicola Jones, commissioning editor of Nature, discussed the importance of distinguishing between science journalism, which is critical and analytical, and science writing, which is simply interpreting findings for a general audience. As with the two speakers before her, she stressed that the former—in Canada at least—is severely lacking, while in the U.K., however, science journalism is prevalent and well supported, and science policy issues are “the subject of frequent and loud debate.”
Lastly, Chantal Barriault, co-director of the science communication graduate program at Science North, discussed her expertise in training people to communicate science issues and engage the public. She cited people’s assumption that a lack of science issue awareness stems from ignorance and the belief that it can be fixed by transferring knowledge from experts to the public, a communication strategy called the “deficit model.” However, she stressed the effectiveness of the “dialogue model,” in which experts attempt to inform the public by discussing what they are interested in, in forums such as citizens’ assemblies and cafés scientifiques. Barriault said that these techniques have been shown to work well in Europe, with previously uninformed groups coming to conclusions on science issues similar to what scientists themselves would have made.
Science diplomacy and international cooperation
Moderator Kevin Fitzgibbons, director of the Innovation, Science, and Technology Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFIAT), opened the panel on science diplomacy and international cooperation by noting that some of the most important scientific problems we see in the news—from H1N1 to climate change—are global in nature.
Dr. Caroline Wagner, author of The Invisible Global College, argued that the “invisible global college” is the most influential force in science today. Scientists are finding each other through social networks rather than formal institutions. In this respect, science today looks more like it did in the century than in the twentieth century, which emphasized national, compartmentalized science institutions. But, Wagner says, science does not exist in a “flat world.” Five forces structure the science world: networks; emergence—the idea that order comes not from the top-down but from the bottom-up, as scientists find other scientists with common interests; circulation—the exchange of people and ideas across borders; stickiness—the degree to which research takes place in fixed location (for example, rainforest research can only be done in a rainforest); and, distribution—the extent to which research takes place in many places virtually. Wagner concludes that because “science is a global public good,” Canada and the world must move beyond national innovation systems, and worrying about whether, for example, Canada is competing with other countries. Instead, Governments should create incentives for scientists to work with each other across of national boundaries, for the sole goal of advancing science and innovation. Dr. Alidad Mafinezam, co-founder of the Mosaic Institute, presented on knowledge exchange with the developing world, which he called a “potent and powerful tool . . . in Canada's science diplomacy.” He called diasporas—immigrants who have maintained ties to their country of origin— the “defining issue of our time.” For the first time in human history, highly-qualified workers are migrating in large numbers. Knowledge transfer is successful, Mafinezam argued, when diaspora communities have cultural institutions and a sense of unity that mobilize them in support of their homelands. Canada's open, multicultural policies have allowed diasporas to mobilize here. China, Mafinezam says, “wrote the book.” It maintained databases of diaspora members who could help China and kept in close contact with them. It has also encouraged them to seek the best jobs available to them, whether in China or abroad. This approach has brought at least one benefit: aid sent by its diaspora directly to China amounts to over half of China's overseas aid at $25 billion a year. Mafinezam concluded by arguing that Canada needs to adopt the notion that when people from India and China come here, they are ambassadors for Canada to their homelands as much as they are ambassadors from their homelands to Canada. While such an approach appeared to be emerging while Paul Martin was prime minister, it is “nowhere to be seen now” in the current government's policies.
Dr. Halla Thorsteinsdóttir, associate professor at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, presented on Canada's health biotechnology collaboration with developing countries. She argued that Canada's strength in this field—it ranks sixth in the world for health biotech publications and has over 350 health biotech firms—make it an ideal partner for developing countries. Health biotech also helps to solve problems that Canadians, as global citizens, are dedicated to solving. Her study mapped Canadian health biotech partnerships and used interviews to gauge the extent and potential of Canadian health biotech collaboration with developing countries. Thorsteindottir found that about 90 per cent of our research partnerships are with other high-income countries, but that low-income countries' share is growing, though largely because of new partnerships with China. Other developed countries, however, are building a broader range of health biotech partnerships.
Over a quarter of the firms that responded to Thorsteindottir's survey reported collaboration with developing countries, mostly with China and India. Canadian firms saw partnerships as a way to access new markets, carry out research and development, clinical trials, and, in many cases, are developing products jointly with these firms. Canada is a popular international partner for scientists and entrepreneurs, but the Canadian government, Thorsteindottir argued, is not taking advantage of this goodwill. Only nine per cent of health biotech entrepreneurial partnerships were facilitated by government. A lack of funding and little follow up after federal and provincial trade delegations contribute to the problem.
Monali Ray, a graduate student with the Institute of Medical Science and the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at the University of Toronto, presented her research on Canada-India health biotechnology partnerships. For her research, she conducted 53 interviews with Canadian and Indian scientists, firms, and wider institutional actors. Indian interviewees reported that they collaborated to pursue common research interests and take advantage of complementary experience. They benefited from an expanded knowledge base and better graduate student training. But a lack of funding was an obstacle for them, as it hindered student exchanges, which they felt was key to knowledge transfer. Canadian interviewees felt India offered an opportunity to conduct low-cost clinical studies, synthesis and manufacturing, and take advantage of scientific talent. Many Canadian firms set up subsidiaries in India. Their main challenge was finding firms that had a strong record of respect for intellectual property. The impacts of collaboration included increased revenues, enjoyed by both Canadian and Indian partners, the ability to take on more work, and to offer more services to clients. Ray concluded by noting that Canada's multiculturalism policy and large Indian diaspora make it attractive for Indian scientists, and by echoing Thorsteindottir's call for more funding for international scientific collaboration.
Paul Dufour, International Science and Technology advisor at Natural Resources Canada, argued that engaging in global science improves domestic science programs by applying international standards of excellence, capitalizing on opportunities for international collaboration, and taking advantage of visits, exchanges, and immigration by scientists. Dufour added that while “the world of knowledge is not flat,” countries are recognizing that science must be a part of their diplomatic strategies, forging new global science connections. Germany, for example, released an international research strategy in 2008, which aims to intensify cooperation with developing countries in education, research, and development over the long term. Canada, Dufour argued, needs to understand the networks' value in science policy. It also needs to reassess whether existing joint projects are benefiting not only Canada but its partners, that research is becoming more interdisciplinary, and reassess science funding and governance mechanisms.
Dufour called on Canada to hire a chief scientist or science envoy for its Department of Foreign Affairs, noting that the U.S. State Department and the U.K. foreign ministry already have science advisors. He also hoped Canada would do more to mobilize young scientists to build international science linkages through international scholarships, research chairs, and centres of excellence. Dufour cautioned participants against adopting “the arrogance of the new,” noting that history can inform current debates recounted at the conference. He referred participants to archived reports by the now-defunct Science Council of Canada, published between 1966 and 1992.
When asked to choose a single initiative the conference should lobby for to Ottawa, Wagner chose the creation of a science envoy; Thorsteindottir and Ray chose increased student exchanges to developing countries; and, Mafinezam chose taking advantage of people’s experience in other countries.
During the question and answer period, Dr. David O'Brien asked why “science nationalism” persists. Wagner replied that nationalism spurs competition and is thus an easy way to persuade politicians to boost science budgets. Dufour added that many countries like the U.K. and Finland are moving towards more global science policies. A Carleton University master's student expressed disappointment that panellists did not discuss cooperation with developing countries other than Brazil, India, and China. Thorsteindottir agreed that other developing countries should be discussed more; Mafinezam replied that many of these could be better helped by addressing more urgent problems, like famine and war. The questioner responded that knowledge exchange would help build states' capacities to deal with these problems.
When asked why exchange programs are unstable to the extent that “you make plans in November to apply and you discover in June the program has vanished,” Dufour responded that granting agencies have been looking to improve that situation, and that Ottawa plans to release an inventory of activities related to international science and technology cooperation soon. Dr. Eric Archambault of Science-Metrix noted that Canada often poaches the most qualified professionals from developing countries, where they are likely needed most. Wagner replied that historically, expatriate scientists have eventually returned home with better skills and training, citing scientists from Mexico, Chile, and Korea as examples.
Innovation commercialization: From bench to market
Moderator Dr. Jeremy Grushcow, a corporate lawyer at Ogilvy Renault LLP, and founder of the Cross-Border Biotech Blog, began the discussion on policy initiatives to bring technology to the marketplace. Tom Brzustowski, RBC professor in the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, presented his ideas for a Canadian science and technology policy that could drive our future prosperity. He said Canada needs to use its science and technology capabilities better to add value in industry and create more wealth. This requires treating entrepreneurship strategically and seizing spin-off opportunities. He suggested the science and technology policy should bundle Canada’s most successful research programs—such as the Industrial Research Assistance Program—into a strategically coherent system, put most post-secondary research support on a five-year growth track to compete globally, with even faster growth of research done with industry partners. The policy should identify areas of government research that contribute to science and technology capabilities and make collaboration with it easier. He said such a policy would fund knowledge transfer offices at universities and colleges, roll out programs like Quebec’s College Centres for the Transfer of Technologies nationally to help SMEs grow, and develop government expertise in international intellectual property rights, all of that to put research-based new technology to work in wealth creation in the Canadian economy as quickly as possible.
Dr. Ronald Dyck, Assistant Deputy Minister Research Division, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, said a renewed research and innovation system, “Alberta Innovates,” which is about to be launched by his ministry, is a microcosm of what Brzustowski had just described. Following a comprehensive review of Alberta’s research and innovation system and several major consultation events with science and technology strategists, research funders, research performers and industry—Alberta is launching a more integrated and aligned research and innovation system that will facilitate achieving both application and economic benefits, which will enhance the capacity to bring technology to market. “Alberta Innovates” is the “umbrella” which represents the creation of four new corporations (Health Solutions, Bio Solutions, Energy and Environment, Technology Futures) and one research and innovation advisory body (Alberta Research and Innovation Authority). The corporations will work closely with both relevant government departments and industry in facilitating the development of knowledge and technologies to inform policy and/or to solve “grand” challenges. “Technology Futures” is a corporation that is the result of merging three existing organizations into one corporation and adding a number of government programs that support technology commercialization. Post¬secondary institutions will continue to be active and integral participants in the renewed system as they serve both as the developers of high quality and skilled people and as key research performers. To that end, post-secondary institutional research plans will be an important element in ensuring that the capacity to undertake necessary research and development will remain strong and even enhanced in areas of priority. The Alberta Research and Innovation Committee is being created In order to ensure that all the elements of the system are working together. This committee is made up of the chairs of the four corporations and the advisory body and is chaired by the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. In addition, a Portfolio Advisory committee consisting of cabinet ministers of research-relevant government departments, will provide advice to the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology about the allocation of funding to the four corporations. Dyck stated the new research and innovation system is now in legislation (Alberta Research and Innovation Act).
Mark Romoff, former President & CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence Inc. (OCE), said this organization is “living the agenda every day.” With eight offices across the province, OCE “pulls new technologies into the marketplace” three ways: first, determining what companies need to grow their bottom line and strengthen their global competitiveness and connecting them with leading academic researchers working in that field; second, going into universities to survey research and helping move ideas with high business potential into the market; and third, through OCE’s Investment Accelerator Fund, investing up to $500,000 in a new or early-stage company, supporting entrepreneurs’ efforts to turn new technologies into successful business ventures. OCE also has a number of programs directed at training and developing the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders to better position them for success. OCE focuses its funding and support programs in four priority sectors: biomedical technologies, clean-tech, digital media, and the green economy. Romoff highlighted an innovative new partnership with the University of Waterloo and the Waterloo Technology Park Accelerator Centre aimed at strengthening the commercialization success of university discoveries. It is hoped that this initiative will become a model across Ontario. He also outlined a precedent-setting partnership with the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Systems to support technology commercialization efforts of new start-up companies. He depicted this initiative as “game changing” given that pension funds have not previously played in this space. He described innovation as a contact sport and OCE as one of the leading teams in the league: “You have to be in the field, bumping up against all the key players in the innovation ecosystem, making it happen every day. But it’s also a team sport, with strong collaboration amongst the players being a critical factor for success.”
Dr. Jorge Niosi, professor in the Department of Management and Technology and Université du Québec à Montréal and a Canada research chair for Management of Technology, highlighted the “valley of death”—or gap between—an idea’s invention and its commercialization. He said while Canada published more scientific papers per population than the U.S., we have a small internal market, few large firms, and seldom realize the market potential of homegrown scientific or technical ideas. He said the way to grow commercial output from academia is to give small and medium size enterprises funding to explore academic technologies. He would like to see Canada adopt the U.S.’s Small Business Innovative Research program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research program (STTR). SBIR is a $2.5 billion program, which has been adopted by India and Japan and is considered a major success story for its ability to attract venture capital and bridge the gap in technology development, and commercialization.
During the question and answer period, Jeff Crelinsten of The Impact Group said that the OECD measures output not input, and asked what indicators Canada should use to measure success in the commercialization of innovation. Brzustowski suggested measuring local economic activity by the number of companies that survive, create jobs,that have exploited and commercialized technologies out of research labs, as well as the growth of clusters around key institutions. Dyck suggested measuring the number of post secondary graduates that take a job in their region for the first five years after they graduate. Romoff suggested following startups over three to five years and looking at job growth.
A professor of chemical physics theory at the University of Toronto said he was “frightened by much of what I have heard here and, indeed, throughout the conference.” He feared forcing responsibility for innovation and commercialization onto the universities poses a threat to the pursuit of basic science. Niosi clarified that, “We are not saying funds to basic science have to be cut, we are saying put commercialization in the hands of people who know it— companies. Give companies a chance to explore . . . because the public is writing the cheque, and every part of science has an opportunity cost.”
Dyck said, “The innovation agenda is to move basic research to application,” and lauded the pursuit of basic science. “If we had given an engineer the task of solving polio, what did we get—the iron lung; but giving the basic scientist that task, you got the vaccine.”
Niosi recounted that most physicists viewed the Wright Brothers as “people playing with those toys trying to fly; they should know according to physics that no machine heavier than air will ever fly. Fortunately for them, inventors were ignorant of physics; so we need to give money to both basic science and commercialization.”
Former Reform leader says Britain, U.S. recognize importance of science and innovation to rising knowledge economy, while Canada lags behind.
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