Is there such a thing as common advice for boundary organizations, organizations that link knowledge with decision-making? Let me start by identifying a shared challenge they are facing, despite differences in products and services offered.
One day, the U.S. president is taunting North Korea, treating nuclear conflict like it’s WrestleMania. The next, he glibly dismisses racial injustice in America by smearing black athletes engaged in peaceful protest. Other days, he brags about locking Muslims out of the country, scuttling global efforts on climate change, and spurning his country’s closest trading partners, including Canada. Watching it all is exhausting. How should we react in the face of this relentless volley of ignorance and wrong-headed decisions?
Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” It follows that if you understand it well, you must be able to explain it simply. While graduate students develop expertise in writing and communicating to academic and expert audiences in their respective fields, they are rarely encouraged to reach beyond.
Digital, physical, and biological systems are coming together in what is being called the 4th Industrial Revolution. The First Industrial Revolution left governments scrambling to create new laws to match the speed of technological change, and we are witnessing the same lag between technological advances and society's ability to keep pace. The 4th Industrial Revolution is defined as the technological change and innovation being driven by ‘convergence technology’ – the combining of separate technologies and sciences. Consider newly developed gene editing tools such as CRISPR.
A recent poll commissioned by the Ontario Science Centre paints an alarming picture of the public perception of science in Canada (http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/technology/science-attitudes-survey-2017-1.4298800). 43 percent of Canadians believe that scientific findings are a matter of opinion, while 66 percent agree that false information reported as fact ('fake news') is affecting their knowledge of science. The poll does present a silver lining, however.
The new millennium has brought new hopes and challenges for the global community. The end of cold war supposed to lead to a lasting peace generated new conflicts between various interest groups including the occupation armies and militant outfits. Norms of global governance have not provided level field to protect the interests of weak and disenfranchised groups and communities against the mighty.
The past offers a guide to the future
When I started my undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Manitoba in 1991, I knew I was on my own.
My parents — a newspaper editor and a woman who held at least two different jobs at all times; freelance writer, teacher, lab technician, administrative assistant — worked hard to provide for us, and my siblings and I never wanted. But it was always a given that we’d have to find our own way to cover the cost of university.
The Arctic covers an immense area of Canada, about 40 percent of our territory. Scientists have been undertaking leading-edge research in the North for over two-thirds of our country’s lifetime and our polar researchers have a distinguished international reputation. Despite these efforts, the Arctic remains one of the least understood and most rapidly changing regions of planet. Those changes have repercussions around the globe, as arctic ice and rising temperatures influence the global climate through atmospheric and ocean currents.
As Canada celebrates its 150 years, it is a good time to reflect on the discoveries, innovations, and research that Canada has cause to be proud of.
In so many fields, Canadians have left their mark on the world and changed the face of science. We have only to look at a few examples to see the degree to which this is true.
Frederick Banting and Charles Best changed the life of diabetics the world over with their 1922 discovery of insulin.
Canada’s Sherlock Homes, Frances McGill, helped originate the field of forensic pathology through her study of crime scenes.