Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fukushima’s Worst-Case Scenarios Much of what you’ve heard about the nuclear accident is wrong

Just stay with the facts:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Reversing the brain drain

Reversing the brain drain, surely it won't happen anytime soon with the lack of support for basic science by this gvnt!!! "While the federal government has taken steps to address a stagnant science and technology sector in Canada through a $9-billion annual investment (Economic Action Plan 2013, the Harper Government’s eighth budget since 2006), the focus on a trickle-down approach to research and development by shifting resources toward the private sector misunderstands the pipeline by which academic science supplies industry and falls short of nurturing the underlying wellspring of innovation that is necessary to drive economic growth in high technology.
Briefly, the measures proposed in Economic Action Plan 2013:
•Provide an additional $37 million per year to the federal research granting councils to support collaborations between postsecondary institutions and industry.
•Extend the eligibility for the granting councils’ undergraduate industrial research awards to bachelor’s students at colleges and polytechnics.
•Allocate $225 million to support advanced research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
•Provide $165 million for genomics research through Genome Canada.
•Provide $13 million to the Mitacs Globalink program to attract highly promising students from around the world to Canadian universities and allow Canadian students to take advantage of training opportunities abroad.
•Provide $141 million to ensure a secure supply of medical isotopes and maintain safe and reliable operations at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratories.
•Support teaching and research infrastructure under the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component of the new Building Canada Fund.
Amit Chakma, president of Western University and chair of the U15 group of research-intensive universities (which undertake 80% of all competitive university research in Canada), recently responded that [the federal government has] “prudently chosen to maintain funding to the crucial innovation sectors that will help generate solutions to our pressing social and economic challenges.” There is no question that these investments are welcomed, particularly in the midst of a global economic downturn where many difficult choices had to be made, but are they sufficient?
Discovery-driven research and the commercialization of ideas are not mutually exclusive, and the more appropriate question is what investments should be taken by the federal government to realize the transformative potential of science in the marketplace, and meet its stated goals of:
1.attracting and retaining talented researchers
2.supporting excellence in science
3.bringing discoveries and innovations to the marketplace
4.building science and technology infrastructure
To remind us of where we stand, I refer you to The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012, published by the Council of Canadian Academies and recently reviewed by David Kent in a previous post. Some statistics worth highlighting are that with less than 0.5% of the world’s population, Canada produces 4.1% of the world’s research papers and nearly 5% of the world’s most frequently cited papers. Nevertheless, Canada shows a strikingly poor performance in general Science and Technology; and while the United States contributes to 27% of total publications, it claims over 40% of the top 1% of cited papers in the world.
Another statistic that is often cited in political discourse on the state of Canada’s science and technology is that in a survey of over 5,000 leading international scientists, Canada’s scientific research enterprise was ranked fourth highest in the world, after the U.S., U.K. and Germany. While this is true, it was also the only country in the entire OECD that had a net decline in research and development spending from 2005-2010 (-6%) compared to an average 17% increase across other OECD countries, and well below the level of investment in R&D in countries such as Israel, Finland and Sweden, all of which invest in excess of 3.5% of their GDP in support of R&D. (See figures below.)
While this may be due to “a return to more normal levels as a result of the conclusion of federal stimulus spending” (according to Gary Goodyear, until recently minister of state for science and technology), it does not change the fact that (like everything else) improving Canada’s position in the knowledge market necessitates continued investment. There is no reason why Canada’s science and technology sector should not be ranked first in the world, particularly when considering the underemployment rate of Canadian PhDs. Despite an exceptionally developed postsecondary education system, 6% of PhDs in Canada are underemployed, versus the United States which has nine times the population of Canada and a PhD underemployment rate of only 1.9% (source: Graduating in Canada: Profile, Labour Market Outcomes and Student Debt of the Class of 2005).
Although Canadian R&D spending relative to other countries is more concentrated in the higher education sector, funding policies have prioritized graduate student enrollments at the expense of postgraduate placements, creating an excess of PhDs with limited opportunities for career advancement. The corollary is that a relatively low share of Canadian R&D investment occurs in the business sector, which may be a primary cause of Canada’s lagging productivity growth in relation to many other countries (particularly the U.S.). Shifting funding away from basic research to support private industry, however, is not the answer since most high-technology companies are borne out of academic research laboratories and rely on collaborations with academic laboratories to support the majority of their research and development."

Babcock and Wilcox Canada Ltd. opens an office in Deep River

Babcock and Wilcox Canada Ltd. opens an office in Deep River: "Cheryl Gallant, MP, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke is pleased to welcome Babcock and Wilcox Canada Ltd. to Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.
“As one of the companies that have expressed an interest in a public/private partnership with the Chalk... River National Laboratory, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Babcock and Wilcox Canada Ltd. to the Upper Ottawa Valley. I understand the company is opening an office in Deep River. There will be a community welcome reception at the local Yacht and Tennis club following the ribbon cutting ceremony,” said Cheryl Gallant, MP.
“Babcock and Wilcox Canada Ltd. have told me they are excited about “Innovation Valley North,” our plan for jobs and future employment in the Ottawa Valley, and are opening the office to establish their commitment to be an active partner in Innovation Valley North,” stated MP Gallant."

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Stand Up for Science rallies target federal government

Stand Up for Science rallies target federal government: "Canadian scientists and their supporters held demonstrations across the country Monday, calling on the federal government to stop cutting scientific research and muzzling scientists.
“Stand Up for Science” events were held in 17 cities by the non-profit science advocacy group Evidence for Democracy.
“Scientists would rather be doing research than rallying, but many of us are concerned about the health of public science, and feel that Canadians should understand these concerns,” said Scott Findlay, a co-founder of Evidence of Democracy and a professor of biology at the University of Ottawa, in a statement.
“The Canadian standard of living is, in large measure, a result of scientific discovery and technological innovation. So every Canadian has a vested interest in the health of public science, and the use of scientific evidence to protect and sustain the values we hold.”
The group says “it’s time to stand up for science in the public interest” because in recent years:
■“Many important” scientific institutions have received cuts.
■There has been a shift in science funding toward the commercialization of research at the expense of more fundamental research.
■Government scientists have lost their ability to communicate their research to the public. That complaint is currently being investigated by the federal information commissioner.
The nationwide event, which follows a gathering on Parliament Hill last year to “mourn the death of evidence” called for the federal government to:
■Fund all scientific research, from basic to applied.
■Use the best available science and evidence to make decisions.
■Support the open communication of publicly funded science to the public, “unless there are demonstrably good reasons for not doing so.”
Justin Singer, a master’s student at Dalhousie University who helped organize the Halifax rally, said people should be concerned about this issue because it affects how policy decisions are made in areas such as health and the environment. He cited bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, sponsored by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, passed on June 18, 2012, which Singer described as weakening environmental law and the fisheries regulations."

Thursday, 12 September 2013

`Stand Up For Science' rallies on September 16

'Stand Up For Science' rallies on September 16: "Fed up with the erosion of science in Canada? Want our government to support science in the public interest? Think that decisions should be based on evidence and facts instead of ideology? Join us on September 16th to Stand up for Science!
It’s time to stand up for science in the public interest in Canada. In recent years we have seen cuts to many important scientific institutions, science funding has shifted focus towards the commercialization of research, and government scientists have lost the ability to communicate their research to the public.
Science matters to Canadians. Good science, when coupled with good decision-making, keeps our water and air clean, keeps us healthy, keeps our food safe and prepares Canada for the future. Science in the public interest is crucial for our well-being and long-term prosperity.
To make the public aware of this, and to call on the federal government to make a strong commitment to science in the public interest, we are organizing ‘Stand Up for Science’ rallies across the country on September 16th 2013.
We will be calling on the Federal government to make a strong commitment to science in the public interest by:
•Funding scientific research from basic science through to applied.
•Using the best available science and evidence to make the best decisions.
•Supporting the open communication of publicly funded science to the public, unless there are demonstrably good reasons for not doing so."

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Researchers look to nuclear future

Researchers look to nuclear future: "Carl Wesolowski can't talk in too much detail about his team's early unpublished findings, except to say they're positive. "We're very excited by initial results we can't really talk about," he said.
The results could lead to better, quicker medical treatments that involve nuclear science.
One of five teams who received two years of funding from the Fedoruk Centre early this year, they're unlocking the mysteries of the kidney.
"The new understanding of the kidney is not so much about the kidney, but about the rest of the body," the University of Saskatchewan scientist said.
"There's a lot of understating about how the kidney works - but how (it) affects the concentration of some test agent in the blood has as much to do with the rest of the body as it does with the kidney."
His team has developed a new model for establishing the relationship between the effects of a drug in the body and the kidney.
In doing so, he hopes to confirm previous studies that suggest the number of kidney tests needed for children could be cut to four from nine.
"Currently what is done with children who are sick enough that they have problems with their body fluids is you have to take a lot more blood samples after doing a standard injection in order to determine how their kidneys are working, because the current models are so clunky and difficult to use."
Already, the new method has been used for a few handful of patients and they hope to have more trials underway with colleagues in the United Kingdom, he said."