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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Short Talk Series

Short Talk Series

Conference Day: 
Day 3 - November 9th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Short Talk Series 

Speakers: Milton Friesen, Program Director, Cardus Social Cities; Karen Bronsard, Policy Analyst, Centre of Expertise in Geomatics at Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, Natural Resources Canada; Ana Sofia Barrows, Social Media Manager, Lina Duque Consulting; Nicolette McGuire, Director, Research, Partnerships and Innovation Division, British Columbia Ministry of Health; Dr. Dana Devine, Chief Scientist, Canadian Blood Services; Lisa Varano, Audience Development Editor, The Conversation Canada; Tim Lougheed, Science Writers and Communicators of Canada; Alexandre Shiele, Researcher, UQAM East Asia Observatory

1. Conspiring Together for Good: Institutional Science and Religion — Milton Friesen, Cardus Social Cities

  • The “social capital” of an urban environment can be inferred by tracking the way people, goods, and services move around a city. Mapping urban activities can reveal the internal workings of this complex landscape.

  • This type of urban mapping can be trained on two significant types of institutions — those associated with science and religion — to identify areas of overlapping responsibility for the public good.

  • A preliminary model of such urban imaging illustrates that while each institution retains its own distinct practices, they share important similarities in the social impact of those practices, such as an ongoing tension between their ability to help and harm the society they serve.

2. From Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Policy-Making: Changing How We Make Maps to Make Better Decisions — Karen Bronsard, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)

  • Following the 2017 season of highly damaging river floods in eastern Ontario and Quebec, NRCan reviewed ways in which its geospatial data platforms might have been able to assist the response to this crisis.

  • By applying AI algorithms to NRCan’s existing databases, analysts were able to produce 3-D maps that illustrated the extent of the flooding and would have been able to predict its impact in real time.

  • This information could have been used by first responders to determine how particular sites were being affected and what could be expected to happen there.

  • Other applications of this technology include using existing geospatial data to assess how well-situated particular houses are for solar panel installations — a potential real estate selling point — as well as the impact that invasive species are having on urban forests.

3. Amplify: Managing Microaggressions and Countering Stereotypes Against Women and Girls in STEM — Ana Sofia Barrows, Ryerson University and Ontario Science Centre

  • Microaggressions are subtle social exchanges that challenge an individual’s identity within a particular group.

  • This behaviour may be felt by girls with an interest in science and technology (S&T), traditionally viewed as male activities. The effect, either consciously or unconsciously, may be sufficient to discourage these girls from pursuing their interest in these fields.

  • The impact of microaggressions can be countered with similarly “micro” responses, minor affirmations that confirm and reinforce group membership whenever it is questioned.

  • Successful implementation of such a strategy relies on both sides learning more about human diversity, as well as how to accept feedback from one’s peers.

4. Putting our Minds Together: Research and Knowledge Management Strategy — Dr. Nicolette McGuire, BC Ministry of Health

  • Elected officials are the most prominent drivers of policymaking within government. But in reality, people from outside government contribute significantly to policy formation through entirely different channels.

  • A British Columbia Ministry of Health report identified the resources government staff can access to better engage researchers and others who could provide input into policymaking.

  • The report outlines the kind of formal and informal expertise that can be brought to bear on the ministry’s activities, from hard scientific data about new drugs to the lived experience of individuals within the health care system.

  • An innovation “hub” that serves as a central point of contact for people and information is an effective way to bring evidence to bear on the development of government practices.

5. From Crisis to Confidence: Building Science and Policy “Bridges” in Canada’s National Blood System — Dr. Dana Devine, Canadian Blood Services

  • The tainted blood crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, which saw about 2,000 Canadians infected with HIV from contaminated blood products, represents a profound failure of the country’s public health system.

  • After an extensive inquiry into the causes and dynamics responsible for this crisis, the federal government created an entirely new organization — Canadian Blood Services — to prevent such problems from recurring.

  • At the heart of this agency was the commitment to a strong relationship between the country’s research community and officials responsible for health policy, forming bridges with the expertise necessary for ensuring that blood handling procedures are based on the best available evidence.

  • Canadian Blood Services has helped to build this expertise, including the development of research infrastructure across the country and training individuals to operate at the forefront of fields like transfusion medicine.

6. How a New Model of Journalism is Connecting Science and the Public — Lisa Varano, The Conversation Canada

  • Technology has radically altered the nature of the media industry over the last 25 years by introducing innovative approaches to delivering current events and other information to mass audiences.

  • One of the most successful of these new models for S&T has been The Conversation, an online service that provides professionally edited material written by researchers, scholars, and other members of academia.

  • Its official slogan — “academic rigour, journalistic flair” — is intended to capture the two key elements that distinguish The Conversation’s content: perspectives from authoritative expertise in technical fields, and an accessible, engaging prose style.

  • Supported by 26 universities and other funding partners, The Conversation is a non-profit enterprise, freely available and without the advertising associated with most online news operations. Other media outlets regularly republish content from The Conversation, which is free of charge.

  • Early in its operation The Conversation received over one million page-views every month, while some individual articles have drawn hundreds of thousands of page-views on their own.

7. Mapping the Science Writing and Communication Landscape in Canada Using New Media and Traditional Survey Research Tools — Tim Lougheed, Science Writers and Communicators of Canada and Alexandre Schiele, UQAM Interuniversity Research Center on Science and Technology

  • Contemporary audiences are enjoying unprecedented access to well-written and researched science journalism, but there is a paradox at the heart of this “golden age” — media enterprises have been financially devastated in recent years. This has dramatically reduced the ranks of the people who can produce this kind of material.

  • Two professional bodies within Canada whose members are dedicated to science communications — the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada and the Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Québec — collaborated on a formal survey to determine who is currently engaged in this kind of work, including how and why they do so.

  • The results confirm that only a fraction of the people engaged in science writing fall into the category of traditional media careers. At least half operate in some capacity as freelancers, while another significant cohort work as communications staff for institutions, mostly universities, where not all communications covers science.

  • The channels employed for science communication have also changed significantly, with a large proportion of information being transmitted through high-profile social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

  • Among those who make their living in science communication, the ability to generate income was listed as a leading challenge, along with the ability to support the travel or research necessary to carry out this work.