Canadian science communication takes off

Helliwell Park, Hornby Island, BC (photo: S Boon)

The topics I follow most closely on Twitter are #cdnpoli, #cdnsci, and #scicomm. A lot of news from the first two has been pretty negative lately, and some days I have to stop reading because I just can’t shake my sense of doom at the direction in which our country is headed.
The last topic, however – especially in Canada – has really taken off. It’s exciting to watch Canadian #scicomm (i.e., #cancomm) – related topics pop up in my Twitter feed, and provides a small antidote to all that #cdnpoli and #cdnsci negativity.
I thought it would be fun to put together a post outlining the things I know of that are underway across the country – feel free to add more info in the comments on things I’ve missed!
1. Science Borealis: Blogging Canadian Perspectives
Full disclosure: this is one of my favourites because I’ve been involved in a volunteer capacity from the beginning.
What started as a conversation in the comments section of Maryse de la Giroday’s blog back in December 2012, has now turned into a Canadian science blog aggregator set to launch in September 2013. Along the way we’ve received valuable financial and in-kind support (and advice!) from Canadian Science Publishing, Genome Alberta, Agence-Science Presse, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, and Bora Zivkovic/Karyn Traphagen from ScienceOnline.
Who we are:

What’s up:

  • We’re on Twitter @ScienceBorealis – a new tweeter every month, and 228 followers already!
  • We’re running a logo contest, with prizes! And if you’re concerned that we’re trying to get artists to work for free, our goal is engagement with the Canadian #scicomm & #sciart community, not exploitation. 
  • We have a preliminary Canadian science blog database – 144 blogs and growing. Add yours to the list!
  • The developer has created our web pages, and we’re finalizing the static content to populate them.

2. Science Communications Canada G+ group
With 97 members and an active discussion page and job board, this group has done a lot to bring the Canadian scicomm community together, including writers, artists, audio/video people, etc. It’s been the hub for hosting hangouts about conference sessions, new blog launches, and just getting to know everyone.
Who they are:

What’s up:

3. Canadian Science Writers’ Association
The CSWA has been around since 1971, but has kicked things up a notch recently with the launch of their group blog – new posts are added on Monday and Wednesday of each week.
After their recent elections, the CSWA board is now led by long-term science writers Stephen Strauss (President) and Jude Isabella (VP). Board members include a range of new (and relatively young) faces, including Colin Schultz and Lesley Evans Ogden.
From what I hear, the latest annual meeting – held in Montreal in June – was a success. Looking forward to the next one!
4. Upcoming iPolitics series on Canadian science and science policy
What started as a casual conversation on Twitter between scientists and science scholars concerned about Canadian politics and the implications for science policy, has turned into a series of pieces that will be published online in iPolitics. These open access articles will include short pieces to address specific issues – such as the potential of individual cabinet ministers to fulfill science-related roles, and longer articles to provide contest – such as a comparison between science policy now with that of the 60s and 70s.
I’m pleased to be part of this initiative, with the help of Diane Orihel and her many connections (she spearheaded the Save ELA campaign).
5. Special issue of Scholarly Research and Communication
Britt Hall (University of Regina) is guest editing a special issue of SRC that focuses on science communication.
From their website: “Canadian scientists in all disciplines are invited to submit personal commentaries on their ideals and realities and the dynamics of their science including the need for the free exchange of ideas, data, and research findings. This initiative will contribute to science literacy and to encouraging young Canadians to consider a career in science.”
6. Scicomm events around the country

All of the above is why the energy of the Canadian science communication community can offset some of the negative vibes in Canadian politics and science these days – it’s a great group with a lot of interesting and talented people. These are just a few of the things I’m aware of that are going on around the country – as I said above, add anything I’ve missed into the comments section!

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