Archive for: September, 2015

The Science Integrity Project and the Statement of Principles for Sound Decision Making in Canada

Though not explicitly tied to our current federal election campaign, the début this week of the Science Integrity Project and the publishing of their Statement of Principles for Sound Decision Making in Canada just as the campaign heats up is surely not coincidental.

In any case, election or not, this is a wonderful initiative and I support it wholeheartedly. There's lots of background on their website about the process for coming up with the principles, an FAQ and a few examples of how the principles work in practice.

From their website:

Welcome to the Science Integrity Project. Our project reflects the collective wisdom of 75 leaders — in science, indigenous knowledge, public policy, civil society, and governance — who are concerned about the erosion of an evidence-based approach to public policy decision-making in Canada.

Why SIP:
The Science Integrity Project was created in response to growing concerns [1] that many public policy decisions made in Canada — and in its cities, provinces and territories — are not consistently supported by solid information derived from the best available evidence — from science and indigenous knowledge.

What is SIP:
Through a series of in-depth interviews and a national forum, we developed principles for improved decision making on the basis of the best available evidence.

We call upon all Canadians, acting individually and collectively, to embrace and apply the principles for evidence-based decision-making. We invite decision makers at all levels to adopt these principles as an enduring standard for public policy development in Canada. We invite scientists, knowledge holders, and research communities to take this commitment a step further by speaking out for science integrity and the use of your research and knowledge in the development of good public policy.


There's a media release that fills in a few more details about the project. And the principles themselves:

Statement Of Principles For Sound Decision-Making In Canada

The Science Integrity Project
There is growing public concern that policy decisions in jurisdictions across Canada are being made without the support of relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information [1]. The Science Integrity Project – a 2-year initiative involving nearly 75 diverse, influential, and experienced thinkers and practitioners nationwide – is an inclusive, constructive, and non-partisan effort aimed at improving the use of evidence in decision making at all levels of government in Canada. The project held a national forum in February 2015 to discuss foundational principles for the generation and use of evidence in decision-making in Canada. This Statement is the product of their work.

The Case For Evidence-Based Decision-Making
Strong public policies, built on the foundations of evidence and analysis, ensure better outcomes for Canadians, increase government accountability and transparency, and improve our democracy. Canadians expect their representatives to seek, consider, and use rigorous, widely sourced evidence to inform decisions. Such evidence may take many forms, including:

  • Science in its broadest sense, including the body of knowledge resulting from experiments, systematic observations, statistical data collection and analysis, theory and modeling, and including information from a range of fields in the physical and biological sciences, social sciences, health sciences and engineering; and,
  • Indigenous knowledge, the body of knowledge that is the result of intellectual activity and insight gained in a traditional context and adapted over time to modern situations, and which includes the methods, skills, practices, and knowledge contained in codified knowledge systems passed between generations. [2]

Principles for Evidence-based Decision-making
We call upon all Canadians, acting individually and collectively, to embrace and apply the following principles for evidence-based decision-making. These principles are both ambitious and achievable. Real-world applications exist in many Canadian jurisdictions and have been implemented in countries around the world with great success. We believe the robust implementation of these principles will result in a stronger Canada.

Principle 1
The best available evidence – produced by methods that are transparent, rigorous, and conducted with integrity[3] – should always inform decision-making in Canada.

Principle 2
Information should be openly exchanged among scientific researchers, Indigenous knowledge holders, decision makers, and the public[4].

Principle 3
Research results should be preserved, protected, interpreted and shared in a way that is broadly
understandable and accessible.

Principle 4
Decision-making processes, and the manner in which evidence informs them, should be transparent and routinely evaluated.

1. E.g., Professional Institute of the Public Service in Canada (2013); Voices-Voix Coalition (2015)

2. There are many definitions of indigenous knowledge; we use one adapted from the World Intellectual Property Organization

3. By “integrity” in the use of science and Indigenous knowledge, we mean that public policies are built upon the best available, most relevant knowledge resources and that the transfer and use of knowledge in policy and decision-making is transparent. Integrity in the use of knowledge
in policy-making also requires integrity in the production of knowledge, that is, adhering to professional, ethical, and disciplinary standards in the production of scientific knowledge and codified cultural standards in the production of Indigenous knowledge.

4. Except in rare cases of demonstrated concern regarding privacy and security. For an overview of open access principles see “Concepts of Openness and Open Access” (UNESCO 2015

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Reading Diary: Steve Jobs: Insanely great by Jessie Hartland

Sep 10 2015 Published by under book review, reading diary, science books

It's tempting to go a couple of different ways here.

A book that has "Insanely Great" in the title? What could possibly go wrong?

On the other hand....

A kids book about what a jerk Steve Jobs was. What could possibly go wrong?

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland. An illustrated biography of Steve Jobs aimed at a younger audience which gives an honest, unflinching look at his life, warts and all. Maybe not up to the "insanely great" standard, but engaging and enjoyable with a lot of openings for parents and children to talk about how complicated real people are.

What more could you ask for, really?

Jessie Hartland's book could very easily done a very superficial life in pictures of Jobs, something that would be interesting and cool and above all inoffensive for his intended audience. Probably mostly the parents and friends of 8-10 year olds who might be interested in technology or Apple products or even just a slice of life. Another audience is adults -- Apple and Jobs fans and cultists who will probably read the book on their watch, looking for a brief, quirky but affirmational look at the life of their hero.

Both these audiences would seem to favour a fairly modest accounting of Jobs many flaws as a boss and as a person. The more-than-occasional indifference to family and friends, the perfectionist mercurial obnoxious tightly-wound boss. Easier to focus on his passion and brilliance, his flair for design and laser-focus on simplicity and elegance.

And Hartland is to be congratulated on bringing both of those sides to the table, using his child-like, simple, elegant artwork to bring out the lovable in the obnoxious as well as the obnoxious in the lovable, walking the tightrope of honesty and integrity in storytelling versus an age-appropriate approach.

Because the theme of this book is how even the best and brightest people are complicated and imperfect. Jobs was a genius, but he could be a jerk. Why is that? Are all geniuses jerks? Are all jerks geniuses? Aren't we all imperfect and why shouldn't famous people get to be imperfect like the rest of us? These are great conversations that will arise naturally from reading this book with your local young person.

This is a charming book and provocative book for young people. Buy it for the young people in your life as well as any fans of Apple who might want a quick and quirky read. This book is definitely suitable for libraries with children's collections. Academic libraries that support early childhood education or children literature programs would find an eager audience for this book.

Hartland, Jessie. Steve Jobs: Insanely great. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 240pp. ISBN-13: 978-0307982957

(Review copy provided by publisher.)


Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:

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Lane Anderson Awards: Finalists for the best Canadian science books written in 2014

Sep 09 2015 Published by under best science books 2014, Canada, science books

One of the real highlights for me every year is the late-summer announcement of the Lane Anderson Awards short list.

From their website here:

Today, we are excited to announce the finalists for the best Canadian science books written in 2014.

Our jury panels evaluated submissions in two categories – adult and young readers. They arrived at their shortlist after evaluating the relevance of each book’s content to the importance of science in today’s world, as well as the author’s ability to connect the topic to the interests of the general trade reader.

The winner in each category receives a $10,000 prize.

“The jury adjudicated science books on subjects as varied and topical as space exploration, fracking, and even underwater dinosaurs,” said Holly Doll, Award Manager for the Lane Anderson Award. “Canada has so many talented authors writing about science in today’s world, and the Lane Anderson Award is very pleased to celebrate their work.”

The shortlisted finalists for the 2014 Lane Anderson Award are as follows:

Adult Category

Bob McDonald
Canadian Spacewalkers: Hadfield, MacLean and Williams Remember the Ultimate High Adventure
Publisher: Douglas and McIntyre

Dr. Francois Reeves
Planet Heart: How an Unhealthy Environment Leads to Heart Disease
Publisher: Greystone Books

Stephen Leahy
Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products
Publisher: Firefly Books


Young Reader

L.E. Carmichael
Fuzzy Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting Gets Wild
Publisher: Ashby-BP

Daniel Loxton
Plesiosaur Peril (Tales of Prehistoric Life)
Publisher: Kids Can Press

Maria Birmingham
Tastes Like Music: 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body
Publisher: Owl Kids

Winners will be announced at a dinner in Toronto in late September.

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