Archive for the 'public health' category

Around the Web: Celebrating the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute at The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

I don't have the time right now to do this justice, so I'll just lay out the story over the last year or so and let you, faithful reader, follow the thread. This is an amazing story.

This is an amazing initiative at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University in Montreal.

From the press release:

McGill University announces a transformative $20 million donation to the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

Tanenbaum Open Science Institute to open new horizons and accelerate discovery in neuroscience

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was present today at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI) for the announcement of an important donation of $20 million by the Larry and Judy Tanenbaum family. This transformative gift will help to establish the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute, a bold initiative that will facilitate the sharing of neuroscience findings worldwide to accelerate the discovery of leading edge therapeutics to treat patients suffering from neurological diseases.

‟Today, we take an important step forward in opening up new horizons in neuroscience research and discovery,” said Mr. Larry Tanenbaum. ‟Our digital world provides for unprecedented opportunities to leverage advances in technology to the benefit of science. That is what we are celebrating here today: the transformation of research, the removal of barriers, the breaking of silos and, most of all, the courage of researchers to put patients and progress ahead of all other considerations.”

Neuroscience has reached a new frontier, and advances in technology now allow scientists to better understand the brain and all its complexities in ways that were previously deemed impossible. The sharing of research findings amongst scientists is critical, not only due to the sheer scale of data involved, but also because diseases of the brain and the nervous system are amongst the most compelling unmet medical needs of our time.

Neurological diseases, mental illnesses, addictions, and brain and spinal cord injuries directly impact 1 in 3 Canadians, representing approximately 11 million people across the country.

“As internationally-recognized leaders in the field of brain research, we are uniquely placed to deliver on this ambitious initiative and reinforce our reputation as an institution that drives innovation, discovery and advanced patient care,” said Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and Chair of McGill University’s Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. “Part of the Tanenbaum family’s donation will be used to incentivize other Canadian researchers and institutions to adopt an Open Science model, thus strengthening the network of like-minded institutes working in this field.”

‟We thank the Tanenbaum family for this generous investment, which allows us to further accelerate progress to meet the needs of patients,ˮ said Professor Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University. ‟The Open Science movement is gaining momentum, with global initiatives underway in the European Union, Japan and the United States. The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital will become the first academic institute worldwide to fully embrace Open Science. The Tanenbaum Open Science Institute will set the global standard for this movement and position McGill, Montreal, Quebec and Canada at the forefront of scientific progress.ˮ

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro – is a world-leading destination for brain research and advanced patient care. Since its founding in 1934 by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro has grown to be the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical center in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The seamless integration of research, patient care, and training of the world’s top minds make The Neuro uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders. The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute. The Montreal Neurological Hospital is part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. For more information, please visit

About McGill University

McGill University is one of Canada’s top institutions of higher learning and one of the leading universities in the world. With students coming to McGill from some 150 countries, its student body is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country. Its 11 faculties and 11 professional schools offer more than 300 programs of study to some 40,000 graduate, undergraduate and continuing studies students. McGill ranks 1st in Canada among medical-doctoral universities (Maclean’s) and 24th in the world (QS World University Rankings).

Source: The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University

Contact Information
Contact: Shawn Hayward
Organization: Montreal Neurological Institute
Office Phone: 514-398-3376

Secondary Contact Information
Contact: Cynthia Lee
Organization: McGill University
Secondary Email:
Office Phone: 514-398-6754


And their commitment to open science is described here. While it doesn't focus so much on research outputs such as articles (Which I guess will mostly be covered under the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications), I'm very pleased to see code, data sharing and no IP protection emphasized. On the other hand, item number five in the list below is a partial escape clause for researchers (and others) at the Neuro who aren't quite on board. Which is understandable. Let's just hope that over time they are able to shift their culture such that researchers at least won't feel the need to decline participation in open science initiatives.

A Ten-Year Mission
Within the next ten years, we aim to transform many brain disorders from chronic or terminal to treatable, or even curable, conditions. The main objective of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute is to accelerate the discovery of novel therapeutics to treat patients suffering from neurological disease.

We want to reduce the human and socio-economic burden of psychiatric and neurological illnesses, and improve the mental health, quality of life, and productivity of people around the world.

Our Principles
Open Science at the Montreal Neurological Institute is based on five guiding principles:

1. Share scientific data and resources
MNI researchers will render all positive and negative numerical data, models used, data sources, reagents, algorithms, software and other scientific resources publicly available no later than the publication date of the first article that relies on this data or resource.

2. Open external research partnerships
All data and scientific resources generated through research partnerships – whether with commercial, philanthropic, or public sectors – are to be released on the same basis as set out in Principle 1.

3. Share research participants' contributions and protect their rights

The Neuro Open Science Clinical, Biological, Imaging, and Genetic data (NeurO CBIG) Repository will maximize the long-term value of contributions made by research participants and the scientific resources created by MNI researchers and their collaborators. In the conduct of the NeurO CBIG, the MNI recognizes the primacy of safeguarding the dignity and privacy of patient-participants, and respecting the rights and duties owed them through the informed consent process.

4. Do not file patents
Subject to patient confidentiality and informed consent given, neither the MNI nor its researchers in their capacity as employees or consultants of the McGill- MNI unit will obtain patent protection or assert data protection rights in respect of any of their research.

5. Respect academic autonomy
The MNI supports the autonomy of its stakeholders, including but not limited to researchers, staff, trainees and patients, through recognizing their right to decline to participate in research and associated activities under an OS framework. However, the MNI will not support activities that compromise the previously outlined OS principles.


Andre Picard puts it nicely in context in today's Globe and Mail, In Montreal, a wee opening in the closed world of science research.

Is the accepted way of doing science bad for science?

That question is the driving force behind the bold new “Open Science” initiative at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Currently, governments invest a lot of money in health research, almost all of it at universities and labs associated with teaching hospitals.

We expect scientists to discover stuff such as drugs and technology and then commercialize those findings so there is a return on investment on the public funds invested. In recent years, there has been tremendous pressure on scientists to demonstrate immediate and lucrative results, and enormous scorn when they don’t.


The Open Science philosophy holds that it is the latter. Open Science has four fundamental goals: 1) Transparency in experimental methodology and collection of data, 2) Public availability of scientific data, 3) Public accessibility and transparency and scientific communication, and 4) Using Web-based tools to facilitate collaboration.


At The Neuro, all findings will be patent-free and freely accessible to other scientists worldwide – making it the first academic institute in the world to fully embrace open science. The Neuro can afford this experiment thanks to a $20-million (Canadian) donation from the family of Larry Tanenbaum, the philanthropist and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. As a savvy businessman, he is convinced that openness will accelerate research and discovery. “What we are celebrating here today is the transformation of research, the removal of barriers, the breaking of silos and, most of all, the courage of researchers to put patients and progress ahead of all other considerations,” Mr. Tanenbaum said at Friday’s announcement.


Bravo. Let's hope this isn't the last Canadian research institute to make such a public commitment to open science. In fact, I'd like to challenge all of us to help our own institutions travel along this path. Different disciplines and different institutions (and even different units with different institutions) will have their own path, but it's important to start the journey and make the commitment to find that path.

And, as promised, here's a bit of background reading on the Neuro's journey to open science over the last year or so.


As usual, if I've missed anything significant, let me know in the comments.

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Documenting the Donald Trump War on Science: Pre-Inauguration Edition

Update 2017.01.31: First post-inauguration chronology post is done, covering the first week of the Trump administration.

From the point of view of someone sitting North of the Canadian/US border, the results of this week's US Federal election are somewhat terrifying. And honestly and truly as a Canadian and a Torontonian, I say this without a bit of smugness. Been there, done that, if not quite on the same scale.

And by done that, I mean that I've often seen my mission to document important stories in the world. In the past, mostly Canadian or mostly in the library world and all basically about science.

This time around, I'm going to start a project about science in the new Donald Trump administration. I believe Trump will be terrible for science, technology, the environment and public health. And I intend to document that here. Of course, Trump won't be terrible for science in exactly the same way that Harper was in Canada. For example, he may not target research funding in the same way. On the other hand, the environment may fare much worse and ultimately muzzling may also prove to be a problem. It's only over the course of the next couple of years that we'll really and truly get a sense of the implications.

But why wait until we see the share of how exactly Trump is bad for science to start keeping track?

I like what David Kipen said today in the LA Times.

If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.

First Responder -- Information Division is a role I can live with.

Like Anil Dash says, "Forget “Why?”, it’s time to get to work."

Don’t waste a single moment listening to the hand-wringing of the pundit class about Why This Happened, or people on TV talking about What This Means. The most important thing is that we focus on the work that needs to be done now. While so many have been doing what it takes to protect the marginalized and to make society more just, we must increase our urgency on those efforts, even while we grieve over this formidable defeat.

It is completely understandable, and completely human, to be depressed, demoralized or overwhelmed by the enormity of this broad embrace of hateful rhetoric and divisive policy. These are battles that have always taken decades to fight, and progress has never been smooth and steady — we’ve always faced devastating setbacks. If you need to take time to mourn, then do. But it’s imperative that we use our anger, our despair, our disbelief to fuel an intense, focused and effective campaign to protect and support the marginalized.

And it has to start now.

My small contribution is focusing on the effects the Trump administration will have on science, technology, the environment and public health. (As with my Canadian project, I consider healthcare funding models outside of my scope.)

So let's get started. I have a few sections to this post. The first will focus on documenting what happened before November 8, 2016. What he said about science and the environment. The second section will focus on commentary in the past few days since the election. The third section will be similar, but focusing on the implications for Canada. The final section will begin documenting actual anti-science actions and policies (yay, we already have a couple!)

Wish me luck. As usual, everyone should feel free to suggest things I've missed, either in the comments or privately at I'm not attempting to be comprehensive or complete in the commentary I'm picking up, but I do want to attempt to be fairly representative.


Pre-Election Commentary


Post-Election Commentary


Post-Election Commentary Added November 21, 2016


Post-Election Commentary Related to Implications for Canada


And finally, the beginning of the tally of cuts, etc.


Some Meta-Commentary Related More to Activism than Directly to Science


To repeat. This initial list is quick and very preliminary. Please let me know if there's anything you think I should include, either in the comments or at I'm not attempting to be comprehensive or complete in the commentary I'm picking up, but I do want to attempt to be fairly representative.

If I've missed anything or if anything I've included probably shouldn't be included, let me know and I'll take a look and evaluate.

I will be updating this master list as time goes by.


Update 2016.11.21. Quite a bit of commentary added, as well as some general info related to activism and resistance. One incident added, related to Steve Bannon. I'm treading a fine line between "what might happen and it would be bad" and "this is a thing that we know is actually happening." Probably the announcement of the actual cabinet will bring more information on the what the Trump presidency will mean for science, the environment and public health.
Update 2016.12.06. Quite a bit added again, lots of commentary and "meta" items. In particular, as the cabinet and other appointments are fleshed out, there's more to identify as issues.

14 responses so far

The Canadian War on Science: Science, the Environment and Public Health in the 2015 Canadian Federal Election

It has begun.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called an election for October 19, 2015, kicking off a marathon 11 week election campaign. The longest campaign since the 1870s, believe it or not.

My patient readers may have noticed that over the last few years I've posted quite a bit about how science has fared under the current government. Readers will have gathered that I'm not too pleased about that state of affairs. This election signals an opportunity to (hopefully) change direction; if it's not completely possible to undo all the damage that Harper has done, we can at least hope to stop the bleeding and maybe fix up as much of the destruction as possible.

My small part in all this will be to help the Canadian electorate follow how science, the environment and public health is being discussed both leading up to the election and during the election itself. No doubt many others will also be doing similar things, and I'll be happy to point to them here, but I'll be dedicating myself to this task over the coming weeks.

My methodology will be similar to the one I've employed before when tracking current issues on this blog. A master post with a rough chronology of what I've found, updated periodically as the story develops.

I'll be flagging issues mostly concerned with science/engineering/technology research funding, the state of government science and scientists and all issues related to the environment. I'll also be flagging stuff on public health issues. Here I'll be concentrating on issues around public health research funding and policies rather than the funding and structure of our public healthcare system. While that's an interesting area, I've always treated it as out-of-scope for my list-making and will continue to do so. The line between the structure and funding of the healthcare system and how evidence is used in constructing public health policy can be a bit fuzzy sometimes, so I may end up erring on the side of including edge cases rather than excluding them.

As mentioned, I do plan to update this post periodically, probably about once per week during the campaign.

Most of the items I plan to collect here -- and I'm not attempting to be complete, only broadly representative of what's been published -- will be from during the campaign itself. I will however include some from before the campaign starts as well as probably some from after the election itself. For example, the initial post here will by necessity not have much from during the campaign itself.

I will also be posting some of the items here in my Tracking the Canadian War on Science tumblr blog, especially as they apply to the broader issues at play. In fact, those items here will probably be posted on the tumblr first.

As a reminder, my master War on Science chronology post is here: The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment. The relevant blog posts here on this blog can be found here.




Campaigns, Debates, etc.


Only the Green Party seems to have released a real election platform document that I could find. I'll keep a lookout for those as the campaign rolls on. If I've missed one of the other party's platform document, please let me know. I've included some summaries I've found elsewhere for the others.

The Platforms


The Campaign


With any luck, the Conservatives will lose the coming election handily and I can re-orient my weird list-making mania towards something more enjoyable.

This list is just a start towards documenting the election conversation about science-related topics. As usual, if I've missed anything important or if I've made any errors, please let me know in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca. If you don't want to use my work email, you can reach me at dupuisj at gmail dot com.


2015.08.10. Updates up to August 9th. Some retrospective ones added.
2015.08.17. Updates to August 16th. I'm only covering the Linda McQuaig/"Leave the oilsands in the ground" issue fairly lightly. It's important, but the volume of commentary risks overwhelming everything else. Separate list post maybe? I'm considering it.
2015.08.24. Updates to August 23rd.
2015.09.04. Updates to September 4th.
2015.09.20. Updates to September 19th. Added a few stragglers too. I also split out some of the "General" items into a new category devoted science-themed debates as well as to various anti-Harper campaigns or movements.
2015.10.07. Updates to October 7th. Added a few more stragglers. I also added the YouTube recordings of the two science debates, the French one in Sherbrooke and the English one in Victoria. These are well worth watching.

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Around the Web: Resources on vaccination, anti-vaccination and why people don't trust science

Feb 25 2015 Published by under around the web, Canada, public health

Welcome to my latest "liberation bibliography" project. This time around I'm gathering resources concerning the recent rather worrying trend towards people not vaccinating their children. In particular the last couple of months have seen multiple cases where vaccination has been in the news, from statements by politicians, outbreaks among hockey players and at amusement parks and many others. There's been an awful lot written about vaccines and their safety recently and my aim here is to gather some of the best information, both in terms of outlining the main events as well as some commentary seeking to give context and understanding to the issues.

I am plainly on the side of vaccination. Without hesitation. Both my children have been vaccinated. I got the flu shot for 2014-2015.

Of course, I'm not an epidemiologist, I'm not an expert on public health or vaccines. These are resources that look good to me, and while I don't necessarily agree with every word of every post I do believe that they present mostly valid information.

If you are an expert or are particularly knowledgeable in public health or vaccines and think that some of the items I've listed here are inappropriate for one reason or another, please let me know in the comments or jdupuis at yorku dot ca. I may remove the links or completely delete the entry, depending on the situation.

As usual, if there's anything particularly useful or inspirational, also please let me know in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

I think I have all the major recent strains of the ongoing vaccinations story, but if I've missed one please let me know and perhaps suggest a few links. I have thrown this one together a little more hastily than usual, so it might need a bit more audience participation.

I'm including both some general resources as well as sketching out an larger narrative. As I mentioned above, the main narrative has two kinds of posts, those that directly sketch out the details of the various vaccination-related stories of the last several months and those that seek to put the issues around the science of vaccines into a broader context. In other words, some posts that seek to understand and explore why people don't trust science.

My hope is that these resources will help promote honest, productive discussion about vaccines and their importance for public health. Please use them to educate yourself and as preparation for discussions with others.



General Resources


Main Narrative: Vaccines and trust in science in late 2014 and early 2015

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