27 September 2007

Research Clusters and the National Research Council

The National Research Council convened a conference this week on Research Clusters. Connections 2007 was billed as the first NRC conference on technology clustering, as aligned with the Federal Government's Science and Technology Strategy. The event was well attended by a variety of stakeholders, and offered some excellent presentations and discussion about the cluster concept. There was good presentations on how to set up clusters, evaluation of their effectiveness, and the importance of fostering business development and intellectual property protection and "IP hygiene."

Steven Casper of the Keck Graduate Institute gave an interesting presentation on the use of social networking analysis to examine and evaluate clusters. Casper uses social network analysis to show three things: the first is the network effects of those who work in clusters - this is very closely related to the kind of work Putnam has done on the importance of social capital - and how there is a lot of mobility between companies in specific clusters. His second point was that clusters are defined by a heterogeneity of actors - people from various organizations and backgrounds - and that non-market actors need to take a systematic role in cluster development in concert with business management personnel. Casper's third point concerns cluster marketplace orientation, and how alignment of government and business objectives around specific industries influence the relative success of cluster development.

Some time ago I wrote about the idea of virtual research clusters, which I think is an idea gaining in momentum. While clusters may always be regional, we are working on a virtual cluster model (aligned with regional strengths) as a means of leveraging Internet technologies and distributed expertise to cohere around specific applied research problems. I'll post more on this as we develop the concept. Suffice to say, virtual clusters, leveraging regional strengths, can foster the aims of the Science and Technology Strategy by enabling Canadian business and research communities to leverage shared assets (i.e. the national broadband infrastructure) for common productivity goals. The NRC conference was an excellent introduction to the kinds of work being done in this area, sponsored in a large part by our national research labs, as well as work being done internationally on evaluating cluster effectiveness.

19 September 2007

With education, "a rising tide lifts all boats"

A story out today on the OECD Education at a Glance 2007 survey offers interesting context on the ancillary benefits of education even for those who do not obtain post-secondary education. While the report shows that Canada still lags in producing science graduates and women graduates, Canada does have the highest level of college and university degree attainment of all OECD countries.

17 September 2007

Innovation by design

Here are a couple of interesting pieces on innovation and design.

The first is an editorial on making innovation work. David Dunne details the process of "trial and error" that lets innovative design thinkers create, often against the foils of constraint. Those of us who favour participatory design techniques know this, but I get the feeling that, given Dunne's comparison with business, this is not taken as the norm in some circles.

This news story on Flaherty's recent talk on transforming the manufacturing sector is also interesting for its focus on the need for "innovation." This is the purview of applied research - adding value through the innovation chain.

10 September 2007

The Innovation Chain

“If you have a new, innovative technology that helps address climate change
or promotes cleaner water, land and air, we want to hear from you!” This
is the word coming today from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC),
as it announced it is accepting Statements of Interest (SOI) for its twelfth
round of funding. The closing date for submissions is October 24, 2007.
I read with interest their overview of The Innovation Chain, including this more detailed look at the role of basic and applied research. Note the role played by SDTC funding in addressing the pre-commercial gap in the Technology Development and Demonstration phase(s) of research (see image from their website).

While the point here is that this gap is more severe in the development of sustainable technologies, it applies in equal measure to the research value chain.

07 September 2007

Resources for Feminist Research: Call for manuscripts for a Special Issue

The following was sent to me recently by one of our faculty members:

Resources for Feminist Research

Call for manuscripts for a Special Issue Healthy Environments for Women Teachers and Faculty

Deadline for Submission: December 31, 2007

How healthy are Canadian schools and universities? What are the characteristics of a healthy or unhealthy educational setting? How healthy are the women who work in these settings? What initiatives would support a healthy physical and social environment for women teachers and faculty?

Historically, empirical studies of occupational health focused on the incidence of illness, injury, absenteeism, and disability. By contrast, a population health approach examines the social, environmental and biophysical factors that support health. Gender, culture, income and social status, social support networks, working conditions, physical environment and other interrelated factors influence the health of individuals and populations. From this perspective, teacher health is not simply a clinical descriptor or the absence of disease. Rather, the health of individual teachers and teachers as a group is an essential social resource. Safeguarding and promoting teacher and faculty health and wellbeing can be achieved by creating and sustaining healthy educational environments.

This special issue will explore the health of women teachers and faculty and the educational environments where they work. Invited are articles that explore the complex and varied experiences of women teachers and faculty, the factors that nurture and support their safety, and physical and mental health and well-being, and the processes, interventions, and institutional structures that create and strengthen healthy environments for women teachers and faculty.

Diana L. Gustafson and Roberta F. Hammett are the guest editors of this special issue of the Resources for Feminist Research. We invite submissions of original manuscripts that explore broader theoretical questions as well as those that report on innovative research studies and policy-oriented issues on a range of topics such as:
  • Social well-being in rural, northern and isolated community schools
  • Homophobia and chilly classroom climates
  • The healthy communities movement in the educational context
  • Healthy or health-related institutional policies and initiatives
  • Promotion and tenure anxiety among visible minority women
  • Women teachers' mental health issues
  • The production and mediation of women faculty's occupational stress
  • The control and surveillance of women's bodies in schools and universities
  • Safety and risk for women working in unsafe physical spaces
  • Women teachers' perspectives on health hazards
  • Incentive programs for teachers' healthy lifestyle choices

Manuscripts may be submitted by e-mail to RFR. Manuscripts should conform to RFR's editorial policy as described at http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/ <http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/%3E Contributions must be original research or scholarly articles approximately 6,500-7,500 words, in English or French with a short abstract (75 words) which will be translated into the other official language. Submissions should be double-spaced. All manuscripts are reviewed anonymously by at least three qualified readers. Please address questions about this special issue to:

Diana L. Gustafson, Associate Professor of Social Sciences and HealthDivision of Community Health and HumanitiesFaculty of Medicine, HSC 2834Memorial UniversitySt. John's, NL A1B 3V6 diana.gustafson@med.mun.ca.

05 September 2007

Seed Funding Available for Applied Research Projects: Request for Proposals, Second Round

George Brown Office of Applied Research and Innovation is please to announce the availability of seed funding for applied research projects. George Brown College is committed to pursuing and conducting applied research projects that support the development of our community, respond to current industry needs and provide learning opportunities for students.

The first round of proposals resulted in five successful projects being awarded seed funding. Details will be available shortly on the Applied Research and Innovation web site.

Preference will be given to projects that involve students, involve an external community or industry partner, are likely to lead to further funding, and/or are multi- or inter-disciplinary.

Applicants can apply for up to $7,500 and will need to show what their total expected costs are, what they are requesting from GBC Applied Research, and what other sources of funding they have, if applicable.

The due date for completed application forms is 19 September 2007.

Please see the following web site for more information:

04 September 2007

Working smarter

Here's an interesting story related to the federal Science and Technology Strategy, and a timely reminder during return-to-school week. The general decline in science graduates in the West - and the concomitant rise in China as one example - is often read as a sign of looming productivity declines. Larry Smith prepared a report for Polytechnics Canada that addressed this issue, which I heard him present at the recent Polytechnics annual conference.

Morgan's article offers a nice synopsis of our collective responsibility to motivate and mobilize an increased focus on science and on graduating professionals in science fields. I especially like his distinction that being scientifically literate is "not about knowing how to use technical products, it's about knowing how to create them. It's also about the satisfaction of going through life with at least a basic understanding of the technologies you use every day." Scientific literacy is one component of the core foundation of education today.