30 June 2008

Canada's Report Card

Perhaps the timing is intended, but the Conference Board of Canada today released "How Canada Performs: A Report Card on Canada" just as school is out for the summer. As an article in today's Report on Business puts it: "Canada 'losing' on innovation." Clearly there is much to be done for increasing Canada's productivity. As a viable component in the research and development continuum, the George Brown College Research Labs, as are all colleges engaged in research, are well positioned to work with our colleagues on this national problem. As I am heading out on vacation for the next several weeks, I'll look forward to picking up this topic again when I return at the end of July.

27 June 2008

NB moves to articulated post-secondary education

An article in today's Globe outlines New Brunswick's plans for modernizing their education system. While not explicitly engaging the polytechnic model that created consternation some time ago, today's article does make the point that it is the de facto polytechnic model that is being created. Whatever the nomenclature, it's very timely change that is a necessary update to the educational system. Articulated education is clearly an advantage for Canada that gives students more options, and fosters a more responsive educational system that can proactively provide the highly qualified and skilled people needed for today's (and tomorrow's) economy, all in the service of increased productivity.

19 June 2008

GBC's Gerry De Iuliis's research in the news (reprise)

GBC Health Sciences professor Gerry De Iuliis's research is featured in the Globe and Mail today, as the CBC's the Nature of Things is rebroadcasting the documentary on his research into Pleistocene sloths. The Mystery of the Giant Sloth Cave airs tonight on CBC Newsworld at 10 p.m.

Gerry's research has received funding for the past two years from the GBC Research Labs' seed funding program. His research is featured on our "Soup to Nuts" poster.

17 June 2008

Productivity and the R&D continuum

Judith Maxwell's article in yesterday's Report on Business outlines some key issues around the R&D continuum and Canada's productivity. Most explicitly, Maxwell addresses the complementarity of industry and academic research labs, focusing on the MaRS Discovery District as one example of the kind of collaboratory that fosters synergistic and serendipitous connections and opportunities. Maxwell fails to recognize the role of College research in this equation, what I have elsewhere described as the need to recognize "all facets of the R&D pipeline that includes college applied research [as] part of a fundamental strategy to organize the network effects of utilizing the diverse and complementary capabilities of the innovation spectrum, all oriented toward increased productivity for Ontario and Canada" (*).

Informal networks and communities of interest and practice can enable fruitful collaborations to emerge across the R&D landscape. Making these connections should be the purview of governmental and quasi-governmental organizations (such as TRRA) that play "matchmaker" for industry and research organizations. "Ideas are now the essential raw material for growth and productivity. Informal networks are the 21st century blast furnace, where raw ideas are formed and developed into products and processes that will drive the high growth businesses of our future," says Maxwell. Getting ideas out into the commons where they can be debated and developed, and enabling industry to recognize and utilize expertise from across the Ontario/Canadian network of research labs, remain key challenges for all of us engaged in the research and development enterprise.

02 June 2008

Three articles

Three articles in today's Globe and Mail offer some well rounded insights into science, technology, and the role and function of education in supporting the S&T Strategy.

The first is about women leaving science occupations. Fighting the female brain drain looks at the increasing numbers of women entering - and then leaving - science professions. The article makes a key point that while it is important to encourage new immigrants into the science and technology areas, it is equally, if not more, important to encourage women to enter these profession. It is also important to ensure that women can find a supportive work environment so that they continue to work in these important areas.

The second article is about the five new universities in BC. BC, as does Alberta, has a more advanced and articulated education system than Ontario, insofar as students are able to achieve credentials through a college+university credit transfer system (a subject of earlier posts * *). While the BC case has brought to the fore issues of qualifications, market conditions, and student choice (not to mention what might actually be best for the country), it is clear that much debate will ensue as we collectively work out ways to ensure we meet the educational challenges facing us now, and in the near future. Here I am thinking of the need for increasing qualifications, credentials laddering, and life long learning, all principal components of a well educated and highly functioning productive society.

The third article is about the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, currently underway at UBC. Academics in these areas are typically funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and are now mobilizing for increased awareness of the relevance of some of these disciplines to the science and technology agenda. This makes sense. We need to promote and foster deep understanding of how science, technology and engineering influence our social and economic productivity.

Canada's productivity depends on bringing together multiple and disparate voices, and the ability to translate research into meaningful social and economic outputs will ensure that we support relevant research that Canadians can feel good about supporting with taxpayer dollars.