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Who cares about Bangladesh? 3. Kevin McKague’s doctoral research on how to make markets work for the poor

This is a re-post. Kevin will be adding some photos and a short comment. This past term at York, Kevin organized a seminar series about Sustainable Value Creation. If you want to learn more about how to be a responsible, activist consumer, please check out the work of the speakers that Kevin brought to York.

"Congratulations to long-time IRIS Senior Research Fellow, now Dr. Kevin McKague, on a successful defence of his dissertation last week.

Kevin's research has focused on micro finance and farmers in Bangladesh. Some of Kevin's research will be published in the journal, California Management Review (McKague and Oliver, 2012 vol 55 no 1. pp. 98-129. Enhanced Market Practices: Poverty Alleviation for Poor Producers in Developing Countries)

Over the years, Kevin has been active in the IRIS community and has brought in excellent seminar speakers including a wonderful talk on microfinance by speakers from MEDA, the Mennonite Economic Development Association.

Here is his dissertation title and abstract.

Kevin's PhD. is titled, Making Markets Work for the Poor: Market-Based Approaches to Poverty Alleviation as Institutional Leveraging and Redistribution of Social Control

Interest in market-based approaches to reduce poverty has grown substantially in the last decade. To date, however, explanations in the management literature of how this can be achieved have focused on viewing the poor as consumers at the base of the economic pyramid, as microentrepreneurs in need of microfinance loans, and as potential employees of local small and medium-sized enterprises. Missing from the core of the management conversation has been an adequate understanding of the poor as primary producers and an explanation that situates them within their broader market and institutional context. Drawing on an in-depth study of market-based poverty alleviation initiatives for smallholder farmers by a non-governmental organization in a least developed economy, this dissertation offers the first theoretical model to explain the process by which a non-state organization can strategically enhance market practices in ways that reduce poverty for poor producers and improve overall market functioning. Findings suggest that meaningful improvements in income can be explained by the enhancement of market practices that redistribute social control toward poor producers in ways that reduce market and government failures. In addition, data revealed that the effectiveness of market development and poverty alleviation strategies is moderated by the extent of institutional leveraging to incentivize market changes in alignment with existing norms and logics. The model offers an integrated explanation of how market-based approaches can alleviate poverty and grow inclusive markets for poor producers. Findings suggest a number of business implications, including the importance of rebalancing power relations and enhancing productivity throughout an entire value chain. In addition, findings contribute to the literatures on business and poverty alleviation and the literatures on institutional change."

Dawn Bazely

Who cares about Bangladesh? 2. Who Cares if Bangladesh Drowns? Documentary by Afsan Chowdhury

In 2009, IRIS, together with York International and Faculty of Environmental Studies, held a conference: Strengthening the Ecojustice Movement

At the conference, Afsan Chowdhury's documentary, about the plight of many Bangladeshi's faced with rising sea-levels, "Who Cares if Bangladesh Drowns?" was screened.

This film remains a must see in the canon that brings attention to how global warming will affect people both in the near future, and right now. You can watch most of it, or all of it, on YouTube. Afsan continues to advocate for social and environmental justice in Bangladesh.

And, here's the original post:

"IRIS is delighted to announce the release of the International Ecojustice Conference Report. The conference  took place at York University in April of 2009, bringing  together activists and engaged academics from Brazil, India, and South Africa, as well as Canada, represented by Inuit and First Nations.

The Ecojustice Conference represented York's response to a challenge to host a conference that ran directly counter to the norm of international climate meetings.  At our conference, members of the Global North heard voices from the Global South, as well as Canada's North, as speakers told of challenges and inequities faced by people who are already experiencing the results of climate change.

The impacts of climate change are unevenly distributed, with the most vulnerable groups experiencing the worst effects, including droughts, floods, threats to food security and other extreme environmental events. Our Ecojustice-themed conference created a space where concerns and opinions regarding climate change could be voiced. The stories that emerged were hopeful ones of resilience and adaptation, but also of the need for resources, information sharing and self-determination.

The conference report outlines some of the key issues that emerged from the conference, including a list of recommendations. They included: building international solidarity with disenfranchised peoples, putting pressure on our governments for fair and ethical international negotiations, and reducing consumption levels in the Global North.

For more information on the conference, please visit photos or download the report here: Ecojustice Conference"


Who cares about Bangladesh? 1. Consumers and human security in the Global South

The collapse of a poorly-constructed building and the deaths of many garment workers in a textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has many Canadians talking, because some of the clothes sold in Canada, by the Joe Fresh brand, of Loblaws, were made in this factory.

The poor working conditions and wages, along with prior indications of cracks in the building, pointing to its instability, has prompted global and Canadian media to ask the question "will this change how you buy your clothes?" and articles with titles like, "Is your wardrobe killing Bangladeshis, or saving them?".

Garment Factory in Bangladesh

Photograph  by Fahad Faisal, via Wikimedia Commons 

I managed to get onto the CBC Noon radio phone in, last Friday (that's me at 17:40 mins into the podcast, What is the cost of a bargain?), to explain that I try to buy Canadian labels and locally manufactured clothes, that I encourage my kids to understand how much work goes into sewing clothes (please bring back Home Economics to schools!), and to ask questions in those mall chain stores, that in my opinion, are full of cheaply manufactured, but expensive goods, about their corporate social responsibility policies and fair-trade practices....  (seriously, I do..!).

The issues of sustainability - economic, social and environmental - are at the heart of this tragedy. This building collapse and high death toll has brought unwelcome publicity for Loblaws, who is sending senior representatives from its supply chain team to the factory, to Dhaka, in an effort to understand what caused the tragedy.  The renewed conversations and debates about the role of the consumer and corporations in affecting the livelihoods and working conditions of people in the Global South, are, in my opinion, most welcome, not least because this disaster highlights the complexity of this issue and the fact that it is a "wicked problem" with no easy solution. We must remember, for example, that Loblaws, is, in many respects an exemplary company, when it comes to leadership on sustainability issues: its Sustainable Seafood Initiative, and the Oceans for Tomorrow campaign, in partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council and World Wildlife Fund Canada, is a marvellous programme, that has resulted in increased consumption of certified sea food in my home - after many years of trying to NOT eat down the food chain.

Bangladesh, its people, its environment, and sustainability, have been in the minds of us at IRIS and the York University community over the years, as highlighted in many events and activities.

This is the first in a series in which I will be updating and re-posting blogs from the past, highlighting the issues faced by Bangladeshis, and the efforts of colleagues, here and abroad to bring attention to these complex challenges and propose solutions.

Dawn Bazely

DISCLAIMER - in the interests of transparency, I should say that my husband, Dr. Peter Ewins, works for WWF Canada. I, myself, undertook my first fundraising campaign for WWF UK when I was 11 years old! BUT, this doesn't mean that I have given WWF a 100% thumbs-up on all of its policies, programmes and actions over the last 40 years - there is always room for improvement.


“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #8: York delegates at Doha

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Professor Babatunde Ajayi (School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, Nigeria)) and Mr. Isaiah Owolabi (Project HACEY, Nigeria), York University accredited delegates to COP 18 of UNFCCC can be seen, at left, with Philosophy Department professor, Idil Boran, along with other pictures of Doha and the convention centre.

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Here is Professor Ajayi’s biography – WELCOME to the York University Delegation during COP 18!

- See more at:, York University accredited delegates to COP 18 of UNFCCC can be seen, at left, with Philosophy Department professor, Idil Boran, along with other pictures of Doha and the convention centre.

ABOUT PROF. BABATUNDE AJAYI - profile kindly supplied by Project HACEY

"His area of research is the production of Bio-composites materials from wood and agricultural wastes. Currently, he is working on the production of plastic bonded composites using virgin plastic (HPDE), recycled plastic (LPDE), and used car battery case as binders. He is also investigating the suitability of agricultural wastes for the manufacture of cement bonded composites as affordable products for core low cost housing for low income earners. Professor Babatnde Ajayi was born on 25th August, 1955 in Ijan Ekiti, Nigeria. He obtained his Diploma in Forestry at the school of Forestry Ibadan, PGD in Timber and Material Technology at High- Wycombe, UK in 1986, MSc in Forest Industries Technology at Bangor, UK in 1990 and a PhD in Wood Science and Bio-Composites Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure in 2000. He assumed the status of a Professor in 2010 and he is currently the Head of Department of Forestry and Wood Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria. He has published more than 50 papers in reputable local and international journals and presented papers at 33 conferences and professional meetings.

In 2011, he received a Merit Award for Local Raw Materials Content, Research and Development from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council of Nigeria at TECHNO-EXPO 2011 (A Technology and Innovative Fair) in Abuja, Nigeria. He also exhibited his work at the United Nations Geneva- 2010 Exhibitions of Innovative Wood Products and for the 2011 International Year of the Forest.

He is a member of many professional bodies including the Institute of Wood Science, U.K., Commonwealth Forestry Association, U.K., Forest Products Society, U.S.A., Forestry Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Society for Environmental Management, Forest and Forest Products Society, Nigeria, International Union of Forestry Research Organization, International Inorganic Bonded Composites, USA and Society of Wood Science and Technology."

About SAAT - from the website.


Over the past years, the School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology (SAAT), like every other school or faculty in Nigerian Universities, focused essentially on teaching and research (basic and applied). It determined its teaching and research agenda within the framework provided by the National Universities Commission, the main regulatory body, and the perceived needs of the society. The scope of this teaching and research agenda has been severally limited by the relatively dwindling government funding for the universities. This has led to most teaching and research facilities (laboratories, lecture rooms, libraries, office accommodation, communication and information equipment. etc) becoming obsolete, and inadequate to satisfy the aspiration of the school to meet the challenges of teaching and research in Nigerian Agriculture in the 21st century. In order to be at the cutting edge of agriculture and agricultural technology and impact positively and significantly on Nigeria’s rural, agricultural and agro-industrial landscape, the school has accepted a paradigm shift towards “the town and gown”. In this new paradigm, SAAT will not only teach and research, but will also render services that can transform the Nigerian socioeconomic and technological landscape. The services will be rendered to its stakeholders within the university and in larger Nigerian society.

The implication of the new paradigm is that SAAT’s work programme agenda will be needs driven Teaching and research will become more tailored to needs of the society than were previously case while SAAT will devote a substantial proportion of its resources and expertise to rendering services to its stakeholders within the larger Nigerian society. A further implication of the new paradigm is that the school will be more involved in the activities of the larger Nigeria society, by rendering services and soliciting for support in terms of collaboration, patronage, grants and endowment.

Akure is NE of Lagos, about a third of the way to Abuja."


“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #7: Introducing York University’s other COP 18 Delegates


View Doha UNFCCC COP 18 in a larger map

In addition to our York University professors, who are at the UNFCCC in Doha (see map above, and skyline at right), two members of Project HACEY, a capacity-building NGO working in the health and sustainability sectors, were able to be accredited through York, as NGO Observers at the UNFCCC COP 18. We will have more about our Project HACEY colleagues in a future post. Project HACEY is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Dawn Bazely

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #6: Greetings from Doha

    A message from Professor Idil Boran, delegate from York University, attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 18.

"Greetings from Doha.  I want to begin by saying that the conference has been

incredibly informative.  I went to some impressive panels and met very
interesting people.

The country negotiations are, as you know, going slowly and the expectations are

The side events, panels, and initiatives are absolutely fascinating.  As the
negotiations are going slowly, there is an impressive effort at figuring out
alternative pathways for attending to the issue of climate change.  The
dominant idea at Doha 2012 is the need to think in innovative ways on how the
issue can be dealt with.  I also found that there is a heavy focus on
instruments other than traditional policy approaches.  For example, the idea of
"innovative and green financing" is central to the discussions.  So is the idea
of considering Development Banks as instruments that could facilitate climate
financing, transfer of green technology, and green development.

Yesterday, I went to a fascinating panel on women and climate change, where the
idea of making climate instruments gender sensitive was advanced.

I hope to give a full account of all my observations on my return.  I haven't
had too much time writing, because I am trying to maximize my observations and
have been focused on absorbing new insights as much as possible"

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #5: Introducing York’s UNFCCC delegates

It's that time of year again: the annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year, UNFCCC COP 18, is being held at Doha, Qatar, and meetings began yesterday, Monday, November 26th. This year, York's delegation is made up of professors from quite different disciplines: Professor Muhammad Yousaf (Chemistry - at left) and Professor Idil Boran (Philosophy - below right). Sadly, Professor Ian Garrett from the Department of Theatre, who received accreditation as part of the delegation, was unable to attend the COP in person, but plans to blog about it from afar.

Professor Boran is carrying out SSHRC-funded research which re-examines climate change policy, with a special focus on the challenges for decision-making, both at the individual and the societal level. She is interested in understanding the extent to which recent research in the social sciences that pertains to the effect of social and cognitive factors on our decision-making processes can help to develop new approaches to climate change policy. Professor Boran seeks to articulate the implications of this research for international debates and negotiations toward a global agreement.

Her participation at COP18, will, she hopes, allow her to assess whether the strategies and arguments used in international debates are compatible or incompatible with the latest social scientific developments, and whether they can mutually learn from one another. In light of these observations, she will be able to draw implications both for theory and policy practice. She will set targets, for her own research, on how to analyze the new scholarly advances on decision-making on climate change policy, in light of insights from actual decision-making and negotiation processes. This in turn can potentially contribute to a more refined theoretical analysis and help bridge the gap between theory and practice in scholarly research.

Although Professor Yousaf is newly arrived at York's Chemistry Department (in 2011), which he chairs, from the Chemistry Department at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, he is no stranger to the campus. He is a York alumnus, having graduated with a Chemistry and Biology B.Sc. degree in 1994!

Professor Yousaf has wide-ranging research interests that span from chemistry to biology, and he also has an interest in understanding how science informs policy. He will be bringing his science-perspective to the COP, as he seeks to understand exactly how the science of climate change is regarded by the policy makers, and politicians.

Ian-GarrettWe wish Professors Boran and Yousaf all the best in Doha. They will be sending updates and mini-blogs as time permits. Professor Ian Garrett (at left), who attended COP 15, is a veteran blogger and co-founder of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. He is the recently arrived Professor of Sustainability and Design in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and he will be casting his critical artist's eye on the Doha meetings, from Toronto.

This is the fourth delegation that York University is sending to the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change, since 2009, when we applied for, and received Civil Society Observer Status for York University in time for COP 15 in Copenhagen. Past York delegations have included staff, students and faculty from areas as diverse as Political Science, Nursing, and the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Outcomes from delegates have included experiences that informed a book, Climate Change - Who's Carrying the Burden, edited by Professor Anders Sandberg and his son, Tor, and blogs by Jacquie Medalye, as well as extensive national and international networking.

Dawn R. Bazely

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #4: David Miller lectures to students in Climate Change Science & Policy (ENVS 3400)

While it's possible for university students to spend all of their time outside of scheduled classes, so as to be learning even more (perish the thought!), by attending additional guest research seminars and lectures, most students don't take advantage of opportunities to hear well-known speakers who come to campus.

Realizing this, Annette Dubreuil, the IRIS co-ordinator, spearheaded an effort to bring invited speakers, who will be of interest to the broader community, into the classroom, and to open up these lectures as IRIS events. Last Thursday, former mayor of Toronto, David Miller spoke to students in Dr. Kaz Higuchi's course, Climate Change Science and Policy (ENVS 3400).

Originally, Kaz had discussed convening a panel to debate opposing views on climate change, but David categorically dismissed this option; as he put it - the climate skeptics funded by corporate interests don't need another platform.  In case you're wondering, Dr. Higuchi is a climate scientist who recently retired from Environment Canada's Adaptation and Impacts Research Group. He has been teaching in the Faculty of Environmental Studies for several years, and he is very concerned that academics from all disciplines learn how to debate and handle arguments for and against climate change.

David Miller, who has been teaching at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University based in Brooklyn, showcased his oratorical skills in a tour-de-force lecture about how Toronto and other cities are mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

It was a text book lesson in how to explain, very clearly, evidence-based policy that leads to actions which are beneficial for people, the planet and, profits. Citing many statistics and studies, as he laid out the challenges facing cities, David described and explained the steps that Toronto took while he was mayor. He described Change is in the Air, the 2007 Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan, as well as other Toronto city plans, and how they are driving action on combatting climate change.

David also explained some fascinating, green jobs technologies, including one in which heat is extracted from sewage - this also has a high "ick" factor. He challenged the audience of students, faculty and staff to come up with a snappier name for the company and product - International Wastewater Heat Exchange Systems (IWHES)! (Check out the awesome video on their site).

We filled one of the gorgeous new lecture halls in the recently opened Life Sciences Building which is built to LEED silver rating standards, on the Keele Campus. After a 45-minute lecture, students lined up to ask David questions, for 45 minutes, about all kinds of sustainability, climate change and social justice issues. After the talk, I asked Roger Keil, director of York's CITY Institute, who was sitting behind me, why he hadn't asked a question, he quipped "what for? the students did a great job!"

And, after all the questions were finished, David stayed for a bit longer, and chatted informally with students, many of whom were keen to have their photos snapped with him. Enrique Miranda (Student Engagement co-ordinator) and Ramsen Yousif (President) of the Undergraduate Political Science Council executive, a co-sponsor of the event, are shown above left, with the former mayor.

At the end of the day:

Score one for a brilliantly delivered explanation of evidence-based policy.

Score two for articulate speakers who can explain the science and connect the dots for making the social justice case clear, when it comes to climate change.

Score three for former politicians who live on in more ways than in old fridge magnets (that's my super-duper green fridge at right, on which we have a collection of old magnets, including one from when David Miller was our city councillor - back in 1995). One student remarked after the lecture "I just learned more about municipal planning in this lecture than I did all year!"

The lecture will soon be available on the IRIS website, in case you missed it and want to hear what David had to tell the students.

Dawn R. Bazely

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #3: Evidence-based policy and the need for scientists to talk to the public

In their 2000 book, The Cultural Creatives, Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, two professors in the USA, examined common values that are held by people regardless of their political affiliation - democrat or republican. They generated a long list of shared characteristics that cut across partisan political boundaries, such as an interest in ecological sustainability, and respect for womens' rights.

One value that I hope most people would share across a broad-political spectrum, is that of using the best-available research to inform policy. I would also wager, that given the difference between the trends in Canadian and USA citizens' beliefs about whether climate change has a human cause, most Canadians would think that we'd be much more likely to find ideology-driven policy (this is basically policy that's driven by belief and values, even in the face of contradictory evidence, that suggests that the value-based policy may not serve society's broader interests), south of the 49th parallel.

51OBQ4EnYnL._SL500_AA300_Ummm, so, the actual evidence appears to runs contrary this assumption. In an in-depth article for  The Walrus in September 2012,  and a more light-hearted Toronto Star article from August 2012 (if that's possible, given the seriousness of the topic), by self-described seniors, criminal defence lawyer Edward L. Greenspan, and criminologist, Professor Emeritus Anthony N. Doob challenge federal criminal justice policy that runs in direct opposition to research results. They wrote in the Toronto Star, that: "The minister of justice said he is not interested in evidence-based policy: “We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics,” he said. “We’re governing on the basis of what’s right to better protect victims and law-abiding Canadians.”"

If crime has been declining since 1992 (so the stats say), then building more prisons to incarcerate more people, which the Harper government is pushing, just doesn't make good policy sense. But, aha, perhaps there's a profit-motive in here somewhere. So, if you are interested in learning more about what a profit-motive associated with higher levels of imprisonment could look like, then, in the spirit of NOT getting our information from verifiable, peer-reviewed sources that feed into the evidence-base of the policy pyramid, I can thoroughly recommend the Jailhouse Job episode, from the TV series, Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton.

Since the present Canadian justice minister is not interested in evidence-based policy, it seems pretty evident to me, that this value must, logically, hold across all branches of the federal government. You can't have one ministry rejecting the concept of "evidence-based" and another accepting it, can you? OK - maybe you can....  in a blog from 2011, Tobi Cohen explains exactly how this government achieves this multiple-personality approach.

So, what's a researcher, engaged in knowledge production to do, when confronted by all this rejection of tedious data? One option, is to go to a meeting where politicians are discussing the importance of research in policy development, and try to feel some love. This is exactly what I did last week at the Thornhill Federal Liberal Riding Association fundraiser event in Vaughn, Ontario, just north of Toronto.

A retired colleague, Prof Emeritus Ken Davey FRSC, Order of Canada, of York University's Biology Department, organized a panel consisting of provincial and federal members of parliament, including Dr. Ted Hsu, the Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands. Dr. Hsu is a physicist, who went into business, and then into politics. He is the Liberal critic for science and technology, and has been one of the most active Canadian politicians in calling out the Harper government on their humungous cuts to science, including the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area. Incidentally, York University's Professor Norman Yan is speaking, today, on a panel at the University of Toronto, about the Experimental Lakes closure: Unmuzzled -  The Urgent Need for the Vocal Aquatic Scientist in Today's Political Climate in Canada.

In his speech, Dr. Hsu explained the implications of cancelling the long-form census, the gutting of Environment Canada and Parks Canada, the muzzling of federal scientists, and of many other Harper government idealogically-motivated cuts to those parts of our federal government that deal in producing high quality data or the provision of expert review. Dr. Hsu also talked about his excitement at the Death of Evidence rally in Ottawa in July 2012, at which he was the only MP to address the crowd. He was delighted to see a group (namely, scientists), who don't normally engage in political actions, becoming active.

Well, yeh, I was aware of the demonstration, since a number of my colleagues organized it and many  attended it - and, way to go, guys! Unfortunately, as a veteran demonstrator myself (taking my toddler to Queen's Park in the mid-1990s, to demonstrate against cuts to daycare, etc.), it's hard for me to see how this lab-coat protest is going to contribute towards bringing about a change in attitude on the part of the Harper government. The real work lies elsewhere. This rally was baby-step number zero.

In my opinion, one of the main reasons why Canadian science has been suffering so much at the hands of the current federal government, is that Canada has been a laggard when it comes to supporting and promoting the Public Understanding of Science. You only have to look to the United Kingdom, at science personalities like, now retired, Richard Dawkins, Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University, and Jim Al-Khalili, the Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Surrey University, to see the boosted profile that basic science research has in society.

Both in the UK and the USA, there is much more organized advocacy for research. For example, while  on sabbatical at Harvard, there was a call at the Forest, for a training opportunity to teach researchers how to speak to their congressman or congresswoman.

Are there strategic solutions to this Canadian gap in science engagement? Yesterday, the Science Media Centre of Canada, a non-profit charity, and the office of York's Vice-President for Research and Innovation, held a "journalism bootcamp" or Journalism 101 afternoon session for scientists to learn how to improve their interactions with the media. Members of a panel, Karen McCairley, an Executive Producer at Discovery Channel, Jim Handman, Senior Producer of CBC's Quirks and Quarks, Hannah Hoag, freelance science journalist and Penny Park, Executive Director of the Science Media Centre spelled out, in hilarious, and very plain language, how to be a more accessible scientist to the public and media.

I got to give a presentation, as a scientist, about why we (I'm looking at you in your lab coats and uncombed hair!) SHOULD communicate with the public about science, both directly and indirectly, instead of hiding in our labs., or in my case a ditch, or a forest. Here are my 5 main reasons:

1. The public are taxpayers, they fund you, and they deserve to hear directly from you (OK, so the Harper government doesn't want that, but other governments support this notion and have developed some great guidelines).

2. Outreach and engagement is increasingly written into funding requirements.

3. If the scientist doesn't communicate in plain language, someone else will do it for him/her.

4. Learning how to communicate in plain language can have the payoff, of enabling better interdisciplinary communication within academia, and increased research opportunities where large, interdisciplinary collaborations are required for funding.

5. To help Canada catch up with the UK and USA, which are ahead in encouraging the area of the public understanding of science.

At the bootcamp, Peter Calamai, a veteran Canadian science journalist and a founding member of the Canadian Science Writers' Association, reported some alarming statistics from the USA that underscored the importance of scientists communicating with our various publics. Most Americans cannot name a living scientist  - 15% managed Stephen Hawking (the slide above is used with permission). This was reported in the March 2011 Research Amer!ca: Your Congress, Your Health, National Public Opinion Poll. Peter also recommended the book, Escape from the Ivory Tower by Nancy Baron, as a must-read for scientists.

In their book, Unscientific America - How scientific illiteracy threatens America, authors Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum report that only 18% of Americans have actually met a scientist. Which prompted one blogger, at New Voices for Research to encourage scientists to head out into the street, shake  a stranger's hand and introduce ourselves!

So, there are the marching orders for scientists living in Conservative-held Federal ridings across Canada - go forth and shake a lot of hands. That's what it is going to take to build voter-support for natural and physical sciences, social sciences academic research, and evidence-based policy, one hand-shake at a time.

Dawn Bazely

And PS - I talk to politicians of all stripes and people from all walks of life - this is a fundamental approach of sustainability - to be inclusive, and cut-across partisan politics. I believe that I just might be a Cultural Creative! Do the test for yourself, and find out whether you are one.


“Climate Change is NOT a Hoax” (B. Obama) Blog #2: Just cancelled my Globe and Mail subscriptions

SCENE: Kitchen, writing student references for medical schools, while CBC's As It Happens plays on the radio.

JEFF DOUGLAS (As It Happens radio broadcoaster):

""Media Culpa." That's the name of a blog maintained by Ottawa artist Carol Wainio. As the name suggests, the blog exposes what Ms. Wainio believes to be substandard journalism. Lately, her spotlight has been focusing on one Canadian journalist in particular: Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente.

On Friday, the Globe's Public Editor, Sylvia Stead, responded to some of the issues raised by Ms Wainio. Ms. Stead included an explanation from Ms. Wente. But Carol Wainio isn't satisfied, and neither is John Miller.

He's the founding Chair of Ryerson University's Journalism Department and professor emeritus. We reached Mr. Miller in Port Hope, Ontario." (from The Monday Edition of As It Happens, duration 7 mins 49 secs)

DAWN BAZELY: "What the heck?" To my family hanging around doing homework and reading the Globe and Mail: "Did you hear that?"

Yes, we heard it and after the interview with Prof. Miller (starting at minute 13:25 of the podcast), I read many of the blogs and the Globe and Mail articles about the plagiarism. The Globe and Mail admitted to some of what Carol Wainio has been documenting, though did not call it plagiarism. It culminated, this morning, in my sending a Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail explaining that until a transparent and public investigation takes place to restore my faith in their journalistic standards and practices, that I would be cancelling my online and print subscriptions. Too bad, because I am a huge fan of Lucy Waverman's recipes, and my lobbying to get her back to the Saturday Life section from the mid-week section appeared to have borne fruit.

What does this debacle at the Globe and Mail have to do with Climate Change? A lot, actually (more on that in a moment).

It also has to do with how universities deal with ethics and academic integrity, including plagiarism. York University students are required to read the Academic Integrity webpages and do the tutorial about it. At York, I was one of the first professors to use Turnitin plagiarism software, because I brought in a lot of written work into BIOL 2050 (Ecology). Course instructors and teaching assistants spend a huge amount of their time educating about and policing academic honesty and making sure that plagiarism is not happening and if something is flagged as being potential plagiarism, filing complaints, holding meetings with associate deans and students involved, and then doing any follow up remedial work. There are large chunks of my life spent with tearful, upset students, that I will never ever get back.

So to read that a very public and polarizing columnist who has been given many board-feet of column space in what Chris Selley of the National Post describes in an online post as Canada's "self-styled paper of record" is not only being questioned about possible plagiarism and that several instances of this have been raised in the past by Carol Wainio (you can read the comparisons of the text - they are all over the internet), but then to see the muted responses from the Globe's Public Editor, and the Editor, made me feel utterly dismayed. THIS IS SERIOUS! In our courses, this would get students called into meetings, and if it continued (as appears to be have been happening), there would be a ramped up response and penalties imposed - severe penalties. Chris Selley quite rightly went on to observe that the Globe's response "is completely out of keeping with the global journalism mainstream".

I have written about the challenges of consistent blogging about sustainability, because of the time that I feel ethically obliged to spend checking sources, referencing and inserting links into posts, so as to maintain the standards that I am supposed to uphold as an academic. I get freaked out about accuracy and attribution. Apparently the Globe and Mail doesn't see this as such a big issue.

And finally, climate change... It's simply that Margaret Wente's many columns on climate change, sustainability, energy, etc. indicate that she is happy to give a big shout out to skeptics and denialists and generally is not interested in considering the boring old scientific community in a respectful, (even semi-) balanced and informed dialogue. Furthermore, a number of her columns about about the environment have contained errors through omission - exactly one of the reasons for academic dishonesty charges being levelled against Bjorn Lomborg, himself a controversial climate skeptic - then believer - now unfunded. I gave up reading Wente a long time ago after realizing that any time spent analyzing and responding was a total waste. The people now defending Wente in the comments section of the Globe and Mail appear to be supporting her because she speaks to their cultural beliefs and for them, uncomfortable facts are really not going to be that important (aka cognitive dissonance). A couple of years ago, the Globe and Mail actually did publish a response by Gerald Butts of WWF Canada to one of Wente's anti-climate change screeds.

So, here I go - a bit of analysis and observation of a couple of Wente columns:

From a December 1st 2011 column, "Suppression of climate debate is a disaster for science"

"Instead of distancing themselves from the shenanigans, the broader climate-science community has treated the central figures in Climategate like persecuted heroes. That is a terrible mistake, because it erodes the credibility of the entire field. The suppression of legitimate debate is a catastrophe for climate science. It’s also a catastrophe for science, period." (M. Wente)

Sorry - but the climate scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit were cleared of malpractice allegations, as reported by the Guardian on April 14 2010 in an inquiry headed by Lord Oxburgh. More of the same hacked emails were put out there after the inquiry had finished, by the denialists - but Wente doesn't mention the Oxburgh inquiry results anywhere, as far as I can tell - though she does consistently say that the science of climate change is not settled. NOT TRUE! Surely the Globe could have afforded to send her to any one of the International Polar Year conferences held in Quebec.

And  in the same column, Wente cites an economics professor on the topic of climate science: "Ross McKitrick... at the University of Guelph who is a leading climate-science critic" A quick check of McKitrick's publications on Google Scholar, indicates that he publishes papers about the lack of evidence for climate change with a co-author Patrick J. Michaels of the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, Washington, D. C. Hmm - wonder who funds them? - oh, that billionaire, Koch.

Previously, Wente had covered Climategate in a column, "Climate science's PR disaster" in which someone called Steve McIntyre, a skeptic and "anarchist", was heavily referenced. He has recently published a journal paper confirming  climate change in Antarctica, but this is his only peer-reviewed paper - his other writing is on his blog page.

The problem with these two columns is that Wente is conflating peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed writing. There is a whole field that considers academic and funder bias (but it's not really ever mentioned by Wente).

I could go on picking Wente's biased writing apart, but it's pointless. She has sold many papers with this approach, and gets a lot of clicks on the internet. Except, that I cannot resist pointing out the irony of a June 14 column supporting fracking in which she's actually calling for science: "I'm no expert on fracking technology, and I'm in no position to evaluate the risks. I have to rely on experts for that." She fails to point out that there is research ongoing into this issue and a lot of concern about fracking. Yes, the research investigating the downsides of fracking is in its infancy, and there's not much published on it, but Wente has never shied away from featuring the opinions of poorly-published people.

It really is time for the "legacy media", as I have learned it is called, to step up to the plate and deal substantively with the allegations against Margaret Wente. This would at the very least, include running all of her writing through Turnitin or some other plagiarism software.

Dawn Bazely