Workshop/Symposium 3: Science Communications

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 8:00am to 3:30pm

*lunch is included in cost

Taking charge: why you should actively engage in public communication, and how to join the process
CSPC Science and Technology Communication workshop/symposium
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
8:30am – 3:30pm

All too often, public policies on matters of science, technology, or medicine can disappear into a political black hole. The positions and strategies outlined in these policies may be entirely sound, perhaps even popular, but they carry the burden of dealing with subject matter that may be widely perceived as complex and inaccessible. In this context, communication becomes a critical factor, bridging the gap between the practical, day-to-day interests of government officials and bureaucrats and the often abstract ambitions of research and development. This workshop has been organized in a sequential way, so that you start the day with some interest in why you should even care about communication at all, and leave at the end with some insights and tools that will be of specific value for your purposes. Toward that end, the day has been organized around three sessions, each characterized by a well defined goal, as follows:

1)The professional goal: To understand the value of effective communication, as viewed through the lens of contemporary media

2)The academic goal: To learn the guiding principles that will help you articulate your message, and frame it effectively for public dissemination

3)The deliberative goal: To share the experience and lessons learned from successful public deliberations on science policy issues, and the communications techniques that enabled these events to overcome challenges

Breakfast and Registration

Keynote talk by Peter Calamai: “Eat your peas; why telling people science is good for them doesn’t help them understand or support it.”

9:15-10:45 Professional Communicators: Why bother?
Moderator: Tim Lougheed, Canadian Science Writers’ Association
Panelist: Rees Kassen, Partnership Group for Science & Engineering
Panelist: Howie Honeyman, GreenCentre Canada
Panelist: Scott Findlay, University of Ottawa
Panelist: Lisa Lambert, Perimeter Institute

Communicating the details of scientific or technological work to wider audiences is a messy, often thankless task; not surprisingly, very few people in these fields take up this challenge, leaving the public storytelling of their activities in the hands of mass media. Unfortunately, the value and importance of their work are often sacrificed at the altar of what counts as a “good” story. There are key, self-interested reasons to take the initiative in the communication process, and not simply to head off journalistic mistakes; the outcome can position your work in a positive way for future support — from the public, from political backers, and above all from colleagues who might not otherwise have a full appreciation of your objectives.

This panel will introduce the day’s deliberations by outlining the underlying motivation of communications, and why it is worth the trouble even if you are too busy to bother.

10:45-11 Coffee break

11:00-12:30 Academic Communicators: What is effective science communication?
Moderator: David Pearson, Science Communication, Laurentian University
Panelist: Samantha Kuula, SNOLab
Panelist: Chantal Barriault, Science Communication, Laurentian University
Panelist: Paul Dufour: Principle, Paulicy Works; Institute for Science, Society and Policy at University of Ottawa

Just as there is no single, “right” way to convey news about politics, business, or sport, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to framing stories about science and technology. Strategy and tactics can vary widely, depending on the institution being represented or the audience being approached. It is therefore crucial to design a communication program around these considerations, which should precede any discussion of the specific content to be communicated. For while that content is usually what we are most eager to convey, what should be clear is that the effectiveness of any such program is generally established in a separate way.

This panel will showcase examples of science communication from several distinctly different perspectives, outlining their common elements as well as the features unique to a given community or agency. It will introduce some simple yet powerful models outlining the technique of reaching any given audience, from establishing an initial style of delivery to framing the ultimate purpose of the message.

12:30-1:15 Lunch

1:15-2:45 Communicating Publics: How can deliberation help?
Moderator/Panelist: David Secko, Department of Journalism / Concordia Science Journalism Project, Concordia University
Panelist: Kieran O'Doherty, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph
Panelist: Holly Longstaff, Partner, Engage Associates

Policy involving science and technology affects everyone, not just experts and communicators. Therefore, there is an important democratic mandate to not just communicate with people but to involve broader publics in policy-making on such issues. The challenge is that these topics often involve fairly technical information that requires in depth context and time for discussion. This session moves from the preparatory phases of understanding, justifying and preparing a message to an exploration of what happens when publics are given a voice and allowed to deliberate on that message. The process is not one of simple transmission, but a more dynamic exchange that can itself generate new ideas for further policy initiatives.

This final session will offer several case studies depicting the steps that lead to informed deliberative public engagement on science policy issues with significant economic, social, and political implications. It will highlight some communications techniques involved in the process and lessons to be learned.

2:45-3:30 Bringing it all together

Summary statements and free-ranging discussion with all participants, fielding any questions that might be put by audience.


Engage Associates

Dr. Holly Longstaff specializes in applied ethics and policy analysis from a social science perspective and has over 10 years’ experience in this field. Holly is the Communications Officer for the national board of the Canadian Bioethics Society (CBS) and is on the BC Board of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA). She is also a member of the International Society for Environmental Information Sciences.

Holly received her doctorate from The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at UBC in 2009. Her graduate work in ethics and health research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through their Ethics of Health Research and Policy Training Program and the CIHR Institute of Genetics. Holly has presented her research at conferences across North America and has published her work in a variety of peer-reviewed journals such as Nature Reports Stem Cells, Stem Cell Reviews and Reports, Global Environmental Change, the Journal of Environmental Science & Policy, and Public Understanding of Science.

Some of Holly’s recent clients include Health Canada, CIHR, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. As an academic, she has worked for projects funded by the Canadian Stem Cell Network, the National Science Foundation, Infrastructure Canada, and the Climate Decision Making Centre at Carnegie Mellon University. Holly has recently been employed as a Research Associate at Concordia University.

Assistant Professor
University of Guelph
Communications Officer
Professor, Department of Earth Sciences & Science Director
Laurentian University & Science North

David Pearson was on leave from Laurentian as Project Director for Science North from 1980 to 1986 and has returned as of September 2007 as Science Director. He has hosted two television series: "Understanding the Earth" for TV Ontario, and "Down to Earth" for Mid-Canada Television, as well as a weekly radio spot, "Radio Lab", on CBC Northern Ontario Radio. He is an invited member of the Osprey Writers Group. He received the Ward Neale Medal from the Geological Association of Canada for promotion of the Earth Sciences in Canada in 2001 and the McNeil medal for science communication from the Royal Society of Canada in 2003.

Institute for Science, Society and Policy

After 15 years as a staff science reporter for Canadian daily newspapers Peter Calamai now freelances science articles to magazines and newspapers at home and abroad. A contributing editor of Australia’s Cosmos magazine, Calamai is a member of the steering committee of the Science Media Centre of Canada. A founding member of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, he is also a three time winner of Canada’s highest journalistic honour, the National Newspaper Award, and an adjunct research professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa. Calamai graduated with a B.Sc. in Physics from McMaster University in 1965 and worked as a correspondent and editor with the Southam company for 30 years, with postings to Ottawa, London (U.K.), Nairobi and Washington. His quasi-scientific pursuits include conchology with specialization in the cowry (Cyprae), ornithology, astronomy and the genetic engineering of tomatoes.

Associate Professor
Department of Journalism/Concordia Science Journalism Project, Concordia University

Previously worked as a reporter, columnist and freelance science writer for The Scientist magazine, Vancouver’s Tyee, the Science Creative Quarterly, Canadian Medical Association Journal and the U.S. Public Library of Science (PLoS).

Before turning to journalism, Dr. Secko was trained as a molecular biologist at the University of British Columbia. His research focused on the soil amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum and efforts to understand how it was capable of living a solitary life until starved, where upon it signaled to its kin to organize into a multicellular organism and crawl together to a new source of food. Now at Concordia University, Dr. Secko is working to give journalists and students new tools to communicate science as part of the Concordia Science Journalism Project. His interests further extend to the moderation and design of deliberative engagement events, as well as research that links across journalism, science and ethical issues to clarify and experiment with the roles of the public, experts and journalists in the democratic governance of biotechnology.

Dr. Secko won a University Research Award for his research contributions in 2011, the Dean’s Award for excellence as a new scholar in 2010 and was awarded the Hal Straight Gold Medal in Journalism from UBC’s School of Journalism in 2006.

Science Communication at Laurentian University

Chantal Barriault started working at Science North while she was in high school in 1986. She has been a staff scientist at Science North since 1993 and has led many science communication projects including teacher training, education programmes, live theatre science shows and exhibit development. Chantal has an M.Sc. in Science Communication from the University of Glamorgan in Wales. She also has international experience with exhibit and show development projects for centres around the world.

Manager, External Relations & Public Affairs
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Lisa Lambert is the Manager of External Relations & Public Affairs at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. At Perimeter, Lisa is responsible for a broad range of partnerships, interactions, and messaging involving public partners, the media, key stakeholders, and other groups.

Lisa has worked in various capacities in both research and communications prior to joining Perimeter, most recently as a Program/Research Associate with the Council of Canadian Academies where she supported independent, evidence-based expert studies to inform the development of public policy.

As an undergraduate student, Lisa pursued her interests in cognitive neuroscience, receiving an B.Sc. (Hon.) from Western University. Lisa is an alumnus of the Laurentian University/Science North Graduate Program in Science Communication where she researched the discussion of science in political discourse. She also completed the Banff Centre’s Science Communications residency program. A national finalist in Discovery Channel’s charter Iron Science science communication, Lisa formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association.

Associate Professor in the Department of Biology
University of Ottawa

C. Scott Findlay is Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa, Director of the University's Institute of Environment, and Research Associate at the Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. In April 2005, he was appointed to the Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission, and in May 2008 to the Challenge Advisory Panel under the federal Chemical Management Plan. In 2012 he became one of the leaders of an unprecedented public outcry by members of the Canadian research community, the “Death of Evidence” march on Parliament Hill to protest the closing of the Experimental Lakes Area.

His main research interests concern the quantification of risks posed to ecosystem structure and function by human activities, the notion of scientific weight of evidence in administrative decision-making generally and science-informed policy in particular, integration of traditional and western scientific knowledge, and the role of Darwinian evolution in tumourigenesis and the therapeutic response of cancer.

Global Young Academy

Dr. Rees Kassen is professor and University Research Chair in Experimental Evolution at the University of Ottawa. He is also co-chair of the Global Young Academy (, an international organization of early-career researchers acting as the voice of young scientists around the world and past chair of the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE;, an association of 26 professional and scientific organizations acting on behalf of over 50,000 members from academia, industry and government in Canada. Dr Kassen completed his PhD at McGill University and then went on to an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship and Elizabeth Wordsworth Research Fellowship at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. He is known internationally for his integrative approach to the study of biodiversity and pioneering work using microbes to study evolutionary and ecological processes in the laboratory. He was awarded an NSERC Steacie Fellowship in 2010 and was a World Economic Forum/IAP Young Scientist in 2010 and 2011.

Chief Technology Officer
GreenCentre Canada

Dr. C. Howie Honeyman is Chief Technology Officer of GreenCentre Canada, a Kingston, Ontario-based R&D facility dedicated to technology transfer of green chemistry products. He has a wide-ranging and extensive background in developing and commercializing emerging technologies, including the first major commercial "Ink" platform that is now the cornerstone of commercial e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle.

Dr. Honeyman holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral researcher at Penn State University. He is the co-author of 17 peer-reviewed publications and is an inventor of record on more than 30 US patents and published patent applications.

Canadian Science Writers’ Association

Tim Lougheed has been a full time freelance writer and editor in Ottawa since 1991. From 2005 to 2009, he was the president of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, an organization made up of more than 500 members across the country who share an interest in the communication of issues surrounding science, technology, and medicine.

Focusing primarily on science, technology, medicine, and education, he has written hundreds of articles appearing in specialized and general publications, in Canada as well as internationally. He has also done other types of communications work with various organizations, in government, academia, and the private sector. His career began as a reporter with the Windsor Star and the Sault Star, then as a science writer for Queen’s University. He has degrees from the University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, and Queen’s University.


Paul Dufour is Principal of PaulicyWorks, a science and technology policy consulting firm based in Gatineau, Quebec. He is one of Canada’s leading experts in S&T policy and international development. He is a Fellow and Adjunct Professor with the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa, member of the External Advisory Board to the Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, and is on the steering committee for the Canadian Science Policy Conference.
Having spent 30 years in the public sector as a science adviser with several agencies and departments, Mr Dufour served as interim executive director of the the Office of the National Science Adviser to the Government of Canada. He was with the International Development Research Centre as special programme assistant of the project on Research on Knowledge Systems. Other professional activities included senior adviser at Natural Resources Canada, Ministerial Assistant to Canada’s Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, senior analyst with the Science and Technology Strategy Directorate at Industry Canada and international S&T relations’ adviser with the Secretariat to the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on Science and Technology. Mr Dufour was for several years, research advisor for the Science Council of Canada, where he produced several reports on Canada’s international and domestic technology prospective.
Born in Montreal, Mr. Dufour was educated at McGill, the Université de Montreal and Concordia University in the history of science and science policy, and has had practical S&T policy experience for over three decades. He lectures regularly on science policy, has authored numerous articles on international S&T relations and Canadian innovation policy including the Canada chapter for UNESCO’s World Science Report in November 2010. He was series co-editor of the Cartermill Guides to World Science (Canada, Japan, Germany, Southern Europe and the United Kingdom) and North American editor for the revue Outlook on Science Policy. He provides seminars to interns for the Council of Canadian Academies, writes regularly on innovation policy, and has been an assessor on several Canadian government programs, including Grand Challenges Canada and Genome Canada.