Canada Research Chairs shine at Canadian Science Writers’ Association Annual Conference
Every year, science writers, communicators and researchers from across the country meet at the Canadian Science Writers’ Association annual conference. Together, they share ideas, explore new ways of communicating and discuss groundbreaking Canadian research.
This year’s conference was hosted by the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. A number of Canada Research Chair Program (CRCP) chairholders attended, sharing their key findings while clearly articulating, in front of their audience of journalists and communicators, the significance of their work.
The conference featured a number of highlight events, including a “science speed-dating” session, where science writers met with a series of researchers, listening to a two-minute pitch about their research projects, followed by a four-minute block for questions.
Erika Dyck, Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine, discussed her research into the history of LSD studies in 1950s Saskatchewan, before commenting on the renewed worldwide interest in LSD research and its applications.
Ravi Chibbar, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biology for Crop Quality, sat on a panel looking at ways of separating fact from fiction in the Internet age. He shared his research findings, debunking claims that genetic manipulation has made modern-day wheat a trigger for gluten intolerance; Chibbar has found that Canadian wheat is almost unchanged after 150 years of crop breeding.
As part of the conference theme celebrating the International Year of Light, attendees also toured the Canadian Light Source, Canada’s only synchrotron.
David Cooper, Canada Research Chair in Synchrotron Bone Imaging, and Dean Chapman, Canada Research Chair in X-Ray Imaging, demonstrated the imaging capabilities of the synchrotron and how this is helping prevent osteoporosis, cystic fibrosis and cancer.
Ingrid Pickering, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Environmental Science, explained how the synchrotron can be used to study metals in water systems, and how this helps with her research looking at the molecular interaction of toxic elements with the environment.
Canada Excellence Research Chair Graham Pearson gave a keynote speech on his exciting recent finding: the first terrestrial discovery of ringwoodite. Finding the rare mineral enabled Pearson to confirm long-held scientific theories that vast volumes of water remain trapped 410 to 660 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. Pearson explained how a creative spin on his research made it newsworthy—the finding was compared to the Jules Verne novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth—and commented that researchers need to learn to engage with the public about their research.
While conference attendees enjoyed a river boat cruise along the South Saskatchewan River, John Giesy, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology, and Markus Hecker, Canada Research Chair in Predictive Aquatic Ecotoxicology spoke about their work at the Global Institute for Water Security. The two researchers discussed the impacts of a changing climate on water quality and quantity in Canada and suggested policymakers would need to play a stronger role in water conservation.
Presentations by the CRCP chairholders demonstrated the importance of storytelling in promoting research, while bringing their stories to a wide audience. Other highlights from the conference include a science storytelling workshop by Jay Ingram in which he explained the importance of building context when writing about science.
For the full conference agenda, visit the Canadian Science Writer’s Association website.