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The Black Hole

What to do with all the scientists… find out at the 2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference


In a break from normal lab routine, I’ll be dabbling in the black arts of science policy this November and running a session at the 3rd annual Canadian Science Policy Conference.  The conference runs from Nov 16th-18th and features an excellent lineup of speakers that should result in a fantastic push forward for science policy in our country.  The full speaker list can be seen here, with particular highlights of having both current presidents of SSHRC (Chad Gaffield) and of NSERC (Suzanne Fortier), the founding Director of CIHR (Alan Bernstein), the Minister of State for Science and Technology (Gary Goodyear), as well as Daily Planet’s Jay Ingram and the Science Media Centre’s Executive Director Penny Park.

Importantly for people that are considering joining for the conference, this Friday October 21st is the final day for early bird rate, notably very low for students and postdocs who might like to find out more about science policy and get involved in the discussion.

Rather excitingly, for the panel that I’m charged with, I’ve had very positive responses from invited speakers and have a final panel lineup that I hope will stimulate a positive and productive discussion on how Canada can best deal with the demographic shift that has been occurring over the last decade.  The session will feature presentations and discussion from Alan Bernstein (Founding Director of CIHR), Angela Crawley (Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars), Suzanne Fortier (President of NSERC), and Olga Stachova (COO, MITACS) and will be introduced and moderated by yours truly. The major questions being posed are:

  1. Are we producing too many scientists?
  2. What careers can these highly trained individuals undertake and how can we facilitate the transition?
Essentially, we will try to address the fact that substantial resources are invested into the education and training of these scientists and many of them find themselves in their mid- 30s without permanent positions or even any confident notion of where they are going to be in the next five years, despite a decade of highly specialised training.

For our readers who cannot attend, it would be a real treat to hear from you about what you think the major issues are and how we might begin to address them.  We’ve certainly tried to address the points before here, here and here, but this session offers a really nice chance to table some solutions that might just get acted upon.  If you’d rather not post for the world to see, please do feel free to contact me at [email protected].

I look forward to hearing from some of you.

David Kent
Dr. David Kent is a principal investigator at the York Biomedical Research Institute at the University of York, York, UK. He trained at Western University and the University of British Columbia before spending 10 years at the University of Cambridge, UK where he ran his research group until 2019. His laboratory's research focuses on the fundamental biology of blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. David has a long history of public engagement and outreach including the creation of The Black Hole in 2009.
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  1. Terri / October 18, 2011 at 18:11

    Dave: this conference sounds great! I will certainly stay posted to see what revelations come up. Now, how do I go about setting up something similar for the humanities….?

  2. […] other 1/2). You can find out more about the conference and David’s latest panel doings in his Oct. 18, 2011 posting. The other panelist is Tim Meyer (Head of Strategic Planning & Communications, TRIUMF) […]

  3. SB / November 5, 2011 at 15:06

    A big issue, in my mind, is the overstatement of career prospects (esp. for PhDs) by administrators who try to recruit new graduate students to their departments each year. Of course, I realize the last thing any recruiter wants to do is to tell people they may struggle to find a fulfilling job after getting a degree from their school, but saying that life will be all unicorns and rainbows after you get your doctorate is pretty dishonest.
    In addition to figuring out what to do with all the scientists (once they have already been trained for 6+ years post-baccalaureate), I think it’s reasonable (if pessimistic) to think about limiting the number of people who go down this path in the first place, or at least ensuring that those who do choose it have a realistic appreciation of the uncertainties that await them at the end.

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