Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Election time action: support a BC graduate scholarship program

Let BC's election candidates know we support the creation of a BC Graduate Scholarship!

Over the past few years, the GSS has worked with graduate student organizations at UBC, SFU and UNBC in advocating for the creation of a graduate scholarship program in BC. Our proposal is here.

Elections are a chance to raise important issues, and I hope you will take the time to send the party leaders a message about the importance of funding graduate education in BC.

Provincial graduate funding is important because:
 - Among the larger provinces, only BC has no graduate scholarship program
 - Graduate students contribute to the university as teachers-which in turn helps the ability of the university to accommodate undergraduate enrollment
 - A funded graduate student completes their degree in a timely manner
 - Graduate students contribute to the province-whether through research that benefits BC communities, or by adding to our province's ability to innovate after graduation

Visit http://bcgradscholarship.ca to send your message.

Here you'll find some sample text. You can send it as is, but we strongly encourage you to create your own message.

Please circulate this call to the students and faculty in your department to help us spread the word.

And of course, don't forget to vote on May 14!

Stacy Chappel
GSS Executive Director

Authorized by the University of Victoria Graduate Students' Society, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 250-472-5163.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ontario steps up to save the Experimental Lakes Area

This morning the Ontario government announced it will provide financial support to ensure the Environmental lakes Area is sustained for "long term operations".

The Experimental Lakes Area, which had continuous data on 58 protected lakes since the 60s, was one of several research funds cut in the federal budgets of 2012 (previously on this blog). The Area was previously funded through the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The Globe & Mail reports the exact nature of the funding commitment remains unclear.

CBC story is here, quoting Ontario Premier Wynne saying: " I don't believe that either provincially, regionally, or nationally and internationally we can afford to let it go." (Hear hear!)

Learn more about the Experimental Lakes Area  on their site.

Enjoy Rick Mercer's rant about the original cuts here. "In the world of science, they are rock stars! ... [ELA scientists] up there living in tents and shacks, with their big bushy bears, eating mung beans out of mason jars, trying to figure out what different chemicals will do to our drinking water...". :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Watch Higgs weep during announcement at CERN

The UK telegraph has this lovely video, showing the announcement of the Higgs Boson particle at CERN in Switzerland early today.

Despite the many attempts of UVIC phsyics grad students, I don't fully understand it. But it is always  moving to see such great leaps in scientific understanding, and the enthusiasm of those involved in world class research.

Congrats to everyone involved! And remember today when you think of the importance of research.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

SFU graduate students win designated seat on BOG

University Boards have a lot of clout -- they approve university budgets, major capital projects, and review the president.

Simon Fraser University's Board of Governors voted in their June meeting to allocate the two student seats on the Board of Governors to ensure undergraduates and graduates each have one seat.

The Peak (SFU student paper) has reported on the issue--and the mixed reactions to the change-- here.

BC makes opens data and makes it easier to have your say

The BC Government has launched a new web portal to make it easier to find and participate in public consultation processes.

Govern Together BC provides updates on policy changes, and has a searchable data base to discover any current public consultations. The site also provides a link for those interested in applying for government appointed seats on public bodies.

The list of current consultations includes panels reviewing the carbon tax, fisheries regulations, and transparency in the justice system.

The site also pointed me to Data BC, which provides public access to BC government data.
The site is very useable... for instance, in abut 1 minute, I was able to download the following information about unemployment rates by type of post secondary education attained.

Unemployment Rate of Graduates from Public Post-secondary Institutions by Credential Type
BC Public Post-secondary System, Survey Year 2006 to 2010

Published November 2011

Unemployment Rate (%) Survey Year      
Credential Type 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Bachelor Degree Graduates 3.9% 2.8% 3.6% 5.9% 6.6%
Apprenticeship Graduates n/a n/a n/a n/a 9.6%
Diploma, Associate degree, & Certificate 6.3% 6.1% 6.4% 9.5% 10.9%
high school or less (8 to 29 yrs) 7.6% 6.5% 7.7% 13.4% 14.0%

Graduate students with research interests in areas affected by public policy could find this a practical tool.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The long reach of Budget 2012, and it's impact on Canadian research

Is there an aspect of Canadian research that is not impacted by the 2012 federal budget?
As implementation of the 2012 Federal budget begins, researchers across the country are raising the alarm about resulting cuts to a variety of research programs in Canada. Marine research, climate research, archaeology, archives, and the fund for purchasing scientific equipment are all subject to cuts. 

Over the past few weeks I have attempted to collect information on cuts to research programs resulting from the 2012 federal budget. What follows is what I have found – please add to the list, if you know of more.

37 northern research facilities have been cut
due to cuts to the federal science research funding agency, NSERC. This article discusses cuts to arctic research, notably Kluane research station.
[In case you, like me, are unaware of the ice cores, here is a description from the article:
The collection of ice-cores was drilled from ice caps and ice fields throughout the Canadian Arctic. It comprises more than 1,000 metres of ice cylinders documenting thousands of years of climate history. Most of the cores contain ice dating back to the end of the last glaciation, about 12,000 years ago, but some may contain ice up to 80,000 years old. The longest of the cores, extracted from the Agassiz ice cap on Ellesmere Island, is longer than 330 metres.

Cores are important sources of data on past climate change, because they can contain dust, gas bubbles and chemical isotopes that give clues as to atmospheric and temperature conditions when the ice was laid down. The resolution of the information is often sharper than that in other proxies, such as ocean sediments.]

I have heard from faculty that the ice cores are valued world wide, and cost a hefty amount to collect and set up storage -- money that will be wasted if they are indeed lost to budget cuts.

I’ve also heard from people in the sciences that the NSERC fund Canadian scientists in universities use to purchase their equipment will end in one year -- meaning that right across the country, all labs will have to make due with whatever they have now and can obtain in the next twelve months.One casualty of this cut is the Neutron Beam Centre at the Chalk River Nuclear Plant and another is Canadian meteor research.

Bamfield's world renowned marine research centre (near Tofino) is also facing drastic cuts. The Pacific Marine Analysis and Research Association (PacMARA) blog has attempted to catalogue cuts that will impact marine research, but says they are “surely incomplete”.

Parks Canada cuts are described as “draconian” by the Canadian Archaeological Association because of their on archaeological research. Archaeologist and blogger Tim Rast has catalogued cuts to archaeology here. In many cases, regional labs will see their artefacts transferred to central storage in Ottawa.

The sciences are not the only researchers feeling the pinch in this budget.
You may have heard archivists speaking out about cuts to an archival program that ensures support to small community archives, and development of online access to archives. UVIC’s archivist, Lara Wilson, joined an “Ottawa trek” of archivists modeled on Canada’s historic “On to Ottawa Trek”. The campaign, and the reasons our archives are important to more than historians, are featured in this CBC radio story. One estimate says the cuts could close 800 of Canada's smaller archives.

CAUT has harshly criticised cuts to research in the recent federal budget, noting cuts to funds that make it possible for professors to take research time. CAUT raises concerns about government interference in research areas, funding “bricks and mortar” while cutting the programs that fund the use for these facilities. They also state they were told to “shut up” by the policy advisor to Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, when they met to raise their concerns.