Top Ten

October 17, 2013

Quebec to invest $3.7 billion in research

The Quebec government has unveiled a new National Research and Innovation Policy in which it will invest $3.7 billion over 5 years to boost research and innovation in Quebec. The funds will be spread among universities, colleges, businesses, and laboratories at public high schools in underprivileged areas. The government aims to boost the share of GDP devoted to research and development to 3% after it dropped to 2.4% in 2009. The policy will include $173 million for 3 important areas of research: demographic changes, sustainable development and the Quebec identity. McGill University has issued a statement to welcome the announcement. “The measures made public today by Minister Duchesne testify to the importance that the government of Quebec places on research and innovation,” says Rosie Goldstein, VP Research and International Relations at McGill. Montreal Gazette | McGill News

Sask invests $10 million in Parkland technology centre

The Saskatchewan government has invested $10 million to support the construction of a new Trades and Technology Centre at Parkland Regional College. The 2,300-square metre facility is expected to help address the trades and technical training needs of the region by graduating an additional 360 students and providing upgraded facilities for more than 2,000 new students annually. “The Trades and Technology Centre will yield educational excellence, foster innovation, cultivate inclusion, and create accountability to the citizens of the Parkland Region as well as the entire province of Saskatchewan,” says Parkland President Fay Myers. The college expects the project to proceed with tenders in November. During the facility announcement, Premier Brad Wall also highlighted the provincial government’s matching of a $150,000 scholarship donation over the next 5 years by the Yorkton Tribal Council to Parkland to help provide local First Nations youth with scholarships. Saskatchewan/Parkland News Release

uSask unveils new dairy research, teaching facility

The University of Saskatchewan this week opened its new Rayner Dairy Research and Teaching Facility, which will enhance agricultural research and promote agriculture to the public. Named after John G. Rayner, former director of extension at uSask, the $11.5-million facility will house: the Feeding the World interpretive galleries, which will help educate the public about how a dairy barn operates; the entire uSask dairy herd, which will be expanded to 100 cows by the end of 2013; and advanced research facilities that will help graduate and undergraduate students better prepare for jobs in the industry by allowing them to train with the latest technology. Research conducted at the Rayner facility will also explore nutrition, health, genetics, reproduction and animal welfare. uSask News Release

University research expands at slow pace in 2012 following Alberta cuts

Total research income generated from Canada’s 50 leading universities expanded by only 1.1% in 2012, “depressed by sharp cutbacks in provincial research funding in Alberta,” according to Infosource’s 2013 Top 50 Research Universities annual rankings. The rankings are calculated based on research income. The University of Toronto topped the list, this year becoming the first institution to post over $1 billion. The University of British Columbia comes in second with $585.2 million generated, and the Université de Montréal third with $526.2 million. Infosource also named 3 institutions as Research Universities of the Year 2013 in their respective categories: the University of Toronto (Medical/Doctoral); the University of Waterloo (Comprehensive); and the Université du Québec à Rimouski (Undergraduate). Infosource News Release | Rankings

Memorial-founded website enlists citizen scientists for data collection

Academics at Memorial University have created, a website that asks residents and tourists to post their sightings of plants, animals and other interesting features of the province’s landscape, contributing to MUN’s conservation, monitoring and education efforts. “The data collected on the nature tracker site can potentially be used to monitor local wildlife, inform conservation policy, protect endangered species, educate students and the public about local history, and develop innovative approaches to information modeling, information management and information systems development,” said Yolanda Wiersma, a MUN landscape ecologist and one of the website creators. In the future, the group would like to get funding to make it easier to post findings via smartphones and mobile devices. MUN Today

Canadian funding agencies seek input on big data management plan

Canada’s federal research granting agencies — the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) – have released a consultation document to help address digital infrastructure challenges, including how to manage big data. “The potential of data-intensive research is quickly exceeding our ability to manage and grow the digital ecosystem required to meet 21st century research needs, and thus contribute to Canada’s social and economic prosperity,” says a SSHRC statement. The agencies are seeking feedback on the document from institutions, associations, organizations and individuals, and are asking for email responses by December 16. Proposals in the document include: having the granting agencies, in partnership with stakeholders, define the core elements of a data stewardship plan; coordinating regular stakeholder consultations on a digital infrastructure; and developing future funding parameters for data management. Canada Foundation for Innovation | Consultation Document

Ontario looking into labour legislation for student interns

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is looking into aspects of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) that govern unpaid internships, according to the Toronto Star. “We are currently looking at bringing co-op students under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure they have all the same rights and protections as all other workers,” says Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi. However, Naqvi also says that the exemption in the legislation allowing students to work without pay is not being reconsidered because students receive a course credit instead of money. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has been calling on the Ontario government to amend the Employment Standards Act to include protections for student interns. Toronto Star

Oregon high school board proposes mandatory college admission

A high school superintendent in Oregon is proposing that students must have admission to college before they can receive their high school diplomas, a proposal that so far has unanimously passed a first reading by the Corbett School Board. The rule would not require students to actually attend college; they simply have to apply and be accepted, which Corbett High School Principal Phillip Pearson says is about giving kids options. “I think it just feels like perhaps we're requiring you [to attend college]. That's not the intention. The intention is to expand options so you just have a lot of different things you can choose from,” says Pearson. The school district will cover the cost of applying for students who can’t afford it.

Income gaps affect how soon students enrol in PSE

A new report by the National Student Clearinghouse in the US reveals that the number of high school seniors who begin PSE within one year of graduating and persist through college varies greatly by family income levels. The study examined the effects that factors such as income, ethnicity, and school setting had on how soon students begin PSE and whether they graduate. Only half of seniors who graduated from low-income, rural schools in 2012 began PSE the first fall after graduating, compared with 65% of those from higher income, rural schools. There were more variations based on schools' concentration of minority students. “Providing more opportunities throughout a student's K-12 education, such as greater access to advanced placement and college preparatory classes, and financial assistance for preparation programs can help improve student outcomes,” says Dallas Dance, Superintendent of the Baltimore County Public Schools. University Business

Australian company offers textbooks via drone

Zookal, an Australian startup that sells and rents textbooks to university students has launched a pilot project to deliver its products instantly via drone. Zookal has partnered with a University of Sydney-supported startup called Flirtey, whose “hexacopter” drones will fly to a designated GPS location based on data sent from an app on the customer's cell phone. While the drone is not equipped with a camera, it does have collision-avoidance systems to prevent crashes with birds, trees, buildings, and overhead wires.