Top Ten

October 9, 2014

New report says federal policies limit government scientists’ freedom of speech

A new report entitled “Can Scientists Speak?” suggests that Canada’s federal scientists are in many cases not as free to communicate the results of their research as their American colleagues. The report, produced in collaboration between Simon Fraser University and non-profit, non-partisan group Evidence for Democracy (E4D), scored 16 federal departments in 5 categories pertaining to accessibility and clarity of communications, timeliness of communications, protection of scientific free speech, dispute resolution, and protection against political interference. The report’s authors found that in general government policies do not promote open and timely communication between scientists and the media, nor do they protect scientists’ freedom of speech. Only the Department of National Defence scored above a “C+” overall; it received a grade of “B.” 4 federal departments received a grade of “F.” All but one department scored lower than the US average for 2013. “Our findings are concerning because current media policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” said E4D Executive Director Katie Gibbs. Report Summary | Toronto Star | Globe and Mail

Georgian launches entrepreneurship training programs for students

Georgian College has announced it will match $200,000 in funding from the Ontario government in order to establish a broad series of programs and activities to promote and support student entrepreneurship. The funding, provided by the On Campus Entrepreneurship Activities program through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, will be used to establish a program that helps students create a business plan; to facilitate virtual collaboration with other young entrepreneurs in ON; to hold seminars, discussions, idea exchanges, and mentorship opportunities; to offer entrepreneurship boot camps; and to stage innovation showcases. “As a postsecondary leader in entrepreneurship education, Georgian is proud to launch this initiative,” said Georgian President MaryLynn West-Moynes. “This forms part of our ongoing commitment to accelerating the success of students and youth on our campuses and in our communities.” Georgian News | Simcoe.com

Dow donates $1 M to NAIT applied technologies

Dow Canada has donated $1.05 M to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, with $800,000 going toward the Centre for Applied Technologies and the remainder sponsoring a biennial power engineering seminar at NAIT. The Centre for Applied Technologies is currently under construction at NAIT’s main campus, and will allow NAIT to increase enrolment by 50% in health, business, engineering technologies, and sustainable building and environmental management programs. The Alberta government committed $200 M for the project. As one of the most popular programs at NAIT, power engineering technology graduates are often hired by Dow to work in one of the company’s facilities. “The power engineering technology seminar complements our hands-on education, showing students the many opportunities for applying their skills in meaningful careers,” said NAIT President Glenn Feltham. NAIT News Release | Edmonton Journal

MB announces action plan to close student achievement gap

Manitoba has released the details of a new action plan that is intended to improve academic achievement for the province’s students. MB Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum said, “86 per cent of students in Manitoba are meeting or exceeding expectations. However, clearly some students need additional support … We have a targeted plan that includes new supports for teachers and more resources for parents to help ensure that all our students excel.” The first pillar of the new plan centres on improving teacher education. It calls on the province to work closely with Deans of education to examine entrance prerequisites and evaluate practicum supports and teacher certification requirements. The plan also calls for more support for teachers in the early years of their career in the form of new classrooms and additional teachers to reduce class sizes. MB will also focus on three additional areas: fundamental skills, support for parents and students, and accountability. MB News Release

Calgary PSE institutions partner with counselling centre on depression screening initiative

The Calgary Counselling Centre has partnered with Calgary PSE institutions this week to host a new, online depression screening test. Today is National Depression Screening Day and organizers decided that the best way to reach young people is online. "We know that young people, university students, are highly vulnerable to depression. That's the age where it often shows up," said Robbie Babins-Wagner, CEO of the Calgary Counselling Centre. "It's an opportune time to get young people involved, to get them to take the test." The anonymous screening test takes 5 minutes to complete, and although it does not provide a diagnosis, it highlights whether symptoms of depression are present and offers a referral for further evaluation. CBC

Trades education battles to overcome outmoded misconceptions

An article in Maclean’s examines—and strives to correct—persistent myths surrounding trades education. The article says that many still view the trades as an option for students who are not “book smart.” Sarah Watts-Rynard, Executive Director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF), says that even as awareness of the trades has improved, this negative stigma remains a stumbling block. “Parents say they have the utmost respect for tradespeople. Teachers say the same thing,” she said. However, CAF data show that 25% of parents of teens aged 13–17 believe the trades are for weak students. The data further indicate that parents have an outdated concept of what the trades involve: half said that they believe working in a trade requires hard physical labour, when in fact, Watts-Rynard says, technology, math, science, and problem-solving skills are more important. Various organizations are working to correct these misconceptions, as well as to communicate the value and benefits of pursuing a trade; many school boards are now offering high school students opportunities to “sample” apprenticeship opportunities in order to learn more. Maclean's

Report says university libraries must re-evaluate role in research discovery

University libraries must re-examine their role in the research process, says a new report from nonprofit organization Ithaka S+R. The report focuses primarily on “discovery,” defined as “the process and infrastructure required for a user to find an appropriate item.” The authors say that while a significant majority of library directors surveyed agreed strongly that “it is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as the first place they go to discover scholarly content,” discovery is increasingly taking place outside of the library and away from the library's home page. More users are turning first to a general-purpose search engine or a specific electronic resource rather than their library’s online catalogue. Library directors seem to recognize this, and only a slim majority said that they believed their library was the best place to start a search for scholarly material. The study urges libraries to reconsider their role in facilitating research, and to examine other ways to remain relevant in the discovery process. Full Report

Purdue survey finds business majors least likely to be interested in their work

A survey of nearly 30,000 US college graduates released by Purdue University  shows that business majors are least likely to report caring about their job. Moreover, business majors often do not experience  the financial security that many expect from their degree. Just 37% of all college graduates who majored in business said that they strongly agreed with the statement “I am deeply interested in the work that I do,” compared with 47% of social sciences/education majors, 43% of sciences/engineering majors, and 43% of arts and humanities majors. A postgraduate degree correlated with an increase in reported interest in one’s work regardless of field, but had less of an impact on business students than those in other fields. Business majors also lagged behind their peers in the area of “purpose well-being,” which describes the extent to which people like what they do each day and feel motivated to achieve their goals. In terms of financial well-being, business majors fared just slightly better than social sciences/education majors, but worse than science/engineering majors. BusinessWeek

Loss of community leaves former students at risk of post-graduation blues

An article published by a recent Queen’s University graduate in the Globe and Mail sheds light on the “post-graduation blues” faced by some students upon leaving their PSE institutions. According to the article, many students become accustomed to the strong sense of community fostered at most PSE institutions and struggle with loneliness upon graduating. The problem may be exacerbated because students no longer have access to the mental health resources offered by most colleges and universities. For some graduates, mental health issues may also be triggered by difficulties finding post-graduate employment; for others, being forced to move back home may lead to feelings of inadequacy or a sense of regression. The article suggests that students should explore new hobbies and turn to friends to form an informal support network. Globe and Mail

Lumina launches re-vamped Degree Qualifications Profile framework

The Lumina Foundation yesterday unveiled a revamped version of its Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) initiative, a framework intended to define, at a national level, the skills and knowledge required by students before earning an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. The DQP seeks to establish “consensus on a public definition of quality in US higher education” in the hopes of expanding “the capacity of postsecondary education to ensure that students achieve the levels of learning they require and deserve.” The initial effort to implement the DQP on a large scale was stymied by a number of factors, including a lack of faculty support and skepticism toward standardization. The refreshed version, described as an “enhancement” by Lumina officials, includes a small number of major changes, such as focus on quantitative reasoning and the incorporation of ethical reasoning and global reasoning proficiencies. Some critics of the original plan said that they were encouraged by the new initiative’s inclusion of faculty views, but remain wary of the DQP’s perceived push for homogenization and its failure to address underfunding as a factor in education quality. Inside Higher Ed