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UVic in the House

June 13, 2024

Thomas Baker, Mona Nemer (Chief Science Advisor of Canada), and Marianne Black

UVic was once again well represented at Science Meets Parliament (SMP) in Ottawa in May.

“The parliamentarians were so engaged, and their breadth of knowledge is impressive,” says engineering professor Marianne Black, who attended as an organizer. “It’s an amazing experience to bridge the gap between that breadth and the academics’ depth of knowledge about a subject.”

Black took part in the annual event hosted by the Canadian Science Policy Centre as UVic’s delegate in 2023 and the experience was so enriching that she has since helped organize the first Science Meets Parliament – BC and the 2024 national event.

“This benefits my ability to communicate my research and to think about how my research integrates with peoples’ lives,” Black says. “This type of event shows us what happens in between our grant applications and publications, and the real impacts.”

While there were many highlights during the two-day event in Ottawa (“I was so impressed by the whole experience”), a particularly bright spot for Black was meeting Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor.

“She’s a big supporter of Science Meets Parliament,” Black says. “She met with every delegate.”

Nemer accepted Black’s invitation to visit UVic and suggested a scientific roundtable discussion. Black, the lead on UVic’s new Aspiration Cluster on socially engaged artificial intelligence and robotics, of course hopes the future conversation can focus on AI and robotics.

This year’s delegate, chemistry and physics professor Thomas Baker found the experience enlightening for its closeup view of the Canadian political system at work. The Canadian Science Policy Centre “did an excellent job of preparing the delegates,” says Baker, who moved to Canada from the US for a postdoctoral fellowship in Québec before coming to UVic.

During the two-day event, Baker met several MPs and sat in on a finance committee meeting.

“I have a background in speech and debate and from that perspective it was really interesting,” Baker says. For “interesting” read “unexpected” for its informality, and for the references to US policies that indicate how much they are considered as parliamentarians develop Canadian policy.

A high point for Baker was meeting Speaker of the House Greg Fergus, who is “a very impressive person.”

Would he go again?

“Absolutely. This is one of the ultimate connections you can forge.”

(Image: Thomas Baker, Mona Nemer (Chief Science Advisor of Canada) and Marianne Black)

SMP facts

  • Science Meets Parliament is an initiative of the Canadian Science Policy Centre
  • The national event welcomes applications from all Tier II Canada Research Chairs and Banting postdoctoral fellows
  • The BC event broadened its scope to include applicants from any university in the province within the first ten years of their faculty appointment as well as postdoctoral fellows with a Banting fellowship or tri-agency funding.
    • “And,” says Marianne Black, one of the organizers “we defined ‘science’ very broadly. We considered ‘scientific process’ more.”
  • The calls for applications for both programs are expected to go out in the autumn