The Art of Science Communication

Council E-News
June 2011


Welcome to the fifth issue of Council E-News, your source for updates on the Council's assessments, corporate activities, its Member Academies, and science in Canada.

Questions? Comments? Email us at

President's Message 

Advances in science and technology affect our lives in important and profound ways, influencing our choices in everything from food to smartphones to medicines. We rely on the best scientific information available to us and are influenced by the effectiveness with which these messages are conveyed.

While I’ve highlighted the importance of science literacy in the past (see Council E-news September 2010), the communication of science and science-based issues is equally vital. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Putting science into terms the public can understand is critical to the conveyance of new ideas and applications of science.

Researchers are in an excellent position to improve public awareness of science-related issues through effective communications. Witness the power of communications at the recent Equinox Summit at the Perimeter Institute. Here at the Council we are continually striving to improve our ability to connect by enhancing our communications skills and tools. It’s for this reason that we invite guests, such as Peter Calamai, a respected science journalist with over 30 years experience, to speak to the Council on topics such as “the art of science communication for the thinking audience.” Some helpful tips on how to effectively communicate science can be found in this issue’s Spotlight.

Guest writer Jean-Marc Fleury, Chair in Science Journalism Bell Globemedia at Université Laval, writes about the importance of strong science journalism. Also in this issue, Fellow in Focus Alan E. Winter, CEO of Genome British Columbia, reflects on his own challenges in communicating science to the public. As always, readers can find out more about what our expert panels are up to in this issue’s Expert Panels at Work.

Lastly, I would like to extend sincere congratulations, on behalf of the Council, to Michèle Stanton-Jean, who was recently appointed as the Representative of the Government of Quebec to UNESCO. Dr. Stanton-Jean served on the Council’s Expert Panel on Research Integrity. I’d also like to extend a warm welcome to two new Council members.

I hope you enjoy our latest issue of Council E-News.


Elizabeth Dowdeswell
President and CEO
Council of Canadian Academies

Expert Panels at Work

After a productive spring, the Council’s expert panels head into what is anticipated to be an equally busy summer. The Council expects to launch the Approaches to Animal Health Risk Assessment in the fall and continues to work on eight other assessments. Read more.

Fellow in Focus: Dr. Alan E. Winter, FCAE

From helping to determine the genetic triggers for adverse drug reactions in children, to decoding the secrets of healthier trees, Dr. Alan E. Winter, President and CEO of Genome British Columbia, is involved in an array of intriguing science projects. Read more.

Spotlight on... Nine Tips for More Effective Science Communications

If you work in the field of science, at some point in your career you will probably be called upon to communicate an aspect of your work, whether it’s in the form of a presentation, article, interview or paper. Where to start can be daunting, particularly if you’re time-pressed or not entirely comfortable engaging with the public. But communicating science can be done in a compelling way and helps to bring important issues to the forefront of public dialogue. Read more.


The Need for Strong Science Journalism
By guest contributor, Jean-Marc Fleury, Bell Globemedia Chair in Science Journalism, Université Laval (Québec City) and Executive Director, World Federation of Science Journalists

Science journalism, or as researcher Hans Peter Peters says, “Strong Science Journalism,” involves the public in the governance of science and its applications. Strong science journalism produces new and original information. In this capacity, science journalists are much more than translators of science, educators, or knowledge intermediaries. Read more.

News from the Academies

This section features news from the Council's Member Academies: the Royal Society of Canada; the Canadian Academy of Engineering; and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Read more.

In This Issue: 

President's Message 
Expert Panels at Work
Fellow in Focus: Dr. Alan Winter, FCAE
Spotlight on: Nine Tips for More Effective Science Communications
Perspectives: The Need for Strong Science Journalism 
News from the Academies
Did You Know...?

Find out more

Did You Know...?

When 21 sea otters washed up on the beaches of Monterey Bay, California in 2007, it attracted the attention of media and environmentalists alike. These otters are a protected species in California and their death was a shock to the recovery efforts. But it wasn't until three years later, in September 2010, that the cause of death was determined. The investigation showed that all of the sea otters had died from exposure to a toxin produced by freshwater cyanobacteria, specifically, microcystin.

Read more

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