White House Seeking Stories For This Year’s Manufacturing Day

The first Friday of every October is Manufacturing Day in the United States.  The 2016 edition takes place on October 7.  Co-produced by manufacturing organizations and the Commerce Department’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Manufacturing Day is intended to publicize manufacturing in the country and help people better understand the state of manufacturing in the country.

The Obama Administration is looking to publicize Manufacturing Day with stories and incentives to establish and/or strengthen connections between manufacturers, makers, and educators.  They are looking for stories, but they have to be submitted by tomorrow, September 16.  I suspect the input will help the Administration create the list of government and private sector commitments they like to announce with some of their big science and technology events.  Think of it as a science and technology flavored use of the ‘bully pulpit’ of the Presidency.

If you’re interested in participating in Manufacturing Day activities (which are not limited to October 7), consult the event listings on the Manufacturing Day website.

White House Frontiers Conference To Look Forward And Back

On October 13, President Obama will travel to Pittsburgh for the White House Frontiers Conference.  Co-hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University the event is intended to “explore the future of innovation here and around the world” and focus on building the nation’s capacity in science, technology and innovation.

Frontiers as defined by the conference are quite broad, broken out into personal, local, national, global and interplanetary frontiers.  Some of the attendees will be taken from a list of those nominated by the public.

Given how close we are to the election and the transfer of power to a new administration, it’s unclear to me what initiatives, if any, we might expect from this event.  Certainly there will be mention of the Administration’s innovation work to date, and there will likely be announcements of new innovation commitments by federal agencies and private organizations.  Having another conversation about innovation has some value, certainly.  But without linkage to future action, how valuable will the conversation be?

Roddenberry Foundation Celebrates #StarTrek50 With An Innovation Competition

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the television premiere of Star Trek, the Roddenberry Foundation today announced a million dollar prize competition to encourage innovation that will build a ‘boldly better’ future.  Each year the Roddenberry Prize (like the foundation, named for the creator of Star Trek) will recognize five ideas that will help bring about the vision of the future presented in Star Trek.  The prize fits in with the other work of the foundation, which is focused on supporting people and institutions looking to improve the human condition.

The goals are broad, and science and technology are just one of the broad categories wherein we can build the better future we’ve been watching for half a century.  The judging criteria are perhaps the best way of trying to envision the entries contest organizers want.  They are looking for solutions notably distinct from other efforts in the same area and capable of transforming the intended audience.  All the same, entrants will have to demonstrate their capability of implementing their idea through a combination of their skills, experience and plans.

The competition window is short, running from September 8 to November 16.  The winning entries will be recognized in January (trying to build synergy with the new Star Trek series expected to premiere at the same time).  The prize money is intended to support the expansion of the winning ideas to a larger scale.  If you don’t get in this year, there’s always next year.

FDA Releases Proposed Guidances For Next Generation Sequences

Last week the Obama Administration released one of its periodic fact sheets announcing recent actions on the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).  The PMI is trying to build tools and gather data to make it easier to target therapies and other medical treatments for specific individuals.

Part of this latest fact sheet is the announcement that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is releasing draft guidance on oversight for what’s called next generation sequencing (NGS).  This category of tests measures a much higher number of genetic variants than current sequencing.  The agency believes that these draft guidances – one on standards for analytical validity of NGS tests and another on using evidence from public genome databases to demonstrate the clinical validity of NGS tests – can be sufficiently flexible for a family of tests that is emerging and notably distinct from existing sequencing and related tests.  This is a situation where the agency likely believes that establishing some boundaries for a new testing field can support the development of such tests.

If you’re interested in providing comment on either draft guidance (or both), you will need to submit them by October 6.

Canadian Science Policy Conference Announces 2017 Date And Location

You may already have plans for the 2016 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), taking place November 8-10 in Ottawa.  Now you can plan for next year’s conference as well.  The organizers recently announced that the 2017 Conference, which will be the 9th such event, will take place November 1-3 in Ottawa.  This would mark the third consecutive year (and fourth overall) the event will take place in Ottawa, and it certainly makes sense that if the conference is to have a permanent home city that it would be the nation’s capital.

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Dominion of Canada, and the CSPC organisers are encouraging those proposing themes and events to keep that in mind.  Themes should be suggested by August 29, and while there is no deadline for submitting events (which would apparently be coordinated with the 2017 CSPC), I would assume the sooner the better.

By point of comparison, here are the themes for the 2016 CSPC (explained in more detail on teh conference website).

  • A New Culture of Policy Making and Evidence-Based Decision-Making: Horizons and Challenges
  • A New Innovation Agenda for Canada: What are we building?
  • Science Funding Review: New Visions and New Directions
  • Clean Energy and Climate Change as Global Priorities: Implications for Canada?
  • Canada’s Return to the International Stage: How Can Science Help Foreign Policy?

Both this year’s and next year’s events should be worthwhile, especially for those interested in broadening their science policy expertise to include the Canadian experience.

Canadian Government Engaged In Fundamental Science Review

Part of the Canadian government’s 2016 budget stipulated a review of science funding government-wideThis review will be led by Science Minster Kirsty Duncan, and was launched earlier this week.  Minister Duncan expects the review to be completed by the end of 2016.

The review will be support by an independent panel of experience researchers.  Former president of the University of Toronto David Naylor will chair the panel.  The panelists are drawn from various public and private entities across Canada (Dr. Birgeneau preceded Naylor at the University of Toronto).  The men and women working with Naylor on the panel are:

  • Dr. Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dr. Martha Crago, Vice-President, Research, Dalhousie University
  • Mike Lazaridis, co-founder, Quantum Valley Investments
  • Dr. Claudia Malacrida, Associate Vice-President, Research, University of Lethbridge
  • Dr. Art McDonald, former director of the Sudbury Neutrino Laboratory, Nobel Laureate
  • Dr. Martha Piper, interim president, University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist, Quebec
  • Dr. Anne Wilson, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Successful Societies Fellow and professor of psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University

The panel will assess the current state of Canadian research institutions as well as examining the Canadian research ecosystem as a whole.  It will consult with members of the Canadian research community and solicit input from the public.  The panel will also review international best practices, particularly in areas that they identify as weaknesses in the Canadian system.

 

The panel’s mandate focuses on support for fundamental research, research facilities, and platform technologies.  This will include the three granting councils as well as other research organisations such as the Canadian Foundation for Innvoation. But it does not preclude the panel from considering and providing advice and recommendations on research matters outside of the mandate.  The plan is to make the panel’s work and recommendations readily accessible to the public, either online or through any report or reports the panel produces.  The panel’s recommendations to Minister Duncan are non-binding.  However, with researchers on the panel   that are experienced in providing such advice to governments (such as Dr. Naylor), I think the panel’s recommendation stand a fair chance of being adopted by the government.

As Ivan Semeniuk notes at The Globe and Mail, the recent Nurse Review in the U.K., which led to the notable changes underway in the organization of that country’s research councils, seems comparable to this effort.  But I think it worth noting the differences in the research systems of the two countries, and the different political pressures in play.  It is not at all obvious to this writer that the Canadian review would necessarily lead to similar recommendations for a streamlining and reorganization of the Canadian research councils.  Yes, Dr. Naylor recommended a streamlining of health care organisations in a review he conducted during the previous government.  But the focus in health care is more application focused than is usually expected of fundamental research.

There is a simple mechanism online to receive comments (attachments are accepted as well), and as the panel begins its work, I would expect to see announcements of future meetings/consultations with stakeholders and the public.  To keep informed, visit the website, and sign up for email updates.

White House Targets June 29th For Several Cancer Moonshot Summits

Today the Vice President’s Office announced that it will host a Cancer Moonshot Summit on June 29th.  The national meeting will take place at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and in a break with the typical cancer meeting, the focus is on cancer, not a specific type of cancer.  This is consistent with the focus of the Moonshot – reducing barriers to communications across fields and specific cancers, as well as encouraging data sharing.

The meeting in Washington is not the only Summit planned for June 29th.  The Department of Health and Human Services is looking to coordinate a series of summits across the country.  If you are interested in participating in such a meeting, you can let them know here.

The events are intended for a wide variety of stakeholders, including researchers, clinicians, cancer patients, caregivers, and others involved in fighting cancer and trying to understand it better.