The Second Wave: Science Meets Leadership

Good nuanced discussion of the complexities in finding a balance between public health, economic and other concerns:

When the pandemic first hit, none of us knew what to expect. Medical experts called for a lockdown and governments took their advice. This time round it’s different. Our political leaders are being called on to protect both our health and our economy. As Doug Ford noted on Tuesday, that can be an unpleasant place to be.

In his press conference, Ford commented on his decision to reinstate Stage 2 measures in three key regions of Ontario, much as François Legault has done in Quebec. It was, he says, one of the hardest decisions of his career. We get it but, frankly, he should get used to it. Governments everywhere may be called on to make lots more decisions like this in the months ahead.

Businesses are hurting badly, and many are stepping up the pressure on politicians to help them get through these tough times. This is not just about financial support. In Ottawa, for example, business groups have challenged Ford to produce the data that justifies stricter measures. There is a growing sense that politicians have the tools to open the economy without putting the public at risk, but do they?

We think this is a discussion worth having – cautiously and respectfully. We’re not disputing that public health is the No 1 priority. The hard question is whether it can be better aligned with other priorities. A recent poll from the Innovative Research Group helps us get at the issue:

The response to Question 1 caught our attention. It shows that Canadians are almost evenly split on whether they think experts have too much influence on governments. This sheds important light on the tensions Ford is dealing with, and why other premiers will likely face the same issues, as the second wave grows. Some, such as Legault, already are.

Basically, during the first wave, political leaders deferred to public health officials on how to respond to the pandemic. This served us well, but governments have come a long way over the last eight months. New knowledge and new tools like rapid testing and contact tracing now allow leaders to manage the risks in ways that were not possible before.

For example, experts now know enough about how the virus spreads to contain it within a region, so that governments don’t have to shut down a whole province. This is currently the approach in Ontario and Quebec.

However, there is a price to pay for plans like this. Generally, the more complex they get, the less likely they are to be guided by medical science. In Ontario, for example, the government’s decision to shut down bars, restaurants, and gyms while leaving schools open has raised eyebrows.

There are serious questions about how far the science on COVID-19 can help decision-makers assess the importance of getting children back to school. Striking a balance between public health risks and learning involves weighing lots of things that are outside the purview of medical science.

So, how are these tradeoffs getting made?

In a second slide, IRG reveals an important feature of our political culture. The slide uses a scale of 1 – 100 to assess how strongly Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP members feel about the role of experts in government decision-making. The poll finds a 24-point spread between Liberals and Conservatives, with the NDP in the middle. (See the line on Political Populism.)

Basically, the data show that our political leaders are predisposed to treat expert opinion differently: progressives are more inclined to accept it and conservatives to question it.

Neither predisposition is wrong, but predispositions of any kind can be a barrier to a thoughtful, informed discussion of the issues. They incline us to trust some views more than others and this can shape how we think and talk about the issues.

This is a critical consideration as the second wave advances. When health experts declare that “the evidence” calls for actions that favour health over, say, the economy, political leaders need a reliable way to weigh this advice against other concerns and priorities. And they shouldn’t look to health experts to provide it.

Health experts view the world through a health lens. Their role doesn’t train them to consider how this affects other priorities, such as the economy or learning. That is what elected officials are supposed to do – but they need a reliable way of thinking through the issues.

As things stand, the poll suggests that these decisions often come down to a leader’s predispositions – whether they are a conservative or a progressive. We don’t think that’s not good enough.

Increasingly, our governments are being called on to respond to all aspects of the pandemic, not just public health. Predisposition are not a reliable guide to this. They will not disappear, but we can be conscious of them and keep them in check.

Different priorities should be publicly discussed and balanced against public health. To be clear, we are NOT disputing that public health is the No 1 priority, but we do believe that governments need the flexibility to experiment with different options and to respond to other priorities.

That is the way forward.

Andrew Balfour is Managing Partner at Rubicon Strategy in Ottawa.

Source: The Second Wave: Science Meets Leadership

Black Microbiologists Push for Visibility Amid a Pandemic

Of note, particularly important given disparities in health and healthcare:

A few days before her fifth-grade science fair, Ariangela Kozik awoke to the overwhelming scent of poultry past its due. It was exactly what the young scientist had been hoping for.

“Whew,” she recalled thinking at the time. “There is definitely something growing in here.’”

She rushed into her kitchen, where a neat stack of glass Petri dishes awaited her, each filled with a gelatinous brown disk made of beef broth and sugar. Atop many of the cow-based concoctions was a smattering of what looked like shiny, cream-colored pimples. Each was a fast-ballooning colony, teeming with millions and millions of bacteria, including several from the swab of raw chicken juice she had dabbed on three days before.

Dr. Kozik, then just 11, had set up an experiment to determine what brand of dish soap was best at killing bacteria. (The answer: Joy dishwashing liquid.) But her results yielded an even bigger reward: a lifelong love of microbes, exquisitely small organisms with an outsize impact on the world.

“It felt like I had just discovered a new form of life,” said Dr. Kozik, who is now a researcher at the University of Michigan, where she studies microbes that live in human lungs. “It was so cool.”

Two decades later, Dr. Kozik still considers her science fair project, for which she won first place, one of her first formal forays into the field of microbiology. In the months after her experiment, she devoured every book she could find on the topic, until she had worn her parents down with endless chatter about infectious disease. About 10 years later, she was on track toward a Ph.D., which she earned in 2018. And on Monday, she kicks off Black in Microbiology Week, the latest in a series of virtual events highlighting Black scientists in a variety of disciplines, as one of its two lead organizers.

Like earlier, similar events, Black in Microbiology Week will be hosted entirely through virtual platforms like Twitter and Zoom. The event will feature seven days of talks, panels and online discussions, spanning a range of topics under the microbiology umbrella, including the coronavirus, and addressing disparities in medicine, education and career advancement. Everything is free and accessible to the public, and will be live-captioned. Registration is required to attend.

“This is really a chance to welcome new voices and amplify those that have not been heard,” said Michael D. L. Johnson, a microbiologist and immunologist at the University of Arizona who will take part in Friday’s Black in Bacteriology panel.

Khan: To unearth the ‘hidden figures’ of Islam, sexism against Muslim women must end

Another interesting piece by Khan to change narratives:

On Feb. 24, Katherine Johnson – the esteemed mathematician who was part of an exclusive group of scientists at NASA’s Flight Research Division, where she used her mind, a slide rule and pencil to calculate flight paths for the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969 – passed away at the age of 101. And if you know her story – as well as that of her NASA cohort of brilliant African-American female mathematicians – it may be because of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

That film was a revelation to much of the American public. It shattered many stereotypes and showcased the intellectual talents and resilience of women who wouldn’t let institutionalized racism and segregation get in the way of achieving excellence.

Those themes are universal, though. Groundbreaking accomplishments by women have always occurred. We just need to dig deep enough in history to find these gems. And Muslim women are just starting to get their similar due.

Thanks to the painstaking research of Islamic scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi, the dean of Cambridge Islamic College, the stories of accomplished Muslim female scholars, jurists and judges have been unearthed. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Nadwi’s research of biographical dictionaries, classical texts, madrasa chronicles and letters has led to a listing of about 10,000 Muslim women who have contributed toward various fields of Islamic knowledge over a period of 10 centuries.

Not only is the sheer number impressive, but so is the manner in which these women operated: Many were encouraged by their fathers at an early age to acquire knowledge, and many travelled to seek deeper understanding of Islamic sciences. They sat in study circles – with men – at the renowned centres of learning, debating and questioning alongside their male counterparts. And they taught their own study circles to men and women alike. Some were so revered that students came from near and far to absorb their wisdom. They approved certifications of learning and provided fatwas (non-binding religious opinions); as judges, they delivered important rulings.

A few notable examples include Aisha, the youngest wife of Prophet Mohammed, who was known for her expertise in the Koran, Arabic literature, history, general medicine and juridical matters in Islam. She was a primary source of authentic hadith, or traditions of the Prophet, which form part of the foundation of Sunni Islam. Umm al-Darda was a 7th-century scholar who taught students in the mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem, including the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. She was considered among the best traditionalists of her time. “I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better one than sitting around debating with other scholars.” And one of the greatest was the 8th-century scholar Fatima al-Batayahiyyah, who taught in Damascus. During the Hajj, leading male scholars flocked to her lectures. She later moved to Medina, where she taught students in the revered mosque of the Prophet. When she tired, she rested her head on the grave of Mohammed. Fatimah bint Mohammed al Samarqandi, a 12th-century jurist, advised her more famous husband, ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Kasani, on how to issue his fatwas; she was also a mentor to Salahuddin.

These are but a few of the thousand luminaries found by Mr. Nadwi, a classically trained Islamic scholar. Initially, he thought he would find 20 or 30 women; his compilation now fills 40 volumes. While a 400-page preface (Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam) has been published, the remainder sits on a hard drive, waiting for a publisher. Given the far-reaching importance of Mr. Nadwi’s work, surely a Muslim country or UNESCO can help disseminate it.

This research provides a stark contrast to contemporary practice in parts of the Muslim world. Some mosques, including ones here in Canada, forbid women. Rarely do Muslim women give lectures to their own communities. And the idea of women being intellectually on par with (or superior to) men is laughable in many quarters. Muslim women have a long way to go to reclaim their rightful place. Even his groundbreaking research will not change much, laments Mr. Nadwi, until Muslim men have respect for women – respect that starts in the home. He’s seen too much family violence in Britain, India and Pakistan. He’s highly critical of those who discourage or deny women from pursuing education, comparing it to the pre-Islamic practice of burying baby girls alive.

Muslims have just begun to discover our own “hidden figures” and there are many more yet to find. If we fail to deal with the present-day sexism that has eroded the egalitarian nature of our own historical communities, this excavation becomes all the more difficult.

Source: To unearth the ‘hidden figures’ of Islam, sexism against Muslim women must end: Sheema Khan

Science in the US is built on immigrants. Will they keep coming?

Noteworthy long read in the technical publication of the American Chemical Society in terms of the expected impact of Trump administration immigration policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric on the attractiveness of the USA for researchers:

Almost as soon as he started college, Morteza Khaledi knew he wanted to be a professor. And he quickly decided that a doctoral degree from a US university was the best path to get there.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Pahlavi University (now Shiraz University), in Iran, Khaledi applied to several US universities for graduate school. He was accepted to the University of Florida in 1978, and he has lived in the US ever since. Over those four decades, he rose from student to chemistry professor to, now, dean of science at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“When I was a student, the US was really dominant in science and technology areas, and I think we still have the upper hand,” he says. “But other countries have caught up.”

He worries that increased competition, amplified by the current wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the US, will push top international students to choose schools in Canada, Europe, Singapore, and elsewhere. “There are great talents from all over the world,” Khaledi says. “If you close the door or limit them, then it will have an impact on the research that we do.”

Much of the rest of the scientific community is worried too. With constant talk of a border wall, trade fights with China, and sanctions against Russia, immigration is at the top of many scientists’ minds worldwide.

The Donald J. Trump administration has made some changes to immigration policy. The most notable is the ban against immigrants from six countries, including Iran. Other proposals include stricter examination of Chinese students and scientific visitors, changes to the H-1B visa system for temporary workers, and work restrictions on the spouses of US visa holders.

Despite those changes, though, most scientists are still able to come to the US as they could before Trump became president, albeit with the potential for longer waits. Big changes to US immigration policy—including talk of moving to an immigration system that prioritizes highly skilled workers—will require an act of Congress, something unlikely to happen given the wide political divides.

But words have power, and the negative political talk about immigration appears to be having an effect: the number of international applicants to study at US colleges and universities has declined two years in a row. And more and more scientists are starting to question whether the US is the right place for them.

“Every meeting we go to abroad, someone will express concern about US visa issues and visa policy. Every single meeting,” says Kathie Bailey, director of the Board on International Scientific Organizations at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “Perceptions are very difficult to battle.”

Scientist immigration by the numbers

  • 34.5 – Percentage of doctoral-degree chemists who were naturalized or non-US citizens in 2017a

  • 53.1 – Percentage of doctoral-degree chemical engineers who were naturalized or non-US citizens in 2017

  • 75.6 – Percentage of foreign-born recipients of US science and engineering doctoral degrees in 2015 who planned to stay in the US

  • 24 – Percentage of US patents with at least one non-US citizen inventor in 2007

  • 2008 – Year the number of immigrants from Asia to the US overtook immigration from Latin America

  • 78 – Percentage of US adults who believe the country should encourage immigration of high-skilled workers


Chemist Hye-Won Song felt limited by the research choices in her native South Korea. So after she finished a master’s degree there, she applied to graduate schools in the US. “There are more opportunities and more research topics going on,” she says.

That same wide range of research opportunities led her to want to stay in the US after getting her doctoral degree at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Diego. But staying wasn’t easy.

Song spent five years in her postdoc, in part waiting for her research papers and citations to stack up while she looked for a job. She was also saving money to hire a lawyer to take her through the immigration process.

In the meantime, she had to deal with the constant uncertainty of being in the US on a limited visa. Once Song had to file a duplicate renewal application—and miss a paycheck—when her original paperwork got lost in the system. And every time she got a new visa, she also had to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew her driver’s license. “It really makes our lives miserable, but most people don’t know about it,” Song says.

Eventually, Song succeeded in becoming a permanent US resident, with the green card to prove it. That status made it a lot easier for her to find a job in industry. “A lot of companies, they do not offer to support a visa,” she says. “They want you to bring your green card with you.”

Song’s story is familiar to many scientists who immigrate to the US and stay. They face constant uncertainty with each visa renewal, along with fear that a visit home might mean they can’t return to work. But they keep coming because of the science. “Research-wise it was worth getting here,” Song says.

The domestic US research community, too, thinks it is worth including foreign-born scientists and for the most part has welcomed immigrants into labs with open arms. “Immigration has been a tremendous boost to science and engineering,” says Harvard Business School’s William Kerr, who has written a book on immigration, The Gift of Global Talent.

Almost any way you look at it—percentages of patents, Nobel Prize winners, citations, entrepreneurs—immigrants match or exceed native US workers, he says. Currently, immigrants make up around 25% of all US science and technology workers and around 50% of the doctoral-level science workforce nationwide.

Kerr’s work and that of others has found that for the most part, international scientists don’t compete with domestic researchers. “You don’t have a fixed pie of jobs,” he explains. Immigrants “make the pie bigger, adding on to what natives would have accomplished.”

Immigrants to the US are more likely than native scientists to be self-employed, including as entrepreneurs, says Jennifer Hunt, an economist at Rutgers University. Immigrants are also more likely to hold patents. “More people means more ideas and probably more innovation,” Hunt explains.

Mikhail Shapiro, a California Institute of Technology chemical engineering professor, came to the US from Russia when he was 11. While he doesn’t think his immigrant background changed his career path, he does think it gave him a certain mentality. “There is a desire to seize opportunities and work hard and really make the most of the opportunities you have,” he says.

That has also been the experience of Jeremy Levin, chairman and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics. Levin lived in South Africa and then Rhodesia before getting his degrees and working in the UK. He then moved to the US specifically because of its vibrant science and innovation culture. He commonly sees other immigrants at the head of science and technology companies, and research labs filled with immigrants.

Immigration “has been a critical component not just of driving innovation but sustaining the US economy in a way that is just remarkable,” Levin says.

Levin worries that any tightening of US immigration policy—perceived or real—will have long-term consequences for the US economy, especially in the biological sciences. In 2017, he wrote a letter in Nature Biotechnologysigned by over 150 biotech leaders and founders against Trump’s ban on select immigrants.

The political rhetoric around immigrant criminals and the need for a wall on the US-Mexico border is “raising the specter of intolerance, raising the specter of racism,” he says. “All of this is designed to raise fears around immigration.”

Terrorism is a real threat that must be addressed, Levin believes. He speaks from personal experience here, too: he was once inspecting a pharmaceutical plant in Israel as it was bombed by Hamas, a militant group. But the fight against terrorism “needs to be distinguished from the need to attract incredibly bright people who want to contribute to science,” he says.

“Many of the best scientists in Europe and Asia will choose not to come to us,” Levin says. “They perceive that the barriers to entry in the US have been raised unreasonably high.”


Regardless of whether the US is actually harder to enter, there has been a measurable decline in international students applying to come to the US. The number of applications from international graduate students to study in the US has dropped a total of 4% in the last two years across all fields. That average masks a more significant 9% decline in physical and earth sciences from 2017 to 2018, according to data from the Council of Graduate Schools.

Academic and industrial scientists worry whether that trend will continue and whether it will spread beyond students. The chaotic rollout of Trump’s travel ban in January 2017 “really spooked international students and scholars,” says Rachel Banks, director of public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. “People increasingly started thinking twice.”

When people are deciding where to go to college or graduate school, they are thinking ahead to whether it’s a place they want to be long term. People who start their education in another country are less likely to migrate to the US later. “You have to think about the international student experience like a pipeline,” Banks says. As international student enrollment has dropped in the US, it has gone up in Australia, Canada, China, and elsewhere. “No doubt they have taken advantage of what is happening in the US as a marketing tool,” Banks says.

Shapiro from Caltech has seen the impact of stricter policies among his students. Currently he has a doctoral student who has been stuck in China for months because he can’t get his visa renewed. “It’s not fair to them,” he says. He hopes the current atmosphere is temporary. “I don’t care where they come from. I want them to stay here.”

Currently, China sends more students to study in the US than any other country. At the same time, the Trump administration has proposed changes, including more scrutiny on scientists working on robotics, aviation, and high-tech manufacturing, that specifically target Chinese immigrants because of fears they are appropriating those technologies. Chemistry has escaped the spotlight so far.

Any moves that significantly shut down Chinese student immigration could be devastating, Harvard’s Kerr says. Currently, about 9% of US innovation is attributed to scientists of Chinese ethnicity.

“It would send shock waves through the system,” Kerr says. “Nothing we have done up until now would compare to revoking student visas.”

That impact would be felt especially hard in chemistry. Economist Patrick Gaule from the University of Bath has studied the quality of chemistry graduate students from China.

His 2013 study of 16,000 US chemistry PhDs showed that Chinese students in chemistry publish more than average. Their quality—as measured by those publications—equals that of domestic students who receive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (Rev. Econ. Stat. 2013, DOI: 10.1162/rest_a_00283). “It’s more difficult to get into a PhD program if you are applying from China than applying from inside the US,” he says. “That’s what I think is driving the results.”

Gaule has also surveyed US chemistry graduate students on their future-employment preferences. He continues to find that students want to stay in the US. People worry that “everybody is going to Canada,” he says. “So far we don’t see it.”

That’s been the case for postdocs as well. Of approximately 80,000 postdocs in the US, two-thirds are international scholars, says Tracy Costello, chair of the board of directors at the National Postdoctoral Association and director of postdoctoral affairs at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

“We want to foster an environment where if someone comes and trains here and wants to stay, that’s possible,” Costello says. “If they want to take that knowledge and go back to their countries, that’s possible too. Science is a global enterprise.”

While the postdoc association is concerned about the immigration-related rhetoric, “We hear the sky is falling a lot and somehow there is still a sky,” she says. Fundamentally, the system hasn’t changed, and while she expects minor changes from the Trump administration, “the status quo for right now is not a bad space.”

In 2009, after finishing graduate school in China, Zuolei Liao came to the US as a postdoc, attracted both by the research and by the culture. He works in uranium chemistry and so expected to have to wait a long time for his visa, but it came through in a few weeks, and he was soon on his way to the University of Notre Dame.

Liao spent several years there and then at Oregon State University, first on a visitor visa and then on an H-1B. After several years, he decided he wanted to stay in the US. But he didn’t take a traditional path: Liao joined the military, which made him eligible for citizenship at the end of basic training.

“I probably would have still joined if I had the chance,” even without the opportunity for citizenship, he says. “I just wanted to get more experience, to make myself a better person.”

After 4½ years in the army, Liao now works at a pharmaceutical company in Wisconsin. He knows only a few other scientists who also turned to military service to stay in the country—but however it’s accomplished, he thinks the US should encourage more doctoral students and postdocs to stay. “We trained them here, so we shouldn’t send them to other countries,” he says. “If you follow the law, you should be rewarded.”


“What Trump has done more than anything is just make people scared,” says Brian Getson, an attorney at immigration specialty law firm Getson & Schatz.

While the Trump administration hasn’t eased immigration to the US, at the same time, “there is no proposal to make it more difficult for scientists,” adds Marco Pignone, who is also an attorney at Getson & Schatz and often represents chemists.

Part of the firm’s job is to reassure people that they can still get an employment visa or green card, Getson says. Visa delays have increased, however, especially for scientists from India and China, Getson says. There are more people who want green cards from those countries than the number available.

One of the main ways scientists come to the US for work or stay after graduation is through employer-sponsored visas. Currently, only 25% of US visas are driven by employment (the remaining 75% are family based).

The H-1B, a temporary visa for high-skilled workers, is sometimes the first step. Nonprofits, including universities, don’t have a limit on H-1B slots. But companies do have a limit. There are 85,000 slots available, and companies nationwide routinely submit double that many applications within days of the application system opening each year. Visa recipients are then chosen by lottery.

A lottery is “probably not the best way,” Kerr points out. Even large companies that apply for thousands of H-1Bs don’t get to choose which workers get the visa slots, which means they often aren’t getting their top choice among their applicants.

Right now, around 70% of H-1B visas go to jobs in the computer and technology industry, while just 2.6% fill positions in mathematics and physical sciences.

The Trump administration has proposed some changes to H-1Bs. One would give people with master’s degrees and higher a better chance of getting a slot.

Another would switch the H-1B application process from paper to electronic. “I imagine it would require a lot of money, but it would be money well spent,” Rutgers’s Hunt says. An electronic system would make it easier to tweak the H-1B lottery so it is not as random. And it could allow for better representation across fields rather than letting computer-science occupations crowd out other sectors.

Kerr likes the idea of giving priority to the jobs with the highest salaries, which generally indicate that a job is harder to fill. Some economists have also proposed giving greater preference to applicants with the highest degrees.

“High-skilled immigration is fundamentally an investment,” Kerr says.

But as clunky as the US immigration system is, immigrants in the US tend to have better employment outcomes than those in other countries, and that may be because in the US, more are being chosen by companies than by the government, Hunt says. “I’m actually not sure that the current system is terrible,” Hunt says.

An immigrant from Germany, Jens Breffke went through “the whole alphabet of visas” on his road to becoming a citizen.

Looking for an international adventure, Breffke came to the US on a student F-1 visa to attend graduate school, then began a postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology using a three-year F-1 extension for scientists called OPT for optional practical training.

But when it came time to look for a job in industry, Breffke felt stuck. He couldn’t easily transition to an industry-sponsored H-1B because visa rules meant a gap of almost a year and a half between the time his postdoc ended and when he would have been eligible for an H-1B—and then he still would’ve been subject to the lottery.

“You have to find someone who wants to hire you so badly a year and a half in advance,” Breffke says. “Even if you are the most qualified person, you will always be second in line to someone who could just be hired this week.”

Breffke thinks he would have eventually qualified for a visa for exceptional scientists, but it takes years for the publications and citations that count toward that “exceptional” grade to accumulate. In the end, his girlfriend proposed, and he got a visa through his marriage. He now works for an electronics company in Boston and also serves as chair of the International Activities Committee for the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN.

“I did my PhD in this country and a postdoc working for Uncle Sam,” he says. “I do believe I deserved a chance to work in this country, but the system makes that pretty much impossible.”


“Immigration writ large is top of mind for a lot of people,” says Susan Butts, a consultant and former senior director at Dow Chemical who is chairing an ACS committee developing a policy statement on immigration.

This isn’t the first time the society has tried to develop a policy on the issue, Butts says. The previous effort “was unsuccessful because they could not come to a consensus,” she says. She’s hoping for a different outcome this time. The group has looked at data on immigration, as well as examined surveys of ACS members on the issue.

While there are individual ACS members who are worried about losing their jobs to immigrants, Butts says, “there are a lot of data that say immigrants are an important part of the chemistry enterprise, especially at the advanced-degree level.”

If things go smoothly, a policy statement could be out by the end of 2019, Butts says. Having the statement will enable ACS to better engage in immigration policy discussions in Washington, DC, as part of ACS’s mission to support the chemical enterprise.

Major changes to US immigration policy aren’t likely soon, given the massive divide between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Many advocates for immigration reform in the past have left Congress, and it’s unclear now who will push for reform.

Kerr says that the US has never had an easy immigration system, and people would adjust if any changes are made fairly for all immigrants.

But denying entry to specific groups can cause serious repercussions. The outcome of recent discourse “really has been to fundamentally shake the confidence that people all around the world have in the United States and whether the US is where they want to make their long-term investment,” Kerr says. “We are getting a black eye.”

That concerning atmosphere isn’t just for scientists abroad. Chemist Madan Bhasin immigrated to the US from India in 1959 and eventually got his PhD at Notre Dame. He got a job at Union Carbide in West Virginia in 1963 and has lived in the area ever since.

Just a handful of Indian families were in the area when Bhasin and his wife first arrived. Although he initially heard some talk about foreigners taking away jobs from US workers, anti-immigrant sentiment in the wider community hadn’t been prevalent until recently.

“I’m fortunate to have come here and to be very happy here,” Bhasin says. But he has felt a difference in the atmosphere in the last few years. To be cautious, his local Indian community center hired police to patrol a function after hearing about attacks on immigrants nationwide. His grandson warned him to be careful in the community.

Bhasin hopes that anti-immigrant rhetoric and visa challenges won’t keep scientists away, but he has heard horror stories from some of his scientist friends who visited India on vacation and then had trouble returning. Trying to immigrate “has been a nightmare for some of them,” he says. “Many people are not even considering coming.”

“I wish we could all practice tolerance toward each other,” Bhasin says.

Anti-immigrant sentiment is what prompted Khaledi from UT Arlington to finally get his green card. “The motivating factor was that after 9/11, things got serious,” he says, referring to the 2001 terrorist attack in the US.

One of his students, from Vietnam, was particularly concerned that Khaledi would go to an international conference and never be able to return. “He used to bring citizenship forms, and he would fill out what he could and sit them on my desk,” Khaledi says.

Khaledi knows that many students are considering the challenges versus benefits of staying in the US or going elsewhere. He remembers a particular Iranian student who was top notch, with perfect English and a stellar record, who ended up going to another country because she couldn’t get a US visa. “You want these people to come here,” he says.

“I don’t see what we gain by excluding people. We’re talking about scientists; we are not talking about politicians. You remove the politics from it, and we all benefit.”

Source: Science in the US is built on immigrants. Will they keep coming?

Science review panel must tackle barriers to funding, encourage diversity: researchers

Actually, I suspect the diversity of visible minorities may be stronger than Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa, asserts, given that they are relatively over-represented in universities (about 24 percent compared to the 19 percent of the overall population):

Funding issues aside, Mr. Kerr urged the panel to tackle the lack of diversity in the scientific community, highlighting, specifically, the under representation of women in senior positions.

“For those of us in this younger cohort of researchers, we recognize that there are terrible disparities in terms of the presence of women…in senior research ranks, and this is not changing at anything like an acceptable pace,” he said.

“We need to do a much better job of bringing [in] diversity. We’re basically leaving half of our talent out of our science enterprise, and that’s frankly nuts.”

Although he didn’t have the statistics, Mr. Kerr said he assumed indigenous peoples and minorities were likely even more underrepresented than women.

He also said researchers must do a better job in communicating and engaging with the general public to help inform national and local decision-making.

Source: Science review panel must tackle barriers to funding, encourage diversity: researchers – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

How Asimina Arvanitaki will explain the universe: The case for open-ended research

Interesting interview with Arvanitaki, the recently appointed chair at the Perimeter Institute – liked her response to the last question particularly:

Q: …. the last federal government had a real focus on scientific research that had a direct industry-based application. And they structured funding based on things that they thought would bring money in…

A: Can I say something? I’m Greek and I’m allowed to say this, I think. The model of ancient Greece, right, take Socrates, all these great people, no one asked them to invent the next quantum computer. They were allowed to think about whatever they wanted to, and this is how a great civilization came about. I think leaving people to think, and that doesn’t go just for physicists. I think it applies to everything. It applies to art, literature. I think this is the part that basically makes us human, so I don’t think this is a waste no matter what the outcome. I don’t think this can be a waste.

Source: How Asimina Arvanitaki will explain the universe

Canadian Science Policy Conference 2015: Diaspora Scientists: Canada’s untapped resource of knowledge networks

Another example of multiculturalism in action: building diaspora scientific links this coming November:

A first of its kind in Canada, this inaugural symposium aims to discuss the topic of diaspora scientists and their potential to strengthen international science and technology collaboration.

The symposium seeks to mobilize the untapped resources of diaspora communities to strengthen Canada’s global connections in science, innovation and trade.

The objectives of this symposium include:

· Mobilizing and connecting existing diaspora scientific communities in Canada

· Providing networking opportunities among diaspora scientists to share experiences,
lessons, and best practices

· Exploring the full potential of diaspora scientists

· Forming a Canadian Network of Diaspora Scientists that includes a database of organizations and individuals who are active in this field

Source: Canadian Science Policy Conference 2015: Diaspora Scientists: Canada’s untapped resource of global knowledge networks

Steve Campana, Canadian biologist, ‘disgusted’ with government muzzling

Confirmation of previous stories, with a human face:

A recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist says the muzzling of federal government scientists is worse than anyone can imagine.

Steve Campana, known for his expertise on everything from great white sharks to porbeagles and Arctic trout, says the atmosphere working for the federal government is toxic.

The Halifax-based scientist, who only agreed to talk to CBC after he retired from the department, says federal scientists have been working in a climate of fear.

“I am concerned about the bigger policy issues that are essentially leading to a death spiral for government science,” he said in an exclusive interview.

“I see that is going to be a huge problem in the coming years. We are at the point where the vast majority of our senior scientists are in the process of leaving now disgusted as I am with the way things have gone, and I don’t think there is any way for it to be recovered.”

Public-sector unions have organized rallies in a number of locations across the Ottawa area on Tuesday to protest the alleged muzzling of public scientists.

“We have very strict directives of what we can say and the approval steps we have to go through, and very often that approval seems to be withheld for totally arbitrary reasons,” Campana says.

He says government scientists often have to find their own funding, travel is often turned down and they are rarely allowed to talk to the media, even about their own groundbreaking research.

via Steve Campana, Canadian biologist, ‘disgusted’ with government muzzling – Nova Scotia – CBC News.

Harper’s Greatest Hits: the science of fundraising | iPolitics

One of the stronger critiques, and a bit over the top, of the Conservative government’s rejection of science-based evidence, fitting into one of the themes in Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, evidence or anecdote.

Harper’s Greatest Hits: the science of fundraising | iPolitics.