All Posts Tagged With: "Research"
ELA shuttered by Conservatives to save cash
The Harper government is refusing to permit fully funded freshwater research to take place this summer at the remote Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.
A group of researchers from Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., was told this week they are barred from the site, despite starting their work last summer and spending thousands of dollars on an approved trip to one of the ELA lakes as recently as last month.
Ottawa is currently negotiating with the Ontario government and others to take over the Experimental Lakes Area, which has been conducting world-class science since 1968 into everything from acid rain and climate change to mercury exposure.
The federal government says the decision to close the facility, part of last year’s budget cuts, will save it about $2 million a year — although sources say the actual operating cost of the facility is about $600,000 annually, of which a third comes back in user fees.
Brain chemicals to be scrutinized
Researchers at the University of Toronto say a new study on sleep patterns in seals could help explain what allows humans to get some shut-eye.
Researchers teamed up with biologists at UCLA and found that seals are able to both sleep and stay awake at the same time.
They say one half of a seal’s brain shuts down when they sleep in water while the other remains awake and on the lookout for possible danger.
The study authors say the findings may help guide research into the factors that control human sleep.
Studying a brain with both a sleeping and wakeful side can give scientists clues as to which chemicals are more heavily involved in the sleep cycle.
Early research suggests, for instance, that serotonin may play a less important role than scientists believed.
Inherited behavioural tendencies lead to victimization
A new study suggests a child’s likelihood of being bullied in elementary school is partially dictated by genetics.
The study published in the journal Child Development found genes helped dictate behaviours that most often led to a person being ostracized or victimized by fellow students.
Those behaviours included aggression, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
The study surveyed nearly 800 pairs of identical and fraternal twins three times between kindergarten and grade four.
Researchers found that identical twins, who have the same genetic makeup, are more likely to have similar classroom experience than fraternal twins whose DNA is not a perfect match.
The study says the research demonstrates the importance of intervening to nip problematic behaviours in the bud at an early age.
Prof. Pettigrew rejects calls to be “more like California”
Every once in a while we hear calls for more emphasis on teaching among university faculty.
If we accept that some universities have, or should have, undergraduate teaching as their main function, why shouldn’t professors, or at least some professors, at those school be asked to focus mainly on teaching?
After all, if they are there to teach, why should we be paying them to pursue their own research interests, especially if that research is not paying off in tangible ways?
Something like this argument was made recently by Ian Clark writing in the National Post, who argues that more specialization among faculty would mean more research “productivity”—that is more output per public dollar spent. He argues, in this vein, that California does something like that and gets “more value for its money” that way.
Report from Simon Fraser University
A new report by Canadian researchers challenges the widespread belief that rape is increasingly being used as a “weapon of war.”
The report by a research team at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver says there is no compelling evidence to support this belief or the assumption that the experience of the small number of countries afflicted by extreme levels of sexual violence is shared in other conflict zones.
But Sebastian Merz, associate director of the project that produced the report, told a news conference here Wednesday there is evidence, which is largely overlooked, that the most common perpetrators of sexual violence in wartime are husbands, partners or other family members — not combatants.
Study looked at aggression, likeability, social withdrawal
Childhood classmates may be better able to predict grown-up personality traits like aggression, likeability and social withdrawal than children themselves, according to a study from Concordia’s Centre for Research in Human Development. The study was conducted by Lisa Serbin of the Department of Psychology and Alexa Martin-Storey, a recent graduate, with data from a project that first evaluated Montreal grade-school children in 1976 using peer and self-evaluations. From Concordia University’s Cléa Desjardins:
Over the next 20 years, these children were closely followed as researchers used the exhaustive longitudinal study to track their progress into adulthood. A follow-up survey was conducted between 1999 and 2003 with nearly 700 of the participants from the initial study. The survey included measurement of adult personality traits, such as levels of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
Scores range from 36 in Sierra Leone to 86 in South Pacific
The health of the world’s oceans has been assessed on a country-by-country basis for the first time. Overall, they got the passing grade of 60 out of 100. Canada’s received 70. The international team behind the list included University of British Columbia fisheries experts. From UBC:
The team undertook the first global quantitative assessment of ocean health and created the Ocean Health Index (http://oceanhealthindex.org), published today in the journal Nature. To calculate the overall score, ecological, social, economic, and political conditions were evaluated for every coastal nation in the world.
The scores for individual countries ranged widely: from Sierra Leone, with a failing scores of 36, to Jarvis Island, an uninhabited, relatively pristine island in the South Pacific, with the highest scores of 86.
Canada is among the top performers with a score of 70 while the U.S. received 63 and the U.K. received 62.
RIM founder’s gifts now total $123 million
The founders of Research In Motion (RIM), the Waterloo, Ont. based produce of BlackBerry products, have fallen. But one of them, Mike Lazaridis, is ready to make a new investment. He and his wife Ophelia pledged $21 million to the University of Waterloo on Wednesday. “History has shown us that a relatively small investment in fundamental research in physics and in science today can lead to huge innovation tomorrow,” Lazaridis said. The money will fund chairs in condensed matter and astrophysics, a new science building and scholarships for mathematics students. The couple have donated $123 million in total, after funding the Institute for Quantum Computing and the soon-to-open Quantum Nano Centre. To get a sense of how big those donations are, consider that only one gift to a Canadian university exceeded $20 million last year, reports Academica.
Canada’s funding agencies define cheating, promise stats
Canada’s three federal research funding agencies have come up with a new plan to stamp out academic fraud. But does it go far enough?
The policy comes just months after the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) was heavily criticized for releasing redacted documents on academic fraudster Fawzi Alrazem, who was caught faking experiments and quit the University of Manitoba for a Palestinian university after his fake results were uncovered. In the documents released to Postmedia News, his name and university’s name had been blacked-out.
The Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research was released Monday, outlining new rules for researchers who get $2.4-billion annually from NSERC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Meet JoVE. It’s peer-reviewed. It’s indexed. And it’s fun.
Are you tired of reading textbooks and journal articles? Imagine if you could research your lab report or learn an experimental technique by watching a YouTube video.
I just learned that you basically can, thanks to the Journal of Visualized Experiments. It’s like YouTube, except you’re not watching videos of kittens playing patty cake or people doing stupid stuff with trampolines. JoVE publishes peer-reviewed research just like any other academic journal, but in video format. It’s even indexed in PubMed Central, which is the Google of biochemical and life sciences research. At five-years old, JoVE may be the only journal of its kind. But one can imagine there will soon be more like it.
Canada’s coolest undergraduate research opportunities
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings. Get your copy today.
Contrary to popular belief—and what you may see in the movies—academic research isn’t only for master’s students, and undergrads do more than just drink beer: they do research, too. In fact, there are lots of exciting collaborative research projects currently underway at universities across the country, where undergraduate students and professors are working together to help change the learning landscape. See for yourself, below.
University of British Columbia
UBC master’s students Samantha Brennan and Aidan Whiteley—with the guidance of their cartography and society professor, Jon Corbett—are still engaged in the research project they began as undergraduate students in 2009. When the Okanagan campus undergrads realized that forest ﬁre maps were inaccessible to the public, they enlisted Corbett’s help in building a fire-mapping tool that local residents could use to access data on burn areas, as well as review actual human experiences pertaining to the fires—as opposed to only facts and figures. Brennan and Whiteley’s project, which has been dubbed the “Facebook of forest fires,” also included real-time Internet videos and timelines.
The new Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College, a $2.7-million facility, is the first dedicated post-secondary research lab in the territory. The facility has a bio-hazard lab, office space for visiting researchers and a collections room, according to CBC News. There’s already one visiting master’s student studying owls at the facility, but up to 15 researchers are expected to be there by 2012. Money for the project came from the federal government’s Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund.
Thesis experiment to examine brain waves
A student pursing her master’s degree in pschology is on a mission to prove psychic activity exits, reports The Sudbury Star.
Mandy Scott, a student at Laurentian University, says she plans, among other things, to measure changes in brain activity during supposed psychic episodes.
“Psychic functioning is the ability to perceive and describe targets, which could be people, places, events, situations, anything that’s hidden from you at a distance of space in time,” Scott explained to the newspaper.
Although she is sometimes criticized for her choice of study, she asserts that, “psychic function is real and we need help in pinpointing how it works.”
The study will include three groups. One will be the control. A second will be taught psychic techniques. The third will consist of “experienced psychics.” Each group will be asked to describe a photo inside an envelope. The question is, will the psychic groups do better? Each participant will also be given six EEG scans to look for changes in brain wave activity.
If professors don’t produce research, who will?
University research is under attack these days. This editorial in the Globe and Mail is just the latest call for “reform” of a system where university professors are, they say, too devoted to research, contemptuous of teaching, and wasting the public’s money. If professors spent more time teaching and less time researching, taxpayers and students would get more bang for their buck, they argue. As a student and a young scholar, I always took the value of university research for granted.
Apparently I can’t any longer.
One reason such editorializing is wrong-headed is that the anti-teaching prof is a myth. While those outside the academy like to represent today’s professor as a hyper-nerd who can churn out papers but not explain anything, the stereotype simply doesn’t hold up. In nine years as a student and eleven as a professor, I have met only a few professors who hated teaching, and not a single one who didn’t work hard at it.
But is it a good use of tuition money?
Concordia University’s library will lend out iPads to students starting this month. OpenFile Montreal reports that the library has acquired 25 of the tablet computers and they’re almost ready to go.
Concordia, like many schools, lends out laptops. That’s undoubtedly a useful service for students who want to do research in the library instead of carting home a pile of books. And not everyone can afford a laptop, so this improves access.
But while a number of American university libraries lend out iPads to students, Concordia is the first university in Quebec to do so. Some universities, including nearby McGill, offer e-readers, but iPad lending appears to be rare in Canada. The only other example I can find, using an (albeit non-exhaustive) Google search, is at York University’s Steacie Science and Engineering Library. They have a single solitary iPad to lend.
University of Toronto researchers among this year’s winners
Researchers with Canadian connections won awards at the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony for their “improbable research.” They’ve simultaneously proven that research can be fun—and funny.
John Senders, Professor Emeritus of Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto, won the 2011 prize in the “public safety” category for “conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him,” as seen in this YouTube video from 1967. In it, Senders notes calmly that “the shorter the interval between looks, the more difficult that section of road is to drive,” as he speeds down a Boston highway with his view increasingly obscured.
The annual biology prize went to Darryl Gwynne, also of U of T, and Gwynne’s Australian partner “for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.”
Although there isn’t a Canadian connection to this year’s medicine prize, it’s worthwhile research for all students to know. Two international teams won for “demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things—but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.” That research is from two papers, Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains and The Effect of Acute Increase in Urge to Void on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults.
The awards were presented Thursday evening at Harvard University by real Nobel laureates. It’s easy to see why Nature calls the ceremony “arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar.” Congratulations to all.
University of Calgary student’s strange research project
A University of Calgary veterinary student is collecting dead raccoons and their feces, she told the Calgary Herald. And she wants the public’s help.
Dayna Goldsmith is researching what kind of parasites the animals carry. ”I’m interested in the animals that live in close proximity to people,” Goldsmith said. “They’re the ones that tend to run into problems with people.” Coons have been in Calgary for roughly thirty years, but little is known about what diseases they carry. Goldsmith’s research is a partnership with the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre and Alberta Fish and Wildlife.
Even when shown that it’s unhealthy, students pick bad food
Sorry dietitians, but a new study says that showing students how unhealthy their food is won’t change what they eat.
“Although it is important to inform consumers about the nutritional characteristics of the food offered, providing nutrition information in less healthy food environments is unlikely to alter consumers’ food choices,” researchers Christine Hoefkens and Wim Verbeke told Reuters.
Their study at Ghent University asked 224 students who regularly ate at the university’s cafeterias to log their diets for several days. Then, without participants’ knowledge, the researchers started putting up posters that showed how health meals were, using a three-star rating system (one star for the worst meals and three for the best) and warnings about high salt, calories and saturated fat content.
Six months later, the participants, once again logged what they ate. The posters didn’t change a thing. Students ate the same amount of bad food and no more good food than before.
Study shows brain damage, but that’s not all
Another study suggests that binge drinking damages the brain. But this time, there’s reason to be hopeful too.
Tim McQueeny, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati (UC), looked at 29 high-resolution brain scans from students aged 18 to 25. Those who reported regularly consuming more than four to five drinks at a time had more thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, which is the area where executive decisions are made. Executive decisions include paying attention and keeping control of emotions — things that become difficult when intoxicated.
“Alcohol might be neurotoxic to the neuron cells, or, since the brain is developing in one’s 20s, it could be interacting with developmental factors and possibly altering the ways in which the brain is still growing,” warns McQueeny.
However, his adviser and co-author Krista Lisdahl Medina also had some hopeful news. Their preliminary data also show that grey matter appears to be fine in those who were once binge drinkers, but who have since abstained. That, she says, warrants further study.
The prevalence of binge drinking on North American campuses is undeniable. In the most recent National College Health Assessment, which surveyed 30,000 students, nearly one in three reported that they consumed at least five standard drinks the last time they went to a party or socialized. Five per cent of them reported having more than 11 drinks the last time they socialized.
Trains muscles and competes to get insider’s perspective
A University of Alberta professor went undercover to understand the women’s body-builder psyche by becoming a body-builder herself. After competing in the Northern Alberta Bodybuilding Competition on June 4 — complete with purple bikini, blond hair extensions, fake nails, four-inch heels and a spray tan — she revealed herself to her surprised colleagues, reports to the Edmonton Journal.
Lianne McTavish is a feminist and teacher of the history of art, design and visual culture who has written about women’s bodies throughout history and across cultures. During her past year of training, she wrote about the experience of body building on a blog using the pseudonym Feminist Figure Girl under the headline Look hot while you fight the patriarchy. That blog will form the basis of a new book she plans to write a book.
McTavish told the Journal that she feels out of shape since the “ritualized test” of the competition, but she doesn’t miss the hardcore dieting. She says she would wake up famished around five in the morning and would have trouble concentrating on her academic work because of the hunger. Planning and consuming her six small meals per day consumed up to 30 hours of her week, she says.
But it wasn’t all pain. She also felt a strong sense of accomplishment from preparing and competing. She also found that the local bodybuilders were very welcoming and supportive.
Colleague Anne Whitelaw told the Journal that she is intrigued by what this means for feminist scholarship. ”[McTavish] values the work that other women are doing and have done to participate in this competition,” she said. “I appreciate the seriousness [of that], because I think it would be very easy, from a feminist standpoint, to just dismiss it as adopting and perpetuating a stereotype.”
Although McTavish won’t compete again, she does hope to become a volunteer trainer for women at a local shelter, who might benefit from the same type of sense of accomplishment that she felt.