science meets parliament – University of Victoria

June 13, 2024

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

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

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

Black participated in the annual event hosted by the Canadian Center for Science Policy as a UVic delegate in 2023 and the experience was so enriching that she has since helped organize the first Science-Parliament-BC Meeting and 2024 national event.

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

While there were many highlights during the two-day event in Ottawa (“I was very impressed by the whole experience”), Black’s meeting with Dr. Mona Nemr, Canada’s chief scientific adviser, was a particular highlight.

“She is a big supporter of the Science Meets Parliament initiative,” says Black. “She met every rep.”

Nemer accepted Black’s invitation to visit UVic and proposed a scientific roundtable discussion. Black, a leader in UVic’s new ambition group on AI and socially engaged robots, of course hopes that the future conversation will focus on AI and robotics.

This year’s delegate, chemistry and physics professor Thomas Baker, found the experience useful because of his close look at the Canadian political system in action. The Canadian Center for Science Policy “did an excellent job preparing the delegates,” says Baker, who moved to Canada from the United States for a postdoctoral fellowship in Quebec before coming to UVic.

During the two-day event, Baker met with several representatives and attended a Finance Committee meeting.

“I have a background in public speaking and debate, so from that perspective it was really interesting,” Baker says. Replace “interesting” with “unexpected” because of its informality, and to refer to US policies indicating the extent to which they are seen as parliamentarians developing Canadian policy.

The high point for Baker was meeting with House Speaker Greg Fergus, who is considered a “very impressive person.”

Will he go again?

“Absolutely. This is one of the final connections you can make.

(Photo: Thomas Baker, Mona Nemer (Canada’s Chief Scientific Advisor) and Marianne Black)

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