Dr. Jeremy McNeil is the president of the Royal Society of Canada
Dr. Bonnie Schmidt is the president and founder of Let’s Talk Science
Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada have partnered to provide Globe and Mail readers with relevant coverage about issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries.
The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has certainly shone a light on the importance of collaboration in scientific discovery and innovation. However, it has also highlighted the need for science literacy within the public as the technologies that are reshaping our world have provided unprecedented opportunities for “infodemics”, through the distribution of, and access to, misleading and incorrect information. To counteract this, it is important to have a public that understands the concept of evidence-based decision-making and embraces a questioning mindset when considering the validity of available information.
There are no simple solutions to “infodemics”, and the most effective means of combating them will very much depend on the target audience. Organisations such as national academies, take steps to provide expertise to the general public, and during the current pandemic the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) COVID-19 task force produced 20 peer-review Policy Briefings on topics as varied as immigration, epidemiology, long-term care and the future of higher education. These have all been made available in both official languages on the RSC website, and as the latest brief, on excess deaths resulting from the pandemic, had over five thousand downloads on the first day they are garnering attention.
However, we believe partnerships between organisations with different attributes offer greater opportunities to ensure that evidenced-based information is made available and subsequently reaches the widest audience possible. For example, during the current pandemic the RSC partnered with the Globe and Mail to produce and disseminate more than 130 open access articles addressing different aspects of the pandemic. The RSC recruited the scholars with the necessary expertise to provide trusted resources, while publication in the Globe ensured that they were available to inform and engage readers around the world.
In a similar vein, the RSC has partnered with Let’s Talk Science (LTS) to focus on enhancing climate science education. Let’s Talk Science has been a national partner in education for nearly 30 years, offering programming and resources in English and French for Early Years, primary and secondary educators, youth, post-secondary volunteers and families – all at no cost. Every year, Let’s Talk Science engages with people in thousands of communities across Canada, thanks in part to a vast series of partnerships that include STEM organizations, industry, and more than 50 universities, colleges and research institutes.
This partnership has RSC Fellows and members of The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists collaborating on the development of new Let’s Talk Science programming and brings new opportunities to connect the research community with youth in school, at home and in informal learning settings. The program will provide activities as diverse as professional learning opportunities for educators, classroom workshops, high school symposiums, online resources, ‘green’ career profiles, and a unique youth-directed national consultation.
The success of RSC/Globe partnership relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, was the genesis of a new partnership between the RSC, the Globe and Let’s Talk Science to engage with children, youth and parents as well as the broader public, on pressing issues including climate change. The urgency for such action has been underlined by recent events including extremes of high and low temperatures, floods, drought and forest-fires around the globe. The goal of this partnership is to provide relevant coverage about issues that impact us all – from education to leading-edge scientific discoveries and their impacts. In the coming year, the RSC and Let’s Talk Science will provide theme-based content in the open access digital pages of the Globe, linked to additional resources from both organizations. Our commitment is to generate engaging, timely and relevant content – such as the impact of COVID-19 on school return, climate science and the importance of traditional knowledge, diversifying STEM, the future of work, and more – that appeals to multiple generations.
The spirit of this expanded partnership is to provide everyone with supports that can lead to informed decisions and action as we collaboratively build the Canada of tomorrow. As we walk this path together, we invite you to send us suggestions of areas or topics where youth and adults could benefit from a wider array of insights and activities. Together, we can do even more to support young people and make our country healthier, more competitive, and more prosperous.