The status quo for Canadian censuses is that one-fifth of households complete the “long form” of the census in its entirety and the remainder are given a much-abbreviated version of it. The completion of the long-form census, until now, has been mandatory for those to whom it has been delivered under threat of fine and jail. Census information is important to all Canadians; it is used by different levels of government, businesses, historians, scientists, and others for reasons as varied as planning infrastructure to creating employment opportunities. The current governing party of Canada has decided, unilaterally, that punishing its citizens for failing to fill out some survey is unfair and that the penalty be abandoned.
Reporting of science in popular media such as newspapers and magazines is, in general, of dubious quality. Journalists that report on science, it appears, need no understanding of science. Causation and correlation; statistical significance and knowing something for certain; hype and expectation: in the minds of many journalists, these appear to be equivalent. Can we blame them, though? Even if a scientist’s work is faithfully reported, can we expect readers to keep these things separate? Probably not, but the blame can then be placed on science education and perhaps a lack of space for an article. Approaching an article on the effectiveness of the suicide barrier on the Bloor Viaduct in the on-line version of the Globe and Mail with my low expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised to find an embedded copy of the original report. Kudos to the author, Anna Mehler Paperny, and kudos to the Globe. I hope more organizations learn from this example.
At the end of June, I was in Boston for the 2nd International Conference on Computational Sustainability. I think it had to be the most interesting conference I’ve attended to date; not only did I attend all but one session, I also managed to stay awake for each. The one session I skipped was to compose myself before the poster session — I was cold from the over-airconditioned space and tired from having arrived at my Boston domicile at 2 am that morning, more than 15 hours after leaving Toronto by bus (the driver for the last segment of my trip got lost… twice). During this time, I did manage to update the HTML5 version of Inflo (more about this in another blog) and get a fully-working read-only demo running (or another demo graph).