Canada

Canadian researchers do more with less

Growing participation in large international research projects may explain the drop in Canada’s index performance.

Researchers at Canadian institutions are publishing more papers in top journals, but make up a smaller part of the collaborative teams that publish them, according to the latest data from Nature Index.

Between 2012 and 2015, the number of publications in the 68 high-profile journals tracked by the index that featured Canadian institutions rose from 3,211 to 3,319. But the total weighted fractional count (WFC) of the country’s institutions — a metric that measures the proportional contribution to each publication — fell by 2.8%, from 1521.05 to 1478.29. Read more in Nature Index.

Evolution in models of primary care

British Columbia has jettisoned its ambitious 2013 election promise to match everyone in the province with a family doctor. It’s yet another sign that governments are beginning to recognise an evolution in the provision of primary medical care — an evolution that’s supported by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

The GP for Me program had aimed to match every BC resident with a family physician (FP) by the end of 2015. That didn’t happen, despite the fact that BC has 125 FPs per 100 000 population — higher than the national average of 114. Instead of individual FPs, BC will match people with a primary care team that includes doctors as well as nurse practitioners, mental health counsellors, physiotherapists and others. Read more in CMAJ.

Online tools improve mental health in primary care

Mental health issues make up a big part of the workload for primary care physicians. In Ontario, about 20% of patient visits to primary care practitioners are related to mental health, and in many more visits, mental health issues underlie physical symptoms.

But most frontline health care workers often don’t get much training in mental health, says Dr. Peter Selby, director of medical education at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. “We know that most people with mental health problems are seen in primary care. How do we make sure that doctors have access to this information that may have been missed during med school?” Read more in CMAJ.

Montreal institute going ‘open’ to accelerate science

Experiment aims to show whether forgoing patents and freeing up data can boost neuroscience research.

Guy Rouleau, the director of McGill University’s Montreal Neuro logical Institute (MNI) and Hospital in Canada, is frustrated with how slowly neuroscience research translates into treatments. “We’re doing a really shitty job,” he says. “It’s not because we’re not trying; it has to do with the complexity of the problem.”

So he and his colleagues at the renowned institute decided to try a radical solution. Starting this year, any work done there will conform to the principles of the “open-science” movement—all results and data will be made freely available at the time of publication, for example, and the institute will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. Read more in Science.

Calls for more independence for government medical officers

Physicians are calling for Canada’s chief medical officers of health to be given greater independence from provincial governments following the recent firing of New Brunswick’s medical officer, Dr. Eilish Cleary, for reasons that remain unknown.

“The position is too important to allow people to be arbitrarily dismissed,” says Dr. James Talbot, the former chief medical officer of health for Alberta. “We need to be sure they can speak out.” Read more in CMAJ.

Canada expected to reinstate mandatory census

The new Canadian government seems poised to fulfill a wish of social scientists by bringing back the country’s mandatory long-form census.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in this morning, and members of his Liberal party expect him to act promptly to meet one of his campaign promises. Such a move would also signal his commitment to reversing many of the policies of the former Conservative government under longtime Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Read more in Science.

A scientist elected to Canada’s Parliament shares his hopes as Trudeau prepares to take power

One scientist will be among the new faces in the 338-member House of Commons: Richard Cannings, a bird biologist, author, and former curator of the vertebrate museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Cannings, a member of Canada’s left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP), will represent British Columbia’s (BC’s) South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding, or district. The NDP now holds the third-largest number of seats in Parliament, behind the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Cannings recently took a break from a Sunday afternoon mayonnaise-making session to talk with ScienceInsider about how he hopes to improve the lot of science and environmental issues during his time in Ottawa. Read more in Science.

In Canada, election results cheer scientists

Many Canadian scientists are celebrating the result of yesterday’s federal election, which saw Stephen Harper’s Conservative government defeated after nearly 10 years in power.

The center-left Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau won an unexpected majority government, taking 184 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives will form the opposition with 99 seats, while the left-leaning New Democratic Party fell to third place with just 44 seats.

“Many scientists will be pleased with the outcome,” says Jim Woodgett, director of research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “The Liberal party has a strong record in supporting science.” Read more in Science.

In Canada, science campaigns for attention from voters

Opponents of Prime Minister Stephen Harper try to make his record on research an issue in election.

Science is making a rare appearance in Canada’s election. As candidates make their last push before Election Day on 19 October, the nation’s leading opposition parties have taken aim at Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s science policies, which have alienated large segments of the nation’s scientific community.

Science policy isn’t a top concern for most voters in the election, which could send new members of Parliament and a new prime minister to Ottawa. But some research advocates hope the issue could move enough ballots to sway what appears to be a tight three-way race between Harper’s Conservatives, the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Tom Mulcair, and the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau. “Science could be the sleeper issue,” says Kennedy Stewart, the NDP’s spokesman on science issues and a member of Parliament. Read more in Science (if you have a subscription).

Ebola needed better coordinated Canadian response

IMG_7104Canada needs to step up its game when responding to international disease outbreaks, says New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, who spent more than six months in Africa with the World Health Organization during the Ebola outbreak. Dr. Eilish Cleary was disappointed that the Public Health Agency of Canada was not able to deploy teams of public health experts to help with the response.

“When I was there, especially in the beginning, there were a lot of people from other countries — Americans, a lot of Euro­peans particularly, but there were not that many Canadians. Some Canadian doctors had gone independently, but there was no organized group,” she says. “I think the value for money is better if you send teams.” Read more in CMAJ.