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UBC Reports Feb 29, 2012

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a place of mind
February 2012
Olympic jolt
awaits London and Rio
The transformation
of science education
Inside look at
AAAS meeting
lis us about
asked a ubc expert to help
China 2012
The year of
iving dangerously  ' The Olympic jolt
volume fifty eight : number two
lucie mcneill lucie.mcneill@ubcca
Associate Director
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Next issue: March 2012
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V      a place of mind
Public Affairs
London and Rio have a unique opportunity for social change
Heather Amos
Highlights of UBC media coverage
in January 2012
Heather Amos
Mapping Dark matter
Scientists from Scotland and Canada
have mapped the dark matter in the
universe on the largest scale ever
observed, reported United Press
International, Science News, CBC's Quirks
and Quarks, the Calgary Herald and
The team of scientists, which included
Ludovic Van Waerbeke of UBC, analyzed
images of about 10 million galaxies in
four different regions of the sky. They
studied the images for distortion ofthe
light emitted from these galaxies, which
is bent as it passes massive clumps of
dark matter on its way to Earth.
"It is fascinating to be able to 'see' the
dark matter using space-time
distortion." Van Waerbeke said. "It gives
us privileged access to this mysterious
mass in the Universe which cannot be
observed otherwise."
i in 10 Canadians cannot
afford prescription drugs
One in 10 Canadians struggle to pay
for their prescription drugs, even
if they have public and/or private
insurance, and one in four Canadians
who do not have drug insurance cannot
afford to take their drugs as directed,
according to research from UBC and the
University of Toronto that appeared in
the Globe and Mail, CBC's The Current,
the Toronto Star, the Medical Daily and
"These levels of non-adherence are
something to be concerned about," said
Michael Law, an assistant professor at
the Centre for Health Services and
Policy Besearch at UBC. "When people
don't take their meds, there are,
potentially, higher costs in other parts
of the system."
Wine: Genes, headaches
and low-alcohol
Wine expert Hennie van Vuuren,
director of the Wine Besearch Centre at
UBC, was featured in Canadian Business
Magazine for developing yeast that can
make headache-free wine and in a Globe
and Mail article about alcohol content
and how it affects the taste of wine.
The Australia Life Scientist, the Calgary
Herald, and the Vancouver Sun also
featured van Vurren's latest research
project to map the genes of 15 known
clones of the Chardonnay grape vine in
an effort to identify which ones are best.
Keystone and Enbridge
pipeline projects
With the Obama administration's
decision to deny a permit for the
Keystone XL oil pipeline and the start
of the National Energy Board's formal
hearings for Enbridge's Northern
Gateway Project, UBC experts
commented on energy, political,
environmental and Aboriginal issues for
CBC's The National, Maclean's, the Globe
and Mail and others.
George Hoberg, a professor in the
Department of Forest Besources
Management at UBC, talked to Business
News Network about the Harper
government's support for the Enbridge
pipeline project and the opposition
from aboriginal groups and
"In order to clear legal hurdles, the
government is going to have to show
that they have both consulted with and
accommodated the concerns of the first
nations opponents," said Hoberg.
"What's of concern to them is the
environmental risks of a pipeline and
tanker spill and the impact that would
have on the salmon and other ocean
resources that are so precious to their
Boycott SOPA app
Two UBC students created a mobile app
to help derail SOPA, the Stop Online
Piracy Act Internet censorship bill,
reported The Guardian, Forbes, Mashable
and others.
The app, called "Boycott SOPA,"
makes identifying and boycotting
SOPA-supporting companies easy.
Users scan any product's barcode to
determine if it was made by a company
that officially supports SOPA.
"These companies think they'll make
more money with SOPA than without
it," said Chris Thompson, who created
the app with Chris Duranti, both
third-year computer-science students
at UBC. "If they realize they're costing
themselves more consumers than they'll
gain, they'll be less inclined to go
forward with that support."
Rob VanWynsberghe stands in front of the
Ask anyone in Vancouver, Sydney or
Salt Lake City. When their city won the
bid to host the Olympic Games, their
neighbourhoods, transit and landscapes
got a major facelift within a matter of
years. But beyond the shiny surface, the
changes can touch the social dynamics
of the host city, according to UBC
researcher Rob VanWynsberghe.
"Unlike any other event, sporting
mega-events can be a force for change,"
says the assistant professor in the
Department of Educational Studies
at UBC. "Entire social policies can
be reworked in the name of hosting.
In almost no other situation are
such massive resources dedicated to
transforming a city."
VanWynsberghe investigates how
sporting events, like the Olympics,
World Cup and Pan American Games,
new Musqueam cultural centre, the former Four Host Nations Olympics pavilion. UBC's Vancouver campus is located on the traditional territory of the Musqueam people.
can be leveraged to radically change
how cities work.
A member of UBC's Centre for Sport
and Sustainability, VanWynsberghe
says these events provide cities with the
unique opportunity to work on deep
social issues. With the world's attention
focused on them, it is a great time to try
new ways of tackling problems.
VanWynsberghe is leading a study to
measure the overall impact ofthe 2010
Games, known as the Olympic Games
Impact (OGI) study. Developed by the
International Olympic Committee
(IOC), the OGI offers a standardized
method of monitoring, measuring and
reporting on the social, economics and
cultural impact of hosting the Games.
All Olympic organizing committees
are now contractually required to
undertake this study.
VanWynsberghe thinks one ofthe
legacies ofthe 2010 Winter Games may
turn out to be improved developments
in Aboriginal relations in the province
of British Columbia. The Olympics
featured the inclusion of First Nations
in organizing the Games, a priceless
spotlight on aboriginal culture during
the opening ceremonies, an attractive
and prominent Aboriginal Pavilion, and
economic development opportunities.
"The 2010 Games still provide a way to
do things differently in the future," he
says. "More generally, hosting an event
like this gives you the opportunity to
ask 'what is a major social issue and how
can changing it now be the source of a
Looking ahead to the 2012 Summer
Olympics in London, VanWynsberghe
notes organizers are dedicating
unprecedented efforts to promote
physical activity, perhaps because
London, like many other cities, is
dealing with a rising tide of obesity.
But VanWynsberghe thinks the
London Games could be used to address
deeper problems.
"If they focus on ethnic and racial
tensions in the city, London could flip
things around and make their Games a
celebration of multiculturalism.
They could make London a destination
for being the most multicultural city in
the world."
In November, the UBC Centre for
Sport and Sustainability hosted a
conference on the impact of sporting
mega-events, bringing together leading
international scholars. They concur that
hosting the Games in Vancouver and
London is one thing. Hosting them in a
developing country like Brazil-host to
the 2016 Summer Olympic Games-is an
entirely different matter.
"The approach to transforming a city
like Bio is very different than what we
saw in Vancouver or in 1996 in Atlanta,"
VanWynsberghe says. "The field is
generally filled with case studies from
North America, Europe and Australia."
"We need to compare and contrast
these cases with African, South
American and Asian ones to understand
the full range of leveraging possibilities
that may extend beyond the host city
to include international goals, such as
sustainability, poverty reduction, literacy,
combatting racism, and stopping war." •
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012 Seeking precious minutes
of focused attention
What it takes to give your science class a makeover
Brian Lin
Science Teaching and Learning Fellow Brett Gilley (left) discusses an in-class activity with Prof. James Scoates.
Walking down the angular halls of the
Department of Earth and Ocean
Sciences (EOS), Brett Gilley stopped by
Professor James Scoates' office to scan
through a stack of activity sheets
where fourth-year students had drawn,
to the best of their recollection, cross-
sections ofthe Earth's crust and
possible locations of mineral deposits
on the first day of class.
"What did students say was the
hardest part ofthe activity?" asked
Gilley, a Science Teaching and Learning
Fellow (STLF) with the Carl Wieman
Science Education Initiative (CWSEI).
"Scale," Scoates answered. That piece
of feedback from Scoates' students will
not only change how the 16-year veteran
teacher begins this future classes, but is
influencing the content of several other
courses in the department by pointing
out one ofthe major challenges
students face, which happens to be one
ofthe key competencies of geological
This kind of impromptu meeting
has become commonplace since 2007,
when 27 courses in EOS were selected
to undergo transformation. They were
chosen, based on reach and impact, to
morph over a five-year period from the
traditional "stand-and-deliver" model
to something much more interactive.
"It was relentless," Scoates recalls.
Over two years starting in 2009, Gilley,
Scoates and Assistant Professor Ken
Hickey dissected their course, identified
the most important concepts in the
syllabus and articulated clear goals
they'd like students to achieve.
Learning activities such as the
deceptively simple drawing exercise
were discussed and tested against
a growing literature of cognitive
psychology research—a key component
of Nobel laureate Carl Wieman's
approach to improving teaching and
learning undergraduate science through
individual course transformations.
"I can't say I enjoyed all aspects ofthe
process, but I definitely saw the value,"
says Scoates, who has since partnered
with Gilley to revamp two more courses.
Half of the first-, second- and
third-year courses in EOS have
undergone transformation—and almost
three quarters ofthe department's
instructors have participated—with the
help of Gilley and three other STLFs. As
a result, approximately 10,000 students
— a majority of them non-science majors
—have learned about topics such as
natural disasters and climate change in
vastly different ways from their parents,
or even slightly older cohorts. Nearly
at the end of their five-year plan, EOS
is now in the midst of a complementary
curriculum reform.
"This sort of work usually takes a long
time," says Gilley. "The degree to which
the department has embraced this is
absolutely amazing."
Halfway across campus, in Wieman's
home Department of Physics and
Astronomy, course transformations
are moving ahead with characteristic
The partnership between STLF Louis
Deslauriers and Assistant Professor
Kirk Madison began over dinner with a
visiting colleague.
"I told Kirk about the work I was doing
with other courses and I could tell it was
outside his comfort zone, but he was
also excited by it," recalls Deslauriers,
who helped Madison transform a
third-year quantum mechanics course.
"The methods Louis described
resonated with me because it's how I
mentor my graduate students—less of
a step-by-step cookbook instruction
and more an open-ended exploration
of ideas," says Madison. "The challenge
was scaling it up to 90 undergrads."
Deslauriers and Madison focused on
creating various points where students
are asked, in groups of three or four, to
articulate, debate and answer a question
—what the two playfully call "learning
"The process of deliberating,
communicating and discovering ideas
creates a common bond that connects
people," says Madison, who likens it
to the spark people experience when
falling in love. "Training our students
to both think collectively and by
themselves is a critical component
of a university education because it
forms the basis for the creation and
acquisition of meaning and knowledge."
Giving the students time and space to
think independently, however, meant
relinquishing some control as Master of
the Classroom.
"Before I tried these activities for the
first time, I worried a lot about crowd
control," Madison says. "Do they see I'm
doing my job or would they think I'm
downloading responsibility onto them?
Are they going to respect me?"
What happened next was "unreal,"
says Madison. "When the discussion
time was up and I began to offer my
feedback, the room went silent. And for
the next 180 seconds the students were
on the edge of their seats hanging on my
every word."
Madison and Deslauriers recorded
such data throughout the term and
found that this critical attention
span lasted less than four minutes.
Their findings are now submitted for
"In a traditional lecture, you can do
Launched in 2007, the Carl Wieman Science
Education Initiative (CWSEI) has impacted
more than 10,000 undergraduate students
per year with the help of 18 ScienceTeaching
and Learning Fellows across UBC science
jumping jacks, cartwheels and back
flips and you'd get some ofthe students'
attention for maybe 10 seconds," says
Madison. "But now I had the undivided
attention ofthe entire class for three
whole minutes—they were primed, it
was my window of precious lecture time
and I knew I had to make it count."
Madison's course now revolves
around these 'learning events'—up to
a half dozen in a 50-minute class - and
his 'lecture' consists of feedback and
Q&As to those activities. As a result, he
has seen improvements in the students'
behaviour and marks, both of which
have been meticulously documented
and analyzed, another key element of
the CWSEI approach.
One of Deslauriers's recent studies
about two other UBC physics classes
made headlines worldwide after it
appeared in the prestigious journal
Science. For their part, researchers
and instructors in EOS have produced
more than 50 papers, presentations and
workshops detailing their experience.
Both teams say establishing a
"feedback loop" between instructors and
students is key to an engaging learning
experience, while mutual respect is the
secret of their successful partnerships.
"The barrier has dropped between
me and my students," says Scoates.
"They aren't embarrassed about asking
questions or saying what they might
think is the wrong thing."
"I used to ask myself if I'd covered
everything I wanted to in a lecture,"
says Madison. "Now the question I ask
is 'Did they get it?' which is a much
harder question. But, with constant
feedback during class, I am much more
certain ofthe answer." •
Professor of
UBC faculty members whose
professional lives focus on the
advancement of teaching and learning
will soon have a title to match their
commitment: Professor of Teaching.
Officially rolled out July 1, 2011, the
new rank was introduced into the
instructor tenure stream to create a
complete career track that parallels the
conventional professorial stream, says
Anna Kindler, Vice Provost and Associate
Vice President, Academic Affairs and
Working with UBC Faculty Relations
and with input from the UBC 3M Fellows
Council, the Provost's Office developed
criteria and guidelines that ensure the
title carries prestige and recognizes
outstanding instructors who contribute
significantly to the profession.
"We place a very strong emphasis on
educational leadership and innovation in
curriculum and pedagogy," says Kindler.
"Professors of Teaching are not only great
teachers themselves, but inspire and
enable others to excel."
Kindler says the new rank and
title—still a rarity at universities—will
also give UBC a competitive edge in
recruiting outstanding faculty with
primary responsibilities focused on the
educational mission ofthe university.
"Some scholars may realize early on
that their talents—and passion—lie in
teaching and educational innovation,"
Kindler adds. "By extending the teaching
career track, we're presenting an exciting
opportunity for them to contribute, grow
and optimize their positive impact on the
"It also gives us the opportunity to more
explicitly recognize the contribution of
our educational leaders and signal how
much we value their expertise."
The first Professors of Teaching
appointments are expected to be
announced over the next year. •
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012 Animals in research
The UBC community examines a tough issue
Like all leading research universities, UBC engages
in animal research to investigate and address some
of the more challenging issues of our time, including
biodiversity loss, human disease, and the effects of
climate change. And, like all research, it presents
serious ethical questions that we must face as a
responsible academic community.
When is animal research necessary? When is it not? How
will animal research benefit both human and animal
populations? How can we improve upon past research?
We asked these and other questions of each of the
982 animal research projects approved at UBC in 2010,
which involved a total of 211,604 animals in the field or
in laboratories. Of these, 97 per cent were rodents, fish,
reptiles and amphibians. Without their participation, we
could not have confidently answered a range of vital
scientific questions with implications for our society and
our planet.
We stand by our research, whether it is to improve
medicine, cure diseases, understand basic zoology, or
ensure better treatment of animals in society. And
I others stand by it, too: the patients who benefit from our
I medicines, the agencies that fund our research, and the
1 regulators who monitor and enforce the strict codes of
ethics and behaviour we adhere to.
A university campus allows us to respectfully debate the
more contentious issues of our time. As part of an ongoing
academic dialogue to evolve our thinking and practices on
the issue of animal research, four scholars share their
reflections with UBC Reports.
John Hepburn
Vice President Research and International
Let the conversation continue.
UBC Animal Research website
UBC Green College Dialogues
Making wise
about animals
Since zoology is the branch of biology
that studies animal life in its dazzling
diversity and richness, zoologists like
myself are involved in animal research
of one form or another, in
sub-disciplines ranging from cell and
molecular biology through anatomy
and physiology, to behaviour, ecology
and evolutionary biology.
As a zoologist, I need to know how
animals "work" before I can understand
the potential consequences of climate
change and the ways to mitigate its
effects; understand the causes and
consequences of such outbreaks as
avian flu, white nose syndrome in bats
and facial tumour disease in Tasmanian
devils; or provide medical aid to
household pets and injured wildlife.
Always at the back of my mind
when I do research in the field or the
lab— with methodologies ranging
from unobtrusive observation to more
invasive procedures—is the code of
ethics that guides my work and my
absolute commitment to the humane
treatment ofthe animals in my care.
It has always been extremely
important to make wise decisions when
conducting animal research because
research procedures can result in
animal deaths.
I know many of us struggle with
this responsibility for the life of
sentient beings. After all, we become
zoologists because we care deeply about
animals. So how can we live with the
implications of our work?
For me, it is this deep concern for
the health, wellbeing and future of all
animals— non-human and human— that
anchors my conviction in responsible
research involving animals. Perhaps
one day we won't need to use invasive
methods for this essential work—but
we're not there yet. •
Bill Milsom
Head, Department of Zoology,
Past Chair of UBC's Animal Care
Committee, and former member of the
Canadian Council on Animal Care
Racism, sexism,
Mahatma Gandhi said "The greatness
of a nation and its moral progress can
be judged by the way its animals are
treated." Our perception and use of
nonhuman animals is the focus of
interdisciplinary scholars in the
emerging and widely diversified field of
critical animal studies where Gandhi's
words have particular resonance in the
critique of the treatment of non-human
animals in factory farming, rodeos,
zoos, the aquarium and in scientific
Scholars in my field question the
arbitrary distinctions used to separate
the "human" subject from the "animal,"
critiquing what some have labeled
"speciesism," and calling attention to the
disregard for the suffering of nonhuman
As a theorist and scholar, I am often
challenged because I extend ethical
considerations to non-human animals—
a premise some call "irrational."
Feminism faced similar disavowals in
the academy—less than 100 years ago
women were not designated as persons.
I find students are more willing than
some colleagues to ask hard questions
about the use of animals in research.
I've been told I'm "anti-science"
and that courses such as the one I
recently taught on our Okanagan
campus, Posthumanism and
Critical Animal Studies, are akin to
teaching"creationism." Yet emerging
discoveries on animal sentience,
behaviour and self-awareness
underscore the need to analyze
thoughtfully the treatment of
non-human animals.
In fact, I am pro-inquiry, as should
be all members ofthe academic
community. Science is a social
phenomenon and a human practice; it
cannot be isolated from social morality.
The Green College dialogue series
in which I participated aims to
foster "meaningful, interdisciplinary,
scholarly deliberation about the use
of nonhuman animals in university
teaching and research" and brings
together, at long last, "scholars from the
humanities, social sciences and science
who otherwise have scant occasion
to interact." It just might have us all
reflecting seriously about Gandhi's
words. •
Jodey Castricano
Associate Professor, Critical Studies,
UBC's Okanagan campus
Do no harm
In the UBC Animal Welfare Program,
the approach we use for animal-based
research is akin to that of medical
researchers to their patients: we work
to improve the lives of those we study,
and we follow the principle of 'do no
What does this mean? Most of our
research tries to improve the health
and comfort of animals in shelters,
farms and laboratories. In some
cases, where animals are subjected to
painful treatments by others, we test
ways of reducing the animals' pain and
distress. But we do not inflict negative
treatments for the sake of science.
If our research animals don't
suffer, neither does our research. Our
group is extremely productive. It is
well integrated with the animal-care
professions, and we have hundreds
of enquiries each year from would-be
graduate students from around the
world. We feel that our decision to 'do
no harm' has not harmed our ability to
do good science.
That philosophy may work for us, but
what would the health sciences be like
were our approach to catch on?
Certainly, invasive animal-based
research in fields like physiology, organ
function and drug kinetics has allowed
astounding advances in drugs, surgery,
and other means of treating disease.
But suppose the vast resources and
ingenuity that go into this research
were to be redirected? What different
advances might we have? Would the
medical profession be less focused on
treating disease, and more focused on
how nutrition, life-style, community
engagement—even the arts and
spirituality—help prevent disease and
promote wellbeing?
If this meant foregoing some of our
more spectacular (and expensive)
disease interventions, might the
ultimate result still be a healthier,
happier population? Might such an
approach do us no harm? •
David Fraser
Animal Welfare Program,
Faculty of Land and Food Systems
Clear and
present purpose
Imagine being imprisoned in a body
that no longer responds to your control.
Like an evening shadow that creeps
across the landscape, Parkinson's
disease insidiously shuts down areas of
the brain and body.
Parkinson's disease afflicts 7-10
million people worldwide and burdens
the families who care for them. Without
medication, the body rapidly loses
motor control—yet the mind remains
aware. The best available medications
only treat the symptoms, they do
not slow the rate of decline, and they
produce side effects such as the jerky,
involuntary movements we see most
famously in Michael J. Fox.
The world's half-billion baby boomers
are moving into the prime stage of life
for Parkinson's. In the coming decades,
this disease will become a global
epidemic unless solutions are found.
For researchers like me, this involves an
ethical choice: do we use animal models
to develop a cure now, or wait for a
technology that will replace the need
for animals in research? While I want
to minimize suffering in all species, I
cannot ignore this human catastrophe.
Before we can test a potential
Parkinson's cure in humans, we are
required by law to demonstrate its
safety and tolerability in at least two
species, and no new drug gets to this
stage without a clear demonstration of
efficacy in animals.
I do involve mice and rats in my
research, but I limit their use by
learning from clinical, genetic and
pathologic studies in patients and their
families. Our drug development effort
is informed by gene mutations that
trigger late-onset Parkinson's disease,
and is based on molecular genetic
design. Drugs targeted to a specific
molecular cause for given patient
groups are the most promising.
It's true that animals, unlike people,
cannot choose to participate in
research. But victims of Parkinson's
disease do not choose their fate
either—Parkinson's chooses us. I've
spent my career weighing the ethical
ramifications of my work and I say
unequivocally: animal research is a
price that must be paid to prevent
Parkinson's disease. •
Matthew Farrer
Professor of Medical Genetics and
Canada Excellence Research Chair
in Neurogenetics and Translational
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012 IUBCI      a place of mind
More then 30 UBC researchers
are participating in the American
Association for the Advancement
of Science (AAAS) annual meeting,
the world's largest general science
conference, Februrary 16-20 2012.
Learn about UBC's involvement
in the "Olympics of Science"at
China 2012 The year of living dangerously
Even before the death of North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, the Year of The Dragon was to be one of
potentially massive change, with the US, China, Russia, and South Korea all selecting new leaders.
Basil Waugh
a place of mind
av system design & integration
digital signage
presentation webcast & capture
av equipment rentals & repair
audio-visual services
av supplies & equipment sales
creative services
video & media production
medical illustration/animation
graphic design
large-format printing
Paul Evans (above) and Timothy Cheek (below) say China's new leaders
will face growing social unrest, widespread disparity and a cooling economy.
With tensions rising between the
U.S. and China and the world
economy sputtering, UBC
Institute of Asian Research
experts Paul Evans and Timothy
Cheek outline major issues and
potential conflicts in 2012, with a
focus on China.
China's 'princelings'
grab the brass ring
If all goes according to script this October, Xi Jinping and
Li Keqiang will become China's new general secretary and
prime minister, respectively. This will likely be the fourth
peaceful succession since Mao's death, which is remarkable in a
communist system.
Chinese power rotates between three groups and their
relative tendencies are instructive. The outgoing leaders,
from the party's more ideological "youth league," took a
characteristic hard line on dissent. Before them, the "Shanghai
group," characteristically focused on the economy. It is now
a third group's turn, the "princelings," from which Xi and Li
The "princelings," comprised of elites and former leaders'
families, have an interest in preserving class privileges. Xi and
Li will understand intuitively that confrontation with the U.S.,
social unrest and disparity are not in their class interests. Both
are smart, proven administrators who have worked closely and
effectively with the party's Shanghai and youth league factions.
Tim Cheek
Disparity grows as
China's economy slows down
China's economic growth has been extraordinary for 30 years.
The number of people that have been pulled out of poverty
is astonishing. But it's very apparent that huge inequalities
have emerged. Even China's current premier has stated the
country's economic model is unsustainable and unfair.
The new leadership faces difficult choices in rebalancing
China's role in the global economy in a period that its growth
rate is declining and social disaffection is growing. The
leadership is exploring social safety nets, health and welfare
systems which have almost completely collapsed in the era of
reform and openness. The question is: how do you preserve
growth, while distributing its benefits more equally? The
challenge is not unique to China, but nowhere is the disparity
or risk of unrest greater. Paul Evans
Rising unrest as
citizens find their voice
By the government's own count, there were more than 180,000
"social incidents" in China in 2010, a staggering figure. These
are public demonstrations, sometimes riots, against corruption,
working conditions, pollution and land expropriation. They are
usually led by poor farmers or workers, but China's middle class
is now starting to protest infringements on their lives.
China's government realizes this unrest is inherently
tied to their model of development. Lack of democracy,
regulations, protections and standards is precisely why China
outperforms the West. The people, unable to vote, must express
dissatisfaction in other ways. A burgeoning "rights movement"
is gathering steam, fuelled by social media.
China's challenge is to find a mechanism to absorb feedback,
address citizen's issues and clean its bureaucracy of corruption.
If they fail - and they mostly likely will, because the new leaders
resemble the current ones - the unrest will worsen. Tim Cheek
Social media + unrest =
Chinese Spring?
Blogs, SMS texts, and QQ, a Chinese Twitter, are helping to fuel
the unrest in China, but the government is too competent and
way too tough for a "Chinese Spring" to occur. While many
Chinese hate their local officials—who they view as corrupt and
incompetent—they still hold China's central government in
extremely high regard, and don't see a viable alternative. They
are nowhere near the levels of alienation we saw in North
Africa. Tim Cheek
Potential flashpoints:
South China Sea and cyberspace
China began asserting its claims on the South China Sea more
assertively in 2010. This rang alarm bells in Southeast Asia and
opened a door for the United States to play a more active role
on the issue. In December, Obama committed 2,500 marines to
nearby Australia and stated that democracy is the only
legitimate form of government. While the US-China
relationship is complex and mutually important, Obama was
signaling a policy shift in the direction of military containment
even as the strategy of economic engagement remains in place.
The South China Sea has always seen incidents, but the chances
of these escalating are now more significant.
The cyber realm is another potential flashpoint, with China's
increasingly sophisticated capabilities. President Obama said in
May that a cyber attack on US military infrastructure would be
considered equivalent to a military attack. With opposing views
of "freedom" on the internet, and China's failure to regulate
in its own cyber backyard, there is growing potential for major
international conflict. Not military conflict, but a trigger
to rising tension and a greater deterioration of diplomatic
relationships. Paul Evans
What does China want?
In the G20 and other international institutions, Asian countries
so far have a poor record of working together. China and India
are active players in these institutions, but rarely leaders. It is
difficult to imagine progress on key issues like climate change
and financial regulation until they play a bigger and more
constructive role in setting rules that transcend their
immediate interests. Asia is increasingly at the centre of global
economic power, accounting for nearly 75 per cent of global
growth. But it is not yet at the centre of institutional and
normative power. 2012 promises to be a pivotal year in testing
how far an American-centred world order can be maintained
and whether Asia's rising powers will live within that order or
begin to establish an alternative. Paul Evans •
Subscribe to the Asia Pacific Memo, a weekly
publication from UBC's Institute of Asian Research,
at: www.asiapacificmemo.ca
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012 a place of mind
Large Format
Poster Printing
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Six things science tells
us about happiness
UBC economist on a bold UN mission
Basil Waugh
Your University. Your Home.
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Scan the QR for a slideshow and
information on the exhibition.
Installation view: Survey '69, exhibition at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in May-June 1969.
Michael Morris, New York Letter, c. 1968. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Purchase, Saidye
and Samuel Bronfman Collection of Canadian Art. Photo: Henry Koro.
'When people ask where to start, I say transform your
elevator ride from a prison sentence to a social event
waiting to happen."
Social connections bring more happiness than money, says UBC economist John Helliwell.
Struggling to find happiness? Consider the plight of John Helliwell, a University
of British Columbia economist who was recently asked to help the United Nations
measure and improve global happiness levels.
Helliwell, a leading happiness researcher, is working with colleagues on a "World
Happiness Report," that will support a special UN meeting on April 2 in New York
City. The meeting, the result of a unanimous UN resolution introduced by Bhutan,
will document the current state of happiness around the world, and is part of a UN
effort to improve life satisfaction with strategies grounded in science.
Universal happiness may sound like a stretch, but science offers some clear
direction, says Helliwell, who began exploring social capital and well-being issues
as a visiting professor at Harvard in the 1990s. "Time and time again, we find that
people systematically overestimate the impact of material things and underestimate
the positive impacts of social connections," he says.
UBC Reports asked Helliwell to list some ofthe most important discoveries to date
in the field of happiness research.
1. Money ^ happiness
Does money bring happiness? Studies find that income does
support life satisfaction, but mostly at low income levels, and
not as much as people expect, says Helliwell, who first ranked
the happiness of Canada's cities in 2007. Positive social
interactions have a much greater impact on well-being, he says.
2. Trust is a must
HelliwelFs research shows that working in an organization
where trust in management is one point higher (on a 10-point
scale) has the same impact on life satisfaction as getting a 30
per cent pay raise. But the importance of trust extends far
beyond the workplace; trust in police and neighbours counts
too. "When trust is high, people have the confidence to reach
out and engage with the community," he says.
3. Longing to belong
Like trust, a sense of belonging is another key indicator of
happiness, Helliwell says, noting that your immediate
surroundings are especially important. "Studies show that
feelings of belonging at the local community level have twice
the impact of those at the national or provincial," he says. As
for social media, a Canadian survey found that it is the size of
your network of real-time friends, and not the online version,
that supports life satisfaction.
4. Generosity pays off
Ifyou are going to spend money on happiness, studies suggest
spending on charitable donations or activities designed to
serve a larger purpose. Donors and volunteers often receive
greater personal satisfaction from their philanthropy than
recipients, says Helliwell, a professor emeritus in UBC's Dept.
of Economics. In a recent study, cancer patients who
counseled their peers received even larger benefits than those
they were counseling.
5. Freedom brings happiness
While good health is important, the perceived freedom to
make important life choices is also crucial, says Helliwell, a
co-director ofthe Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's
social interactions, identity and well-being program. It should
come as no surprise that Denmark, which has the world's
highest self-assessed levels of freedom, also has the highest
life satisfaction levels, he says.
6. Reach out
Small towns tend to outperform the big cities on happiness
because it is easier to get to know neighbors, build trust and
create a sense of belonging. "When people ask where to start, I
say transform your elevator ride from a prison sentence to a
social event," he says. "Chat with neighbours and help carry
their groceries. It's easier to reach outside your comfort zone
when you realize that you and the whole community are likely
to benefit." •
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012
11 Your Conference
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Hosting a conference at UBC? We can make it easy.
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Toxic gold rush
Helping artisan miners stay clear of mercury
Lorraine Chan
"This is a poverty-driven activity.
These miners aren't villains. They're victims."
Women and children work with small ball mills filled with mercury and gold ore.
Residents of Colombia's mining towns
are breathing in dangerous levels of
mercury as a result of artisanal gold
mining, says UBC Mining Engineering
Prof. Marcello Veiga.
And mercury contamination may be
reaching consumers in far away markets
through Columbian food exports,
making this little-known environmental
problem a global issue.
"This is a poverty-driven activity.
These miners aren't villains. They're
victims," explains Veiga, the world's
leading researcher on mercury
contamination and UN advisor on the
global effects of artisanal gold mining
which involves small scale, rudimentary
and often unsafe mineral extraction.
A powerful toxin that damages the
brain and kidneys, mercury is used by
artisanal miners to extract gold from
ore. Over the past three decades, Veiga
has travelled to roughly half of the 80
countries where 15 million men women
and children are involved in artisanal
gold mining. His mission: bring them
vital information on practical, safer
alternatives that are good for their
health, and better for the environment.
Last year, Veiga and a research team
investigated gold production methods
and mercury release pathways in
five municipalities of Antiquoia, a
northeastern province of Colombia. In
this remote and mountainous region,
there are 17 mining towns and about
30,000 artisanal miners who typically
bring back the ore to urban centres for
"The miners feel safer in the towns
than staying out in the rural areas
where the gold rush has attracted armed
guerillas and paramilitary activities,"
explains Veiga.
Also involved in this research are
Colombia's central and regional
governments and the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization's
Colombia Mercury Project. One of
the goals is to demonstrate mercury
free and also cleaner production
technologies, including heavy metal
condensing and filtering systems.
Led by UBC PhD mining engineering
student Paul Cordy, the study appeared
in a recent issue ofthe journal Science
ofthe Total Environment.
The paper details how the miners
grind the ore with mercury in small ball
mills called "cocos." During this process,
up to 80 per cent ofthe mercury is lost
with the waste, which is then drenched
with cyanide to recover any residual
gold—often minute quantities.
"In this process, a very toxic compound
is formed: mercury-cyanide which is
dumped into the local creeks," say Veiga,
adding that this is happening as well in
countries such as Peru and Ecuador.
As yet, there have been no studies
on the impact of mercury-cyanide
on the environment or food chain.
However, Veiga says that downstream
effects are likely given the number of
South American banana plantations
and shrimp farms that export to global
However, the most immediate and
extreme danger is borne by people who
live and breathe in Antiquoia's towns.
Shops where the miners' gold-ore
amalgam is refined simply burn off the
mercury without containing or filtering
the emissions.
Mining Engineering Prof. Marcello Veiga.
Measuring the air quality in the five
towns, the researchers found mercury
levels that commonly exceeded 10,000
nanograms per cubic metre—ten
times the 1,000 nanograms per cubic
metre limit set by the World Health
Organization for mercury vapour
Veiga says, "We found these levels
and higher to be common in busy main
streets with stores and schools, and with
residential neighbourhoods nearby."
Colombia is the world's highest
per capita mercury polluter due to
artisanal gold mining, releasing 130
tonnes of mercury annually into the
environment, notes Veiga. Globally,
artisanal gold miners are responsible
for contaminating air, land and water
systems with 1,000 tonnes of mercury
each year.
"Ironically, most ofthe mercury used
by artisanal miners is recycled mercury
imported from the developed world,"
he adds. •
For related stories please visit
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012
13 Get to the Point!
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Do advertising
bans work?
Quebec legislation reduces
fast food consumption
Lorraine Chan
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Sauder marketing expert Tirtha Dhar.
Could it really be as simple as cutting out the ads and
watching the kids slim down and get healthy?
A UBC study of Quebec's 32-year ban on fast food advertising
found that people in that province bought less junk food and
their children tend to weigh less than their North American
"That regulation effectively reduced fast food consumption
in households by as much as 13 per cent each week," says Asst.
Prof. Tirtha Dhar, a marketing expert at UBC's Sauder School
of Business.
In the first study of its kind, Dhar investigated the impact
ofthe world's first and oldest advertising ban on fastfood.
Enacted in 1980, Quebec legislation prohibits advertising of
products such as toys and fast food which target children in
print and electronic media. In the past decade, other countries
have followed suit with similar bans, among them Norway,
Sweden, Greece and the U.K.
Dhar says the annual drop in household fast food purchases
represents the equivalent of US $88 million in 2010 dollars.
"In terms of meals, that reduction represents 13 and 18 billion
fewer fast food calories a year."
Co-authored with Asst. Prof. Kathy
Baylis at the University of Illinois, the
study appeared in a recent issue ofthe
Journal of Marketing Research.
Using Statistics Canada data for
1984-1992 household expenditures on
fast food among francophone families
with children in Quebec, Dhar and Baylis
compared the consumption behaviour
of representative households in Quebec
to that of Ontario, using determinants
such as French-language, economic
and socio-demographic characteristics.
Data wasn't available after 1996 when
the surveys stopped recording mother
tongue—a key variable ofthe study.
Dhar points out that Quebec has one
ofthe lowest childhood obesity rates in
Canada, though its children have one of
the most sedentary lifestyles according
to 2005 Statistics Canada data.
"That regulation
reduced fast
food consumption
in households
by as much
as 13 per cent
each week."
More importantly, he says, the 2004
Canadian Community Health Survey
shows that the combined overweight
and obesity rate among two-to
17-year-olds in Quebec is significantly
below the national level.
In North America, where two out
of every 10 children are overweight
or obese, the debate over advertising
legislation is a heated one. What
sets their work apart from previous
studies, says Dhar, is that it draws from
field-level data and is the first study
to explore "the real world impact of
advertising regulation."
"The existing research on advertising
bans drew from lab experiments or
data from small cross-sectional surveys
that give you a snapshot of a point in
time. The situation in Quebec is unique
because we're able to see the real impact
of regulation over a longer period."
However, Dhar cautions against
adopting legislation as the magic bullet
to vanquish problems like childhood
obesity. "It's getting tougher to regulate
advertising since children can be
reached through the Internet, social
media, smartphones and other mobile
"Legislation should just be one ofthe
tools in a larger, comprehensive plan
that includes education about healthy
eating and parental care," says Dhar.
"The key issue is how you manage the
environment for your children, from
which TV programs they watch to the
kinds of food they eat." •
The AAAS comes to Vancouver
Ginger Pinholster, Director, Office of Public
Programs, American Association for the
Advancement of Science
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Three cloned mules were stars of a 2004 AAAS press event on cancer research.
Since coming on board in 2000, I've collected some prize memories from the annual
meetings ofthe American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
And they're not what you might expect:
In 2003, BBC reporters suddenly noticed that a robotic head looked exactly like the
engineer's girlfriend, who was standing in a corner of the press room.
Three cloned mules—Idaho Gem, Idaho Star and Utah Pioneer—were on hand for a
2004 press event on cancer research.
A cadaver-sniffing dog, brought in to demonstrate search-and-rescue techniques in
2005, kept "finding" a staff member.
Former U.S. Vice President AI Gore's lecture in 2009 required all hands on deck,
from Meetings Director Barb Rice to computer specialists, to help direct traffic.
We've had stars and luminaries grace our gathering over the years—U.S. presidents
Harry Truman, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Bill Gates, Stephen Jay Gould,
and UBC's own William Rees, originator ofthe "ecological footprint" concept.
The unexpected and often intimate moments of connection are what make the
AAAS conference so unique. This is where you'll see a high-school student sitting
with the director ofthe U.S. National Science Foundation, or a scientist from a
developing country talking with the head ofthe Human Genome Project. The
breadth of the conference, encompassing every discipline from astronomy to
zoology, and the diversity ofthe program make it appealing to an unusually large,
global audience.
The meeting is, in fact, not one but three (we prefer not to call it a three-ring
circus.) The scientific program, featuring 170 symposia for 2012, drew nearly 5,000
general attendees last year in Washington, D.C. The newsroom operation served
more than 1,000 newsroom registrants in 2011. Two free Family Science Days lure
thousands of public visitors each year and fufill AAAS's mandate to engage the public
in open dialogue on science-society issues.
For the Vancouver conference, our program committee reviewed 355 symposium
in 24 disciplines. By the way, hosting the event in Vancouver recognizes the
international scope ofthe organization, representing 10 million individual scientists
worldwide through its membership as well as 262 affiliated societies.
At the 2012 meeting, look for plenaries by Mike Lazaridis of Research in Motion,
Ismail Serageldin ofthe New Library of Alexandria, Egypt, and Frans B.M. deWaal
ofthe Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University. Topical lecturers will include
Carl Wieman ofthe U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, who has a joint
appointment at UBC.
Science headlines will likely encompass hydraulic fracturing or "gas tracking,"
archaeoacoustics, climate change impacts to marine life, particle physics,
endangered languages, spinal cord injury research, and much more. The Family
Science Days lineup features UBC astrophysicist Jaymie Matthews, Simon
Fraser nanotech expert Nancy Forde, the aquarium's killer whales guru Lance
Barrett-Lennard and Chris Hadfield ofthe Canadian Space Agency.
The late Carl Sagan once said, "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be
known." At AAAS, we believe it's waiting to be communicated, too. •
Please join us for the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver.
Log onto www.aaas.org/meetings
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2012
15 i\c^€i64uX4iJ- c4r ^ h/JurUs
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