December 2016

Message from the Editor

1. Trudeau in China: Take note of Asian models that leverage, value scientific research

2. The Canada-Ukraine Exchange: A Brief History and Current Status

3. Ernest Frederic Roots, O.C., FRSC – eminent explorer and environmentalist


Message from the Editor

Andrew MiallThe three articles that form this issue of the Bulletin provide good examples of the life and work of our national academy, although, as Keith Hipel's article points out, we remain underfunded by comparison with other national academies, and therefore have less flexibility to provide the independent commentary and advice on issues of national importance. However, as the career of Fred Roots illustrates, on some occasions the abilities of individuals shine through, their contributions lead the way for many others, and their wise counsel forms the basis for policy and research for years to come.

This is written from Calgary, towards the close of a two-month family and professional visit. The petroleum industry here has, of course, suffered severely from the recent industry downturn, but as a former student told me, he has been through seven such cycles during his career, and individuals and companies learn to save for the future and to adapt to circumstances. There is a resilience and self-sufficiency here that will serve Canada well as the economy and environmental practices adapt to the needs of the future.

Andrew Miall

1. Trudeau in China: Take note of Asian models that leverage, value scientific research

*This article was first published with on September 2, 2016, and appears here with the permission of OpenCanada.

Keith HipelSome questions worth thinking about for the Canadian government, considering Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s current trip to Asia: Would it like some of the best experts in the world to design a sensible industrial strategy for Canada that would guarantee long-term wealth, employment and economic security for generations to come? Would it like to harness the brain power of our best thinkers to determine how Canada could secure a nutritious food supply system in the face of climate change and international trade agreements? Would it be surprised to learn that this could all be done at little cost and with no payment to the experts?

In fact, Canada’s best intellectuals, many of whom are fellows of our various National Academies embracing the social, natural and health sciences, as well as engineering, are here to serve the country and its government. The only requirement is for Canada to ask them to tackle a problem of national concern and to cover basic expenses involving support staff and travel, with no additional salaries going to the experts.

Canada’s top academics and researchers, let me call them our “national treasures,” are highly productive in completing leading-edge research that is published in top international journals. The country’s most creative academics and professionals are duly recognized by their peers through stiff competitions in which they are elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (the Academy of the Arts and Humanities, Academy of Social Sciences, and Academy of Science all fall within the RSC founded by a Royal Charter in 1883), Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE) or the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS).

However, these fountains of knowledge are not being effectively utilized to benefit Canadians economically, socially and culturally because of two main reasons: the lack of strong links between our National Academies and government, and the dearth of funding to support expert panels to address problems of national concern. And, despite a change of government, this continues to be a challenge in Canada.

To explain how to take advantage of the intellectual wealth of a nation for the benefit of all consider the cases of Japan and China. Fittingly, Trudeau is in China and may have a first-hand look at the relationship between scientists and government there himself. But first, the Japanese model.

The Japan Academy has 150 Members with 70 in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Section I) and 80 in the Pure Sciences and their Applications (Section II). Being elected Member of The Japan Academy is the highest recognition that a Japanese researcher can receive. Its Canadian counterpart is becoming Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC).

The Emperor and Empress of Japan personally induct each new Member and are cognizant of how these valuable national treasures enrich their nation. The Science Council of Japan (SJC) receives generous funding from the Japanese government to tackle problems of national importance such as the reconstruction of the areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the deposition of radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. The SJC has 210 council members who are appointed by the Prime Minister of Japan and 2000 members who are elected as representatives from Japan’s 840,000 scientists. The SJC President reports directly to the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, China’s two great academies in science and engineering are institutions within the State Council of China. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is one of the most influential and prestigious organizations in China. The status of the CAS President is at the level of a senior Cabinet minister in the Canadian Government. Being elected Academician or Fellow of CAS is similar in prestige to being an RSC Fellow in Canada. CAS has under its control 124 research institutes spread across the country, employs about 50,000 scientists and receives billions of dollars in support, while the National Research Council of Canada is severely underfunded.

Lenovo, a large computer company, is a spinoff of CAS in China. Among its many massive projects, CAS was involved in the installation of the world’s longest quantum communication network linking Beijing and Shanghai, and, on Aug. 16, 2016, the successful launch of a satellite having quantum communication capability.

As in Canada, the Chinese Academy of Engineering duly recognizes China’s very best engineers. Unlike in Canada, it receives sizeable grants to complete important projects that benefit Chinese citizens, such as how to handle the migration of about 15 million people per year from the countryside to cities, and developing energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as the design and building of 30 third generation nuclear reactors. China is already the world’s leading manufacturing nation and is on course to surpass Canada in creativity and innovation in science and engineering.

The National Academies in Japan and China are vastly better funded than those in Canada. They are requested to solve problems of national interest on a regular basis, strongly connected to the centres of political power who appreciate them, and greatly respected by all segments of society.

More funding at the moment in Canada could go to issues of pressing concern, with natural Canadian expertise, such as designing fair trade agreements that benefit Canadians and harmonized economy-wide climate change policies that bring about massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the Council of Canadian Academies receives some funding to carry out expert panel projects, the RSC, CAE and CAHS constitute non-profit organizations, which are self-supporting largely through membership fees.

Our fellow citizens in Canada’s National Academies and other academics are ready to devote freely of their time to benefit all Canadians. All that is required is the political will to request their help and provide modest funding. What a fantastic deal for our nation.

Keith W. Hipel

2. The Canada-Ukraine Exchange: A Brief History and Current Status

By Lawrence A Mysak, CM, FRSC

Lawrence MyaskDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal. QC H3A 0B9


Since the early 1980s, the Royal Society of Canada (hereafter, the Society) has worked to establish and strengthen connections with other national academies through programs involving the exchange of lecturers between the countries. Each of these exchanges allows eminent Canadians (generally Fellows) to lecture at several locations in the host country, and scientists or scholars from those countries to lecture in Canada. These visits are advertised as widely as possible, and most talks are open to students and the public.

Between 1983 and 2004, several lecture exchanges were initiated: the UK-Canada Rutherford Lectures, the Canada-France Lectureship, the British Academy-Royal Society of Canada Exchange Lectureship, the Canada-Ukraine Exchange, and finally, the Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WISET) Exchange Lectureships with the UK and Japan. Except for the program with the British Academy, all the others involved the exchange of mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Further, all but the Canada-Ukraine Exchange were funded by the Society or specific government grants. For a number of reasons, particularly the lack of funding in some cases, these exchanges have been discontinued.  

Because of the large Ukrainian diaspora in Canada (over one million people) and the recent desire of Ukraine to establish stronger connections with Europe and the West, there are now renewed attempts to re-institute an exchange with the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU). Also, the way in which the Canada-Ukraine Exchange started was rather unusual. The purpose of this article is to give a brief history of this past exchange, and the planned steps to move forward.

Initiation of the Canada-Ukraine Exchange                      

During the communist era, there was little contact between Ukrainian academics and those outside the Soviet Union. In the spring of 1992, shortly after Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, physicist Dr. Will Zuzak brought to my McGill office Academician Oleksij Sytenko, who was on a tour of Canada to meet various scientists in our country and possibly set up some exchange programs and/or agreements. Academician Sytenko was then the Director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the NASU in Kyiv (formerly spelled Kiev). At the time, I was vice president of the Academy of Science, and being a second generation Ukrainian-Canadian I was interested in promoting Canada-Ukraine ties in academia. For these reasons, Dr. Sytenko thought I might be in a position to sign some of the draft agreements that he had prepared. However, first I had to tell him that our national academy, the Royal Society of Canada, was a very different structure from the Soviet style academies, which are more like our National Research Council. In particular, the Society had very limited funds to initiate any significant exchange program with the NASU.

However, I recollected that the Society had established earlier two science lecture exchange programs with the Royal Society of London (the aforementioned UK-Canada Rutherford Lectures) and the French Académie des Sciences (the Canada-France Lectureship). Thus I proposed a similar lecture exchange with the NASU, and I said I would work with the Executive Director of the Society (Michael Dence, OC, FRSC) and Co-Foreign Secretary of the Society (Paul LeBlond, FRSC) to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for such a lecture exchange. This MOU was then approved by the Council of the Academy of Science, and later, by the Society Council. To help draft this MOU, Will Zuzak introduced me to Dr. Jurij Darewych, a Ukrainian-Canadian physicist from York University who is a Foreign Member of the NASU.

While the Society Council approved the Canada-Ukraine Exchange, it made clear that support for such a program would have to be found from outside the Society. At that time, the Society was about to lose its large grant from Industry Canada, and henceforth, any new programs of the Society would have to be self-funded. Thus was born the Canada-Ukraine Exchange Program Endowment.

The Canada-Ukraine Exchange Program Endowment  

In the fall of 1992, a fundraising committee to support the Canada-Ukraine Exchange was established; the committee was co-chaired by Professor Jurij Darewych and myself and also consisted of two Fellows and two non-Fellows who showed interest in this program. The goal was to raise several tens of thousands of dollars which was to be put into an endowment, from which the interest would be used to support annual lecture exchanges in the future. By fall of 1994 close to $40,000 was raised; monies came not only from Ukrainian-Canadian individuals (about 40), but also from Fellows (over 20) and ten Ukrainian Associations and Foundations. A major donation of $20,000 came from the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko (the nineteenth century poet laureate of Ukraine). 

At that time, interest rates were high, and after a few years the endowment generated enough money to cover most of the travel costs of our first lecturer from Ukraine in the spring of 1995, namely Prof. A. Zagorodny. We also asked the local universities to help defray some of the lodging and living expenses. Jurij Darewych was very helpful in arranging travel from Ukraine and travel within Canada, and I sought out a number of universities where I thought there would be interest in having a lecturer from Ukraine and where funds would be forthcoming to cover local costs. For lecturers visiting Ukraine, the travel costs to that country were covered by the endowment, and all local costs (travel, lodging and meals) were covered by the NASU.

Past Lecturers of the Canada-Ukraine Exchange

The 2008-09 Calendar of the Society lists all the past exchange lecturers:

1995        Prof. Anatoly Zagorodny, Theoretical Physics, NASU, Kyiv                                                                                          

1996 Prof. André Bandrauk, Theoretical Chemistry, Université de Sherbrooke, QC

1997        Prof. Platon Kostyuk, Physiology, NASU, Kyiv

1998        Prof. Harold Atwood, Physiology, University of Toronto

2000 Prof. Anton Naumovets, Applied Physics, NASU, Kyiv

2002        Prof. Lawrence Mysak, Oceanography and Climate Dynamics, McGill University, Montreal

2005        Prof. Sergiy Komisarenko, Medical Science, NASU, Kyiv

2007 Prof. David Lockwood, Materials Science, National Research Council, Ottawa

Each lecturer typically gave three to five lectures in various cities of the host country. All the visitors from Ukraine had an excellent command of English, and two of the visitors to Ukraine (Bandrauk and Mysak) gave part of their lectures in Ukrainian. However, the scientists that the Canadian visitors met in Ukraine generally were able to communicate well in English.

During my 2002 visit to Ukraine, I gave lectures in Kyiv, Sevastopol and Lvov (sometimes spelled Lviv), and I was impressed with the quality of the scientists I interacted with. After visiting Lvov, I had the opportunity to travel to the village where my father was born (near Ternopol, in western Ukraine); here I was fortunate to meet some distant relatives. Overall, it was a very interesting and inspiring visit, and I have often recommended to my friends that they would enjoy visiting the beautiful city of Kyiv.

The Way Forward    

Recently, the auditors of the Society have noticed that the Canada-Ukraine endowment, which has grown substantially over the years, had not been used for some time. This prompted the staff (especially the Finance Officer, Linda Clauson) and Foreign Secretary of the Society (Jeremy McNeil) to ask whether this exchange could be re-instituted, using the funds from this endowment. At the November 2015 AGM of the Society in Victoria, I was approached by Linda Clauson and also Amelia Zaglul, then Senior Officer for National and International Events, about this idea, and this led to discussions with Jeremy McNeil and Alidad Amirfazli, President of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. 

Subsequently it was proposed that, instead of having an exchange of established lecturers as in the past, we consider inviting younger scientists and scholars from NASU to visit Canada for a few months and that each would be mentored by a Fellow of the Society. This idea is acceptable to the NASU. In April of this year, further discussions took place in Toronto with Alidad Amirfazli, and separately with Jurij Darewych and Robert Magocsi, FRSC (Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto), who recommended that we specify a number of areas of mutual interest to the NASU and the Society. Thus Jeremy McNeil would write to Anatoli Myronchuk, Head of the International Relations Department of the NASU, sending an MOU describing this new format for the exchange and giving the NASU such a list of areas. He would also ask the Ukrainian Academy to name about 10 interested candidates whose files could be reviewed by a small selection committee of the Society. As a way of re-instituting the exchange, we would choose two from this list, ideally one female and one male scientist or scholar, who would visit Canada in spring 2017 and each would be mentored by a Fellow.

While by no means exhaustive, some suggested areas of mutual interest are the following:

Nuclear science/engineering; Governance and democracy; Geology/mining; Ethnic diversity in society; Toxicology/agriculture; Applied mathematics (in the areas of biology, ecology, environment, medicine).

At this stage, Jeremy McNeil and I are inviting Fellows of the Society to contact us if they are interested in hosting and mentoring a young visitor from Ukraine. While not a requirement, if the hosting Fellow also had research or other funds to pay for some of the local expenses of the visitor (e.g., accommodation), that would be appreciated. It is my belief that one would find such mentoring a very rewarding experience, and it would help develop academic ties with a country that is very much trying to reach out to the West. 

3. Ernest Frederic Roots, O.C., FRSC – eminent explorer and environmentalist
By Michael Dence, FRSC

Michal DenceOn March 12, 2016, at the ripe age of 93, Dr Fred Roots received the Explorer’s Medal, the highest honor of the Explorer Club of New York, thereby crowning a career of exceptional accomplishment and influence.  Sadly, the award proved to be the last of numerous honors as he died peacefully at his home in East Sooke, B.C. on October 18.   A graduate of UBC and Princeton he achieved international renown when only 26 as the chief geologist of the famed Norway-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition (NBSX) of 1949-1952, widely recognized as the model for succeeding international projects.  Not only did he successfully map some 6,000 km2 of Queen Maud Land in western East Antarctica but also set an endurance record of 163 days for the longest un-supported dogsled journey, covering about 500 km in the harshest conditions on earth.  Among the many spectacular mountain peaks that pierce the ice cap is Roots Heights, rising almost 2,800 m above sea level within the Sverdrup Mountains that form the northern margin of the East Antarctic Precambrian Shield.  His work contributed to the interpretation that Antarctica once joined Africa before the breakup of Gondwanaland.  The expedition also provided proof that the glaciers of Antarctic, like those elsewhere, were in retreat, an early demonstration that warming trends were global.  

Upon returning to Canada he took prominent roles in the Geological Survey of Canada’s Operation Franklin (1955) in the Arctic Islands and Operation Stikine (1956-58) in the northwestern Cordillera. Soon after his organizational skills were recognized by appointment as the founding director of the Polar Continental Shelf Project in support of all Arctic programs, a position he held until 1971.  His concern for the fragile polar environment led to further appointments as Advisor to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in 1971 and as Science Advisor to the newly formed Department of the Environment in 1973, a position he occupied until retirement as Emeritus Advisor in 2003.  He was thus well placed to take a substantial role in the Canadian response to the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) when the Royal Society of Canada took that initiative in the 1980s. His holistic approach to geoscience and the environment was demonstrated in 1990 when, as a newly inducted Fellow of the RSC, he wrote the chapter on the Polar Regions for the Society’s book Planet under Stress: the Challenge of Global Change (1991). His comprehensive analysis of polar conditions and looming problems exemplified a viewpoint that drew international attention to the Canadian program as, under RSC leadership, research into the physical and biological challenges of Global Change was combined with an equal emphasis on the human dimension. 

For Fred Roots these widely admired qualities led to membership on the US National Academy of Science Polar Research Board (1970-83) plus several of its technical committees, as well as the international Arctic Science Committee, and the Northern Science Network of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program.  In addition he was a contributor to the Antarctic Treaty.  His several medals and awards began with the Norwegian Royal Gold Medal for his role on NBSX, and include the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, Polar Medals from Britain, Norway, Sweden and Russia, the 1979 Massey Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada.  In later years he was active as a mentor to the international Student on Ice expedition program.  Fred Roots carried his honors with modesty and quiet good humour.  The hallmarks of his remarkable career were his enthusiasm for new discoveries, his breadth of understanding of global trends and his deep concern for the polar environment and those who live there.

Acknowledgments:  I am indebted to Dr. Denis St-Onge, O.C. for advice and material on Dr. Roots’ career.  

Planet Under Stress, (1991) 334pp., C. Mungall & D.J. McLaren (editors) was published by Oxford Press for the Royal Society of Canada; a French edition, La Terre en péril, was published by University of Ottawa Press.