Bringing together students, researchers and community members, SFU invites the public to attend The Global Supply Chain on Oct. 2 as part of its Philosopher’s Café series. The series signals a shift toward increased interdisciplinary collaboration, a topic discussed in the upcoming forum.
Simon Fraser University researcher Luis Sojo has an enduring interest in the relationship between analytical chemistry and public policy. Sojo will be the discussion moderator for the upcoming Café, which aims to create a forum for public exchange between researchers and the general public. Sojo welcomes a more symbiotic relationship between research, its dissemination into the public sphere and its influence on practice and policy. However, he does impose a scientific standard on public participation, requiring rigorous discussion and careful conclusions.
“Whether we come to decisions as a small discussion group or as a municipality, these decisions need to be based on concrete evidence. Unfortunately for the sake of reforming and legislating policy, our current political climate is not reflective of that practice,” he says.
An interdisciplinary shift
While the academy may be in process of shifting its priorities regarding the ultimate aims of research, Sojo explains that chemists have long been involved in producing research that has propelled government policy reform.
“The work that is most relevant at the level of policy engages topics that are of social, economic and political significance. That way, [the research] is more likely to be regarded as valuable to governments and policy makers,” says Sojo.
To illustrate this point, Sojo points to joint efforts among governments and health institutes such as the World Health Organization (WHO) in following recommendations made by chemists for reducing human exposure to dioxins. Dioxins is a known carcinogen, and has also been linked to problems in reproductive health and human growth and development, according to the WHO. Given the highly toxic nature of this chemical, these measures have had a direct positive impact on the overall health of populations. According to Sojo, as a result of such measures, we have arrived at a point where chemists are confident that are no measurable adverse effects related to level of dioxins present in its main sources, which include food supply, air pollutants, soil contamination.
A need for public vigilance
Policy reform does not always lead to the right sort of change. Sojo warns that certain advances made through efforts between researchers and policy makers are now being undermined by recent governments. One recent example is the federal government’s decision to mandate the use of chemical dispersants whose uses are currently sanctioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the event of a major oil spill in British Columbia’s waters. For Sojo, such measures are evidently misguided, and should incite public exchanges on the potentially disastrous consequences directly or indirectly follow from oil drilling, and the priorities of our governments.
The Philosopher’s Café’ edition on The Sustainability of the Global Supply Chain is a free event that takes place on Oct. 2, at the False Creek Community Centre, Fairview Room, at 7 .pm.
It places overriding focus on addressing critical issues in a discursive manner; consequently, it regards the public’s ideas and concerns to be partly determining the direction of research.