Volume 11, Number 1 August 8, 2003

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Canada's science journalists get close look at U of S

Science writers at the CSWA conference try hands-on testing of DNA samples in the Saskatchewan Agricultural Biotechnology Information Centre, at Ag-West Biotech's Innovation Place offices.

Science writers at the CSWA conference try hands-on testing of DNA samples in the Saskatchewan Agricultural Biotechnology Information Centre, at Ag-West Biotech's Innovation Place offices.

About 90 of Canada's top science journalists and communicators descended on the U of S for four days in June, and the organizer of the visit says it opened their eyes to the wealth of scientific and research activity going on here.

Kathryn Warden says writers from coast to coast - including from the National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Globe and Mail, Discovery Canada, CBC National, and radio show Quirks and Quarks - attended the June 7-10 annual conference of the Canadian Science Writers' Association.

She says the session "was a great opportunity to showcase U of S research talent," and the many research facilities at the U of S and Innovation Place.

It was the first time the 32-year-old organization had ever held its conference in Saskatchewan, and only the second time in Western Canada.

"Some of (the writers) wondered if we had the science here to support a conference and I was very pleased to prove them wrong," Warden says.

"We showed them there is terrific science going on here. The variety, scope and impact of it was a real eye-opener for them."

She says the reporters, editors, freelance writers and communications officers were "very impressed" with their tour and in-depth sessions at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

They also toured research greenhouses, a biotechnology display lab, and Wanuskewin, and had conference sessions on genomics, vaccine development, water quality, and ownership of plant life.

Warden says the journalists' attendance at the conference sparked a number of immediate and longer-term stories on Saskatoon-based science developments. "A number of major stories were done during the week and after," she said, citing the Toronto Star, Global TV, and University Affairs (the newsmagazine of the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada). And on the Discovery Channel's online magazine there will be a long-running series of articles on Saskatoon science and research, including video clips.

Warden was able to feature the work of 11 U of S faculty and adjunct professors during the CSWA conference, and 10 faculty were involved in a related poster session.

She says the Canadian Light Source really helped to sell the organization on holding its conference in Saskatoon. She made a point of having University researchers tell the science writers about practical applications they will use the synchrotron light for.

Warden believes the view the writers got of science at the U of S will spark much more interest on their part for future research developments in Saskatoon.

"We built a lot of goodwill with a lot of the leading science writers in the country," she says.

"These people wouldn't have come to cover Saskatoon before, but with this new awareness, they will take more of an interest.

"We don't really realize what we've got here. It's a research cluster that is the envy of many in terms of its scope," she adds.


For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca


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