World Federation of
Science Journalists

Selected Leads at the WCSJ2004

Here is a preview of just a few of the presentations that should yield news stories or feature ideas. The Conference has also planned sessions aimed at crafting even better stories. All speakers and topics in the Final Program are confirmed, unless noted otherwise.

Monday October 4th

Opening Ceremony, 5 p.m.
New frontiers: Senior decision-makers from the federal and Québec governments set the scene with news about recent research initiatives in emerging science.

Tuesday October 5th

Keynote speeches, 8:30 a.m.
Does science journalism have a future' The good news and the bad, provocatively delivered by forensic examiner and best-selling author Kathy Reichs, and U.K. science communications guru Frank Burnet, professor at the University of the West of England.

Breaking news, noon
A press conference about the real-life impact of findings from a multi-year earth sciences project conducted across Canada. The first formal presentation of results will come at a conference to be held the next week.

103 - Cutting through Big Pharma's spin, 10:15 a.m.
Drug-induced reporting: Evidence-based medicine and better-trained reporters are questioning the coziness that links doctors to drug makers and Big Pharma's marketers to harried journalists. Learn about an international effort by The Cochrane Collaboration to encourage more conscientious reporting by promoting guidelines and unbiased sources.

108 - Polar Science, 2 p.m.

  • Icebreaker insights: The discovery of new species, evidence of dangerous seabed slumping near oil and gas zones, and sea ice that exhales carbon dioxide. Be the first to hear about such potential news stories when Université Laval professor Louis Fortier details research carried out along the Arctic continental shelf by 100 scientists from Canada and nine other countries over the past 12 months from the Amundsen, Canada's first scientifically equipped icebreaker. Individual findings will be expanded upon in separate poster sessions.
  • Vanishing polar bears' Biologist Ian Stirling is the world's go-to expert on how polar bears are responding to environmental assaults on their habitat. Based on recent fieldwork, Stirling will assess the likely fate of the bears, as well as the effects on other Arctic marine mammals.
  • Circumpolar climate woes: For the past four years, hundreds of scientists and northern experts have been evaluating the current and future impact of climate change in the Arctic. Their sombre conclusions, and recommendations for action, will be formally handed over in November to the six-nation Arctic Council. We'll have a preview of the climate impact findings from a key Canadian in the process, Professor Terry Prowse from the National Water Research Institute.

108 - Polar Science (cont.), 4 p.m.

  • Contaminated food chain: Federal government researcher Derek Muir has been tracking the pathways of contaminants in the Arctic for more than two decades. He'll tell us what's up, what's down and which ones are of the most concern. Expect some surprises.
  • Ice-free passage: It's not longer a question of if, but only a matter of when sea ice in the Arctic summer will have retreated enough to allow freighters through the once-deadly Northwest Passage. But we need to know a lot more about ice dynamics to keep tabs on what's happening. Professor David Barber from the University of Manitoba explains how.
  • Diatoms are forever: Not quite, but the silicon remnants of these algae survive for centuries in lake sediments. Since different diatoms thrive best under different conditions, their ratios reveal the past environment, such as warm spells and even ancient whale slaughtering sites. University of Toronto professor Marianne Douglas reports on deciphering these diatom records, including pioneering research this year in Antarctica.

109 - Risk and transportation, 4 p.m.
Pedestrians versus drivers: Who's the lion and who's the lamb in the aggressive relationship between people behind the wheel and those on foot? And are there differences between cities? The answers from research conduct by Université de Montréal professor Jacques Bergeron may surprise you, and enlighten readers and listeners.


Wednesday October 6th

204 - Aboriginal Research, 10:15 a.m.

  • Poison in the snow: Canada's Inuit people are isolated from mainstream society but not from the pollution that society creates. Professor Eric Dewailly of Université Laval is among the researchers studying what pollution means to the health of northerners. He'll outline findings from a two-month, sea-borne research trip to the North just completed.
  • Using Cree medicinal plants to complement diabetes treatment: Plants naturally combine chemicals and such combinations hold promise for treating complex afflictions like diabetes. Pharmacology professor Pierre Haddad from the Université de Montréal tells us about a major research effort to screen plants traditionally used by the Cree in Québec to treat diabetes in natives and others.
  • Health and welfare: Canada's new Institute of Aboriginal People's Health is the only program taking a co-ordinated look at the health issues facing native people, including the Inuit. Institute head Dr. Jeffrey Reading of the University of Victoria discusses lessons learned so far.

207 - Reporting risk statistics
Taming the scary numbers: Journalists sometimes seem statistically challenged by medical research and environmental models. A user-friendly statistician, epidemiologist and Harvard risk assessment author are primed to put risk, research and probability into perspective.

209 - Skeptics and the Environement
What's the real global warming story? Hear two contrasting interpretations from Volvo Prize winner David Schindler and Bjorn Lomborg, author of the Skeptical Environmentalist. Introduced by Canadian-born Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, Richard Taylor.

210 - Mind reading, 4 p.m.
Watching the brain at work and play: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has opened whole new realms of real-time studies of what areas of the brain are active during various human activities from sex to stuttering. A top fMRI expert, Professor Ravi Menon, presents the latest research from his lab at the Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario.Thursday October 7th

Thursday October 6th

301 - Unhealthy Planet, 8:30 a.m.

  • Ecocheck-up for the World: Robert Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank, explains a four-year probe of global connections between ecosystems and human well-being, and provides a peek at the initial report scheduled for 2005 from this Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
  • Back to primordial ooze: Renowned oceans scientist Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia, provides new evidence of the continuing death throes of the seven seas.

Breaking news, noon
The cost of new genomics tools like DNA sequencing and bioinformatics are falling rapidly and could spark major health improvements in developing countries. A report being released at the press conference details steps to make this a reality.

309 - Genetics of common diseases, 4 p.m.
Hormones and health: Hormonal steroids such as estrogens and androgens are involved in many diseases and their effects are mediated by hormone-responsive genes. Using a mouse model, Dr. Fernand Labrie and a team at Université Laval are unravelling the role of such hormones. Dr. Labrie will report on their research to produce an "atlas" of genomic profiles of steroid action, and deal with genes involved in hereditary breast and prostate cancers (BRCA1, BRCA2)

Friday October 7th

Science field trips. Click here for details

And still more - Daily poster sessions, the genomics of better sauvignon grapes, research "speed-dating" with University of Ottawa scientist, an announcement about two "scientific" postage stamps, enviroimages from space from astronaut Julie Payette, research findings that link Canadian natives with other indigenous populations, presentation of a new IgNobel award to a Canadian winner be sure to look through the Program for the complete details.