Brock researchers build bridges at national Science Meets Parliament event

Brock University researchers spent time on Parliament Hill this week exploring how to best get science into the hands of the country’s decision-makers.

Canada Research Chairs Yifeng Li and Matt Kwan were among 45 scientists selected from across Canada to attend the 2023 Science Meets Parliament education event in Ottawa on Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2.

The pair met with members of Parliament (MPs) and senators to learn about policy-making and to explore ways politicians and policy-makers can better use scientific evidence in government decisions.

“It’s certainly advantageous to have policies that are rooted in good science, but it’s not always that easy,” says Kwan, an Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies.

“Understanding how policy-makers access science and information and learning how we can more effectively and efficiently get the right science into their hands is of utmost importance,” he says.

Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies Matt Kwan (left), Canada's Chief Science Advisor Dr. Mona Nemer (centre) and Professor of Computer Science Yifeng Li (right) stand in front of a full-length window with an Ottawa street scene in the background.

Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies Matt Kwan (left), Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer (centre) and Professor of Computer Science Yifeng Li (right) at the 2023 Science Meets Parliament education event in Ottawa.

As Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Youth Mental Health and Performance, Kwan and his team investigate how to increase positive health behaviours — including regular exercise and the quality and quantity of sleep — among Canadian youth and how these and other behaviours affect youth mental health and well-being.

Kwan spent time highlighting some of the academic-community partnerships he and his team have created in their research on immigrant children and youth.

One example is the Physical Literacy for Youth (IPLAY) pilot program he created last year with the Calgary-based WinSport program to help newcomer children and youth be more active.

Li, who is Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning for Biomedical Data Science, combines biology and computer science to study how artificial intelligence (AI) can be better programmed to construct and interpret complex biological datasets for improved diagnosis and treatment.

He says the event broadened his vision of the whole science ecosystem, including resource allocation, national priorities, management and ethics.

“It was also a great experience for me to learn from peer scientists about their experiences, opinions and inspirations,” he says.

Li, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science, says he informed policy-makers about the value of multi-disciplinary research that, “allows me to see different phenomena (strengths and needs) in various research communities.”

“A multidisciplinary perspective tends to help generate innovative solutions to many hard challenges faced by our world,” he says, adding that he encourages parliamentarians to take a multidisciplinary perspective when putting together science education and innovation systems.

The two-day event was hosted by the Canadian Science Policy Centre in partnership with Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer.

Now in its third year, the event offers scientists working in Canada a unique opportunity to develop their understanding of the parliamentary process, explore their role in modern political decision-making and experience a day behind the scenes on Parliament Hill meeting with MPs and senators, attending House and Senate committee meetings and discussing scientific research.

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