Sunday, August 04, 2013

Friends of the Canadian Space Industry

In his 1954 science fiction novella "Sucker Bait," author Issac Asimov postulated the need for a "synthesist," or academic generalist able to correlate apparently unrelated facts from different areas to draw useful conclusions and avoid the limitations of narrow overspecialization.

Of course, Asimov wasn't alone among science fiction writers with this concept. There were synthesists in John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar," synthesists in James Hogan's "Inherit the Stars" and "nexialists" in A. E. van Vogt's "Voyage of the Space Beagle."

Reality also mirrors this pattern, at least if you're an entrepreneur (perhaps the very definition of generalist) in the Canadian space industry. Here are some of the organizations you'll likely come across.  
  • The Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies (ACCT) – An advocacy group for technology transfer and commercialization. Membership includes "more than 110 academic-based research organizations including universities, hospitals, colleges and polytechnics" according to the website. The organization possesses useful connections with a variety of mostly US based intellectual property and venture funding organizations.
  • The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance) – The largest hi-tech association in Canada. Originally focused on software and telecommunications, CATA has recently partnered with CGI to move into the healthcare market.
  • The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Science (CAAS) - Established to encourage, recognize and promote the values and excitement of science and engineering, and to enhance the links between our educational system, industrial base and the wider community. A multidisciplinary organization with an open membership to everyone regardless of age, race or educational background.
  • The Canadian Astronomical Society – Founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of professional astronomers devoted to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education. Membership is open to persons with a professional involvement with these goals in astronomy and the related sciences.
  • CANEUS – A non-profit organization fostering the development of Micro and Nano Technologies (MNT).
  • Friends of the CRC – An association of alumni of the Communications Research Centre (CRC), the government department responsible for most of Canada’s early satellite launches. Provides articles on early Canadian efforts by some of the people who were actually there. 
  • Mitacs – A national, not-for-profit research organization, developing the next generation of Canadian innovators.
  • Polytechnics Canada - The "voice of leading research-intensive, publicly funded colleges and institutes of technology." Strong advocate for moving some of the government money focused on R&D out of universities and into colleges and trade schools.
  • The York Technology Alliance - Typical of efforts across Canada (although perhaps more successful), this association acts as a centre point of the technology cluster for York Region and the Greater Toronto Area.
Asimov didn't just write one story on the perils of scientific overspecialization. Others include "The Dead Past" and "Profession."

Over time, he would even begin to practice what he preached, making himself into a professional generalist by writing popular science books on a number of different fields along with the "The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science," an overview of the topic as a whole.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for those references to Asimov stories. I'll give those a read.

    Bob Clark


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