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 Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) – A not-for-profit organization advocating on aerospace policy issues that have a direct impact on aerospace companies and aerospace jobs in Canada. Heavily involved in the November 2012 Aerospace Review, the second volume of which was focused almost entirely on the Canadian space industry. Ex-Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Chris Hadfield will be speaking at the upcoming 2013 AIAC Aerospace Summit, in Ottawa from October 16th - 17th.
- 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 Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) – A nonprofit technical organization for aeronautics, space and remote sensing. Host for a variety of annual events including the upcoming 65th International Astronautics Congress (IAC), which will be held in Toronto from September 29th - October 3rd.
- 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 Association of Defense and Security Industries (CADSI) – The “voice” the Canadian defense and security industries and organizers of the annual CANSEC trade shows.
- The Canadian Association of Rocketry listing of affiliated organizations - A self-supporting, non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to promote development of amateur rocketry as a recognized sport and worthwhile activity.
- The Canadian Association of Science Centres - An organization promoting and encouraging public involvement with Canadian public science centres and the organizations needed to support them.
- 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.
- The Canadian Foundation for the International Space University (CFISU) – The charitable organization promoting the International Space University (ISU) in Canada.
- The Canadian Science Policy Centre - Organizers of the yearly Canadian Science Policy Conference.
- The Canadian Space Society (CSS) – A non-profit corporation promoting Canadian space activities. Organizes the annual Canadian Space Summit.
- Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) - An industry lobby group representing 650 solar energy groups throughout Canada.
- CANEUS – A non-profit organization fostering the development of Micro and Nano Technologies (MNT).
- The Centre for Commercialization of Research - A member of the International Commercialization Alliance (ICA) focused on commercializing research from public institutions.
- The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy - Focused on legal and policy issues associated with geo-spatial data and technology.
- Engineers Canada - The national organization of the 12 provincial and territorial associations that regulate the profession of engineering in Canada and license the country's more than 260,000 members of the engineering profession.
- 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.
- The Geological Association of Canada - A national geoscience society, publisher and distributor of geoscience books and journals.
- The Geomatics Industry Association of Canada (GIAC) – Canada’s premier source of information on geomatics, the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic or spatially referenced information.
- 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 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - 4,000 members, including about 500 "unattached" members from remote parts of Canada and around the world and strong chapters in Vancouver and 28 other centres across the country.
- 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.
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.