June 2008


Renowned experts say Science Centres can inspire a better understanding of Global Warming and Sustainability Issues
CNW Group Press Release – 19 June 2008

TORONTO, CANADA: Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit leader, Nobel Prize Nominee, advocate/activist on Arctic climate change, and Dr. Mohamed Hassan, executive director of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, described the dramatic effects of climate change in their respective regions at the 5th Science Centre World Congress, taking place this week at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. In their combined keynote speech, Planet Earth: Living on It, Changing It and Sustaining It, Ms. Watt-Cloutier and Dr. Hassan spoke about the need for more science centres to address sustainability and climate change within local contexts. “We need science centres in the North that present traditional knowledge in equal partnership with Western science,” said Ms. Watt-Cloutier. “Science centres need to be defined by the community’s priorities.” Read the press release… Visit the 5SCWC site…

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Five-Year Project Aims to Catalog Endangered Languages
Voice of America – 18 June 2008

WASHINGTON DC, USA: While there are nearly 7,000 languages, only 83 are used by a majority of the world’s population. Researchers say many of the rest are in danger of disappearing, warning that perhaps half the world’s native languages will no longer exist by the end of the century. David Harrison with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages says language extinction is a crisis of unprecedented proportions and he is trying to do something about it. “I’ve called this the greatest conservation challenge of our lifetime. I don’t mean to downplay the challenge of conserving species and ecosystems, but languages are more critically endangered,” Harrison said. “They are going extinct faster, and these languages contain some of the secrets to human survival and adaptation on our planet.” Read the article… Watch the video…

Divisions over disclosure and parallelism remain unresolved at TRIPS Council meeting
Bridges Weekly Digest – 18 June 2008

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The first – and ultimately only – day of the meeting of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement Council, originally scheduled for both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, was characterised by traditional divisions on a handful of issues. Members’ disagreements centred on a proposed amendment to the TRIPS Agreement that would incorporate a disclosure of origin requirement for biological resources, as well as on whether intellectual property (IP) issues should be included in the upcoming horizontal negotiations on modalities in agricultural and non-agricultural market access. Disagreement centred on the possibility of amending the TRIPS Agreement to bring it in line with commitments regarding the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): specifically, the proposed amendment would require that patent applications disclose the origin of genetic material or traditional knowledge used in their inventions. The current debate is over whether this amendment is the most effective way to stop the misappropriation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. Consequently, the issue of ‘parallelism’ was raised, which refers to the question of whether all three of the IP issues in question – the GI register, extension and disclosure – should be included in forthcoming horizontal negotiations on market opening in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Those in favour of parallelism want the negotiations to include all three IP issues, while those against argue that more technical discussion and empirical evidence is required before moving to text-based negotiations. Those opposed further maintain that parallelism would substantially delay progress in Doha negotiations. Read the article…

Several recent papers of interest [subscriptions required]:

  • Patent protection and access to genetic resources Itsuki Shimbo, Yoko Ito & Koichi Sumikura | Nature Biotechnology 26, 645: 2008 | DOI:10.1038/nbt0608-645
    Developing countries and patent offices have shown differing approaches to patent specification disclosure requirements and benefit sharing. This article reviews various international instruments as well as national approaches, including those of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew in the United Kingdom, the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation in Japan and the RIKEN Center of Research Network for Infectious Diseases.
  • Arctic Indigenous Peoples as Representations and Representatives of Climate Change Marybeth Long Martello | Social Studies of Science, Vol. 38, No. 3, 351-376: 2008 | DOI: 10.1177/0306312707083665
    Recent scientific findings, as presented in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), indicate that climate change in the Arctic is happening now, at a faster rate than elsewhere in the world, and with major implications for peoples of the Arctic (especially indigenous peoples) and the rest of the planet. This paper examines scientific and political representations of Arctic indigenous peoples that have been central to the production and articulation of these claims. The authority, credibility, and visibility of Arctic indigenous activists derive, in part, from their status as at-risk experts, a status buttressed by new scientific frameworks and methods that recognize and rely on the local experiences and knowledges of indigenous peoples. Analyses of relationships linking scientific and political representations of Arctic climate change build upon science and technology studies (STS) scholarship on visualization, challenge conventional notions of globalization, and raise questions about power and accountability in global climate change research.
  • Data Mining for Chinese Materia Medica and Pharmacological Research Ho Yan Gloria Tse, Vincent Wai Tsun Li, Michelle N.Y. Hui, Po Kwok Chan, and Shuk Han Cheng | Journal of Biomolecular Screening, Vol. 13, No. 5, 390-395: 2008 | DOI: 10.1177/1087057108317264
    Chinese materia medica (CMM) is becoming increasingly important in modern health care, with the potential for new or improved clinical protocols and reduction in treatment costs. Conventional approaches to drug discovery are based on knowledge of biological systems and screen phenotypes in the context of a whole organism. The authors have developed a database that they plan to commercialize that contains traditional knowledge of Chinese medicine and pharmacology along with their own experimental data from controlled scientific observations by using the zebrafish as a model of CMM-induced pathology. The database is visualized and functions via the World Wide Web by subscription or license. This provides a platform for the study of CMM, and data mining of this resource will help evaluate CMM in the context of experimental observations of biological aberrations.
  • Aztec Arithmetic Revisited: Land-Area Algorithms and Acolhua Congruence Arithmetic
    Barbara J. Williams and María del Carmen Jorge y Jorge | Science 4 April 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5872, pp. 72 – 77 | DOI: 10.1126/science.1153976
    Acolhua-Aztec land records depicting areas and side dimensions of agricultural fields provide insight into Aztec arithmetic. Hypothesizing that recorded areas resulted from indigenous calculation, in a study of sample quadrilateral fields the authors found that 60% of the area values could be reproduced exactly by computation. In remaining cases, discrepancies between computed and recorded areas were consistently small, suggesting use of an unknown indigenous arithmetic. In revisiting the research, evidence was discovered for the use of congruence principles, based on proportions between the standard linear Acolhua measure and their units of shorter length. This procedure substitutes for computation with fractions and is labeled “Acolhua congruence arithmetic.” The findings also clarify variance between Acolhua and Tenochca linear units, long an issue in understanding Aztec metrology.
  • The United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies Traditional Knowledge Initiative (UNU-IAS TKI) is now accepting applications for a Senior Research Fellow based in Darwin, Australia. Deadline for applications is 24 June 2008. Please visit the UNU-IAS TKI website for details about the position.
  • On 4 August 2008, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and Africa University will launch the first edition of the Masters Degree in intellectual property (MIP). The MIP Program is designed for young professionals who wish to acquire the skills required to play a leading role in that area through exposure to an international and comparative approach. The young professionals to be accepted to the program should primarily be from academic or R&D institutions, who upon graduation are expected to return to their respective institutions in Africa and serve as trainers in the field of IP. With a view to contributing to the development of human resources in the field of IP in developing countries, WIPO os offering 20 fellowships to highly motivated persons from Africa to participate in this Program. Fellowship applications are due by 30 June 2008. Please visit the WIPO website for details about the fellowships.

Visit the UNU-IAS TKI website…
Visit the WIPO website…

Note: if you would like to share an international TK vacancy notice or other opportunity through the TK Bulletin, please email the details to the editor for inclusion in a future edition.

Colombia creates rainforest reserve to protect medicinal plants
Colombia Reports – 12 June 2008

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: The Colombian government announced Thursday the creation of a rainforest reserve dedicated to the protection of medicinal plants. The Orito Ingi-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary encompasses 10,626 hectares of biologically-rich tropical rainforest ranging in altitude from 700 to 3300 meters above sea level. The sanctuary is based on an initiative launched by local indigenous communities with the support of the Amazon Conservation Team, an international NGO working with native peoples to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Members of the communities — which include the Kofán, Inga, Siona, Kamtsá, and Coreguaje tribes — combined their rich knowledge of medicinal plants with cutting-edge technology to determine the placement and extent of the reserve. Read the article…

Tropical dry evergreen forests in India protected by religious and cultural beliefs
MongaBay – 9 June 2008

PUDUCHERRY, INDIA: A new study, published in the June issue of Tropical Conservation Science by N. Parthasarathy and colleagues, looks at tropical dry evergreen forest on the Coromandel coast of India where the ecosystem occurs both in patches and as sacred groves or temple forests protected by the local people on religious grounds. Surveying plant diversity and flowering and fruiting events, the researchers classified the state of tropical dry evergreen forest across 75 sites, plants of medicinal value were listed out and their local traditional knowledge documented. The authors recommend forest protection initiatives for diverse sites with limited disturbance and restoration strategies using native plant species in moderately and heavily disturbed areas. Parthasarathy and colleagues suggest that “revitalizing the cultural traditions associated with sacred groves by promoting awareness of the ecological and bioresource values of tropical dry evergreen forest” would help the conservation effort. Read the MongaBay summary…

Parthasarathy N., Arthur Selwyn M. and Udayakumar M. 2008. Tropical dry evergreen forests of peninsular India: ecology and conservation significance Tropical Conservation Science Vol.1(2):89-110

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