New Western Conference Builds on Canadian Space Strategy Experience

Mackenzie River, Canada. Credit: ESA.

It’s no coincidence that Western University named its upcoming conference “Space as a National Asset.”

Space professor Sarah Gallagher, who is also the outgoing science advisor to the president of the Canadian Space Agency, told SpaceQ that the language comes from Canada’s space strategy.

The space strategy and the conference, which is held Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, are completely separate.  But Gallagher said the two visions align in promoting collaboration across the space community – which, to be fair, could include actors that are not traditionally in space at all.

“If we think about what can space do for us as a society, as a community – as scientists, I think that’s an overarching theme,” she said. This means not only including the usual engineers and medical clinicians in the discussions, but also opening up to disciplines like geography – which do use space to an extent through technology like Geographic Information Systems, but which may find more benefits.

Some conference speakers or panelists include CSA president Lisa Campbell, Western space engineering professor Regina Lee and Ray Nassar, a research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Organizers are planning for about 100 to 150 people to attend the conference in London, Ont.

“The first two days are going to be the panels to sort of capture the types of activities that are happening in Canada, and the third day is going to be a network-building workshop,” Gallagher said. (The list of panels is still being finalized, but some are available on the SNAC website in topics like climate change, food security, space debris and other current topics.)

As for the network-building opportunities, Gallagher said participants will explore solutions to any problems they are facing in expanding their community space programs, whether it is personnel, technical expertise, information or opportunities to come together in regular mini-conferences.

“Then we’ll take the output from that workshop and put together an implementation plan,” she said, emphasizing any solutions would come from the community discussion. “Maybe that means that we’ll put together a team and submit a proposal. I don’t even know to whom, or necessarily what people want. Maybe we’ll partner with existing organizations … but I think we really need to do this sort of community scan first to see what people are looking for.”

A share of the participation will also come from students, Gallagher said, who will take part in a research exposition, submit papers, present posters and otherwise showcase their own research. The hope is that the networking may also provide them with more collaboration opportunities down the road, she said.

Registration is open now on the SNAC website, and session proposal ideas are still available for interested participants.

About Elizabeth Howell

Is SpaceQ's Associate Editor as well as a business and science reporter, researcher and consultant. She recently received her Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota and is communications Instructor instructor at Algonquin College.

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