In the News

Heather Amos

Japanese Canadians receive honorary degrees

UBC held a special graduation ceremony to award honorary degrees to former Japanese Canadian students who were forced to leave the university and the Pacific coast with about 21,000 other Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, reported Al Jazeera English, the Globe and Mail, CBC’s The National, CTV BC and others.

“It (the degree) doesn’t mean anything to me economically or academically,” said 89 year-old Mits Sumiya, one of the day’s graduates, “but it does finally make me feel welcome at a place I’ve always considered my school—UBC.”

The ceremony is part of a broader initiative that includes collecting personal accounts from Japanese Canadians about what happened 70 years ago and developing education programs.

New moons for Jupiter

 Astronomers from UBC have discovered two small moons of the planet Jupiter, bringing the total number of known Jovian moons to 67, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Daily Mail, MSNBC, Huffington Post and others.

One of the moons, named S/2010 J2, is estimated to be just two kilometres in diameter, and may be the smallest moon in our solar system ever observed from Earth, according to UBC PhD student Mike Alexandersen.

“It was exciting to realize that this [S/2010 J 2] is the smallest moon in the solar system that was discovered and tracked from Earth,” he said.

Blue Planet Awards

UBC ecologist William Rees and his former doctoral student Mathis Wackernagel have been awarded the Blue Planet Prize at the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, reported the National Geographic, Vancouver Sun and the Province.

Rees and Wackernagel were recognized for developing the Ecological Footprint concept in the early 1990s, which has become an influential measure of economic and human sustainability.

 UBC welcomes letters from students, faculty and staff at


In the last issue of UBC Reports, several UBC students and a faculty member submitted a letter to the editor sharing their views on the recent Green College series on animal research.

The letter raised a number of questions on governance but omitted a key issue that was vigorously debated during the series: the basic need for animal research in order to understand animal physiology, species conservation, or the mechanisms of disease and injury. In the debate, several UBC scholars pointed out that researchers enthusiastically adopt non-animal methods whenever they become available, because animal studies are expensive, complex and time-consuming. However, these methods cannot yet replace animal research. The letter to the editor fails to address a fundamental question of the debate: if we want new medicines and treatments to alleviate human and animal suffering, how will this be possible without animal research, given that there are currently no viable substitutes for a complex living organism?

The authors of the letter also question Canada’s system of funding research, which they say may “channel researchers towards the use of animals, including for reasons other than social benefit.” As a career scientist, I am offended by the implication that scientists conduct animal studies for anything other than highly ethical reasons. They also ask why Canada, “unlike other countries, lack[s] systematic review to prevent unnecessary repetition of research projects on animals” and whether proposed animal research should be assessed by peer researchers who use animals—implying that all animal researchers are somehow in collusion. We are not.

Peer review by acknowledged experts is the universal gold standard in any academic discipline for determining whether a proposed research study addresses important questions, is rigorous and feasible, and should be approved for funding. Furthermore, peer reviewers operate according to established rules that eliminate conflicts of interest. In my view, a system of peer review by experts who have invested their academic careers in animal research should remain the cornerstone principle governing animal research at UBC.

UBC has made a commitment to leading an initiative to evaluate and explore opportunities to enhance Canada’s and our own institutional governance and oversight of animal research. We encourage all members of the UBC community to provide input.

Helen Burt, Faculty, Associate Vice President, Research and International