We’re very excited to begin this post with three exciting achievements from our members. First, in October our postdoc Bartek Chomanski accepted a tenure track position in the department of philosophy at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, his home country. Please join us in congratulating Bartek & wishing him all the best in his new position!

Second, Heather Stewart was one of three students at Western awarded the prestigious Governor General’s Academic Medals in October. Stewart was a recipient of a Gold Medal awarded for academic excellence at the graduate level. Read more about the award in this Western News article, and please join us in congratulating Heather for this achievement!

And finally, Patrick Persaud successfully defended his thesis, “Political Perceptions of Modern Quantitative Easing“, in political science. His dissertation examines the relationship between the traditional notion of the ‘left-right’ political spectrum and the ideologies related to the socio-political functions of central banking and general monetary policy. Congratulations, Dr. Persaud!

The annual public philosophy lecture series took place in October. This year marked 20 years for this series, organized in conjunction with the London Public Library & the department of philosophy. This year’s theme was Race & Racism, and included philosophical discussions about what race is, of practices of “racial fraud” & racial passing, of racism as a source of vaccine hesitancy, and of environmental injustices that afflict Indigenous communities in Canada. One of the talks was given by Carolyn McLeod with two students she supervised for an Undergraduate Student Research Internship (USRI) that focused on race and vaccine hesitancy. Video of that talk is available–videos of the other talks will be available soon. Special thank you to Eric Desjardins for moderating all of the talks in this year’s series!

Another Institute sponsored event took place on Nov 25: Artificial Intelligence, Harm, and You. To celebrate the official launch of Western’s Interdisciplinary Development Initiative exploring the real-world social impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) in Canada and around the world, Luke Stark organized this virtual event that included a panel discussion on the harms algorithms can cause, and presentation of a poster exploring the impacts of AI on the daily life of Western students. Panelists included Carolyn McLeodJoanna Redden, and Heather Stewart, with Jacquelyn Burkell as moderator. The poster presentation, by Nathalie Diberardino, was featured in a Western News article, Western student probes social impacts of AI.

Our members have lots of other exciting updates to share. All other news is listed below alphabetically.

Rotman alumnus Yann Benétreau-Dupin gave a Featured Former Fellow Lunchtime Talk about his work as a journal editor hosted by Pittsburgh’s Center for Philosophy of Science titled, “Is Reading Peer Review a Good Idea?” Video of the talk is available here and a related interview was posted on the Center’s blog.”

Former graduate fellow Andrew Chater has a new co-edited collection out from University of Ottawa Press, North America’s Arctic Borders: A World of Change. Co-edited with Heather Nichol, the book “demonstrates how North America’s Arctic borders are being reshaped by globalization even as these borders are adjusting to new internal pressures such as devolution and the rise of sub-national territorial interests.”

The second issue of Maple Transactions has been published. Maple Transactions is an Open Journal Systems journal sponsored by Maplesoft and by Scholarship Western, and was inspired by Samantha Brennan’s journal FPQ.  Rob Corless is Editor-in-Chief of the journal and has published an article in the Editor’s Corner section, “Skew-symmetric tridiagonal Bohemian matrices.”  Other articles in the issue include an experimental mathematics paper by Robert Dougherty-Bliss and Doron Zeilberger, an academic obituary of Jon Borwein by Richard Brent, a paper by Rhett Robinson settling a conjecture of Calkin et al by using Viet`e’s formula, the first Problems, Puzzles, and Challenges column (by David Jeffrey), and the first paper in the Student Corner, by Ewan Brinkman et al, entitled “The Theodorus Variation”.  For that paper, Corless made a Video Abstract which was rather fun in an arts-and-crafts way (follow the link to the video which is currently on YouTube but will be moved to the Institutional Repository here at Western at some point). The next issue of Maple Transactions will be a Special Issue containing the Proceedings of the Maple Conference 2021, for which Corless was co-Chair of the Program Committee.  This (virtual) conference had over 800 registrants, and there are about 30 papers submitted to this special issue.  The talks were prerecorded and are still available (registration is free).  There are several there that may be of interest to people at the Rotman Institute, including some on gravitational lensing, and on Babylonian astronomy, and several on computational discovery. Register/sign in at https://www.maplesoft.com/mapleconference/2021/ (disable your pop-up blockers) and go to the “Theatre” to find the videos.

Carolyn McLeod gave a virtual talk in November, “Building Trust in the Face of Distrust: Insights from Philosophers,” as the keynote address for “Trust in Helping, Therapeutic, and Pedagogical relationships,” at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland School of Social Work.

Rotman alumnus Philippos Papayannopoulos has taken up a one-year postdoc position at the Institute for History and Philosophy of Sciences and Technology (IHSPT), at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne – CNRS, as part of an ANR research program on the foundations of algorithms (“The Geometry of Algorithms”, PI: Alberto Naibo).

Philippos Papayannopoulos gave a talk at the 6th International Conference on the History and Philosophy of Computing (HaPoC), at the Turing Center – ETH Zurich, on “Two Different Kinds of Computational Indeterminacy” (based on joint work with Nir Fresco and Oron Shagrir).

Jevonne (Jevi) Peters recently presented her research on hypervolition at the Universities Art Association of Canada (UAAC) at its October annual conference. The presentation was part of a panel titled “Byung-Chul Han and Contemporary Art”, and discussed the influence of the South Korean-born Swiss-German philosopher on her theories and her research-creation works. The UAAC provides a national voice for its membership, composed of university and college faculty, independent scholars, and other art professionals in the fields of art, art history, and visual culture.Every fall, UAAC hosts Canada’s professional conference for visual arts-based research by art historians, professors, artists, curators, and cultural workers. Peters also presented this research in November, as part of a panel on Collective Tech at the 2021 Midwest Modern Language Association Convention. This year’s convention focused on proposals that broadly reflect aspects of its conference theme, “Cultures of Collectivity”. 

Jevonne (Jevi) Peters research-based immersive artwork “Inter Alia” was showcased as part of the festival Together Apart. Together Apart is the second part of an international, bi-city festival co-presented by La Station-Gare des Mines (Paris) and Long Winter Music and Arts Festival (Toronto). This festival was created by Long Winter and Collectif MU, in partnership with the French Consulate in Toronto.

Jevonne (Jevi) Peters was also recently appointed a member of the Services to Artists Committee (SAC), as part of the College Art Association (CAA).SAC is made up of artists, scholars, and educators from across the US and Canada. Each year at the annual CAA conference, SAC creates entirely free and public content including panels and presentations, professional development sessions, roundtable, workshops, interviews and other events focused on supporting artists and educators. It engages with contemporary artists and activists to produce current, relevant programming that supports artists and furthers artistic discourse.

Anthony Skelton, Lisa Forsberg, and Isra Black published the paper “Overriding Adolescent Refusals of Treatment” in The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, one of the top journals in ethics.

Anthony Skelton published the analysis piece “Ethical decisions: Weighing risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination in children ages 5-11” in The Conversation. (The article was also published in French.) Skelton’s Conversation piece led to numerous appearances in the media, including on CTV National News and Global Radio in Vancouver, Edmonton, London and Toronto, and in the Toronto Star, Quebec Science and Le Monde.

Through his work with the World Health Organization ACT Accelerator Ethics and Governance Working Group, Maxwell Smith contributed to a recently published WHO policy brief titled “COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Designs in the Context of Authorized COVID-19 Vaccines and Expanding Global Access: Ethical Considerations“.

Maxwell Smith gave the 2021 Canadian Association of University Teachers and Harry Crowe Foundation Olivieri Lectureship on Medical Ethics, was a panelist speaking on “The New Inequality: Vaccine Ethics” at the Toronto International Festival of Authors, and gave talks at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (“Sacrificing Equity in the Name of Speed in the Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccines”) and Western University’s Senior Alumni Program Autumn Lecture (“The Ethics of COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates”).

Maxwell Smith was an invited speaker and participant at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Best Brains Exchange on “Building a Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in Public Health: Centering Partnership, Equity, and Interdisciplinarity”.

Maxwell Smith, along with Rotman colleagues Nicholas Murphy and Charles Weijer, published “Controlled Donation after Circulatory Determination of Death: A Scoping Review of Ethical Issues, Key Concepts and Arguments” in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. Max also co-authored a recent paper titled “Digital Technology and Disease Surveillance in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Scoping Review Protocol” in BMJ Open.

Luke Stark is the PI of a new Radboud-Western Collaboration Fund, “Automating (In)justice: Exploring Real-World Impacts of AI Governance in Europe, Canada, and around the World”. Carolyn McLeod and Chris Smeenk are both collaborators on the project.

Former postdoc Catherine Stinson presented “The Artifice of AI Mindreading,” a talk about Eugenics in AI, at the joint meeting of the History of Science Society and Society for the History of Technology in November, had a paper demonstrating bias in recommendation algorithms called “Revisiting Popularity and Demographic Biases in Recommender Evaluation and Effectiveness” accepted at the 2022 European Conference on Information Retrieval, and co-designed a task called “Conceptual Combinations” that trips up NLP models like GPT-3, which will be included in Google’s upcoming Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark for enormous language models.

Vicente Raja wrote a short public science piece on the study of plant behavior and its relevance to contemporary issues such as sustainability. Moving the Green: Plant Behavior in the Human World was published in October in Europe Now.

Francesca Vidotto attended (in-person!) the 20th European Conference on the Foundations of Physics in Paris, France. Her presentation was “On the tensorial structure of General Covariant System”; her talk discussed the interplay between quantum mechanics and quantum gravity and presented a critique to an interpretation of quantum mechanics known as “Mad-Dog Everettianism”.

In early October Francesca Vidotto presented at “Girls in Physics”: this is a project in London (UK) that aims atinspiring girls from year 7-13 to continue with their study of physics, by introducing them to physicists who have pursued a wide range of different career paths.

Pictured above: Q&A session from “Race, Distrust, and Vaccine Hesitancy” with Kharissa Edwards, Carolyn McLeod, Eric Desjardins, and Sinéad Osivwemu; flyer from Catherine Stinson’s talk, “The Artifice of AI Mindreading”; and a flyer from Together Apart festival.