Embryonic knowledge

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How does biology intersect with society? A pioneering inter-disciplinary project at Arizona State University is looking at the issue from the perspective of embryo research.

The Embryo Project, directed by Jane Maienschein and Manfred Laubichler, brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines who look at the history, science and various issues surrounding the growing fields of embryology, development and reproductive medicine. The goals of the project include: university education, research and public outreach. One of the major products of the EP is the Embryo Project Encyclopedia. This was the major focus on my recent time at ASU as a visiting scholar and fellow of the project.

The EP Encyclopedia is an online open access encyclopedia with an enormous selection of what are called “found objects” such as photographs and lecture slides. Additionally, it contains thousands of vigorously reviewed articles on topics such as people, technology, concepts, law, you name it, of importance to embryology, development and reproductive medicine. The target audience of the EP Encyclopedia are those with a ninth grade to undergraduate level education. Importantly, articles are written in an accessible way, making science and other technical concepts clear – even to those without a science background.

My time at ASU was spent working amongst a group of individuals from a large variety of backgrounds. Among the five visiting scholars alone, there were backgrounds in history, biology, philosophy and sociology. I was drawn largely to the reproductive medicine emphasis of the project because of my PhD research on assisted human reproduction. My PhD research on Assisted Human Reproduction has made me acutely aware of the importance of understanding the social and regulatory implications of developing science and surrounding technologies. My time at ASU certainly opened my eyes to a new range of perspectives on this interaction. I have begun to consider other issues at this intersection for which the sociology has yet to be explored. For instance, it further peaked my interest in the sociological implications of new technologies of AHR such as oocyte cryopreservation (or egg freezing), a technology that is rapidly growing in popularity since the American Society for Reproductive Medicine declared it to be no longer experimental in 2012. Other issues include the use of embryos or humans eggs for research, such as cloning.

During my time at ASU, I learnt how to write for the EP Encyclopedia, reviewed preliminary drafts of other scholars’ articles, took a course on the review and editing process of the articles, and learnt how to put a reviewed article on the web. My first EP Encyclopedia article was an entry on the Canadian Assisted Human Reproduction, 2004, a piece of legislation that is a predominant focus of my PhD research. Needless to say, writing a comprehensive and accessible EP Encyclopedia article is no easy task. Writing an article requires extensive research. Difficult scientific, legal, and other concepts and processes need to be broken down and articulated in a manner that is accessible to individuals who are not experts in the area.

The past few decades have witnessed much technological advancement in the fields of assisted reproduction, development and embryology. It is crucial for informed public opinion and policy-making that these advances are recorded accurately and that the information is widely accessible. The Embryo Project Encyclopedia is as a useful tool towards achieving these goals.

You can browse the Embryo Project Encyclopedia online here.

*Katie Hammond [2011] is doing an MPhil in Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies. Picture credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net and dream designs.

When impact is more important than invention

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Everyone wants to be an “inventor”. Few want to be a “developer”.

At an organisational level, acquisition of start-ups by large corporations to take on commercialisation of clever ideas too expensive to innovate in-house, is common. Despite the immense number of developers in industry, at an individual level the “inventor” title seems to come with more respect than the “developer” title, especially in the media.

In our society, hype around underdeveloped potentially breakthrough technology is pervasive, but in my view there is a gap in support for translation of these inventions into feasible, life-changing products by developers.

I have personally witnessed a lack of appreciation for the clever ideas and the huge time commitment required to make the pivotal, sometimes incremental changes required to launch a technology from bench to market, and a lack of resources to do so. This is especially true for resource-limited environments, where existing technology modified appropriately could radically improve quality of life for a portion of society. 

I would challenge scientists and engineers to pursue the unpopular task of innovating feasible improvements for existing technology to reach those in need rather than invest time in inventive but low-impact ideas. I encourage a shift of focus from being novel to being high-impact. This may sometimes mean supporting an existing project rather than pioneering a new one. 

Time investment should emulate financial investment trends

Everyone exercises extreme caution regarding financial spending, be it at an individual, organisational or governmental level.

Investors critically perform due diligence on market size and potential impact before financially investing in businesses. In the philanthropic realm, platforms which add transparency to the charity process are becoming increasingly popular because they allow donors to see how their funds can make the most impact.

At the most recent Global Scholars Symposium, I attended a talk by Dr Toby Ord, Founder of Giving What We Can, an organisation of individuals who pledge funds for high-impact charities. He discussed impact maximisation via philanthropic financial investment. He noted that for the price of training one guide dog and blind handler in a developed country, trachoma reversal surgeries could be performed to reverse blindness of 2,000 people in Africa.

This type of appraisal of health interventions via comparison of costs per health benefit, known as cost-effectiveness analysis, is a strategy which is becoming increasingly popular in informing health policy decisions. In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence uses cost-effectiveness analysis to make new drug recommendations to the National Health Service. Globally, cost-effectiveness analysis is used by the World Health Organisation CHOosing Interventions that are Cost Effective (WHO-CHOICE) project, to guide health policy makers.

Why aren’t analogous impact assessments crucial to time investment decisions in research?

Unlike financial investment, time investment towards research is not driven directly by estimated impact. It is driven by curiosity.

Research often focuses on proof-of-concept work and discovery, frequently with expanding scientific knowledge as the primary aim. “Impact” in an academic research context usually is measured as an “impact factor”, a metric which reflects the citation record of a journal, a study or a researcher. This may or may not correlate to the magnitude of impact the work can make in a field or on society. Even in application-oriented research, the purpose is not to commercialise a product. It is to think of one.

Therefore, I believe more “developers” as I have branded them, individuals who optimise but do not necessarily invent products, are needed to translate the proof-of-concept work from research into applicable but high-impact technologies. These developers should be mindful of how they invest their time, just as they are with their money, striving to contribute to projects which are the most influential.

Biomedical inventions especially need optimisation to maximise impact

Many effective medical technologies or therapies are too costly for all contexts.

Sometimes commercial viability of biomedical inventions or therapeutics exists only in developed countries, even though minor product optimisations could increase access to life-saving medical care in resource-limited settings through cost reduction and functionality additions.

For example, the global infant mortality rate exceeds 4.8 million annually, yet many leading infant mortality causes are largely preventable with safe and easy to administer existing medications. At the University of Cambridge Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with JustMilk, we are developing a non-invasive device for delivering life-saving nutrients and medications to breastfeeding infants. The single-use device*, worn by a mother during breastfeeding, releases therapeutics into milk as the infant feeds. Refrigeration, potable water, and sterilisation facilities are not required, and therefore the device has the potential to increase global access to existing paediatric medications.

Analogous technologies, those which capitalise on existing methods of increasing quality of life, are in need of individuals to invest time in supporting their commercialisation into resource-limited settings.

Many brilliant ideas are lost in translation from invention to product due to lack of support post-discovery. Iteratively improving and developing a technology so that it is effective in practice and not just principle takes time and insight. I encourage scientists and engineers to strive to invest their time as carefully as they would their money, to increase impact of promising technologies through development and optimisation. I also encourage society to recognise and support these contributing developers as world-changing innovators.

*Rebekah Scheuerle [2013] is doing a PhD in Chemical Engineering. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Saving Lives at Birth partnersJustMilk, or the University of Cambridge. Picture credit: http://www.justmilk.org

*This product is made possible through the generous support of the Saving Lives at Birth partners: the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and the UK Government.

Redefining rare disease

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Rare disease is commonly defined strictly by its prevalence in a given population. For instance, a disease is considered rare if it affects less than one in 1,500 individuals in the United States or one in 2,000 in Europe. However, the current definition of disease rarity is not only overly simplistic, but also an obstacle to understanding uncommon health conditions. A closer look at just one rare disease reveals a need to question the definition of disease rarity and be mindful of its limitations.

Infection versus disease

Perhaps no other rare disease has been as oversimplified as toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. When a pregnant woman acquires this parasite for the first time during pregnancy, it can be transmitted to her foetus congenitally. This mode of transmission results in severe defects in the eyes and brains. Because congenital toxoplasmosis only affects one in 5,000 newborns in the US by some estimates, it is considered a rare disease.

Although toxoplasmosis may be rare, its disease-causing agent is not. In fact, over two billion people worldwide, including a quarter of the American population, harbour the parasite. What becomes apparent is that the current definition of rare disease makes an implicit distinction between infection and disease since infection by a disease-causing microbe does not automatically engender disease. However, while largely dormant, innocuous and asymptomatic in healthy adults, the T. gondii parasite may take advantage of a weakened immune system, emerge from quiescence and cause opportunistic infections, which ultimately result in full-blown toxoplasmosis. Even though the majority of the two billion infected individuals are healthy, they remain susceptible to T. gondii infections. It turns out that the T. gondii parasite may also affect infected individuals’ behaviour and personality. Recent studies suggest a causal relationship between dormant T. gondii parasite and psychological disorders, including schizophrenia.

By neglecting all of this, current ideas of what it means for a disease to be rare impedes our appreciation of the complexity and magnitude of the disease.

Limitations of the current understanding of rare disease

Moreover, basing decisions about the prevalence of a disease solely on how it affects the human population may downplay the problems it causes by failing to take into account its pervasiveness in other species and understating its true economic cost to society.

Toxoplasmosis, for example, affects nearly every warm-blooded animals, including all commercial livestock. It is the leading cause of abortion in sheep and goats. In 1996, toxoplasmosis alone cost the American agricultural industry $7.7 billion, an amount representing 10% of the country’s agricultural Growth Domestic Product at that time.

There may be more to a rare disease than meets the eye so it is imperative not to confine our perception of an uncommon health condition solely to the number of patients who have the disease and be aware of the complexity, magnitude and the true economic cost of that disease.

*Bo Shiun Lai [2013] is a Gates Cambridge Scholar pursuing a PhD in Pathology at the University of Cambridge. He helped develop a new paradigm that can deliver antiparasitic agents across multiple membrane barriers and published his findings on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Picture of cerebral toxoplasmosis courtesy of Jensflorian and Wiki Commons.

 

The public and private Isaac Newton

 

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In November of 1690, Isaac Newton sent a long essay to his friend, the philosopher and radical thinker John Locke. In it, Newton set forth the reasons he thought scripture had been corrupted over the centuries – and for his own disbelief in the Trinity, a key tenet of Anglicanism. He asked Locke to see about translating the work into French and having it published – anonymously – on the Continent. The contents of the essay were so controversial that Newton dared not attach his name to it.

The episode was unique. Never again would Newton come as close to publishing such sensitive material about his dramatically unorthodox religious beliefs. But the episode was also indicative of Isaac Newton’s lifelong relationship with publication. Never able merely to reject print culture outright – the rewards of priority, communication and prestige were too great for that – Newton was nevertheless intensely averse to the lack of control that accompanied publication.

Through a long and surprising series of events, Newton’s private papers, (including the original draft of the essay he sent to Locke) have survived to the present day. In The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts, I tell their story for the first time. Throughout the course of the nearly three centuries since Newton’s death, the papers have been examined only briefly and intermittently by a handful of people. Through a combination of suppression, neglect, and confusion, the complex, disordered papers were cloaked in mystery until very recently. Now the Newton Project has transcribed nearly 6.5 million words of the writing, including nearly all of his most private religious works. What was once private has become radically public.

The private Newton

What are we to make of the availability of this new material? Since these writings were largely inaccessible until now, how can we relate them to the much more public image of Newton, created in part by his two great publications, the Principia and the Opticks?

These questions have challenged scholars since the papers started to become available in the 1960s. Some have sought to unify the archive, seeking to make connections between the science and the non-science. Others have opted for a Newton of many parts, each free to pursue distinct projects. Such differences of analysis are partly due to changing historical tastes. In this sense, each generation gets the Newton it requires – or deserves. As further research is done on the papers, new arguments will undoubtedly be made about how to understand their contents. The drive to understand the inner world of a man as creative and intellectually important as Newton remains strong.

Newton’s attitude towards publication is one thread that can be used to stitch the archive together, should we wish to do so. Newton despised dispute. Once he had convinced himself that his answers to a question – whether of scientific, mathematical, or theological nature – were correct, he was loath to enter into a debate in order to prove it to others. Once his words were published, there was little he could do about how they were interpreted. Consequently, he was often very reluctant to make anything public.

Suppression

The treatise that Newton sent to Locke was never published during his lifetime. A few months after he sent it, Newton had an abrupt change of heart. ‘I design to suppress them,’ he explained, begging Locke to stop the translation and printing of his words. He had decided that the contents of the essay were too heretical to risk making public in any form.

Newton was right to be wary. Though Locke returned Newton’s own copy of the essay, the translator retained a copy from which several subsequent copies were made. These circulated throughout the 18th century, and Newton’s own name was attached to an unauthorised and inaccurate publication of the entire essay in 1754.

Newton’s reluctance to publish did not only apply to heretical religious beliefs. He published very little of his mathematics during his lifetime. Had he been quicker to do so, he would have avoided the contentious priority dispute with Gottfried Liebniz over the discovery of the calculus. With his natural philosophy and his optics, Newton was more open, but only when friends and supporters convinced him it was in his interest to be so. If Newton had his own way, he would most likely have communicated his scientific discoveries sparingly, in manuscript rather than print, and only to those he deemed friends.

Would Newton be horrified to know that his most private thoughts are now accessible to anyone online? Probably. But he had himself taken care to save these papers throughout his long life. He believed that the day would come when his version of Christianity would be revealed to the masses as the true religion. Perhaps he hoped that then his papers would be able to be freely read and distributed. Theologically speaking, that day has not come, but what has arrived is the moment when Newton’s private beliefs – though still vexing and difficult to understand – are a part of his public image.

*Sarah Dry [2003] did a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science. Her book The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts is published this month by Oxford University Press. Sarah Dry blogs at sarahdry.wordpress.com.

 

Obesity in Africa

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Obesity is rapidly becoming a growing problem across low- and middle-income countries, including those in sub-Saharan Africa. In many African countries, the prevalence of overweight is even estimated to be higher than the prevalence of underweight. With on-going changes in diet, urbanisation, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the prevalence of obesity is predicted to continue to grow.

But what does it mean to be obese? You may have heard from your doctor or from public health campaigns that if your BMI is over 25 then you are overweight, if it’s over 30 then you are obese, and if your waist circumference is more than 94 cm as a man or 80 cm as a women then you have central obesity.

These numbers were chosen because, above these thresholds, you are considered to be at substantially increased risk of diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Globally, 44% of the burden of diabetes and 23% of ischaemic heart disease are attributable to overweight and obesity. However, this risk of developing disease at certain levels of body fat and size has been shown to differ between ethnic groups and population.

Although such ethnic variation exists, most of what we know about obesity is based on studies conducted in populations of European descent. By contrast, the relationship between obesity and disease in sub-Saharan African populations is poorly understood.

Redefining obesity 
In collaboration with colleagues at the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute, Uganda, we conducted a study of approximately 6,000 rural Ugandan adults in 2011. In this population, we found that waist circumference and BMI may be useful tools for identifying people who had diabetes, hypertension or dyslipidaemia.
However, the currently recommended cut-offs or waist circumference and BMI may not be appropriate for African populations.

Instead, we suggest that a substantially lower cut-off for waist circumference (≥78 cm) should be considered for men. A slightly higher cut-off (≥82 cm) should be considered for women. We also recommend that, for screening purposes, a BMI cut-off lower than the current recommendation of 25 kg/m2 should be considered.

This was the first study of BMI cut-offs and the largest study of waist circumference cut-offs in sub-Saharan Africa. Much more work still needs to be done to decide on what the best cut-offs should be for African populations. This work is now, therefore, being expanded by the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research (APCDR) into a large-scale collaborative project across sub-Saharan Africa. We have, so far, collated data on 56,000 individuals from 11 countries across the region.

Public health importance
A clearer understanding of the relationship between anthropometric measures (body size and shape) and risk of disease may be particularly important for sub-Saharan African populations for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the prevalence of obesity and cardiometabolic disease (such as diabetes and heart disease) is increasing across sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, the need for clinical guidelines and prevention programmes related to adiposity (body fat) is growing.

Secondly, resource-limited settings may benefit greatly from low-cost, easy-to-implement indicators of cardiometabolic risk, such as anthropometric measures.

Lastly, sub-Saharan Africa is struggling under a double burden of under- and over-nutrition. It is, therefore, important that clinical guidelines and public health messages are designed to communicate an optimal healthy, rather than simply reduced, body size.

Overall, a better understanding of obesity within sub-Saharan populations will be important for the design and implementation of public healthcare policy and population prevention programmes in an effort to address the growing burden of cardiometabolic diseases.

*Georgina Murphy [2009] did a PhD in Public Health and Primary Healthcare. This work was done as part of a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute, Uganda. Georgina has now moved to the University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Medicine (georgina.murphy@ndm.ox.ac.uk). Picture credit: zirconicusso and http://www.freedigitalphotos.net.

The other mass mobilisation on D-Day

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Seventy years ago today, the world witnessed two unprecedented mobilisations.

Remembering both offers insights for our time.

On the shores of Normandy, leaders gather today to remember the pivotal Allied invasion that re-drew the battle lines of World War II. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on June 6, 1944, making it the largest seaborne invasion in history. Yet another deployment had also occurred in tandem: the first mass production of penicillin. Between 1942 and 1944, the US went from possessing enough penicillin for only 10 patients to producing over 400 million doses in time for D-Day.

The tale of penicillin

While Alexander Fleming is remembered as the discoverer of penicillin, many actors – from scientists, government employees, engineers, to drug companies – played midwife to this new drug. Three highlights emerge from penicillin’s journey from chemical compound to mass delivery.

  • First, the discovery process happened in fits and starts: after Fleming’s accidental discovery of the penicillin compound in September of 1928, further development of the compound did not occur until a decade later, when British scientists at Oxford came upon Fleming’s original paper.
  • Second, collaborations amidst the cornfields of Illinois were crucial: the Northern Regional Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois was the initial setting for mass production. A by-product of corn production – lactose – made commercial production of penicillin possible. Strategic partnerships between those Oxford scientists, the US government’s War Production Board, and the Lab’s fermentation division created this opportunity.
  • Lastly, check the groceries! A lab assistant, Mary Hunt, found that a cantaloupe she had bought at market had a “pretty, golden mould” which turned out to be Penicillium chrysogenum. This accidental purchase led to a form of penicillin with 1,000 times the yield over the first batches discovered by Fleming (which were being used in the initial production in Peoria).

By June 1945, American pharmaceutical companies were producing 650 billion units of penicillin monthly. While the major killer in prior wars had been infection rather than battle injuries, World War II would prove different because of penicillin. For example, the death rate from bacterial pneumonia fell from 18% percent in World War I to 1% in World War II.

Today’s challenges of discovery and delivery

Since the time of penicillin’s tale, one composed of a strange alchemy of serendipity and strategy, the innovation enterprise has benefited from significant advances. Fleming’s colleagues did not have PubMed or tens of other tools to share knowledge widely and quickly. Governments did not yet invest billions in fundamental research to develop promising compounds. Today’s manufacturing and distribution systems were still decades away.

Yet even with this scientific and technological prowess, important questions persist. Here are two: In a time when penicillin and its antibiotic offspring are falling to increasing resistance, what might be paradigms of innovation against bacteria? One strategy is to re-stock the pipeline of antibiotics, an area of long-neglected research and development. For example, the recent development of the first anti-tuberculosis drug in 40 years, bedaquiline, will hopefully not be a lone discovery.

Another strategy is to re-imagine the scientific paradigm: explorations into “nano-antibiotics” or targeting virulence factors for vaccine development present ways of conceiving of the pharmaceutical armament in a fundamentally different way. Developing such possibilities will require considerable high-risk investment. A dose of serendipity wouldn’t hurt, either.

A more immediate question confronts millions of patients, including American veterans: when new discoveries are made, how will those fruits be priced, produced, and distributed? The current case of sofosbuvir, a game-changing antiviral for patients with Hepatitis C, has made headlines.

Developed by Gilead Sciences, the drug is priced at $84,000 in the US for a three-month regimen – nearly $1,000 per pill. The choices made by various stakeholders – from Gilead, pharmaceutical companies with competing drugs in development, public and private systems of health delivery, to treatment activists around the world – will shape the trajectory of the drug and the life chances of millions.

It may also catalyse the agenda around pharmaceutical innovation and public policy: in the US, a large proportion of those with Hepatitis C are veterans whose health care is delivered through the Veteran Affairs (VA), a taxpayer funded health system. Whether the medication will be made widely available through public systems such as the VA remains a pressing question.

As we remember D-Day, we might also reflect on the mass deployments required in our time: to meet the twin challenges of creating new innovations and making them broadly accessible.

*Victor Roy [2009] is a Gates Cambridge scholar as a PhD student in sociology and political economy at the University of Cambridge focusing on innovation policy. He is also an MD candidate at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and is a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow for New Americans. Follow him on Twitter: @victorroy. Picture credit: Photokanok and http://www.freedigitalphotos.com.

Saving for the future in Canada’s North West

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April 1 2014 marked a historic moment for Canada’s North. Home to only 43,000 citizens, Canada’s Northwest Territories makes up 14% of Canada’s landmass and 18% of its freshwater supply. Under the Devolution Agreement, federal responsibilities of managing public land, water and resources in the Northwest Territories transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).

For the first time, the GNWT will start to manage the royalty revenues that flow from mining diamonds, gold, natural gas and other resources within the territory. Two years ago, the GNWT adopted legislation allowing for the formation of the NWT Heritage Fund to save a portion of resource royalties for future generations. As extractive industries perceive a new wave of opportunity and an era of exploration in Canada’s North, how can GNWT ensure sustainable development for its citizens today and tomorrow?

Saving for the future

The GNWT new Heritage Fund was created in recognition of the fact that revenues from non-renewable resources will not last forever. The goal of the NWT Heritage Fund is to save a portion of royalty revenues collected today into a locked fund for 20 years and to transfer its use to future generations in NWT. The remainder of royalty revenues will be used for current government operations with a priority on infrastructure development and debt repayment.

In February 2014, GNWT Finance Minister announced 5% of resource royalties would be allocated to the Heritage Fund. After steadfast disapproval from several members of the legislative assembly, the Minister revised the savings figure to 25%.

Natural resources belong to citizens of the territory. To achieve all three benefits of resource royalty inflows into GNWT of enabling infrastructure investment, debt repayment and savings into the Heritage Fund, the government needs to ensure good governance. It does not matter if the headline saving numbers are 5%, 25% or 50% – the Heritage Fund will not thrive without proper governance.

Following lessons learned from other savings funds of resource-endowed regions (eg Norway, Alaska, Wyoming), the GNWT has a rare opportunity to start fund governance right with strong deposit and withdrawal rules. If deposit (what goes into the fund) and withdrawal rules (what is allowed to be disbursed out of the fund) are unclear with room for interpretation, then the Heritage Fund’s savings objectives can waver.

For example, the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund was established in 1976. However, deposit payments varied from 30% of non-renewable resource revenues being deposited annually to 15% to finally all deposits being stopped in 1987. The Fund was used by government to invest in direct economic development and for social investment purposes.

The Alberta government began depositing money again in 2005 and the Savings Policy was restructured in 2013 and will see the Fund retain all of its income for future investments. The market value of the Fund in 2013 was $16.8 billion. However, research has shown that if the Alberta Fund had had stricter deposit and prevention of withdrawal rules, the Fund could be nestling on $42 billion + (following Alaska’s Permanent Fund rules) or $121 billion+ (following Norway’s Petroleum Fund governance rules) worth of endowment. Learning from Alberta’s historical lessons, GNWT has a unique opportunity in time to establish strong governance rules from the beginning.

A culture of saving

Literature and practice both indicate the success of savings funds is dependent on creating a culture of saving. One of the most important and effective methods of enforcing governance is civic engagement and participation. The mechanics of running a Heritage Fund is a technical topic. However, the ownership of the Fund is by the people. For the first time since devolution, on Tuesday May 27, 2014 a public dialogue will be hosted on the topic of governance for the new GNWT Heritage Fund in Yellowknife, Canada. The public dialogue will be the first step in raising public awareness and familiarity with the aims, objectives and governance of the Heritage Fund. Saving for future prosperity is no easy task and this will be the beginning of civic dialogue for generations to come.

*Julia Fan Li [2008] is a Gates Cambridge Alumna. She was a 2013/2014 Action Canada Fellow and co-authored the reportA Question of Future Prosperity: Developing a Heritage Fund in the Northwest Territories”. This report was tabled in the GNWT Legislative Assembly on February 10, 2014. Action Canada is a national fellowship programme for Canadians who have demonstrated leadership and a passion for Canada. Picture credit: Wiki Commons and NASA Visible Earth