Published: 02-11-2022 11:45 | Updated: 09-11-2022 15:24

World Occupational Science Conference

Photo: Jiayi (Joy) Du at University of British Columbia

The inaugural World Occupational Science Conference (WOSC) took place 18-20 August 2022 in Vancouver, Canada.

In attendance from the division were Anneliese Lilienthal and Matthias Möller as doctoral students, as well as, Associate Professor Eric Asaba, Lecturer and researcher Margarita Mondaca, and Assistant Professor Lisette Farias. Additionally, Urša Bratun a PhD student in Slovenia was in attendance who has Eric as one of her supervisors. Pascale Heins, a former PhD exchange student at the division, and affiliated researcher, Anders Kottorp, who are both connected with the CACTUS - Cognitive Accessibility and Technology Use when Ageing in home and Society research group, were also in attendance.

Eric Asaba presenting at the pre-workshop 17 August 2022. Photo: Jiayi (Joy) Du at University of British Columbia

The conference was preceded by pre-workshops on the 17th of August during which Anneliese and Margarita attended. The morning workshop was “Addressing praxis: A dialogue regarding the contribution of occupation to diverse processes of social transformation” and the afternoon was “Global Classroom: Diversifying perspectives in occupational science on structural inequality” where Eric was one of three presenters along with Professor Gail Whiteford and Professor Lynn Shaw.

Anneliese Lilienthal with CSOS (Canadian Society of Occupational Scientists) and SSO:USA (Society for the Study of Occupation: USA) presidents; Lynn Shaw and Betsy Francis-Connollyand Helen Lynch from University College Cork in Ireland following the pre-workshop. Photo: Eric Asaba
Lisette Farias presenting at WOSC. Photo: Jiayi (Joy) Du at University of British Columbia

Lisette contributed to two dialogic sessions, “Decolonizing occupational science: (Re)constructing the science that we want and need,” and “Promoting an ‘unconference’ space for transformation of occupational science through critical dialogue.” Lisette is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Occupational Science (JOS) which was one of the sponsors of the conference. During the conference, she attended to the JOS reception for authors and reviewers and the Journal’s annual Editorial meeting.

Laura Reinhold and Margarita Mondaca at their poster. Photo: Private

Margarita was part of a dialogical session “Migration and human displacement:

Global dialogue on the contribution of occupational science,” and co-author with/supervisor to European Master of Science in Occupational Therapy Student, Laura Reinhold, for the poster “Giving young-system-survivors a real chance - Envisioning possibilities: A critical dialogue study about occupational therapists promoting young-system-survivors participation in society.”

Pascale Heins. Photo: Jiayi (Joy) Du at University of British Columbia

Visiting PhD student from the Netherlands, Pascale, had a podium presentation “Social participation in community-based occupations: Experiences of people living with dementia,” and a poster “Experiences of being in a multidisciplinary Innovative Training Network: Technology and dementia.”

Anders Kottorp, Eric Asaba, and Melissa Park with Susan Forwell, Chair of WOSC and Clare Hocking Executive Editor of the Journal of Occupational Science.. Photo: Eric Asaba

Anders contributed to a podium presentation, “Older adults’ experiences of crime in deprived neighbourhoods: An occupational justice perspective.”


Anneliese Liliethal, Margarita Mondaca, Urša Bratun, Verena C. Tatzer, Alison Foura, and Matthias Möller enjoying a social dinner after day 2 of the conference.
Anneliese Liliethal, Margarita Mondaca, Urša Bratun, Verena C. Tatzer, Alison Foura, and Matthias Möller enjoying a social dinner after day 2 of the conference. Photo: Anneliese Liliethal.

Division PhD student based in Germany, Matthias had a podium presentation, “Recovery as a model for future psychiatric care? Reflections from the perspective of social justice.”

Urša Bratun. Photo: Jiayi (Joy) Du at University of British Columbia

PhD Student from Slovenia, Urša and Eric had a podium presentation on “Temporality in the meaning-making of retirement-aged workers: Societal versus individual perspectives.”


Eric Asaba, Mary Black, Jaime Daniel Leite Junior, Ana Paula Serrata Malfitano, Anneliese Lilienthal and Anders Kottorp in front of Anneliese’s poster. Photo: Eric Asaba

Division PhD student, Anneliese, with her supervisors Lisette and Eric had a poster presentation on “Visual methods for exploring narratives in occupations of caring.”

Abstracts for all presentations can be found in the JOS supplement -

 The conference was a wonderful opportunity to engage in discussion and reflection about the field of occupational science. In attendance were persons from around 35 different countries, which also provided opportunity to hear presentations and engage in rich discussions around the conference theme of “Occupation and Society: Global to Local perspectives for the future.”

The conference opened with a Keynote by Dr. Sridhar Venkatapuram, who is an academic practitioner active in global and public health ethics and justice. The first part of his talk was around science and values, and how scientists often claim to be free from having values, yet in relation to COVID-19 vaccine inequity that does not seem to be the case. Science is not value free when it contributes to the richest people and economies in the world being vaccinated, while other groups lack access. His memorable remark on this being that we may have “passed science, but we got an F in ethics.” He suggested to consider having a theory or framework of moral rational values for why you are researching what you are researching. And that measures like GDP may not equate in the ways we think to quality of life, that an intersectional perspective may be needed.

The second Keynote given by Dr. Lilian Magalhães who has a research focus on occupational rights of vulnerable and racialized populations. Her talk built upon the discussion of justice that calls for a decolonization of science and suggests that other knowledges may need to be embraced. Listening we were tasked to question if the information we have in our fields is flawed (most likely), and to consider that perhaps the information we need is right in front of us but we have not seen it yet! As an example, from a 2021 paper in Spanish by Perilla, Magalhães, Pérez, Olivero, Cortes, Montero & Arias, “The concept of native science includes spirituality, community, creativity and technologies to maintain the environment and care for human life; involving aspects such as space and time, language, thinking and perception, nature and human feelings, the relationship of the human being with the cosmos and all aspects related to natural reality.” Through her talk she called us to resist a pull towards universality and to embrace work towards reciprocity.  

Further highlights included the continuity provided by gathering face-to-face with researchers who have been engaged at the division such as the recent visit at KI in September 2022 by Suzanne Huot as part of the Global Bridges Program and Exchange. Further, sharing a lunch with Ana Paula Serrata Malfitano who had contributed to a previous division 3Y and who went on to be a keynote at World Federation of Occupational Therapists Conference in Paris the week after WOSC. Meeting with various KI doctoral course contributors such as Melissa Park and Keven Lee at McGill University who are contributing to a KI course this autumn, Observation and visual methods in health care sciences research. It was also a pleasure to meet PhD students who had been part of prior virtual doctoral courses as well as to attend at PhD student networking breakfast where we were able to further meet and share about our projects with fellow doctoral students.

Views from Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Anneliese Lilienthal

The conference provided points for greater contemplation and reflection upon the importance of language and differences in language may have impacts in communication of occupation across them or have different understandings between different groups.  It reinforced not to assume that we all understand things the same way. It showed the breath of work being done in the area of occupational science, including influences coming from outside occupational therapy.

Picture of Margarita Mondaca and Anneliese Lilienthal at Stanley Park.
Margarita Mondaca and Anneliese Lilienthal taken after a long walk around and through Stanley Park arranged at the close of the conference. Photo: Anneliese Lilienthal

Further the flow of dialogue around decolonization within the context of this international conference, from key notes to dialogical sessions, to podiums and meal conversations was stimulating and brings much for us in the global north to consider. Being located in Vancouver provided an invitation to witness a moving Indigenous Land Acknowledgement for where the meeting took place on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō, and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. This provides opportunity to question the ground on which we stand and how it has potentially exploited others to allow us to be where we are, the language we use, our culture, our systems and to actively engage in our awareness of how this shapes our knowledge or knowledges in our lives and research.

May thanks to Jiayi (Joy) Du at University of British Columbia for allowing us to share many of her photographs from the conference.

Text: Anneliese Lilienthal with colleagues