- About Our Work
- Research Prize Projects
- Human Co-operation at UCL
- The Alzheimer Enigma in an Ageing World
- Solving the Mystery of the Biology of Ageing
- The Search For Drugs That Slow Ageing - Are We There Yet? and Why Not?
- UCL’s Festival of Ageing
- UCL's Festival of Ageing Research Prize Workshop
- Workshop Requirements
- Choreographing architectural gestures in urban spaces & sPins
- Two events commissioned by one of the cross-disciplinary research projects awarded a prize at the Behaviour Change Research Prize Workshop
- Tackling Age Inequalities: a research agenda
- What are the important questions for research into ageing? A public engagement workshop for people aged 70 and over.
- How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World
- Research Expertise
- Getting Involved
- Contact us
- Small Grants
- Ageing Initiative
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Published: Aug 26, 2014 9:00:00 AM
Published: Aug 11, 2014 10:00:00 AM
Published: Aug 8, 2014 12:00:00 PM
- The truth is, Scandinavia is neither heaven nor hell: Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, UCL, GCHW Executive Group member
- UCL researchers: Why contribute to The Conversation?
- Activities supported by the 2014-15 GCHW Small Grants Scheme
- Do We Need an Academic Revolution?
- Winning project from our £10,000 Ageing Research Prize Workshop
- Grand Challenges Student Fund: up to £750 available for student led projects – More
UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing (GCHW): Events
7 November 2014
Workshop: The Social Web, A Community Technology For Healthy Ageing
Supported by a Grand Challenge Small Grant (2012-13)
This workshop is designed for people and organisations that have an interest in how internet and tablet touch screen technologies can be utilised effectively with older adult populations. The objective of this interactive event is to share practical outcomes emergent from research conducted over the past year with elder populations who live in Stratford, East London and to demonstrate how technology can be used to benefit elders' wellbeing. Further details and registration
UCL Crucible Café Scientifique
Presentations and discussion on aspects of lifelong health and wellbeing. Link…
UCL Lunch Hour Lectures
Bite-sized opportunities to sample the exceptional research work taking place at UCL. Link…
Students for Happiness
A non-profit discussion forum which aims to put 'happiness' at the heart of intellectual discourse amongst students and young people. Link…
Previous GCHW events
4 - 8 August 2014
UCL Centre for Behaviour Change Summer School 2014: Behaviour Change - Principles and Practice
The Summer School will introduce the principles of behaviour change and demonstrate how these can be applied to a range of practical problems, from supporting change amongst patients and health professionals to planning and supporting change in organisations and communities. Further details
16-20 June 2014
UCL Grand Challenges Summer School
UCL Grand Challenges are offering the opportunity for all UCL Research students to apply to this year’s week long Summer School. We seek to provide an experience for research students at UCL that enables them to understand and discuss the Grand Challenges philosophy and also develop practical skills in preparing research proposals that necessitate and combine expertise from different disciplines.
2 June 2014
Theories and Models of Behaviour Change: How useful are they?
There is a general consensus that designing and evaluating interventions to change behaviour are strengthened by drawing on theory. However, disciplines have differing views about what makes for a "good" theory and how they are best applied.
Supported by GCHW (Executive Group Membership Fund). Further details and registration
19-20 May 2014
Generating Social Trust in the 21st Century
Building social trust presents enormous challenges today for European political leaders. Focusing on three broad domains (health, welfare, and the economy), this two-day forum seeks to explore the potential effects of trust-building on new efforts to address social instability. Further details and registration.
4 April 2014
What are the important questions for research into ageing? A public engagement workshop for people aged 70 and over
This workshop aims to seek the views of people aged 70 and over on what are the important issues that need further research. We will share ideas and problems, identify questions that may need further research to address, and prioritise which of these are most important.
NB: This workshop is only open to members of the public aged 70 and over. It is NOT open to academic researchers. Further details and registration
3-4 April 2014
Does my Culture affect your Care?
International Workshop on the Bloomsbury Cultural Formulation Interview: Theory and Clinical skills, UCL Mental Health Sciences UnitA unique interactive, experiential 17 CPD points accredited workshop for clinicians and social scientists working in mental health. Participants will learn key medical anthropological concepts & clinical cultural interview skills. Further details and registration
25 March 2014
Who Cares for Survivors of Torture
An evening of film, discussion, and an exhibition of artworks by survivors of torture organised by the UCL Science Medicine and Society Network (SMS). Even in the best of times public sentiment often fails to extend to individuals and families seeking a homeland free from torture and oppression. In the aftermath of government cutbacks, those without political voice or rights are often the first to be affected. Alarmingly, sometimes those who would otherwise care for the tortured may become complicit in oppression when outsiders are considered dangerous.
Film screening (5pm) Lecture Theatre 1, UCL Cruciform building, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT REGISTER
Discussion, exhibition and reception (6:30pm) UCL Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PY
20 March 2014
How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World
In order to make progress towards a better world we need to learn how to do it. And for that we need institutions of learning rationally designed and devoted to helping us solve our global problems, make progress towards a better world. It is just this that we lack at present.
A lecture by Nick Maxwell Emeritus Reader in History and Philosophy of Science, Dept of Science & Technology Studies. Further details and registration
Post-discussion comment from Nick Maxwell
27 February 2014
Tackling Age Inequalities: a research agenda
This multi-disciplinary, cross-faculty, half day workshop aims to bring together expertise from across UCL and generate a research agenda/new collaborations for research on age inequalities. Whilst there is a large literature on inequalities by social class, gender and geography there has been little empirical research on inequalities by age. General recommendations that presently predominate in ageing policies, whether medical, social or economic are often based on assumptions, and extrapolations from research in other groups. Further details and registration
21st February 2014
Urban Paradox: Human Evolution and the 21st Century Town
The town is not our natural habitat. For most of the last three million years, we evolved as hunter-gatherers, living off the land in small kin-groups and tribal societies, developing a complex working relationship with nature. Culturally, we are still adapting to urbanized living: our technologies, towns, economies and societies have developed at a remarkable speed. Anatomically, however, we have not evolved at the same electric pace: genetically, we remain much as we were before towns developed, or even before large-scale farming was adopted 5,000-10,000 years ago.
This event has been supported by a Grand Challenges Small Grant
17 February 2014
Launch Evening: UCL Centre for Behaviour Change
Funded by the Provost’s Strategic Development Fund together with support from UCL’s Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing and five Faculty Deans, the Centre aims to increase the quality and quantity of academic activity in behaviour change at UCL, increase its public profile and its engagement with policy-makers, industry and support UCL in becoming a leading and world renowned centre for expertise in behaviour change.
10 February 2014
Access to Research Involving Children - An Intensive Workshop
Children and Young people are being denied the right to benefit from research. There is a mistaken and outdated notion that they need to be protected from research, but the reality is that children are being harmed by not being included. The importance of children taking place in Research cannot be underestimated. Children are not small adults; the medicines and treatments children receive need to be trialled and shown to be effective in them and not simply assumed to be from the results of research in adults.
Further details Registration
23 January 2014
UCL Institute of Mental Health Town Hall Meeting
Over the next twenty years the global burden of mental health disorders will increase dramatically. Already one third of people will suffer from a mental health disorder during their lifetime, and the total cost to the UK economy alone was £48.6bn in 2007 rising to £88.5bn in 2026. Our Faculty has the intellectual, scientific and practical resources necessary to address and solve these global problems, but they are dispersed across the Faculty in different Divisions and Institutes. This makes it challenging for external stakeholders to recognise our communal strengths, and much harder to coordinate efforts focused on solving the burden of mental health disorders. There is now a unique opportunity to create a sustainable focus for both basic and applied research within the faculty addressing the major mental health challenges of our time. This Town Hall meeting is called to discuss creating within the next year an Institute for Mental Health within the Faculty of Brain Sciences. Further details and registration
21 January 2014
The complexity of decision-making – UCL Honorary Professor Noreena Hertz
UCL Honorary Professor Noreena Hertz discusses her new book Eyes Wide Open which considers how to improve decision-making; managing information excess; assessing the credibility of information; and making best use of advice. This event is chaired by Professor Jo Wolff (UCL Philosophy) with panelists Professor Susan Michie (UCL Health Psychology), Professor Wendy Carlin (UCL Economics) and Dr Claire Craig (Deputy Head of the Government Office for Science). This event is followed by a drinks reception.
Further details and registration
Thursday, 12 & Friday, 13 December 2013
£10,000 Ageing Prize Workshop: Keeping people active, independent and well in later life
Unique opportunity for UCL researchers to spend one and a half days working in cross-disciplinary project groups formulating research proposal that will address the problem of ‘keeping people active, independent and well in later life’. The best project will be awarded an attractive research prize to support work over a 12 month period.Convened by Nick Tyler and Kate Walters, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Primary Care & Epidemiology, UCL ( Royal Free Campus).
Winning project: RecommendME! - a personalised activity recommendation engine for the elderly. RecommendME! is envisioned to be a technology based platform targeted at the elderly, connecting the user to services, activities and peer groups. Personalised recommendation will be developed for each user based on their personal preferences, abilities and activities undertaken by their peer group. Further details
Further details about the workshop. This event formed part of UCL's Festival of Ageing.
9 December 2013
The Accessibility Symposium (day one):
Measuring Accessibility by Mapping Mobility Case Studies Presentations
The morning will hear keynote speeches on how to improve accessibility, sensor and mapping software, health and well-being of cities, measuring mobility and the policy requirements of enabling accessibility. The afternoon will be devoted to hearing case studies which will be showcased and open to the public. An evening reception will follow the end of proceedings of the first day of the symposium. Sponsored by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) London Symposium Scheme. This event forms part of UCL's Festival of Ageing. Further details and registration
5 December 2013
The Search For Drugs That Slow Ageing - Are We There Yet? and Why Not?
A lecture by Richard Miller, Professor of Pathology, Medical School, University of Michigan
Nearly everyone who does medical research works on one disease at a time: cancer, or AIDS, or Alzheimer's, or what have you. One problem with this approach is that even dramatic success would do surprisingly little to improve human health: a complete cure for human cancer, for example, would extend average human lifespan by about 2.6 years, i.e. only about 3%. This event forms part of UCL's Festival of Ageing. Further details and registration
28 November 2013
Solving the mystery of the biology of ageing
A lecture by David Gems, Professor of Biogerontology, Institute of Healthy Ageing, UCL
Recent advances in biogerontology (the biology of ageing) have identified many genes and pathways where intervention in animals can decelerate ageing, which results in partial resistance to a wide spectrum of ageing-related diseases, and an increase in healthy lifespan. This raises the prospect of a new, preventative approach in humans to the disease that is ageing to improve late-life health in the future. This event forms part of UCL's Festival of Ageing. Further details and registration
6 November 2013
Working Longer in an Ageing Society
An UCL/International Longevity Centre-UK discussion
According to latest ONS figures, the average age at which people retire is rising. In addition, government is keen to promote an extension of working lives due to the fiscal pressures of population ageing. However, working into later life is more complex than simply delaying the official retirement age; influential factors will also cause particular changes as society as whole grows older.
‘Working Longer in an Ageing Society’ is a panel discussion focussing on the issues of extending working lives. Organised and chaired by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK), this event will feature perspectives from UCL academics and representatives from Carers UK to explore some of the salient issues related to working to later ages, with particular awareness of the role that health and wellbeing play.
The speakers will be:
Brian Beach, ILC-UK
Prof Diana Kuh, UCL
Ms Jenny Head, UCL
Ms Katherine Wilson, Carers UK
Register here This event forms part of UCL's Festival of Ageing.
6 November 2013
Bright Ideas is a one-off event for researchers and PhD students. In front of a live audience, each speaker will spend three minutes describing a challenge the world faces, and how their BRIGHT IDEA can help. After the presenters have shared their idea they will be lightly questioned by a panel including representatives from academia, industry, community, media and the research councils. The audience then has a chance to mingle and debate the issues before voting on what they’d like to support right there on the spot. Contact Roselle Thoreau
24 October 2013
The Alzheimer Enigma in an Ageing World
A lecture by Margaret Lock, McGill University, MontrealAlzheimer’s disease is increasingly described today as an epidemic, with estimates of 115 million cases worldwide by 2050. This lecture will explore the significance of risk predictions associated with biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease , and the irresolvable uncertainties such information raises for involved individuals and families. Further details and registration.
- Post-discussion report from Sahra Gibbon, UCL Anthropology
- This event forms part of UCL's Festival of Ageing
19-20 October 2013
sPins - an event commissioned by one of the cross-disciplinary research projects awarded a prize at the Behaviour Change Research Prize Workshop
sPins is an audio-visual installation inspired by the natural instinct of brushing long grass. The installation translates the gesture of touch into an interactive architectural performance. Further details
17 October 2013
Choreographing architectural gestures in urban spaces - an event commissioned by one of the cross-disciplinary research projects awarded a prize at the Behaviour Change Research Prize Workshop
Meet the designers behind the installation sPins, and consider the question: How can connecting people through public space promote social connection and well-being? We explore architectural responses through a series of Pecha Kucha talks. Further details and registration
17 September 2013
Human Co-operation at UCL
A small meeting, convened by Ruth Mace, UCL Anthropology and supported by GCHW, to present and discuss work on a range of approaches to understanding proximate determinants and ultimate evolutionary causes human co-operation (broadly defined). Talks include empirical, experimental and theoretical work on topics ranging from parochial altruism, punishment, prosociality and kinship and its role in promoting human co-operation. Speakers include those working at UCL, visitors, and collaborators, from anthropology, biology, computer science and other disciplines. Programme and registration
30 July 2013
Consultation Sessions: behaviour change and complex interventions: design and evaluation
Professor Linda Collins and Professor John W Graham, who are leading two behaviour change workshops on 29 July at UCL, would like to discuss how their methods can be applied to UCL academics research interests in one hour sessions.
- Unique opportunity for UCL research teams to learn more about Linda Collins and John Graham's methods
- NB: Interested researchers will need to complete an application form outlining the subject they have in mind for their consultation.Further details and application details
29 July 2013
Behaviour change and complex interventions: design and evaluation
Two workshops from UCL's Behaviour Change initiative led by vistiting academics from Pennsylvania State University. Linda Collins, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, will lead the morning session: 'Behavioural Interventions: an introductions to the Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) for engineering better behavioural interventions'. John W. Graham will lead the afternoon session: 'Missing data: analysis and design'. Programme and further workshop details Register for the workshop
13 May 2013
Behaviour change is increasingly recognised as central to human wellbeing, social cohesion and sustainability. The planned UCL Centre for Behaviour Change (UCL CBC) will bring together current world-leading activities.
The meeting will be followed by a drinks reception in the South Cloisters, Wilkins Building. Further details and registration
UCL staff, students and members of the public are cordially invited to a series of events to mark the launch of UCL’s Science, Medicine & Society Network – a Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing initiative. Further details
22 April 2013
Optimized Behavioral Interventions: What Does Control Systems Engineering Have to Offer?
How can the technology that is responsible for cruise control in automobiles, the home thermostat, and the insulin pump be useful in behavioral intervention settings? Professor Rivera, Arizona State University, will examine this question in his talk at UCL by focusing on the problem of adaptive, time-varying interventions. Further details. Forms part of UCL's Behaviour Change Initiative.
1 March 2013
The domain co-leads: Beverley Butler (Institute of Archaeology), Anne Lanceley (Women's Cancer), Murray Fraser (Bartlett School of Architecture) and Andrew Flinn (Dept of Information Studies) are holding a preliminary meeting / workshop to introduce research and researchers at UCL interested in heritage and value, well-being and identity. This workshop will provide an opportunity for individuals with similar interests to meet each other and discuss potential collaborations and to contribute to the discussions on the vision and priorities for the domain. Register
Throughout February, an exciting programme of events has been organised to celebrate diversity and examine the on-going and evolving challenges some groups face in education, work and the wider society. This year's theme is based on UCL's Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction.
Event programme and registration
27 February (6-8pm)
Creating Connections 4
Are you looking for partners for a public engagement project? Want to build stronger links with community organisations? Have areas of research that may be of interest to the wider community? Would you like to get another view on your work from outside academia? If so, come along to Creating Connections, our regular networking event that brings together UCL staff and postgraduate students with representatives from community organisations, charities, residents’ groups, social enterprises and statutory organisations.
Further details and registration.
29 January 2013
Learn more about our small grants scheme, which supports cross-disciplinary projects up to a maximum of £5,000, and the projects which have been made possible in the past. Four UCL researchers will make short presentations about their projects. Further details and registration.
Behaviour Change Month
What shapes human behaviour? What stands in the way of long-term, positive behaviour change? How can research inform the design of effective interventions to change behaviour? Where should we most effectively intervene – at the macro or the micro level? How do we measure behaviour change? These were just some of the fundamental questions that were addressed in a series of cross-disciplinary talks, discussions, and workshops during UCL Behaviour Change Month in November 2012. The month concluded with a £10,000 prize workshop. Behaviour Change month was oranised by GCHW and led by Professor Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology, Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology.
13 August 2012
Why do we hold separate Paralympics and Olympic events?
Why should a Paralympian be different from an Olympian? It has been argued that Paralympic sports should be included within the Olympic Games, with some sports open to both Olympian and Paralympian athletes.
5 July 2012
Wellbeing and the Future: A UCL GCHW and Foresight Analysts Network Workshop
Led by Peter Antonioni (UCL Management Science) and Nick Maxwell (UCL Science & Technology) this workshop asked UCL's academic community to consider wellbeing as a strategic variable. Can wellbeing provide a new strategic inspiration for UK governance?
18-22 June 2012
MedTech Week and launch of UCL's Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBE)
The week of events is open to everybody and is aimed at both staff and students wanting to know more about the medical technology and biomedical engineering landscape at UCL.
1 June - 15 September 2012
Exhibition: Fit Bodies - Statues, Athletes and Power
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
What is a fit body? What do we mean by ‘fit’? The idea of fit body has changed over time or has it?
29 May 2012
The Science of Happiness
Organised by UCL Public Policy and GCHW
Happiness, wellbeing and quality of life have been climbing up the public policy agenda in recent years, with governments apparently devoting increasing attention to how to improve people’s life satisfaction. But what lies beneath these warm words about the need to improve quality of life?
18 May 2012
Crime, Policing and Citizenship: Project Launch Workshop
Supported by GCHW
Working in partnership with the Metropolitan Police, UCL is beginning a 3.5 year EPSRC funded research project that will address crime, policing and citizen engagement (CPC) at a range of spatial and temporal scales.
8 May 2012
Defusing the Age Bomb
Organised by the European Parliament UK Office
An ageing society and the financial crisis have increased the pressure on financing retirement and services for older people. At the same time social and economic changes disrupt traditional family units, cutting the two-way flow of experience and support between the older and younger generations. Alongside this, modern society has an ever greater need for lifelong learning and new skills. The challenge is to reframe the potential of ageing, and make the most of its potential. Registration and further details
2 May 2012
Wellbeing Policy Seminar Abstracts
Organised by the ESRC's International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health at UCL.
The current Office of National Statistics (ONS) programme to measure national well-being is unlikely to have escaped many people’s attention. Media attention on “happiness” has obscured the broader aims of this initiative, including measuring individual well-being in all its complexity.
- This workshop is invitation only but please contact the ICLS if you have an interest in this subject.
- Further details
26 April 2012
Active and Healthy Ageing
A one day workshop organised by UCL GCHW and Imperial College London, on behalf of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), to inform the development of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Active & Healthy Ageing.
19 April 2012
From Ageing Research into Policy
A half day workshop organised by UCL Crucible and International Longevity Centre
- This workshop is now full
29 February 2012
Delivering Value-Based Healthcare: Maximising outcomes for every pound we spend
UCL Partners and the Greater London Authority
21 February 2012
13–17 February 2012
UCL Wellbeing Week
UCL Wellbeing Week, organised by GCHW, was a series of events, convened by Nick Tyler (Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering, UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, Director, UCL Crucible) which challenged researchers to think about wellbeing questions, some of them controversial, in a new light and to develop innovative research projects.
UCL Equalities & Diversity's programme of events to celebrate diversity and examine the ongoing and evolving challenges some groups face in education, work and the wider society, based on UCL GCHW
13 May 2011
2 March 2011
24 November 2010
21 June 2010
16 June 2010
17 May 2010
17 February 2010
2 December 2009
£10,000 Ageing Research Prize Workshop (12-13 December 2013):
Keeping people active, independent and well in later life
Project Team (left to right)
Alexandru Matei (UCL Computer Science)
Maryam Atakhorrami (Translational Research Office, School of Life and Medical Sciences, UCL)
Tarek Ahmed (UCL Eastman Dental Institute)
David Greenberg (UCL Ear Institute) - Project Lead
Navaz Davoudian (Bartlett School of Graduate Studies)
Ageing is a dynamic process and a journey that every person will experience differently. The physical and social changes that occur due to ageing can result in the reduced health and wellbeing of an elderly person as well as changes in their interaction with the wider society. Being active, which can be defined in both a social and physical context, is essential for a healthy, ageing society. Individuals who are transitioning from full-time employment to retirement have changing physical and mental needs, needs that we are only beginning to understand with the steady increase in life expectancy. The process of ageing and how it influences social and physical activity differs between individuals but these differences are often built upon psychological barriers of what the individual can, and cannot do. The consequences of ageing within a psychological framework of ‘cannot’, will inevitably result in a rapid transition from active to sedentary.
RecommendME! is envisioned as a digital platform for use by an ageing population, able to connect a user to relevant services, activities and peer groups. Personalised recommendations will be developed for each user based on their personal physical, mental and social capacity, their interests, geographical location and the activities undertaken by their peer group. By collecting and analysing trends in the activity data of individuals, a profile of abilities and relevant activities can be developed for the user-base. RecommendME! will enable the elderly to be more active by removing some of the psychological barriers in a tangible manner, motivating the user to be more active.
RecommendME! will be able to connect individuals to their peers via clusters of users with similar profiles, allowing individuals to attend activities together thus reinforcing the motivation to stay active. Through this manner of assistance RecommendME! will also have the capacity to identify gaps in voluntary and commercial services creating a constructive feedback loop.
· To create a platform that enables the elderly to be more active and to remain as active members of society.
· To develop a platform that is usable and functional for the target user-base
· To ensure that the platform maximises the potential of the user through recommendations based on individual ability.
· To improve upon existing levels of wellbeing in later life.
· Conduct research on the data required for a successful recommendation engine.
· Establish links with Camden Council to provide guidance on activities and to provide a link to elderly users for beta-testing of platform.
· Design questionnaires to discover pressing needs and preferences from the elderly.
· Work with data scientists from the ground up in building the platform to ensure data quality.
· Work with human-computer interaction experts to identify key attributes for the user interface.
· Produce a working recommendation platform and trial with 100 users.
Methodology 1) Behaviour-Change
The methodology will follow the general aim of encouraging individuals to remain physically and mentally active after retirement. A study in behaviour change will be conducted that is based on the three conditions of Capability, Opportunity and Motivation (the COM-B behaviour system). A combined qualitative and quantitative approach will be employed to assess physical and psychological capabilities of this target group as well as automatic and reflective motivational factors. This will allow us to enhance the pertinence of the social and physical opportunities recommended through the designed interface.
The methods will involve a set of questionnaires targeting the aforementioned group in the UK. The questionnaire study will be followed by interviews with groups of individuals in our target group in the borough of Camden, London. The combined results will provide the key physical and mental elements as well as motivational factors to be included in the input and output of the platform.
Methodology 2) Software
In order to support our objectives, a software infrastructure will be developed. There are two components that will be considered:
A social platform that serves several purposes. Firstly, this is the place where people can register and create their profiles. They can browse existing activities and get personalised recommendations. Some form of user to user interaction will also be supported. Secondly, this is the place for activity providers to create and promote their activities, by tagging them appropriately. Thirdly, the platform will provide a mechanism for users to subscribe to the activities they are willing to participate in.
The platform will be built following an agile software development methodology, since user feedback and user acceptance are very important. Also, given the budget constraints, an agile methodology will ensure we will get a working product within the timeframe. While development will be outsourced, we are relying on internal resources for project management and testing. Considering the time constraints, we will be looking into leveraging existing modules and libraries for building social platforms, open source or not. The recommendation engine will be developed in house. It will be custom built for this project, such that we increase the quality of the predictions. The engine will be initially trained using data from existing research and will continually improve while the system is in use.
The RecommendME! project will use the available £10k funding to build an investable and attractive proposal for a social enterprise venture. £7k has been earmarked to pay for the time required to develop and build the working demo including IT platform, machine learning unit and user interfaces. The remaining £3k has been allocated to facilitate with conducting focus groups and interviews that will guide the development of the platform.
(12 months) - envisaged start /end dates, key milestones, envisaged outputs
In months 1-3 a heavily researched business plan will be developed including detailed milestones, team development, data requirements and platform requirements. Months 3-6 will be spent building the digital platform and software infrastructure leading to the recruitment of 100 beta-testers in months 6-8 as well as initiating the development of an updated business plan based on insights gained as to the direction and development of the platform and any necessary further funding requirements. Running in parallel to the business development will be the development of the digital platform and literature research that will inform the interview questionnaire design. Throughout the whole 12 months there will be close interactions between the teams behind these two key components. Months 8-12 will be spent training and refining the platform, analysing interview and questionnaire data and platform based data collected from the beta-tester cohort. During this time applications will be finalised and submitted to relevant social enterprise investment grants such as Nesta (http://www.nesta.org.uk/) and UnLtd (http://unltd.org.uk/ ). The findings of the beta-tested platform with 100 users in Camden will be central to the business plan to secure further investment in the project.
Project completion date: January 2015
Background to this Research Prize Workshop
- Post discussion comment from Nicholas Maxwell
How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution. This is the title of a book,* just published, that was launched into the world on the evening of 20th March at UCL, under the auspices of The Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing.
I began the proceedings by outlining the basic argument of my book. Philip Ball and Alan Sokal responded, there were lively criticisms and questions from the audience, and the debate continued at the reception afterwards. The bare bones of my talk amounted to the following.
The crisis of our times is that we have science without wisdom. This is the crisis behind all the others. Population growth, the lethal character of modern war, immense differences in wealth and power around the globe, destruction of natural habitats and extinction of species, pollution of earth, sea and air, and above all the impending disasters of climate change: all these relatively recent crises have been made possible by modern science and technology. These make possible modern industry and agriculture, modern armaments, modern medicine and hygiene, which in turn have made possible all our current global problems.
Many blame science, but that misses the point. The fault lies in part with pursuing science in a way that is dissociated from a more fundamental concern to help humanity learn how to tackle problems of living, so that we may gradually discover how to make progress towards a better, wiser world. Knowledge is important. But in the end it is what we do, or refrain from doing, that enables us to achieve what is of value in life.
We need an academic revolution, one which puts problems of living - personal, social and global (such as those indicated above) - at the heart of academia. The basic task of universities needs to become to help humanity solve, in increasingly cooperatively rational ways, those problems of living we need to solve to achieve what is genuinely of value in life. The central, fundamental concern needs to be to articulate, and improve the articulation of, our problems of living, and propose and critically assess possible solutions - possible actions, policies, institutional and social changes, political programmes, ways of living, philosophies of life. Our best ideas about what to do need to influence the priorities of scientific and technological research and, of course, deliberations concerning actions and policy need to take the results of scientific research into account.
Philip Ball, in his response, made clear that he was sympathetic to much of what I had to say, but thought more needed to be said about economics, and the failings of modern democracies. He made the point that interactions between technology and science go in both directions.
Alan Sokal began by declaring that he agreed with what I have to say about science. Theoretical physics only ever accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals can always be concocted. That these disunified, empirically more successful rivals are persistently ignored means that physics does indeed make a big, highly problematic metaphysical assumption about the ultimate nature of the universe: it has some kind of underlying unity. It is physically comprehensible. But this metaphysical conjecture will almost inevitably be false. It needs to be improved. The way to do that is to represent the assumption in the form of a hierarchy of assumptions. As one goes up the hierarchy, the assumptions become less and less substantial, more and more likely to be true. Assumptions low down in the hierarchy, very likely to be false, need to be modified in the light of what is best able to support scientific progress.
Sokal went on to express doubts about whether this hierarchical, aim-oriented empiricist conception of science (which, he said, makes an important contribution to the philosophy of science) could be usefully generalized so as to become applicable to social life and its problems. In his view, universities are not to blame for our failure to take effective action in response to climate change. The fault lies with governments, and with powerful economic interests which have cynically peddled propaganda casting doubts about climate science.
*Nicholas Maxwell, How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution, Imprint Academic, £9-95.
Nicholas Maxwell, 21 March 2014
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