Media Relations

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The UCL Media Relations team is the university’s central press office.


We connect journalists to expert academics and promote UCL research and teaching throughout the global media.


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Opinion

Behind the online comments: the psychology of internet trolls

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Readers’ comments are an important, yet often overlooked, type of user-generated content. And some readers are much more likely to post and read comments than others. Trolling, the act of posting disruptive or inflammatory comments online in order to provoke fellow readers, has been the focus of much recent attention, writes Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Guardian Media Network blog.

Free bus passes for pensioners are too successful to cut

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Roger Mackett

Taxpayers in Britain spend more than £1 billion a year providing free bus travel. Mostly used by pensioners, some disabled people qualify for this concessionary travel, and there are fears that an austerity-driven government will cut back on the passes. Some commentators have suggested there is scope for reducing public spending by cutting the scheme – £1 billion is, after all, a lot of money. Research suggests, however, that free bus passes are good value and worth maintaining, writes Professor Roger Mackett (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) in The Conversation.

The long shadows of war

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Lisa Jardine

The first week of the new school year seemed like a good time to visit the recently re-opened Imperial War Museum in London. I had read that the museum was "overrun by hordes of schoolchildren" in early September. But if I thought I could avoid the crowds I was wrong. There was an hour-long wait for a timed-ticket entry slot to see the new World War One galleries, writes Professor Lisa Jardine (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) for BBC News magazine.

World will think us mad to rip up Union

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Michael Collins

It has been fashionable for some time now to pooh-pooh "Great Britain." To many it smacks of empire and Colonel Blimp and Maggie Thatcher riding in her tank. It's hardly surprising that those pleading the merits of the Union have had a hard time. It is sad, though, if Britain's Union cannot stand for anything of value. As many people in England have simply forgotten about it, the nationalists in Scotland stand ready to finish it for good, writes Dr Michael Collins (UCL History) in The Herald.

I saw a No vote was not for status quo...it was a licence for irreversible changes for the worse

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Nobody I know has ever seen anything like it. A referendum campaign? But maybe that's the wrong word. A campaign means politicians persuading people to vote this way or that. What's been happening in Scotland, in these last six astonishing months, is people persuading politicians, writes Neal Ascherson (UCL Archaeology) in The Herald.

A point of view: When historical fiction is more truthful than historical fact

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Lisa Jardine

For some time I have been researching the lives of a group of scientists who worked on the development of the atomic bomb during World War Two. Although there are several impeccably researched non-fiction works on the subject and a number of biographies, none of these really conveyed to me the emotions and convictions that drove their work - I simply could not connect with the personal principles of the scientists who collaborated with such energy to produce the period's ultimate weapon of mass destruction, writes Professor Lisa Jardine (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) for BBC News magazine.

Mexican energy reform may be a bridge to a low carbon economy – or a fossil fuel past

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Following President Lázaro Cárdenas’ expropriation of foreign oil company assets in 1938, the oil industry has been a symbol of Mexican sovereignty. This made the state oil firm Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) politically untouchable. That is until now. Game-changing laws have recently been approved that open deep-water oil and shale fields to foreign investment, as well as liberalising Mexico’s electricity industry, writes Baltazar Solano Rodriguez (UCL Energy Institute) in The Conversation.

The physics of proton therapy

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Jon Butterworth

The story of Ashya King and his parents is desperately sad. One feature is that his family want him to receive proton therapy. This is not a “magic bullet” treatment and without knowing his medical details it is impossible to say what the risks and benefits would be for Ashya. However, proton therapy is in use around the world, and indeed on the NHS, and does in some cases have some huge advantages over other treatments. This article makes no comment on the specific case, it is simply an explanation of the physics behind the therapy, writes Professor Jon Butterworth (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Guardian.

Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from US sanctions

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Emily Morris

Cuba has imposed new limits on the amount of goods that travellers can bring into the country. The new measures will be unpopular with many involved in the trade from suppliers to customers, and at first sight they appear futile and counter-productive. The informal trade in consumer goods and domestic equipment involves huge bundles and packages being brought to the island by visiting Cuban-Americans. The strong growth of these imports in recent years has been the result of reforms in both the US and Cuba, says Dr Emily Morris (UCL Institute of the Americas) in The Conversation.

Move over Iceland, Tavurvur in Papua New Guinea is the volcano to watch

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Last week, the eyes of volcanologists – and presumably a few nervous pilots – were fixed on Iceland. But unexpectedly, the volcanic eruption that made headlines happened on the other side of the world, in Papua New Guinea, writes Robin Wylie (UCL Earth Sciences) in The Conversation.

Today the UK's forgotten victims, tomorrow its next child protection scandal?

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Does it matter less if a boy is sexually exploited than a girl? It certainly shouldn't. Remember, we're still talking about a child subjected to sexual violations that can leave lasting physical, psychological and social scars. Don't forget the additional stigma associated with being sexually victimised as a male - if real boys don't cry, they certainly aren't raped. Yet as the week goes on, I'm left increasingly frustrated that the vulnerabilities and support needs of boys have been so utterly side-lined in discussions of the implications of the Rotherham report, writes Dr Ella Cockbain (UCL Security and Crime Science) in The Huffington Post.

The prime numbers have it

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Mark Ronan

In June the first Breakthrough Prizes in mathematics were announced: $3 million for each of five recipients, three in America, one in France, and one who divides his time between Britain and America. The new prizes, founded by internet moguls Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner, were announced last December at a ceremony to award similar prizes in physics and the life sciences. Narrowly focused on particular specialisations, these differ from the mathmatics prize, which is spread across the whole subject. The big difference between mathematics and other sciences is that maths has no need for expensive experimental work, and mathematicians are free to follow their own instincts-trying to propel them in a particular direction would be rather like herding cats, writes Professor Mark Ronan (UCL Mathematics) in Standpoint Magazine.

Hollande’s presidency has been a disaster since day one

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After the sudden dissolution of his government, French president François Hollande is edging ever a bit closer to the political abyss. His prime minister, Manuel Valls, has just formed a new cabinet, which excludes three major socialist “rebels”: Arnaud Montebourg (economy), Benoît Hamon (education) and Aurélie Filippetti (culture). While various key figures, including former presidential candidate Segolène Royal, retain their posts, the net result is that the government’s political centre of gravity has shifted noticeably to the right, writes Professor Philippe Marliere (UCL SELCS) in The Conversation.

Toxic talent management habits

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All organisations have problems, and they always involve people. Indeed, talent management issues are a major cause of organisational underperformance. For example, a recent report by Deloitte, based on data from over 2,500 business and human resources leaders from more than 90 countries, shows that employers around the world are poorly prepared to tackle key human capital challenges, such as “leadership, retention and engagement, the re-skilling of HR and talent acquisition.” I see five specific bad talent habits over and over again. They all threaten the effectiveness of the modern organisation, says Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Hindu.

When death goes viral: mourning celebrities on social media

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Although the recent death of Robin Williams generated millions of tweets, people’s fascination with celebrity deaths is far from new. The Egyptians and Mayans built colossal monuments to worship their royals; the Greeks and Romans organised massive funerals to commemorate poets and military heroes. In the 19th century, Victor Hugo’s funeral drew millions of people to the streets of Paris, and we all remember Diana’s funeral, writes Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Guardian Media Network Blog.

The truth is, Scandinavia is neither heaven nor hell

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Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen

Earlier this year, British travel writer and resident of Denmark, Michael Booth, riled Guardian readers with a provocative article claiming to dispel the myth of Scandinavia as the perfect place to live. Many are now confused. Is everything we believed about the social ideals of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland a lie? Well, not entirely but we’re not all drunk serial killers either, writes Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL SELCS) in The  Conversation.

Kim Kardashian: why we love her and the psychology of celebrity worship

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Two things are particularly striking about Kim Kardashian. The first is how she has managed to catch the attention of the global media. The second is that there are so many reasons why she shouldn't be famous. Indeed, it is tempting to suggest that in a logical world Kim Kardashian would be a peripheral citizen rather than a modern cultural icon. Is Kim just another symptom of postmodernist confusion and cultural decline, or is there a deeper psychological explanation for her fame? Writes Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Guardian Media Network Blog.

The world’s best leaders are cast as themselves in a play that never ends

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Dr Marco Aponte-Moreno

When Hillary Clinton welled up in response to an innocuous question about how she keeps so upbeat on the presidential campaign trail in 2008, people took notice. To the surprise of pollsters, she won the primary in question – New Hampshire – despite trailing her opponent Barack Obama before the tears. A display of weaknesses such as this is one of the most fundamental qualities of inspirational leadership. Expressing sincere vulnerability allows leaders to communicate their humanity and accessibility, and it seems the people of New Hampshire were swayed, writes Dr Marco Aponte-Moreno (UCL Management Science & Innovation) in The Conversation.

The Fields Medal is the greatest prize in maths

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Mark Ronan

Today, at the International Congress of Mathematicians, we will learn who has won the Fields Medal, often considered the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics. First awarded in 1936, then again in 1950 and every four years since, the medal is given to at most four people, making it more selective than the annual Nobel Prize in Physics, which is often shared, writes Professor Mark Ronan (UCL Mathematics) in The Telegraph.

Rosetta will teach us more about comets than we have learned in 50 years

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On August 6, millions of miles away from Earth, the firing of a rocket thruster signalled the end of a decade-long journey by a European spacecraft to reach its ultimate target – a comet. The spacecraft is Rosetta, and its target is 67P/Churuymov-Gerasimenko, named after its Ukrainian discoverers. The spacecraft will study 67P’s nucleus at close quarters as it falls towards the sun, when it will come to life with a tail created by sun’s warmth, writes Dr Geraint Jones (UCL Space & Climate Physics) in The Conversation.

Losing weight might make you healthier but not happier

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Sarah Jackson

Supermodel Kate Moss' quip that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” captured the sense in society that being thin is the recipe for happiness. Obesity causes a range of health problems, including diabetes, but will losing weight really make you happier? While there’s no doubt that losing weight can significantly improve your physical health, in research published in PLOS ONE we found that the effect on mental health was less straightforward, writes Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) in The Conversation.

You might be surprised to find out who is living in London’s luxury apartments

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Mayfair, Belgravia and Kensington: all London boroughs associated with affluence and grandeur, not student accommodation. But today these areas play host to a burgeoning student population. With the internationalisation of education and the “flight to quality” of overseas students to highly rated institutions, London’s student housing market is apparently changing, writes Dr Nicola Livingstone (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) in The Conversation.

The Israeli assault on Gaza: a public health perspective

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It is three weeks since the current Israeli offensive against Gaza began on July 8. But it is now eight years since Israel began its blockade of Gaza. Since then unemployment has risen, public infrastructure has crumbled and civil service employees have not received salaries regularly since August 2013, and none at all since April 2014. With the prospects for peace still looking remote, the public health implications of the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the current war are vast, writes Dr Andrew Seal (UCL Institute for Global Health) in The Conversation.

Breakthrough in understanding chronic pain could lead to new treatments

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Chronic pain, defined as disabling pain that persists despite attempts at treatment and often without obvious cause, has become a serious challenge for health professionals. It is not surprising that someone suffering from this level of pain might become depressed, but most studies consider depression a “comorbidity” – an associated disorder – or suggest that the pain is “somatisation” of the depression – that is, it may be a mental disorder’s effect on the body, writes Dr Amanda Williams (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Conversation.

Explainer: What is a circular economy?

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The concept of the circular economy has left the realm of academic theory and entered the world of business. The price of natural resources and materials is soaring, and in response to volatile markets and increasing competition, developed nations are examining this sort of alternative economic model, writes Dr Teresa Domenech (UCL Energy Institute) in The Conversation.

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