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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

Against excellence

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Excellence is everywhere. Following the REF, the UK’s Universities are all rushing to take credit for their ‘excellence’. The Government’s recent science and innovation strategy talks about “the importance of achieving excellence”. Who’d be against that? If quality is good then surely excellence is better? I’m not so sure, writes Dr Jack Stilgoe (UCL Science & Technology Studies) in The Guardian.

The great beyond: will the UK science budget be cut by 40%?

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Jennifer Rohn

Back in 2010, UK science dodged a bullet – sort of. Following a global recession, the scientific community was warned to expect cuts of up to 40% to the core research budget. We rallied, presenting strong arguments for the role of science in fueling the economy, writes Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Clinical Physiology) in the Guardian.

Have young people stopped fearing sexually transmitted infections?

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Rosie Webster

The good news is that rates of teenage pregnancies are at record lows. In 2014 in England and Wales they were at the lowest rate since 1946, with only 15.6 pregnancies per 1,000 women younger than 20. Unfortunately, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are still very high, writes Dr Rosie Webster (UCL Primary Care & Population Health) in The Conversation.

UK satellite Twinkle will boost search for Earth-like exoplanets

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Giovanna Tinetti

NASA’s recent discovery of 12 more exoplanets, including the most Earth-like yet, brings the number of exoplanets – those outside our solar system – discovered to nearly 2,000. It’s now thought that almost every star has a planetary system, with Earth just one of several billion planets in our galaxy alone, writes Dr Giovanna Tinetti (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Conversation.

Base science funding on performance, not postcodes

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Graeme Reid

Two themes dominate the Conservative government’s approach to science: research excellence and local economic growth. Are they compatible? Chancellor George Osborne is living up to his avowed commitment to science. He talked about radio astronomy in his speech to the CBI, an industry lobby group, and even mentioned science in his Mansion House speech to City grandees. This month’s budget and productivity plan make unequivocal commitments to excellence, writes Professor Graeme Reid (Office of the UCL Vice-Provost, Research) in Research Fortnight (£).

Scientists at work: understanding human cooperation in a changing world

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Matthew Gwynfryn Thomas

Deep into the Arctic Circle in the far north of Norway, Finland, Sweden and north-west Russia, a few thousand indigenous minority people known as the Saami continue to follow a lifestyle of reindeer husbandry. But their profession is increasingly under threat from a number of developments ranging from climate change to globalisation, writes Matthew Gwynfryn Thomas (UCL Anthropology) in The Conversation.

Cricket is like spam: The real reason batsmen are piling up higher scores

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Ormerod

The holiday season is getting into full swing, but a shadow has been cast by the abysmal failure of our boys to get anywhere near the enormous target of 509 which Australia’s cricketers set them to win in the second Test match. It may seem preposterous even to have thought they would. But a revolution seems to be taking place in the ability of teams to make large scores in the fourth innings, writes Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in City AM.

New Horizons brings Pluto’s mysterious moons into sharper focus

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Drifting along at what for decades was regarded as the outer boundary of our solar system, icy Pluto is far from alone. The dwarf planet has moons – at least five of them – which are all fascinating little worlds in their own right. Detailed views of these icy bodies, captured by the New Horizons spacecraft, have now begun to stream back to Earth as data and will reveal much about the chemistry and physics of the outer solar system, writes Dr Geraint Jones (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory) in The Conversation.

Here’s what you need to know about the Large Hadron Collider’s latest discovery: pentaquarks

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Gavin Hesketh

The Large Hadron Collider, famous for finding the Higgs boson, has now revealed another new and rather unusual particle. Teams at the LHC, the world’s largest particle accelerator, recently began a second run of experiments using far more energy than the ones that found the Higgs particle back in 2012. But another of the groups, LHCb, have also been sifting through its data from the billions of particle collisions of the first run of the LHC, and now think they’ve spotted something new: pentaquarks, writes Dr Gavin Hesketh (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Conversation.

Too much information: how a data deluge leaves us struggling to make up our minds

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Rikke Duus

We make a huge number of decisions every day. When it comes to eating, for example, we make 200 more decisions than we’re consciously aware of every day. How is this possible? Because, as Daniel Kahneman has explained, while we’d like to think our decisions are rational, in fact many are driven by gut feel and intuition, writes Rikke Duus (UCL Management Science & Innovation) in The Conversation.

Fly-by missions: what is the point when we have the technology to go into orbit?

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Andrew Coates

New Horizons' fly-by of Pluto and its moons is the latest in a historic string of missions to objects in the solar system. But given that a fly-by lasts for just a short time, how much can we really get out of it? There’s no doubt that the mission will yield a great deal of interesting data, but surely more would be gained if the spacecraft could go into orbit for a number of days or actually land on the surface and take physical samples, writes Professor Andrew Coates (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory) in The Conversation.

What kind of university can help reduce poverty?

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For decades, development agencies have encouraged low and middle-income countries to focus their education spending on primary schools and basic vocational skills. They have considered that universities provide lower rates of return on public investment and benefit elites at the expense of the poor, writes Dr Tristan McCowan (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

Watch your language when talking about autism

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Words matter. The way we use them to communicate with or about others can have a huge impact on people’s lives. This is especially the case when it comes to disability. Handicapped. Retarded. Mad. Activists have campaigned hard to eradicate such terms, which are offensive and perpetuate a negative view of disabled people – one as passive, unable to take control over their own lives, says Dr Liz Pellicano (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

Abolishing student grants and raising fees above £9,000 heaps more debt on poorest students

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There were a surprising number of announcements relating to higher education in George Osborne’s budget this week. One of the most controversial was the announcement that university maintenance grants for lower-income students in England and Wales are to be scrapped from September 2016 and replaced with loans, writes Dr Gillian Wyness (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

Your body is telling you something – but how do you know if it’s cancer?

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Cervical cancer screening, or the “smear test”, aims to pick up and treat abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancer. But for most gynaecological cancers there isn’t a screening programme, so noticing symptoms and getting them checked out is the key to making sure cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage when treatment is most effective, writes Dr Jo Waller (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) in The Conversation.

The book is out of its cover so authors must adapt

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John Sutherland

One doubts that authors, as a class, often get enraged about anything other than the puniness of their advances, the nastiness of reviewers and the fact that Ian McEwan and Alain de Botton sell so many more books than they do. But what is certain is that writers will adapt as creatively as they always have to the book world they find themselves in, writes Professor John Sutherland (UCL English Language & Literature) in the Financial Times.

Dutch court’s climate ruling may force other states to cut emissions – or else

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Arthur Petersen

A Dutch district court has ordered the Netherlands to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25% lower than 1990 levels by 2020. This is several percentage points deeper than the 17% reduction the country had been envisaging, writes Professor Arthur Petersen (UCL STEaPP) in The Conversation.

How computers are learning to make human software work more efficiently

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Computer scientists have a history of borrowing ideas from nature, such as evolution. When it comes to optimising computer programs, a very interesting evolutionary-based approach has emerged over the past five or six years that could bring incalculable benefits to industry and eventually consumers. We call it genetic improvement, writes Dr Justyna Petke and Dr Bill Langdon (both UCL Computer Science) in The Conversation.

Brazil and Venezuela’s unpopular leaders remain friends – for now

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When a delegation of Brazilian senators arrived in Venezuela recently to visit Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, two Venezuelan leaders who are being held as political prisoners, they soon ran into trouble, writes Dr Marco Aponte-Moreno and Lance Lattig (both UCL Management Science & Innovation) in The Conversation.

Germany and Greece can't do without each other

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Phiroze Vasunia

Not since the early years of the 19th century has Greece roused such strong feeling in the rest of Europe. At that time, the Greek War of Independence proved to be a rallying point for thousands of sympathizers who joined together to liberate Greece from the Ottomans and their empire, writes Professor Phiroze Vasunia (UCL Greek & Latin) in NDTV.

Why onshore wind isn’t as cheap as it should be in the UK

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Europe’s weather systems tend to cross the Atlantic and slam into Britain, which should make the UK ideal for wind power. With very low running costs, cheap and easy integration into the grid in most of the country, and with wind being a mature industry that’s still evolving continuous improvements, how could it not be the country’s cheapest renewable, asks Andrew Smith (UCL Bartlett School Environment, Energy & Resources) in The Conversation.

How we discovered the dark side of wearable fitness trackers

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Rikke Duus

You no longer have to look to science fiction to find the cyborg. We are all cyborgs now. Mobile phones, activity trackers, pacemakers, breast implants and even aspirins all act as biological, cognitive or social extensions and enhancements of our bodies and minds. Some have even predicted that human beings as we know them will be replaced by technically enhanced, god-like immortal beings within 200 years. Or at least rich people will, writes Rikke Duus (UCL Management Science & Innovation) in The Conversation.

Students ride a merry go round between final and modular courses

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Jo Wolff

Some time in the late 80s, departments in my faculty received a letter from the dean instructing us to redesign our undergraduate courses, replacing outdated traditional degrees with modern, modular programmes. Up to that point, student achievement was based on finals, taken over an intensive few weeks in the third year, writes Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy) in the Guardian.

Early humans had to become more feminine before they could dominate the planet

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Mark Maslin

I have always wondered why our species Homo sapiens, that evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago, seemed to do nothing special for the first 150,000 years. Because it is not until about 50,000 years ago that the first sign of creative thinking emerged with beautiful cave paintings found in Spain, France and Indonesia, says Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Here’s what better relations with the US mean for city farms in Cuba

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Emily Morris

For more than 20 years, Cuba has been developing a sophisticated urban and suburban food system, producing healthy food, improving the environment and providing employment. But how will the sector survive if the economy opens up to US agricultural and industrial trade and investment, writes Dr Emily Morris (UCL Institute of the Americas) in The Conversation.

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