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6 May 2015
An exciting email pinged into my inbox at the end of last week. It was a
link to the contents of the latest issue of the American Economic
Association’s journal Economic Policy. For most people, these
publications are not usually as gripping as, say, a Ken Follett novel.
But nestling among the thickets of algebra, there was an article
entitled “Mansion Tax: the Effect on the Residential Real Estate
Market”, writes Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational &
Health Psychology) in City AM.
Election campaigning can reveal more by what is left unsaid than by the
pledges that are made. No serious strategy towards taxation is disclosed
by the Conservatives’ pledges not to raise the rates of the main
revenue-raising taxes; nor are all three major parties’ commitments to
raising substantial extra revenues from a clampdown on tax evasion and
avoidance a coherent and credible account of how future revenue needs
will be met, writes Professor Stephen Smith (UCL Economics) in Prospect Magazine.
5 May 2015
The cranes are going up all over universities. A new student village
here, an extension to the business school there, airy atria everywhere,
even a scattering of “iconic” or “signature” buildings aspiring to be on
shortlists for architectural awards. Higher education is investing unprecedented amounts in infrastructure – for good and necessary reasons but maybe for bad ones too, writes Professor Peter Scott (UCL Institute of Education) in the Guardian.
The current age structure of the UK population is radically different
from that at inception of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, and
health inequalities are widening fastest in people aged 65 years and
older, writes Dr Daniel Davis (UCL MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing) in The Lancet (£).
What is science for? Most will think of
headline-grabbing applications: life-saving medicines, the latest
gadgets and clean-energy alternatives that may one day save our planet.
Others might cite vast particle colliders that reveal fundamental
insights into the workings of the universe. Few, perhaps, will consider the more prosaic economic implications of a healthy science base, writes Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Clinical Physiology) in New Scientist.
30 April 2015
Recently, almost 50 years after its original publication – but only
two years after it became a best-seller – I got around to reading John Williams’ Stoner. For those of you who are not familiar with the book, which was hailed by The New Yorker
as “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of”, it is a
beautifully written story about one man’s perfectly ordinary life, writes Dr Rachel Carey (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in THE (£).
on your appointment. Your predecessors have worked with the community
to build science and research into one of this country’s greatest
strengths. However, several major challenges still remain. The
UK’s scientific community is built on the free flow of talent.
Immigration policy has threatened this flow and tarnished our
reputation. The solution is clear: we need to remove the immigration
limit on highly skilled people, writes Professor Graeme Reid (Office of the UCL Vice-Provost,
Research) in Research Fortnight (£).
29 April 2015
Earthquake engineers often say earthquakes don’t kill people, collapsing buildings do. The tragic loss of life
that followed the huge earthquake in Nepal on April 25 occurred despite
the fact that the country is among the world’s leaders in community-based efforts to reduce disaster risk.
But poverty, corruption, and poor governance have all led to a failure
to enforce building codes – as has a shortage of skilled engineers,
planners and architects, writes Dr Ilan Kelman (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) in The Conversation.
For now, the Tories would love English voters to believe this. Ed
Miliband in the pocket of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is a theme
designed purely for their core English vote. David Cameron seems willing
to exchange an SNP landslide in Scotland for a Tory victory at
Westminster. Coming from the so-called Conservative and Unionist Party, this is an
astonishingly cavalier and short-sighted betrayal of the party's
history, which they may live to regret, writes Dr
Michael Collins (UCL History) in The
I am keen on dogs. Recently, I saw an advert for a special canine
toothbrush designed to get rid of the pet’s bad breath – surely a
difficult challenge given what dogs get up to. Vans promoting home
beauty visits for dogs have been widespread for some time now. A new
service being promoted is day care for dogs, similar, one might think,
to child care. The dog is deposited and entertained for the day while
you go off to your meeting or out to lunch, writes Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational &
Health Psychology) in City AM.
27 April 2015
Laissez-faire is part of “the air we still breathe”, wrote John Maynard
Keynes in 1926. “We do not dance even yet to a new tune.” Conservative
individualism of 18th-century luminaries such as David Hume,
conveniently underpinned by the supposed free market economics of Adam
Smith, led to the view that enlightened self-interest operates in the
public interest. Hence, leave things to the market, writes Professor
Michael Marmot (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) in The Lancet.
The Nepal earthquake
was expected. For 15 years seismologists warned of growing tension
along the Nepal-Bihar fault line, which snaps at least once a century. They feared a repeat of the 1934 disaster that killed 12,000 people,
one sixth of the population, including the daughters of the King and
Prime Minister. Now 2.5m people are crammed into the Valley. Would the
honeycomb of fragile, hastily built homes collapse? Would only the
solid, historic buildings survive, asks Professor Anthony Costello (UCL Institute for Global Health) in the Independent.
24 April 2015
Seismologists have discovered a massive magma reservoir beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano in Wyoming, US, that suggests its volcanic system could be more than four times larger than was previously thought, writes Robin Wylie (UCL Earth Sciences) in The
During its impressive 25 years the Hubble Space Telescope
has captured numerous remarkable views of the universe, providing
astronomers with a wealth of data for making astounding discoveries. Of
all the beautiful astronomical objects observed by Hubble one of the
most awe-inspiring is the massive, dying star V838 Moncerotis, writes Professor Raman Prinja (Physics & Astronomy) in The Conversation.
23 April 2015
Immigration clearly ranks as one of the most important issues
for voters in the lead up to the UK’s election. But public opinion
doesn’t always match up with the evidence, and political parties can be
led in different directions by both. With this in mind, the following
takes stock of the different policies about immigration, as outlined in
the parties' manifestos, writes Professor
Ian Preston (UCL Economics) in The Conversation.
"I am distancing myself from Winterkorn." With this short sentence, the powerful chairman of Volkswagen’s
supervisory board, Ferdinand Piëch, expressed his misgivings about CEO
Martin Winterkorn, who has led Europe’s largest car manufacturer to
unprecedented heights since 2007, writes Professor Bernhard Rieger (UCL History) in The Conversation.
22 April 2015
The temptation to believe in the concept of a free lunch has proved
irresistible to numerous governments through the ages. Henry VIII, for
example, has seized the popular imagination once again through Damian
Lewis’s brilliant portrayal of him in Wolf Hall. Bluff King Hal is the
nickname often associated with the King, writes Dr Paul Ormerod (UCL Clinical, Educational &
Health Psychology) in City AM.
21 April 2015
As human beings we are born helpless and entirely dependent on those who
care for us. Most of us are lucky to have had parents or guardians who
provided us with food, security and comfort. We form attachment
experiences with these caregivers that create a way to develop our
social skills and grow up with a sense of purpose and value in the
social world, says Professor Essi Viding and Professor Eamon McCrory (both UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Conversation.
A right wing anti-EU party has enjoyed success in Finland’s election that saw the governing National Coalition suffer a dramatic defeat.
After a campaign dominated by domestic issues, the opposition Centre
party won 49 seats of the 200 up for election, while the anti-EU Finns
Party won 38 and the governing National Coalition won 37, writes Nicholas Prindiville (UCL SSEES) in The Conversation.
Arms manufacturers of the world, rejoice. The government of India is
your loyal friend. Not just this government, but the previous government
too - the UPA as well as the NDA. According to a study
conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,
India topped the list of weapons importers and accounted for some 15 per
cent of worldwide arms imports from 2010 to 2014, writes Professor Phiroze Vasunia (UCL Greek & Latin) in NDTV.
If you are taking a PhD, especially in the sciences, look away now. It
may be stale news but I’ve just seen a graph from a 2010 Royal Society
report suggesting that of every 200 people completing a PhD, only seven
will get a permanent academic post. Only one will become a professor, writes Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy) in the Guardian.
20 April 2015
There is at least one societal aim that has universal agreement: the
idea that education should be of the highest quality, and that children
and young people should learn and develop well. This is addressed in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto pledges
to improve early years education and teaching. What few details the Lib
Dems give of their plans for early years and primary education are
broadly to be welcomed, writes Professor Dominic Wyse (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.
In marathons this week in Boston and London, elite runners will engage in a fierce competition to win the men’s and women’s titles as they zip across each city. But another, more primitive competition of sorts will already have
taken place on charity runners’ fundraising pages: a battle among men to
prove they have the most generous hearts in order to win the amorous
attention of a beautiful woman asking for money, writes Dr Nichola Raihani (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) in The Conversation.
When asked about immigration in the recent leaders' debate, Nick Clegg sought to draw a distinction between “good” and “bad” immigration.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto does not try to push this distinction.
Immigration is presented as primarily a good thing, writes Professor Ian Preston (UCL Economics) in The Conversation.
I could hear the anxiety in her voice as she recalled “the incident”. Her
words became staccato, her breathing more perceptible. “It was the worst
thing ever. Awful. Horrible. Terrible.” What trauma was this poor young
woman recounting? Had she witnessed a mugging? Experienced the loss of
someone close? Been shunned by her peers? Not quite. This is how Jen,
19, recalled feeling after dropping her smartphone in the toilet. For
Jen, I connect, therefore I am, writes Professor Noreena Hertz (Office of the UCL
Vice-Provost, Research) in the Financial Times.
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