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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

Has the Research Excellence Framework been drowned out by its own noise?

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Jo Wolff

The results of the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) have been ranked according to research intensity, power and strength, all weighting the same factors in different ways. Add to that grade point average and quality index and there are at least five ways in which league tables have been compiled by serious-minded folk, writes Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy) in the Guardian.

London needs homes, not towers of ‘safe-deposit boxes’

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Peter Rees

London is gloriously un-plannable and horribly unplanned. From the Romans to the Romanians, the immigrant tribes who now call themselves English have been drawn to our uniquely cosmopolitan capital. This heterogeneous cultural mixture may help to explain the lack of appetite for plan-led “improvements” or urban reshaping. There is no common cultural foundation upon which to create a formal grand plan, writes Professor Peter Rees (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) in The Guardian.

Coaching by numbers: is data analytics the future of management?

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Maths over Mourinho? Analytics over Ancelotti? Data analysis is now commonplace in both the sporting and business worlds, but human decision making still dominates in management, writes Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in the Guardian Creative Data blog.

British volcanologist wins earth sciences ‘Nobel’ prize

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A British volcanologist has won one of the most prestigious awards in science – the Vetlesen Prize, which is considered to be the earth sciences equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Stephen Sparks of the University of Bristol will receive the £165,000 ($250,000) award for his groundbreaking research into the workings of volcanoes, writes Robin Wylie (UCL Earth Sciences) in The Conversation.

Oil crash: is this the end of a long period of inflated prices?

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Chris Cook

What on earth is going on in the oil market? Does the recent 60% collapse in oil prices in six months really reflect shifts in underlying supply and demand for crude oil? I’m afraid not, as I have been predicting for more than three years. Here’s what has really been happening, writes Chris Cook (UCL Institute for Security & Resilience Studies) in The Conversation.

No, climate change is not the biggest risk to global health

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Andrew Papworth

Climate change will cause all sorts of problems for humans in the future. It could cause mass migration and conflict as people flee flooded homes or arid farmland, and fight over ever more scarce resources. It’ll mean economic slowdown as industries are hit and societies cough up the money required to adapt to the new world. Climate change will even affect your health, writes Andrew Papworth (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

So far, so good

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Graeme Reid

Last month’s results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) released a wave of instant analysis. Conclusions were relayed with breathless excitement. Universities claimed to be top of this or fastest-growing that, says Professor Graeme Reid (Office of the UCL Vice-Provost, Research) in Research Fortnight (£).

Neoliberal nightmare

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Mark Maslin

I was recently asked by an incredulous colleague why I was working in a Geography department. I answered that geography was the study of ‘the who, the where, and the how, of the past, present and future’. I followed this up suggesting our subject has a profound role to play in both understanding and solving the great challenges of the 21st century. Of which I would suggest global inequality, global poverty, global security, environmental degradation and climate change are the most pressing, writes Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) in Geographical.

Anglo-German friendship only goes so far

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Stephen Wall

Tragedy in Paris overshadowed last week's London meeting between German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister, David Cameron. But it was clear enough that the very real friendship between the two leaders did not amount to a meeting of minds on European issues, writes Sir Stephen Wall (UCL European Institute) in BBC Online.

Charlie Hebdo: what the cartoons mean to one French academic

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I grew up with the drawings of Charb, Wolinski and Cabu. Their fearless provocations have always seemed to me a necessary expression of the fertility of French culture, writes Dr Louisiane Ferlier (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) in The Guardian Higher Education Network.

How much is too much to pay headteachers?

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The huge salaries of school “super-heads” and some university vice-chancellors has once again come under fire, this time by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee. UK headteachers are among the highest paid in the world, with good pension packages, writes Professor Peter Earley (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

‘Climate hacking’ would be easy – that doesn’t mean we should do it

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Katelijn Van Hende

Some people might argue that the greatest moral challenge of our time is serious enough to justify deliberately tampering with our climate to stave off the damaging effects of global warming. Geoengineering, or “climate hacking”, to use its more emotive nickname, is a direct intervention in the natural environments of our planet, including our atmosphere, seas and oceans, writes Katelijn Van Hende (UCL Australia) in The Conversation.

A history of fireworks: how about some flaming artichokes to blast in the new year?

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Simon Werrett

On New Year’s Eve fireworks manufacturers the world over will finally be able to relax after their biggest sale of the year. But this day has been a fireworks staple for a surprisingly long time, although the fireworks themselves have changed quite a bit, writes Dr Simon Werrett (UCL Science & Technology Studies) in The Conversation.

Oh, pardon; those gassy burps may signal life on Mars

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For many years I have had a deep desire to retire to the planet Mars. It just seems the ideal end for a crazy scientist like me. But recent findings from the Curiosity rover may have put the kibosh on my plans. The detection of spikes in the levels of methane in the atmosphere is causing much discussion because it is hard to find a simple geological explanation for the variations. One theory that could explain the phenomenon would be the presence of living organisms on Mars, writes Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Times (£).

Prozac and PMS – how antidepressants could help with that painful time of the month

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Already widely prescribed as antidepressants, SSRIs such as fluoxetine (the non-brand name for Prozac) have gained increasing acceptance over the past 20 years in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Recent research has given us an idea of the way these drugs do this, which should pave the way to improved treatment, writes Dr Jonathan Fry (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) in The Conversation.

Diplomatic thaw with the US is a gift to the Cuban economy

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Emily Morris

The restoration of full diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced simultaneously by Barack Obama and Raúl Castro yesterday, is a huge political breakthrough. The benefits to the Cuban economy, however, will be more gradual. Economic sanctions by the US against Cuba began in 1960. They consisted of a range of measures, only some of which can be removed by the US president in the short term. The rest require congressional approval, which is likely to be a difficult and protracted process, writes Dr Emily Morris (UCL Institute of the Americas) in The Conversation.

Why I’ll talk politics with climate change deniers – but not science

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Mark Maslin

There are many complex reasons why people decide not to accept the science of climate change. The doubters range from the conspiracy theorist to the sceptical scientist, or from the paid lobbyist to the raving lunatic. Climate scientists, myself included, and other academics have strived to understand this reluctance. We wonder why so many people are unable to accept a seemingly straight-forward pollution problem. And we struggle to see why climate change debates have inspired such vitriol, writes Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Lawyers must be held to account for authorising torture

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Philippe Sands

Dianne Feinstein and the US Senate intelligence committee have produced a brave and damning report on torture by the CIA. It will go some way in preventing the use of torture, yet there is more to be done, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Financial Times.

The stench of a cover-up

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Philippe Sands

The reverberations of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s devastating report on the use of torture by the CIA were felt around the world because of the scale of the abuse and the graphic detail of the horror described. The conclusions make for grim reading: the CIA used torture. It was driven by the White House. It provided no useful information. It was accompanied by lies and deceit — to Congress, to the American people and to the world, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Daily Mail.

George Orwell really did have a stint in jail as a drunk fish porter

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If you had been walking down Mile End Road in London on Saturday December 19, 1931, you would have witnessed a scene common in the days before Christmas across Britain. A man who had celebrated a little too much a little too early was taken away by the police after he had consumed four or five pints and the best part of a small bottle of whisky and made a nuisance of himself. But this wasn’t quite as run of the mill as it seemed, writes Dr Luke Seaber (UCL Centre for Languages & International Education) in The Conversation.

Why Scandinavia is not the model for global prosperity we should all pursue

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Henrietta Moore

With high levels of equality, low unemployment and sophisticated social services, Norway, Denmark and Sweden represent models many strive to emulate, but they are not the northern utopias they seem, writes Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) in The Guardian.

Why do human children stay so small for so long?

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Why does it take so long for human children to grow up? A male chimp and male human, for example, both end up with the same body weight but they grow very differently: at year one the human weighs twice that of the chimp but at eight the chimp is twice that of the human. The chimp then gains its adult weight by 12 – six years before the human. A male gorilla is also a faster growing primate – a 150kg male gorilla weighs 50kg by its fifth birthday and 120kg by its tenth, writes Dr John Skoyles (UCL CoMPLEX) in The Conversation.

Why Mumbai should get over its obsession with cars

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There is no congestion charging, no bike-share scheme, no bus lanes even. Despite an estimated 91% of trips in the city being made on foot, bus or train, transport policy remains geared towards the car, writes Dr Andrew Harris (UCL Geography) in the Guardian Cities.

Monster telescope needs mind-bending mathematics to uncover secrets of the universe

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Telescopes have come a long way since the days when they were all about lone astronomers watching the night sky through their upstairs windows. Today teams of astrophysicists build and use much more modern instruments, not only to observe light visible to our eyes, but also radio emissions from the universe, writes Dr Jason McEwen (UCL Space & Climate Physics) in The Conversation.

Lessons on censorship from Syria’s internet filter machines

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Emiliano De Cristofaro

Norwegian writer Mette Newth once wrote that: “censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow throughout history.” As we develop new means to gather and create information, new means to control, erase and censor that information evolve alongside it. Today that means access to information through the internet, which motivates us to study internet censorship, writes Dr Emiliano De Cristofaro (UCL Computer Science) in The Conversation.

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