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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

Recruiting university staff takes a lot of academic time

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Jo Wolff

Hundreds of hours of academic staff time will be devoted to each appointment. Is it worth it? Or is it collective madness? Could we, instead, contract out at least part of the process to recruitment specialists, as in other areas of professional employment? One day I might propose this, just to see the howls of protest. It will correctly be argued that making the right appointments should be at the top of our priority list, and this is the only way we know of doing it, writes Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy) in The Guardian.

Med City can galvanise science and business in the UK

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Stephen Caddick

Med City was launched to great fanfare last week by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Bringing together the powerhouses of academic and clinical research at UCL, Imperial, Kings, Oxford and Cambridge, it’s a hugely welcome development. Critics have questioned whether the initiative is really needed or runs the risk of adding additional layers of unnecessary bureaucracy, but Med City has an important role to play in galvanising the talents of the UK’s life science researcher, writes Professor Stephen Caddick (UCL Vice-Provost, Enterprise) in The Conversation.

Conservation should protect the most genetically unique species, not just the most rare

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A new approach has been pioneered by a collaboration of universities that could provide a method to decide how limited conservation funds should be spent. The technique uses genetics to ascertain how many relatives a bird species has, evolutionarily speaking, with the aim of identifying and prioritising species that demonstrate the most genetic uniqueness for conservation efforts, rather than simply those that are few in number, writes Dr David Redding (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) in The Conversation.

Drive to improve housing can bring unintended consequences

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Clive Shrubsole

The UK is one of only a handful of countries that has put in place legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. How the country intends to go about meeting these targets is another matter entirely, says Clive Shrubsole (UCL Bartlett) in The Conversation.

Green or white? Planted or painted roofs can cool buildings

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It’s getting hot in the city, and our overheated cities are only going to get hotter still as more people pile in and development and energy use intensifies. But planting away the problem could be a surprisingly low-cost solution to create cool roofs that will reduce office temperatures and improve working conditions for millions, says Gurdane Virk (UCL Bartlett) in The Conversation.

Game of Thrones: why hasn’t Westeros had an industrial revolution?

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Westeros, the primary location of Game of Thrones, has much in common with Western Europe of the middle ages. Its technology is similar, society is feudal and even the climate is roughly the same – save for the odd chilly spell. But the key difference is Westeros has been more or less like this for some 6,000 years. When you consider the evolution of Western Europe in the time since the fall of the Roman Empire – a mere 1,500 years ago – it’s worth asking how its literary sibling could have stayed so undeveloped, says Peter Antonioni (UCL Management Science and Innovation) in The Conversation.

HS2 must be one of many new transport links to benefit regions

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Peter Hall

The HS2 project survives. Despite ferocious attacks, the initial High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 was passed in November and the Hybrid Bill – where the real arguments are debated – is now going through the UK Parliament. The key questions are about connectivity, how HS2 will link up the cities and towns of Britain, bringing them closer together, says Professor Sir Peter Hall (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), in The Conversation.

Groundbreaking science is blind to prejudice

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Dr Hiranya Peiris

The real story here is not who happened to end up on Newsnight last week, but that we are all members of a species who can join together to attempt the grand challenge of understanding the universe we live in and, by extension, ourselves. And while it might be a small group of scientists leading this endeavour, they represent all humanity. As the Nobel prizewinning – and “Pakistan-born” – physicist Abdus Salam said: “Scientific thought is the common heritage of mankind", says Dr Hiranya Peiris (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in THE.

Vaccinations: what we do in Britain

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In an era when people are less accepting of authority and do not expect to do something because the government says so, trying to enforce immunization may actually make matters worse and create martyrs, says Dr Helen Bedford (UCL Institute of Child Health) in The New York Times.

Has Big Pharma hijacked the European health research budget?

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The European Commission has just launched its new €80 billion 7-year science fund Horizon 2020. Separately, the Commission has been negotiating five joint-technology initiatives cofinanced by a range of industries. However, the source of matching funds within Horizon 2020 has been unclear, says Dr Michael Galsworthy (UCL Joint Research Office) in The Lancet.

Philosophy is dead white – and dead wrong

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Do today's scientific practices really suppress brilliant breakthroughs?

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Jennifer Rohn

Are scientific mavericks, such as the flamboyant and brilliant bongo-playing Richard Feynman, an extinct product of the 20th century? And is science today relatively too staid and constrained to deliver the great breakthroughs such mavericks used to make, asks Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Clinical Physiology) in The Guardian.

Cohort training keeps UK ahead

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David Bogle

The announcement in the budget of funds for more Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) is welcome news, says Professor David Bogle (Head of UCL Graduate School).

What theatre and science can learn from one another

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Professor David McAlpine

C.P. Snow’s pessimistic view of “two cultures” – the arts and the sciences at war with each other, glowering across no man’s land, entrenched in their embattled fortress of true expression (as each saw it) was a nihilistic prospect indeed. Fortunately, this view couldn’t be more wrong – wrong then, in 1956, and even further from the truth today, writes Professor David McAlpine (UCL Ear Institute) in The Conversation.

Lots of us get flu, but few show symptoms. Let’s not spread it

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Influenza infection is very common – about one in five of us are infected each year. But, surprisingly, the majority of infections don’t cause any illness. In a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, we found that in two recent outbreaks of seasonal flu and the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, about three quarters of people who were infected had no symptoms. And only 17% of people who were unwell enough to visit their doctor, says Dr Andrew Hayward (UCL Infection and Population Health) in The Conversation.

Wealth increases obesity odds but education reduces them

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In the past, when infections were the dominant form of disease and death, and humans didn't understand how they spread, an epidemic ended when enough people had died that there were no more potential victims to infect in the vicinity of the bug. Today, with a global epidemic of non-communicable diseases – including obesity, diabetes and cancer – on our hands, we may want to rethink our strategy, says Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health) in The Conversation.

Chattering brain cells hold the key to the language of the mind

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We easily anchor Shakespeare’s code (we find out that “Juliet” refers to a specific young woman, “Romeo” to a specific young man) but can we do this for the brain? It seems we can. By recording the chatter of neurons while animals (and sometimes humans) perform the tasks of daily life, researchers have discovered that there are regions where the neural code relates to the real world in remarkably straightforward ways, writes Professor Kate Jeffery (UCL Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences) in The Conversation.

Environmental legal aid slashed when Australia needs it most

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Christine Trenorden

When residents from the tiny town of Bulga won a three-year court battle to stop Rio Tinto expanding an open-cut coalmine beside them, it was hailed as a victory for David over Goliath. Yet the type of legal aid that helped those Hunter Valley residents last year may soon be much less widely available, writes Christine Trenorden (UCL Australia) in The Conversation.

Speed reading apps are great for snippets but not sonnets

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A new app is about to come on the market with promises to dramatically increase the speed at which you read. Spritz is a text streaming technology that allows you to read a sentence, one word at a time. Each word is shown for only a brief flash, in the same place on a screen, before the next appears. Up to 1,000 words can be shown every minute, which would allow you to race through an entire novel in just 90 minutes. This could revolutionise the way we read, particularly on small-screen devices, such as smartphones and smartwatches, writes Dr Anna Cox and Dr Duncan Brumby (UCL Interaction Centre) in The Conversation.

Scientist-versus-activist debates mislead the public

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The UK floods show the need to address the risks of climate change, but news teams still insist on pitching experts against sceptics, says Simon Lewis (UCL Geography) in Nature.

Want to hire creative risk-takers? Doctoral graduates could be the answer

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David Bogle

Over half of PhD graduates now go into jobs outside academia. Huge improvements in the training of doctoral graduates deserve more attention from employers, says Professor David Bogle (Head of UCL Graduate School) in The Guardian.

Newly infected mothers are more likely to pass HIV on to babies

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Women are twice as likely than men to contract HIV during intercourse and according to the authors of a new US study, women who contract HIV while pregnant may be especially vulnerable and more likely to pass on the virus to their child than women who already had the virus writes Dr Claire Thorne (UCL Institute of Child Health) in The Conversation.

Living with water: four buildings that will withstand flooding

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Sofie Pelsmakers

We’ve been told to get used to flooding. Whether or not the latest floods were caused by climate change, this winter has reminded us that floods are and will continue to be a fact of human existence, especially if we continue to build on flood plains and due to increased extreme weather events as predicted in a changing climate. The good news is that living with flooding is already a way of life for much of the world, says Sofie Pelsmakers (UCL Energy Institute) in The Conversation.

Why a new Ukraine is the Kremlin's worst nightmare

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The domino effect of democracy on Russia's border threatens the entire system Putin has built since 2000 - and he will not let it go lightly writes Dr Andrew Wilson (UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies) in The Independent.

200-year-old text sheds light on Uganda’s homophobic bill

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In Uganda, the President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law a bill which will punish same-sex relations with fourteen years' imprisonment. Next to this, Vladimir Putin’s support of the 2013 Russian legislation proscribing the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”, seems to pale in significance says Dr Michael Quinn (UCL Bentham Project) in The Conversation.

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