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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

    Reviews of UCL public lectures, debates, exhibitions, shows, and more…

    Brexit minister Rt Hon David Jones MP visits UCL

    By Guest Blogger, on 30 March 2017

    pencil-iconWritten by Conor Rickford, Senior Partnership Manager (Europe)

    On 16 March 2017, UCL hosted a visit by a UCL alumnus and someone who will be about as close to the Brexit negotiations as one can get. Rt Hon David Jones MP, formerly a UCL Laws student and Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, one of the key departments involved in negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, spent an afternoon speaking with a number of UCL staff and students.

    David Jones MP Minister of State, DExEU

    David Jones MP
    Minister of State, DExEU
    Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    With the “Brexit Bill” having received Royal Assent earlier that morning and David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, naming the UK a “science superpower” at the Brexit Select Committee just the day before, it was a great opportunity to show the breadth and diversity of UCL’s expertise, outline some key concerns of students and staff and look at what the future might hold for UK universities.

    Over the course of the day, the Minister met with many students and researchers, some of whom remain unsure as to what the future might hold for those EU nationals currently residing in the UK.

    The Minister emphasised that resolving right to remain is a “top issue” for DExEU negotiations and when Article 50 is invoked, it will almost certainly be among the first matters that the negotiators from both sides will want to resolve.

    With more than 20% of our staff and around 12% of our students being EU (non-UK) citizens, I am sure that the vast majority at UCL would very much welcome an early declaration on this matter.

    At the London Centre of Nanotechnology, the Minister met with students and research staff from both the LCN and UCL Mechanical Engineering.

    Following a crash course in atomic force microscopy and quantum computing, he heard how existing EU research schemes have facilitated the creation of valuable collaborative networks across Europe.

    The Minister pointed to Theresa May’s statement that the UK would “welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives” as a good indication that the government will seek to protect those strong research links after the UK’s departure from EU.

    In my role in the Global Engagement Office, I often have to fall back on European funding stats to quickly summarise UCL’s research excellence (175 ERC grantees so far, more than €750m received in 2015…!), so it was refreshing to hear how our researchers value the opportunities to seamlessly collaborate across borders just as much as the funding itself.

    UCL cohorts, biobanks and big data

    By Guest Blogger, on 29 March 2017

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    Written by Rob Davies, Public Affairs Manager for CLOSER, UCL Institute of Education

    What are the opportunities and challenges facing cohort and longitudinal studies? Do we need more biobanks or more extensive (and imaginative) use of existing ones? What more can we do to capitalise on administrative records and other forms of big data?

    These were some of the questions discussed at UCL cohorts, biobanks and big data symposium, which brought together researchers from across UCL and further afield to showcase activity in this area.

    CohortsNo other country in the world is tracking as many people and in such detail throughout their lives

    Professor Dame Anne Johnson introduced the afternoon and how the cohort studies are a resource not just for the nation but for the world.  More than 2.2 million people in the UK are currently participating in population based cohort studies, with 15 of these hosted at UCL.

    These include the oldest and newest cohort studies and CLOSER, the UK longitudinal studies consortium, which is charged with maximising their use, value and impact both at home and abroad.

    Past, present and future: innovation in cohort studies

    This first session began with Helen Pearson, author of The Life Project, who explained how a chance encounter with the MRC 1946 National Survey of Health and Development Cohort website, the largest study of human development in the world, led to five years researching and writing about the British cohort studies.

    “The cohort studies have influenced and shaped policy on pregnancy, birth, schooling, adult education, foetal development, chronic conditions and ageing and touched the lives of everyone in the country today,” she said.

    The ways in which cohort studies collect data from participants have changed over time, said Professor Alison Park, who discussed use of new technological advances, including wearable devices.

    Professor Nishi Chaturvedi argued that to achieve precision medicine we need to pay more attention to the phenotype and the role cohorts can play in this.

    Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.54.59Professor Ruth Gilbert described ADRC’s work on approaches to data linkage and the enormous value in administrative data, either in its own right or when linked to survey data.

    Finally, Professor Caroline Sabin introduced the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort (UK CHIC) Study and explained the value of linking clinic and surveillance databases for HIV research.

    Making the case for cohorts, biobanks and big data

    In this ‘Question Time’ session speakers made the case for cohorts, biobanks and big data.

    Cohorts are vital, nationally representative, scientific resources which enable us to understand the link between early life circumstances and life’s many and varied outcomes, argued Professor Alissa Goodman.

    Professor Sir Rory Collins spoke in favour of large scale studies and biological repositories, pointing out the value of establishing prospective cohorts in different populations who have different types of diseases and risk factors.

    TScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.54.27he case for big data and potential for access to real time data was made by Professor Harry Hemingway in the context of the new UK health and biomedical informatics research institute, Health Data Research UK. This institute will, for the first time in the world, incorporate on a national scale the whole breadth of data science research aimed at improving human health.

    Opportunities and challenges for investment in cohorts, biobanks and big data

    Professor Graham Hart chaired the final session with some of the funders of major longitudinal and cohort studies.

    Representatives from the MRC, ESRC, British Heart Foundation and Wellcome Trust emphasised how cohorts are hugely influential, a vital part of the national infrastructure and uniquely placed to study the interplay of factors in a population over time.

    We heard about how the funding landscape has changed, with ever increasing pressures on budgets, and the need to bring cohorts together, citing CLOSER as an important initiative in this space.

    Increasingly funders are working in partnership to fund these large investments. A recurring message was the value of talking to funders before submitting bids, the importance of an interdisciplinary approach and data access and discoverability.

    Those interested in the use of new technologies can get a flavour of what’s on offer at two events organised by CLOSER in May.

     

    UCL Connect Women in Leadership event

    By Guest Blogger, on 20 March 2017

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    By Sophie Moore, Office of the Vice-Provost (Development)

    On 8 March, UCL Connect celebrated International Women’s Day with a Women in Leadership panel event exploring both the opportunities available to, and challenges faced by, women in the workforce.

    Hosted by Professor Becky Francis, Director of the Institute of Education, the panel discussed key issues experienced by women on their paths to leadership roles.

    There were contributions from a selection of highly successful UCL alumnae and supporters who shared advice, tips and comments from their diverse professional backgrounds, including former British Ambassador Georgina Butler, Caroline Ellis of Caroline Ellis & Associates and Director of the Precision Medicine Catapult, Professor Joanne Hackett.Women in leadership 1

    With studies suggesting that women currently occupy less than 6% of leadership positions in the world’s top 500 corporations and, in the UK, earn on average 20% less than men, the event was a timely opportunity to discuss the factors that contribute to gender disparity in the workplace.

    “While women are not a minority, their experience often is” explained UCL Anthropology graduate Caroline Ellis, who has made a career in tackling inequality and marginalisation, including as a former Senior Director of the charity Stonewall. “Women’s progression in the workplace is not simple; it’s a complex interaction of things.”

    Indeed, while each of the panellists had experienced their own unique challenges on the road to success, the event shed light on a series of common experiences that had affected them.

    The ‘imposter syndrome’ – the feeling of being fraudulent, or a lack of belief in your own skills and achievements was a familiar topic. “We are affected by different kinds of biases,” explained Ellis. “How we absorb all of these biases has a huge impact on the perceptions that we have of ourselves. We tend not to go for a job unless we fill all of the points on the specification and we tend not to negotiate as well, or take as many risks.”Women in leadership 3

    Strategies the panel recommended for overcoming the ‘inner critic’ included recognising the significance in developing your skills, interests and personal relationships outside of work.

    “I know that I’m good at lots of different things, which radiates through you when you’ve got people around who support you,” said Professor Hackett, who has spent 15 years working as scientist, strategist and entrepreneur. “If you can get people around you who can push you forward, as much as you’re pulling them with you, then it works.”

    As one of only four female fast-streamers in the Foreign Office’s 1968 cohort of 22, UCL Laws graduate Georgina Butler has spent her entire career working in a field traditionally dominated by men. She said, “you’ve got to take control and be confident with who you are. It’s a question of deciding what you want and then fighting for it.”

    Professor Francis asked the panel how much the lack of representation of women can be attributed to a lack of confidence amongst women, and how much it has to do with flaws in existing structures.

    “For me it’s 50/50,” said Professor Hackett. “It’s our responsibility, but it’s also what people are expecting of us. In my former role at UCL, I managed relationships with 23 NHS trusts and 11 universities. Nine times out of ten, a chief executive would come into a meeting, look at me and say ‘I’d like some milk in my tea’ and I would be thinking ‘well, who is going to make that for them?’ It was partly my responsibility to make them aware that I was not there to make them tea – I was there because I was smart, good at my job and just as important to the room as they were – but, it was also my colleagues’ responsibility to inform them of those very same things.”

    Ellis agreed and added that it’s important to get “allies” on board by helping other people to understand why gender parity is beneficial for all of us. “I wish that I had realised that my difference is actually a strength,” she reflected. “What it enables me to bring is a very different perspective to a conversation. It’s not necessarily a better idea or opinion, but diversity is really needed in every workplace.”

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    Adding to this the panel discussed the obligation that they felt, as women in leadership roles, to step up and affect change for other women, too.

    “You’re always in a leadership position in one way or another, because all of our shadows cast long,” explained Professor Hackett. “You don’t always realise who you affect, or who looks up to you as a way of being a leader.”

    Professor Francis was keen to echo this. “It is important to recognise the onus of those of us who do have power and agency in our lives. The more we have women in positions of power who challenge existing cultures, the more other women will feel entitled and able to apply.”

    UCL Connect

    A thorn in the side: launch of the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health

    By Guest Blogger, on 6 March 2017

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    By Dr Geordan Shannon, UCL Institute for Global Health 

    UCL is known for challenging the status quo. It was with this sentiment that the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health was officially launched on the 16th February 2017.

    Led by Professor Sarah Hawkes, the centre will reach beyond academia to work with policy-makers and policy-influencers to address the complex relationship between gender and health.

    A global community of change makers and thought leaders converged to discuss innovations in gender and global health research. The daylong event included keynotes, interactive panels, film screenings, Q&A sessions and a networking reception.

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    Images: Ilan Kelman ilankelman.org

    Keynotes

    The keynote panellists spoke about key challenges to gender and global health research, policy and action.

    Rachel Jewkes, the Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit, shared new directions in gender-based violence interventions and highlighted feminist approaches to resilience.

    Benno de Keijzer, Professor of Health and Masculinities at Universidad Veracruzana and co-founder of the NGO Salud y Género, challenged the concept of hegemonic masculinity and how it relates to both men’s and women’s wellbeing.

    Read the rest of this entry »