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    Education Select Committee Brexit hearing session at UCL

    By Melissa Bradshaw, on 9 February 2017

    On 25 January, the Education Select Committee held the second Oral Evidence Session of its inquiry on the effect of Brexit on higher education (HE) at UCL.

    The committee heard evidence from UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, NUS Vice-President (Higher Education) Sorana Vieru and representatives of University and College Union, Erasmus Student Network UK, Universities UK, the British Council and London Economics.

    There was a strong consensus on the potentially damaging effects of Brexit on HE, and an urgent call for the government to do more to address them.

    Professor Michael Arthur

    Professor Michael Arthur

    The hearing took place just over a week after Theresa May’s historic speech on the UK’s strategy for exiting the European Union, and evidence was heard in two panels.

    The Chair of the Education Committee, Neil Carmichael MP, began each session by asking the panellists for their reaction to the Prime Minister’s speech.

    Every one of the panellists welcomed the tone of the speech and its emphasis on a “global Britain”, but called for immediate action and more specific detail – particularly in regard to the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

    Referring to the Prime Minister’s expressed wish to guarantee the rights of EU citizens, Professor Arthur said: “I’d like to challenge the Prime Minister to go one step further and take the initiative to make the guarantee and challenge the rest of the EU to follow”, arguing that this would give Britain the moral high-ground and provide the negotiations a foundation of good will.

    The committee heard evidence of the significant contribution of the higher education sector to the British economy, including the contributions EU staff and students make to the wider economy when they are residing here.

    Dr Gavan Conlon (London Economics) also argued that, with education the UK’s fifth largest services export, the HE sector can generate revenue that could contribute to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

    The panellists spoke of the positive contributions that EU staff and students make in terms of diversity and ‘soft power’, contributing to Britain’s prestigious academic profile and giving their British peers invaluable experience in international engagement, leadership and collective problem solving. “For a global Britain we need global graduates”, said Rosie Birchard (Erasmus Student Network UK).

    The committee also heard evidence that currently UK HE “punches well above its weight” globally – thanks, in part, to our membership of the EU. Jo Beall (British Council) pointed to statistics showing that the UK leads the world in research quality (by field-weighted citation impact) and 1 in 10 world leaders were educated here.

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    Launching a citizen science paper at the League of European Research Universities

    By Guest Blogger, on 7 December 2016

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    Written by Alice Sheppard – Community Manager, UCL ExCiteS

    A little over a year ago, many academics and I – not, then, an academic, but a long-time citizen science volunteer – gathered in Zurich for a day of presentations and panels to discuss the idea of creating a set of standards and recommendations for citizen science across and beyond Europe.

    Should citizen science have policies and guidelines, or would this be too prescriptive or restrictive? What would ensure that everyone, and science itself, benefitted?

    The conference organisers spent the next several months writing a paper of guidelines for researchers and policies for universities wishing to engage in citizen science, which they launched this year’s event in Brussels. I have since started working at UCL, and I was asked to introduce citizen science as a concept, from the perspective of both a volunteer and an academic.

    Katrien Maes and Daniel Wyler presented the paper, ‘Citizen science at universities’. Citizen science, an activity where a person not in an academic institution contributes their time to scientific activities, is not new.

    Renaissance science was mostly practised by wealthy “gentlemen scientists” (whose wives and other nearby women were often unacknowledged contributors!), and Charles Darwin corresponded with thousands of citizens who recorded aspects of nature around them.

    mulitple citizen science projects slide

    But in the digital age citizen science is undergoing a revival. There is huge new potential for communication between scientists and the public and for data collection and analysis.

    Therefore, the paper states, it is important to do three things: citizen science practitioners should collaborate and share best practices; we should create platforms that support a wide variety of citizen science projects, so as to create more public awareness and increase opportunities; and we should not treat citizen scientists simply as agents to get the simple but lengthy tasks done, but to involve them at all stages of the research process, from beginnings to publication.

    I was pleased to see advice to use open science and to plan properly for substantial community management. This means not treating citizen scientists as colleagues, taking into account adequate communication with them, tracking not only what they are doing but also their diversity and numbers, and of course properly acknowledging their work.

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    UCL Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (III) Symposium 2016

    By Guest Blogger, on 23 November 2016

    pencil-iconWritten by Simon Guillaumé, PhD Student, London Interdisciplinary Doctoral training programme

    On Tuesday 8 November, over 300 leading researchers from top London institutions gathered at the UCL Institute of Education for the annual UCL Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (III) Symposium, hosted by UCL in partnership with Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), UCLPartners and the National Institute for Health Research BRC Infection, Immunity and Inflammation (III) Programme.

    Professor Hans Stauss (UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation), opened the Symposium by highlighting the impact of the research presented annually.

    Integration of pathogen and human genomic sequencing

    Professor Judith Breuer (UCL Division of Infection & Immunity) started the session by presenting her latest research on the pathology of Varicella Zoster Virus (the cause of chickenpox and shingles), which will help alleviate the side effects of VZV vaccines.

    Following an overview of the human oral microbiome by Professor William Wade (Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London), Professor Harry Hemingway (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) reviewed Big Data sources available to UK biomedical researchers, including some recent examples of large-scale health record mining used in biomedical research.

    Basic immunology

    Starting off the second session, Dr Melania Capasso (Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL) highlighted the importance of proton channel interactions in supporting tumour growth.

    After reminding the room that “ageing, well, is inevitable…”, Professor Arne Akbar (UCL Division of Infection & Immunity) gave us a glimmer of hope by presenting his current research on T-cell ageing.

    The last presentation of the morning was Dr Benedict Seddon’s (UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation) appetising ‘Sauces and mixtures – recipe for long term maintenance of CD4 memory’. His research brings us a step closer to understanding how CD4 cells regulate immune memory.

    Symposium III 2

    Early Career Researchers presentations

    Following the networking break, six early career researchers from UCL and QMUL enthralled us with presentations of their research. These presentations give early career researchers the opportunity to gain greater visibility and to make their research knownto the scientific community already established in the field.

    The first prize for the best early career researcher presentation was awarded to Dr Neil McCarthy (Blizard Institute, QMUL), for his presentation on ‘Human antigen-presenting yd T-cells promote IL-22 production in naïve and intestinal memory CD4+ T-cells in a TNF-alpha and ICOSL-dependent manner’. (more…)

    School trip to the WWI battlefields

    By James L Russell, on 20 November 2015

    P1010115-(2)Working in media/press at the UCL Institute of Education, I am dealing daily with issues and research around teaching and education. However, it is quite rare to get a chance to engage with schools, teachers, and pupils directly and witness the real-life aspect of the work that IOE is involved in.

    I therefore found it a really interesting experience to be able to take part in one of the First World War Centenary Battlefields Tours Project (FWWCBTP) trips – a five year project running until 2019 by the IOE in conjunction with Equity Tours, and funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which allows every state secondary school in England to send two pupils and one teacher to the Ypres and the Somme to visit the First World War Battlefields.

    It was insightful and hugely enjoyable not only to learn more about The Great War myself, but also to meet and the teachers and learn more about their jobs, the pressures and the satisfactions; as well as meeting some really engaged and bright pupils and witnessing how they immersed themselves into this experience.

    The tours, which take place over four days, offer the pupils, who range in age from 14 to 18, the opportunity to see the First World War Battlefields, cemeteries and memorials first-hand. The aim of the project, as opposed to other Battlefield tours, is for the pupils to engage on a more personal level with the war; they are encouraged to research soldiers from their local areas who took part, and, where possible, any relatives from their own family. They then have the opportunity to follow the journey of these soldiers and locate their place of burial while in Ypres and the Somme.

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