By Alison Fox, on 15 October 2018

Today’s guest post is by Muki Haklay, Professor of GIScience at UCL, and one of the editors of the brand new book Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy It originally appeared here. and is re-used with permission. 

Today marks the publication of the book Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. The book emerged from the first conference of the European Citizen Science Association in Berlin, in 2016. While the summary of the conference is available in a journal article in Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, the book is providing a set of 31 chapters that cover different issues in the interface between citizen science, open science, social innovation, and policy.

Shortly after the conference, Aletta Bonn and Susanne Hecker, who coordinated it, suggested the development of a book that will capture the breadth of the field of citizen science that the conference captured. Within a month, the editorial team which include Susanne Hecker, Anne Bowser, Zen Makuch, Johannes Vogel, Aletta Bonn, and myself started to work on the concept of the book and the appropriate publisher. We were committed to publishing the book as open access so it can be read by anyone who wishes it without limitations, and also so the chapters from it can be used widely. By publishing with UCL Press, which agreed to publish the book without charges, we had additional resources that we have used to work with Madeleine Hatfield of Yellowback to ensure that the book chapters are well edited and readable,and with Olaf Herling, a Berlin graphic designer, who helped us in developing and realising the graphic design of the book.

The chapters made quite a journey – they were submitted in late 2016, and were peer-reviewed and revised by mid-2017. As always with such an effort, there is a complex process of engaging over 120 authors, the review process, and then the need to get a revised version of the chapters. This required the editorial team to coordinate the communication with the authors and encourage them to submit the chapters (with the unavoidable extensions!). Once the chapters were in their revised form, they continued to be distilled – first with comments from the editorial guidance by Madeleine, but also with suggestions from Mark Chandler from Earthwatch, who provided us with an additional review of the book as a whole.

Susanne & Aletta in ECSA 2016

Susanne Hecker, the lead editor, put in a lot of time into communicating with the authors, the publishers, and the professional editors. Even as late as two months ago, we had the need to check the final proofs and organise the index. All that is now done and the book is out.

The book contains 31 chapters that cover many aspects of citizen science – from the integration of activities to schools and universities to case studies in different parts of the world.

Here is what we set out to achieve: “This book brings together experts from science, society and practice to highlight and debate the importance of citizen science from a scientific, social and political perspective and demonstrate the innovation potential. World-class experts will provide a review of our current state of knowledge and practical experience of citizen science and the delivery of will be reviewed and possible solutions to future management and conservation will be given. The book critically assesses the scientific and societal impact to embed citizen science in research as well as society.

The aim of this volume is to identify opportunities and challenges for scientific innovation. This includes discussions about the impact of citizen science at the science-policy interface, the innovative potential of citizen science for scientific research, as well as possible limitations. The emphasis will be to identify solutions to fostering a vibrant science community into a changing future, with actors from academia and society. Five main sections are envisaged with an editorial introduction and a thorough final synthesis to frame the book.

Innovation in Science: What are the governance and policy frameworks that will facilitate embedding citizen science in agenda setting, design and data collection of research projects and communication? What are innovation opportunities and challenges and where support is needed? How to ensure data quality and IP rights?

Innovation at the Science-Policy interface: What are the opportunities for citizen science to provide an input to better decision making? How is participation ensured across society and how does it lead to enhanced problem-solving?

Innovation in Society: How can citizen science lead to empowerment and enhanced scientific literacy and increase science capital? What is the social transformation potential impact of citizen science?

Innovation in Technology and Environmental Monitoring: What policy and technical issues citizen science and mobile sensor technology bring? How can it contribute to advances in environmental monitoring within existing and emerging regulations? What policy and practical framework can facilitate or harm this?

Innovation in Science Communication and Education: How have new media transformed science and what are the implication to scientists, public and science funders? How can new techniques open new opportunities and to whom? ”

The final book does not follow these exact sections, but the topics and questions are the same.

The book is free and you can now download it from UCL Press website – let us know what you think of it! 

New Open Access Books for October 2018

By Alison Fox, on 1 October 2018

October brings us two more exciting books to read as the evenings draw in.

First up, publishing on October 10, is Being Modern: The Cultural Impact of Science in the Early Twentieth Century

In the early decades of the twentieth century, engagement with science was commonly used as an emblem of modernity. This phenomenon is now attracting increasing attention in different historical specialities. Being Modern builds on this recent scholarly interest to explore engagement with science across culture from the end of the nineteenth century to approximately 1940.

Addressing the breadth of cultural forms in Britain and the western world from the architecture of Le Corbusier to working class British science fiction, Being Modern paints a rich picture. Seventeen distinguished contributors from a range of fields including the cultural study of science and technology, art and architecture, English culture and literature examine the issues involved. The book will be a valuable resource for students, and a spur to scholars to further examination of culture as an interconnected web of which science is a critical part, and to supersede such tired formulations as ‘Science and culture’.

Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy publishes just in time for open access week.

Citizen science, the active participation of the public in scientific research projects, is a rapidly expanding field in open science and open innovation. It provides an integrated model of public knowledge production and engagement with science. As a growing worldwide phenomenon, it is invigorated by evolving new technologies that connect people easily and effectively with the scientific community. Catalysed by citizens’ wishes to be actively involved in scientific processes, as a result of recent societal trends, it also offers contributions to the rise in tertiary education. In addition, citizen science provides a valuable tool for citizens to play a more active role in sustainable development.

This book identifies and explains the role of citizen science within innovation in science and society, and as a vibrant and productive science-policy interface. The scope of this volume is global, geared towards identifying solutions and lessons to be applied across science, practice and policy. The chapters consider the role of citizen science in the context of the wider agenda of open science and open innovation, and discuss progress towards responsible research and innovation, two of the most critical aspects of science today.

As always, they can be downloaded from our website as soon as they publish. Happy reading!

Why I wrote… Mapping Society

By Laura S Vaughan, on 24 September 2018

Today’s guest post is by Professor Laura Vaughan, author of Mapping Society (published today), editor of Suburban Urbanities, and Professor of Urban Form and Society at the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture.

 

The inception of Mapping Society was over quarter of a century ago, whilst sitting in a seminar room at UCL while studying for my Master’s in Advanced Architectural Studies and seeing Charles Booth’s maps of poverty. The period of the early 1990s was a time when Bill Hillier, the founder of the field of space syntax, was developing his conception of the city as a ‘movement economy’. By identifying a phenomenon of ‘marginal separation by linear integration’, Hillier was using the historical map not only as a source of information on how cities worked in the past, but also as source of inspiration for building a broad theory of how cities work in general.

A few months after my first introduction to the Booth map I was browsing in the Hebrew and Jewish Studies section of UCL library and came across a fragile book from 1901, with an even more fragile map inside: the map of Jewish East London, 1899. Looking at the way the map, with its shadings of blue from light to dark, was used to accentuate the density of Jewish immigrant settlement in the area, immediately struck me as showing some fundamental spatial regularities beyond simply being a ghetto – as it was known then.

In fact, this book reflects two decades of enquiry into the spatial nature of society, with a specific focus on the detailed patterning of social patterns as these are laid out in historical maps. Going beyond placing the data on the map to a deeper analysis of the geographical patterning of the data allows the researcher to pose a variety of questions: regarding the spatial character of the urban setting, regarding whether social data of a single type have spatial characteristics in common, and – in general – to control for spatial effects when analysing social patterns.

For me, the Booth maps have become the quintessential starting point when exploring the relationship between the spatial organisation of cities and how societies take shape over time. This book does so by taking maps of social statistics and developing a close reading of the maps themselves as well as the context within which they were created. A side product of this inquiry has been the discovery of the extent to which social cartography is frequently used not only as a tool for communicating information on patterns of settlement, but also for other purposes: for propaganda, to collate evidence or to support scientific argumentation. The use of social maps as an analytical device is less prevalent and this book will show how a reading of the spatial patterns captured by such maps can reveal some fundamental rules about how cities work according to a specifically spatial logic of society.

Ultimately this book’s ambition is to demonstrate how an interdisciplinary reading of social maps can provide a richer understanding of how society and urban spatial systems interact with each other. Thus, phenomena such as segregation can only be fully understood once we take account of a wide variety of factors, including economic, political, social as well as spatial context – and all this in addition to the changes that cities and their inhabitants undergo over time.

New open access books for September 2018

By Alison Fox, on 12 September 2018

After a short Summer break, we have bumper crop of five titles to see us into the Autumn.

Mapping Society is a book we were excited about even before we saw the manuscript. Written by Professor Laura Vaughan (editor of Suburban Urbanities), Mapping Society traces the evolution of social cartography over the past two centuries and takes in everything from a rare map of yellow fever in eighteenth-century New York, to Charles Booth’s famous maps of poverty in nineteenth-century London, an Italian racial zoning map of early twentieth-century Asmara, to a map of wealth disparities in the banlieues of twenty-first-century Paris. The author examines maps of ethnic or religious difference, poverty, and health inequalities, demonstrating how they not only serve as historical records of social enquiry, but also constitute inscriptions of social patterns that have been etched deeply on the surface of cities.

The Impact of Migration on Poland asks how the international mobility of Polish citizens has intertwined with other influences to shape society, culture, politics and economics in contemporary Poland. Incredibly topical, this book will be important reading for anyone interested in the influence of migration on society, as well as students and scholars researching EU mobility, migration theory and methodology, and issues facing contemporary Europe.

Nanofibres in Drug Delivery aims to outline to new researchers in the field the utility of nanofibres in drug delivery, and to explain to them how to prepare fibres in the laboratory.

Finally, we have two additional titles in our urban studies list. The much-requested PDF version of Musical Cities publishes on 17th September, discussing why we should listen to urban rhythms in order to design more liveable and sustainable cities, before demonstrating how we can do so through various acoustic communication techniques.

Cities Made of Boundaries presents the theoretical foundation and concepts for a new social scientific urban morphological mapping method, Boundary Line Type (BLT) Mapping. Its vantage is a plea to establish a frame of reference for radically comparative urban studies positioned between geography and archaeology. Based in multidisciplinary social and spatial theory, a critical realist understanding of the boundaries that compose built space is operationalised by a mapping practice utilising Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Happy reading!

Futures of academic publishing

By Alison Fox, on 5 June 2018

Today’s guest post is by Ilan Kelman, from UCL’s Institute for Global Health and Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, editor of Arcticness: Power and Voice from the North, and is part of a special series to celebrate UCL Press reaching one million downloads. 

Are the days over of roaming the dusty library shelves for sombre articles by world-renowned-but-never-seen scientific figures? Now, you can sit over ten kilometres up on an intercontinental flight downloading PDFs. Or seek the face of a prominent name through an image search or watching them lecture online.

No more must you queue at conferences to harangue them. On the same flight, or from your phone at home, drop them an email or social media message and skype across time zones.

Then, login to google docs from different hemispheres to co-author in real-time. Or use track changes and comments to edit with colleagues whom you have never met or spoken to.

Academic publishing is changing. New media and new ways of accessing media permeate science. With publishers, we can and should explore what could work or fall flat–while never diminishing world-renowned, cutting-edge, innovative science.

UCL Press already pursues personalisable and interactive PDFs. Images have long been part of manuscripts. Electronic publishing permits audio clips, videos, spreadsheets, GIS files, and other formats as embedded or supplementary material.

Patents and legislation are publication formats which academics can write and which are effectively peer-reviewed. Fine and performing arts accept non-written forms for academic credit, whether a composition, a performance, a painting, or a sculpture.

All disciplines should adopt similar approaches and beyond. Rather than being within, or supplemental to, a publication, different forms and formats could be the peer-reviewed academic publication.

A five-minute video of original choreography could express the islandness and urbanity of London or Bangkok as island cities. A dynamic holograph could illustrate decision-making under climate change. A computer programme could provide an online display which automatically collects, processes, and analyses real-time air pollution data.

Any such submission would have to be rigorously peer reviewed, as with papers, chapters, and books. The review process might require as much creativity and open-mindedness as the piece under review.

Other options require careful thought and implementation. Could material submitted for peer review, and peer-review processes, be crowdsourced with anyone contributing, as with wikis? Determining authorship could be challenging, but perhaps no more so than a paper for which the list of 5,154 authors is longer than the manuscript.

With a New Zealand river being granted some legal rights similar to human beings, could environmental features or processes be scientific co-authors? Isaac Asimov’s fiction writings set the stage for robots and other machines to be considered as peer-reviewed outputs and/or authors on them.

Nothing here mean eschewing the lengthy, erudite article or book with humdrum section headings. Nothing here means dismantling libraries or recycling the paper-based journals. It simply means different approaches, forms, and formats complementing and supplementing, not displacing, long-accepted scientific publication outputs.

We must continue standard approaches. We must also embrace and create futures of academic publishing without compromising scientific quality.

We can be creative, innovative, modern, and engaging without losing the positive aspects of what we have. All futures bring forward needed elements of the past.

Brexit and the democratisation of knowledge

By Alison Fox, on 31 May 2018

Today’s guest post is by Benjamin Martill and Uta Staiger, editors of Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe, and is part of a special series to celebrate UCL Press reaching one million downloads. 

We started working on Brexit and Beyond in early 2017 when we realised there was a distinct gap in the market when it came to easily accessible yet scholarly works on Brexit. Full-length academic articles were often too lengthy and discipline-specific to appeal to the average reader. In any case, they take a rather long time to reach the market, such that by then the real world often has moved on. Nowhere more so than with Brexit! By contrast, the readily availabile opinion pieces and op-eds through which much of the ‘here and now’ of the Brexit debate took place lacked the rigour of academic works.

So we resolved to create a volume of short, accessible pieces on Brexit which would appeal to a general audience, while being informed by their authors’ long-standing scholarship. UCL Press embraced the idea with enthusiasm.

We also wanted to work with UCL Press because of the benefits of the open access model. Given the acrimony surrounding Britain’s changing relationship to Europe, we felt it was particularly important to bring rigorous discussion of the topic out of the academic ivory tower. To freely provide a volume with some of the biggest names in their field to students and interested citizens alike was, we believed, the easiest – and most direct – way to achieve this. The Brexit vote highlighted a yawning gap between academic debates and the concerns of many British citizens. Meanwhile, the social media ‘echo chambers’ have contributed to divided conversations and the polarisation of viewpoints. Breaking through these divisions and starting a shared conversation on the future of Europe was our aim with this volume.

UCL Press supported our book every step of the way. We had frequent meetings to discuss content, production and marketing, benefitting from the input of all the team members. The book itself came out in January and has been downloaded over 10,000 times in the past three months. What has been most heartening, though, is how pleased readers themselves have been about receiving their ‘free book’. One individual who approached us at our launch event in Brussels couldn’t believe – his words – that such a high quality product would be available for anyone to download. And, more pleasing still, he had sent copies to his friends and family. The hope is that, as more and more people engage with our contributors’ arguments, a greater number of citizens – of the UK and the EU – are brought into the detailed discussions we should be having after the referendum. Only in this way can we attempt to further the democratisation of knowledge. For facilitating these conversations – more and more every day – we are very grateful to the team at UCL Press.

Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe can be downloaded for free here.

Intermittent fasting could help tackle diabetes – here’s the science

By Alison Fox, on 29 August 2017

Today’s guest post is by Nicholas Lesica, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at UCL and author of A Conversation about Healthy Eating. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.File 20170810 27661 18ax5ba
iordani/shutterstock

Nick Lesica, UCL

Intermittent fasting is currently all the rage. But don’t be fooled: it’s much more than just the latest fad. Recent studies of this kind of fasting – with restricted eating part of the time, but not all of the time – have produced a number of successes, but the latest involving diabetes might be the most impressive yet.

The idea of intermittent fasting arose after scientists were wowed by the effects of constant calorie restriction. A number of studies in many different animals have shown that restricted eating throughout adulthood leads to dramatic improvements in lifespan and general health.

The reasons for these improvements aren’t yet clear. Part of it seems to be that going without food gives cells in the body a much needed break to perform maintenance and repair. But the lack of food also forces cells to resort to alternative sources of energy. Some of these, such as ketones – molecules created in the liver from recycled fat – appear to be beneficial.

‘Fasting’ without fasting

The problem is that constant calorie restriction isn’t practical: it’s easy for scientists to impose upon lab animals, but hard for humans to impose upon themselves in the real world. Fortunately, we’ve learned that constant calorie restriction isn’t really necessary. Intermittent fasting seems to have many of the same benefits.

There are two main types of intermittent fasting. One type, known as “time restricted feeding”, requires eating only during a few hours of the day – say between 10am and 6pm. This approach gives the body a long break from food each night, and also reinforces beneficial circadian rhythms.

The other type of intermittent fasting – made popular by the 5:2 diet – is known as “periodic fasting”. This approach involves alternating between long periods of unrestricted eating and short periods of eating very little (five days of eating normally, two days of eating restricted calories).

It isn’t yet clear whether one type of intermittent fasting is better than the other. But the data so far suggest that both types can work.

Tackling diabetes in mice and men

The recent studies of the effects of intermittent fasting on diabetes have focused on periodic fasting in particular. As a first step, researchers led by Valter Longo at the University of Southern California, began by testing whether periodic fasting could cure diabetes in mice. They used mutant mice that lack the fat hormone leptin to regulate their food intake. These mice constantly overeat and become obese and diabetic in early adulthood.

The researchers found that after just a few months of periodic fasting – alternating seven unrestricted eating days with four restricted days – the diabetes was cured. This is an amazing result. But what’s even more amazing is the reason behind it.

The mice lost weight during the periodic fasting, which helped of course. But that wasn’t the whole story. Periodic fasting actually solved the problem directly at one of its sources: the pancreas.

Diabetes is a disease characterised by excess blood “sugar”, which really means excess blood glucose. It’s largely an insulin problem. Normally, insulin causes cells in the body to take in glucose from the blood. But with diabetes, glucose stays in the blood because cells no longer take it in. This is partly because many cells lose their sensitivity to insulin, but also because the pancreas stops making it.

Glucose meter, healthy lifestyles and nutrition.
ratmaner/shutterstock

It turns out that the periodic fasting made the pancreas start producing insulin again. The days of restricted eating gave the pancreas a break that allowed it to remove and recycle many of its cells. Then, when the mice started eating again, new cells that were capable of producing insulin emerged.

So the pancreas actually shrunk during the four restricted eating days, and regrew during the seven unrestricted eating days. After several such cycles of shrinking, recycling, and regrowing, the pancreas was nearly as good as new.

The big question, of course, it whether intermittent fasting will have the same effects in humans. The answer is not yet clear, but the initial indications from a recently published phase two clinical trial, again led by Longo, are promising.

In this study, 100 people went through a series of 30-day cycles of periodic fasting, each with 25 days of unrestricted eating and five days of restricted eating. After only three cycles, those subjects who started the trial with high blood sugar saw big improvements. And, importantly, none of the subjects in the trial experienced any harmful effects.

So the evidence in support of intermittent fasting keeps growing. Does that mean that we should all be doing it? Not necessarily.

Intermittent fasting seems to be most beneficial for those who are already overweight and unhealthy. While it does also seem to have some benefits for lean and healthy lab animals, it’s not yet clear whether the same is true for humans.

The ConversationA much larger phase three trial of intermittent fasting in humans that will clarify a lot of things is set to begin soon. The results will no doubt be very exciting.

Arcticness as a home

By Alison Fox, on 16 August 2017

Today’s excerpt, is from the Editorial Introduction of Arcticness, a multi-contributor volume edited by Ilan Kelman, UCL .

People and communities, lives and livelihoods. These define the Arctic, just as with all other populated areas on the planet. Is there, then, anything special, specific, exceptional or unique about the Arctic? To the peoples in the Arctic, the answer is ‘of course’.

Because it is home.

As Arctic literature is fond of stating, there is no single Arctic. Definitions abound, from being a region or place to being an idea or phenomenon. The Arctic is delineated by latitude, tree lines, national and subnational borders and indigenous territories, among many other suggestions. All these elements vaguely concentrate into the northern areas of Canada, Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden along with all of Alaska, Greenland and Iceland.

This is the Arctic as a place – and the Arctic as place. The Arctic is also characterised, perhaps more so, by its people. Depending on where boundaries are set exactly, the Arctic’s population is anywhere from approximately 4  million to approximately 13  million people. About 10 per cent of Arctic inhabitants are indigenous, belonging to 40 different groups, examples of which are Saami, Inuit, Nenets, Yakuts and Aleuts. In some jurisdictions, such as Nunavut and Greenland, indigenous peoples are the majority. All Arctic areas have comparatively low population density.

Arctic indigenous peoples are partly defined by the way in which they were colonised from the south. Iceland is the only Arctic country without designated indigenous peoples. The other seven countries have never fully addressed their post-colonial legacy which included active suppression of indigenous languages and cultures, forcing nomadic peoples to settle, and taking indigenous children away from their families for the purpose of ‘education’ and ‘acculturation’.

As part of aiming to re-connect Arctic peoples and places, and to redress past mistakes, each post-colonial Arctic country apart from Russia has, to a large degree, settled land claims with Arctic indigenous peoples. The settlements occurred in different ways and in different time periods, with implementation, monitoring and enforcement still not fully functional in many instances.

The generational context adds complexity. The generation of leaders who grew up under colonialism and who negotiated the settlements are now in the process of retiring. They are giving way to a new generation of leaders who did not experience similar difficulties or frontline fights for autonomy and the recognition of indigenous cultures. They face other challenges, such as low educational attainment, high rates of substance use and abuse, and high suicide rates.

They are also looking to connect to the world beyond their (mis) governing state through the internet and social media to define and re-define, and to be proud of, their indigeneity, their peoples and their places; that is, their Arctic. The battles are not over. Greenland’s independence is still a possibility. Racism against indigenous peoples remains. The peoples are not homogeneous groups, such as the Saami who have different livelihoods including reindeer herding, fishing, both and neither.

Non-indigenous Arctic peoples also represent the Arctic, not just Icelanders but also those born and/or living in the north but without an Arctic indigenous heritage. One class of Arctic peoples, most notably in Scandinavia, comprises immigrants from around the world, including refugees, who fully settled in the Arctic and who are now raising first-generation, Arctic-born families with diverse, international heritages.

Within this Arctic rainbow, what is the Arctic? How do Arctic peoples relate to their places? The ways include living, livelihoods, environments and movements. In many locales, movement means the typical commute by private or public transport to a nine-to-five office job. In many locales, it is the typical subsistence hunting, conversing with the wind, feeling the sea, traipsing the land and traversing the ice.

Water (solid and liquid) and wind flow, bringing with them life and death. The Arctic peoples flow with them. Movement, survival and thriving are choreographed within the elements and within the colours of the seasons:  blue, grey and white melding with brown, green and splashes of colour in summer flora and fauna. The ever-changing kaleidoscope of weather and skies, of animals and oceans, of plants and the Earth, creates Arctic flows and ebbs.

Transitions and boundaries are prominent but fuzzy. Snow melds into land shifts to water becomes ice, drifting lazily under the dazzling dome of the summer sun and the scintillating stars of the wild winter. When the ice roads thaw making transport difficult, inland communities are spoken of as being landlocked. When the ocean is too rough for boats and the wind is too dangerous for planes, island communities are seen as being entrapped.

What vocabulary suggests being icelocked? The ice can be too thin on the water or too crevassed on the land, or just too slushy everywhere. The transition between seasons can be harsh when the land ice and sea ice mixtures do not permit safe transport. Then, one’s Arctic place becomes evident, as an islander or not, as someone who enjoys being indoors or not.

Movement and entrapment mean that Arctic placeness is not contentedly fixed. In any case, the glaciers, the ice, the snow, the water and the wind are always in motion. The rivers and the seas emote ripples and waves. The tides breathe for the water and the wind for the air. Coasts erode and accrete – with both ice and sediment.

Arctic changes are expressed in other ways. From colonisation to self-determination, the Saami have created their parliaments, referenda supported autonomy for Greenland and Nunavut, and Russian regions and territories have various levels of self-governance. Exceptionalism identifies many Arctic place traits – including the internationally unique Svalbard Treaty and the central Bering Sea having its ‘donut hole’ which is an enclosed polygon of international waters surrounded by territorial seas.

The scale of Arctic territories is sometimes forgotten. From Murmansk to Chukotka, the time difference across Russia is nine hours. Alaska has only two time zones, an artificial construction, but as the largest American state more than twice the area of its nearest rival, it is almost as wide and as tall as the entire contiguous states. Ottawa– Iqaluit flights travel more than three times as far as the London– Edinburgh route and are still shorter than Greenland’s full north–south distance.

Current national borders across the Arctic are poorly reflective of indigenous cultures. The Saami are partitioned among four countries. Only modern politics draw a line between Alaska and Yukon. The Canada–Denmark dispute over Hans Island is meaningless for peoples who use the land, sea, ice and wind to live.

Many of these Arctic placeness discussions are characterised by islands and archipelagos including the Aleutians, Hans Island, Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard. Nunavut’s capital sits on Baffin Island rather than the mainland. Many of Norway’s principal Arctic settlements are on islands including Tromsø, Harstad and Hammerfest.

Island studies has evolved over the past generation, exploring the natures and personalities of islands, island communities and islanders. Much debate and critique has centred around what it means to be an island or an islander, defining and examining the essence of islandness. These and similar questions and explorations have emerged for the Arctic, Arctic communities and Arctic peoples.

Thus, we generate and query the term Arcticness through the chapters in this book.

Losing weight without a diet: manipulating a type of brain cell gets results in mice

By Alison Fox, on 2 August 2017

Today’s guest post is by Nicholas Lesica, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at UCL and author of A Conversation about Healthy Eating. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

File 20170727 27682 1wo3mnt
Evidence for a link between obesity and brain inflammation is getting stronger.
Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Nicholas A Lesica, UCL

A new study has found something remarkable: the activation of a particular type of immune cell in the brain can, on its own, lead to obesity in mice. This striking result provides the strongest demonstration yet that brain inflammation may be a cause, rather than a consequence, of obesity. It also provides promising leads for new anti-obesity therapies.

The evidence linking brain inflammation to obesity has been building for some time. Consistent overeating causes stress and damage to cells in the body and brain. This damage results in a response from the immune system that has a wide range of effects.

Some of these effects help to reduce the problems caused by overeating, but others seem to make things worse. For example, in the hypothalamus – the part of the brain that controls, among other things, eating and activity – inflammation causes problems such as leptin resistance that interfere with the regulation of body weight.

Computer Hope
The hypothalamus controls eating and physical activity.
stefan3andrei/Shutterstock

Leptin is a hormone that is released by fat cells and provides the brain with information about the amount of energy stored as body fat. Normally, neurons in the hypothalamus that are sensitive to leptin will use this information to regulate eating and activity as needed to maintain body fat within some desired range.

In obesity, however, these neurons become insensitive to leptin. As a result, they no longer trigger the decrease in hunger and increase in energy expenditure that are necessary to lose excess weight. This is why the vast majority of attempts by obese people to lose weight fail– inflammation causes the brain to fight against it every step of the way.

So brain inflammation clearly plays an important role in sustaining obesity. But could it also be one of the primary causes of obesity in the first place? The onset of brain inflammation coincides with the other changes that take place in the body and brain as a result of overeating and weight gain. But whether brain inflammation actually causes the development of obesity is not yet clear. The results of the new study, however, demonstrate that the activation of a particular type of brain immune cell, microglia, initiates a cascade of events that do indeed lead directly to obesity.

Manipulating microglia in mice

In the study, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Washington performed experiments on mice. They found that altering the activity of microglia in the hypothalamus allowed them to control the body weight of the mice independent of diet.

The researchers began by testing the effects of reducing either the number of microglia or their level of activity. They found that both manipulations cut the weight gain that resulted from putting the mice on high-fat diet in half.

They then tested the effects of increasing the activity of microglia. They found that this manipulation caused obesity even in mice that were on a normal diet. This latter result is particularly surprising. The fact that obesity can be induced through microglia – rather than directly through neurons themselves – is an indication of how strongly the brain’s supporting cells can exert control over its primary functions.

Computer Hope
Obesity can be induced by manipulating microglia.
Janson George/Shutterstock

So artificial brain inflammation can cause obesity in mice. Of course, that doesn’t mean that natural, diet-induced brain inflammation does cause obesity in humans. But these new results suggest that this idea is worth taking seriously, particularly given that fact that potential solutions to the obesity crisis are in short supply.

The ConversationThis new study alone has already identified several possible targets for anti-obesity drugs. Intriguingly, one of the same drugs that was used in the study to decrease activity in microglia is also being tested in human cancer trials, so initial indications of its effects on body weight should be available soon. But either way, a deeper understanding of the role of brain inflammation will help to clarify the causes of obesity. And hopefully prompt ideas about how it can be avoided in the first place.

Nicholas A Lesica, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Reflections on publishing Memorandoms by James Martin

By Alison Fox, on 17 July 2017

Today’s Guest Post is by Tim Causer, editor of Memorandoms by James Martin and Senior Research Associate at the Bentham Project.

Memorandoms_of_James_MartinThose of us researching the history of convict transportation to Australia are extraordinarily fortunate in terms of resources, as some of the most important have, for several years, been available digitally on an open-access basis. For instance, we can search colonial-era newspapers in the National Library of Australia’s Trove, or consult the Tasmanian convict records, a body of material unique in its detail about the tens of thousands of ordinary people transported to Van Diemen’s Land.

As a callow undergraduate at the University of Aberdeen, making a first foray into Australian history fourteen years ago, such resources were the stuff of dreams. The university library’s holdings on Australian history were largely limited to landmark secondary texts such as Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend (1958) and A. G. L. Shaw’s Convicts and the Colonies (1966). The most recent work we had to hand was almost two decades old: Robert Hughes’s blockbuster, The Fatal Shore (1986). Hughes’s brilliant, terrible book is beautifully written, but is ultimately frequently misleading. But a major strength of The Fatal Shore’s was its use of convict narratives, giving it an immediacy rare in many earlier histories which relied heavily upon parliamentary papers and official correspondence.

Convict narratives fall into two main types. The first, and most common, are those published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, during or around the period in which convicts were transported to the Antipodes. For instance, two of the most well-known are Martin Cash’s The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land (1870) and Mark Jeffrey’s A Burglar’s Life (1893), both of which were ghost-written by the former convict James Lester Burke.

Of course, published narratives such as these present issues of interpretation. How much of Cash’s autobiography is authentically his voice, and how much is that of Burke? Ghost-writers often sanitised their subject’s life into a redemption parable, walking the fine line between titillation while still seeking to attract a respectable audience. Those narratives written by the few transported for political offences—male, middle-class, well-educated authors—are unrepresentative of the experiences of the majority of convicts. There is also a racial and gender imbalance, with the overwhelming majority of narratives dealing with the lives of white convict men—Reverend James Cameron’s partly-fictionalised biography of the Spanish transportee, Adelaide de Thoreza, is a rare exception.

The second type of narrative exists only in manuscript. They are often more exciting to deal with: they were not written for publication, do not have to meet the conventions of any genre, and are often more revealing, explicit, and subversive. For instance, the Irish convict Laurence Frayne’s narrative is a graphic account of his punishment and contains a sustained character assassination of James Morisset, a commandant of the Norfolk Island penal station during the 1830s, which would never have been fit to print.

Memorandoms by James Martin is one such unpublished manuscript which, thanks to UCL Press, is now available in open-access for the first time. The Memorandoms tells the story of the most famous of all escapes from Australia by transported convicts, that led by William and Mary Bryant. On the night 28 March 1791 the Bryants with their two infant children, James Martin, and six other male convicts stole a fishing boat and sailed out of Sydney Harbour and out into the Pacific. They reached Kupang in Timor on 8 June, though were subsequently identified as escaped convicts and the survivors were shipped back to England to face trial—where James Boswell lobbied the government for their release.

The group’s 69-day, 3,000-mile journey has been the subject of two television series, poetry, novels, and innumerable history books, with a focus on Mary Bryant. Yet the modern historical accounts are frequently unsatisfactory and derivative; what then, the reader might wonder, could be said about this story that has not been said so many times before?

Quite a bit, it turns out. Memorandoms by James Martin is the only extant first-hand account of the escape, and it provides a fresh perspective to this often formulaically-told tale. Despite the Memorandoms being spare and prosaic, it provides a sense of the hardship of the journey, the terror of those in the boat as it is pummelled by storms and churning seas, and of the party’s fascination and fear in their encounters with Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. The Memorandoms also strikingly reveals just how far some modern historians have departed from the historical record when telling the story.

Memorandoms by James Martin is also important in a second sense: it is the only known narrative written by a member of the first cohort of convicts sent to New South Wales with the First Fleet 1788. The Memorandoms was acquired at some point by one of Britain’s great philosophers, Jeremy Bentham, one of the first and most influential critics of transportation to Australia. The vast Bentham archive is, of course, held in UCL’s Special Collections, and the Memorandoms is but one of the many jewels in the College’s collections.

Now, thanks to UCL Press, the Memorandoms manuscripts are available for the first time, and for free; readers can now access the original narrative for themselves, rather than mediated by some rather dubious historical accounts. The colour reproductions bring the document to life in a way which would not otherwise be captured by publishing a transcript, and I am inordinately grateful to UCL Press for bringing the Memorandoms out in this way. My younger self in Aberdeen would have been thrilled to have had a resource like this to hand, and I hope that those who today may not have ready access to unpublished narratives like the Memorandoms will be equally pleased.