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BRITISH SCIENCE WEEK 2015 BLOG

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Contributed to by staff & students of The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources

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More than a third of people would let their energy supplier turn off their heating

By Michael Fell, on 23 March 2015

nestA sinister engineer in orange overalls and dark glasses looms from behind your fridge, hands raised, as if to strike… This is the scenario painted in the Daily Mail in a 2013 article on ‘direct load control’, or the possibility that third parties (‘outside forces’) such as energy suppliers could turn appliances in people’s home off and on to help keep the UK’s electricity system in balance. Read the rest of this entry »

Heritage science and the public sector

By Scott A Orr, on 20 March 2015

eilean-donan-castle-321399_1280Heritage science is used to not fitting in.

Straddling a vaulted archway between scientific research and cultural preservation, management, and communication, it has often struggled to eke out it’s position in the context of economic and political shifts. Semantics aside, anything that is self-defined as inter-, trans-, and cross-disciplinary without a safe haven of its own risks homelessness in times of uncertainty. This is inextricably linked to finding financial and institutional support. Decision makers love putting things in boxes, and yet heritage science can sometimes seem to tick too many boxes for practical results.

Heritage, as a wider field, has seen its share of uncertainty regarding its operational procedures. Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainability Self-Help for Universities: the campus as a test bed for research

By Alex Green, on 20 March 2015

alex green 1Institutions like UCL face some big environmental challenges; whether it’s our energy consumption (and accompanied eye-wateringly large bills), carbon emissions, purchasing or difficult to maintain heritage buildings. But we’re also producing world-leading sustainability research. Our academic community is at the forefront of efforts to tackle many of these same challenges.

We believe that unlocking this expertise can form a vital tool to tackle our own sustainability challenges. So how we can use the huge amount of knowledge and expertise within UCL’s academic community to help improve impact of the institution as a whole?

Read the rest of this entry »

Will informal settlements ever be electrified by utilities?

By Xavier M L Lemaire, on 19 March 2015

Khayelitsha Township, Western Cape, 2008. Photo credit: Chell Hill.

Khayelitsha Township, Western Cape, 2008. Photo Credit: Chell Hill.

The UCL Energy Institute is co-leading a research project called SAMSET Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transition. This project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for International Development (DFID). Read the rest of this entry »

Who you gonna call? Mathematicians!

By Oliver R Southwick, on 19 March 2015

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Guest blog by Oliver Southwick, PhD student, Department of Mathematics, UCL

Losing everything on your laptop may be a nightmare scenario for many of us, but what if this happened world wide? If, by some bizarre thought-experiment logic, we lost all the pieces of our scientific knowledge, painstakingly collected over hundreds of years? Everything from the sequence of the human genome to the orbits of the planets was gone, forgotten.

Well, we’d have to work it all out again, wouldn’t we? It would surely be easier the second time round. But how would you go about it?

Say you were put in charge of working out how the oceans work, how the water circulates around our planet. This is a seriously important job. We need to understand the ocean circulation to navigate ships, to predict the weather and climate and to understand the rich biology of the sea. So how would you start doing this? Read the rest of this entry »

Downsize homes to downsize energy consumption

By Gesche M Huebner, on 19 March 2015

housesWhen we hear the words “housing crisis”, the first thing that comes to mind is the exorbitant prices for houses, in particular in London and the South East. And quite frankly, after only two months of house hunting in Cambridge, I am fed up with manipulative estate agents, and competing against dozens of other bidders. Housing is just not affordable for a large part of the young generation, and in particular, the social housing sector sees a lack of adequate properties. Read the rest of this entry »

Why mean sometimes means meaningless – stochastic IAMs can help to assess Climate Change impacts

By Maike Hohberg, on 18 March 2015

r.eagle@ucl.ac.uk-comms-staff-1Many applied economists are concerned with average effects of  a policy intervention or changed economic conditions on economic subjects. Often linear regression is their tool of choice for conducting impact analysis. However, focusing on the mean might mask some interesting effects along the distribution of the outcome variable.

Suppose you were interested in evaluating a labour market reform that possibly has an impact on the wage distribution. Then, calculating the average effects on wages could be useless – imagine the politically sensitive case when mean wages remain constant but increase in the upper quantile while decrease in the lower quantile. That is, focusing on the mean masks the fact that the reform resulted in higher inequality. In the case of applied economics, the use of quantile regression has therefore become quite popular to get insights into the effects that occur below or above the mean.

For the same reason we have to consider the effects along the whole wage distribution in applied labour economics, we have to look in the tails when considering the economic impacts of climate change: We just might miss the relevant stuff! Read the rest of this entry »

Building performance and scientific research: why we need more of it

By Sofie Pelsmakers, on 18 March 2015

This week is British Science Week and last week the EPSRC held its ‘science for a successful nation’ conference. This made me reflect on the use of scientific methods in building performance research, which is essential for us to understand and improve the buildings we design, build, operate, transform and live in. Read the rest of this entry »

What does Climate Change do for the public image of Science?

By Adam Roer, on 17 March 2015

Concern about differences in priority over Climate Change between specialists and the public

changing-environment-(c)-istockphotoAs a young researcher I see a vast disparity in the way in which Climate Change is seen by the general public and in academia. In academia, we are intensely occupied with the solutions for achieving sustainability, supplementing our own work by attending conferences and reading journals. The general public will see Climate Change articles in the media and some may find themselves watching a documentary on the subject every now and then. But this gulf goes with any topic where ‘specialists’ are involved; take medicine for example. The question is – does this matter? Read the rest of this entry »

Translating Data into Action: The Role of Science in the Management of a Heritage Site

By Katherine Curran, on 17 March 2015

Brick analysis

By Katherine Curran, Lecturer in Sustainable Heritage and as Assistant Course Director on both the MSc in Sustainable Heritage and the MRes in Heritage Science at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies

This year British Science Week overlaps with the study trip for our MRes in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology programme at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage. Our students have travelled to Herefordshire to explore how scientific analysis can contribute to the understanding and management of a heritage site, in this case the historic manor of Hellens. Hellens is a fascinating site, a historic house owned by a private charitable trust with a rich history and a beautiful and varied collection of furniture and artefacts. Most importantly, it remains a home for the staff and their families (and several dogs!). Children play in the gardens, dogs are walked in the grounds and family photos are on display among the collection. Read the rest of this entry »