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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

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

    How experts can give better advice to policymakers

    By Oli Usher, on 3 July 2015

    Sir Mark Walport addresses the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction's annual conference

    Sir Mark Walport addresses the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s annual conference

    One of the main purposes of government is to manage risks. Key to assessing these risks is scientific and technical expertise. So conversations between academics and policymakers are very important.

    Unfortunately these conversations can sometimes be at cross purposes. Fortunately, when framed correctly, and with both sides understanding each other, discussions between policymakers and academics can be hugely fruitful.

    This was the argument of Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, in his keynote address to the UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s annual conference on June 25.

    So how should academics talk to policymakers?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Mans be writing ‘bout English Grammar Day and that innit

    By Guest Blogger, on 29 June 2015

    pencil-icon Written by Erzen Llapashtica

    How do you say scone? Is it a “skone’ or a “skon”? Or is that red, round, juicy fruit you make ketchup out of, a ‘tomaeto’ or a ‘tomatoe’. These were just a couple of the many questions raised by ‘Celebrating vernacular English’, a talk by Jonnie Robinson (Lead Curator, Sociolinguistics and Education, British Library) that was part of a joint conference organised by UCL, Oxford University and the British Library to celebrate English Grammar Day.

    Well, as an answer to the question above, 65% of Brits pronounce scone as “skon’ with the remaining 35% enunciating the tea time treat as a “skone”, with the word having no right or wrong pronunciation due to the persons regional tongue or accent.

    English Grammar Day 2015

    English Grammar Day 2015

    Robinson further explored the wide variations of the English language, and how it’s spoken, whether it be grammatical, phonological or lexical, as well as its tolerance (and intolerance) within society. He spoke of how some individuals enjoy the diversity of vernacular English, while others hold a stiff upper lip against its use. Furthermore, he mentioned how the linguistic variations in how people speak – yet not write – English is “a reflection of shared and diverse identities” – as well as being a “source of mutual pride” among those who speak a particular regional dialect.

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    The Bloomsbury Studio – a new UCL performance space

    By Ben Stevens, on 26 June 2015

    UCL students and staff now have a brand new, flexible performance space in which to explore new ideas and take risks – with the only limit being their imaginations.

    That’s how Simon Cane, Director of UCL Public & Cultural Engagement (PACE), framed the Bloomsbury Studio at its official launch on 17 June.

    Simon Cane. Director of PACE. Credit: Richard Davenport.

    Simon Cane. Photo: Richard Davenport.

    He described his PACE team as “the air moving between things” and “a unique offer in higher education” in the way that they bring together teaching, performance and museums at UCL.

    As a result, the team is perfectly placed to manage the programme of the studio, which seats 60–80 people, and they will be looking particularly for performance and activity that puts the spotlight on UCL research.

    Speaking at the launch event, President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur praised the Bloomsbury Theatre as “an integral part of our being and the student experience” and a venue at which he had seen dance, opera and musical theatre productions that were “spectacularly professional”.

    So he was very pleased that the Transforming UCL programme had provided an opportunity to improve the Bloomsbury Theatre through the creation of an additional studio space – describing it as “a tremendous development for us” and “an opportunity to work with students to generate a vibrant cultural life”.

    The studio will also provide a permanent home for popular events run by the Public Engagement Unit such as Science Showoff and Bright Club.

    And as a Bright Club stalwart, Professor Sophie Scott (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) was the perfect choice to speak next about the benefits of being involved with public engagement activity.

    Describing herself as someone who has “always been a massive show-off”, she admitted that when she first heard about Bright Club, she thought it was “the single worst thing I’d ever heard of”. However, a colleague egged her on to take part and, immediately after her first Bright Club, she said to herself: “I’ve absolutely got to do this again”.

    She went on to explain how it had helped her not only to improve as a speaker – leading to radio appearances and talks at TED conferences – but also as a scientist in the way that interacting with the public had prompted her to ask different questions.

    Professor Scott also mentioned how she encouraged the younger researchers in her team and we saw how this could bear fruit in the form of a short set by linguistics PhD student Nick Neeson, who gave us a witty, engaging introduction to his specialism, phonology – the study of sound patterns in speech.

    The final speaker of the evening was comedian and presenter of Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage, Robin Ince.

    Remarking on how he had been coming to the Bloomsbury Theatre for nearly 30 years and performing at it for 10, he hailed it as a place that had enabled him to combine “the ridiculous and the experimental”, while exuding “a fantastic sense of people working together”.

    In particular, he said, it had given him the chance to work with UCL scientists such as Jon Butterworth and Andrea Sella while incorporating everything from bongo playing to tap dancing and wave particle dualities – often in the same evening.

    As an example of just how eclectic the studio’s programme is likely to be, the launch event was rounded off by a performance from ukulele cabaret group, Martini Encounter.

    Watch a slideshow of the event:

    The Great Grant Knit-a-Thon

    By Siobhan Pipa, on 5 June 2015

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit. Unfortunately a lack of hand-eye coordination and a short attention span mean that it’s a skill I’ve never quite mastered. I also really like quirky museums. So naturally the Grant Knit-a-Thon, organised by the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology as part of this year’s UCL Festival of the Arts, seemed like the perfect event to me.

    Knitted armadillo on display at Grant Museum  (C) Grant Museum

    Knitted armadillo on display at Grant Museum
    (C) Grant Museum

    Teaming up with East London yarning collective, Prick Your Finger, the Grant Museum offered novices and experts alike a day of knitting, crocheting and stitching – all whilst giving us the chance to explore the museum’s current exhibition ‘Strange Creatures: The art of unknown animals’.

    The knit-a-thon was inspired by one of the pieces currently on display in ‘Strange Creatures’ – Ruth Marshall’s knitted Tasmanian Tiger skin. The knitted pelt was chosen for inclusion in the exhibition by Sarah Wade (UCL History of Art), co-curator of ‘Strange Creatures’.

    As part of the knit-a-thon activities, Sarah gave a fascinating talk on how natural history museums use contemporary art and craft to engage with visitors.

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