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Archive for the 'Social & Historical Sciences' Category

UCL’s Festival of Culture

ucqajha31 May 2017

Written by John Bilton, Third Year Archaeology Student

In under a weeks’ time, UCL’s Festival of Culture will be in full swing. The Festival is a week-long extravaganza running from June 5 – 10, showcasing the best of UCL’s Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

There’s a great spread, from lectures on Women and the 1984-‘5 miner’s strike and Dance in West Africa to film screenings and tours of the Olympic Park, the site for UCL East. The festival is open to students, staff and members of the public, and all the events are entirely free – though make sure you book tickets, because they get snapped up quickly.

I’m a third year Archaeology student, and I’m helping to organise the festival. It’s certainly been interesting so far: I’ve recorded a passage from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (keep an ear out, it’ll be revealed shortly). I’m working closely with the Dickens Museum to prepare the Dickens Night Walks, a fascinating event exploring nocturnal London through Charles Dickens’ eyes, complete with readings, insights and performances from some of UCL’s best-known Dickens experts. And I’m working with the wonderful Joint Faculty communications team who are based in the Andrew Huxley building, a few feet away from the Print Room Café and all the coffee anyone could want to keep them running for a festival with more than 80 events!

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UCL cohorts, biobanks and big data

ucyow3c29 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.

 

Education Select Committee Brexit hearing session at UCL

Melissa Bradshaw9 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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Game of clones – it’s who you know

ucyow3c12 December 2016

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Written by Lucy Jordan, Communications Officer, UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Why does it matter that we pick friends who are the same as us? Dr Katherine Woolf, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education at UCL, conducts research into fitting in and belonging and wants to know just this. As human beings, we need to belong and form interpersonal attachments. These bonds are of utmost importance for our happiness, success and health, but why are they, for the most part, to those so like ourselves? And what are the ramifications of this?

The audience is asked to think of a close friend who we have spoken to in the last few days and consider whether that friend has the same gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion and level of education as us. The majority chose someone with whom they have much overlap in these areas.

“I’ve done this exercise with lots of people all over the country, many times,” said Dr Woolf “and this is what we always see – people tend to be friends with people that they have lots in common with, and that in sociology is called homophily.”

Game of Clones

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