X Close

UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy

Home

Applied in Focus. Global in Reach

Menu

Archive for the 'Research' Category

Three shifts for improving the governance of emerging technologies

Basil Mahfouz11 June 2022

Without a coordinated global response, emerging technologies could quickly transform our world into a dystopia. By 2050, the lack of climate action may push mankind towards experimenting with planetary systems via geoengineering, lethal autonomous weapon systems could be deciding who lives and who doesn’t, while neuro-technologies will challenge the definition of what it means to be human.

To understand how to manage the societal impact of these technologies, on 16 May 2022, I joined 29 other specialists representing 21 countries at the Science Diplomacy Week Immersion Programme, a forum co-organised by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

The discussions highlighted that effectively governing frontier technologies requires three fundamental shifts across international science diplomacy: (1) adopting a proactive approach towards solving challenges, (2) leveraging cutting-edge computational tools, and (3) systemically scaling access to scientific knowledge.

(more…)

First RespondXR: Digital vulnerability of immersive training for first responders

Niamh F Healy16 February 2022

For the past few months, I have had the pleasure of working as a research assistant on the First Respond XR project. The pilot study, led by Dr Leonie Tanczer, Lecturer in International Security and Emerging Technologies at UCL STEaPP, has been funded by the SPRITE Hub and explores the digital vulnerabilities associated with using Extended Reality (XR) to train police officers in the UK.

XR is an umbrella term used in reference to different types of virtual reality technology: immersive, three-dimensional, computer-generated environments. Popular examples of XR include Oculus Rift, a fully-immersive VR gaming headset, or Pokémon Go, which superimposes Pokémon onto the user’s environment via their smartphone cameras, an example of augmented reality (AR).

As the application areas of this technology are manifold, our four-month-long pilot study (December 2021 – March 2022) has the ambition to map the social, ethical, technical, and legal risks associated with the use of XR technology in the police training context. Our team (Dr Leonie Tanczer, Professor David McIlhatton, Professor Jill Marshall, Dr Mark McGill, Dr Lena Podoletz, Marina Heilbrunn and Niamh Healy) is set together with human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers, legal experts, security academics, and criminology and policing specialists. The multidisciplinary nature of the team, encompassing social, legal and technical expertise, benefits the examination of this timely issue and aids a holistic analysis of XR systems in the policing context. To date, we have been conducting a literature review to identify existing use cases of XR for police training as well as applications in other first responders domains (i.e., health, military, fire service). Our legal team has also begun mapping the complex legal context surrounding police use of XR for training purposes.

In this blog, I share some of our social team’s initial findings, set out our next research steps, and explain how interested parties could get involved in our study.

(more…)

Moving on from Haldane: what are the challenges to steering STI for social and economic goals?

joanna.chataway10 February 2022

If anyone wants an overview of current S&T policy in the UK at the moment, you could do a lot worse than listening in to a recent discussion hosted by the Foundation of Science and Technology. Panellists were Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Government Scientific Advisor and National Technology Adviser, Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, Naomi Weir, Programme Director, Innovation at the Confederation of British Industry and Professor James Wlisdon, Director of Research on Research, University of Sheffield. A fantastic lineup and a conversation that touched on many complexities of science, technology and innovation policy.  The importance of engineering policy was mentioned as part of the overall picture but much less was said about this, which is a pity[1].

Female lab researcher

Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

(more…)

PhD Episode II: The Return of Ethnographic Methods

laurent.liote.1916 December 2021

Hi there, it’s been a while! I guess I’ve made some progress since the last time I wrote a post like this one. Rest assured the aim of my PhD has not changed, I’m still focused on understanding how engineering advice and related modelling insights are deployed in energy policy practice (the origin story can be found here). This post is about the initial work I’ve done to answer this question and where I’m going next.

In a UK government department not so far away…

So, what have I been up to in the last year then? Well, I did an initial case study with an engineering advice team within the UK government that provides advice on energy policy questions to the rest of their department. I interviewed engineers and policy advisors working together to gain insight into ‘the engineering-policy interface’ (a fancy way of saying ‘how engineers and policy advisors interact’). I turned the themes that emerged from the interviews into academic database search terms which returned four different strands of literature: science advice, engineering and philosophy, expertise in policy and models as boundary objects. I carried out a review of these fields and compared the literature’s conclusions against my findings, I call that ‘PhD Episode I’.

And what did I make of Episode I then? Like a first episode in what I hope to be a trilogy, it was interesting, set up the characters and storyline nicely but left quite a few questions unanswered. From what I saw, most of the engineering advice consisted of explaining a technology in layman’s terms to policy analysts, answering a question by providing a summary/diagram or designing/running a model. But that’s just scratching the surface and several findings warrant further investigation, constituting the basis for my second case study: Episode II.

(more…)

Tracking the spread of science with machine learning

Basil Mahfouz18 November 2021

On 3-5 November 2021, I joined research professionals from across the Network for Advancing and Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS) to discuss state of the art methods for evaluating the impact of research. Participants showcased institutional best practices, stakeholder engagement strategies, as well as how to leverage emerging data sources.  In this blog, I reflect on the conversations initiated at the conference, drawing upon insights gained throughout my research at STEaPP.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

(more…)