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Science funding for crisis response and long-term resilience

c.washbourne5 February 2021

By Carla-Leanne Washbourne, Julius Mugwagwa, Remy Twiringiyimana and Anne-Marie Kagwesage

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are still struggling to cope with ongoing and evolving challenges brought by the virus. Governments are actively responding, day to day, with new or improved guidance for their population, based on the most up to date understanding of the pandemic, drawing on cutting edge insights from a range of different research fields.

Medic in covid testing centre

“COVID-19 testing” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the shadow of this evolving crisis, the line between short term response and long-term sustained management has become more and more blurred. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbated by, runs in parallel to, and draws focus from many other critical and long-term social and environmental issues, including demographic shifts, urbanisation and the climate and extinction crises. Institutions tasked with supporting national systems of science and innovation have a huge role to play in the response to all of these challenges. For them, the pandemic presents both a great opportunity to generate and communicate technical insights, which could have real and immediate societal impact, and a challenge in allocating and mobilising resources to ensure a balance of short-term responsive issues and longer term developmental and strategic goals are being met.

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Love Actually: Developing a pragmatic science policy agenda for 2021

jochataway7 January 2021

Love is all around

In 2019, UK politician, Rory Stewart, then running for Leadership of the UK Conservative Party, spoke regularly of love being at the core of his policy agenda. In a particularly memorable moment, during the launch of his campaign, he answered a question about how he was going to combat negativism towards transgender and ethnic minority people by saying ‘its about pride in each other…[its] about listening and, I’m afraid, its about love’.

heart shape in book

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

I thought about that launch event moment often over 2020. The combined ravages of a Trump presidency and a terrible global pandemic have made a mockery of so many of things that seemed rational and certain. In the moment, Stewart’s claim that policy must be rooted in love and respect for ourselves and solidarity with each other in all our diversity, sounded so far from the norm, but increasingly it seems to me that pragmatic and convincing policy responses have a lot to do with love, listening and respect.

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Innovative interdepartmental collaborations are needed to foster better science policy and diplomacy interfaces and enable all the SDGs

j.c.mauduit8 December 2020

By Dr Luis Lacerda, Research Associate in Paediatric Neuroimaging at UCL Institute of Child Health & Dr Jean-Christophe Mauduit, Lecturer in Science Diplomacy, UCL Department of Science Technology Engineering and Public Policy

As a global university, UCL is leading the way in exploring how universities can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it recently demonstrated in its two-week virtual conference organised by UCL Grand Challenges and the Global Engagement Office. Helping realise the SDGs will benefit from the university’s most relevant expertise on each particular goal and enhance translational research, but will also enable more cross-disciplinary research within our diverse community, with the aim to spark collaborations ‘beyond boundaries’.

Programs like the Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement spearheaded by UCL Public Policy or like the Policy Impact Unit of UCL STEaPP are essential in helping researchers better understand the policy landscape, develop the necessary skills to engage with it more effectively, and work hand in hand with policymakers to develop more evidence-informed public policies based on their research. However, policy impact is not necessarily topic-specific. Indeed, there are many general science policy and diplomacy interfaces that are cross-cutting and relevant to all the SDGs, and they also deserve our attention. There are also many UCL researchers who are willing to engage and develop these interfaces beyond their particular research area.

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Covid-19 and the chance to build back better for mental health

Shirah M Zirabamuzale23 November 2020

My doctoral project on Sustainable and Responsible Innovation in Mental Health (SRIMH) investigates the feasibility and utility of healthcare policies and architectures that on one hand promote mental health through patient-centric designs and design responsibility, and on the other through sustainable and thoughtful environmental design embedding regenerative and adaptive reuse/preservation strategies. Mental illnesses are increasingly recognised as a leading cause of disability worldwide, yet many countries have fragmented funding models, policy structures and physical infrastructures. Mental well-being affects community spirit, education and the economy, making it a priority for governments worldwide.

Mural of cupped hands

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and, in some cases, halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide yet the demand for mental health is increasing, as highlighted in a recent WHO survey. The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding, technological innovation and policy interventions that advance the role of the built environment and SRIMH in improving mental health for citizens.

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The Infinite Game of Disinformation

Alex Shepherd15 October 2020

Alex Shepherd (@palexshepherd) is a nationally recognised subject matter expert on disinformation. He has delivered talks on the subject at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, and has actively engaged with representatives from the UK government’s Sub-Committee on Disinformation. He is currently a senior AI researcher at Oxford Brookes University and a Digital Technologies and Policy MPA candidate at UCL STEaPP. 

Disinformation is one of the most important issues we face today, not only due to the massive social impact and disruption it creates globally, but also due to its exceptionally robust nature. This blog post, inspired by the tweetstorm “Some thoughts on disinformation”, attempts to explain disinformation’s robustness through the lens of game theory and analysis of technology trends.

Man using tablet to view fake news website

The concept of infinite games and finite games was popularised by Simon Sinek in his book, The Infinite Game, and at a keynote speech he delivered at a New York Times event. The book was influenced, in part, by James P. Carse’s book Finite and Infinite Games, which in turn was influenced by basic game theory.

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