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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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AHIA 2020-21 Demonstrating dependencies between humanity and nature for a sustainable future: A nitrogen case-study

c.washbourne1 September 2020

STEaPP’s Dr Carla Washbourne is part of a new project supported by the ALTER-Net High Impact Action (AHIA)-fund. This blog is also published at on ALTER-Net website

Through this project we want to explore how past and current research on the nitrogen cycle can be used to generate new insights on the dependence of humans on non-human-nature. Insights from this project will provide a new way to view humanity’s place in nature and could help to shape the development of more equitable and sustainable environmental decision-making and management.

Team photo

Team photo

The nitrogen (N) cycle is a familiar concept. Many of us first encountered it at school, where it was used to illustrate the scale and importance of global cycles that link air, water, rocks and living things. Humans are often presented as the end recipient of natural processes like the nitrogen cycle, and sometimes are not shown as part of the cycle at all! However, humanity is part of the cycle, being both a direct beneficiary (of  food) and direct contributor (fertiliser use) and is impacted by effects of nitrogen on air and water quality. This AHIA-funded project questions what the nitrogen cycle would look like if we rebuild it to more clearly include humans and to show the true scale of our dependence on non-human nature. The project is driven by a desire to provide a different narrative of the relationship between people and nature, that better represents our place in the biosphere.

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COVID-19: IoT and Cybersecurity

fredrikskippervold27 August 2020

Fredrik Johan Skippervold is a UCL MPA Graduate within Digital Technologies and Policy 18/19. He holds a Bachelor of Law with Spanish and is currently a researcher in the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity.

Introduction

Over the past four months (April – July) my colleague Dr Catherine Wheller and I have been following the impacts of COVID-19 on cybersecurity and the Internet of Things (IoT) within the UK and beyond. The pandemic has inspired a range of IoT innovations to help stop the spread of the virus. We have written weekly landscape briefings (LB) that provide up to date information on the latest developments in this area. In this blog I will talk about how we set about collecting information and how we put together these reports, as well as highlight some of the major developments which include discussions surrounding privacy and ethics. To note, a final summary briefing will be posted alongside this blogpost. The summary, which can be found here, includes a detailed timeline of events, provides an overview of how IoT devices are helping to stop the spread of the virus (UK and globally) and presents discussions around so-called ‘immunity passports’.

Cybersecurity

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