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UCL professor appointed Chair of British Hispanic Foundation

SophieVinter21 June 2017

UCL Professor Jim Anderson (right) has been appointed Chair of the British Hispanic Foundation at UCMA UCL professor has been appointed Reina Victoria Eugenia Chair of the British Hispanic Foundation at Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

Professor Jim C Anderson (UCL Department of Chemistry) has a longstanding collaboration with the School of Pharmacy at UCM in Spain, where he has previously delivered a series of research lectures as well as hosting a number of its students in the UK.

The honorary position, awarded annually, was jointly created by UCM, the British Hispanic Foundation, the British Council and the King’s Group in Spain.

It promotes European collaboration by enabling a UK professor to deliver regular lectures at UCM to post-graduates and members of the public, alongside their teaching activity.

UCM students will spend three months at UCL in the autumn assisting Jim, who is the Alexander Williamson Professor of Organic Chemistry, with his research. They will investigate new ways of making single enantiomer drug molecules, which will be used to explore alternative methods of developing cutting-edge pharmaceuticals.

Professor Carlos Andradas, UCM Rector, and Fidel López Álvarez, Executive President of the British Hispanic Foundation, presented Jim with the title at a recent ceremony.

They commented on the importance of maintaining international collaboration, both for scientific and educational purposes, but also to send “a message of peace and respect for all, as a basis for the world’s future.”

Prof Andradas highlighted that thanks to the initiative, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, UCM doctorates have access to high quality teaching and overseas study.

Jim said: “International collaborations are so important in research for widening everyone’s perspective. I am very grateful to the British Hispanic Foundation, UCM and especially Professor José Carlos Menéndez for arranging my lectures at UCM and the warmth of my reception in Spain.”

The British Hispanic Foundation is a non-profit organisation registered with the Spanish Ministry of Culture. It aims to promote cultural collaboration and understanding between Spain and the UK.

New research into effects of Brexit on UK universities

SophieVinter19 April 2017

The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), based at UCL, has been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a research project that will investigate the implications, implementation and consequences of Brexit for UK higher education institutions.

The funding will run from 1 May 2017 to 31 October 2018 and is part of the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe initiative, which supports research into the relationship between the UK and the European Union (EU).

A research partnership of international universities, CGHE is the largest research centre in the world and specifically focuses on higher education and its future development.

The project will use empirical data to identify and better understand the challenges faced by the higher education sector, looking at the implications of Brexit not simply in terms of the inner life of institutions but in the context of their broader relationships with local, national and European communities. It will also consider the broader impacts of Brexit for higher education in UK and Europe.

The initiative will be led by CGHE Director Professor Simon Marginson from the UCL Institute of Education, with CGHE Deputy Director William Locke from the UCL Institute of Education and Dr Vassiliki Papatsiba from the University of Sheffield as Co-Investigators.

Professor Marginson said: “Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will require UK universities to make rapid, well-judged adjustments while building new relations in Europe and beyond. The high level of uncertainty about the options for policy and strategy is a crucial aspect of the Brexit challenge. Responding to that uncertainty, and the multiple options, requires exceptional agility and highly functional internal systems that integrate governance, management and academic units.

“The impact of this research will be felt during the project as it will when the project’s findings are completed. Project events during the research will bring together the case study universities and others in the sector, providing a platform for exploring scenarios, alternatives and resources and highlighting the ways forward.”

Read the full article on the CGHE website.

 

Ask the UCL European Institute: Oliver Patel

JasonLewis3 April 2017

Oli-patel-profile_imageOliver is a Research Coordinator at the UCL European Institute. He tells us more about his work and the Institute’s latest projects, including the recently launched UCL Brexit Hub.

Tell us more about UCL European institute and your role there

The European Institute is UCL’s hub for research, collaboration and information on Europe and the European Union. We facilitate and promote academic work on Europe by connecting researchers across UCL and by commissioning reports, articles and podcasts. We also organise events and roundtables, for both public and policy audiences.

The European Institute was recently announced as a Jean Monnet Centre for Excellence, could you elaborate on what this means?

The European Institute has been designated a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence by the European Commission in recognition of our reputation as a facilitator of high-quality research and information on the EU. The prestigious award includes a three-year grant from the Commission aimed at encouraging excellence in teaching and research within the field of EU studies. An example of a project we’ll be facilitating is LGBTQ migration and asylum in Europe.

What’re you working on at the moment?

Building the UCL Brexit Hub has been my main project for the past few months. I started off by mapping all of the academics at UCL who work on relevant subjects and then finding all the content they’ve produced. Now that the site has been launched, I’m sure I’ll find some other Brexit-related things to keep me busy, such as managing the UCL Brexit Blog.

What is the UCL Brexit Hub?

The UCL Brexit Hub is UCL’s portal for research, academic content and expertise on all things Brexit. It is an online portal which features all of the Brexit-related content produced by UCL academics, including reports, blogs and videos. It is regularly updated with new content and serves as a comprehensive resource for journalists, policymakers, academics and all others wanting to learn more about Brexit!

 

Contact Oliver on:

oliver.patel@ucl.ac.uk

UCL and the French Embassy: fostering interdisciplinary research

JasonLewis31 March 2017

UCL and French Embassy logosUCL and the French Embassy share a longstanding impactful partnership with the aim of fostering the co-production of innovative insights into how to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

This partnership has resulted in a number of collaborative initiatives that have provided platforms for cross-disciplinary research collaboration between UCL scholars and leading French academics and researchers. These initiatives are largely driven by UCL’s Grand Challenges programme, allowing for interdisciplinary collaboration in the development of societally relevant interventions.

Here are a few examples of UCL/French Embassy initiatives that seek both to build on existing links, and to stimulate new ones between UCL and French academic and higher education organisations such as French universities, Grand Écoles and research organisations:

UCL / French Embassy Funding for Arts, Humanities and Social Science Workshops

This co-operative scheme, which is currently calling for proposals, commenced in 2013 and has been extended to July 2019. Around £2,500 per workshop is available for academics and researchers seeking to organise workshops in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This initiative seeks to encourage junior and senior scholars to establish new directions for possible research collaborations – not only in their own areas of expertise, but also across disciplines. The deadline for applications is 26 April 2017.

Conférence-débat lecture series

The annual Conférence-débat lecture series, started in 2010, brings together eminent French academics and UCL’s finest minds to discuss topics such as ‘The State of Nature’, ‘Towards Decarbonised Economies’, and ‘Climate Governance, post COP21 agreement’. These deeply insightful and engaging evening joint lectures have also involved afternoon workshops designed with the aim of facilitating potential collaboration between the visiting French research team and the team from UCL.

Collaborative Science & Technology Workshop competition

The Collaborative S&T Workshop competition, initiated in 2012, calls for proposals from leading academics and senior researchers to hold workshops at UCL that address a related challenge at the frontiers of either basic or applied science, one of UCL’s Grand Challenges, or a European Commission thematic programme.

In accordance with a 2012-signed Memorandum of Understanding between UCL and the French Embassy, the Embassy has generously provided up to €22,500 in annual grants to support five cycles of the S&T workshops. The main aim of this annual event is to strengthen existing links between UCL and French academic and research organisations, and to create a platform that fosters the development of new approaches for potential research collaborations across Europe.

DART-Europe: facilitating Open Access research

SophieVinter27 March 2017

Written by Dr Paul Ayris, Pro Vice-Provost and Director of UCL Library Services

DART-Europe logo_NEW.pngDART-Europe is a research portal maintained and developed by UCL, which indexes and provides access to research theses in Open Access from across Europe.

Many universities now see Open Access as the default mode of collection building for PhD and other research theses, because of the large number of hits which such materials gain.

The DART-Europe portal currently provides access to 723,470 open access research theses from 606 universities in 28 European countries. It is a fantastic achievement to have passed both the 700,000 mark for accessible research theses and 600 for the number of universities and their libraries involved in this pan-European service.

The portal has recently started the ingest of metadata for research theses from Croatian universities. It currently provides access to 433 full-text research theses from Croatia.

The National and University Library in Zagreb has posted about this development, facilitated by UCL Library Services, on its website and via social tools such as Facebook. Zagreb said: ‘The National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) has set up a system for a regular contribution of data from the Croatian National Digital Dissertations Repository (Nacionalni repozitorij disertacija i znanstvenih magistarskih radova, DR) to DART-Europe, the central point of access to digital dissertations from Europe’s higher education institutions, thus enabling an increased visibility of the research of Croatian researchers.”

The Croatian theses can be seen in DART-Europe here. Congratulations to all UCL colleagues who have supported the continued growth of this portal.

 

UCL European collaboration awarded €20m for big health data research in cardiovascular disease

SophieVinter20 February 2017

The BigData@Heart research team has secured €20 million research funding from the European Innovative Medicines Initiative.

A UCL collaboration with European partners has been awarded €20 million research funding from the European Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) to help improve treatment for cardiovascular disease.

BigData@Heart is a consortium that comprises the UCL Institutes of Health Informatics and Cardiovascular Science, the European Society of Cardiology, European patient organisations, universities from Utrecht, Berlin, Cambridge, Valencia, Stockholm, Hamburg, Birmingham and Uppsala and various pharmaceutical and technology partners.

The research programme will use healthcare data to deliver better care for people with heart attacks, heart failure and the commonest heart rhythm disturbance, atrial fibrillation.

Despite major progress in treatments, these conditions present a substantial burden to the estimated 30 million or so people in Europe who suffer from cardiovascular diseases, and to the healthcare systems that care for them.

The programme will integrate healthcare data, activity monitors (wearables), state-of-the-art ‘-omics’ profiles, information about patients’ lifestyles and health and their own reporting of symptoms, to better understand the causes of these conditions and the different subtypes. This information will be used to develop personalized (rather than ‘one size fits all’) treatments.

Professor Folkert Asselbergs, scientific coordinator of BigData@Heart, said: “The IMI funding gives us a unique opportunity to impact clinical care using Big Data approaches. BigData@Heart brings together the strongest research groups in Europe, industry, professional and patient organisations, all working in partnership to improve care for people living with heart disease.”

€15m EU grant awarded to innovative UCL health partnership in Portugal

SophieVinter24 January 2017

UCL Professor Jonathan Knowles with vice rectors and mayors from Portuguese regionsAn interdisciplinary UCL collaboration has secured a €15m EU Horizon 2020 Teaming grant to set up a new centre in regenerative and precision medicine based at the University of Minho (UoM) in Portugal.

The team, led by Professor Jonathan Knowles (Professor of Biomaterials Science, UCL Eastman Dental Institute) secured just over €5m of the award for UCL to develop its work with UoM and other Portuguese partners.

Through training, development and research, the seven-year-long Discoveries Centre project being led by UoM’s Professor Rui L. Reis could bring further investment from the Portuguese central government and regional authorities totalling €100m.

Innovative treatments

Regenerative and precision medicines are emerging medical research fields that aim to provide innovative treatments for diseases affecting millions of people worldwide, from musculoskeletal and neurodegenerative disorders to heart disease.

Working with Professor Knowles on the project are Dr Ivan Wall (Department of Biochemical Engineering), Professor Giampietro Schiavo (Institute of Neurology), Professor Andreas Schätzlein (School of Pharmacy), Professor Vivek Mudera (Division of Surgery), Dr Richard Day (Division of Medicine), Professor Tim McHugh (Division of Infection and Immunity), Dr Jane Kinghorn (Translational Research Office) and Oli Pinch from Innovation and Enterprise.

Activities involved in the partnership include stem cell therapies, bioreactor technology and developing materials to regenerate tissues.

Strength in innovation

Playing a central role, UCL’s strength in innovation and enterprise will complement the University of Minho’s work as one of the leading European institutes in laboratory based regenerative medicine. The Universities of Porto, Aveiro, Lisbon and Nova Lisbon are also involved. The team will help move the research out to clinical use, treating patients in need.

Professor Knowles said: “This collaboration will help address the needs of the ageing population and create therapies that are cost effective. Regenerative medicine is very interdisciplinary – you need to understand the tissues, cellular processing and in vivo models – it requires a lot of expertise.

“For example, to use stem cells you need to think about scaling up and producing enough cells in the right form and in clinically relevant numbers.

“There is a lot of great work going on at UCL in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The opportunity that UCL has is to build on this centre to establish a much stronger structure across the university.”

Teaming is key part of the EU’s effort to unlock Europe’s potential in research and innovation. Only ten grants were approved by the European Commission, from around 170 applications.

The project will begin on 1 April 2017.

Links

UCL collaboration scoops Outstanding Research Team award in Zambia

SophieVinter14 November 2016

The University of Zambia-UCL Medical School research and training project team scooped the Outstanding Research Team award at the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership Forum A UCL Medical School collaboration with the University of Zambia has scooped a prestigious award in recognition of its equitable partnership model for conducting research into poverty-related diseases.

The UNZA-UCLMS partnership, established by Professor Alimuddin Zumla (UCL Division of Infection and Immunity), won the Outstanding Research Team Award during the eighth European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials (EDCTP) Partnership Forum.

The President of the Republic of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, presented the award and €50,000 prize money to members of the team.

The award was collected by Dr Peter Mwaba (former UCL PhD student of Professor Zumla), Dr Nathan Kapata (National Tuberculosis Programme Manager), Dr Aaron Shibemba, (Head of Pathology) and UCL Postdoctoral Scientists Dr Matthew Bates and Dr Jim Huggett.

Crossing disciplines and borders

Professor Zumla established the programme in 1994 with the Dean of the University of Zambia Medical School, Professor Chifumbe Chintu, as a novel model of academic partnership.

It would take forward African science away from domination by the North, instead championing the cause for fair and equitable North-South and South-South research, training and capacity development initiatives.

Since then the collaboration has linked 34 institutions from across West, Central, South and East Africa with 28 European institutions.

The partnership has led to training for numerous medical, scientific, nursing and laboratory personnel, capacity building for conducting clinical trials, and the development of valuable research infrastructure.

Prof Zumla said: “We are extremely proud, honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award from the EDCTP. Success of complex multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional and multi-country educational, capacity development and research programmes is critically dependent on selfless, committed, and dedicated staff. This award acknowledges the exceptional contributions made over 23 years by my teams here at UCL and in Zambia in collaboration with all our partner institutions in Africa and Europe.”

UNZA-UCLMS Project team (Centre Professor Zumla with Dr Peter Maaba and Dr Nathan Kapata)

Mutually beneficial

The collaboration was based on the principal that partnerships must engage all parties in a way that is mutually beneficial, and that all research must be twinned and aligned to local capacity development and training.

The team has made great headway in tackling poverty-related diseases over the years, achieving more than 500 publications, 20 textbooks and over 100 articles in The Lancet journals.

Its clinical trials, autopsy and translational research data have been used by the World Health Organization (WHO) and African governments for improving management and prevention of poverty-related diseases.

It brings together scientists, funders, politicians, and advocates to unite together in the fight against infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, diseases declared global emergencies by the WHO in 1993.

Ask GEO: Rachel Corcoran, Programme Manager

SophieVinter22 September 2016

Rachel Corcoran, Programme ManagerRachel is GEO’s Programme Manager. We asked her to tell us more about her role and the recently launched Global Engagement Funds.

What is your role in GEO?

UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy launched in May last year – it’s an ambitious strategy which sets out a number of objectives: from ramping up the university’s collaborations with institutions abroad, to increasing student mobility and raising UCL’s global profile, to name a few.

As with any strategy, it’s all well and good deciding what you want to achieve, but the more difficult part is in the delivery. In UCL’s case, my office, the GEO, has a team dedicated to partnership development, with much of the other activity actually delivered by lots of other departments across the university – a ‘hub and spoke’ model (see image below), with GEO as the ‘hub’.

As Programme Manager, my role is to be a central point of oversight – to plan, monitor and evaluate success, ensuring that progress against objectives across UCL is captured in one place, identifying areas of overlap between different initiatives and supporting delivery offices where needed.

One part of the strategy which I specifically work on is managing the funding to academics to develop their overseas collaborations – recently I was pleased to launch the second year of the Global Engagement Funds.

The 'Hub and Spoke' model for delivering UCL's Global Engagement StrategyWhat are the Global Engagement Funds for?

Global Engagement Funds cover the costs associated with UCL academics collaborating with higher education institutions, organisations or companies abroad.  The aim is to facilitate activity for which there might not be another funding source, but which could be the start of an exciting new initiative.

There were some fascinating projects last year – I remember there was one from Archaeology, involving a researcher partnering with a Dutch NGO to tackle the black market in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, through jointly building a database of such objects. Or the lecturer from the Institute for Global Health who funded travel to Kigali to work with the University of Rwanda on the prevention of gender-based violence – including a joint seminar, meetings with key individuals, and visits to potential field sites, with a view to writing a grant proposal.

I’m not part of the decision-making though – the panels are led by Vice-Deans International (VDIs) and regional Pro-Vice-Provosts (PVPRs).

What is the role of the VDIs and PVPRs in the wider strategy?

The PVPRs play an important strategic role as a catalyst for UCL’s engagement in their particular region. Each term they chair the Regional Network meeting; they welcome international delegations to UCL and act as ambassadors for UCL abroad.

While the PVPRs focus on a specific region spanning all of UCL’s faculties, the role of the VDIs spans all regions in a particular faculty. They are a point of contact for academics and work with the Dean to ensure that the faculty’s global partnerships (e.g. teaching, research, consultancy, knowledge transfer) are in line with the wider strategy.

Map showing UCL activity in Europe as at September 2016How do you think the vote for Brexit has impacted on UCL’s plans for global engagement?

I think that it just shows that it is now more important than ever that UCL remains open and engaged with the world, sending a clear message to our partners (see my colleague Conor’s comments).  As our Vice-Provost (International) says, we are redoubling our efforts to meet those objectives set out in the strategy, especially with regard to Europe, one of the regions where we have a significant amount of activity.

Not only that, but I am excited to be part of reviewing, in the light of the Brexit vote, the way in which we intend to go about achieving objectives.