By Professor Gavin Parker, Professor of Planning Studies

Housing has been a key political issue for longer than I can remember, but that may not be saying that much.

The much anticipated English housing White Paper released on Tuesday reflects a clear shift in policy orientation but still reflects much of the same lever pulling and button pressing as seen over the past six years and more.

There are some changes that will alarm some people in the professions and out in the country but it also falls short of the decisive action that many had hoped for, despite the claims in the paper about it reflecting a radical agenda.

Greenbelt – the sacred cow of the planning system is pretty much left with its only “in exceptional circumstances” protection but some adjustments are included i.e. around existing settlements and where infrastructure is present.

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Researchers at the University of Reading secured more than £3.9 million in research awards in December.

A total of 21 research projects were given the go-ahead in the last month of 2016, with funders from a variety of sources including government, research councils, charities and business.

Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for research, said: “Congratulations to everyone whose research grants were confirmed during December. I am particularly pleased that Reading has continued to collaborate with a wide range of funders, including the European Horizon 2020 programme.

“I have no doubt that these awards represent an excellent investment in knowledge and will reap great rewards for society in the near future.”

Among those winning funding in December were…

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By Phil Newton, Research Dean for the Environment Theme, University of Reading

‘Impact sometimes needs to be nurtured over long timescales… there is more to impact than developing case-studies for the next REF exercise’

The University of Reading is known across the world for the quality of its research in the environmental sciences. As Research Dean for the Environment Theme, I’m lucky enough to have the best seat in the house to see, up close, not just that quality, but also what a huge impact some of that research has on people’s lives.

So it’s gratifying when others celebrate the influence of Reading’s research, as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has done this week with the publication of its new annual report about the impact of NERC-funded research.

The NERC Impact Report 2016 shows how sustained NERC investment in environmental researchers working in partnership with the likes of governments, businesses and charities generates large, long-term economic and societal benefits – contributing to building a safer, healthier and more secure and sustainable world. It is great to see highlighted two areas of Reading research that are having substantial impact.

Reducing the tragedy of flooding

One is about the work of hydrologist Professor Hannah Cloke, and how the modelling and engagement work by Hannah and her colleagues over many years has improved the quality of flood forecasting, and changed the policy and practice of flood prevention, in the UK. These changes have been a major contribution to dramatic reductions in household flooding incidence over the past decade.

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By Dr Mark Dallas, Lecturer in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, University of ReadingMark Dallas

Our hope as dementia scientists is that these cells could unlock a new avenue of treatments that alters the course of Alzheimer’s disease

The human brain is a complex structure made up of different types of cells. You have probably heard scientists talk about nerve cells or brain cells. These are the cells that are lost in Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there are a similar number of other cell types within the brain, called glial cells. ‘Glial’ comes from the Greek word for glue, as these cells were originally believed to hold the nerve cells together. It is now clear that these cells are highly specialised and vital for brain function.

So what are these cells, and how could they help us find treatments for Alzheimer’s?

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What happens to the Earth when the Sun’s activity hits a 300-year low, as is predicted in the next few decades?

Research published this morning in Scientific Reports by Dr Mathew Owens and Professor Mike Lockwood has the answer. And if you enjoy the occasional visit of the beautiful Northern Lights to latitudes as low as Britain, then sorry – it’s bad news.

Matt Owens talked about the research in this 1-minute video:

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By Paul Williams, University of Reading Department of Meteorology

‘As important as political leadership is, individual people and companies will have to make key decisions to deal with the impacts of climate change’

Climate change is never far from the news headlines – but often it’s not because of the science.

As much as I think that complicated mathematical calculations about the circulation of air and water around the globe should make people stop in wonder, I fear my beliefs are not widely shared by most other people.

And they would have a point. Most people don’t talk maths over the water cooler or when down the pub, beyond adding up the cost of their drinks.

So if it’s not the science, what makes climate change so appealing to journalists? Often, it’s the politics.

News media love to observe a good old-fashioned fight, and politics is the arena where disagreements get aired every day. Not only that, but politics tends to have a bearing on how we live our lives, too.

So while the basic facts of human-caused climate change are agreed by just about all scientists working in the field, a handful of doubting politicians often hog the headlines.

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By Dr Ruvi Ziegler – lecturer in law and researcher of citizenship and electoral rights at the School of Law, University of Reading

The Supreme Court will determine on Tuesday whether the Government have power to give notice pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU without an Act of Parliament providing prior authorisation to do so. The PM has announced that she intended to ‘trigger’ Article 50 before the end of March 2017.

Many may ask: what difference will the ruling actually make?

Euro coin

Brexit ruling: on which side will the Supreme Court come down?

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‘Food causes cancer’ stories can seem like a standard stock-in-trade. But it’s very often worth examining the science behind the sometimes alarming headlines.

Today there has been lots of attention on acrylamide (see this in The Sun and The Mirror), following warnings from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that some home-cooked food, such as over-done or burnt toast, fried chips, or well-roasted potatoes, contain more of the potentially carcinogenic chemical.

Chips cooked for longer at higher temperatures contain more acrylamide

Chips cooked for longer at higher temperatures contain more acrylamide

The fundamental research behind this story was spearheaded by the University of Reading back in 2002, when Professor Don Mottram published a paper in Nature showing the process by which acrylamide is created in some cooked food.

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By Dr Tom Long, Lecturer in International Relations, School of Politics, Economics and International Relations, University of Reading

As Donald J. Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America, perhaps no country is more nervous than Mexico.

The United States’ southern neighbour has good reason for concern. Its economy and society are highly linked with the United States.

Trump has shaken the very pillars of the relationship. By threatening to upend the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the new president takes aim at the heart of Mexico’s economic strategy. About 80 percent of Mexican exports go to the United States, ranging from oil to fruit to automobiles. Trump’s highly publicised battles with companies that invest and outsource in Mexico attacks one of Mexican leaders’ key plans for job creation.

Dividing wall

Perhaps most troubling of all, Trump’s plans to deport millions of undocumented Mexican migrants and then build a border wall could tear apart the increasingly closely knit social fabric of communities that straddle the US-Mexican border.

File:Mexican Standoff.jpg

A Mexican standoff. And a wall. Picture CC Martin SoulStealer

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It’s President Barack Obama’s last full day in office, before his successor, Donald Trump, formally takes over the reigns of power tomorrow.

Obama’s eight years in office have been beset by partisan rows and tensions between Democrats and Republicans, frustrating the outgoing President’s efforts to push through reforms.

So what might be Obama’s biggest regrets as he leaves office?

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