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By Stephen Burt, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

There is much febrile comment in the media concerning the current heatwave. A common statement is ‘this is the greatest heatwave since the hot summer of 1976’.

Always a shame to spoil a good story with the truth, but that’s simply not true, and by a long way.

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By Professor Grace Ioppolo, English Literature professor at the University of Reading, and 2017 Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe

Although the Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture was scheduled several months ago, for Thursday 8 June, the timing is now auspicious, for it will take place on the evening of the General Election.

Whilst my subject will be how Shakespeare viewed his audiences, I will now be obliged to work in a few Shakespearean quotes and puns on elections (at least from Hamlet and Julius Caesar, not to mention All’s Well that Ends Well (‘thy frank election make; / Thou hast power to choose, and they none to forsake.”).

We know how we feel about Shakespeare, but we don’t really know how he felt about his theatrical audiences and readers. My talk will look at evidence that still exists in archival records and in play texts from the late 16th and early 17th century about how Shakespeare and his colleagues viewed public and private audiences.

I assume that Shakespeare liked us as much as we liked him, although he knew that

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So, it’s the poet who gives the audience the power to use their imagination. Whether they accept that power is up to them.

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President Donald Trump has indicated an intention to withdraw the US from the Paris accord on climate change.

His announcement, made on Thursday 1 June, means the US will no longer recognise the collective aim of mitigating the impact of climate change.

The University of Reading is a world leader in climate science and research into the physical, economic and social impacts of climate change, helping to provide the strong scientific evidence upon which the Paris agreement was based.

Here, we look at some of this celebrated research, which remains central to the aims of the 194 countries that remain signed up to the Paris Agreement.

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By Weizi Vicky Li, Informatics Research Centre, Henley Business School

With healthcare service scopes expanding, healthcare processes changing and technologies evolving over time, many systems need improvement or they become vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This is especially true in hospitals, where most legacy systems provide critical  information and essential support for business operations with a lot of sensitive data.

Information systems and intranet/internet have been implemented in NHS hospitals for more than 30 years. Early systems implemented in the NHS include Patient Administration System, GP systems, Pathology laboratory systems, radiology and PACS systems, nursing and care planning systems, theatre systems etc.

The threats lie in the fact that many of the legacy systems have long been integrated into the core business and healthcare service processes, and therefore cannot be simply scrapped. In short, those legacy systems are valuable as well as vulnerable.

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Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Professor of Archaeology and Research Dean at the University of Reading, will present the prestigious Rhind Lectures 2017, at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, from 19-21 May. The Rhinds are the biggest archaeology lecture series in the world, comprising six lectures given over one weekend.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist at Glastonbury Abbey, the subject of one of her Rhind Lectures

The free annual lectures have been hosted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland since 1874 to commemorate Alexander Henry Rhind, whose money bequeathed to the society first allowed them to take place, making the Rhinds the oldest and most renowned series of archaeology lectures internationally.

Professor Gilchrist has chosen the theme ‘Sacred Heritage: Archaeology, Identity and Medieval Beliefs’.  The six lectures will explore the value of sacred heritage today and in the past, examining the political and ideological use of monastic archaeology from the 12th century to the modern day.

The lectures outline a new research agenda for the archaeological study of medieval monasticism, focusing on critical approaches to heritage, the study of identity, healing, magic and memory.  They feature a strong emphasis on the archaeology of medieval Scotland, to coincide with the Scottish Government’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

In the past year, Professor Gilchrist has also given prestigious named lectures in Sweden, Canada and the USA and was Current Archaeology’s Archaeologist of the Year 2016, based on a vote by members of the public.

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By Professor Mike Goodman, Professor of Environment and Development/Human Geography, University of Reading.

Professor Goodman appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today on Monday (8 May), to discuss the growth of Alternative Food Networks. Here he explains more about how they are evolving and why they face a cloudy future.

Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) in the UK—what we might think of as a loose confederation of actors working for a more ecologically, socially and economically friendly food system—are coming of age.

No longer are shoppers only confronted by wilted, dirty organic lettuce picked by ‘back to the landers’ wanting to live alternative lifestyles off the grid. AFNs are now not just at the forefront of quality food revolution for the ‘worried well’ and that of the technological revolution about how we grow and eat food, but, more problematically, are also on the frontlines of feeding the so-called ‘JAMs’ (just-about-making it) and economically marginal populations who are not getting enough to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Sally Stevens, Institute for Environmental Analytics, University of Reading

An important new skills gap survey highlighting the urgent need for in-career training in state-of-the-art data analytics was presented at this week’s European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Austria on Thursday [April 27].

The key findings are:

  • 53% of respondents said the research habit that needed most improvement was reluctance to share data or models.
  • 52% identified the most vital skill for global change research as data processing and analysis.
  • 42% said the digital skills needing most improvement were computational and numerical analysis.
  • The biggest data challenge was data complexity and the lack of data standards and exchange standards.

The survey was commissioned by the Belmont Forum, a highly influential global group of science funders dedicated to speeding up high quality environmental research around the world.

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By Professor Gavin Parker, Professor of Planning Studies, University of Reading

The passing of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill today took many by surprise, as the government pushed it through and the House of Lords backed amendments to the Bill just before Parliament was dissolved ahead of June’s snap General Election.

The new Neighbourhood Planning Act builds from the 2011 Localism Act and refines the ways in which members of the public can engage with and develop plans for their local areas. Myself and PhD Researcher Katherine Salter in the Department of Real Estate and Planning department at the University of Reading have  worked on several strands of research that have  influenced government in thinking about how neighbourhood planning has progressed and  could be altered.

Some of the amendments discussed in Parliament were aimed at altering the examination stage of neighbourhood plans, and we – along with Hannah Hickman at the University of the West of England – have recently carried out research looking into the examining of neighbourhood plans. This is where an independent inspector looks at the Plan to check it passes the tests set out for such documents by government.

We have informed the proposed legislative changes by preparing an extensive briefing document outlining our findings, after analysing feedback and comments from those who had examined the majority of neighbourhood plans over the past five years. See the full briefing document here.

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