Prosperity & Resilience

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Last week, volunteers who produce neighbourhood plans for local housing and the environment came together at a University of Reading event to share their experiences and address the emerging barriers to progress. Gavin Parker, Professor of Planning Studies, explains more.

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Wind turbines in the Seychelles – picture: IEA

Researchers working across national borders feature prominently in the latest group of University of Reading academics to be awarded research funding.

In total, £12.5 million of funds were awarded during the third quarter of 2017-18, to 80 projects across all five research themes at Reading: Environment, Food, Health, Heritage & Creativity and Prosperity & Resilience.

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Dr Alina Tryfonidou explores a landmark EU Court of Justice ruling which provides greater clarity and legal certainty for same-sex couples who get married in an EU member state, in a new post for The Conversation

Image credit: May S Young (Flickr), CC-BY-2.0

In an historic ruling for the rights of same-sex couples, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has held that for the purposes of EU free movement law, the notion of a “spouse” includes the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen.

The case was referred to the ECJ from the Romanian Constitutional Court which was confronted with a dispute between a couple, Adrian Coman, a Romanian national, and Claibourn Hamilton, a US national, and the Romanian authorities. After living for a number of years in Belgium, where the couple married, Coman wished to return to Romania with his spouse. But Hamilton was refused the right to reside in Romania as Coman’s husband, on the grounds that Romania does not recognise same-sex marriage.

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Dr Mai Sato has just published a report examining Zimbabwean citizens’ attitudes towards the death penalty in their country which concludes that public opinion needn’t pose a barrier to its abolition. She explains more in this new post for The Conversation.

At the end of 2017, the world watched with keen interest as President Robert Mugabe was deposed after 37 years of ruinous rule, and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who promised “a new democracy”.

The change of power is also significant for those interested in Zimbabwe’s death penalty policy. Mugabe, around the time of his departure from office, had plans to resume executions. Advertisements were placed to recruit a hangman – a position that had been vacant since 2005. Mnangagwa, on the other hand, has been vocal in his opposition to the death penalty. Significantly, he himself had faced the prospect of being hanged under the government of Ian Smith, against which he fought during the liberation war.

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Many laws across the world that make homosexuality a crime were imposed during rule by the British Empire. Joseph O’Mahoney attempts to unpick why these stigmatising laws persist in a new post for The Conversation co-authored by Enze Han.

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Academics have a duty to speak to the media, especially in tragic and complex cases, argues Tom Sheldon, Senior Press Manager at the Science Media Centre.

“How many more Charlies and Alfies must be paraded in front of us before we realise that keeping quiet only makes things worse?”

In July 2017 the story of Charlie Gard, a baby with incurable mitochondrial disease, played out across the media. By April 2018 we all knew the name Alfie Evans, another little boy with another untreatable condition. In both cases the medical teams and the courts agreed nothing could be done.  Both children have since died. There’s nothing enjoyable or satisfying about these stories. They are profoundly sad.

Nine months after Charlie Gard, and the rest of us watched as Alfie’s Army demonstrated outside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and his parents were locked in bitter dispute with the medical team. For a second time, a battle over the life of a child none of us knew had become major news, and the need for expert voices to be heard in the media and by the public was as strong as ever. Yet with a few notable exceptions, the rest of the medical profession once again failed to show up, allowing misinformation around Alfie Evans to take hold. Nine months after Charlie Gard, and we have dismally failed to learn any lessons.

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Reading social sciences projects to integrate hospital data and to improve language learning in the classroom have been recognised in this year’s O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards.

Dr Weizi Li (Henley Business School) has won an Excellence in Impact Award and the research of Professor Suzanne Graham (Institute of Education) was highly commended.

The awards, which celebrate innovative social sciences projects that have made a social or economic difference to individuals, communities, and societies were presented at a ceremony attended by several Reading researchers, at St Anne’s College, Oxford on 19th April.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming many human activities ranging from daily chores to highly sophisticated tasks. But unlike many other industries, the higher education sector has yet to be really influenced by AI, says Nafis Alam in a new post for The Conversation.

Uber has disrupted the taxi sector, Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry and Amazon disrupted first the bookselling sector, then the whole retail industry. It is only a matter of time then until the higher education sector undergoes a significant transformation.

Within a few short years, universities may well have changed beyond all recognition. Here are five ways that AI will help to change and shape the future of universities and higher education for the better.

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For a few short hours earlier this month, Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers were not labelled by the Israeli government as ‘infiltrators’, but as ‘protected populations’. Dr Ruvi Ziegler explains more in a new post for The Conversation.

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