Grand Challenges Seminar Series 2017

This seminar series provides a forum to hear from a panel of experts debating some of the most pressing issues facing scientists and the public today. The debates are organised by our first year D.Phil students and take place during Trinity term, on Tuesday evenings in May.  This year they are being kindly hosted by the Oxford Martin School and Hertford College.

The seminars will follow a discussion amongst panelists on several key issues relating to a topic, followed by an audience Q&A. The events begin at 5.30pm in the Oxford Martin School – please arrive early in time to find a seat. A coffee/drinks reception will be held afterwards in Hertford College. Tickets are available via Eventbrite here Some tickets will be available on-the-door but will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be limited by capacity.

Dates for Trinity Term 2017

Tuesday 2nd May

The Pale Red Dot: Colonising Mars and Beyond
Chair: Dr Paul Jepson Senior Research Fellow, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment

Andy Weir Award winning author of “The Martian”
Dr Ellen Stofan Former Chief Scientist, NASA
Professor Andrew Coates Deputy Director at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL
Libby Jackson Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Programme Manager, UK Space Agency

This event will be livestreamed:

Tuesday 9th May

Fighting Aliens: Invasive Species in the 21st Century
Chair: Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity and Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), University of Oxford

Professor Helen Roy Ecologist, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Professor Chris D. Thomas Professor in the Department of Biology, University of York
Dr David Aldridge Head of the Aquatic Ecology Group, University of Cambridge
Fred Pearce Environmental journalist and author of “The New Wild: Why invasive species will be nature’s salvation”

Tuesday 16th May

To What Extent Should Scientists Be Activists?

Good science should be championed, especially when findings have implications for the health, wealth, and well-being of society. But do scientists risk their integrity and reputation by engaging in activism?  What role should science play in shaping government policy? Most governments support the idea of evidence-based policy, but scientific support may only be one factor when it comes to decision making. How should scientists ensure their voice is heard? And when do they overstep their jurisdiction?

We have invited an exceptional panel of leading figures from the worlds of science and policy, to discuss the extent to which scientists should be activists. Join us, for what promises to be a lively
debate, and the opportunity to put your questions to the panel.

Chair: Fiona Fox, Chief Executive of the Science Media Centre

Professor Sir John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM  Government (2008-2013)
Dr Joanna Dally, Head of Policy (Research) at the Royal Society
Mr Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Centre  for Climate Change Economics and Policy, LSE
Dr Rosie  Woodroffe, Senior Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London

Tuesday 23rd May

The 2 trillionth tonne: Consequences of severe climate change in 2100

Without substantial changes in policy, production methods and consumption, it is likely that we will emit 2 trillion tonnes of carbon by 2100. One very plausible outcome of this is about 4°C of warming. This seminar places us in a hypothetical 2100 to explore the consequences of this severe warming on a broad range of physical and human systems including: weather, oceans, terrestrial ecosystems, agriculture, human migration. We explore what led us to get here there and how we could get out of it.

We are joined by an exceptional panel of speakers who cover the physical science of climate change, the socio-economic impacts, the historical context and policy implications.

Chair: Professor Myles Allen Professor of Geosystem Science and Head of the Climate Dynamics Group, University of Oxford

Professor Tim Lenton Chair in Climate Change/Earth System Science, University of Exeter
Nicholas Crane President of the Royal Geographical Society
Achim Steiner Director of the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford

Tuesday 30th May

Sustainable diets in the 21st century

Globally, our diet has become environmentally unsustainable. In industrialised nations, we have seen a rapid rise in obesity, diabetes and other diet related illnesses, and the World  Health Organisation estimates one third of the world’s population are overweight or obese. A further third of the world’s population are calorie deficient. To feed the planet, it has been estimated that agricultural yields need to double by 2050. This is mainly  the result of two drivers: increasing population sizes, and rising demand for resource intensive foods such as meat and other animal products in industrialised nations. This, along  with failing soil health, uncertain resource availability and the effects of climate change makes now more than ever a time for reform to the global food system.

In the developed world, do we have an obligation to change our diets to make the global food system more sustainable?  How would such changes affect our lifestyles and our health, and how would it benefit the environment and those living in developing nations? Should we change our diets, or is it  sufficient to enhance sustainability in food production systems?

Chair: Professor Charles Godfray, Hope Professor & Director, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food

Sir Peter Kendall, Former NFU President, Chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
Dr. Marco Springmann James Martin Fellow, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food
Helen Browning Chief Executive of the Soil Association
4th panelist To be confirmed