Grand Challenges Seminars 2019

Grand Challenges Seminars 2019

The Grand Challenges Seminar Series is an annual student-run event, on Tuesday evenings in May. This series of five, weekly seminars aims to focus on some of the most crucial issues of our time and how science can be used to address them.  Each topic will be debated by a panel of renowned speakers and then opened up to the floor for questions, comments and further debate.

In Trinity Term 2019, the seminars are being hosted at Christ Church college (Sir Michael Dummett Theatre) and attendees are invited to attend a drinks reception afterwards, with the speakers.  Registration is free, as is the reception. All are welcome to attend.

Tuesday 7th May 5.30 – 7pm

Communicating Science in the Age of Fake News

Fake news is dominating the public science discourse, from climate change denial to the anti-vaccination movement and the Flat Earth Society.

As scientific knowledge proliferates, with two million new academic articles published every year, public perspectives are being warped. Online clickbait, echo chambers and social media filter bubbles created by computer algorithms have led to misinformation and ideological polarisation.

How have the information age and rise of social media changed science communication? How dangerous is the rise of scientific misinformation? Why do people believe fake news? How can we communicate nuanced scientific results in the mainstream media? Who is responsible for ensuring accurate science communication? What role should government/media platforms/researchers play?

We will explore these questions and more through the perspectives of journalism, policy and academia with our expert panellists.

Prof Alice Roberts (Chair) – Author, broadcaster and Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham

Dr Magdalena Skipper (Panelist) – Editor in Chief of Nature

Simon Singh (Panelist) – Author, journalist and TV producer

Fiona Fox (Panelist) – Director of the Science Media Centre

Emma Woods (Panelist) – Head of Policy, Wellbeing at the Royal Society

Registration link

Tuesday 14th May 5.30 – 7pm

Sustainability in a Selfish World: Environmentalism vs Economics

The world’s largest public goods dilemma: every nation is having a significant impact on our global environment, however, only some nations are beginning to take actions to mitigate the overwhelming effects of climate change.

On a competitive international platform, many governments continue to make decisions which offer greater economic prospects, in light of alternative, more environmental decisions.

How can we promote environmental decision making in governance, particularly in cases where ‘green’ policies do not provide the most competitive outcomes?

Chaired by:

Lucy Siegle – Environmental Journalist and Writer.

Panellists including:

Hugo Tagholm – CEO of Surfers Against Sewage

Dr. Claire Craig CBE – Chief Science Policy Officer at the Royal Society

Dr. Chris Jones – Senior Lecturer in Social and Environmental Psychology, University of Surrey

Professor Sir Charles Godfray CBE – Director of the Oxford Martin School, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, and PI for Food Systems at the Biodiversity Institute

Registration Link

Tuesday 21st May 5.30 – 7pm

Natural Hazards: Preparing Today to Protect Tomorrow

Around 2 billion people have been affected by natural hazards during the last decade*, from the Haiti earthquake in 2010 to the Indonesian tsunami in 2018. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and volcanic eruptions are just some of the devastating hazards which have rocked the 21st Century. Booming populations and rapidly expanding cities bring new challenges and opportunities in preparing for, and responding to, these events.

What are the biggest threats we face from natural hazards? How can scientists effectively communicate these dangers to the public? How should the global community prepare for these events to reduce the resulting damage and loss of life? These are just some of the topics we will investigate with our panel of natural hazard scientists, educators and industry experts:

Dr Joel Gill (Chair) – International Development Geoscientist at the British Geological Survey & founder of the charity Geology for Global Development

Prof Maureen Fordham (Panelist) – Professor of Gender and Disaster Resilience

Solmaz Mohadjer (Panelist) – Founder of the ParsQuake earthquake education project

Dr Robert Muir-Wood (Panelist) – Chief Research Officer at Risk Management Solutions & author of “The Cure for Catastrophe”

Dr Rebecca Williams (Panelist) – Volcanologist & Senior Lecturer at the University of Hull specialising in catastrophic flows

Registration Link

Tuesday 28th May, 6 – 7.30pm

Can we ever be 100% renewable?  So near, yet so-lar…

With an ever-growing global population and the increasing threat of climate change, the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is more important than ever.

In this discussion a world-class panel of experts will highlight:

  • The UK’s position in the global energy community.
  • What technological innovation and political action needs to be made?
  • How achievable is this and what impact can we have as individuals?

Prof. Joanna Haigh (Chair) – Former Co-Director of the Grantham Institute and Emeritus Professor at Imperial College

Dr. Radhika Khosla (Panellist)- Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Oxford

Lord Robin Teverson (Panellist) – Chair of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Lords Select Committee

Dr. Doug Parr (Panellist) – Chief Scientist and Policy Director at Greenpeace

Registration link:

Tuesday 4th June 5.30 – 7pm

Science, Ethics & Exploitation: The Things We Do in the Name of Science

In the film Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcom summed up the status-quo relationship between science and ethics when he said, “[S]cientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

This panel, bringing in perspectives from bioethics, Big Data, and public policy, is a conversation about moral considerations in research where exploitation of people, organisms, and habitats is possible.

Our goal with this symposium is to uphold current discussions about research and ethics. We hope to encourage greater discussions within universities and research groups about ethical considerations in research.

Prof. Jonathan Wolff (Chair): Philosopher, academic, Blavatnik Professor of Public Policy, University of Oxford

Dr. Sarah Chan (Panelist): Chancellor Fellow at Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Prof. Doris Schroeder (Panelist): Director of the Centre for Professional Ethics and Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Central Lancashire

Prof. Nina Hallowell (Panelist): Ethox Centre, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, and Big Data Institute, University of Oxford

Registration Link