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GESDA's best pick from the press, web and science journals, in relation to GESDA's thematic platforms

01-08 February 2022

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> The “next frontier” for pioneering cancer therapies // 06.02.2022, Axios
Cancer treatments that modify a patient's immune cells to attack cancer cells are being re-engineered to try to treat more cancers in more people. CAR-T immunotherapies have been successful in treating certain types of blood cancers in some people. But they struggle against solid tumors, which make up about 90% of cancers in adults. "Solid tumors are the next frontier," says J. Joseph Melenhorst, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who develops CAR-T therapies.

Related articles: 

> Last-resort cancer therapy holds back disease for more than a decade // 02.02.2022, Nature

> CAR T cells produced in vivo to treat cardiac injury // 06.01.2022, Science

(© Rebecca Zisser/Axios)


> OSTP and NSF host “Quantum Workforce: Q-12 Actions for Community Growth” Event, Release Quantum Workforce Development Plan // 01.02.2022, NSF
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) National Quantum Coordination Office (NQCO) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) convened educators and leaders in quantum information science and technology (QIST) to explore training and education opportunities for America’s future QIST workforce. The event focused on ways to engage young minds in QIST and established tools to help improve early education and outreach. During the event, OSTP’s NQCO and NSF released the National Strategic Plan for Quantum Information Science and Technology Workforce Development. The plan recommends a series of actions and community opportunities to grow the QIST workforce through expanded training and education at all levels.


Related News focus issue:

Focus on perspectives on societal aspects and impacts of quantum technologies // February 2022, IOPscience
Quantum science and technology is advancing and evolving rapidly and, in the last decade, has shifted from foundational scientific exploration to adoption by commercial and government organisations. But this is not so much a shift as an expansion - while there is talk of a quantum industry developing, the number of fundamental questions, challenges and opportunities also continues to grow, which bodes well for the longevity of the field. The future would appear to be quantum. Yet, as science fiction author William Gibson cautions, "the future is here – it's just not very evenly distributed". It is essential that scrutiny and guidance is applied to this quantum revolution to bring other societal stakeholders onboard with this technology and ensure the benefits can be maximised for all society.


> COVID’s lesson for governments? Don’t cherry-pick advice, synthesize it // 01.02.2022, Nature
“Handling complex scientific issues in government is never easy – especially during a crisis, when uncertainty is high, stakes are huge and information is changing fast. But for some of the nations that have fared the worst in the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a striking imbalance between the scientific advice available and the capacity to make sense of it. Some advice is ignored because it’s politically infeasible or unpragmatic. Nonetheless, much good scientific input has fallen aside because there’s no means to pick it up. Part of the problem has been a failure of synthesis — the ability to combine insights and transcend disciplinary boundaries. Creating better syntheses should be a governmental priority as the crisis moves into a new phase”, writes Geoff Mulgan, professor of collective intelligence, public policy and social innovation at University College London.

(© WHO)


> What’s so hard about understanding consciousness? // 02.02.2022, Nautilus
Nautilus brought Antonio Damasio and Anil Seth together to share their insights into neuroscience’s big question.

(© melitas/Shutterstock)


> A new database reveals how much humans are messing with evolution // 04.02.2022, WIRED
Some animals and plants are rapidly adapting to our warming, polluted world. How alarming that is depends on your perspective.

(© Natalie Fobes/Getty Images)


> Spinal implants let three people who were paralysed walk with support // 07.02.2022, New Scientist
Three people who were completely paralysed from the waist down due to spinal cord injuries can now walk while using wheeled walking frames or crutches for support, thanks to implants that electrically stimulate nerves in their back and legs. “All three patients immediately after the surgery were able to stand up and to step [with support],” says Jocelyne Bloch at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland, who carried out the surgery. “On the first day, I was able to see my legs moving and it was very, very emotional,” says one of the recipients, an Italian man called Michel Roccati. After three to four months of training, he could walk outside using a walker. Several groups have been investigating using implants to stimulate nerves of the spinal cord in people who have injured them, but most have focused on people with lesser injuries and more intact nerves. The idea is that the stimulation makes the remaining nerves more excitable and so amplifies the weak signals from the brain to the legs, although it takes months of training.

Related Press release: New implant offers promise for the paralyzed // 07.02.2022, EPFL


> Defining a sustainable development target space for 2030 and 2050 // 01.02.2022, One Earth
With the establishment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), countries worldwide agreed to a prosperous, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable future for all. This ambition, however, exposes a critical gap in science-based insights, namely on how to achieve the 17 SDGs simultaneously. Quantitative goal-seeking scenario studies could help explore the needed systems' transformations. This requires a clear definition of the "target space." The 169 targets and 232 indicators used for monitoring SDG implementation cannot be used for this; they are too many, too broad, unstructured, and sometimes not formulated quantitatively. Here, the authors propose a streamlined set of science-based indicators and associated target values that are quantifiable and actionable to make scenario analysis meaningful, relevant, and simple enough to be transparent and communicable. The 36 targets are based on the SDGs, existing multilateral agreements, literature, and expert assessment. They include 2050 as a longer-term reference point. This target space can guide researchers in developing new sustainable development pathways.


  • At the current CO2 emission rate and its projected growth, which will stem from continued population growth and the industrialisation of developing countries, it is projected that the world is headed for a catastrophic temperature rise above 3°C in this century. 
  • In fact, there is already so much CO2 in the atmosphere that simply reducing emissions is no longer sufficient; the effort now requires the implementation of “negative emissions technologies” (NETs) that can extract carbon directly from the atmosphere. 
  • NETs can both impact past emissions and also help manage those emissions from small, dispersed sources, like automobiles.


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics 

> Ultrathin materials lead to big advance in quantum computing // 07.02.2022, SciTechDaily 

The Quantum Insider report forecasts quantum security market worth $10 billion by 2030 // 02.02.2022, The Quantum Insider

Artificial intelligence and technology 

> Data-centric AI: AI models are only as good as their data pipeline // 25.01.2022, HAI Stanford University

DeepMind says its new AI coding engine is as good as an average human programmer // 02.02.2022, The Verge

> New reprogrammable chip lets AI learn continuously – just like the brain // 07.02.2022, SingularityHub

The crypto backlash is booming // 04.02.2022, The Atlantic
Web3 is making some people very rich. It’s making other people very angry.
Related article: Beware the FOMO bullies of technologies // 05.02.2022, The Atlantic

(© Irene Suosalo)

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> Record-breaking rapid DNA sequencing promises timely diagnosis for thousands of rare disease cases // 03.02.2022, The Conversation

New computational tool predicts cell fates and genetic perturbations // 03.02.2022, MIT News

HIV vaccine: Phase 1 clinical trial tests mRNA technology against HIV // 02.02.2022, Health Policy Watch


> Widely available supplement may explain brain boost from exercise // 03.02.2022, Science
Studies in mice show selenium increases the number of new neurons, and improves memory in old age.

Gut microbe linked to depression in large health study // 04.02.2022, Science

>  In vitro platform enables realistic studies of neurological disorders // 04.02.2022, PhysicsWorld

Interoception: This ‘sixth sense’ could be key to better mental health // 02.02.2022, New Scientist
How our brains interpret signals from within the body has a surprisingly big influence on the mind, an insight that is leading to new ways to tackle conditions like depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Longevity and health

> Can Biden's 'Cancer Moonshot' succeed? It's possible, experts say, but it will take more than words // 06.02.2022, USA TODAY
President Biden has promised to cut the cancer death rate in half over the next 25 years and improve the experience of patients and families, "ending cancer as we know it." Cancer doctors, patients and researchers, not surprisingly, were thrilled by the "Cancer Moonshot" coming out of the Oval Office. But as with any big plan, the devil is in the details. 

South African scientists copy Moderna’s COVID vaccine // 03.02.2022, Nature
Researchers at WHO technology-transfer hub complete first step in a project aimed at building capacity for vaccine manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries.

With cancer biomarkers, experts say the future has finally arrived // 02.02.2022, STAT+

Scientists chasing artificial kidneys create most complex kidney tissue yet // 02.02.2022, Singularity Hub

Researchers in Japan have generated a kidney-like 3D tissue, consisting of many types of kidney-specific structures, from cultured mouse embryonic stem cells. ©Dr. Shunsuke Tanigawa, Kumamoto University

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


> Lithium price squeeze adds to cost of the energy transition // 05.02.2022, Financial Times

Insect ranchers pour $5 million into world’s first large-scale genetic breeding facility // 03.02.2022, Science
Genetically engineered mealworms could provide fertilizer – and food – for millions.

Global and regional health and food security under strict conservation scenarios // 03.02.2022, Nature Sustainability


Energy Observer 2: a new zero-emission ship to meet the objectives of the International Maritime Organization // 06.02.2022, Energy Facts

Solar power challenges // 20.01.2022, Nature Sustainability
Related articles:
The aluminium demand risk of terawatt photovoltaics for net zero emissions by 2050 // January 2022, Nature Sustainability
Solarpanels statt Kühe auf den Alpen? // 03.02.2022, WOZ


NASA details plan to retire ISS in 2030 and deliberately crash it into the Pacific Ocean // 03.02.2022, Gizmodo

SpaceX could get sued when its derelict rocket crashes into the Moon, experts say // 02.02.2022, THE BYTE

China releases five-year space program // 02.02.2022, SpaceWatch.Global

Climate and environment

Targeting methane “ultra-emitters” could cheaply slow climate change // 05.02.2022, The Economist

The struggle for standards in the carbon offsets market // 07.02.2022, Financial Times

How big business is taking the lead on climate change // 03.02.2022, Foreign Affairs

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero // November 2021, GFANZ
Our progress and plan towards a net-zero global economy.

Fix the Planet newsletter: Can tree diversity help the climate? // 03.02.2022, New Scientist 

La National Academy of Sciences préconise d’investir des milliards pour la R&D sur la séquestration du carbone par les océans // 01.02.2022, Ambassade de France aux Etats-Unis

Sonnengott spielen: Radikale Ideen gegen den Klimawandel erhitzen die Gemüter // 01.02.2022, NZZ


Could Crispr flip the switch on insects' resistance to pesticides? // 02.02.2022, WIRED
Researchers at UC San Diego and the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society in India have developed a potential way to fight back: Using Crispr gene editing, they replaced an insecticide-resistant gene in fruit flies with the normal form of the gene and propagated the change through insects in the lab. The approach, known as a gene drive, is described in a January 12 paper in Nature Communications, and the team believes it can be translated into mosquitoes.

Related article: Reversing insecticide resistance with allelic-drive in Drosophila melanogaster // 12.01.2022, Nature Communications

Related report: A Code of Ethics for Gene Drive Research // 19.02.2021, The CRISPR Journal

(© Soumyabrata Roy/Nurphoto/Getty Images)

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

Out-of-control cybercrime will cause more real-world harm // 02.02.2022, WIRED
Ransomware and online attacks can lead to deadly real-world consequences. Governments need to raise their game in response.

Economic terms can civilise the ascent of digitalisation // 02.02.2022, Financial Times

Thirty African countries now back Africa Medicines Agency treaty but continent’s economic powers still hold out  // 03.02.2022, Health Policy Watch

GESDA Platform: Knowledge Foundations

Multivers : la traque d'un monde parallèle continue à Grenoble // 06.02.2022, Futura Sciences

Major African radio telescope will help to image black holes // 04.02.2022, Nature

Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO)


> «Nous avons perdu notre naïveté et notre innocence numérique» // 06.02.2022, Le Matin Dimanche
Les réseaux sociaux menacent notre santé et celle de la démocratie. Mais rien n’est joué, estime Bruno Patino. Le directeur d’Arte publie «Tempête dans le bocal».

‘The case for masks became hugely stronger’: scientists admit their Covid mistakes // 04.02.2022, The Guardian
Being proved wrong lies at the heart of scientific progress. Here, experts reveal what they got wrong during the pandemic.

Meet the NSA spies shaping the future // 01.02.2022, MIT Technology Review

« Notre âge courant s’arrête au métavers, le suivant commencera au début du transhumanisme » // 03.02.2022, Méta-Media
À l’origine, l’ambition d’Unity était de rendre la conception de jeux vidéo accessible à tous. Aujourd’hui, alors que plus de 50 % des jeux sur mobile, consoles, PC et VR ont été réalisés avec ce moteur, la société renouvelle ses ambitions. Unity ne sert plus seulement à la réalisation de jeux, mais plus généralement à la création d’expériences interactives. Entretien avec Mathieu Muller, product manager chez Unity Technologies.

(© Noritsu Koki/Unsplash)


> «Meine Kollegen in anderen Ländern sagen, bei uns herrschten paradiesische Zustände» // 05.02.2022, Sonntagszeitung
Der Bundespräsident Ignazio Cassis lanciert einen Lösungsansatz für den Streit mit der Europäischen Union. Er verteidigt eine schnelle Lockerung der Corona-Regeln. Und von Russland lässt er sich nicht erpressen. (© Marco Zanoni)

> Streit mit der EU: «Es ist nie eine gute Idee, die Wissenschaft als Geisel zu nehmen»  // 04.02.2022, NZZ
Der ETH-Präsident Joël Mesot (auch GESDA Co-chair of the Academic Forum) ist eine der gewichtigsten Stimmen im Wissenschaftsbetrieb. Im Interview erklärt er, welcher Schaden der Schweiz durch den Ausschluss vom EU-Programm Horizon droht – und wie hindernisreich Kooperationen mit den USA und Asien sind. (© ETHZ)

> “How we question the ethics of AI is a very political issue” // 04.02.2022, EPFL press release
In advance of the AI & Ethics Week conference, co-organized by EPFL’s College of Humanities and Center for Digital Trust, ethics expert Johan Rochel talks about the importance of international and cross-sector debate on the impacts of artificial intelligence. (© EPFL)


Related article: The Guardian view on vaccine justice: the developing world won’t wait // 04.02.2022, The Guardian


> An online signature campaign for an open and inclusive European Research Area // 08.02.2022, Stick To Science Initiative
The Stick to Science initiative has been set up by the European research community calling for open and barrier-free collaboration among Europe’s research and innovation (R&I) actors, who all share the same values. The initiative is an active response to the delayed  progression of association agreements with Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK), which are being held up by political barriers that have nothing to do with science. 

Wellcome Leap announces over $300M in additional funding // 02.02.2022, Wellcome Leap press release
Now more than half a billion dollars for catalyzing breakthroughs in human health.

Archives de l’ONU et de la SDN offertes sur une plateforme // 31.01.2022, GenèveVision/RTS
Les archives de l’ONU à Genève seront plus faciles d’accès pour le public dans le monde entier. Une plateforme, sur laquelle des millions de pages de la Société des Nations (SDN) ont été numérisées, a été lancée vendredi par la directrice générale Tatiana Valovaya. Les archives rassemblent les documents des mouvements internationaux de paix du 19e siècle, de la SDN, de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève (ONUG) et d’autres agences onusiennes. Parmi elles, d’ici la fin de l’année, plus de 15 millions de pages de la SDN, surtout des lettres reçues dans de nombreuses langues, ont été numérisées.

Rewilding asks players: What will you do after the climate apocalypse? // 05.02.2022, WIRED
The upcoming indie game puts you in charge of rebuilding a destroyed ecosystem—not as a hero, but as a gig worker for a profit-hungry corporation.

(© Heavy Meadow)


> How the World Really Works review: The tech that underpins society // 02.02.2022, New Scientist
From how food is grown to how we generate power, Vaclav Smil's new book outlines the basic technologies that keep society going and commands us to know them better.


> Here's what Henry Kissinger thinks about the future of artificial intelligence // 05.02.2022, Gizmodo
One of the men most responsible for altering the course of global power in the 20th century has some thoughts on how the next hundred years will play out.


Humanity, now more than ever, is facing global challenges (especially with regards to the Covid-19 crisis), putting people and the planet under stress and in great uncertainty. Simultaneously, the world is experiencing breakthroughs in science and technology at an unprecedented pace, which are sometimes hard to grasp. Anticipation, therefore, is key to build the future with the aim of early and fully exploiting this scientific potential for the well-being and inclusive development of all. The Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator was founded in Geneva in 2019 to tackle this issue.

GESDA's ambition is to first anticipate and identify these cutting-edge advances in science and technology throughout various domains (Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI, Human Augmentation, Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering, Science & Diplomacy). Based on this scientific outlook, it will, with its Diplomacy community, translate potential leaps in science and tech into tools that can bring effective and socially-inclusive solutions to emerging challenges. Most importantly, this process will be achieved not only by scientists or diplomats, but will include actors of various professional origins and mindsets (from philanthropy, industry, citizens, to youth).

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Have a very nice and fruitful week! :-)
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Selection of an article in this press review doesn't mean endorsement by GESDA.

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