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GESDA's best pick from the press, web and science journals,
on anticipation of science advances and science diplomacy

22-29 January 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> Smart partnerships amid great power competition: AI, China and the Global Quest for Digital Sovereignty (REPORT) // January 2021, Atlantic Council Geotech Center
Artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies are developing at an exponential pace, and the discussion about their use as well as their implications for society and international relations is shaped by uncertainty. Whether it is the future of work, the collection and application of data, or new means for surveillance and social manipulation – AI will most likely influence every aspect of modern life. Change that is coming no matter whether people like it or not, and decision makers are under pressure to prepare for a new world in the digital age. In order to establish forums, enable discussions about opportunities and challenges of modern technologies, and evaluate their implications for US-China relations, the Atlantic Council organized meetings in Paris, Brussels, and Berlin; traveled to Beijing and Shanghai; and held virtual conferences with India and Africa, all the while trying to answer one question: How can countries successfully collaborate on big data, AI, and other modern technologies amid the widening political gyre? The following report captures key takeaways from these roundtable conversations, identifies the challenges and opportunities that different regions of the world face when dealing with emerging technologies, and evaluates China’s role as a global citizen.


> Science policy in 2021: 10 stories to watch // 22.01.2021, American Institute of Physics
Although science policy often moves slowly, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year demonstrated how the landscape can be upended almost overnight. As 2021 gets underway, the pandemic recovery and the changeover in presidential administrations are promising to make for an eventful year, even apart from whatever new surprises may be in store.  President Biden’s team has pledged to ensure scientific expertise is applied across the government’s pandemic response and more broadly to “listen to the science” in all matters of governance. This broad focus on science may also add to the momentum building behind significantly expanding support for U.S. R&D. Dramatic shifts are certainly expected for areas such as climate research and immigration policy, though some areas of science policy may continue with little disruption. 

Related articles: 



> Future of U.S. science policy, legacy of science: the endless frontier discussed in new publication // December 2020, National Academies of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences today released a new proceedings of a symposium that explored whether the modern research architecture that fuels U.S. innovation needs to be reconfigured to meet the challenges of our time. The symposium, held on Feb. 26 2020 at the National Academy of Sciences, gathered top business, academic, and government leaders to debate the future of science policy in the U.S. and how it can best serve society in the 21st century.


> Improving Science Literacy // 28.01.2021, World Economic Forum
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role of science in society and also revealed the need to improve public understanding of evaluating evidence, risk and uncertainty. Join an exclusive expert briefing, moderated by Fabiola Gianotti, DG of CERN and Board member of GESDA, on the global implications of the COVID-19 crisis and the road ahead. With Magdalena Skipper, Editor-in-chief of Nature, Sho Tsuji, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator at the University of Tokyo and Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president of the European Research Council.


> Cancer research needs a better map (COMMENT) // 26.01.2021, Nature
It is time to move beyond tumour sequencing data to identify vulnerabilities in cancers.

Related article: 
Catching cancer in the act // 22.01.2021, MIT News
Using CRISPR technology, researchers are tracking the lineage of individual cancer cells as they proliferate and metastasize in real-time.

(© Steve Gschmeissner/SPL)

> Right/wrong: how technology transforms our ethics // 26.01.2021, organised by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Many shifts in the right vs. wrong pendulum are affected by advances in technology. How will accelerating technology challenge and flip your ideas of right and wrong? What are we doing today that will be considered abhorrent tomorrow because of tech change? In "Right/Wrong," Juan Enriquez reflects on the evolution of ethics in a technological age. Juan Enriquez is an author, speaker, and research affiliate at MIT’s Synthetic Neurobiology Lab. Also featuring Kit McDonnell, a biologist-turned-communicator operating at the intersection of biotech, design, and sustainability; Sherman Teichman, the founding director emeritus of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University. Hosted by Wendell Wallach is a Carnegie-Uehiro Fellow and co-director of the Carnegie AI & Equality Initiative. He is the author of "A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond Our Control."


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics 

> Informatique quantique : Emmanuel Macron dévoile un plan à 1,8 milliard d'euros pour rester dans la course à l'ordinateur parfait // 21.01.2021,
Regarder la déclaration complète d’Emmanuel Macron, sur le site de l’Elysée.

Quantum hyperchaos could help build better quantum computers // 25.01.2021, New Scientist

Chipmaking is being redesigned. Effects will be far-reaching // 23.01.2021, The Economist

Artificial intelligence

> Who Is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU, or the United States? — 2021 Update // 25.01.2021, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
Related article: US leads world on artificial intelligence but China is catching up // 25.01.2021, South China Morning Post

Guidelines for military and non-military use of Artificial Intelligence (REPORT) // 20.01.2021, European Parliament press release

EPFL’s Robert West: ‘Machine learning is becoming a technology’ // 27.01.2021, Geneva Solutions

AI predicts schizophrenia symptoms in at-risk population // 27.01.2021, Technology Networks

AI could make healthcare fairer – by helping us believe what patients say // 22.01.2021, MIT Technology Review

The ethics of artificial intelligence, seen from Switzerland // December 2020,

(© Luigi Olivadoti)

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> Genomic medicine is deeply biased towards white people // 20.01.2021, New Scientist

The victims left behind by genetic genealogy // 27.01.2021, The Atlantic

‘Deleted’ DNA data just reappeared on a popular database // 22.01.2021, Future Human
The incident raises questions about how much control people have over their genetic data.

CRISPR-like tool for RNA editing could temporarily alter your proteins // 26.01.2021, New Scientist

Virus et variants, demain cancer et infarctus, comment l’ARN va changer nos vies // 28.01.2021, Le Point

Longevity and health

> Worrisome new coronavirus strains are emerging. Why now? // 27.01.2021, WIRED
Across the globe, SARS-CoV-2 is evolving ways to evade the immune system and become more infectious. Blown pandemic response plans are to blame.

New WHO Roadmap sets ambitious targets to reduce by 90% neglected tropical disease burden within decade // 28.01.2021, Health Policy Watch

Can an immune cell fix “de-age” the brain? // 22.01.2021, Futurity

Scientists Made a Biohybrid Nose Using Cells From Mosquitoes // 26.01.2021, SingularityHub


> A project warp speed for our minds (by Bryan Johnson, Kernel) // 25.01.2021, Medium Future Literacy

Remote controlled neural implant controls rats' brains // 26.01.2021, Futurism

A NEAT reduction of complex neuronal models accelerates brain research // 27.01.2021, UniBern press release

Gaming CEO: brain interfaces will allow us to edit our feelings // 25.01.2021, Futurism

Une neuroprothèse rétablit la tension artérielle suite à un accident de la moelle épinière // 27.01.2021, Le Temps
EPFL press release: New treatment helps patients with a spinal cord injury

(© EPFL)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering



> Au WEF virtuel, Ursula von der Leyen réclame un "Accord de Paris" pour la biodiversité // 26.01.2021, RTS

Impact of transnational land acquisitions on local food security and dietary diversity // 26.01.2021, PNAS

Boeing says its fleet will be able to fly on 100% biofuel by 2030 // 22.01.2021, Reuters

Global and regional drivers of land-use emissions in 1961–2017 // 27.01.2021, Nature

A new project maps the Pacific coast's critical kelp forests // 23.01.2021, WIRED


> Irradiating small animals used as fish food makes them bigger // 23.01.2021, The Economist

Climate and environment

UN global climate poll: ‘The people’s voice is clear – they want action’ // 27.01.2021, The Guardian
Biggest ever survey finds two-thirds of people think climate change is a global emergency.

Is it time for an emergency rollout of carbon-eating machines? // 26.01.2021, WIRED
Facilities that suck carbon dioxide out of the air could be powerful weapons for fighting climate change. But their deployment requires a huge wartime-style investment.

What Musk’s $100 million carbon capture prize could mean // 21.01.2021, MIT Technology Review

Carbon‐neutral pathways for the United States // 14.01.2021, AGU Advances

Low-carbon options for the French power sector: what role for renewables, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage? // January 2021, French Association of Environmental and Resources Economists


China’s surging private space industry is out to challenge the US // 21.01.2021, MIT Technology Review

Space Café WebTalk recap: Dr. Peter Martinez on the future of humanity in space // 27.01.2021, SpaceWatch.Global

How space became the next ‘great power’ contest between the U.S. and China // 24.01.2021, The New York Times

> NASA's efforts to mitigate the risks posed by orbital debris (REPORT) // 27.01.2021, NASA Office of Inspector General


> The race is on for commercial deployment of solar in open seas // 27.01.2021, Greentech Media

Plausible energy demand patterns in a growing global economy with climate policy // 25.01.2021, Nature Climate Change

Atomic design for a carbon-free planet // 25.01.2021, MIT News
Manipulating materials at a fundamental level, Ju Li reveals new properties for energy applications.

Catalyst boosts prospects for fuel-cell vehicles // 20.01.2021, Chemical&Engineering News
Platinum-molybdenum carbide spurs water-gas shift reaction, solving catalyst.

This artist’s impression shows the Pt/MoC catalyst with platinum loadings of 0.02% by weight (left), and 2% by weight (right). Blue = Mo, black = C, yellow = Pt

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> If poor countries go unvaccinated, a study says, rich ones will pay // 23.01.2021, The New York Times
A failure to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine in poor nations will worsen economic damage, with half the costs borne by wealthy countries, new research shows.

Related articles:

U.S. commission cites 'moral imperative' to explore AI weapons // 26.01.2021, Reuters

G7 urged to take ‘allied action’ against China on artificial intelligence, quantum and 5G // 26.01.2021, Science|Business

Janet Yellen will consider limiting the use of cryptocurrency // 22.01.2021, WIRED


> Horizon Europe draft work programmes leak online // 26.01.2021, Science|Business
The documents give researchers detailed clues to what kind of projects will be funded in the €95.5B programme.

As the world changes, science does too – and that’s a good thing // 25.01.2021, The Conversation

Geneva becomes a global hub for education in emergencies // 26.01.2021, Geneva Solutions
Related press release: Stepping up education in emergencies through enhanced cooperation // 25.01.2021,

Africa’s tech hubs giving universities stiff challenge // 15.01.2021,

> Bientôt six centres de compétence en éducation digitale dans des universités africaines // 22.01.2021, Le Matin (Maroc)

Phébé – Le virus mental des campus, l’autre pandémie // 26.01.2021, Le Point
Gad Saad, professeur de marketing, s’inquiète de la domination de l’idéologie postmoderniste et du rejet de la réalité dans les universités américaines.

Will public trust in science survive the pandemic? // 25.01.2021, Chemical&Engineering News

Why do so many astronomy discoveries fail to live up to the hype? // 28.01.2021, Undark
“Breakthroughs” come along regularly but often don’t hold up under scrutiny — and they could undermine trust in science.

> The year global health went local // 27.01.2021, Bill and Melinda Gates Annual letter
The world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all.

(©Rights reserved)


First thoughts on being appointed the UN Envoy on Technology // 24.01.2021, Medium
Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond: “I am deeply honoured that the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed me as his first Envoy on Technology. I look forward to consulting closely with all Member States and other partners in my new role.”
Related article: Secretary-General appoints Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond of Chile as his Envoy on Technology 
(© UN Multimedia)

> G.I.V.E. : L'économie et l'écologie sont-elles (ré)conciliables ? // 14.01.2021, Vanity Fair
Économie et écologie se sont souvent vues opposées. Elles ont pourtant le préfixe «éco» en commun et dérivent de la même notion grecque d’oikos, qui renvoie à la gestion de la maison. Face à la menace que fait peser le changement climatique sur nos sociétés, la sociologue Marie-Laure Salles-Djélic, directrice du Graduate Institute Geneva, explique que penser un modèle qui réconcilie économie et écologie apparaît comme une nécessité impérieuse et un défi à relever collectivement. (© Graduate Institute Geneva)


> Public debate is good for science (EDITORIAL, by Holden Thorp) // 15.01.2021, Science

> A Yale Professor’s personality test shows your most effective networking style // 28.01.2021, Forge 
Are you an expansionist, a broker, or a convener?

> UN Ozone Secretariat launches ‘Reset Earth’: Animation film & mobile game bring Gen Z into protecting ozone layer // 22.01.2021, UN Environment

The vaccine question //


> Science and Diplomacy: Negotiating Essential Alliances // By Mauro Gallucio

This book lays the groundwork for a new field of study and research in the intersection between science and diplomacy. It will review the multi-disciplinary research in this burgeoning area in providing the scientific foundation for the application of psychological principles to understanding and facilitating political decisions in an international context.   Focusing on how people think, act, and feel on both individual and collective levels, this book takes into account a realistic perspective from which transformative processes can emerge. It follows the ongoing debate in the EU and the world in providing a better understanding of the tools that can be deployed to improve communication and cooperation between scientists, politicians, and diplomats in this field. The failure of communication in this COVID-19 planetary crisis has not been about whether or not objectives have been achieved, but about the ability of major actors to cooperate to forge links with people. The way policymakers and scientists will manage their interpersonal negotiations will be of great importance in fostering international cooperation and coordinated problem-solving behaviours. Otherwise, science diplomacy will lose sight of its most important purpose: that of helping to solve problems, conflicts, and diplomatic processes for the sake of humanity.


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, Ecoregeneration and Geoengineering, Science and 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).

Forward Forward
Have a very nice and fruitful week! :-)
Copyright ©  2020, All rights reserved for the selection. All rights reserved by the respective media for articles reproduction.
Selection of an article in this press review doesn't mean endorsement by GESDA.

Mailing address:
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