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

22-28 August 2020

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> How is International Geneva shaping up? // 25.08.2020,
International Geneva is an important hub for multilateralism. The Swiss government continues to promote and invest in it. But it’s changing and facing new challenges. asks what it’s like to work there.

> What if Geneva became the leader in global digital policy? // 25.08.2020, Geneva.Solutions
Interview with Jacques de Werra, professor at the School of Law of the University of Geneva (for intellectual property law, contract law and Internet & digital law). He’s also the Director of the new Digital Law Center of its alma mater. He knows no rest and has organized a digital law summer school every year since 2014.

Protection of and attacks on privacy is a key issue with regards to digital policies (©

> Trump administration unveils $1 billion quantum and artificial intelligence initiative // 26.08.2020, Washington Post

NSF advances artificial intelligence research with new nationwide institutes // 26.08.2020, NSF Press release
But, according to VentureBeat, U.S. superiority in AI and quantum computing is an increasingly dim prospect. The EU Commission has committed to increasing investment in AI from $565 million (€500 million) in 2017 to $1.69 billion (€1.5 billion) by the end of 2020. France recently took the wraps off a $1.69 billion (€1.5 billion) initiative aimed at transforming the country into a “global leader” in AI research and training. And in 2018, South Korea unveiled a multiyear, $1.95 billion (KRW 2.2 trillion) effort to strengthen its R&D in AI, with the goal of establishing six AI-focused graduate schools by 2022 and training 5,000 AI specialists.

> Worldwide AI spending expected to double in next four years // 27.08.2020, Wall Street Journal
report published by International Data Corp. estimates that the worldwide spending on AI research will go from $50 billion today to about $110 billion in 2024.

(Illustration: Sam Whitney for WIRED)


Platform 1: Quantum revolution and advanced AI
Artificial intelligence

L’Afrique dans la bataille de l’intelligence artificielle (PODCAST) // 21.08.2020, RFI

> The foundation of efficient robot learning // 21.08.2020, Science


> NIST seeking comments on draft AI principles // 24.08.2020, Lexology
The American National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST has issued a set of draft principles for “explainable” artificial intelligence and is accepting comments until October 15, 2020.

> Quantum computers may be destroyed by high-energy particles from space // 26.08.2020, New Scientist

A simulation of a cosmic ray shower formed when a proton with 1TeV (1e12 eV) of energy hits the atmosphere about 20km above the ground. (Wikkicommons)

Platform 2: Human augmentation

> As Elon Musk’s Neuralink prepares to draw back the curtain, ex-employees describe rushed timelines clashing with science’s slow pace // 25.08.2020, STAT+
The hype from Elon Musk has been coming for weeks: This Friday 28 August at 3pm PST (midnight CET), his secretive brain-implants startup Neuralink will give the first major update on its progress in more than a year. An examination for this in-depth article was based on interviews with five former Neuralink employees and four independent experts and competitors working in brain-machine interface research. STAT also reviewed Neuralink’s scientific papers, its city planning permits, and its primate research contract with the UC Davis. This account is the deepest so far of the company’s internal culture and how it operates.

Researchers reversibly disable brain pathway in primates // 25.08.2020, Neuron - KU Leuven and Harvard

> A research team highlights the mechanisms underlying memory and learning capacity // 26.08.2020, Nature Communications - University of Montreal


Longevity and health

> Blood substitution therapy rescues the brain of mice from ischemic damage // 25.08.2020, Nature Communications

Accumulating extra genome copies may protect fly brain cells during aging // 25.08.2020, eLife

We now have the technology to develop vaccines that spread themselves (COMMENT) // 19.08.2020, NewScientist
Prevention is better than cure, so we should start using genetic techniques to stop dangerous animal diseases jumping to humans, say Scott Nuismer and James Bull.

Engineers bring surgical robots down to microscale size // 25.08.2020, The Harvard Gazette
Based on a study published in Nature Machine Intelligence.
Also read this article in NatureElectronically integrated, mass-manufactured, microscopic robots

Radiation-resistant bacteria could survive journey from Earth to Mars // 26.08.2020, NewScientist
Based on a study published in Frontiers in Microbiology

A woman may have been cured of H.I.V. without medical treatment // 26.08.2020, NewYork Times
Based on an article published in Nature


CRISPR-engineered fat cells burn fat and prevent obesity in mice // 26.08.2020, Science Translational Medicine

Genetic data show how a single superspreading event sent coronavirus across Massachusetts - and the nation // 25.08.2020, Washington Post
The emerging field of genomic sequencing provides critical information into how the virus spreads.

New study shows evolutionary breakdown of 'social' chromosome in ants // 25.08.2020, eLife

Synthego raises $100 million for AI-driven gene editing // 26.08.2020, VentureBeat
Here a report by SynthegoState of CRISPR gene editing in the drug discovery sector // 19.08.2020

Discovery of new genes that influence the success of cancer treatment // 25.08.2020, Cell Reports -  University of Bern press release

(Copyright: ©UKRO Insel Gruppe AG)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration and geoengineering


Green hydrogen set to be competitive with fossil fuels by 2040  // 25.08.2020, Bloomberg
Wood Mackenzie forecasts cost of green hydrogen falling 64%

State of the Global Mini-grids Market Report 2020 // July 2020, Sustainable Energy for All
The report, published by BloombergNEF and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), aims to raise awareness about mini-grids and highlights key trends in the industry.

Nano-diamond self-charging batteries could disrupt energy as we know it // 25.08.2020, NewAtlas
The heart of each cell is a small piece of recycled nuclear waste.

China’s plan to cut coal and boost green growth // 26.08.2020, Nature
With this further article: The engineer making energy storage more efficient

With ultralight lithium-sulfur batteries, electric airplanes could finally take off (Op-Ed) // 19.08.2020, IEEE Spectrum

Mini power plants from coated blue-green algae // 27.08.2020, EMPA Press release

> Light harvesting in oxygenic photosynthesis: Structural biology meets spectroscopy // 21.08.2020, Science


> Next-generation gene drive for malaria control // 24.08.2020, PNAS

Der Weizen der Zukunft wächst in Hochhäusern // 18.08.2020,
Version française sur Le blé du futur poussera dans des tours
Based on a study published in PNAS.

> Synthetic biology startups are giving investors an appetite // 26.08.2020, TechCrunch

Climate and environment

Climate change: Removing CO2 could spark big rise in food prices // 24.08.2020, BBC
About this study published in Nature Climate Change.

The climate change mitigation potential of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage // 24.08.2020, Nature Climate Change
More info about this study: Rolle und Potenzial von negativen Emissionen durch BECCS // 24.08.2020, Science Media Center German

> Die Schweizer Firma Climeworks will auf Island jährlich 4000 Tonnen COversteinern // 26.08.2020, NZZ

We should rewild the sky to restore the atmosphere to its former glory (COMMENT) // 19.08.2020, NewScientist

> Green investments need global standards and independent scientific review (CORRESPONDENCE) // 24.08.2020, Nature

Difficult, complex decisions underpin the future of the world's coral reefs // 26.08.2020, PloS ONE - Australian Institute of Marine Science


Next generation ESA: what’s the vision? // 27.08.2020,

> Scientist: we should grant the Moon legal personhood // 27.08.2020, Futurism

Report suggests ways to avoid satellites ruining telescope images but ‘there is no place to hide’ // 25.08.2020, Science
Access the report here.

 Venus and Starlink satellites (Copyright: Mike Lewinski, Flickr)

Platform 4: Science and Diplomacy

Confusion over Europe’s data-protection law is stalling scientific progress // 25.08.2020, Nature

> Will the pandemic strengthen authoritarianism? // 23.08 2020, Foreign Affairs
The coronavirus pandemic is testing the resilience of all governments, democratic and authoritarian alike. But some fear that the crisis is reinforcing global antidemocratic trends as leaders around the world take extraordinary measures to contain the contagion, from ramping up surveillance to cracking down on dissent. Will authoritarian and illiberal leaders tighten their grip on power? Or will the current upheaval spur a resurgence of democracy?

Why tech can’t close the diversity gap // 18.08.2020, Financial Times

Innovative cities follow a unique historical pattern, study shows // 21.08.2020, Northwestern University press release
Population size seen as key driver of a strong urban economy

The rise of environmental justice // 25.08.2020, C&EN (Full issue)
In the midst of a pandemic and an uprising for racial equity, advocates for communities of color near industrial facilities seize the moment.


After 4 years without a case, World Health Organization African Region has been certified as wild polio-free // 25.08.2020, WHO

«Avec l’émergence de la figure de Didier Raoult, l’opinion se polarise de façon inédite» // 24.08.2020,
Florian Cova est professeur assistant au Département de philosophie de l'Université de Genève. Il a signé sur la plate-forme Medium un texte d’introduction à la philosophie des sciences où il épingle les erreurs (voire détournements assumés) commises par Didier Raoult en matière de philosophie des sciences.

> Trump has launched an all-out attack on the FDA. Will its integrity survive? // 27.08.2020, STAT+


> Christian Simm, notre homme des SwissNex aux Etats-Unis, revient en Suisse, comme Head of International relations à l’UniZH // 09.08.2020, Le Temps (Blog de Christian Jacot-Descombes)
Après 23 ans passés à la tête des SwissNex de San Francisco, puis Boston, Christian Simm, de retour en Suisse depuis le 1er août, s’apprête à mettre ses talents de diplomate scientifique au service de l’Université de Zurich, comme Head of International relations.


> Jalon important pour la coopération scientifique entre la Suisse et l’Afrique du Sud // 27.08.2020,
Le conseiller fédéral Guy Parmelin et le ministre des sciences sud-africain Blade Nzimande, réunis en vidéoconférence le 27 août 2020, se sont félicités de la récente signature d’un accord « Lead agency » entre le Fonds national suisse (FNS) et la National Research Foundation (NRF) sud-africaine, qui constitue un jalon décisif pour les relations scientifiques entre leurs deux pays. Cet accord, le premier que le FNS conclut avec un pays en dehors de l’Europe, facilitera grandement la collaboration entre les chercheurs de Suisse et d’Afrique du Sud.


> Orbital debris: prevention, mitigation and clean up of space junk // 03.09.2020 4pm CEST, organised by SwissNex Network
The UK Science and Innovation Network, the UK Department for International Trade, the U.S. Embassy in Bern and the Swiss Space Office, in collaboration with the University of Bern and the swissnex network, are pleased to host a webinar on the issue of orbital debris, or - as commonly called - “space junk.”
More than 500'000 pieces of debris are currently being tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds of up to 28,000 km/h, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. The rising number of space debris increases the danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station, space shuttles and other spacecraft with humans aboard. During the virtual event, we will focus on the current activities and technologies developed by space agencies, academics, and industry worldwide to tackle this issue. We will also look at what obstacles need to be addressed and who could bring solutions.

> What is Life? A unique opportunity to learn directly from a renowned world expert in biology and genetics // 03.09.2020, 7pm, organised by NewScientist
Life is all around us, abundant and diverse, it is extraordinary. But what does it actually mean to be alive? Nobel prize-winner  Sir Paul Nurse has spent his career revealing how living cells work. In this talk, he takes up the challenge of answering perhaps the most important question in science: what is life? He illuminates five great ideas that underpin biology: the cell, the gene, evolution by natural selection, life as chemistry, and life as information.

Have a very nice and fruitful week! :-)

Humanity is facing more than ever global challenges (with regards, e.g., to the COVID-19 crisis), putting people and the planet under stress and in great uncertainty. Simultaneously, the world is experiencing breakthrough in science and technology at an unprecedented, sometimes hard to grasp, pace. Anticipation in therefore key to build the future with the aim to fully exploit this scientific potential for the well-being and inclusive development of all. GESDA Foundation's ambition is first to anticipate and identify these cutting-edge science and technology advances and then, based on them, develop effective and socially inclusive solutions to emerging challenges by including actors of various professional origins and mindsets (science, diplomacy, philanthropy, industry, citizens, youth).
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.

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