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

19-26 March 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> Governance in the age of complexity: building resilience to COVID-19 and future pandemics // March 2021, Geneva Science-Policy Interface
This policy brief aims to promote a holistic mindset about the COVID-19 pandemic by 1) applying a complexity lens to understand its drivers, nature, and impact, 2) proposing actions to build resilient societies to pandemics, and 3) deriving principles to govern complex systemic crises. Building resilience to prevent, react to, and recover from systemic shocks need to become a core element of how societies are governed. This requires an integrated approach between health, social, economic, environmental, and institutional systems. The brief has been developed by a team of researchers coming from both the natural and social sciences. Reviewed by a group of policy actors, the brief aims to foster a dialogue between academic institutions and policymakers.

(© DR)


> Form a climate club: United States, European Union and China // 23.03.2021, Nature
If the three biggest economies agree a carbon tax on imports, it will catalyse climate action globally.

When steel manufacture in Pakistan is buoyed by Chinese infrastructure investments, how to account for the emissions released? (©Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg via Getty)


> Academic-humanitarian technology partnerships: an unhappy marriage? // 16.03.2021, PNAS
Working together seems like a good idea – especially when working toward a noble goal. In the hopes of more efficiently and quickly reaching their aims, many humanitarian and development organizations (HDOs) – including nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), and international organizations such as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – have frequently sought partnerships with academia in recent years. These partnerships aim to use academic research and scientific expertise to address problems, through technology, that HDOs encounter “in the field” – generally in low-income or crisis-affected settings. There are hundreds of examples, covering diverse topics: from digital health software, to drone cargo delivery, to the development of new biomedical hardware. However, little has been reported to date about the success and efficiency (or lack thereof) of such partnerships as a practical matter. There is a tendency to resist critical self-evaluation of such collaborations. The reasons are easily deducible: The HDOs don’t want to reveal a waste of resources to their donors, and academia doesn’t want to show a lack of real-world impact that could affect the perceived quality of the research and future funding. As a result, such partnerships continue without adequate understanding of what will make them successful.

(©Sam Whitney for WIRED)


> Warming up to solar geoengineering // 25.03.2021, AXIOS
As countries struggle to meet ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, financial backers and government officials are grappling with how to study ideas for engineering the Earth’s climate. Once dismissed as science fiction, solar geoengineering is now viewed as a possible tool to help humans reduce the dangerous impacts of climate change on ecosystems and society. However, much remains to be learned about these schemes before they can be considered. A report released today by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) details recommendations for conducting, funding and governing research on solar geoengineering

Related article: Geoengineering is coming, whether it’s governed or not // 22.03.2021, WorldPoliticsReview
Humanity’s collective failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is driving the world inexorably toward geoengineering, or the intentional, large-scale human manipulation of Earth’s climate system. Facing runaway global warming, individual nations will surely develop and deploy new technologies to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and the planet’s exposure to solar radiation. Playing with the environment and the atmosphere, however, is playing with fire. Without adequate rules, geoengineering will create massive, unintended consequences, deepen geopolitical rivalries and hasten the world’s division into climate winners and losers. To avoid these fates, the world must create a robust multilateral regime to govern the research, development and deployment of these new technologies.

(©Sarah Grillo/Axios)


> Ethics of Genome Editing // March 2021, European group on ethics in science and new technologies
The advent of new genome editing technologies such as CRISPR/CasX has opened new dimensions of what and how genetic interventions into our world are possible. This Opinion addresses the profound ethical questions raised and revived by them.

Related news article: Ethics report brings EU closer to decision on gene editing in agriculture // 25.03.2021, Science|Business
Related books: Decoding the CRISPR-baby stories // 24.02.2021, MIT Technology Review
The conventional story of CRISPR genome editing is one of heroic power and promise with an element of peril. That peril became personified when MIT Technology Review revealed in November 2018 that a young Chinese scientist named He Jiankui was using CRISPR to engineer human embryos. At least three of them became living children.  The “CRISPR babies'' episode is now an obligatory chapter in any telling of the gene-editing story. When Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were awarded the Nobel Prize last year for their invention of CRISPR, virtually every news story also mentioned He. In this century’s grandest story of heroic science, he plays the villain. Storytelling matters. It shapes not only how the past is remembered, but how the future unfolds. Three new books explore the He Jiankui affair and what gene editing means for the future of humanity: Walter Isaacson’s The Code Breaker, Eben Kirksey’s The Mutant Project, and Editing Humanity by Kevin Davies.

(Illustration: Sam Whitney for WIRED)


After Covid, get ready for the ‘Great Acceleration’ (Op-Ed by Bruno Macaes)// 13.03.2021, The Spectator
“Before the pandemic struck, there was talk of a ‘Great Stagnation’ – the idea that the world economy was doomed to lacklustre growth and had hit a technological plateau with no game-changers in sight. But Covid - and lockdown - has changed all that. There was such doubt about the vaccines because it normally takes at least ten years to develop a successful immunisation. Now, we have six working ones. The innovation will not stop there: breakthroughs are happening at rapid speed, from transport and energy, to medicine and science, and even when it comes to currencies. [...] We are once again falling in love with technology, but that love is deeper now because we know the truth about technology much better than one or two centuries ago. In fact, as historians argue about the profound consequences of Covid-19 for the way societies will be organised in the future - and many singular theories are put forward - the answer is staring us in the face. The pandemic is not the beginning of the Chinese century. It is not the end of globalization or the return of socialism. What is starting today is a new age of technological wonder, the Great Acceleration.”


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI


> Quantum computing: IBM's new tool lets users design quantum chips in minutes // 22.03.2021, ZDNet

> Quantum mischief rewrites the laws of cause and effect // 21.03.2021, WIRED

Artificial intelligence

> AI armed with multiple senses could gain more flexible intelligence // 24.02.2021, MIT Technology Review

> The federal institutes of technology and the FSO join forces in data science and artificial intelligence for the public good // 25.03.2021,

How tech workers feel about China, AI and Big Tech’s tremendous power // 15.03.2021, Protocol

> AI could enable 'swarm warfare' for tomorrow's fighter jets // 22.03.2021, WIRED

> Call for a ‘CERN for AI’ as Parliament hears warnings on risk of killing the sector with over-regulation // 25.03.2021, Science|Business
MEPs will soon have to take a position on the Commission’s proposal for new artificial intelligence rules. If too onerous, they will hamper future uses and restrict Europe’s competitiveness, experts say


Platform 2: Human Augmentation

> Electronic skin: from flexibility to a sense of touch // 23.03.2021, Nature

> Promoting ethics for human enhancement technologies (SIENNA project Policy Brief #5) // 24.03.2021, SIENNA


Longevity and health

> Tiny swimming robots reach their target faster thanks to AI nudges // 24.03.2021, NewScientist

> What can ants, bees, and other social insects teach us about aging? // 25.03.2021, Science

Covid-19 has shown what modern biomedicine can do // 27.03.2021, The Economist
Related Editorial: Science after the pandemic: bright side of the moonshots // 27.03.2021, The Economist

Excessive exercise training causes mitochondrial functional impairment and decreases glucose tolerance in healthy volunteers // 13.03.2021, Cell Metabolism


Genetic engineering strategy dramatically reduces tau levels in Alzheimer's animal model // 19.03.2021, Science Advances

> Parkinson's gene may impair how new neurons are made throughout our lifetime // 23.03.2021, Scientific Reports

> Ultrasound reads monkey brains, opening new way to control machines with thought // 22.03.2021, Science

> Facebook is making a bracelet that lets you control computers with your brain // 18.03.2021, MIT Technical Review

> Mini-brains show why human brains grow larger than those of other apes // 24.03.2021, NewScientist

> Am I my connectome? // 19.03.2021, AEON
Each human brain possesses a unique, intricate pattern of 86 billion neurons. If science can map it, immortality beckons

(©Human Connectome Project)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering



Lithium: The big picture // 19.03.2021, OneEarth
Lithium  is  a  key  resource  in  global  efforts  toward  decarbonization.  However, like  the  extraction  process associated  with  this  soft,  white  metal,  the  lithium  story  is  complex.  Ignoring  this  complexity  in  pursuit  of a low-carbon future risks compromising other sustainability and equality goals. A holistic approach is needed to successfully navigate the lithium challenge.
> Staatliche Erdölkonzerne als die letzten Überlebenden: wie sich Saudiarabien und Russland in Stellung bringen // 23.03.2021, NZZ
> Selecting and prioritizing material resources by criticality assessments // 19.03.2021, OneEarth
> Actions on sustainable food production and consumption for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework // 19.03.2021, Science Advances
> Water on Mars may be trapped in the planet’s crust, not lost to space // 18.03.2021, Scientific American


New high-performance computing hub aims to harness the sun's energy // 23.03.2021, EPFL news
EUROfusion – or the European Consortium for the Development of Fusion Energy, which consists of organizations from 28 European countries – has just selected EPFL as the site for its Advanced Computing Hub.

> Clean hydrogen can reduce the climate impact of industries // 25.03.2021, EPFL news
> Mini-fuel cell delivers maximum performance // 19.03.2021, EPFL news
> How food waste could be turned into climate-friendly jet fuel // 19.03.2021, WIRED


Scientists used gene editing to make super corn // 24.03.2021, Future Human


Leading space innovator ClearSpace opens for business in the UK // 25.03.2021, ClearSpace press release
Critical parts of a ground-breaking operation to clean up Space will be executed by the new UK subsidiary.

Climate and environment

New generation of carbon dioxide traps could make carbon capture practical // 24.03.2021, Science
Towards a rigorous understanding of societal responses to climate change // 24.03.2021, Nature
Russia wants to use a forest bigger than India to offset carbon // 23.03.2021, Bloomberg Green
Bid to cool Earth with chalk dust // 23.03.2021, The Times
Disease outbreaks more likely in deforestation areas, study finds // 24.03.2021, The Guardian
Living smart and sustainably // 18.03.2021, Asian Scientist
Entrepreneurs and their inventions have a role to play in shaping a more sustainable world in the wake of the pandemic, said experts at TechInnovation 2020.

Singapore (©DR)

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

Das Franxini-Projekt macht Wissenschaftler zu Citoyens - zum Wohle aller // 17.03.2021, Reatch blog
Angelika Hardegger kritisiert in einem Kommentar unreflektierte Experteneuphorie – doch sie irrt, wenn sie die Schweizer Demokratie als «beste wissenschaftliche Praxis» beschreibt. Wissenschaft und Politik funktionieren nach unterschiedlichen Regeln, weshalb gegenseitiges Verständnis nicht selbstverständlich ist.
> La guerre qui ne dit pas son nom // 19.03.2021, GenèveVision (RTS)
La cyberguerre est une réalité, même si les affrontements se déroulent souvent en toute discrétion. Quand les frappes sont plus spectaculaires, qu’elles touchent des entreprises, des institutions publiques, elles étonnent par la sophistication qu’elles requièrent. Mais il règne toujours un certain flou sur ce qui s’est passé vraiment. Sur les auteurs, leurs méthodes, l’étendue des dégâts, leurs objectifs réels.
> How stalling growth hurts the planet // 20.03.2021, AXIOS
> We must urgently build an inclusive science advocacy movement  (Blog post)// 04.03.2021, Union of Concerned Scientists
> The world still needs the UN // March 2021, Foreign Affairs
Building global governance from scratch is a fool’s errand.
> Britain’s foreign and defence policy shake-up focuses on technology // 20.03.2021, The Economist

--- COVID-19 Special section ---

 > Covid-19 : l'OMS dénonce les inégalités d'accès aux vaccins // 23.03.2021, Le Figaro
UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution for equitable, affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines // 23.03.2021, GenevaSolutions
> COVID-19 recovery: science isn’t enough to save us (Op-Ed) // 23.03.2021, Nature
Policymakers need insight from humanities and social sciences to tackle the pandemic.

> Lab leak: a scientific debate mired in politics – and unresolved //17.03.2021, Undark
More than a year into the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, some scientists say the possibility of a lab leak never got a fair look.
> Rafael Grossi has a plan to stop future pandemics // 24.03.2021, Foreign Policy
The ambitious head of the IAEA is reinventing the nuclear watchdog—though some fear he’s spreading the agency too thin.
> How COVID is making the world more SDG-conscious, but less prepared //18.03.2021, The Geneva Observer

(Copyright: Alex Howling)


> You probably don’t remember the Internet // 22.03.2021, The Atlantic
How do we memorialize life online when it’s constantly disappearing?
> Using “proof of personhood” to tackle social media risks // 15.03.2021, International Risk Governance Center
The ease of creating fake virtual identities plays an important role in shaping the way information—and misinformation—circulates online. Social media platforms are increasingly prominent in shaping public debates, and the tension between online anonymity and accountability is a source of growing societal risks. This article outlines one approach to resolving this tension, with “pseudonym parties” that focus on proof of personhood rather than identity.
> Does science have a cancel culture? // 18.03.2021, American Council on Science and Health
Science should always be open to new approaches and ideas. Perhaps this seems self-evident, but although this may sound good in theory, many scientists view new approaches challenging their long-held beliefs with skepticism or downright hostility. Rather than rationally examining ideas that cause discomfort, ideas are off-handedly dismissed, and the people advancing them are attacked. This is the scientific version of “cancel culture".
> Trop cajolée, la génération Z est déprimée // 20.03.2021, Le Point
Le manque de difficultés dans la vie des jeunes adultes les conduirait à trouver la vie futile. Alors, pour aller mieux, faut-il souffrir davantage ?
> Tesla-Chef Elon Musk will den Übermenschen schaffen – Nietzsche wäre begeistert // 20.03.2021, Schweiz am Wochenende
Den Mars kolonialisieren und den Menschen mit der KI verschmelzen, so die Pläne von Elon Musk. Wer sich über den grössten Unternehmer unserer Zeit wundert, versteht ihn mit dem umstrittenen Philosophen Nietzsche besser.
> Possible futures from the intersection of nature, tech and society // March 2021, TED
Biodesigner Natsai Audrey Chieza prototypes the future, imagining a world where people and nature can thrive together. In this wildly imaginative talk, she shares the vision behind her innovation lab, which works at the intersection of nature, technology and society to create sustainable materials and models for the future. Chieza invites us to consider what kind of world we wish for -- and what systemic changes and collaborations need to happen for it to exist.


Le rôle de la Suisse dans les affaires du monde est-il en train de changer? // 15.03.2021, TV5MONDE
Interview très fouillée de Ignazio Cassis, Chef du Département fédéral des affaires étrangères, au sujet de son voyage en Afrique et la Stratégie de la confédération pour l'Afrique sub-saharienne, l'Iran, l'ONU et... Pink Floyd. (Photo: EDA)

«Man kann es nicht beschönigen: Wir haben ein Problem» // 25.03.2021, NZZ
Martin Vetterli, EPFL President und GESDA co-chair of the Academic Forum, ist eine der bedeutendsten Figuren im Schweizer Wissenschaftsbetrieb. Im Interview erklärt er, weshalb ihm das Klima und die EU-Debatte Sorgen bereiten – und wie wir als reiches Land die Digitalisierung verschlafen konnten.
(Photo: DR)

Science diplomacy: a slogan or a concrete asset for the society? // 23.03.2021, Club Diplomatique de Genève
Panel organised by the Club Diplomatique de Genève, in which Daria Robinson, Executive Director of Diplomacy Forum at GESDA, took part, along with Martin Chungong (Inter-Parliamentary Union, and GESDA Diplomacy Moderator), Michel Jarraud (World Meteorological Organization) and Nicolas Seidler (Geneva Science-Policy Interface, and GESDA Academic Expert) and Maurizo Bona (CERN). (Photo: DR)

In search of the missing link on climate // 26.03.2021, GenevaSolutions
Is something wrong about climate information, as sometimes put forth? Is it about the way our brains work ? Or is it the limitations of our political systems and the inertia of decades-long investments into energy and production systems?, asks Bruno Jochum, former director of Médecin Sans Frontières, now Head of the Climate Action Accelerator.

> Pourra-t-on un jour faire grandir des bébés génétiquement modifiés en éprouvettes? // 26.03.2021,
Chronique d'Olivier Dessibourg, Executive Director of Science communication and outreach à GESDA


> Professor Heidi Larson: “This is a key moment to build trust in countries and socio-economic groups with relatively low confidence in vaccines.” // 24.03.2021, European Science Media Hub


> The “Book of Why”: exploring the missing piece of artificial intelligence // 09.12.2021, TechTalks 
Written by award-winning computer scientist Judea Pearl and science writer Dana Mackenzie,  this book discusses the need to move past data-centric approaches and embed AI algorithms with the capability to find causes. In other words, this could be the one thing that stands between current AI and human intelligence, the power to ask questions and look for answers, hence the name of the book.


> Medicines for the People: what will the next decade look like? // 30.03.2021, 4:30pm CET, organized by DNDi
As DNDi launches a new Strategic Plan, charting a journey to deliver 25 treatments in our first 25 years, we know we must brace ourselves for a decade of ever-increasing and changing needs. What will the next decade look like?


> Les mers et océans français sont-ils suffisamment protégés ? // 30.03.2021, 3pm CET, organized by Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy
Lors de cette conférence, plusieurs experts feront un état des lieux du niveau de protection des eaux françaises ; des représentants d’ONG se prononceront sur la stratégie nationale pour les Aires Protégées publiée récemment par le gouvernement ; et des recommandations concrètes sur plusieurs sites seront présentées par des acteurs de terrain.


> Joint SIENNA/SHERPA/HBP webinar: Trust and Transparency in AI // 30.03.2021, organized by SIENNA
Trust and transparency in artificial intelligence (AI) are hotly debated themes and central to the responsible governance of this expanding technology field. The Ethics and Society Subproject of the Human Brain Project (HBP) has developed an Opinion to further the debate on key ethical and social issues that arise from the use of AI. It draws on findings from social science and humanities research, including a series of consultancies, webinars and workshops with citizens, scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders. The Human Brain Project's work package on Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) will present and discuss this opinion in an open webinar organised together with the Horizon2020 SIENNA and SHERPA projects on 30 March.


> The CERN Quantum Technology Initiative // 31.03.2021, 3pm CET, organized by the CERN Courrier
Quantum technologies have the potential to revolutionise science and society but are still in their infancy. In recent years, the growing importance and the potential impact of quantum technology development has been highlighted by increasing investments in R&D worldwide in both academia and industry.
Cutting-edge research in quantum systems has been performed at CERN for many years to investigate the many open questions in quantum mechanics and particle physics. However, only recently, the different ongoing activities in quantum computing, sensing communications and theory have been brought under a common strategy to assess the potential impact on future CERN experiments.
This webinar, presented by Alberto Di Meglio, will introduce the new CERN Quantum Technology Initiative, give an overview of the Laboratory’s R&D activities and plans in this field, and give examples of the potential impact on research. It will also touch upon the rich international network of activities and how CERN fosters research collaborations.


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.

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