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

25 June - 3 July 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg
NEXT EDITION of the BestReads: end of August!
Have a very nice summer, with some good scientific readings!


> Alondra Nelson wants to make science and tech more just // 29.06.2021, WIRED
The deputy director of the White House science office plans to tackle algorithmic bias and start candid conversations about the past.

“The potential benefits of automation will not be accomplished and, indeed, will fail, if we do not develop policy that prioritizes equity,” Alondra Nelson says. (© ANGELA WEISS/GETTY IMAGES)


> WHO: AI-driven health revolution must leave no-one behind // 30.06.2021, GenevaSolutions
Artificial intelligence holds “enormous potential” for improving health but algorithm bias, the unethical use of data by both companies and governments, and cybersecurity breaches are all risks that still need to be overcome, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Related articles:
> Artificial intelligence ‘very promising’ for health, says WHO // 28.06.2021, Health Policy Watch
> Press release of WHO: WHO issues first global report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health and six guiding principles for its design and use // 28.06.2021



> AI for materials discovery (REPORT)//June 2021, Chemical&Engineering News
Computers can spot data patterns that humans cannot. How will chemists guide the machines?

Related article: Speed-sifting data for next big thing // 01.07.2021, Nature
Systems to make data standardized and accessible are key for screening new material possibilities.


> MIT Technology Review: the Change issue // July 2021
Technology is rapidly changing how we live and work. Our annual list of Innovators Under 35 highlights the most promising young people working in technology today and provides a glimpse of the future they're helping create.


> The Internet is rotting // 30.06.2021, The Atlantic
Too much has been lost already. The glue that holds humanity’s knowledge together is coming undone.



> What it will take to achieve affordable carbon removal // 24.06.2021, MIT Technology Review
Another big direct-air-capture plant is moving ahead, but a new study finds we may need to build many more before the economics start to make sense.

Related article: Le labo de l’après-pétrole // 27.06.2021, Le Matin Dimanche
La société suisse Climeworks, connue pour ses énormes aspirateurs qui permettent de retirer du CO2 de l’atmosphère, a signé cette semaine un contrat avec l’éditeur de The Economist. Le prestigieux hebdomadaire libéral veut aller au-delà de la neutralité carbone.



How CRISPR gene editing will treat diseases in future: Nobel-winning Intellia co-founder Jennifer Doudna // 30.06.2021, CNBC
CRISPR gene editing, which slices DNA to treat diseases, had its first-ever systemic delivery in a human body. Jennifer Doudna, who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work on CRISPR, called the early success of the technology “one of the fastest rollouts I think of technology from the fundamental, initial science to an actual application.” Intellia Therapeutics, the biotech she co-founded, has seen its stock rise over 100% this month.


> Planetary intelligence for sustainability in the digital age: Five priorities // 18.06.2021, OneEarth
The science and technology of the digital age is transforming society’s ability to monitor and understand the changing global environment. These transformations have built the foundation for the planetary intelligence needed to achieve the global sustainability goals. However, five key barriers need to be overcome.

Related articles:
Digitizing a sustainable future: 13 opinions // 18.06.2021, OneEarth
Toward a circular economy: The role of digitalization // 18.06.2021, OneEarth
> Digital futures (EDITORIAL) // 18.06.2021, OneEarth



> Integrating explanation and prediction in computational social science // 30.06.2021, Nature
Computational social science is more than just large repositories of digital data and the computational methods needed to construct and analyse them. It also represents a convergence of different fields with different ways of thinking about and doing science. The goal of this Perspective is to provide some clarity around how these approaches differ from one another and to propose how they might be productively integrated.

Related articles:
Human social sensing is an untapped resource for computational social science // 30.06.2021, Nature
Meaningful measures of human society in the twenty-first century // 30.06.2021, Nature
Measuring algorithmically infused societies // 30.06.2021, Nature



Guidelines for the Field of Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine // May 2021, International Society for Stem Cell Research
As a service to the field, the ISSCR develops guidelines that address the international diversity of cultural, political, legal, and ethical issues associated with stem cell research and its translation to medicine. The guidelines maintain and underscore widely shared principles in science that call for rigor, oversight, and transparency in all areas of practice. Adherence to these principles provides assurance that stem cell research is conducted with scientific and ethical integrity and that new therapies are evidence-based. Responding to advances in science, the guidelines were updated in 2021 to encompass a broader and more expansive scope of research and clinical endeavor while maintaining the fundamental principles of the research and application. The 2021 guidelines include new recommendations to address the recent scientific advances involving embryos, stem cell-based embryo models, chimeras, organoids, and genome editing.


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum & Physics

>  UCL researchers find use for abstract task implemented in Google’s ‘Quantum Supremacy’ experiment // 25.06.2021, The Quantum Daily

> Quantum and Space: The ultimate solution to secured communications? // June 2021, SpaceWatch.Global/European Space Policy Institute

> The world's thinnest technology – only two atoms thick // 30.06.2021,

> Bridging international approaches on nanoEHS // May 2021, Nature Nanotechnology
The challenge of assessing the scope and magnitude of risk from nanomaterials is urgent for society and ignoring risks could be detrimental for development. This challenge is bigger than the individual capacities on each side of the Atlantic, but effective cross-Atlantic collaboration can solve essential riddles about the use of nanomaterials.

Artificial intelligence

> AI: Reward is enough// 27.06.2021, InsideAI
DeepMind researchers are facing skepticism over their “Reward is enough" paper, which suggests that AI reinforcement learning (RL) — a type of reward maximization — is enough to lay the foundation for artificial general intelligence (AGI). RL, an AI sub-domain that involves programming a model to maximize its reward chances, has been used to train computers to beat humans at chess and Go, for example. Skeptics, however, don't believe it could be broad enough to reach AGI, the kind of “general” intelligence that humans and some animals have.  In the paper, researchers Richard Sutton, David Silver, and their colleagues propose that RL could drive behaviors that mimic intelligence, such as knowledge, perception, and social intelligence.

> What if an AI won the Nobel prize for medicine? // 03.07.2021, The Economist
Controversy ensues when the greatest prize in medical research is awarded to a non-human. An imagined scenario from 2036.

> A new collaboration points to the future of data // 01.07.2021, EPFL press release

> Elaboration of a Recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence // 25.06.2021, UNESCO

Scientists from the Munich Center for Quantum Science and Technology working on a Quantum Simulator based on ultra-cold atoms in optical lattices (photo: Jan Greune | MPQ)

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


CRISPR injected into the blood treats a genetic disease for first time // 26.06.2021, Science

Gene therapy to regenerate cardiac muscle after a heart attack passes a key test in pigs // 30.06.2021, STAT

First genome-editing experiment conducted in space // 30.06.2021, Technology Networks

> The current landscape of nucleic acid therapeutics // May 2021, Nature Nanotechnology

Pushing through nanopores: Genetic sequencing with MXene // 25.06.2021, Carnegie Mellon University press release


What if dementia was preventable and treatable? // 03.07.2021, The Economist
How behavioural changes and new therapies turned the tide against dementia. An imagined scenario from 2050

Inflatable implant injected into the spine could relieve chronic pain // 25.06.2021, NewScientist

> A prototype closed-loop brain–machine interface for the study and treatment of pain // 21.06.2021, Nature Biomedical Engineering

> Advertisers could come for your dreams, researchers warn // 25.06.2021, Science

Brain changes from covid-19 may impact consciousness and cognition // 30.06.2021, NewScientist

Longevity and health

> Living pharmacies could remedy disrupted sleep // 01.07.2021, NEO.LIFE

> Mini-heart grown in the lab can pump fluid just like the real thing // 01.07.2021, NewScientist

> Beyond coronavirus: the virus discoveries transforming biology // 30.06.2021, Nature
SARS-CoV-2 is just one of nonillions of viruses on our planet, and scientists are rapidly identifying legions of new species.

> Harvard scientists pinpoint ‘ground zero’ of aging in mouse embryo study // 28.06.2021, SingularityHub

> A beginners guide to living longer and healthier // 27.06.2021, Medium

> What if everyone’s nutrition was personalised? // 03.07.2021, The Economist


Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


> Ocean scientists call for pause to start of deep-sea mining // 25.06.2021, EnviroNews Nigeria

> We can create a world in which 9+ billion people live within planetary boundaries, by 2050 // 24.06.2021, WBCSD

> Reshaping the European agro-food system and closing its nitrogen cycle: The potential of combining dietary change, agroecology, and circularity // 18.06.2021, OneEarth

> How Europe can stay at the heart of the hydrogen economy // 29.06.2021, Science|Business

> Des Romands sont primés en Chine grâce à l’hydrogène // 27.06.2021, Le Matin Dimanche
La firme genevoise Stor-H, qui propose des cartouches d’hydrogène pour vélos et scooters, a décroché un prix lors d’une grande foire technologique chinoise.


Can the most exciting new solar material live up to its hype? // 29.06.2021, MIT Technology Review

Why 'nuclear batteries' offer a new approach to carbon-free energy // 25.06.2021, TechXplore


China outlines space plans to 2025 // 30.06.2021, SpaceNews

Outer space, a challenging domain for ambitious defence strategy // June 2021, SpaceWatch.Global

A new chapter for space sustainability // 25.06.2021, MIT News

Elon Musk’s starlink to deliver Internet nearly worldwide within weeks // 29.06.2021, Bloomberg

Climate and environment

India will oppose ‘unfair’ carbon border tax plans at COP26 //29.06.2021, Bloomberg

How NYC plans to create a ‘living laboratory’ for climate research // 28.06.2021, Bloomberg
The mayor is seeking applicants to create a test bed for urban climate solutions on the sparsely developed Governors Island.

> City footprints and SDGs provide untapped potential for assessing city sustainability // 28.06.2021, Nature Communications

> Carbon analytics for net-zero emissions sustainable cities // 13.05.2021, Nature Sustainability

> Artificial intelligence and the climate emergency: Opportunities, challenges, and recommendations // 18.06.2021, OneEarth

WMO Executive Council endorses unified data policy // 24.06.2021, WMO press release
In a milestone decision, the World Meteorological Organization’s Executive Council has endorsed a unified policy on the international exchange of Earth system data to help its Members meet the explosive growth in demand for weather, climate and water services as the world grapples with the dual challenges of climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events.


Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> « Le futur d’internet sera celui d’un bien commun » // 25.06.2021, NouvelObs
Philippe Dewost, cofondateur de Wanadoo et multi-entrepreneur, réfléchit à l’avenir du réseau internet, à l’heure des méga-plateformes américaines et de la« grande muraille informatique » chinoise.

> What does breaking up Big Tech really mean? // 30.06.2021, The Economist

> On developing a better digital citizenry // 27.06.2021, The Jordan Times

> Everyone should decide how their digital data are used — not just tech companies // 01.07.2021, Nature

> A better boom how to capture the pandemic’s productivity potential // Juky 2021, Foreign Affairs

> The real vaccine procurement problem // 25.06.2021, Foreign Affairs

> UN Human Rights Council shies away from appointing expert on climate // 25.06.2021, Geneva Solutions

> Fleur de Passion fait voile vers la science dans les eaux troubles du Proche-Orient // 26.06.2021, Le Temps
Soutenue par la Suisse, une expédition scientifique d’étude et de sauvegarde des exceptionnels coraux de la mer Rouge fait escale à Aqaba. L’occasion de mesurer les difficultés géopolitiques d’une telle entreprise.

Le Fleur de passion, un voilier qui doit son nom au capricieux bateau du roman de Farley Mowat, «Le bateau qui ne voulait pas flotter». (© Transnational Red Sea Center/Fabiano D'Amato)


> Wissenschaftsskepsis ja – aber bitte die richtige // 26.06.2021, NZZ
Was sich dieser Tage als «Corona-Skepsis» äussert, ist grösstenteils nicht Skepsis, sondern Besserwisserei, Borniertheit und Misstrauen. Dabei gäbe es durchaus gute Gründe, die Wissenschaft zu kritisieren.

> EU rewrites rulebook on science and technology cooperation with the rest of the world // 29.06.2021, Science|Business
Officials set out terms of ‘open strategic autonomy’ to replace the ‘open to the world’ mantra

> A letter from America: The new-look US R&D policy // 29.06.2021, Science|Business
Suddenly in Washington science is in, after four years of being out. In stark contrast to the new protectionism of Europe. A viewpoint

> Human Rights Council: Fundamental or fundamentally flawed? // 30.06.2021,

The Human Rights Council meets in Geneva (or virtually during the pandemic) three times a year. It has 47 members, elected by the UN General Assembly from countries that want to stand. (©Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi)


What Tim Berners-Lee’s $5M NFT sale means for web history // 30.06.2021, WIRED
The author of the code that built the WWW will donate the proceeds to charity. But the auction raises questions about the transformative impact of non-fungible tokens. (©Wikipedia)

German biologist Maria Leptin appointed new ERC president // 30.06.2021, Science|Business
After a year of uncertainty, Maria Leptin is set to lead the European Research Council from October. The new president has dedicated her career to basic research in molecular biology and has a long track record in science administration. (©EU)

The right to a sound environment // 20.06.2021, Nature Sustainability
Global Pact for the Environment is gathering pace to become a binding international agreement. Yann Aguila, Sciences Po, and Jorge Viñuales, University of Cambridge, talk to Nature Sustainability about its global significance and potential, and about the importance of social support to make it happen. (©DR)


«Twitter verleitet dazu, nicht lange nachzudenken» // 23.06.2021, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
Wie steht es in der Schweiz um die Wissenschaftskommunikation? Am 15. Juli 2021 publiziert die ExpertInnengruppe «Communicating Sciences and Arts in Times of Digital Media» ihre Befunde. Suzanne Suggs, Co-Sprecherin der Gruppe und Professorin für soziales Marketing, erklärt, wie wichtig das verständliche Gespräch über Forschung für die Gesellschaft ist – und wo die Fallstricke liegen.

> How volunteer observers can help protect biodiversity // 19.06.2021, The Economist

Navigating the science social mediaverse // 23.06.2021, Nature Cancer
Social media have emerged as a key communication tool for scientists. Here we explore how to reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of social networking.

Public trust in science remains strong during pandemic, but study suggests some decrease in late 2020 // 01.07.2021, University of Bristol


> When scientists can reshape genes, what does it mean to conserve nature? Conservation in the era of synthetic biology // 2021, Kent H. Redford and William M. Adams
Nature almost everywhere survives on human terms. The distinction between what is natural and what is human-made, which has informed conservation for centuries, has become blurred. When scientists can reshape genes more or less at will, what does it mean to conserve nature? The tools of synthetic biology are changing the way we answer that question. Gene editing technology is already transforming the agriculture and biotechnology industries. What happens if synthetic biology is also used in conservation to control invasive species, fight wildlife disease, or even bring extinct species back from the dead? Conservation scientist Kent Redford and geographer Bill Adams turn to synthetic biology, ecological restoration, political ecology, and de-extinction studies and propose a thoroughly innovative vision for protecting nature.


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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