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

05-12 February 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> Twelve months of COVID-19: shaping the next era of science diplomacy (OPINION, co-signed by Marga Gual Soler, Academic Expert at GESDA among others) // 22.01.2021, Science&Diplomacy/AAAS
COVID-19 is the first global crisis that affects virtually every person on the planet at the same time. The pandemic has been a stress test for the relationship between science and diplomacy, triggering a reckoning of how transnational crises of planetary scale – infectious diseases, the looming climate crisis, biodiversity collapse – interlink humanity’s destiny. Despite the predictability of an existential threat of this nature, most countries were insufficiently prepared. Their responses exposed a profound disconnect between the scientific and foreign policy domains and underscore the urgency of bringing science from the margins to the center of global policy.


(© DR)


> The broken promise that undermines human genome research // 10.02.2021, Nature news
Data sharing was a core principle that led to the success of the Human Genome Project 20 years ago. Now scientists are struggling to keep information free.

Related articles:
Artificial human genomes could help overcome research privacy concerns // 09.02.2021, Gizmodo

The next 20 years of human genomics must be more equitable and more open // 11.02.2021, Nature

A wealth of discovery built on the Human Genome Project — by the numbers (COMMENT) // 10.02.2021, Nature

Sequence three million genomes across Africa // 10.02.2021, Nature

Genomic visions: where are we now? February issue, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News


> Quantum ethics | A call to action // 01.02.2021, The Quantum Daily
The Quantum Daily releases a mini-documentary meant to raise awareness and generate discussion about the ethical decisions that face society in the quantum era. This community-driven, solutions-based discussion relies on quantum experts and thought leaders who offer an overview of quantum technology, revealing its power to improve our lives, its potential pitfalls and how we can maximize its benefits while mitigating possible problems. The team is looking forward to continuing this conversation and working with the community to develop concrete actions that will help guide and focus the power of this incredible technology to benefit the most people in the best way possible.

Related article:
Quantum apocalypse? - Super computer arms race will remake the world // 29.01.2021, Jerusalem Post


> The innovation wars: America’s eroding technological advantage // March issue, Foreign Affairs
Since the early days of the Cold War, the United States has led the world in technology. Over the course of the so-called American century, the country conquered space, spearheaded the Internet, and brought the world the iPhone. In recent years, however, China has undertaken an impressive effort to claim the mantle of technological leadership, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in robotics, artificial intelligence, microelectronics, green energy, and much more. Washington has tended to view Beijing’s massive technology investments primarily in military terms, but defense capabilities are merely one aspect of great-power competition today – little more than table stakes. Beijing is playing a more sophisticated game, using technological innovation as a way of advancing its goals without having to resort to war. Chinese companies are selling 5G wireless infrastructure around the world, harnessing synthetic biology to bolster food supplies, and racing to build smaller and faster microchips, all in a bid to grow China’s power

Related article:
Etats-Unis vs Chine: la mort du World Wide Web est programmée // 05.02.2021, Le Soir/Die Welt


The role of science in the news (and elsewhere) (OPINION) // 26.01.2021, International Statistical Institute
Valentin Amrhein, German & Swiss professor of Zoology at the University of Basel and science journalist, writes: ”I’ve got a few questions: 1) Has there ever been a time when scientific publications were as widely discussed in the news as they were last year? 2) How did COVID change the way people think about science? and 3) How did science change the way people think about politics? For nine years, Altmetric has been the best-known company tracking online mentions of scientific studies. Last January, Altmetric inaugurated its list of the top 100 papers of the year 2020.”

Related article:
How is science clicked on Twitter? Click metrics for Bitly short links to scientific publications // 23.01.2021, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology

Related report:
Méfiance et crédulité : refus de la science, succès du complotisme // Février 2021, par François-Bernard Huyghe, directeur de recherche à l’IRIS (Institut des relations internationales et stratégiques)
L’infodémie, prolifération d’informations fausses ou douteuses liées au Covid-19, touche tous les aspects de l’épidémie – ses causes, ses remèdes, sa probabilité, sa diffusion, son avenir. Elle prend une dimension géopolitique avec la compétition entre puissances cherchant à démontrer leur efficacité et leur soft power bienveillant (contrastant avec l’échec et la responsabilité des puissances rivales). Elle a aussi une dimension sociale et politique : conflits et accusations portant sur le masque, le vaccin, le confinement, la détection… suscitent des théorisations souvent idéologisées mettant en cause le Big Pharma, les acteurs de la haute technologie, la surveillance planétaire… Le tout facilité par les réseaux sociaux, où tout est disponible depuis l’affirmation facilement réfutable jusqu’à des théories sophistiquées démontrant que le grand capital veut faire « repartir » (big reset) le système via le Covid-19.

By Sir Jeremy Farrar (Board Member)

Continuation Bias – and relevance to political decision making in COVID;

> Facing ambiguous threats // Harvard Business Review
Ambiguous threats differ from threats with obvious causes — say, a fire in the building — for which the response is clear. They also differ from unmistakable threats that may lack straightforward response paths (such as the frightening oxygen-tank explosion aboard Apollo 13). However, when the warning sign is ambiguous and the threat’s potential impact is unclear, managers may ignore or discount the risk. Companies that do a good job of dealing with ambiguous threats apply a rigorous set of detection and response capabilities that they have developed and practiced beforehand. In this article, the authors outline how to put such capabilities in place long before a crisis strikes: first, companies need to hone their teamwork and rapid problem-solving skills. Second, they must encourage teams to recognize and amplify weak threat signals. Finally, they should explore various threat response plans through quick, low-cost experimentation. Ultimately, preparing to face ambiguous threats boils down to building a culture that invites dissent and encourages everyone to question their underlying assumptions.

> We are so close, We may as well keep going… You may be suffering from “Get-there-itis” // October 2020, Medium

> How to stay sane in an age of division, by Elif Shafak (2020)
“Ours is the age of contagious anxiety. We feel overwhelmed by the events around us, by injustice, by suffering, by an endless feeling of crisis. So, how can we nurture the parts of ourselves that hope, trust and believe in something better? And how can we stay sane in this age of division?”

> The Art of Fairness, by David Bodanis (2020)
The power of decency in a world turned mean

 SARS-CoV-2 RBD in vitro evolution follows contagious mutation spread, yet generates an able infection inhibitor // 06.01.2021, bioRXiv


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI


> This ‘quantum brain’ would mimic our own to speed up AI // 09.02.2021, SingularityHub

IA : si le présent est digital, le futur sera cognitif // 05.02.2021, Forbes


> Experimental demonstration of quantum advantage for NP verification with limited information // 08.02.2021, Nature Communications

‘Designer molecules’ could create tailor-made quantum devices // 09.02.2021, Science News

Q-CTRL’s new AI toolset allows quantum computers to self-optimize // 10.02.2021, ITPro

Connecting distant qubits just brought distributed quantum computing closer // 08.02.2021, SingularityHub

Quantum physics gives brain-sensing MEG scanners a boost // 03.02.2021, Physics World

Related podcast:
Quantum mechanics and human consciousness, developing technologies for brain-inspired computation (PODCAST) // 04.02.2021, Physics World

(Courtesy: Lisa Gilligan-Lee, University of Nottingham)

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


The next act for messenger RNA could be bigger than covid vaccines // 05.02.2021, MIT Technology Review
Next up: sickle cell and HIV.

A genetic revolution in rare-disease medicine // 11.02.2021, Nature

Scientists turn to machine learning to tackle one of gene therapy’s biggest challenges // 11.02.2021, STAT

Light-activated genetic therapy to treat blindness enters clinic // 09.02.2021, Nature Biotechnology

5 burning questions on the business of big genetics based on 23andMe’s filing to go public // 05.02.2021, STAT


> Can privacy coexist with technology that reads and changes brain activity? // 11.02.2021, ScienceNews

Brain’s ‘background noise’ may hold clues to persistent mysteries // 08.02.2021, Quanta Magazine

Light decodes what a person sees from brain signals // 09.02.2021, Futurity

Longevity and health

A move to crack down on human rights, environmental abuses puts European pharma on notice // 08.02.2021, STAT+
A new European plan to develop legislation to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and environmental damage is causing unease for biopharma companies, which rely on various actors in supply chains that could expose them to liability. Most big European pharma companies already have supplier codes and carry out regular audits. But the new plan, set in motion by the European Parliament in recent weeks, would legally mandate due diligence on human rights and environmental issues.

An integrative study of five biological clocks in somatic and mental health // 09.02.2021, eLife

Researchers create sophisticated lung-on-chip // 08.02.2021, MedicalXpress, University of Bern press release

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


How tech went big on green energy // 10.02.2021, Financial Times
To meet ambitious climate pledges, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have become the dominant buyers of clean power.

China solar supplier plans huge plant to meet soaring demand // 08.02.2021, Bloomberg


> The race to repurpose nature’s protein factories // 07.02.2021, Chemical & Engineering News
Researchers are engineering ribosomes to accept a wider variety of substrates, with the goal of making new drugs and materials.


Climate and environment

How should economists think about biodiversity? // 06.01.2021, The Economist

Advancing agriculture in Asia // 10.02.2021, Asian Scientist

> Les forêts mondiales absorbent-elles ou émettent-elles du CO2? Une étude fait le point // 09.02.2021, GEO

Roger Pielke : « Plus nos sociétés s’enrichissent, mieux c’est pour l’environnement » // 10.02.2021, Le Point


> Space race: UAE, US and Chinese missions prepare to explore Mars // 08.02.2021, Al Jazeera

Related stuff:
ExoMars discovers new gas and traces water loss on Mars // 10.02.2021, ESA press release
The best books about Mars, by the Mars explorers themselves // 08.02.2021, Air&Space Mag

An unleashed Jeff Bezos looks to shift space venture Blue Origin into hyperdrive // 08.02.2021, Reuters

How mega-constellations lead to increased sustainability risks in outer space // 10.02.2021, SpaceWatch.Global

Astronauts get sick, too. Here's the tech that could grow medicine on Mars // 10.02.2021, Discover

New space in Asia (SPACE POLICY REPORT) // 10.02.2021, European Space Policy Institute


> A hydrogen fuel revolution is coming – here's why we might not want it // 03.02.2021, New Scientist

Humanity is flushing away one of life’s essential elements: we broke phosphorus // 08.02.2021, The Atlantic

Berlin’s new timber tower comes with lofty ambitions // 11.02.2021, Bloomberg

The wind-power boom set off a scramble for balsa wood in Ecuador // 30.01.2021, The Economist

A route to de novo domestication of wild allotetraploid rice // 28.01.2021, Cell

The food issue // January/February 2021, MIT Technology Review

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> China unveils action plan on building high-standard market system // 02.02.2021, Quishi
The Plan includes initiatives to strengthen intellectual property rights (IPR) – especially for businesses and new and existing technologies – as well as to create centralised institutions for the trading, transfer, and licensing of IPR.  There are also measures to strengthen and improve the enforcement of anti-monopoly and unfair competition laws. The announced measures are part of China’s greater efforts in IPR policy, which includes amendments to Chinese IPR legislation last year, as well as increased involvement in global intellectual property governance within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in international standard setting

Vaccine diplomacy: a new cold war // 11.02.2021, Americas Quarterly

Strengthen scientific integrity under the Biden administration // 12.02.2021, Science

> "Loi climat" française : un projet déjà sous le feu des critiques // 10.02.2021, Le Point

Clearview AI’s facial recognition app called illegal in Canada // 03.02.2021, The New York Times

DARPA begins autonomous weapon-launching drone program // 09.02.2021, Interesting Engineering

Fintech, explained // 04.02.2021, MIT Management Sloan School
Successful fintechs possess four kinds of expertise: entrepreneurial, computational, financial, and regulatory. Here's how it all comes together.

«Wir befinden uns an einer Zeitenwende», sagt die neue Präsidentin der Schweizerischen Finanzmarktaufsicht Marlene Amstad // 09.02.2021, NZZ

> Seize the moment – Switzerland’s opportunity for a sustainable future // 11.02.2021, Sustainable Development Solutions Network Switzerland
Switzerland needs an effective Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 of the Federal Council.

Switzerland has a role to play in the Arctic // 07.02.2021,

> Bitcoin is protecting Human rights around the world // 05.02.2021, Reason Magazine
"It's an escape hatch from tyranny," writes the Human Rights Foundation's Alex Gladstein. "It's nothing less than freedom money."

(© Olivier Dessibourg)


> Three women talk science // 11.02.2021, FDFA/
Three women, three stories, three different professional backgrounds connected to science. On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Natália Archinard, Cecilia Neyroud and Daria Robinson, Executive Director of GESDA’s Diplomacy Forum, talk to us about their personal and professional backgrounds: from innovation to diplomacy and space. Related video to watch here(Photo: DR)

> The McKay interview with Michael Møller // 08.02.2021, World Radio Switzerland
Michael McKay's guest is Michael Møller, known to many of you as the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva up until a year or so ago, and now Chair of the Diplomacy Forum at GESDA. His in-depth interview on the Foundation’s vision and objectives. (Photo: Davolo Steiner)

> Access to COVID-19 vaccines ‘not just moral imperative – It is a strategic and economic one’ // 09.02.2021, Health Policy Watch
In her first major public statement since the United States signaled that it would approve her candidacy for DG of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the need for rich countries to step up their financial contributions to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 tools. (Photo: DR)

> 'A shared value approach is necessary to achieve the SDGs' // 10.02.2021, Geneva Solutions
The UN 2030 Sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a call for action. To reach their objectives, cooperation in the form of a global partnership is indispensable. And global not only means international organisations and governments but also the private sector. To help tackle the most urgent issues, technology and innovation can move from challenges to opportunities. Vincent Defourny, director of the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office reflects on the importance of shared values in the process and the role each partner can play in the era of digital transformation. (Photo: DR)

> Carlos Nobre to receive science diplomacy award for Amazon climate efforts // 08.02.2021, AAAS
Carlos Nobre, a Brazilian climate scientist specializing in the effects of climate change in the Amazon and a leader in science policy for a sustainable Amazon, will receive the 2021 AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy. (Photo: DR)


> Why a private funder is partnering with a federal agency to improve science communication // 10.02.2021, Inside Philanthropy

Science barometer 2020 in Germany: starting points for open science? // 10.02.2021, ZBW
What image does the public in Germany have of science and research? The Science Barometer is dedicated to answering this question. We have taken a look at the results of the most recent survey from an Open Science perspective.

Europe's gene-revolution // 10.02.2021, Consumer Choice Center
Consumer Choice Center releases policy note on genetic engineering.

Projet ECOS : espace de convergence des savoirs sur la santé personnalisée // 10.02.2021, ColLaboratoire de l’UNIL
Le ColLaboratoire de l’UNIL présente son film sur la recherche participative conduite durant un an et demi avec des citoyens, patients, chercheurs en génomique, cliniciens et experts en santé publique. Une relecture de la « santé personnalisée » rendue possible par le programme SantéPerSo de la Fondation Leenaards.


Dream interpretation meets modern science // 12.02.2021, Science
In When Brains Dream, sleep scientists Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold detail the latest research that seeks to understand what occurs in our brains when we dream, and they present theories about what purposes dreaming may serve.
About the book: 
When brains dream: exploring the science and mystery of sleep

> Outstanding reportage from the front lines of geoengineering // 11.02.2021, Nature
In her latest book, Elizabeth Kolbert asks: could some environmental fixes be worse than the problems?
About the book: Under a white sky: the nature of the future


> Sustainable Space Logistics digital symposium // 16-18.02.2021, Organised by eSpace EPFL Space Center
A revolution is afoot in space logistics. Starting with shoebox-sized nanosatellites, now a reusable rocketry renaissance and soon swarming satellite mega-constellations providing continuous internet on the planet. These developments could provide wonderful benefits, but also bring serious sustainability challenges, one of them being increased congestion and orbital debris.

> Chine, GAFAM, Etats-Unis : quelle autonomie pour l'Europe après le COVID-19 // 16.02.2021 6:30pm, IRIS
La crise du coronavirus a bousculé le paysage stratégique mondial. Alors que l'Union européenne souhaite s'y imposer comme un acteur géopolitique capable de défendre ses intérêts, le Covid-19 a mis à nu certaines de ses dépendances. Quelles sont les entraves qui limitent la capacité d'action européenne sur les plans technologique, industriel, stratégique et sanitaire? Quels sont, à l'inverse, les domaines dans lesquels le Vieux Continent peut faire valoir ses intérêts face aux géants de la mondialisation que sont la Chine, les Etats-Unis et les GAFAM? Dans le sillage de la crise du Covid-19, l'Union européenne peut-elle et doit-elle s'instituer puissance d'équilibre, dans un monde dominé par un affrontement entre Pékin et Washington?
  • Hélène Conway-Mouret, sénatrice représentant les Français établis hors de France, secrétaire de la commission des affaires étrangères, de la défense et des forces armées du Sénat
  • Edouard Simon, directeur de recherche à l’IRIS

  • Ayşe Gizem Yasar, chercheuse au "Law and Economics Policy Initiative" de SciencesPo

Animée par : Olivier de France, directeur de recherche à l’IRIS

> Book launch: A guide to global health diplomacy // 18.02.2021, online, 4pm-6:30pm, organized by the Graduate Institute Geneva

The system of diplomacy has been facing several challenges with the Covid-19 pandemic and new political and economic realities. The mechanisms of global health diplomacy play a key role in coordinating, advancing, and resolving health issues at the global level. To better equip health diplomats and negotiators, the Global Health Centre is launching a guide to global health diplomacy, produced with the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and the World Health Organization. Written, reviewed and supported by global health experts from different backgrounds, countries and sectors, this training manual provides key concepts on global health diplomacy, outlines the major actors and activities shaping the global health ecosystem, and presents practical tools to strengthen negotiation skills. Join to celebrate the launch of this new book with international experts, including WHO’s current and past Directors Dr Tedros and Dr Chan, representatives from the EU, AU, G20 and G7, as well as the founder of the Global Health Centre, Ilona Kickbusch. With the participation of Alain Berset, Federal Councillor of Home Affairs, Switzerland; Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Vice President, European Commission; Suerie Moon, Co-Director, Global Health Centre


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).

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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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