On the road to resilience in Ethiopia

Dr Barry Hague, Science Writer and Editor, recently talked to Dr Frank van Steenbergen of the Roads for Water consortium – which was launched with funding from the ESRC and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

This article uncovers how ongoing research by Roads for Water is tackling issues surrounding the improvement of roads in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Barry Hague

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Frank van Steenbergen

It’s time to rethink roads. In the vital fields of flood prevention and water supply, they offer incredible potential to enhance and enrich the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Dr Frank van Steenbergen of the Roads for Water consortium is helping to drive this remarkable revolution.

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Preparing for Brexit at the local level

Professor Mark Hart is Deputy Director of the Enterprise Research Centre and Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School.

Professor Mark Hart

In the aftermath of the EU referendum, there is an even greater focus on the performance of the private sector and its ability to provide jobs and wealth creating opportunities across all parts of the UK – especially at the local level – as the UK prepares for Brexit. Continue reading

The nuclear option

andy-stirlingAndy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex and co-director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), argues that social science can play a vital role in unpicking policy arguments to challenge the real reasons behind nuclear energy decisions

Social science can play many useful roles in controversies over science and technology. The tricky bit is that what counts as ‘useful’ in any policy debate will often depend on the perspective. After all, it is inherent to democracy that different values and interests yield contrasting conclusions. This is especially so in controversies like the current one bubbling away around intense UK Government commitments to nuclear power. Continue reading

Grammar lessons

Last year the government set out proposals to expand the number of grammar schools across England representing a significant shift in the education system. Such a change means costs and benefits, and there would be winners and losers writes Luke Sibieta, Programme Director of the Education and Skills sector at the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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It does appear that those who attend grammar schools do, on average, somewhat better than similar children in the comprehensive system.

Grammar schools may thus be a way of improving the performance of very bright pupils. On the other hand, those in selective areas who don’t get into grammar schools do worse than they would in a comprehensive system. And as children from poorer families are significantly less likely to attend grammar schools, the expansion of grammar schools in the current form would seem more likely to reduce than increase social mobility. Continue reading

Why are the social sciences so important in tackling climate change?

James O’Toole is coordinator of the End Use Energy Demand Centres. Here he looks at why researchers across all academic disciplines have a key part to play in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Scientist stereotypes?

In the public consciousness, climate change science tends to focus on natural scientists (chemists, physicists, biologists etc). Whether they are developing more energy efficient technologies, mapping weather patterns or testing the air for emissions, the perception is of lab coats, goggles and technical equipment. Continue reading