If you’re an academic researcher, and new to the SDGs, one of the things you should know about them is that they are interconnected – each goal relates to, influences and affects the other goals.
There will always be specific goals that an individual or organisation may focus on but this doesn’t mean the others aren’t relevant to your work; indeed the framework is broad enough to enable achieving targets for different goals together. For example, while you thought you were working on clean water and sanitation, you may not have realised that you’re also helping to achieve gender equality.
If you do research or other relevant work to goal 3 – Good Health and Well-Being, likely it will have implications for other goals such as goal 1 – No Poverty and goal 2 – Zero Hunger.
If your research is in energy, which pertains to goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, then it will likely also be relevant to goal 13 – Climate Action and goal 14 – Life Below Water. Clean energy results in decreased greenhouse gas emissions for mitigating climate change, reducing ocean acidification, and energy affordability connects to goal 1 – No Poverty. Got it? Continue reading How to start interacting with the SDGs→
How do you ensure that no one is left behind in making clean water and sanitation available to all? The water cycle is not a bad place to start and it can be taken both literally and metaphorically. Water is an integral part of life, and we interact with it often, including the infrastructure that delivers water to the places we live in.
To come to grips with how water exists on this planet no one part of the water cycle can be studied in complete isolation from the other. There are simply too many factors involved that affect water such as climate, pollution, water usage, wastewater treatment, water catchments and so forth.
This graphic illustrates how research in different areas of water are important to the whole picture of the water system which involves human activities like industry and policy as much as ‘natural’ or non-anthropogenic ones. It provides a holistic representation of some of the key research areas at Newcastle University in water, particularly from the School of Engineering.
As International Women’s Day was just last week it is a good time to reflect upon the women of today in STEM, and the pioneers of the past.
The role of women in STEM cannot be overlooked as it has been fundamental to the growth of science (including social science), technology and society as a whole. The history of science tends to under-represent women, however, there is a range of examples of women in the ranks of physics, chemistry, biology, archaeology, anthropology, civil engineering and many other fields throughout history.
I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing many brilliant women scientists, mathematicians and engineers throughout my career. People who have inspired countless others through research, teaching and simply living.
This video showcases some famous women scientists and engineers, some you may have heard of, others perhaps not so much. It’s important that we tell the stories of women in STEM for whom without science would be at a great loss, not to mention our future. Continue reading Remembering women in STEM→
While water is a human right according to the United Nations, for everyone to have access to safe, potable drinking water and adequate sanitation requires significant advancement in water infrastructure, governance and education.
The GCRF Water Security Hub led by Newcastle University makes possible the collaborations needed to address water security in the developing world in a holistic way. I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the key researchers in the Hub from Newcastle in engineering and the social sciences.
In Part 2 of this episode of the Science Perspective podcast they explain the importance of water security, and how the Hub is working with multiple stakeholders to achieve SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
Gas clearly plays a major role in making the low-carbon transition a reality, especially since it’s not only natural gas we’re talking about here – it’s also methane (biogas), hydrogen and other cleaner alternatives. The gas network itself is also an immense infrastructure that could be used to store energy as well as distribute it. But to do this efficiently you need to make accurate forecasts, which can be challenging if you’re a network operator and you don’t know how much gas they will need to satisfy demand.
…through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket. Nikola Tesla (1912)
The possibilities of technology are seemingly endless. I would not be writing to you in cyberspace right now if this were not the case, and as Tesla rightly predicted you may be reading it from a device small enough to fit in your pocket. Yet despite the ubiquity of mobile wireless technologies there remain potential applications that have not yet been discovered or used yet.
We tend to take technologies for granted because they are intertwined with our regular lives, but how we interact with them is still far from straightforward.
Sometimes there are problems that are simply too unique, too individual that current off the shelf technologies cannot address them. How do you build devices to solve human problems if they’re not focused on the values and needs of people?
And how do you take available communications technologies and use them to solve real-world problems?
There’s still time to get human-computer interaction right. The ethos behind human computer interaction is not merely to get computing to work better for people, but to find ways for technology to improve and transform their lives, and create agency.
Looking to the near future — 2019 — there are four topics, four ideas I wish to highlight that could revolutionise not only how we tackle climate change, but many other global challenges the world is facing for sustainable development.
Revolutionise the energy system
Make circular economy a reality
Clean water and sanitation infrastructure for all
Spread electric vehicles
It’s a simple yet powerful (no pun intended) scientific fact that energy underlies everything. If we didn’t have it we wouldn’t exist and without the concept our lives would be radically different from what they are today. But let’s keep it to things like electricity and heat for the moment.
We need to generate more of them and use what we have more wisely, but the energy dense yet carbon heavy materials we’ve relied on since prior to the industrial revolution are a no go for the future. Embarrassingly, they’re on the rise despite progress made in renewables and decarbonisation.
Beyond emissions there were already in place good reasons NOT to burn fossil fuels. Remember acid rain? How about air pollution? Which cities finally seem to be paying attention to again because people are dropping like flies because of air contamination. Did you know that communities downwind of coal fired power stations are more likely to have children with birth defects? How about the impacts coal has on landscapes, water and air, all resources we cannot live without?
“The business and academic community has set out a vision for much greater ambition needed for Britain to be a world leader in the fourth industrial revolution”.
Thanks to the digitisation of nearly everything there are now vast quantities of data gathered by devices connected to the internet. I often notice them during my daily commute.
Prior to cycling through Newcastle I tap into local environmental sensors to see the latest info on air quality or weather data. On the road next to me I notice someone with a Fitbit or mobile phone strapped to their arm recording their heart rate, number of steps taken and how many calories they’ve burned.
The possibilities for synthetic biology are numerous. It could play a key role in resolving global environmental challenges that policy makers and regulators are struggling with. It could make industry less polluting, more sustainable and likely more profitable. This is especially true for companies with large ecological footprints who are working to decarbonise. The chemical industry could also change drastically as new forms of life could be designed to produce chemicals that otherwise would have to come from unsustainable sources like petrol.
Plastic pollution could likely become a thing of the past if replaced with bio-based instead of oil based polymers. Cheap, clean ‘next generation’ biofuels are also a major prospect that would help countries succeed in phasing out petrol based fuels altogether. Politically speaking this will take time as oil is likely not to be replaced overnight by sustainable alternatives, but synthetic biology is without a doubt a major player in energy and decarbonisation for multiple reasons.
Humans and animals share a deep relationship going back to early homo sapiens. With the exception of pets, in many cases we eat each other, but since humans have dominated the planet — normally we eat them. This has not been more the case than in livestock farming where animals are raised for food and are depended on for survival, not only for nutrition, but people’s livelihoods.
Many of the farms in the UK produce cattle and sheep for food. Endemic disease in livestock is a major global challenge, and could likely continue in future if something isn’t done to prevent livestock disease from growing and spreading in the first place.
Whether livestock disease becomes a problem largely depends upon the practices of farmers and their advisers. Not all farming systems are the same and many of them have a history that goes back a long time. This means solving the problem of disease may not be solely down to applying the ‘right’ scientific or technological solution.