Social Sciences and Humanities
Peter Breunig is a Professor of Archaeology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. He has spent much of his recent career conducting in-depth analyses around the Nok culture, a prehistoric society based in central Nigeria. Much of his research has focused on uncovering the mystery surrounding elaborate terracotta sculptures, made by the Nok people over 2,500 years ago. Whilst there is much speculation around their purpose, Peter Breunig and his team have identified a spatial proximity to burial sites, indicating their usage in funeral rituals.
The Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) is an annual event held in Bangkok, at which humanitarian leaders and experts in various disciplines meet to discuss global challenges, including health crises and climate change. This year, the conference ran from the 25th to the 29th of January, featuring seven sessions with international speakers. The theme of PMAC 2022 was ‘The World We Want: Actions Towards a Sustainable, Fairer and Healthier Society’. This article highlights some of the main global issues and megatrends discussed at the conference.
Radio-frequency (RF) spectrum management is a crucial part of media and communications history, as it has shaped how people access information and communicate with others. Dr Jock Given, Professor at Swinburne University of Technology, has written numerous books and articles focusing on this topic. He combines ideas from economics, law, history, and business with his own experience as an economics researcher and policy advisor.
Dr Terry L. Mills | Dr J. K. Haynes – Increasing the Participation of African American Male Students in STEM
Despite recent efforts aimed at increasing diversity in STEM-related fields, many communities are still largely underrepresented in these disciplines, including African American students and professionals. Not only is this unfair on individuals who may ultimately miss out on rewarding STEM careers, but it also deprives the STEM workforce of talented minds, and the innovation that a more diverse community could achieve. Dr Terry L. Mills and Dr J. K. Haynes, two professors at Morehouse College in Atlanta, have created the John H. Hopps Jr. STEM Education Research Program, an academic intervention designed to increase the participation of African American men in STEM degrees.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) communities have a long history of exclusion and underrepresentation of women, African American, Latinx, American Indian and LGBTQIA+ students. In order for our STEM enterprise to be truly equitable, everyone that wants to become a scientist must have an equitable opportunity to do so, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In the movement toward equity, the demographic diversity of the STEM workforce must mirror that of the general population. STEM workforce diversity can accelerate innovation in scientific disciplines, and, if coupled with systemic cultural equity, can also support a STEM enterprise where everyone can thrive. Dr Verónica A. Segarra, Interim Chair and Assistant Professor of Biology at High Point University, has been exploring how scientific societies could help their disciplines be more equitable. Her efforts have helped to establish numerous alliances and collaborations among societies and diversity-focused organisations, with the mission of building a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.
Professor Xiangming Chen – China’s Belt and Road Initiative: An Epochal Initiative Connecting the World
In 2013, the Chinese Government launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive global infrastructure-building initiative, to increase trade by connecting cities within and across continents. The initiative is redefining globalisation, urbanisation, regionalism, and development. Professor Xiangming Chen has released a policy expo-book (sponsored by the Regional Studies Association) that traces out the changing economic, social, and spatial fortunes of the regions connected to the initiative. In this timely book, the author outlines a modern, fresh and factual account of an outward-looking China ushering in a new era of globalisation through a variety of widespread and far-reaching trans-boundary economic and infrastructure connectivities.
The main responsibility of recruitment consultants is to match individuals to jobs that best suit their professional experience, skills, capabilities, dispositions, and academic background. Dr Hui Xiong at Rutgers University has been leading efforts to develop tools based on artificial neural networks that can automatically identify the right individuals for specific roles. Over the past few years, he has led efforts to design a comprehensive intelligent HR management system that could bring significant intelligence in human resource management.
Like living organisms, human organisations have evolved throughout history, with new forms emerging and transforming in various settings. Examples include the coevolution of capitalism and state formation, and modern capitalism’s relationship with science. Professor John Padgett at the University of Chicago and Professor Walter Powell at Stanford University set out to discover how new firms, organisations, and institutions come to be. In a landmark book, a decade in the making, they appropriate ideas and concepts used to explain the origin of life, to help explain the emergence of new organisations and markets.
Statistics suggest that Hispanic, Black, and female entrepreneurs receive a disproportionately tiny portion of total venture capital funds in the United States. With this in mind, the National Science Foundation created the I-PERF program. I-PERF supports the professional development of research fellows from underserved groups, offering them hands-on experience within promising research and technology companies, with the goal of increasing diversity in the start-up and entrepreneurial landscape. The program is managed by Dr Teddy Ivanitzki, Rashida Johnson, Rachel Levitin and their colleagues at the American Society for Engineering Education.
Food insecurity directly impacts a third of the world’s population and perpetuates a cycle of hunger and malnutrition that is inherited through generations. Previous relief efforts have largely been donor-focused, providing only temporary solutions. To break the cycle of food insecurity, poverty, and hunger, relief efforts must empower communities and facilitate real transformative changes. Professor James Simon of Rutgers University and colleagues have developed a transferable horticulture model that builds upon local ecosystem knowledge and cultural infrastructures while embedding science-driven, market-first, and value chain methodologies. Introduced into several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the model includes agribusiness and technical skills training to strengthen the participation of farmers and local entrepreneurs, particularly women and youth, in profitable value chains. Using this novel approach, the Rutgers team and their African colleagues have successfully demonstrated how horticulture can contribute to a real reduction in poverty and malnutrition, while fostering job creation, pride and creativity.
Modern industrial agriculture has helped farmers meet rising food demands, but these practices are contributing to a range of environmental problems. Regenerative agriculture holds promising solutions that could help to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems and contribute to climate change mitigation, while keeping pace with food demands and enhancing farmers’ resilience to environmental stressors. Through her research, Dr Hannah Gosnell aims to understand what motivates cattle and sheep farmers – also known as ranchers – to adopt and sustain the use of regenerative practices and what challenges must be navigated. Her work is informing efforts that encourage farmers to transition to these methods.
Farmers in the East Coast of the US are struggling to compete against the larger farms of other regions. Coupled with rising production costs and increasingly difficult growing conditions, producing conventional commodity crops is no longer viable for these farms. Switching to speciality and niche ethnic crops could help these farmers break into a growing market, improve profitability and future viability – and help fulfil the needs of ethnic communities. Dr Ramu Govindasamy from Rutgers University uses a market-first approach to investigate and develop opportunities for farmers to transition to ethnic crop production.
The Canadian Association for Food Studies allows researchers from diverse disciplines to meet regularly to share their findings and collaborate on diverse issues relating to food systems. In this exclusive interview, we speak with CAFS President Dr Amanda Wilson, who describes how the Association facilitates interdisciplinary scholarship in the areas of food production, distribution and consumption, towards addressing social, environmental and economic challenges within our food systems.
Founded almost 50 years ago, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is a global network that inspires bold leadership, research, and solutions that advance women in STEM, spark innovation, promote organisational success, and drive systemic change. In this exclusive interview, we speak with AWIS president and world-renowned biomedical innovator Dr Susan Windham-Bannister, who describes the barriers that women face in the STEM workplace, and the many ways in which AWIS supports women in science and works towards eliminating inequality through systemic change.
Professor Muireann Quigley – Everyday Cyborgs: How Ought the Law to Deal with Implanted Medical Devices?
Attached and implanted technologies are now part of everyday life for many millions of people. Yet as the capabilities of these devices have advanced rapidly in recent years, lawmakers have struggled to keep pace. Professor Muireann Quigley at the University of Birmingham believes that it is now more critical than ever that the law catches up with the technological and social change wrought by attached and implanted medical devices, especially ‘smart’ ones. Through the Everyday Cyborgs 2.0 and DIY Diabetes projects, she and her colleagues hope to bring law, regulation, and policy regarding these technologies into the 21st century.
More than 80% of agricultural land in the US is managed by farmers whose operations fall between small-scale farms with direct access to local markets, and larger industrialised farms. These farmers in the ‘middle’ increasingly struggle to find a place within the larger food production system. Through his work as part of the ‘Agriculture of the Middle’ Initiative, Dr Thomas Gray of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service at the US Department of Agriculture has been studying different types of cooperative structures for best adaptability to socio-economic and food consumption patterns for mid-size farm survival.
In the US, the number of children and adults with obese or excess weight has increased exponentially over the past few decades, causing concerning effects on public health. Identifying factors that may play a role in this rise is of crucial importance, as they could help in devising effective strategies that promote healthier lifestyles. With this in mind, Dr Sadguna Anasuri at Alabama A&M University has carried out research exploring the possible impact of mass media on overweight and obesity in young adults, gathering valuable insights that could inform public health policies.
Providing high school students with nutrition-related knowledge enables them to lead healthier lives by selecting foods that are both tasty and nutritious. Researchers at Middle Tennessee State University and Lipscomb University have created a course designed to offer high school students the opportunity to become acquainted with the field of nutrition, allowing them to apply this knowledge to improve their personal lives, earn college-level credit and prepare for future careers.
Poor sleep is a common difficulty issue for teenagers and young adults worldwide. Unfortunately, the impact of poor sleep is substantial with clear links to mental health difficulties. Dr Colleen Carney, an Associate Professor and the Director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University, Canada, is committed to helping people sleep better. Dr Carney has recently turned her expertise to the development of an innovative app to alleviate sleep problems in teenagers and young adults.
Dr Paul Curtis | Dr Peter Smallidge | Dr Bernd Blossey | Kristi Sullivan – Protecting the Future Health of Forests in New York State
The white-tailed deer is an important part of North America’s forest ecosystems. However, large deer populations are now causing wide-scale habitat changes and threatening biodiversity, economics, and human health. Dr Paul Curtis, Dr Peter Smallidge and Dr Bernd Blossey from Cornell University have developed new protocols for evaluating deer impacts on forest ecosystems and the ability of different forest areas to regenerate and retain their diversity. Where current methods for managing deer are failing, they consider how data related to deer browsing could provide the rationale for novel methods of reducing deer impacts to retain healthy forests.
Dr Stefan Rieger | Dr Ina Bolinski – Beyond the Anthropocene: Are We Entering a ‘Multispecies Turn’?
A multispecies approach to scientific, cultural and anthropological studies is in direct opposition to traditionally held anthropocentric views of human superiority. However, Drs Stefan Rieger and Ina Bolinski from the Ruhr-University Bochum are working to scrutinise the collaborations between species as diverse as humans, animals, plants, fungi, insects and microbes, and believe that we could be at the beginning of a ‘Multispecies Turn’ in our history. Through their research in media studies, they show that exploring such collaborations could become a necessity in solving many societal challenges, in areas ranging from farming to human health.
The alarming decline of pollinating insects in recent years has garnered a wave of interest from the media, scientists and the public. This has resulted in a wealth of research into pollinator conservation, but despite this, adoption of beneficial practices that support pollinators has been low amongst private landholders. Dr Shannon Westlake and Dr Kevin Hunt of Mississippi State University have been investigating the human elements behind pollinator conservation, with the aim of developing targeted outreach and support programs to improve the uptake of conservation efforts amongst landholders.
The HoChunk people of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska traditionally enjoyed a close connection with their environment, which has gradually become fractured due to increased urbanisation. The community has become reliant upon external producers for nearly all of its food requirements, and the health of its members is suffering as a result. In an effort to reconnect people with the land, a project coordinated by former Tribal Council member, Vincent Bass, and Brian Mathers of the HoChunk Community Development Corporation, aims to maximise the use of local resources to produce healthy, sustainable, culturally-appropriate food. Their ultimate goal is to achieve food sovereignty for the Winnebago Tribe.
Despite dramatic advances in neuroscience and biology in the 20th and 21st centuries, our understanding of the brain remains very limited. Dr Yan M Yufik, Head at Virtual Structures Research Inc, USA, is a physicist and cognitive scientist who has spent over 20 years combining experimental findings and theoretical concepts in domains as diverse as neuroscience and thermodynamics to form a theory of the brain. His focus has been on elucidating the mechanisms underlying human understanding and applying the results to the design of machines that can not only learn but understand what they are learning.
Dr Melinda Frye | Dr Noa Roman-Muniz – A Holistic Approach to Advancing the Rural Veterinary Population
Within the agricultural community, there is a great shortage of veterinary professionals. This lack of ‘Food Supply Veterinarians’ (FSVs) creates risk for economic loss, public health concerns, and a decline in animal welfare. Dr Melinda Frye, Dr Noa Roman-Muniz and their colleagues at Colorado State University have developed a program that aims to increase the number of practising FSVs. As part of the program, these highly-trained professionals can more easily integrate into the agricultural community, ultimately enhancing animal welfare, food safety and farm profits.
Worldwide obesity has almost tripled over the past 50 years. This alarming statistic calls for new initiatives aimed at promoting better weight management, in order to prevent and treat obesity and associated diseases. Dr Michelle Schelske Santos, professor and former director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the University of Puerto Rico, has been working on an academic initiative designed to enhance nutrition and dietetics education in Puerto Rico, forming professionals who are better equipped to deal with the obesity epidemic.
Dr Korbinian Moeller and a team of researchers at the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien are endeavouring to identify the cognitive and neuronal processes underpinning an individual’s mathematical ability, by exploring the concept of embodied numerical training.
Dr Jean-Luc Patry | Dr Angela Gastager | Barbara Fageth – Improving Education Through Cultivating Pedagogical Tact
Pedagogical tact is broadly defined as a concept that addresses how teachers transfer educational theories to their teaching practice, in order to achieve their educational goals (which include students’ learning) most successfully. Although this concept has been widely referred to in past research, it remains very complex and difficult to define. To better delineate this concept, researchers at the University of Salzburg and the University College of Teacher Education Styria have developed a new theory of pedagogical tact and explored its validity in school and university settings. By better conceiving this concept, the researchers hope to help educators to cultivate pedagogical tact, enhancing the academic development of their students.
The UK’s recent decision to exit the European Union has shone a spotlight on the role of identities in shaping people’s economic and political decisions. Dr Kai Sebastian Gehring is a senior researcher in Economics at the University of Zurich, who investigates group identities and the distribution of resources, and how they affect political stability and conflict.
Dr Daniel Gallardo Albarrán | Professor Herman de Jong – Health and Wealth in the 20th Century: Implications for Today
The 20th century brought significant improvements in income and health of citizens across many countries worldwide. Dr Daniel Gallardo Albarrán (University of Wageningen) and Professor Herman de Jong (University of Groningen) have used a comprehensive framework addressing many dimensions of human development, to take a new and closer look at changes in economy and health during the first half of the 20th century.
An exciting new endeavour at the SETI Institute, the Earthling project, aims to connect humans around the world through the universal language of music. Charged with the task of creating music that represents us as humans, composer Felipe Pérez Santiago aims to foster...
Underrepresented is not often the thought that comes to mind when describing males in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). However, there are striking gender and ethnic disparities across STEM fields as white males disproportionately occupy the...