By Stephanie Bazley

In an increasingly digitised world, those within STEM fields have a responsibility to communicate their research in an accessible manner to the funders and end-users of their innovation. Steps should be taken to incentivise improved scientific communication by scientists via social media, open source publishing and outreach programs. In this way, we can ensure equal access to research across society, and increased acceptance of innovation, whilst avoiding costly delays to their implementation.

The scientific field was built upon the basic core principles of collaboration and distribution. With the digital age came renewed opportunities for integration with the community. Now, the foundations of science and healthcare are once again changing, as paradigm-shifting technologies such as AI-powered healthcare solutions and genomic medicine become the norm. If our communities do not understand and accept these new services, any positive impact is significantly limited. In order to find a resolution to this problem, we need to focus on improved scientific communication and education, through re-examined frameworks for scientific impact and funding.

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By Kasey Markel

The preservation of our environment is an ethical imperative and one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. By necessity, much of the battle to protect the environment will be waged at the level of policy. However, the track record of environmental legislation shows much room for improvement, a development that will only be reliably achieved when it becomes common practice to rigorously evaluate the effects of all policies with scientifically rigorous studies, prospectively as part of the planning process and retrospectively after widespread implementation. Environmental scientists are uniquely positioned by virtue of their biological expertise, scientific training, and statistical skills to take an active role in this evaluation process.

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By Amanda Murphy.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracture stimulation, is a very recognisable, very divisive topic. It is common to have a strong opinion about fracking, be it for or against it. Indeed, for most, fracking is something for others to solve. But while we empathise with the impact of such industrial development, we seldom suggest fracking in our backyard.

The North Sea dominates the United Kingdom’s (UK) energy supply. However, with North Sea oil and gas fields in decline, controversial fracking technology may be the best option to fill the gap in domestic energy demand. Exploration sites earmarked for hydraulic fracture stimulation are in relatively rural areas of the North West, Yorkshire and East Midlands, but shale oil and gas development should be considered in more urban areas. London and the South East overlie the prospective Weald and Wessex sedimentary basins and development here would be close to consumers in an area with a strong history of monitoring, industrial brownfields sites and existing road and power infrastructure. Perhaps it is time to consider fracking in our London backyard.

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By Aisha Sobey

Blockchain has been framed as a technology that could alter the shape of the world dramatically in the coming decades, influencing how we act and govern ourselves as a society, as the decentralised nature of Blockchain means that these networks wouldn’t be controlled by one person, group, corporation or government. Reuters expects blockchain to be disruptive, to move from simple applications to displacing central market competitors, in many areas such as healthcare, tax and accounting, politics and entertainment. In healthcare for example, the nature of blockchain means it can be used in patient records, to increase consistency, remove duplication and aid in sharing information between relevant authorities.

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By Michele Sanguanini

CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene editing technology that is revolutionising the way that scientists design biomedical research. In addition to this, CRISPR/Cas9 is opening promising avenues for applications in gene therapy, manufacturing, and agriculture. The commercial and disruptive potential of this invention is so promising that it sparked a ‘gold rush’ towards patenting CRISPR/Cas technologies. Two principal players weighed in to define the CRISPR/Cas9 patent landscape in the US: the University of California Berkeley (UCB) and the Broad Institute, a joint MIT-Harvard research institute. This ultimately led to a high-profile patent battle in front of the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board, where the Broad Institute prevailed in the first instance. The dispute, however, continues worldwide. In this Communication, I will focus on the European front of this litigation; the problem being not only who owns this technology in Europe, but also what are the potential impacts of patent conflicts between academic institutions on European policy and law.

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