Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Global responsibility, differentiation, and an environmental rule of law?

By Duncan French and Lavanya Rajamani
As we celebrate Earth Day this year, it is timely to reflect on the international community’s commitment to halting serious environmental harm. The idea that all States have a ‘common interest’ in promoting global environmental responsibility — as evidenced most clearly through their active participation in multilateral environmental agreements — has been a cornerstone of international environmental policy for the last few decades.

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Pagán’s planarians: the extraordinary world of flatworms

The earth is filled with many types of worms, and the term “planarian” can represent a variety of worms within this diverse bunch of organisms. The slideshow below highlights fun facts about planarians from Oné Pagán’s book, The First Brain: The Neuroscience of Planarians, and provides a glimpse of why scientists like Pagán choose to study these fascinating creatures.

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The never-ending assault by microbes

By William Firshein
It is almost impossible to read a daily newspaper or listen to news reports from television and radio without hearing about an outbreak of an infectious disease. On 13 March 2014, the New York City Department of Health investigated a measles outbreak. Sixteen cases including nine pediatric cases were detected, probably caused by a failure to vaccinate the victims.

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One billion dogs? What does that mean?

By Matthew E. Gompper
As part of my recent research on the ecology of dogs and their interactions with wildlife I took the necessary first step of attempting to answer a seemingly simple question: Just how many dogs are there on the planet? Yet just because a question is simple does not mean we can confidently answer it. Previous estimates of 500-700 million dogs were rough calculations.

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Ice time

Jamie Woodward
On 23 September 1840 the wonderfully eccentric Oxford geologist William Buckland (1784–1856) and the Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz (1809–1873) left Glasgow by stagecoach on a tour of the Scottish Highlands

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Will caloric restriction help you live longer?

By Dmytro Gospodaryov and Oleh Lushchak
The idea of extending life expectancy by modifying diet originated in the mid-20th century when the effects of caloric restriction were found. It was first demonstrated on rats and then confirmed on other model organisms. Fasting activists like Paul Bragg or Roy Walford attempted to show in practice that caloric restriction also helps to prolong life in humans.

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Bumblebees in English gardens

By Michael Hanley
Urban gardens are increasingly recognised for their potential to maintain or even enhance biodiversity. In particular the presence of large densities and varieties of flowering plants is thought to support a number of pollinating insects whose range and abundance has declined as a consequence of agricultural intensification and habitat loss.

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An interview with I. Glenn Cohen on law and bioscience

There are huge changes taking place in the world of biosciences, and whether it’s new discoveries in stem cell research, new reproductive technologies, or genetics being used to make predictions about health and behavior, there are legal ramifications for everything. Journal of Law and the Biosciences is a new journal published by Oxford University Press in association Duke University, Harvard University Law School, and Stanford University, focused on the legal implications of the scientific revolutions in the biosciences.

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Thinking more about our teeth

By Peter S. Ungar
Most of us only think about teeth when something’s wrong with them — when they come in crooked, break, or begin to rot. But take a minute to consider your teeth as the extraordinary feat of engineering they are. They concentrate and transmit the forces needed to break food, again and again, up to millions of times over a lifetime. And they do it without themselves being broken in the process — with the very same raw materials used to make the plants and animals being eaten.

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Colorful spiders?

By Rainer Foelix
Spiders are not exactly renowned for being colorful animals. Admittedly, most of the more than 40,000 spider species are rather drab looking. However, there are certainly several hundred species which are lively colored, e. g. bright red or bright green, and some are very colorful indeed.

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Preparing for ASEH 2014 in San Francisco

By Elyse Turr
San Francisco, here we come. Oxford is excited for the upcoming annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History in San Francisco this week: 12-16 March 2014. The theme of the conference is “Crossing Divides,” reflecting the mixed history of the discipline and California itself.

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Conservation physiology of plants

By Mark van Kleunen
Conservation physiology was first identified as an emerging discipline in a landmark paper by Wikelski and Cooke, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution in 2006. They defined it as “the study of physiological responses of organisms to human alteration of the environment that might cause or contribute to population decline”.

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Proving Polybius wrong about elephants

By Adam L. Brandt and Alfred L. Roca
Do conservation genetics and ancient Greek history ever cross paths? Recently, a genetic study of a remnant population of elephants in Eritrea has also addressed an ancient mystery surrounding a battle in the Hellenistic world.

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Predicting who will publish or perish as career academics

By Bill Laurance, Carolina Useche, Corey Bradshaw, and Susan Laurance
It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s fair: if you’re an academic, your publishing record will have a crucial impact on your career. It can profoundly affect your prospects for employment, for winning research grants, for climbing the academic ladder, for having a teaching load that doesn’t absorb all your time, for winning academic prizes and fellowships, and for gaining the respect of your peers.

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How we all kill whales

By Michael Moore
My first job after veterinary school in 1983 was for the International Whaling Commission examining the efficacy of explosive harpoons for killing fin whales on an Icelandic whaling vessel. Later, I encountered a very different way of killing whales.

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