Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How rivers can help in climate change resilience

Resilience is a much-desired characteristic. The dictionary defines resilience of materials as the ability of a substance to spring back into shape – elasticity. Resilience is increasingly applied to individuals and institutions, as in the other dictionary definition: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties – toughness.

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The underrated value of stargazing

When did you last look up at the night sky? Before the advent of streetlights, paying attention to the heavens above us would have been an everyday part of existence, as commonplace as noticing the weather. Now, as many of us hurry from brightly lit office buildings to the cosy lights of home, few remember […]

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A new twist on rapid evolution in the Anthropocene

Many people view evolution as an extremely slow, long-term process by which organisms gradually adapt and diversify over millennia. But researchers also have found that rapid evolutionary change can occur over mere centuries, or even decades. Such ongoing rapid evolution is the focus of a fast-moving field of empirical work, made easier by new techniques […]

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Reviewing for scientific journals: A how to

Scientific journals are complex ecosystems, bringing together different actors in what is loosely akin to an inquisitorial court of law. The chief editor is the judge. She will decide whether a manuscript goes out for review and makes the final decision should the paper be peer reviewed. Members of the editorial board are like council, […]

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What biodiversity loss means for our health

Among the great lies I learned in medical school was that a human being was the product of a sperm and an egg. Yes, these gametes are necessary, but they are hardly sufficient to create and sustain a human life. Each one of us stays alive only with the help of trillions of other organisms – the human microbiome – that live on and in every surface of our body exposed to the outside world.

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The trouble with how we talk about climate change

It’s a rare day when the news doesn’t cover something related to climate change, whether biodiversity loss, climate refugees, retreating glaciers, or an extreme weather event. Though it’s broadly accepted that climate change is caused by “us,” at some level, we often assume the solutions are covered and controlled by experts, especially natural scientists, engineers, […]

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Why urgent action is needed to avoid centuries of global warming

In the climate change debate, we often hear the argument that the climate has been changing since time immemorial. This is true, but if modern climate change differs from pre-historic climate cycles, the statement by itself is empty. We need to know how modern climate change compares with that of the past.

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250 Years of Oxford weather

Talking about the weather is a national obsession. Thomas Hornsby talked about the weather, or at least wrote about it, in Oxford back in the mid-eighteenth century. His surviving diaries from 1767 mark the commencement of the longest continuous single-site weather records in the British Isles, and one of the longest anywhere in the world.

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Keep eating fish; it’s the best way to feed the world

The famous ocean explorer, Sylvia Earle, has long advocated that people stop eating fish. Recently, George Monbiot made a similar plea in The Guardian – there’s only one way to save the life in our oceans, stop eating fish – which, incidentally, would condemn several million people to starvation. In both cases, it’s facile reasoning. The oceans may suffer from […]

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Why climate change could bring more infectious diseases

Human impact on climate and environment is a topic of many discussions and research. While the social, economic, and environmental effects of climate change are important, climate change could also increase the spread of infectious diseases dramatically. Many infectious agents affect humans and animals. Shifts of their habitats or health as a result of climate change and […]

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Three big threats to wildlife in 2019

Our Planet, Netflix’s new nature documentary voiced by David Attenborough, arrives on the online streaming platform today. The series explores the wonders of the natural world, focusing on iconic species and stunning wildlife spectacles.

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The ethics of the climate emergency

During the last few days of February we experienced the warmest Winter day since records began, with a high of 20.6 degrees (Celsius) at Trawscoed in mid-Wales. As if that was not enough, the record was broken again the next day with 21.2 degrees at Kew Gardens.

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Notable female microbiologists you’ve never heard of

Female microbiologists many not have had professor or doctor in front of their names, instead listed as laboratory assistants or technicians, but in many cases their skills were critical for numerous notable discoveries. It is worth reminding ourselves who they are and how they changed the world for good.

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When a river is dammed, is it damned forever?

Since the dawn of advanced civilizations, humanity has sought to manage the flow of rivers. Protection from floods, water for drinking and irrigating crops, and extraction of resources like food and energy are among the most popular reasons for building dams.

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