Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Is science being taken out of environmental protection?

In 1963, dying of breast cancer and wearing a wig to cover the effects of radiation treatments, Rachel Carson appeared before a congressional committee to defend her indictment of pesticides. She had rattled the chemical industry with Silent Spring, which urged caution at a time when Americans were buying dangerous products that the scientific community had itself made possible.

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Valuing our ecological futures

Most people care about their potential futures. But there’s a threat to some of these possible futures. In 2016, globally we experienced the hottest consecutive year on record since 2000, with 2017 looking to break the record again. At the current rate of warming climates, along with other environmental concerns, living on the Earth will become more difficult, if not impossible, by the end of the century.

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10 facts about fungi

Fungi play an important role for a balanced life of flora, fauna, and humans alike. But are they important for us humans, and how are fungi related to animals? Nicholas P. Money, author of Fungi: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 10 things everyone should know about fungi, and the role they play in the world.

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Deep in the red

Yesterday, the second of August, was Earth Overshoot Day for 2017. This date “marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.” As of today, we carry a planetary-sized debt. We are running in the red. This most horrible of days only started in 1971. Before that, humans did not have the population size nor the technological capacity to ‘out-eat’ our larder.

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A research journey from jungles to genomes

One of the goals of our trip was to search for a butterfly called Heliconius tristero (or Heliconius timareta tristero as it is now more correctly known), which had been described in 1996 from just two specimens collected in this area. Almost anyone who has visited the jungles of tropical America is likely to be familiar with the ‘postman’ or Heliconius butterflies.

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The first humans

The discovery in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco of human fossils with modern facial features, similar to ours, has been a wonderful surprise, even outside the world of anthropology. The discoveries have been published in the journal Nature by Jean-Jacques Hublin and collaborators. The fossils are associated with tools from the Middle Stone Age, the technique immediately preceding the Upper Pleistocene.

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Society is ready for a new kind of science—is academia?

In her 1998 essay in Science, Jane Lubchenco called for a “Social Contract for Science,” one that would acknowledge the scale of environmental problems and have “scientists devote their energies and talents to the most pressing problems of the day.” We were entering a new millennium, and Lubchenco was worried that the scientific enterprise was unprepared to address challenges related to climate change, pollution, health, and technology.

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Could you survive a snake bite?

With increased numbers of people travelling to exotic places, there is also an increasing awareness of tropical diseases. However, there are a number of tropical diseases, such as snake bite, which are often overlooked as major issues. Snake bite is an on-going global problem, and is often neglected as an important public health concern. Many are unprepared and uninformed when it comes to snake bites, which can have fatal consequences for humans.

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Anniversary of Goodall at Gombe Stream [reading list]

Tomorrow, 14 July, is the anniversary of when Jane Goodall first arrived on the shores of Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania in 1960. Jane Goodall is a famous primatologist and ethologist, and has dedicated her life to researching and understanding primate behavior. During her time at Gombe Stream, Goodall observed chimpanzees making and using tools, the first observations of any wild animal to do so.

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Radio telescopes to detect gravitational waves

Sensationally detected for the first time by the LIGO instrument in 2015, gravitational waves are ripples in space-time – the continuum of the universe – that propagate outward from astrophysical systems. The question is: can we find more of these gravitational waves and do it regularly? Some years ago we have devised a method of finding far more of them, and from weaker sources, than is possible with present techniques with the help of radio telescopes and natural astrophysical masers.

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How can we save the pollinators?

An often-cited estimate is that one-third of the food you eat comes from insect pollinators. Many of the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy develop their fruit and seed primarily through insect pollination services. Other sometimes overlooked benefits of pollinators are the ecological services that they provide. For example, insects pollinate many plants that provide erosion control, keeping our waterways clean.

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The biological ironies of transgender debates

Transgender issues have made significant headlines in the United States. Not long ago, North Carolina struggled to repeal a 2016 law that required people to use only public restrooms that matched the sex on their birth certificate, not their lived gender identity. Only weeks earlier, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case from a Virginia student on the same issue.

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Climate change: are you an expert? [Quiz]

Climate change is one of the most significant and far-reaching problems of the twenty-first century and it is a frequent topic of discussion everywhere from scientific journals to the Senate floor. Because climate change is often the subject of heated debate, it’s easy to mistake political stands for scientific facts. Inspired by The Death of Expertise, in which Tom Nichols explores the dangers of the public rejection of expertise, we’ve created a series of quizzes to test your knowledge.

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How does climate change impact global peace and security?

Climate change is one of the most pervasive global threats to peace and security in the 21st century. But how many people would list this as a key factor in international relations and domestic welfare? In reality, climate change touches all areas of security, peace building, and development. The impacts of climate change are already adversely affecting vulnerable communities, as well as stretching the capacities of societies and governments.

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10 facts about the animal kingdom

How many species of animals are there? What is the largest animal, and how are we related to rats? Peter Holland, the author of The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 10 things everyone should know about the animal kingdom, and how we humans fit in.

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Our oceans, our future [reading list]

The eight of June is World Oceans Day. Celebrated globally, this day is a chance to appreciate the ocean and learn about conservation efforts that help protect it. This year’s theme is “Our Oceans, Our Future”. In the spirit of moving towards a healthier future for our marine environment, we’ve put together a reading list of our favorite books about the ocean and marine conservation.

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