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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Science & Medicine

Is there a right to report a disease outbreak?

Recently the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Systems and Innovation Cluster released its WHO Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance. This report was the first attempt to develop a framework to guide public health surveillance systems on the conduct of surveillance and reporting in public health emergencies. The guidelines are described as a ‘starting point for the searching, sustained discussions that public health surveillance demands’.

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Is memory-decoding technology coming to the courtroom?

“What happened?” This is the first question a police officer will ask upon arriving at a crime scene. The answer to this simple question—What happened?—will determine the course of the criminal investigation. This same question will be asked by attorneys to witnesses on the stand if the case goes to trial.

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Is there a place for the arts in health?

In a utopian world of abundant health budgets and minimal health challenges, it is probably fair to say that few would object to including the arts within hospitals or promoting them as a part of healthy lifestyles. Certainly, we have a long history of incorporating the arts into health (stretching back around 40,000 years), so it’s a concept many people are familiar with. But in an era of austerity, the value that the arts can bring comes under much closer scrutiny

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Cosmic ripples

Michael Faraday transformed our understanding of the physical world when he realised that electromagnetic forces are carried by a field permeating the whole of space. This idea was formalized by James Clerk-Maxwell who constructed a unified theory of electromagnetism in which beams of light are undulations in the electromagnetic field. Maxwell’s theory implies that visible light is just one part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

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Last minute guide to the total solar eclipse

The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but it’s also 400 times closer to earth, which means that remarkably, the two bodies appear to us as exactly the same size. For 14 days a month, the orbiting moon is on the ‘sunny’ side of the spinning earth, and the sunlight casts a shadow. Almost all the time, that shadow is projected way off into space; but on very particular occasions, the shadow falls onto the earth – the moon is obscuring our view of the sun.

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Ecosystem-based mitigation and adaptation

Payments for ecosystem services (PES), also known as payments for environmental services (or benefits), are incentives offered to farmers or landowners in compensation for proper land-management that provides ecological services. Among these benefits we can mention conserving animal and plant species, protecting hydric resources, conserving natural scenery, and storing carbon.

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DNA testing for immigration and family reunification?

Family reunification is one of the main forms of immigration in many countries. However, in recent times, immigration has become increasingly regulated with many countries encouraging stricter vetting measures. In this climate, countries’ laws and policies applicable to family reunification seek a balance between an individual’s right to a family life and a country’s right to control the influx of immigrants.

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Richard Susskind on the future of law

In the latest episode of the Oxford Law Vox podcast Richard Susskind talks to George Miller about the gaining momentum of technology and AI in the law profession. They discuss just how vital it is that lawyers learn to reinvent themselves and work alongside technology. He also address the importance of the opportunity young lawyers have to bring about and be a major part of social change in the legal profession.

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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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“My latest brain child”

In his 1954 essay ‘Metapsychological and Clinical Aspects of Regression within the Psycho-Analytical Set’, Donald Winnicott states: “The idea of psycho-analysis as an art must gradually give way to a study of environmental adaptation relative to patients’ regressions. […] I know from experience that some will say: all this leads to a theory of development which ignores the early stages of the development of the individual, which ascribes early development to environmental factors.

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Bodily identity and biotypology in Brazil

What does your body shape say about you? When typing this question on any online search engine one will find dozens of examples and images of models of varying bodily classifications as well as the relationship of bodily shape with many different types of physical and mental health and even personality. Rectangle, triangle, round, hourglass, slender, pear, apple, etc, are widespread categories used to label the body

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Building a consensus on climate change

As the world shudders in the face of the Trump Administration rejection of the Paris Climate Accords, other forms of expertise and professional engagement are, again, taking on increased relevance. Buildings have long been important mediators in the relationship between energy, politics, and culture. Today the architecture, engineering and construction professions are increasingly compelled to take on energy efficiency.

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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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Diet and age-related memory loss [excerpt]

Age-related memory loss is to be expected. But can it be mitigated? There are many different steps we can take to help maintain and even improve our memories as we age. One of these steps is to make a few simple dietary changes. The following shortened excerpt from The Seven Steps to Managing Your Memory lists dietary basics that can benefit memory.

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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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