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Cambridge University and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore establish new research centre to support lifelong learning

The Centre for Lifelong Learning and Individualised Cognition (CLIC) is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), and is funded by Singapore’s National Research Foundation. 
 
Cultivating new skills is a lifelong process that requires cognitive flexibility, yet there is currently a gap in evidence-based training programmes that can effectively support and promote this way of learning throughout people’s lives. 

Cognitive flexibility goes far beyond conventional IQ; it is the essential capacity for responding to the fluctuating events of the modern world. It underlies adaptive coping to change, and also the generation of innovative, creative thinking. 

Trevor Robbins, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience Psychology in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and a senior academic advisor to the programme, said: "Understanding the psychological basis of cognitive flexibility and its basis in the brain will have enormous societal benefits, with educational, as well as clinical, impact.” 

He added: “This novel and original collaborative programme by two leading Universities will enhance the science of learning by innovative interventions and methods, for training cognitive flexibility over the life span."

The research programme will be led by Zoe Kourtzi, Professor of Experimental Psychology in Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. Involving researchers in psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and education, CLIC will explore cross-disciplinary ways to develop innovative research in the science of learning. The ultimate goal is to translate these research findings into an integrated model of learning that can be applied in the real world, improving cognitive flexibility across the life span.

Research will focus on four life stages - early years, adolescence, young adults and middle age - when flexible behaviour is critical for coping with changing circumstances. During these periods the brain undergoes neural changes such as early maturation, restructuring or resilience to decline, presenting important opportunities for intervention. 

NTU Senior Vice President (Research), Professor Lam Khin Yong said: “The cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers from NTU Singapore and Cambridge University is expected to have wide-ranging impact on workers, as technology and globalisation change the nature of labour markets worldwide.” 

He added: “The ability to develop and master new skills at the workplace is becoming increasingly pressing globally. Singapore’s nationwide SkillsFuture programme, for example, gives opportunities for people to develop their fullest potential throughout life. Yet, we know that differences in individual cognitive functions can affect learning and performance. This is where research in the Science of Learning can play a key role in enhancing educational outcomes and practice. The new Centre will support the country’s drive in helping the workforce prepare for the digital economy, as businesses turn to automation.”

Annabel Chen, Co-Director of CLIC and Professor of Psychology and Director for the Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE) at NTU, Singapore, said: “This is an exciting development for research in the Science of Learning. We have been working closely with colleagues from Cambridge, and tapping into expertise across NTU, including the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Business School, National Institute of Education, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and College of Engineering to develop the CLIC programme.”

She added: “This development complements the Science of Learning Initiative in the Centre of Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE), launched by NTU in 2015. With this multidisciplinary effort and input from the Ministry of Education and SkillsFuture Singapore, we believe our programme will be able to provide insights and translatable solutions for the Future of Learning and Economy in Singapore and beyond.”

The collaboration was brought together through the presence of the University of Cambridge’s first overseas research centre in Singapore, the Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore Ltd (CARES). CARES was established in 2013 under the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) – a collection of 15 joint research programmes between local universities and top overseas institutions funded by Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF). The Centre hosts several research programmes, most of which involve NTU and focus on the decarbonisation of Singapore’s chemical industry.

The new programme on the science of learning is a novel direction for CARES and CREATE, bringing together expertise from Cambridge and Singapore to investigate new ways of helping people prepare and adapt to the rapidly changing workplace.

A new research centre focused on improving support for lifelong learning and cognitive agility opened on 1 October 2020 in Singapore.

The programme will enhance the science of learning by innovative interventions and methods, for training cognitive flexibility over the life spanTrevor RobbinsJess Bailey on UnsplashColoured pencils


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Vice-Chancellor’s awards showcase impact and engagement during the pandemic

Now in their fifth year, the awards were made in five categories: collaboration, early career, established academic, professional service, online and remote.

The winners of the collaboration category are Dr Michael Weekes from Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, and Dr Steven Baker from Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease. They collaborated to establish a comprehensive rapid turn-around COVID-19 testing platform for Cambridge University Hospitals healthcare workers, University staff and students.

The newly-established ‘online and remote engagement’ award goes to Dr Michael Ramage and team from the Department of Architecture for their HappyShield project. This involved developing, testing, and disseminating a novel open-source medical face shield to help tackle severe PPE shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, focussing in particular on production in Low and Middle Income Countries. 

The winner of the early career researcher award is Chioma Achi from the Department of Veterinary Medicine. Achi organised an engagement programme across Nigeria to strengthen the participation of poultry farmers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

The winner of the established researcher award is Dr Duncan Astle from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Working in partnership with children’s charities, local education authorities, academy chains and local schools, Astle led an engagement programme providing teachers with robust evidence to help young people overcome cognitive and behavioural barriers to learning.

The winner of the professional services award is Dr Rosalyn Wade from the Museum of Zoology. Wade reimagined the Museum’s learning and public programme following COVID-19 lockdown and the venue’s temporary closure. She designed and released a new blog and developed an innovative online festival (Zoology Live!).

The awards were announced on 5th October by the University’s Public Engagement team on Twitter

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, says: 

“The University’s mission is to contribute to society. One of the ways we do it is by undertaking research with real social, cultural and economic impact. 

“These awards celebrate research that best demonstrates social, cultural and economic impact through engagement. From advances in healthcare and industrial processes, to rapid responses to the global pandemic; from cultural activities that recognise diversity in our societies, to new knowledge that improves teaching and increases social mobility. This year’s panel of judges was inspired and uplifted by the quality of applications.”

The Vice-Chancellor’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards were established to recognise and reward outstanding achievement, innovation and creativity in devising and implementing ambitious engagement and impact plans that have the potential to create significant economic, social and cultural impact from and engagement with and for research. Each winner is offered a bursary to support their project.

This year’s winners and runners up are:

Established Academic Award

Winner: Dr Duncan Astle (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, School of Clinical Medicine) – Breaking barriers to learning in the classroom

Runners up: Dr Joseph Webster (Faculty of Divinity, School of Arts and Humanities) – Sectarianism in Scotland and the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act

Professor Peter Hutchinson (with Professor David Menon) (Clinical Neurosciences / Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine) – Reshaping the treatment of traumatic brain injury

Early Career Researcher Award

Winner: Chioma Achi (Department of Veterinary Medicine, School of Biological Sciences) – Strengthening participation of poultry farmers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance

Runners up: Emma Soneson (Department of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Medicine) – Public health approaches to identifying and responding to mental health difficulties in children and young people

Dr Naures Atto (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies/Middle Eastern Studies, School of Arts and Humanities) – Endangered Middle Eastern Cultures and their Vulnerability in Migration Contexts

Dr Nicki Kindersley (Faculty of History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) – Militarised political economies in South Sudan

Professional Services Award

Winner: Dr Rosalyn Wade (Museum of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences) – Learning and Public Programme of the Museum of Zoology: blending contemporary zoological research with active and online learning experiences for public audiences

Collaboration Award 

Winner: Dr Michael Weekes and Dr Steven Baker (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research / Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, School of Clinical Medicine) – A comprehensive COVID-19 screening programme for Cambridge University Hospitals healthcare workers, Cambridge University staff and students

Runners up: Dr Victoria Avery, Dr Melissa Calaresu and Dr Miranda Stearn (Fitzwilliam Museum / Faculty of History / Fitzwilliam Museum) – Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500–1800 Research Project 

Online and Remote Engagement Award

Winner: Dr Michael Ramage and team (Department of Architecture, School of Arts and Humanities) – The HappyShield 

Runners up: Centre for Geopolitics (Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) – Centre for Geopolitics Coronavirus Response

Academics, students and professional members of staff from across the University have been recognised in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards for their work in areas including COVID-19 testing, PPE production and online engagement.

These awards celebrate research that best demonstrates social, cultural and economic impact through engagementStephen ToopeHappyshieldThe Happyshield face shield


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Extent of India’s COVID nudge campaign revealed

India has reported nearly five million COVID-19 cases and well over 80,000 deaths (as of 17 September 2020), making the country one of the worst hit in the world. But an even greater tragedy may have unfolded had India’s government not used nudge theory to maintain one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in the first quarter of the year. This is the view of a new study by Ramit Debnath and Dr Ronita Bardhan from Cambridge’s Behaviour and Building Performance Group, Department of Architecture.

Using machine learning and AI-based algorithms to analyse almost 400 government press releases, they show how India nudged across 14 key policy areas to influence the behaviour of 1.3 billion people, including government employees, scientists, health professionals, manufacturers, food suppliers and students to help fight COVID-19. The researchers argue that nudges from India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, were particularly important in creating herd effect on lockdown and social distancing norms across the nation. 

The study, published in PLoS ONE, found that the government deployed nudge techniques to tackle a wide range of urgent challenges between 15 January and 14 April 2020. Nudging is a design-based public policy approach which uses positive and negative reinforcements to modify the behaviour of a population.

In January and February, policy nudges were focused on evaluating the risk of incoming travellers from China and extending surveillance at international airports. But the narrative soon shifted to address other pressing concerns. By March, nudges sought to impose new restrictions on travel, discouraging people from visiting crowded and public spaces, and strict social distancing. On 24 March, Modi told the nation that “21 days is critical to breaking the infection cycle… or else the country and your family could be set back 21 years”. The next day, the country entered phase 1 of lockdown.

The government nudged to tackle fake news about the virus and to convince the population to strictly adhere to the rules, use masks and wash hand frequently. At the same time, it conducted surveillance in urban areas using smart technologies that included drones, spatial analysis, low-power Bluetooth mobile phone applications and humanoid robots.

Ramit Debnath said: “Nudge-based policy approaches are crucial in a democratic country like India which has a vast population and geo-spatial divide, high levels of illiteracy and an extremely vulnerable health system.”

Ronita Bardhan added: “The government urgently needed to buy time and it had to bring a deeply divided population together to fight a common struggle – this was a huge challenge. Our findings show that the government needed much more than scientific data to convince people, they appealed to powerful values including patriotism, family, religion and community.”

The study highlights the role played by the ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund) which was created to nudge the public to make micro-donations and encourage public participation to help tackle the crisis. On 5 April, the Prime Minister nudged people to voluntarily switch off their lights for ten minutes in solidarity with frontline workers. Most of these nudges were made with social media advertisements, SMS forwards and broadcast media.

The study found that government ministries nudged India’s manufacturing firms to produce PPE, hand sanitiser and masks to meet the national demand, while also seeking to protect the country’s food security and supply chains at a critical time – India’s farmers harvest their winter crops from February to April. 

Meanwhile, the government spurred on India’s scientific community to fight the pandemic, releasing funding through the Department of Science and Technology. Research institutions were encouraged to submit proposals to focus on the development of affordable diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals, disease models, and other R&D to study COVID-19. 

Scientific innovation during this period included robots for encouraging social distancing in public spaces and healthcare centres; and a contact tracing app (AarogyaSetu) using GPS and Bluetooth. Frequent SMS reminders were used to nudge people to use the app. The Ministry of Human Resource Development also nudged the start-up and innovation community in India to participate in the fight for COVID-19 by launching programs like ‘Fight Corona IDEAthon’.

To support education, the government encouraged home-schooling by aggressively advertising the use of the National Digital Library of India. The government even harnessed nostalgia to help keep people at home during lockdown by broadcasting popular ‘80s and ‘90s TV shows on the national channel, Doordarshan.

The study demonstrates how nudge strategies evolved as the crisis unfolded. Between January and the first week of March, for instance, one government ministry (AYUSH) was aggressively nudging people to follow the traditional medicinal practice of Ayurveda and to maintain good health through yoga to increase immunity, while also insisting on disciplined personal hygiene. However, in mid-March, as infection rates increased, the nudges shifted away from traditional treatments to promoting a healthy lifestyle using hashtags like #YOGAathome.

The researchers used topic modelling, a computational social science method that has its basis in text mining and natural language processing. It automatically analyses text data to determine cluster words for a set of documents.

The Government started lifting lockdown restrictions on 7 June 2020, and the spread of the virus has since accelerated. But the benefits of the government’s nudge campaign are still being felt, the researchers believe. Ronita Bardhan says: “Behaviour changes encouraged by nudges earlier in the year, including the wearing of masks and social distancing, are still widely maintained across India. These nudges are still helping to save lives.”

The study does not attempt to assess the success or failure of the Government of India’s policy interventions, rather to understand how context-specific latent nudges were created through policy interventions.

 

Ramit Debnath is a Gates Cambridge Scholar at Churchill College; Dr Ronita Bardhan is University Lecturer of Sustainability in the Built Environment and a Fellow at Selwyn College.

 

Reference

R. Debnath R & R. Bardhan, ‘India nudges to contain COVID-19 pandemic: A reactive public policy analysis using machine-learning based topic modelling’, PLoS ONE (2020). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238972. 

The Government of India’s use of nudge theory in the first three months of the pandemic helped to tackle the virus on numerous fronts, a new study suggests.

The government urgently needed to buy time and ... bring a deeply divided population together to fight a common struggleRonita BardhanGerd Altmann from PixabayIndia flag face mask.


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Beyond the pandemic: find better ways to talk about death

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THE PANDEMIC


What should we do?

#4 Find better
ways to talk
about death

The pandemic is forcing us to change direction, to rethink what we do
and how we do it.
We ask our experts:
where should we go from here?

Find better ways to
talk about death

by Dr Laura Davies

COVID-19 has forced millions of people to confront the prospect of dying earlier than they expected and under extraordinary circumstances. Now more than ever we need to find ways to talk about death suggests Laura Davies, from the Faculty of English.

Death has come to our families and communities with unexpected speed and scale as a result of COVID-19. At the time of writing, over 860,000 people globally have died and the crisis looks anything but over.

No death is easy but the ongoing pandemic has wrought an especially cruel twist. Visiting dying loved ones in hospital has been limited, last moments shared through a phone call or a video chat, hugging at funerals banned. Facing the end of life has moved more prominently into view.

Is this the time to find better ways to talk about death?

As a society, we’ve wrestled with the provision of social and palliative care, had arguments around euthanasia, and raised concerns about mental health support following bereavement. And we’ve also thought about the concept of a ‘good’ death – ideas on this were already present in public debate with some degree of urgency before the COVID-19 crisis and have a long cultural history.

"Our aim is to help people to think and talk about human mortality in a reflective rather than a reactive way." Dr Laura Davies

What do we mean by a good death? National Health Service guidelines frame a good death in relation to managing pain, preserving dignity, and meeting the needs and wants of the patient and, where possible, those close to them.

In practice, however, articulating such thoughts and having them fully heard can be hard and often frightening. When a person does not have a meaningful conception of what, for them, a good death might be, or when they lack the vocabulary with which to express it, or the confidence to do so, it can be even more so. By the time a person is facing their own death, the kind of conversation that can be had about it is already limited.

Tackling these issues is a key focus of the ‘A Good Death?’ project we have been running in Cambridge for the past two years. We explore how historical and literary ideas of death can help us to reflect on dying well today.

Thinking about death in the midst of life

The need for resources to support the general public, the sick and dying, and those who care for them or are bereaved, has accelerated and intensified. Our aim is to help people to think and talk about human mortality in a reflective rather than simply a reactive way. This is where the humanities and arts can play a vital role.

The literature of previous centuries contains a rich and diverse mass of vocabularies and conceptual frameworks (theological, artistic, spiritual, medical, domestic, practical, economic) through which people have thought and written about death.

Like us, the authors of these works suffered, grieved and experienced physical and psychological pain. We believe that important insights have been lost as these texts have faded from wider public knowledge.

That’s where our project comes in. Our aim is not to promote a single version of an ‘ideal death’ – and we don’t believe that the circumstances of individual deaths can always be changed. As has become increasingly apparent over recent months, access to healthcare varies enormously across the world, and there are significant global divergences in causes of death, experiences of dying and other public health concerns that need to be addressed.

These medical aspects are not our area of expertise. But through our public events, workshops designed for practitioners – such as bereavement counsellors and hospice workers – and our creative collaborations and online resources, we can open up new conversations and explore how words and images can influence attitudes to and even experiences of death.

Prompted by unfamiliar literary texts by diverse writers, and by objects and creative writing activities, we guide participants in our workshops, events and online to reflect in new ways on matters that have a long history but which are pressingly significant today: dying at home, in hospital or alone, the experience of pain or fear, and the nature of ‘care’.

“We believe that thinking and talking about death should begin in the midst of life.”Dr Laura Davies

Through a collaboration with writer Patrick Morris and Menagerie Theatre Company, we have most recently created three original audio dramas to explore, through personal stories, some of the swirling mass of questions and emotions that the pandemic has generated. Written and recorded during lockdown, and available on our website, Seven Arguments with Grief, End of Life Care – A Ghost Story and A Look, A Wave are short but intense glimpses into experiences of bereavement, hospital care, and of a final deathbed goodbye.

Credit: Audio drama written by Patrick Morris, Menagerie Theatre Company.

Rather than demanding answers or decisions, the encounters we offer through literature and the arts with this most fundamental of human experiences foster confidence in facing fears and expressing opinions, throw preconceptions into relief, and make deep thinking possible by putting our imaginations to work.

Where should we go from here?

Thinking about how our research translates into useful suggestions for talking better about death better is at the core of our work. Ideas for how to do this will be multiple and varied but, in the light of the pandemic, we think these are among the priorities:

Acknowledge the suffering COVID-19 is causing. Recognise that its impacts are not being shared equally and work to tackle this. Find ways for individuals, families and communities to tell their stories of struggle, survival and loss, now and in the years to come.

Normalise conversations about death within our personal relationships. This means taking steps to raise the topic, and to think about our beliefs and wishes and those of our loved ones, before we are forced to by illness or crisis. 

Reflect on and deepen our own thoughts and feelings about death by actively exploring literature and the arts. When we read, hear or view something new, or return again to an old favourite, we open ourselves up to different perspectives and gain insight into the complexity of human experience. We can find language too to help us to find the right words to conceptualise and communicate what we think and feel.

Ask questions. Philosophical, Practical, Spiritual, Medical. Stopping to think about why certain practices and attitudes around death and dying exist in our diverse communities helps us to understand the vast array of different ways humans have used to face the fact of our mortality. Even more importantly, it can show us where there is room for change and improvement, whether that be in our own lives, in professional practice or training, or at the level of institutional and governmental policy.

Dr Laura Davies leads the interdisciplinary ‘A Good Death?’ project based in the Faculty of English. Her wider research focuses on 18th-century British literature with a particular interest in life writing. She is a Fellow of King’s College.

Workshop for volunteers and professionals
Are you part of an organisation, company or volunteer group whose work relates to death or to dying well? Or perhaps the COVID-19 crisis has made you or those you work with think differently about death?

The Good Death Project runs facilitated group workshops for volunteers and professionals who support the dying, their families, or the recently bereaved. Through a series of practical activities, the workshops provide an open but supportive space for the widening of perspectives, vocabularies or strategies for thinking and talking about death, dying and grief, and to tune-in to what clients and patients may be articulating. There is no charge for workshops, which are currently being run online.

Contact: good-death@english.cam.ac.uk

Editor: Tom Almeroth-Williams
Artwork: Balvir Friers
Series Editor: Louise
Walsh

How you can support Cambridge’s COVID-19 research

TopBuilt with Shorthand Summary: 

COVID-19 has forced millions of people to confront the prospect of dying earlier than they expected and under extraordinary circumstances. Now more than ever we need to find ways to talk about death, suggests Laura Davies, from the Faculty of English.

Image: Affiliation (schools and institutions): Faculty of EnglishSchool of Arts and HumanitiesExternal Affiliations: Menagerie Theatre CompanyPeople (our academics and staff): Laura DaviesSubject (including Spotlight on ... where applicable): Beyond the pandemicCOVID-19pandemicStoriesdeathmental healthSection: ResearchNews type: News

Scriptures rarely a significant motivating factor behind violence, say researchers

When acts of violence are reported in London, New York, or the Middle East, people often wonder what role religion might have played. Especially if Muslims are involved, there can also be a tendency to point fingers at the Qur’an. These knee-jerk reactions are not very helpful, the authors of Scripture and Violence suggest, and can lead to increased polarization in society, as well as unwarranted animosity against Muslims and people of other faiths.

Bringing together scholars from the University of Cambridge and other institutions around the world, the contributors to Scripture and Violence set out to clarify the relationship between violent-sounding passages from the Bible and the Qur’an and the actions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the real world. They concluded that there is much less cause for alarm than many people think.

Contrary to popular belief, scriptures are rarely a significant motivating factor when acts of violence occur, the researchers found. One researcher interviewed potential and actual ISIS recruits, and discovered that the Qur’an had not played a significant role in motivating them to join. A desire to be involved in “bad-ass-do-goodery” was much more influential.

Another researcher analysed Muslim debates about suicide attacks, and found that while some Islamic scholars had cited verses from the Qur’an to argue that suicide attacks are permissible in certain limited contexts, other Islamic scholars had used the Qur’an to argue that Muslims are prohibited from carrying out such attacks at all. These scholars all treated the Qur’an as sacred, but they disagreed about what actions were permissible. Political arguments were also much more prominent in the debates than discussion of the Qur’an, which played only a marginal role.

The authors of Scripture and Violence also argue that there is no need to be afraid of scary-looking scriptural passages.

“Some people think that the best strategy for preventing violence is to pretend certain scriptural passages don’t exist,” explains co-editor and New Testament scholar Julia Snyder. “But that’s counterproductive. Instead, find out how people within these religious traditions actually understand these scriptures.

“When the Qur’an or the Bible talks about violence, religious people most often understand that as linked to specific historical contexts. Or they say that very specific conditions would have to be met for violent action to be taken. They don’t think these passages call for violence now – even people who view their scriptures as the Word of God.”

Clearing up misunderstandings about these issues will help overcome existing divisions within society, the researchers hope, and enable people of all faiths and none to focus on tackling urgent economic and social issues together.

“As lockdowns end and societies open up again, and as we seek to rebuild our communities together, it’s important not to let unwarranted anxiety about people of other backgrounds or religious faiths get in the way,” emphasizes co-editor Daniel H. Weiss from Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity. “This is a great time to let go of polarizing and inaccurate ideas about how religion and scripture actually work. In fact, within these religious traditions, active grappling with tough passages can generate creative new solutions for dealing with present-day concerns.”

According to the researchers, addressing fears about scripture and violence can enable people to recognize other prominent aspects of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scriptures – such as concern for the underprivileged and an emphasis on justice – and use scripture to reflect and debate together about what a good society would look like. 

Scripture and Violence is available from 1 September 2020. Published by Routledge, the book includes contributions from international experts on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts and traditions, who discuss key issues in interpretation of the Bible and the Qur’an, and highlight the diverse ways in which Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities understand scriptural texts. A variety of contexts are visited, from British India to Nazi Germany, from the Jerusalem Pride Parade to American evangelicals and the US military, and from CNN to European university classrooms. 

Many people misunderstand the relationship between religion, scripture and violence, a new book argues. Some people worry that scriptures such as the Qur’an and the Bible fan the flames of violence in the world today, while others insist that they are inherently peaceful. According to an international team of researchers, the reality may be more complicated than either set of people think.

Some people think that the best strategy for preventing violence is to pretend certain scriptural passages don’t exist. But that’s counterproductive. Instead, find out how people within these religious traditions actually understand these scripturesJulia SnyderslagheapWorld Trade Centre 9/11


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Cambridge academics elected to British Academy fellowship

They are among 86 distinguished scholars to be elected to the fellowship in recognition of their work in the fields of law, economics, Middle Eastern studies, geography, history of science, art and architecture, classics, and English literature.

The Cambridge academics made Fellows of the Academy this year are:

  • Professor Catherine Barnard (Faculty of Law; Trinity College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of her work on European Union law, especially the single market; Brexit and the UK-EU future relationship; employment law, especially equality law, and its European dimension.
  • Professor Giancarlo Corsetti (Faculty of Economics; Clare College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of his work in the field of economic policy and international economics, with focus on currency, financial and debt crises, European monetary union and open economy macroeconomics.
  • Professor Khaled Fahmy (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; King's College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of his work on modern Middle Eastern history, history of Islamic law, the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • Professor Sarah Radcliffe (Department of Geography; Christ's College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of her work on critical development and political geography; postcolonial and decolonial geography; indigeneity; intersectionality in socio-spatial inequalities; these themes in relation to Andean lives, contestations and knowledges.
  • Professor James Secord (Department of History and Philosophy of Science; Christ’s College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of his work on history of science; science communication; natural history, evolution and geology in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Professor Caroline van Eck (Department of History of Art; King’s College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of her work on the history of European art and architecture c. 1800 in a globalising world.
  • Professor Timothy Whitmarsh (Faculty of Classics; St John's College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of his work on ancient Mediterranean literature, culture and thought; Greek literature, especially of the Roman Empire; cultural contacts in the ancient world; ancient religion and scepticism; literary and cultural theory.
  • Professor Clair Wills (Faculty of English; Murray Edwards College) has been elected to the fellowship in recognition of her work on 20th-century British and Irish cultural history; contemporary writing; the literature and social history of migration.

The British Academy has also welcomed four new honorary Fellows, among them Bridget Kendall MBE, Master of Peterhouse Cambridge. Kendall is a broadcaster and writer with a particular interest in Russia, international diplomacy and security and promotion of language learning.

The new Fellows join a community of over 1,400 leading minds that make up the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Current Fellows include the classicist Professor Dame Mary Beard, the historian Professor Sir Simon Schama and philosopher Professor Baroness Onora O’Neill, while current honorary Fellows include Dame Joan Bakewell, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Baroness Brenda Hale. 

Professor Whitmarsh said: “I have owed much, along the way, to the British Academy, who funded my postgraduate studies and awarded me a Mid-Career Fellowship in 2012-2013, which allowed me to write my book Battling the Gods. I am now greatly honoured, and genuinely humbled, to have been elected a Fellow.”

Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, said: "I would like to extend a warm welcome and hearty congratulations to the individuals who have joined the British Academy Fellowship. This is a time to reflect on the many invaluable contributions these academics have made to their disciplines. It is also a time for celebration, and I hope that, social distancing measures notwithstanding, each of our new Fellows is able to do so in ways great or small."

As well as a fellowship, the British Academy is a funding body for research, nationally and internationally, and a forum for debate and engagement.

Eight academics from the University of Cambridge have been made Fellows of the prestigious British Academy for the humanities and social sciences.

I have owed much, along the way, to the British Academy ... I am now greatly honoured, and genuinely humbled, to have been elected a FellowTimothy WhitmarshThe British AcademyThe British Academy


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