Respecting unity and diversity: Towards effective multidisciplinary research

To those in the corporate sector, academia may not seem a particularly competitive environment. The truth is that in academia, highly prized resources such as funding are coveted, and hierarchies exist, determined mainly by academic output with the eye on cementing scholarly authority and academia’s version of job security: tenure.

However, at the same time, academia’s strength lies in collaboration. This is especially true when we look to academics for guidance in addressing the world’s most complex societal, environmental, and public health challenges, such as poverty, climate change, and obesity. Such insight is impossible without multidisciplinary collaboration that requires significant knowledge sharing by researchers. Collaborations can last years, demanding significant time and input.

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Science under the spectre of war

Vintners have a saying about their succulent charges: struggle builds character, meaning grapes exposed to challenging conditions develop notable wine. The same could be said for scientific research – struggle can produce remarkable output. That is undoubtedly true for Dr Rajko Igić, a Serbian pharmacologist and toxicologist. His work emerged against the backdrop of one of the most harrowing conflicts of modern times, and his story echoes that of other refugee scientists and those still committed to research while surrounded by war.

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Taming the oil price

For the foreseeable future, the world will need oil, but its price volatility makes buying and selling it a challenge for producers and the myriad manufacturers who need it. For brokers who sit in the middle of such transactions, finding the optimal price and the number of clients to spread their risk is one of their biggest challenges. Belleh Fontem, a senior researcher in operations and information systems at the University of Massachusetts, USA, has designed a mathematical programme that embraces oil price volatility. The results could have far-reaching consequences.

One of the main benefits of a highly networked global economy is the sheer scale of access to products and services. On the flip side, being so interwoven, that network is at the mercy of impactful events anywhere within it. Witness the effects when the Ever Given, one of the world’s biggest container ships, blocked the

Genome Architecture Theory shakes up cancer research

It’s an inconvenient truth that after 50 years of concerted research and untold billions of dollars in funding every year, a cure for cancer remains elusive. Perhaps the problem sits with the conventional view of cancer. Henry H. Heng, a professor of molecular medicine at the Wayne State School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, suggests we need to see the bigger picture and even rethink our understanding of evolution. His Genome Architecture Theory is telling and provocative, which is why it’s attracting interest from an unlikely collaborator who sees progress in disruption.

It’s probably true that every person who has lost a loved one to cancer has wondered at some point why there isn’t a cure. It’s a fair point, given the tens of thousands of scientists who have spent endless hours and billions of dollars in cancer research every year for over 50 years.

Invoking human rights to stop ivory tower bullies

Higher education institutions are not immune to workplace bullying. In fact, research shows that they can be virulent breeding grounds for a particularly pernicious form of bullying – one cloaked in popular perceptions of civility. In higher education, bullying is even delegated to subordinates. However, because workplace bullying inhabits a grey legal area, prosecuting cases is challenging. Dr Leah P Hollis at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ suggests we should re-examine the social position of bullying from the perspective of the foremost authority on such matters: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For those caught in the continual loop of a typical office job, the hallowed halls of higher education may seem a genteel place to work. A life dedicated to learning and instruction carries images of safe spaces of quiet reflection and respectful repartee with peers and students. The reality is different. Academia is highly