I, Science News-21 October 2019

Welcome to your weekly I, Science News Roundup! This week we cover the Extinction Rebellion protests, the impact that Brexit has already made on the UK research landscape and the first all-female spacewalk.

Extinction Rebellion

This weekend Extinction Rebellion held their finale in central London after two weeks of protests despite police banning their demonstrations in the capital. Many of you will have seen the iconic images of protestors being dragged from tubes, ‘Boris Johnson’ scaling Big Ben and those cloaked in scarlet-red robes. The group’s non-violent civil disobedience looks to draw attention to the global climate crisis, and for drastic measures to be put in place to mitigate its impact.

The protests coincided with the release of the government’s new environmental bill that aims to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, restore wildlife, and protect the climate. An Office for Environmental Protection to hold the government to account once the UK leaves the EU is also to be created.

Brexit on British science

Extinction Rebellion weren’t the only ones to protest in London this weekend as around one million protesters gathered to demand a second Brexit referendum. Prior to the march, one of the largest public demonstrations in British history, the first figures emerged showing the negative impact that Brexit has already had on UK research.

Since 2015, Britain’s annual share of EU research funding has fallen by a third, UK applications to Horizon 2020 by 40%, and the number of researchers choosing to come to the UK via EU schemes has fallen by 35%. Royal Society President Venki Ramakrishnan says scientists do not want to “gamble with their careers” by coming to the UK. Read the full analysis here.

First all-female spacewalk

In happier news, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir have made history by completing the first-ever all-female spacewalk. The Nasa astronauts spent seven hours outside the International Space Station (ISS) replacing a failed power control unit. The spacewalk, officially known as an “extra-vehicular activity” (EVA), was originally due to take place in March with Koch and fellow astronaut Anne McClain but was delayed as there was only one medium-sized spacesuit on board.

Seemingly having learnt from their mistake, this week Nasa revealed the prototype of their new spacesuit that can fit all their astronauts, including women. The suits will be used in the Artemis programme, the goal of which is to land the first-ever woman on the moon.

This week’s news was written by Harry Jenkins, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

Banner photograph from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Extinction_Rebellion_London_(46740878965).jpg

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