Environmental research takes centre stage for 2021 Festival of Social Science

Concerned about the climate cost of your eating habits? Curious about whether your genes create your character? Ever wondered whether famous figures from English Literature might be Muslim? Warwick researchers will host a month-long series of free events tackling these and other topics as the university’s contribution to the 2021 ESRC Festival of Social Science.

This year’s programme has a strong focus on environmental issues, reflecting the UK’s role as host of the COP26 conference.

November’s Festival of Social Science events are just one of the ways the University is reaching out and engaging with the local community, and beyond, in 2021. This year the Festival is being held as part of the Resonate Festival, the University of Warwick’s year-long programme of inspiring and interactive events for all ages celebrating Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture. The events will also feature in the official City of Culture listings.

Festival-goers will be able to see a demonstration of how cooking on open stoves contributes to 4 million early deaths around the world; see a performance based on women’s shared stories of giving birth; find out whether we can learn lessons from post-World War II economic policy as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic; or share creative responses to the climate emergency. Climate researchers will also take their work into local schools to inspire creative projects.

The Warwick events are part of the UK-wide ESRC Festival of Social Science, taking place across the whole of November. Organised with support from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Festival aims to show how social science research helps explain people’s behaviour and the world around us, how research can influence our social, economic and political lives, and to inspire more people to pursue a career in research in the future.

Professor Nick Vaughan-Williams, Vice-Provost and Chair of the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Warwick, said:

“This exciting line-up showcases the richness, diversity, and real-world relevance of social science research at Warwick. Our leading researchers are tackling some of the most pressing global challenges of the twenty-first century including climate change and pandemic recovery.

“The Resonate programme reflects our strong commitment to public engagement and we are delighted to return to in-person events. This programme will offer new lenses to view the social and economic world around you.”

Full programme:

2 Nov: Food for thought – The climate cost of our eating habits Romain Chenet and Dr Alastair Smith invite you to delve into the hidden and not-so hidden climate costs of the food in your fridge and pantries from the comfort of your kitchen. This interactive event includes a short online presentation followed by an invitation to join in a “show and tell” where the effects of climate change on food production and what you can do to help will be explored.

2 – 4 Nov and 9 Nov: The COP26 – Climate Innovation Challenge. NatWest and the University of Warwick are inviting HE and FE students aged 16+ to put their thoughts about tackling climate change and sustainability to the test, teaming up to learn about and develop their own sustainable solutions and pitch their idea to a panel of judges.

11 Nov: Climate Creative Researchers, musicians, poets, artists – and anyone else who wants to contribute – will share creative responses to the climate crisis at this open-mic style event.

16 Nov: A nudge in the right direction Nudge theory is popular with governments as a means to change behaviour without explicit bans or laws. Nudge theory expert Dr Lory Barile and guests will lead an online discussion and Q&A on nudge theory and how it can be used to influence your habits to help save the environment.

17 Nov: Searching for Muslim Figures in Literature Dr Shahnaz Akhter has been re-reading Othello and Wuthering Height to investigate the religious identity of these famous characters and pose the question, could Heathcliffe be a Muslim? For the Festival she will be exploring her findings with local school pupils and in a public online roundtable discussion featuring experts on Bronte and Shakespeare.

18 Nov: The Polluted Kitchen According to the WHO, around 2.6 billion people cook using polluting open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal, while every year, close to 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution from these inefficient cooking practices. Dr Giorgia Barboni and guests will demonstrate indoor air pollution from cooking and its effects on women and children, and propose action to tackle this global health challenge.

20 Nov : I:DNA – who Am I? What makes you who you are? What characteristics did you inherit, and how do they influence your identity? Designed with children aged 7-12 in mind (although open to all ages), this event, organised by Dr Felicity Boardman, invites participants to explore these questions through interactive games and craft activities, bringing questions of identity and genetics to life. Craft and artwork created at the event will be displayed at Leamington Spa Museum and Art Gallery until December 2021, alongside other artwork exploring the crossovers between genes and identity and the iconic double helix.

23 Nov: The Age of Consent. Dr Laura Lammasniemi, British Science Festival 2021 Award Lecture winner for Social Sciences, will be joined by Amrita Ahluwalia and Gabrille Blackburn from Narrative Matters and Dr Tanya Serisier for a discussion and Q&A about sexual consent and why questioning how we talk about it matters. Content warning: the event will feature discussion of sexual consent and sexual violence.

24 Nov: Covid recovery – Does post-World War II economic recovery policy hold the key to developing a more effective recovery policy post-Covid? In this on-line event, renowned economic historian Professor Nicholas Crafts and economist and writer Duncan Weldon will discuss the positives and negatives of post-war policy and recovery to investigate how lessons from history can help us build new economic policies for our post-pandemic future.

25 Nov: Now or never – empowering the next generation to combat climate change Dr Marta Guerriero convenes a panel of academics and students from the University of Warwick to explore the importance of youth engagement in climate action. The online event includes an interactive discussion of the objectives, drivers and outcomes of a student-led simulation of the COP26 climate conference, with the goal of encouraging young people to find their voice on the climate crisis and take action.

25 Nov: Sharing childbirth experiences: choices, challenges and conversation. Join Dr Georgia Clancy to explore the experiences, choices and challenges of pregnancy and childbirth faced by women and NHS staff. Starting with a performance and followed by a panel discussion, this event will highlight the work that individuals and organisations are doing to create change and improve maternity experiences, and signpost women and childbearing people to sources of help and support.

30 Nov: How to make fake drugs Whether “fake news”, “fake vaccine certificates” or “fake drugs”, it feels like we are bombarded with “fakes” today more than ever. What does this mean for global health? Join members of Warwick’s “What’s at stake in the fake?” research project team as they share their latest discoveries about the trouble with fake drugs, the social lives of suspicion, and how any “fake-ness” of pharmaceuticals often has more to do with paperwork than with pharmacology. Chaired by Professor Sarah Hodges.

The COP26 Climate Creative team are also running two events in local schools to encourage children from Year 4 and above to think about the impact of climate change. The ‘Creating Change-Makers’ School Programme will help children to understand the environmental issues affecting the world, through interactive talks given by Warwick students and then by creating a piece of work that signifies what sustainability means to them.

Professor Alison Park, interim ESRC Executive Chair, said: “The ESRC Festival of Social Science is one of the largest co-ordinated endeavours undertaken by the economics and social science community and is indicative of ESRC’s commitment to public engagement. This year the Festival will run throughout November and there will be a mixture of digital and face to face events, with a focus on the environment to mark the UK’s hosting of COP26.”

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