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The Royal Society of London

Country: United Kingdom

The Royal Society of London

11 Projects, page 1 of 3
  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: AH/K001841/1
    Funder Contribution: 795,121 GBP

    The Royal Society is the publisher of the oldest surviving scientific journal in the world: the Philosophical Transactions. The Royal Society wishes to organise a number of high-profile events for 2015, to celebrate the 350th anniversary and to stimulate public debate about the future of scholarly publishing. As part of these celebrations, funding is being sought for two linked projects on the history of the Philosophical Transactions, both based at the University of St Andrews. The current application is for two postdoctoral researchers and the appropriate support to create an anniversary history, associated articles and a set of quantitative data series derived from the Philosophical Transactions archives which can be used to investigate long-term patterns and trends in the British book trade. (A separate application for funding for two doctoral students is pending.) As well as underpinning the anniversary events, the resulting scholarship will speak to academic communities in the history of science, the history of publishing and economic history. The significance of the Philosophical Transactions is well-known to scholars working on the history of science and on the history of scholarly publishing. Its origins and function in the newly-founded Royal Society in Restoration England have been repeatedly discussed by historians of early modern science. The literary qualities of its articles have been extensively analysed by literary and communications scholars, interested in the rhetoric of science; and its citation patterns have been studied by sociologists of science as evidence of the functioning of past communities of scientists. The key strength of our proposed project is our emphasis upon the archival materials, to investigate the commercial, economic and editorial practices which lie behind the published pages. In this, we will build upon the existing scholarship on the early years of the Philosophical Transactions, but will pursue the story into the era of industrial printing, the professionalization of science, and ultimately, electronic publishing. Our emphasis will not be on pioneering innovations, but on the gradual development, adaptation and decline of editorial practices, commercial strategies and technological processes over the long durée. This project will use the Royal Society's publishing division to investigate the challenges and opportunities of scholarly publishing over the past 350 years. In its earliest days, Philosophical Transactions was a private venture of the Royal Society's secretary; in the eighteenth century, it became an official Society publication; in the nineteenth century, it faced new competition from commercial science journals and from the journals launched by newer, more specialised, learned societies; in the twentieth century, scholarly publishing became increasingly commercialised, and questions were asked about the ownership and reliability of research results. Neither the continuing vigour of learned society journals in general, nor of the Royal Society's journals in particular, can be taken for granted: the Royal Society itself, for instance, came under vigorous criticism in the early nineteenth century for failing to support professional scientific experts, while its journal was simultaneously under pressure from a range of new competitors. Both the Society and the Philosophical Transactions survived, but such episodes will enable us to look critically at the contingent development of the processes and practices that are now taken to be essential to the operation of modern scientific research. By the end of the project, we should better understand the origins of the processes we now use, and we may find contemporary options in some of the paths-not-taken. This project is firmly historical, but, by touching on issues at the heart of the knowledge-based economy, it has substantial contemporary relevance to a wide audience of policy makers, educators and campaigners.

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  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: AH/M001938/1
    Funder Contribution: 784,755 GBP

    The Royal Society of London, founded in 1660, was an important institution for early modern science, dedicated to the collective investigation of nature. Many of the publications it sponsored, such as Robert Hooke's Micrographia or Francis Willughby's Historia piscium, as well as its journal, Philosophical Transactions, contained extensive illustrations. The archives of the Society also include a rich variety of images. Yet, the function of images in the process of developing and communicating scientific knowledge has been under-studied in the case of the Royal Society. The first fifty years of the Society at Gresham College was a formative period during which it grappled with strategies to present a new form of knowledge and establish its own authority in scientific matters. This project will result in the first comprehensive account of the complex and ingenious ways in which visual resources were deployed for the collective investigation of nature by the early Royal Society, and how the Royal Society in turn helped define and establish a scientific visual culture in the early modern period. It will contribute more generally to the role of the visual in the history of scientific experience and observation. The project will bring to light hitherto unknown or under-researched pictorial sources from the Royal Society, and study them alongside other archival and published sources of the early Royal Society. Collaboration with historians of science, historians of art, historians of the book, conservators and curators of prints, drawings, scientific instruments and herbaria, will lead to a comprehensive account of the various visualization techniques deployed by Fellows of the Royal Society. The project will first carry out a full survey of the visual sources and materials used by the Royal Society in its first fifty years by locating surviving material and identifying identities of the graphic craftsmen involved. This will be the basis for investigating two key themes. i) Image-making. The Royal Society generated and deployed visual resources in a dynamic process involving complex procedures and numerous people in the selection of objects and instruments (scientific as well as graphic), drawing, copying, correcting and authorizing images, as well as in the decision to publish an image or not, and in what medium. The surviving materials reveal rich and heterogeneous collaborations in visualization: graphic craftsmen with a range of skills and background and Fellows of the Royal Society with virtuoso appreciation of art and collections learned to see and understand nature from each other. Such collaborations laid the foundation for a visual literacy of science. ii) Knowledge-making. Images shaped and contributed to the formation and dissemination of knowledge for the Royal Society, in communicating new discoveries, resolving conflicts, and forming and defining a community. Images played an important role alongside texts and objects in establishing the Society's authority in matters of knowledge. Understanding the Royal Society's visual and graphic practices will shed light on the emergence of a visual culture of science that shaped and sustained a community of natural philosophers. The vibrant multi-disciplinary research culture at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities is an ideal academic context for this project. It has an active post-doctoral community engaged in various projects, including visual and material cultures and the digital humanities. Its international collaboration with USC Early Modern Studies Institute and Huntington Library brings further opportunities for the cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches. The collaboration with the Royal Society Library and its Picture Library in addition to a virtual and physical exhibition will ensure the sustained availability of the project's research results to a wider audience.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: AH/K005901/1
    Funder Contribution: 33,201 GBP

    'Words from the WISE: women in science 1830-2012' is a research network which aims to stimulate cross-disciplinary (both academic and non-academic) debate of the position of women in science today. Although WISE usually refers to Women in Science and Engineering, in the context of this project we also include technology and mathematics (which with Science and Engineering make up the STEM subjects) and medicine. The network will be composed of thirty or so participants who can bring a wide breadth of knowledge to the table, be they academic historians interested in how women first broke into the male enclave of science, to sociologists and policy makers concerned that women scientists still have a long way to go to achieve parity in representation at all levels. The aim is to generate new ideas concerning the application of an historical understanding of female scientists' experience of science, particularly through learned societies, to contemporary imbalances, with regard to participation of women in science, persistence in scientific careers and achievement. The network will examine what might be learned through a better understanding of female scientists' historical interactions with learned societies, such as the Royal Society and Royal Institution, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute for Engineering and Technology, or the Royal College of Physicians, to name a few. It is, after all, through these prestigious organisations that the fruits of imagination, argument, creativity, discovery and curiosity have largely been published, celebrated and rewarded, yet the history of women's interaction with them has not been fully explored and documented. Our proposed network will bring participants together to discuss the theme from several perspectives, in a series of UK-based workshops. Participants will bring expertise in historical and archival research, the use of biographical and autobiographical sources (including oral history), and social science research methods. By sharing cross disciplinary methodologies we will explore what each group might learn from the other in a wider history of how gender affects authority, expertise, trust and engagement in science. A two-day conference is planned, to accumulate and share views from international participants to enable a cross-border and cross-cultural exchange of ideas. The international perspective of this programme is reflected in the presence of scholars from Europe and the United States on the project's steering committee. The key scientific figures, institutions and research questions identified during the network debates will form the basis of a large scale archival research proposal. If the position of women in science is to be improved (and current experience suggests that large pools of talent are being lost to science with a concomitant effect on the competitiveness of the British economy), such research is essential to understanding why it is happening and how to correct it. The project will also produce more immediate outcomes which will have an impact on archival policies of the learned societies which participate, and a number of other short term outcomes. These are discussed in detail in the Impact Summary. This is a collaborative project led by Kingston University with support from The Royal Society, The Rothschild Archive, London and Liverpool University. Individuals from a range of educational, public and professional institutions have already agreed to participate in the management of the project and in the network itself.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: NE/P004806/1
    Funder Contribution: 255,076 GBP

    Globally, almost half of all remaining tropical forest is allocated for timber production, illustrating the enormous economic asset that these forests represent to many nations. Additionally, these forests provide important societal and ecosystem services, from being sources of food through to climate change mitigation and generating income from carbon offset schemes. Compared to undisturbed forests, much less is known about previously logged and degraded forests that are regenerating. Critically, with increasingly smaller areas of undisturbed forest remaining, the economic and societal importance of disturbed forests has become greater in recent years. However, the resilience of these forests i.e. their capacity to respond to short-term perturbations (e.g. ENSO-induced drought) by resisting damage and recovering quickly, is poorly understood. If we are to manage tropical forests, both in terms of their initial exploitation and subsequent rehabilitation, we need to better understand how these systems respond to periodic drought at local to regional scales. Only then can we develop policies and practice that explicitly take into account the impacts of drought and protect the economic and societal benefits derived from these fragile ecosystems. To provide the evidence from which policy makers and practitioners can better plan forest management strategies we will examine the impact of the current ENSO drought on logged and degraded forests in Borneo, SE Asia, using a combination of ground-based and satellite remote sensing methods. In the field we will examine the response of trees to drought across a disturbance gradient, making use of a network of forest inventory plots that were established in the mid-1990s at the time of the last major ENSO drought to affect the region. In 2014 these plots were revisited as part of a long-term study into post-logging recovery of disturbed forests and as such represent a unique natural laboratory for comparing ENSO-induced changes in forest structure, composition and ecosystem functioning across a land-use gradient and addressing the interactions of logging disturbance and drought. We will revisit 25 plots at least four times during the 18 month project. At each plot we will measure a variety of leaf traits, canopy structure and tree mortality. This will be done by a joint team of UK and Malaysian research assistants who will harvest leaves and analyse leaf chemical properties in facilities at the Universiti of Malaysia. Additionally we will collect spectral reflectance measurements from the leaves. This will allow us to scale up our field observations to use multispectral satellite images to map forest response to the current drought across wider regions. In particular, we will make use of the new Sentinel-2 earth observing satellite to generate region-wide maps of current drought impact, whilst also producing a 20 year time-series drought index from NOAA AVHRR imagery. The latter will provide evidence of the temporal response of the forest to drought in comparison with non-drought conditions, whilst the former will allow us to map the spatial coherence of forest response, determining whether prior disturbance or other factors affect the resilience of forests to drought events. Finally, we will track changes in canopy structure and composition through observations from UAV-mounted sensors, from which we will examine the dynamics of liana/tree composition, which appear to change during drought conditions. With our project partners, the South East Asian Rainforest Research Programme and Permian Global, we will engage with a network of actors who are responsible for forest management across the SE Asia region. We will do this through dissemination activities including a workshop in Malaysia, where will present evidence of the impact of the current ENSO on SE Asian forests and provide a forum for discussion on how best to adapt forest management policy and practice to future ENSO events.

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  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: AH/L007010/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,572,190 GBP

    When Darwin was developing his theories of evolution he read avidly in popular natural history magazines and sought out information from an army of almost 2000 correspondents. Such engagement with a wide public in the construction of science became increasingly difficult with the development of professional, and highly specialised science, but the emergence of 'citizen science' projects has suggested a new way forward. With the creation of vast data sets in contemporary science, there is a need for a new army of volunteers to help classify and analyse the information. The Zooniverse platform, started in 2007 with 'Galaxy Zoo', now has over 800,000 participants who contribute to projects from astrophysics to climate science. Significant discoveries have already been made by these volunteers in the field of astronomy. Yet, the structures by which these volunteers might engage with professional science, and through which scientists themselves might draw upon their findings, are not clear, and researchers on the project have been turning to nineteenth-century models of communication to find ways of harnessing this huge popular interest in order to increase the rate of scientific progress. The information revolution in our own age has parallels in the nineteenth century which saw an explosion of print, and journal publishing; in 1800 there were only around 100 science periodicals, but by 1900 this had jumped to 10,000 worldwide. The project brings together historical and literary research in the nineteenth century with contemporary scientific practice, looking at the ways in which patterns of popular communication and engagement in nineteenth-century science can offer models for current practice. The research is timely since the digital revolution, and open-access publishing, are about to change forever the processes and forms of scientific communication and exchange. The project will be based at the Universities of Oxford and Leicester, in partnership with three of our most significant institutions: the Natural History Museum; the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Royal Society. Researchers will draw on their historic collections, uncovering the extraordinary range of largely forgotten science journals of the nineteenth century, from the Magazine of Natural History (one of Darwin's favourites), to Recreative Science, or Hardwicke's Science Gossip: an Illustrated Medium of Interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature. They will also work with these institutions' science communities, addressing questions about the creation and circulation of knowledge in the digital age, and looking at innovative ways of breaking through the public/professional divide. The Zooniverse will extend the range of its work, creating four new citizen science projects which will both accelerate the rate of scientific growth in these areas, and add an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 to the dedicated ranks of citizen scientists. Drawing on the historical research, it will also develop new tools to enable better systems of exchange between professional science, and this growing army of volunteers. As part of the project there will be public symposia in the Natural History Museum, the Royal Society and the Royal College of Surgeons, as well as an exhibition in the Hunterian Museum, and a performance lecture by Professor Marcus du Sautoy. Science has suffered in the public mind from its seeming aloofness and impenetrability. This partnership between humanities and science researchers aims to break down some of those barriers, and to create a truly productive public engagement with science which will enhance the ongoing development of scientific practice.

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