Dr Fleming Explores how Dentistry can be Decolonised

This blog post was authored by Dr Eleanor Fleming. Dr Fleming is a Clinical Associate Professor of Dental Public Health and Assistant Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in West Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Dr Fleming visited the University of Bristol as a Next Generation Visiting Researcher January-February 2024 to collaborate with Dr Patricia Neville on several research activities focused on decolinizing dentistry.

Dr. Patricia Neville and I collaborated on a manuscript exploring the diversity of women’s identities in dentistry in 2021 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cdoe.12796). From the success of our collaboration and based on our shared intersectional and interdisciplinary lens of approaching oral health, Dr. Neville invited me to Bristol. My visit had a two-fold purpose: first, Patricia and I explored opportunities for our continued scholarly collaborations, and second, I supported her work at the Bristol Dental School as its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead, as an outside consultant. 

Over the course of my six-week visit, I gave three lectures: one, to the dental students on justice-centered approach to clinical practice; a second to dental school faculty and staff on transforming dental education; and the final, a university talk on decolonising dentistry to centre health justice. The university talk was co-sponsored with the Centre for Black Humanities and the Black and Brown Bioethics Network. There was a reception afterwards which facilitated rich conversation and relationship building. I am grateful to Dr Elizabeth Robles, Dr Harleen Johal and Dr Matimba Swama for their hospitality and support of my university lecture. Because of the success of the university lecture, Patricia and I submitted an abstract to The First Black and Brown in Bioethics conference 2024 “Engaging Diversity in Bioethics Theory and Practice”. Our abstract was accepted, and our presentation entitled, “A Critical Retelling of Dental Ethics Told Through “George Washington’s Complete Denture” won first place. 

In addition to my collaboration with Dr. Neville, my time at Bristol was well-spent and supported by other colleagues at Bristol Dental School. In particular, Dr. Nilu Ahmed shared her work on antiracism and inclusive pedagogy. As a result of conversations, personally, my approach to teaching is elevated and I am grateful that I was able to grow in both my critical scholarship and pedagogy. To have this opportunity to enrichen my perspective and also to connect with preeminent scholars like Professor Kehinde Andrews made this a trip of a lifetime. 

Photograph of Eleanor Fleming, Kehinde Andrews and Nilu Ahmed standing together.
Left to right: Dr Eleanor Fleming, Prof Kehinde Andrews, Dr Nilu Ahmed

In consultation with faculty, staff, and students, I offered feedback on Bristol Dental School’s decolonising efforts. I was also able to learn more about the General Dental Council’s Standards for Education. In observing the focus on communication and the use of standardised actors to assess student learning and to provide them with timely feedback as they progress in developing their competency for clinical practice, I have brought my observations back to support my home institution. In curriculum innovation work at my home institution, I have shared what I learned, and we are working to apply these best practices for dental education. In this regard, my time at Bristol has led to cross-pollination of best practices to support student learning and clinical practice. 

My six-week experience at the University of Bristol was truly life changing. For someone like me (Black scholar focused on anti-racism and practicing in dentistry), opportunities like this rarely happen. I am grateful to have spent time reading, thinking, reflecting, building relationships, and collaborating with new colleagues on work that is so needed in oral health and academic dentistry. I loved staying at the Principal’s House, and everyone I interacted with in preparing for the visit and getting settled were warm, generous, and kind people. I also enjoyed being on a university campus (my home institution is a professional campus in the middle of West Baltimore). It was nice to have access to the Royal Fort Garden and to explore, even in the winter, the beauty of the campus. The university events that I attended, the conversations that I had with leading UK scholars and scientists, and the warm reception to my ideas have truly changed how I think about my professional work.  

To say that I flew back to Baltimore rejuvenated is an understatement. In Bristol, I was able to reconnect to my professional and personal purpose, nurture my curiosity, pause and reflect on structural questions, expand my scholarly breadth and depth, and make new friends (across the university, not just at Bristol Dental School). I look forward to looking back in five or so years and seeing the fruits of all the seeds planted during my visit. I hope that my relationship with Bristol and the University of Bristol continues to grow. 

Photograph of Eleanor Fleming and Patricia Neville standing in front of a castle.
Left to right: Dr Eleanor Fleming, Dr Patricia Neville

Dr Hartwig’s sixth visit to Bristol: “It does not get boring!”

Dr Fernando Hartwig is an assistant professor in Epidemiology at Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. He returned to the University of Bristol as a Benjamin Meaker Follow-on Fund Visiting Researcher in January 2024 to continue working with Professor George Davey Smith in the Bristol Medical School.

In January 2024 I had the pleasure to visit Bristol yet again, for the sixth time now since my first visit in 2013. Such frequent visits are not an accident: every new visit is an opportunity to get to know a bit more about this charming city, feel welcomed by its lovely people and see old friends and make new ones. It is also a great opportunity to further strengthen collaborations with the Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) team at the University of Bristol – which was the main motivation (and a very good one!) for all these visits. 

The last visit was funded by the Bristol Benjamin Meaker Follow-on Fund, which greatly facilitated developing the relationships and projects established in my previous visit in 2022 (funded by the Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher Programme). This time we worked on an important limitation of epidemiological studies to establish whether a given risk factor causally influences disease risk: the problem of unmeasured confounding. For those interested in learning more about this topic, the research paper and a seminar are available. 

Instead of talking about my specific research activities, I would like to take this opportunity to describe my overall experience as a visitor under this programme. I do believe that the University of Bristol offer an excellent environment for anyone committed to improving society through scientific research. In my specific field, I had the chance to work with world-leading experts in the field at the IEU. Of course, developing our planned project and presenting seminars to a qualified and interested audience was great. Nevertheless, what marks and humbles me the most is to truly feel welcomed by such high-profile researchers, who are genuinely interested in hearing my ideas, discussing collaboration possibilities in a horizontal manner, ensuring my visit was productive and making an effort to socialize outside the workplace. This combination of academic excellence and friendliness is perhaps one of the elements responsible for the top-tier status of the IEU team – and the university as a whole – worldwide. 

Another important ingredient for the success of the visit was the support received from the International Research Development team, starting at the application stage (when we received fair and useful reviews) going all the way until the end of visit. During all this time I received timely and efficient help from all my inquiries. All this gave me confidence that practicalities/logistics of my visit were well covered, so I could dedicate my attention to research activities. 

I am grateful for this experience and already looking forward to being back in Bristol. If you ask me if I plan to do anything different for the next visit, I would only say that I would like to visit during the summer so I can bring my family along for them to also fall in love with this charming, vibrant city, its lovely people and excellent university. 

Dr Fernando Hartwig

Professor Wilson visits Bristol to talk Supervolcanoes

Colin Wilson is a Professor at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and is an expert in the reconstruction of large explosive volcanic eruptions and their huge sub-surface magmatic systems. He visited the University of Bristol in October-November 2023 on a Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professorship to bring together a range of new perspectives in volcanology. 

Thanks to support from the Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professorship  Programme and my host, Professor Juliet Biggs, School of Earth Sciences, I visited the University of Bristol and the city of Bristol in October-November 2023. I was a post-doctoral fellow here in 1990, and have since then maintained intermittent links with Bristol staff in the School of Earth Sciences (particularly Prof. Sir Stephen Sparks) due to shared experiences and ideas. My experience in studying large-scale volcanic systems is of direct relevance to understanding of explosive eruption processes, subsurface magmatic processes and the interface between modern geophysical monitoring techniques and geological knowledge of past eruptive events. The visit enabled me to learn more about multiple projects currently active within the School of Earth Sciences, and use my long experience to offer some new perspectives on topics across a range of disciplines within the School . 

During the visit, I presented a series of talks, starting with an open seminar on ‘The Life and Times of Supervolcanoes’ designed for non-specialists. It was fantastic to see such a large and diverse audience and receive broad interest and lively discussion. On a more specialised level, I presented three 2-hour master classes, each on a globally iconic supereruption (Oruanui, New Zealand; Bishop Tuff, California; Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, Yellowstone). These were well attended by the community from students on the MSc Volcanology programme, PhD students and postdoctoral researchers and staff and provided an opportunity for in-depth discussion of a wide range of methods brought together to provide new insights into large magmatic systems. One of the aspects of modern volcanology that I have seen grow is the development of models for eruptive and magmatic processes. My talks were aimed at showing that the field study of these vast supereruptions, although time-consuming and not easily funded, represents a rich field of un-tapped observations that present many challenges for the state of our current models. I hope that the students understood that there are still many aspects of volcanism that are amenable to or demand quality field studies.  

Interactions occurred with key staff within the School of Earth Sciences enabled me to build a proposal around developing new understanding of the processes involved in unrest and eruption at reawakening silicic volcanoes. This proposal, if successful, would provide a unique link between researchers in geophysics, geochemistry, volcanology (including the newly appointed Axa Chair) and hazards and risk, with connections to existing research (e.g. the ERC project MAST – Imaging Magmatic Systems using Strain). Although unsuccessful in its original funding target (the Leverhulme International Professorship), discussions are continuing around the possibility of re-shaping the proposal as an ERC Grant. 

Overall, the Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professorship represents a wonderful arrangement that permits people like me (who cannot get away for a full-blown sabbatical) to interact with colleagues in the best volcano-related group at one of the best Earth Science schools in the country. The chance to think about new possibilities in volcanological research and interact with graduate students was much appreciated. The arrangements with accommodation were excellent and just what was needed for a visit of this length. Many thanks to all involved. 

Professor Colin Wilson

Photo of Colin Wilson climbing a ladder

Professor Morgan on Italian encounters with Old French romance epic

Professor Leslie Zarker Morgan is Professor Emerita of Italian and French at Loyola University Maryland. She visited the University of Bristol as a Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor for part of February and March 2024 at the invitation of Professor Marianne Ailes. The visit involved presenting the difficulties of working with the mixed medieval language Franco-Italian and collaborating on introductory materials for the Centre for Medieval Studies to help prepare students for reading and interpreting that branch of romance epic.

Professor Ailes invited me to Bristol to present challenges both in working with the non-standard medieval language mixture Franco-Italian as well as in interpreting versions of those texts produced by scholars, since French and Italian traditions in medieval text editing differ substantially. In working with her and the University of Bristol Library, I provided a local bibliography for those wishing to work in the field, as well as offering a workshop where we examined such materials and discussed their pros and cons together with students and colleagues. These materials will furnish pages for the virtual learning platform (Blackboard) of the Centre for Medieval Studies “Introduction to Medieval Languages” on which we have already begun to work. 

I was pleased to have the opportunity also to revisit an earlier project, the Geste Francor, a fourteenth-century Franco-Italian epic chronicle about Charlemagne’s family in chanson de geste form, to present it particularly to students, but also to colleagues, in a more complete format than is normally possible in conference papers (of 20 minutes). Preparing the talk, in fact, resulted in an interesting finding that will be the subject of a paper about the Geste. 

Finally, my current project concerns epic humor, something about which Professor Ailes has herself written, as have several other colleagues in the area who attended the talk. After the talk, we discussed the linguistic approach that I proposed, and other aspects of humor and how to analyze them. These discussions will be helpful as I develop the monograph in progress. 

Staying at the University of Bristol was a wonderful experience: the lodgings at the Principal’s House provided by the International Research Development Team were perfect: at the center of the University, whence it was easy to participate in numerous events on campus, such as other lectures, and easily meet colleagues for lunch or coffee as well as explore the city itself. I have never had such a short commute to the office! The IT service was extremely helpful in getting me quickly online at the University, the Staff Residential Lettings Office and Staff were very helpful in getting me set up in the apartment. I look forward to continued contact with colleagues and friends at the University of Bristol in the future and collaborating on further projects. 

Professor Leslie Morgan

Portrait photograph of Leslie Morgan

International visitors and Bristol hosts mingle

In March the visits of several of our international visitors lined up, so the International Research Development (IRD) team invited them and their University of Bristol hosts for afternoon tea. This ‘mingle’ took place at our bespoke accommodation for visiting researchers, Principal’s House, and it was an opportunity to share research projects, create connections, and exchange notes on what to see and do in Bristol.

Photographs of Principal's House accommodation
Images: Entrance and courtyard at Principal’s House

Visiting researchers from Canada, USA and Japan came together to mingle and share findings and developments from their wide ranging research projects with their Bristol hosts, including:

Portrait photographs of Leslie Morgan, Shu Minakuchi, Vanessa Northington Gamble, Sean Chorney.
International visitors from left to right: Prof Leslie Morgan, Dr Shu Minakuchi, Prof Northington Gamble, Dr Sean Chorney

Some of the researchers were preparing to deliver talks the following day including Dr Minakuchi’s workshop on ‘Fibre Optic Sensors for composite structures‘ and Professor Gamble’s seminar on ‘Educated in a White Space: African American Graduates of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850-1925‘. It was great to hear about the activities being undertaken during their time in Bristol, and the positive research developments taking place.

You can see upcoming visiting researcher talks and seminars on our Events page. You can also take a look at our current and upcoming visitors on our Visitors page, and can contact their individual University of Bristol hosts if you are interested in finding out more and engaging with the visitor.

It was a real pleasure to meet our visiting researchers and their hosts and to find out more about their collaborative research development – we’re really looking forward to hearing how these collaborations develop, and to welcoming our next wave of visitors to Bristol in the coming weeks.

Professor Chertok’s High Energy (Physics) Interaction at Bristol

Professor Maxell Chertok, University of California, Davis, performs research in high energy particle physics, and participates in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Both the UC Davis and Bristol groups had a hand in the monumental discovery of the Higgs boson, in 2012, and have continued with strong involvement in this long-running experiment since then. In May-June 2023, Professor Chertok visited the University of Bristol as a Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor and was hosted by Professor Joel Goldstein in the School of Physics. 

During the visit, I integrated with the large particle physics group, led by Professor Goldstein, attending meetings with researchers there and at CERN over zoom, and met with faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students on many occasions to discuss research in particle physics experiment. I delivered two seminars on current research as well as a departmental-wide colloquium on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment: 

  • Tracking Detector Mechanics
    I presented the key challenges and advancements in the realm of silicon detector mechanics including results from my work at UC Davis and Fermilab for the CMS upgrade. 
  • Recent results from the CMS Experiment 
    I delivered a departmental  colloquium on collider physics, including a variety of recent results from the CMS Experiment at the LHC. 
  • Searches for Exotics Higgs Boson Partners
    I presented the physics program for searches for light pseudoscalar Higgs bosons at CMS, provided analysis technique details, and made projections for Run 3 and the upcoming High Luminosity LHC. 

The stint also paved the way for future collaborations between the Bristol group and myself.  Potential joint projects related to data analysis topics and silicon tracking technology and its applications in particle physics experiment were discussed.  

Photograph of Joel Goldstein and Maxwell Chertok
Left to right: Joel Goldstein and Maxwell Chertok

Digital Fates: Professor Ted Schatzki’s research collaboration with Bristol

Ted Schatzki is professor of Geography and Philosophy at the University of Kentucky, USA. He is a world-leading scholar, best known for helping to develop and establish what has come to be known as ‘social practice theory’. He visited the University of Bristol as a Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor September-November 2023 and was hosted by Professor Dale Southerton Co-Director of the ESRC Centre for Sociodigital Futures.

Understanding social change as it occurs is a tricky endeavorWhen the world metamorphoses as one negotiates its transformations, one might also wonder, Where is all this heading? 

So is the situation today regarding sociodigital change. The dissemination of digital devices, infrastructures, and services across the globe has occasioned myriad changes in communication, work, and transportation, war and peace, governance and business, writing and making, entertainment and socializing, and so on.  These changes are so numerous that it is difficult to keep abreast and to keep track of the problems they throw upFurther exacerbating this predicament is the thorny challenge of grasping how digitalization might be transforming society at a deeper level.

The result is that emerging problems are unevenly ascertained and haphazardly addressed and that society is ill-equiped to confront more profound challenges. 

Luckily, the University of Bristol boasts several units seeking to cast light on these mattersParticularly central to the task of grasping the character and scope of sociodigital change is the work of the University’s Centre for Sociodigital Futures (CenSoF), which came into existence in the summer of 2022 through a large ESRC grant. 

The staunchly interdisciplinary Centre, which draws academic staff from several faculties and schools, analyzes sociodigital change by asking how sociodigital futures come about, including who or what is shaping them, how such futures emerge in everyday practice, and what their emergence means for widening social-economic inequalities and climate change. The Centre focuses on five domains of sociodigital practice—consuming, caring, learning, moving (people and goods) and organizing—and asks how key technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and augmented/virtual reality are imagined, innovated, and intertwined with them. 

My own recent work explores the digitalization of society and the social changes accompanying this.  I am developing a theory of social form that, in describing key dimensions of change in social phenomena, identifies the central ingredients of sociodigital transformation.  The theory, once developed, should help sort out sociodigital changes and how to confront them.  The Centre shares a focus on sociodigital change. As a result, it and I have begun extensive collaboration.  The collaboration was initially supported by a Benjamin Meeker Distinguished Professor Award in September-November 2023 and will be sustained in the near future by return trips to Bristol in 2024 (supported by the Centre) and a subsequent six month stay in the first half of 2025 funded by a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship. 

Together, the work of the Centre and its ongoing collaboration with external researchers promise to foster greater clairvoyancy and responsiveness vis-à-vis sociodigital changesIn this way, they sharpen society’s capacity to handle, in real time, what is happening to it. 

Professor Ted Schatzki

Photograph of Professor Ted Schatzki

The Problem of Time: Professor Arthur Comes to Bristol to Talk Natural Philosophy

Richard Arthur is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at McMaster University in Ontario. His research interests are in early modern natural philosophy and mathematics, and the foundations of physics, with special attention to the theory of time and the infinite. He visited the University of Bristol as a Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor for September and part of October  2023 at the invitation of Dr. Karim Thébault and Tzuchien Tho to work with them with a view to future research collaboration. 

I was invited to Bristol to discuss two aspects of my research. Karim was primarily interested in my work on time in modern physics, and Tzuchien and I have long-standing interests in common on the natural philosophy of Gottfried Leibniz, the great German polymath of the 17th century.

Photo of Tzuchien Tho, Karim Thebault and Richard Arthur standing at the front of a lecture theatre.
Left to right: Tzuchien Tho, Karim Thebault and Richard Arthur

While in Bristol, I gave a Master Class treating both of these topics, “The Problem of Time: from Leibniz to Quantum Gravity”, which consisted of a series of four lectures (Sept. 6th and 20th, Oct. 4th and 11th), each followed by intensive discussion among faculty and students. These were well attended (impressively so, given that they were voluntary and began before the start of classes!), and it was refreshing to be in the company of such motivated and intelligent students from a variety of backgrounds, in mathematics and physics, as well as philosophy.

On September 21 I gave a departmental seminar in the Philosophy Department in Cotham House,  on “Leibniz and Zeno’s Paradoxes”, which enabled interactions with the wider department including Professor James Ladyman. Then, near the end of my stay, I presented a public lecture, “Time: What’s the Problem?” on October 6th. This had sold out a few days earlier, and again, I was impressed by the diversity and engagement of the audience. The lecture served as a dry run for a book I am proposing to write on this topic for a general audience.

A photo of the audience for Richard Arthur's public lecture.

During my stay, I was able to work with Karim on final corrections to his latest book, which has since come out with Oxford University Press, Time Regained. He and I also discussed future research collaboration on a new proposal for the philosophy of time in modern physics, focusing on local time directed processes. I also made plans with Tzuchien, should I return to Bristol, to host a one- or two-day workshop on the metaphysical implications of the syncategorematic infinite, connecting the history of the idea from its origins in scholastic philosophy, through the work of Leibniz, to its reception in the 18th and 19th centuries.

This was a really valuable experience for me, and I hope also for my hosts. It is one thing to have collaborations with other scholars over email and Zoom, and quite another to establish firm understandings with them through prolonged personal interactions, both by participating in seminars and talks and more informally outside classrooms and lecture halls. My wife Gabriella joined me and we were housed, courtesy of the International Research Development Team, in very comfortable accommodation in Principal’s House, from which vantage point we were able to explore all the delights of the city of Bristol.

Professor Richard Arthur

BIRCA Funded Workshop on Composites for High Energy Physics

In Autumn 2023, Dr Laura Pickard, was awarded Bristol International Research Collaboration Activities (BIRCA) funding to host a workshop discussing Composites for High Energy Physics with collaborators from CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) in Switzerland, the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Bristol Composites Institute (BCI). 

With thanks to funds from BIRCA, I was able to work with Jo Gildersleve on organising and delivering a collaborative workshop with colleagues from CERN, NCC and BCI. CERN physicists and engineers use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter- fundamental particles, and have a growing interest in harnessing the many benefits of using composite materials in development of their state-of-the-art facilities.

Kicked off by a tour for CERN colleagues of the extensive NCC facilities, and following a welcome from Ole Thomsen, Co-Director of BCI, workshop attendees spent the day discussing three important areas of research of interest to all parties: Cryogenics and Extreme Environment, Truss structures and Microvascular channels and cooling systems. Presentations on these themes from CERN, NCC colleagues and BCI academics set the scene for very productive and useful discussions, which provided further knowledge exchange opportunities as well as time to plan and prioritise ideas for future collaboration. Further presentations highlighted the numerous mechanisms available for collaboration across all of the organisations, including potential sources of funding for future work. CERN and NCC colleagues undertook a tour of the BCI lab during the working lunch, which included observing some members of BCI demonstrating their relevant work. Together with the earlier tour of NCC facilities, this helped to inspire new ideas and thoughts about what might be possible for future work. A working dinner followed the day’s activities which allowed for more discussions, and CERN colleagues also attended the BCI and NCC Annual Conference which took place the next day.

Photograph of Dr Laura Pickard standing at the front of the room delivering a presentation to the seated workshop attendees.     Photograph of workshop attendees seated around a table and having a discussion.

There was a wealth of collaboration opportunities available and many ideas for future work had come to light as a result of the workshop. We enjoyed a fantastic day of fascinating and very productive conversations. Bringing together CERN colleagues with key BCI academics and NCC colleagues has been incredibly useful on all sides and has confirmed our strong desire to work together to build further collaborations.

Dr Diego Alvarez Feito of CERN commented, “I would like to thank the colleagues from BCI and NCC for organising a great workshop! It was a very valuable experience with plenty of enriching discussion, which I believe lays a strong foundation for exciting future collaborations.”

Dr Pickard went onto represent BCI at the CERN Community Meeting for R&D collaboration on Tracking Detector Mechanics on Wednesday 6th December where she met other CERN colleagues as well as those involved in a wider consortium.

Find out more about Dr Pickard’s work on the next generation of fibre composite materials as part of the NEXTCOMP project.

Professor Ramana Comes to Bristol to Talk Nuclear Energy and Weapons

M. V. Ramana is a Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and has been engaged in research about nuclear energy for over two decades. He visited the University of Bristol in September 2023 as a Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher to consolidate work that advances a range of new perspectives on the safety of atomic energy.

Thanks to support from the Bristol ‘Next Generation’ Visiting Researcher Programme and my host Dr. John Downer (School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies), I visited the University of Bristol and the city of Bristol for the first time in September 2023. The main purpose of the visit was to build on our earlier collaboration, which examined safety assessments of nuclear reactors and the nature of knowledge claims about the likelihood of severe accidents. This work was based on a case study of the processes through which the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed the “AP1000 reactor” design. This project brought together our separate backgrounds and resulted in a paper published in the journal Regulation & Governance 

During my visit, John and I spent hours discussing the contours of a collaborative monograph on the safety of nuclear reactors, and started developing a proposal to be sent to publishers. Although we had been going back and forth over email about how to structure such a monograph, our discussions, which took place over a wide variety of settings—from the School office to coffee shops to walks in Wales over a weekend day trip—really helped us move forward  

John Downer and M. V. Ramana stand in front of the Welsh coastImage: John Downer and M. V. Ramana in Southerndown, Wales 

I also gave a couple of lectures. One was titled “Small Modular Reactors And Other Nuclear Fantasies”, and it built on many papers of mine on the topic of small modular reactors, in particular ones published in Energy Research and Social Science, Science, Technology and Human Values, and in IEEE Access. In my talk, I described how nuclear energy’s declining share of global electricity generation is due to the high costs of building nuclear reactors, and how the nuclear industry hopes to deal with the economic challenges and other problems associated with nuclear power by building what are called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). I then described some of the claimed attributes of SMRs, and explained why these are not realistic expectations. Finally, the talk discussed the broader set of fantasies that are motivating some to support nuclear energy in the face of its lack of economic competitiveness and the obvious risks associated with the technology.

The second lecture was titled “Separating The Inseparable: Civilian Nuclear Energy’s Connections To The Bomb and it built on my papers published in Nuclear Technology and Science and Global Security, as well as my book The Power of Promise on nuclear energy in India and a forthcoming book on the political economy of nuclear energy to be published by Verso books. In my talk, I traced the history of nuclear power to the beginning of the atomic age, when most knowledgeable people recognized that civilian nuclear programs could be used to produce nuclear weapons. I explained how that changed within a few years, when countries with nuclear technology started a sustained campaign to get the public to think differently about nuclear energy, most notably after President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace speech in 1953. I then explained why there are deep connections between the two pursuits, in particular the technical overlaps between the processes used to generate nuclear energy and make material for nuclear weapons, interchangeability of personnel, and institutional imperatives. Thus, I concluded, expanding nuclear energy will necessarily increase the risk of nuclear war. 

The lectures were well attended and the questions were interesting and challenging, with the discussion becoming heated on occasion. The presence of a number of young students was gratifying, as was the fact that one of them who attended both my talks went on to post about these on LinkedIn. I also enjoyed meeting many of John’s colleagues and students, in particular Tim Edmunds and Sveta Milyaeva 

I am grateful to John and the International Research Development Team for making this trip possible.  

Professor M.V. Ramana