University of Reading Research Blog

Working from home: can emissions really be reduced and what are the broader implications for cities?

The working arrangements of millions of us around the world changed dramatically after COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect globally in March of 2020. Suddenly, working from home (WFH), which was a relative uncommon practice, become essential to limit the spread of the virus; people who reported doing at least some WFH jumped from 12% to nearly 50% in the UK between typical 2019 practices and April 2020. The implications of this on our concept of work were substantial, but also worth noting are the environmental impacts, specifically greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy estimated that emissions from transportation and businesses dropped 20% and 24%, respectively between 2019 and 2020 (homes only say a 2% decline). But in our journey to net-zero, we have been reflecting on whether the UK can make deeper and long-lasting emissions reductions through WFH.


How moving dots are helping us learn more about dyslexia in children

Around one in ten children in the UK have dyslexia, a developmental condition which means that they struggle to learn to read. It often causes difficulties in spelling too.

Reading and spelling involve mapping what we see on a page to correspond to spoken language and meaning. So, reading difficulties could at least in part be caused by differences in how the brain processes visual information (how the brain makes sense of what we see).

One visual skill that has been found to differ between people with and without dyslexia time and time again is the ability to perceive motion, which essentially means how we work out the direction of moving objects.


Merck v Pfizer: here’s how the two new COVID antiviral drugs work and will be used

We’ve waited 20 months for a medicine to blunt the coronavirus, and now two have appeared. Earlier this month, the UK medicines regulator approved molnupiravir, the COVID antiviral developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics. Among adults with mild to moderate COVID who were at risk of developing serious disease, it cut the chances of being hospitalised or dying in half.

Now, Pfizer has released results from trials of its antiviral drug – paxlovid. These suggest it reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89% among those most vulnerable to COVID.


Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme Showcase 2021

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) offers undergraduate students the chance to gain hands-on research experience on projects covering all disciplines across University. These projects take the form of a paid six-week placement during the summer vacation. Ninety-one students submitted their research projects for the showcase which demonstrates the breadth of research being undertaken as well as our support for undergraduate students.

A small judging panel of former UROP supervisors viewed all ninety-one screencasts and selected four theme winners. Each will receive a small prize and be supported to attend UK undergraduate research conference in 2022.


India’s terrible roads: how to build a world-class network and still reach net zero

One of the keys to China’s economic renaissance over the past couple of decades is often overlooked. Namely, it has built a lot of roads.

China’s highways have more or less tripled from around 50,000km in 2000 to around 160,000km by the end of 2020. This means that in just two decades, China has added highways that are 20% longer than the entire US interstate highway system, and these make up about 40% of all roads in the country.

India, too, has tripled its highways over the same duration, but the network is far less impressive. They are lower quality, narrower, less well maintained and only make up a very small part of the total system of roads in the country.


Getting to the bottom of net zero carbon

Here we reflect on the fourth in our series of all-staff talks in which Professor Bill Collins (Meteorology) reflects on what was achieved at COP26. Then Professor Tim Dixon (Construction Management and Engineering) talks about climate resilience in the Thames Valley area and the need for individual and collective action.

Before looking at what happened at COP26 it’s important to understand that having sent a limit of 1.5 degrees as an outer limit for extra warming places an absolute limit on the amount of carbon emissions we can afford to generate. The only way to halt global warming is to stop emitting carbon or to remove CO2 from the atmosphere physically, if that is possible.


How will we get to carbon net zero as individuals and a society?

As the third of four all-staff talks we held in the run-up to the COP26 Summit in November 2021, this blog includes a presentation by Professor Kathy Pain (Real Estate and Planning) about sustainability in future cities and the critical role of joined-up planning. Then Energy and Sustainability Director Dan Fernbank explains what net zero carbon is and the University’s ambitious plan to achieve this by 2030.


Making informed decisions in the midst of the climate crisis

As the second of four all-staff talks we held in the run-up to the COP26 Summit in November 2021, this blog includes a presentation by Professor Amanda Callaghan (Evolutionary Biology and Ecology) on education for sustainable development and how this can be delivered for colleagues and students, while Deepa Senapathi (Agriculture) takes us through some of the complexities and tricky decisions of balancing food security and biodiversity.


Working together to change climate change

In the run-up to the COP26 Summit in November 2021, we held four all-staff talks to highlight our world-leading climate and environmental research. Each session included a research presentation and a presentation about current University policies and actions and led to lively discussion about government, community and individual actions we can take to tackle climate change. This blog includes films of the two presentations from the first event, with a brief overview of the issues discussed.


If we don’t learn from past climate disasters, they will claim more lives in the future

A central focus of discussions at the ongoing UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow is how to adapt to a warming world, including how to prevent climate hazards from becoming disasters.

A hazard turns into a disaster when it begins causing harm to human lives. That’s why, to prevent climate-related disasters, we must anticipate and adapt to future hazards to keep people safe. This will require enormous amounts of money and years of careful planning – as well as, crucially, learning from past mistakes.