Saturday, 16 August 2014

Science + Culture = Beautiful Chaos

An Urban Psychosis event
Holden Gallery
20 August 6 - 8pm

The North West Arts and Health Network and Liverpool Psychosis Research Group, Institute of Psychology Health and Society, University of Liverpool presents: 

Professor John Read will summarise the research showing that, contrary to the prevailing ‘wisdom’ that psychosis is a genetically based ‘brain disorder’, poverty - and relative poverty - are powerful predictors of who ends up experiencing psychosis and being diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia’. Professor Rhiannon Corocoran will share initial research from the THE PROSOCIAL PLACE PROGRAMME exploring the relationship of the urban environment to mental health and wellbeing.

After working for nearly 20 years as a Clinical Psychologist and manager of mental health services in the UK and the USA, Professor John Read joined the University of Auckland, New Zealand. There he published over 100 papers in research journals, primarily on the relationship between adverse life events and psychosis. He also researches the negative effects of bio-genetic causal explanations on prejudice, and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in mental health. John is on the Executive Committee of the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis and editor of the ISPS’s scientific journal ‘Psychosis’. In May 2013, John took up the post of Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool.

There are very limited tickets available for this free event:

As scientists race for the ultimate publicity prize - a vaccine for ebola - it’s interesting to see that squeaky-clean GSK are up-front in the race - or at least - being up front! 

“Meeting this goal will place an unprecedented timeframe on GlaxoSmithKline, the drug maker which runs the research programme in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. The WHO has acknowledged that there is not enough time for the vaccine to undergo the standard, years-long clinical trials process, but has concluded that in this case it would be ethical to make it widely available with much less testing.”

With the WHO declaring the outbreak an international public health emergency,  it reminds me that a whole raft of viruses are out there, conveniently ignored whilst they are at arms length, in some far-off country. Whilst we live side-by-side with animals, farm them in terrible conditions, live in abject poverty on one hand, and travel the globe on the other, the Corona, Hendra, Ebola and the predicted and much feared mutation of H5N1, H7N9 (avian flu) and H1N1 (swine flu) will inevitably travel too. The book Spillover by David Quammen provides unsensational and essential reading around our relationship with animals and the inevitable zoonosis. 

Whilst the president of Liberia has very practically called for three days of prayer and fasting, as “the ultimate solution” to the Ebola virus, apparently a couple of boxes of the experimental drug ZMapp (not a GSK product) are winging their way to Africa, as I type. That in itself is interesting, as it’s already been given to Americans and a European, but not yet to Africans. Is that a continuation of colonialism, or perhaps a fear of ‘using’ African people as guinea pigs? Hmm, that doesn’t seem to have previously stopped big pharma exploiting large numbers of chemically-clean communities in developing countries as virgin-lab-rats.

Working with the Asia Europe Foundation on their Accurate Scenarios, Active Planning pandemic preparedness, public health project, has been hugely beneficial to me, but I will be curious to see how relevant and useful this foresight work has been, in the current situation. I recently watched the TV series UTOPIA which, far-fetched though it seemed, ran a storyline of government, big-pharma, conspiracy, eugenics and virus manipulation. It was equally potty, violent and compelling. Hoorah for popular culture, but somehow the current crisis in Africa and our incorruptible pharmaceutical industry have been conjoined in my mind - I feel a little unrest.

We will explore the fact of human life and consciousness within a wider universe; our shared human matter and frailty; the flesh and margins of our bodies and minds; the sea and the land; the migrant, outsider and underprivileged; the lines that separate life from death; the development and grounds for moral thought; the separation between suffering and illness; the interface between the individual and society and the frontier between imagination and fact in our understanding of humanity, illness and medicine. Click on the image below for more info.

Funding for Digital Projects with a Social Impact 
The Nominet Trust which provides funding and support to imaginative social technology ventures has announced that the next funding round of its Social Tech Seed Investment Programme will open for applications in September 2014. Social Tech Seed is an investment programme that offers early-stage investment of between £15,000 and £50,000 to entrepreneurs who are looking to develop new ventures using digital for social impact. This programme provides funding and support to help entrepreneurs nurture, develop and test their ideas. The Trust is looking for applications that demonstrate the potential of technology to tackle some of the big social issues in sectors including education, employability, healthcare and the environment. Click on the full face swimming mask for more info.

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