Gain of function research: what is it and why should we care?

If mishandled, there is a very real danger that progressive scientific technology could have disastrous societal impacts. Of particular concern is gain-of-function research. A well-established methodology in microbiology and genetics, its application to infectious disease agents with pandemic potential has been called into serious question. My blog will briefly explore the importance of this technical issue, the associated biosafety and biosecurity risks and conclude with key policy considerations for making the most of the technology.

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Another Bump in the Road: Myanmar’s Fledgling Fight for Democracy

On November 8th, Myanmar is heading to the polls in what is largely pitched as the most free and fair elections of their recent history. In a climate of military political dominance, severe human rights abuses and historically insular foreign policies, analysts across the world will be paying close attention to the forthcoming election season. The exclusion of dozens of candidates from the final election candidate list represents the latest in an ongoing series of events suggestive of the endemic struggle for democracy.

Since the 1962 coup d’état, Myanmar has been under the political dominance of the army elites, who stand accused of gross abuses of human rights, religious intolerance and media suppression. Their suppressive rule is symbolized by the house arrest of the leader of the opposition, Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has led the fight for democracy. A general election in 2011 resulted in the dissolution of the military junta and the election of a nominally civilian government, headed by the former military commander, Thein Sein.

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Vietnam’s Nuclear Challenges: Developing a Nuclear Programme From Scratch

In a climate of electrical energy rationing and ever-increasing demand, Vietnam, seeking to diversify its domestic energy supply, is beginning the process of implementing an ambitious nuclear energy programme. As a newcomer to nuclear energy, Vietnam faces many challenges to ensure the establishment of a safe, secure and effective nuclear strategy; a task that requires multiple stakeholders, from government to education, research and industry. Achieving nuclear mastery requires the development of a highly-skilled workforce. With little previous nuclear infrastructure, this is proving a challenging endeavour.

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