There is increasing interest in using machine learning to automatically analyse remote sensing data and increase our understanding of complex environmental systems. While there are benefits from this approach, there are also some barriers to its use. This POSTnote examines the value of these approaches, and the technical and ethical challenges for wider implementation.
Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines media and communications concerns. Experts worry that Government messages are unclear. They note that there have been inconsistencies in information shared by different parts of Government. It's also unclear what the UK public is legally required to do, and how these requirements vary across the UK. Beyond that, there are concerns about the overarching Government communications strategy, the scientific evidence behind it and the number of people it has reached. Experts are also concerned about the role of mass media during the outbreak. They are concerned about inaccurate reporting and how it could damage the public's trust in mainstream media. They're also concerned about the economic impact of the outbreak on independent media outlets. A financial downturn could lead to closures, limiting access to news for a segment of the UK population. Finally experts are concerned about misinformation. They worry that the UK Government is not doing enough to call out misinformation and stop its spread.
Evidence suggests that food fraud continues to be an issue in the global food supply chain. This POSTnote provides an overview of food fraud, including its drivers and impacts. It discusses methods for food authenticity testing, broader strategies to prevent food fraud and impacts of EU exit.
Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines concerns about research and innovation. Experts have concerns about testing and diagnostics. Specifically about the number of tests being carried out, the availability of PCR tests and the accuracy of antigen tests. There are also concerns about vaccines. Experts want to know how the Government is speeding up vaccine development and note the possibility of annual vaccinations for some coronaviruses. Experts also think there should be more research on therapies for COVID-19 patients, including larger plasma therapy trials. Experts also have a range of practical concerns on international collaboration, the validation and approval of innovations, and even manufacturing and distribution of new products. Finally there are concerns about the impact of the outbreak on research. Experts worry about the quality of research and data collection and the access to COVID-19 research, noting that some research is not open access.
Over 1,100 experts have responded to a COVID-19 survey by POST's Knowledge Exchange Unit. Through the survey, experts shared their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. Researchers have also shared what further data or information they would like to see the Government release to understand the decisions that underpin its approach. This first report outlines the survey methodology. Detailed reports with concerns on specific areas such as trade, education, and public health will be published in the coming days.
Extremism is possible in any ideology, including (but not limited to) politics and religion. Extremism can affect mental well-being, amplify hostility and threaten democratic debate. The global reach of the internet poses social and technological challenges for safeguarding citizens from extremism online. When the Commission for Countering Extremism surveyed over 2500 members of the public in 2019, 56% agreed that a lot more should be done to counter extremism online. This POSTnote outlines how the online environment can be used for extremist purposes, how exposure to online extremism can influence people and potential strategies to counter extremist content online.
According to a recent study from Ofcom, 46% of respondents have encountered false or misleading coronavirus information since the lockdown. Most cases of misinformation are found on social media. Misinformation can lead to public mistrust, endangerment of public health, as well as hate crime and exploitation. Different approaches are being implemented to fight misinformation including content moderation, myth-busting, and a focus on education.
Online technologies are an integral part of many children’s lives. In 2017, the Children’s Commissioner for England identified shortcomings in online safety education and a number of stakeholders have called for action to increase ‘digital literacy’ in the UK. Upcoming changes to the curriculum mean that aspects of online safety will be taught in all schools from 2020. This POSTnote gives an overview of how children use the internet and the opportunities and risks it presents. It provides an overview of current online safety teaching in schools and elsewhere and how this will be affected by changes in the curriculum. It also looks at the role of content filtering and age verification technologies to improve online safety.
Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) measure brain activity and can be used to control digital devices. The focus of BCI development has been on using the technology to allow patients to control assistive equipment such as wheelchairs or prostheses. Beyond medicine they are under development for applications in entertainment, marketing and defence. This POSTnote looks at the underpinning technology, its applications and the associated ethical and regulatory challenges.
Drones (also known as unmanned aircraft) are flying systems that do not carry a pilot. As the technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated, the use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reporting a significant increase in the number of permissions obtained for operating commercial drones in the UK. Despite their potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide new services, drones may be misused accidentally or for malicious purposes. For example, reports of drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 grounded around 1,000 flights for almost 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers.
In 2018, the Government introduced new limits on where drones can be flown and new registration and education requirements for drone operators and pilots. In January 2020, the new Government introduced an Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill to Parliament that included new police powers for enforcing aviation laws (such as the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for certain drone offences). This POSTnote looks at civilian drones and their applications, focusing on potential misuse and possible responses.
Critical materials (CMs) are key to UK manufacturing, including for the aerospace, automotive, energy and chemical sectors, which rely on materials typically extracted and processed abroad. CMs are vital components of several emerging technologies, including electric vehicles, renewable energy infrastructure such as wind turbines, and digital technologies such as computers and smartphones. The UK imports most of its CMs and faces international competition for key resources. This POSTnote looks at the demand and supply of CMs in the UK and ways of improving supply security.
This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.
5G is the next generation of mobile communications technology. It follows on from the previous generations of mobile technology, such as 3G and 4G. 5G is expected to improve on previous mobile technologies by providing faster, lower latency (response time) mobile broadband connections and being able to connect a greater number of devices to a mobile network in a particular area while maintaining good quality connections. 5G mobile broadband will be the first widespread application of the technology. However, in the longer term it may have applications in other sectors.