Our flagship report, the POSTnote, is a four-page briefing reviewing emerging areas of research.

The soil microbiome, communities of microorganisms in soils, underpin natural processes in soil habitats and are affected by environmental and land use change. This POSTnote gives an overview of the benefits provided by the soil microbiome, ways of assessing the soil microbiome, and measures to improve its condition.

Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, which has implications for food security. This POSTnote examines measures to reduce the impacts of food production and agricultural land use on climate change (mitigation) and to adapt agricultural land use to that change (adaptation).

Violent crime includes a range of offences, from assault to murder. It can be any action that intentionally inflicts (or threatens) physical or psychological damage. Over the past decade overall crime has decreased, and violent crime is down by 69% since 1995. However, homicides and crimes involving knives or sharp instruments have risen since 2014. This has been reflected in an increase in hospital admissions for assaults with knives or sharp instruments. Violent offences are disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as London and cities in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. This POSTnote outlines types and prevalence of violent crime. It describes risk factors associated with involvement as a victim or perpetrator of violent crime. It then presents evidence on the effectiveness of early interventions to counter these risk factors and prevent violent crime.

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    Chemical weapons are prohibited, however recent chemical weapons attacks in Malaysia, Syria, Iraq and the UK have raised concerns about their use. In the UK in 2018, four people were taken seriously ill and one person died following exposure to a Novichok, a type of nerve agent. The UK Government recently announced £11m to strengthen the UK’s chemical defences and highlighted chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats as an area of focus in the recent Modernising Defence Programme. This briefing provides an overview of chemical weapons including types of chemical weapons and modes of delivery, chemical weapons control and disarmament, investigations of alleged attacks and chemical weapons defence in the UK.

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    The widespread use of antimicrobials, particularly antibiotics, has accelerated the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in microbes. A recent report by the Health and Social Care Committee called for AMR to be a ‘top five policy priority’. This POSTnote evaluates the main reservoirs of AMR microbes arising from the use of antimicrobials in both humans and animals.

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    Under the Paris Agreement, almost all governments worldwide have agreed to collectively limit global warming to 'well below' 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, and to 'pursue efforts' to limit this warming to 1.5°C. However, there has been 1°C of warming to date, and current international pledges could result in 3°C or more. A 2018 UN Special Report examined how peak global warming could be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures, and the implications of doing so. This POSTnote outlines key messages from the UN Special Report, and UK responses to preventing and adapting to climate change.

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    Weaknesses in the cyber security of internet-connected consumer devices can undermine the privacy and safety of individual users and can be used for large-scale cyber-attacks. This briefing looks at the cyber threats associated with consumer devices and their causes, as well as initiatives to improve device security, and the related challenges.

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    Stalking and harassment both involve any repeated behaviour that would cause alarm, distress or fear of violence in a victim. Common stalking or harassment behaviours include unwanted contact online or in person, following a victim, and interfering with property. Stalking is characterised by a perpetrator’s fixation or obsession and can have long-term psychological and social effects on a victim. Stalking also has the potential to escalate to other crimes, such as sexual assault or murder. This POSTnote describes stalking and harassment before presenting evidence on the effectiveness of approaches to identifying, preventing and prosecuting these crimes.

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    This POSTnote introduces robotic technology and the main ways it has been developed for use in social care. It reviews evidence on the impact of robotics on the costs and quality of social care and its workforce, and explores the main ethical, social and regulatory challenges to its use in social care.

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    Environmental principles inform legal and political frameworks that aim to minimise the ill-effects of human activity on the environment. In the EU (Withdrawal Act) 2018, the UK has committed to incorporating a set of environmental principles into UK legislation. This POSTnote summarises these principles and considers potential opportunities and challenges surrounding their implementation post-Brexit.

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    In the last century, agricultural production intensified, but this increased its impacts on the environment, waste in supply chains and in some regions of the world, disconnected it from people’s lives. Projections of global population growth and changing consumption patterns out to 2050 suggest further increases in food production will be needed. This POSTnote outlines key drivers of global agricultural trends and the challenge of safeguarding both food production and environment value in a changing world.

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    The electricity system of Great Britain is becoming increasingly decentralised, with more complex patterns of power production, transportation and consumption. New types of ‘flexibility’ are being developed to facilitate and manage these changes. This POSTnote reviews ways of developing flexibility, as well as technical and economic barriers to doing so.