All posts by Nik Brown

The ‘biotic politics’ of buildings – a SATSU research agenda

There’s a hospital in Skane, just outside Malmo Sweden. Some of you might know its distinctive spherical, doughnut shape. It’s one of a ‘new generation’ of hospitals commissioned and built for what’s described as the ‘post-antibiotic’ era. Its cylindrical ring-like shape is a little like that of an organic orbicular cell. Historically many hospitals have been modelled on a different kind of body. The cruciform or crucified shape. Limbs radiating from a central torso or spine. Or they have ‘wings’ that fan out from the body of the building. That’s why most hospitals have these improbably long central corridors, with wards and departments stretching out from the building’s central spine, or trunk.

But here at Skane, in this cellular or spheroid design, patients, visitors and waste occupy the outer ring of the building. The whole structure is wrapped in glazed open-air walkways from which its temporary residents and the public can enter individual isolation rooms directly from the outside. These external walkways operate a little like a semi-porous dermis or membrane. Gaps between each panel of glazed wall allows fresh air to enter the outer skin of the hospital. It’s like being both inside and outside at the same time. There are also external lifts, peripheral to the skin of the building. These lifts are reserved exclusively for patients, visitors and hospital waste. One doesn’t have to be an anthropologist to spot something interesting in an architecture that puts patients and dirty waste in the same classificatory space.

Then there’s the inner ring of the building. The central disc is designated for clean materials, clinical staff, offices and conference rooms. Internal lifts are designated for professionals, ancillary staff and supplies. A complex system of airlock doors and transitional spaces separate the outer ring of the infected from the inner sterile sphere of the disinfected. In this way, the whole building is bisected between thresholds of an inner purity and an outer danger. Skane is further evidence of the way microbial nonhuman life historically reshapes, ‘infects’ or ‘colonises’ our architectures and buildings.

My interest in buildings like that described above is linked to our new SATSU project exploring the biotic ecologies of buildings, the material relationships between infectivity and the built environment, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (PARC: Pathways, Practices and Architectures: Containing Antimicrobial Resistance in the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, 2018-2020). The project brings together the interests of myself, Sarah Nettleton, Chrissy Buse and Daryl Martin at SATSU in antimicrobial resistance or AMR (Brown and Nettleton 2016, 2017) and healthcare buildings and the ‘materialities of care’ (Buse, Martin and Nettleton 2018; Martin et al 2015). We’re also working with other colleagues including Alan Lewis, an academic architect at the University of Manchester, Lynn Chapman who is a graphic artist, and two respiratory microbiologists, Mike Brockhurst and Craig Winstanley.

In the project and more widely, we’re interested in shifting understandings of biotic life and parallel changing architectural and material forms. How is it that we have historically come to envisage restructuring space for a ‘post-antibiotic age’? Some thirty years or so ago, in the ‘pre-post-antibiotic age’ we might say, the medical sociologist Lindsay Prior (1988) reflected on the relationships between medical discourse and hospital architecture. He focuses on the architectural drawing of a late C19th children’s ward. It’s a hexagonal pavilion shape with beds dotted around the edge. It reminds me of Skane somehow. Each bed has a window opening onto a surrounding veranda. The design is such that the beds can be wheeled outside during the daytime. It’s a variant on a number of designs for ‘fresh air wards’, a medical discourse influenced by a miasmic theory of contagion and infection. Illness here is conceived as a product of chemical processes, fermentation or putrefaction, resulting in airs, vapours and stagnating fumes. Torpid air must move if its not to fester.

Air then gives way to touch, as miasma gives way to germ theory. Antibiotics make way for the reshaping of clinical space, new efficiencies of scale, and densities of healthcare delivery that develop alongside the introduction of antimicrobial medicine throughout the latter half of the C20th (Bud 2006, 2007). The result is a much more recognisably ‘modern’ kind of hospital. The contemporary hospital rooms where we meet with medics in the course of our work on PARC are often windowless. The ceilings are quite low. They’re usually uncomfortably warm and well heated, crowded with AV and computer equipment. It’s in this way that colleagues like Clare Chandler (2016) of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine speak of antibiotics as ‘infrastructure’, having constituted healthcare spaces in deeply material and physical ways.

Most hospitals, of course, don’t look or feel like that at Skane. They don’t work like that either. But nor indeed does Skane work entirely in the way that was intended for the ‘post-antibiotic era’. That precarious threshold between the inner clean ring and the outer dirty sphere is inevitably leaky. It’s worth thinking carefully about the movement and interaction between people and the biotic as visitors, clinicians and others arrive and depart, board buses and public transport, pick their kids up from the same schools and nurseries, and live the inevitably mixed-up ecological lives expected of people who move, travel and work. It’s very difficult, and materially contingent, to completely maintain that pure threshold between the outer world of patients, their visitors, and the inner world of hospital staff.

Some of the story that follows recently appeared in Discover Society (Brown 2017) but it’s worth retelling here: I’m sat with a clinician. She’s a lung infection specialist. We’re talking windows. Whatever clinic I go to, the conversation always returns to the windows. Rooms without windows. Windows that don’t open. Windows that can’t be closed, or let in a draft. Windows that need replacing, or windows that were better before being replaced. Windows that were never installed. The irony isn’t lost on me. A respiratory specialist talking about the breath of the building. The breeze coming in. The hospital air moving out. In and out. Inhalation and exhalation. The clinic gasping for breath. All a reminder of the window’s early meaning, vindauga, the ‘wind-eyes’ of the building.

She recounts the story of a hot dry summer. In the outpatient clinic, staff and patients are wilting in the heat. Windows are open. It’s the older part of the hospital where it’s still possible to open them. Elsewhere the ability to open a window has been designed out of the more contemporary architecture. Open windows cause aircon chaos. Anyway, here the windows are open, despite the awful noise of construction work below. But at least there’s good clean ‘fresh air’.

Then months later the clinic is thrown into crisis. There’s a new strain of respiratory infection in the cystic fibrosis population. This could easily be fatal for patients already struggling with repeat infections, any one of which could be their last. The inpatient ward fills up with new admissions on high-dose intravenous antibiotics. The labs try to track down the source of the infection and where it could possibly have come from. After much head scratching, suspicion turns to that warm summer, the open windows, construction work going on outside, the digging of foundations below ground level, dust escaping into the air, spores drifting on the breeze. Inhaled by the clinic. Inhaled by its patients. Then coughed up in blood-stained sputum.

In Terror from the Air Peter Sloterdijk (2009) offers a meditation on the material technics of breathing and breath. Respiration is something to be technically accomplished, to be assisted by air conditioning, restrictions on smoking, surgical masks, air quality measures, carbon monoxide monitoring, ducting and ventilation, and so on. But such technics are not evenly deployed. They are striated, unequally offering protections to some that are not enjoyed by others. Respiration takes place, we might say, within economies of respirational scarcity. Breathing isn’t dangerous for everyone, but it is for lots of us.

The PARC project attempts to make sense of the experience of people with cystic fibrosis (PWCF) as they enter and make their way through clinical space. There are around eleven thousand people with CF in the UK, a ‘chronic degenerative’ condition that makes breathing perilous. Extending respiratory life for them hangs on all sorts of things, especially aggressive antibiotic treatment. They’re used to the daily routines of inhaling antibiotics in aerosol form, delivered by nebulisers. Antibiotics as vapour, atmosphere, mist. All this suppresses infections for a while at least, but without getting rid of them completely. Those residual colonies of infection, the biotic remnant, are left to evolve into to potentially fatal, resistant, and transmissible cross-infective pathogens. CF lungs become ‘reservoirs’ of infection, harbouring a constantly changing ‘resistiome’.

Biopolitical reflections on breath were at the forefront of our thinking in putting the project together. Sloterdijk draws attention to the material fracturing and divisibility of air, of atmospheres, the structuring of breath and respiration through spaces, places and architectures. We might call these ‘anatomospheres’ in which respiration is seen to retreat or withdraw from shared atmospheres, into airs that are increasingly private. A proliferation of personal respiratory chambers. Breathing is less likely to take place between and amongst shared and entangled airs, than it is to take place in more hermetically contained, secured and surveilled atmospheres.

It’s not at all uncommon to think of bodies and buildings overlaying and substituting for one another. For Mary Douglas (1966) the building is the body’s original surrogate: ‘Going through the door’ she writes, ‘… express[es] so many kinds of entrance… crossroads and arches… doorsteps and lintels… worked upon the human body’. Bodies and buildings are awkwardly duplicated within one another, both symbolically and materially. Heidegger (1971) thought of buildings as ‘dwelling’ or the embodied finitude of being. Architecture is techne. Buildings lend bodies metaphorical sturdiness (the ‘building blocks of life’). By contrast, bodies give buildings both their liveliness and frailty, their decay, their facades (faces), their permeabilities (vindauga). After the Grenfell tragedy, who could not be wary of architectural clothing, the cladding (cloak) of the body/building? ‘This contrast is at its most intense’, Steven Connor (2004) once wrote, ‘… when the physical processes in question are least material, which is to say those carried on or in the air’. Breath disassembles buildings.

Reflecting on Walter Benjamin, Böhme (1993) suggests that it is through respiration that one ‘breathes’ or absorbs the ‘atmosphere’ of a place. Respiration ‘allows this atmosphere to permeate the self’. He isn’t thinking about infections. Of course not. But he is possibly thinking about the way one might become infected by the atmosphere of a building, for both good or ill.

I have one final story. It’s about waiting. Or rather it’s about waiting rooms. The experience of most people with CF when they enter the architecture of clinical space is one of waiting. This is an acute source of anxiety for people who are told not to share one another’s breath. To sit, at least, ‘two or more chair widths’ from the next person. There must always be a space in which to breathe. A bubble of air around one’s chair. At one of the clinics, designers and architects were commissioned to make waiting more ‘comfortable’ and attractive. They were to give the experience of waiting the atmosphere of leisure, retail, hotel hospitality. Couches and sofas replaced the old 1970s plastic chairs. A new central open-plan plaza, or lobby area, replaced the specialist waiting rooms. Patients, visitors and staff could now move more freely amongst one another, all sharing the same atmosphere. All coming and going from treatment rooms to the communal space, the communitas of the lobby and then back again. That’s what the design of public space is supposed achieve, to optimise interaction, to foster networks, linkages, visibility. All, needless to say, known infection risks for people with CF.

Breath and breathing, together with the spaces that guarantee respiratory existence, become the basis for new forms of sociality. There are degrees of atmospheric entanglement and disentanglement. Timothy Campbell (2011) says of Sloterdijk that it is as if ‘… the former blood ties of family… had been turned outward from one’s person to now include the breathing space of those whose individual immunitary designs most closely match one’s own’ (97). Blood ties become breath ties. I’m thinking of people with CF when Sloterdijk recalls the devastating use of mustard gas at Ypes. We have to breathe. We have no choice but to breath. It’s the involuntary ambient nature of breathing that forces one to become complicit in one’s own destructibility. As Sloterdijk puts it ‘… unable to refrain from breathing, [they/we] are forced to participate in the obliteration of their own life’. The point is to ask, to whom does this respiratory obliteration most apply and under what kinds of lived material conditions? How are the technics of design and architecture tied into breath, breathing and even obliteration?

SATSU – The Science and Technology Studies Unit: 30 years in the making

When I was asked to write a short piece on the history of SATSU, I wondered how 30 years of activity since 1988 could be summarised. By pure coincidence, I had begun to go through and clear out 30 years of paperwork, generating 30 bags of confidential and other waste – one for each year. I took a picture of the bags, as you can see, but guess they don’t speak for themselves, so I should pen a few words here to tell you what is (now, I hope, was) inside them, without of course breaking any confidences!

Bags of confidential waste

I established the Unit at what is now Anglia Ruskin University, based in Cambridge, but then known as CCAT. From its early days the Unit was interested in developing research that could bridge between STS and science policy. I had already good links with a few other UK centres, notably the Institute for Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh (ISSTI) and the Science Policy Research Unit in Sussex (SPRU) (both celebrating their 50th anniversary last year) who were pursuing similar aims, and our work had a strong focus on understanding the relation between socio-economic innovation systems, policy contexts, and the promise of new technology. Studies on the privatisation of public science, on foresight (the FORMAKIN and FOREN projects), patenting and intellectual property within universities and knowledge sourcing across different public and private organisations, cycling cultures and various consultancies (such as one for Kodak who wanted to know if there was a future for digital cameras!) marked much of the work in our first ten years. The Unit collaborated closely too with the then Science Policy Support Group that Peter Healey and John Ziman established (and which also acted as the secretariat for EASST for a number of years). Peter, myself and Henry Etzkowitz set up an ‘Academic-Industry-Relations’ network, and it was that which led to the first ideas around the so-called ‘Triple Helix’, which Etzkowitz has since turned into a major international programme.

By 1998, we had grown in number and established a strong portfolio in both UK and EU-funded studies such that we decided to have a formal ‘public launch’ inviting both academic and policy contacts to see our work as a whole. We were delighted that Arie Rip came as our guest speaker, someone who works across the STS/policy divide with consummate skill.

The links to Europe, partly through EASST, meant we had a presence at important European Commission (then called ‘European Economic Community’) policy meetings: very different days, for then it was EEC officials, such as Riccardo Petrella, who took the initiative to foster STS research and training in its work programmes, and through which, for example,the postgraduate European Studies of Society, Science and Technology (ESST) was established. I was also involved in UK-based early policy debate in Westminster on genetics and biotechnology which led to our securing a number of consultancies from government to advise them on such issues, a focus which was to define much of our work in the next decade, after our move to York in 1999, where the Unit is still based. Of course, when going through the material from our time at Anglia, much of that was in the form of written letters (in ink!), the use of DOS to construct code for sending early versions of what was called ‘electronic mail’, Faxes by the score, and reams of paper-based data sets from fieldwork, hand-coded in pre-NVivo days. So the York move was at the threshold of a rapid expansion in academia of digital communication – yet there seems to have been just as much paper put on file!

Mike Mulkay and Andrew Webster in 2005

The move to York in part reflected ongoing links I had with the then colleagues here, such as Steve Yearley (now in Edinburgh), and Mike Mulkay (who had been my PhD supervisor, now retired). It also reflected the emerging impact of the UK’s national research evaluation exercise, and SATSU was recruited to help bolster the STS work being done in York. The move was not easy – transferring people and grants brings lots of professional, financial and personal/family challenges, such that sadly not all our members could move, though most did. Within a few months, the Unit hosted a major 5-year joint Economic and Social Research Council and Medical Research Council funded research programme on ‘Innovative Health Technologies’, involving 130 researchers across 32 projects, all of which is still available on the York website, and worth a visit. Paralleling this, we became a Marie Curie training site between 2001-5 which meant meeting, supervising and becoming long-standing friends and colleagues with a magnificent group of young European scholars most of whom are members of what became the Bio-objects network, funded via an EU Cooperation in Science and Technology Action: they too have gone on to secure their own careers making a major contribution to STS in their own countries and internationally. Work on bio-objects (which to members’ collective delight received the Amsterdamska award from EASST in 2012) continues and is used today way beyond the original network – a very mobile concept which will figure in the 2018 EASST Conference.

SATSU in earlier days, 2005

Over the next decade and more, three research themes framed our research: the sociology of the biosciences, social informatics, and the governance and regulation of new technologies. For example, within the area of health our work examined the influences shaping the clinical, regulatory and commercial development of the new biosciences, especially in the area of regenerative medicine/stem cells, cord blood banking, xenotransplantation, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) , the new genetics and pharmacogenetics, and developed our interest in e-health (such as telemedicine) and its implementation in clinical and non-clinical settings. Our work on stem cells – focused on the construction and performativity of standards – led to major funding from the EC – the REMEDiE project – and from the ESRC, the much more recent REGenableMED project (see a complete set of results at https://www.eurostemcell.org/regenerative-medicine-special-report). The Unit also hosted another ESRC programme on Stem Cells, which helped to build momentum in this under-researched area. I think it was the Unit’s engagement across the social science/science boundaries that in 2007 led the ESRC to commission us to prepare – through many meetings at national and regional level over 18 months – its new Research Ethics Framework – which is now what underpins its ethical guidelines for all UK social science research.

This compendium of work sought to answer key questions such as how do biomedical technologies and the play of expert/lay boundaries shape the meaning of health, ‘life’ itself and healthcare practices, within a wider context shaped by the growing regulation, marketisation and informaticisation of health. The Unit’s wider work on social media has examined digital technologies and systems working with real-time, by-product data, mapping the use and meaning of such data, and developing insight into socio-technical cultures that are emerging today around informational systems, metrics and data infrastructures. This has fostered a strong interdisciplinary programme with colleagues in computer science within the Digital Creativity Hub. The digital also is the main focus of a more recent ‘Navigating Knowledge Landscapes’ network that spawned out of the former bio-objects group, and which explores how individuals and groups engage with and make sense of health information on the web. This now has 72 members across 24 countries. In 2009 we celebrated our ‘21st birthday’ with a series of invited public lectures from senior STS colleagues available as webcasts on the SATSU site.

Lecture at the 21st birthday conference

In the past few years, we have also begun to build a sustained programme of work in the (recent) history of science, with work on the meaning of evidence in primatology and on how late 19th to late 20th century science has been a source of ‘unsettling’ social change, opening up new possibilities, anticipations and hopes, at the same time as inspiring new conflicts, and fears with unintended consequences. The project explores this through various literatures, including popular science periodicals and science fiction.

This more temporal aspect of the Unit’s work is not only embodied in the sociology of expectations but in recent work on how time is performed/enacted through regulation, and how temporalities are sustained through regulatory practices and the ways in which legal and regulatory time(s) have material expression. Temporality has also featured as a cross-disciplinary theme in an ‘STS Roundtable’ established in York in 2016, with 8 other Departments; two other core themes of the Roundtable have been governance and innovation, providing an opportunity for colleagues outwith STS to define their own problematic in these key areas.

The Unit has enjoyed many visitors too, often contributing to our long-established ‘Brown Bag’ lunchtime series of fortnightly seminars, which at the last count was running at close to 200; I still have hand-written notes from all these discussions (my ‘lab books’ – I have always been struck by the way in which French and Italian STS groups talk about their ‘labs’ – maybe we should all frame our work in this way). Members have played an important role in national policy committees, national and international evaluation of research, postgraduate training and editorial roles on various journals and book series. One of these has been the very successful Health, Technology and Society Series which I co-edit with former EASST President Sally Wyatt, a series which has just published its 21st book, with more on the way. We have also, on a more regional front, been heavily involved in the STS collaborative doctoral training programme located in the ‘White Rose’ universities (of Leeds, Sheffield and York).

In 2014, a group of STS colleagues from across the UK helped to establish a new professional body that would bring together and mobilise the extensive STS and Innovation studies expertise across the UK. The Association for Studies in Innovation Science and Technology–UK (AsSIST-UK) was established and has since gone on to build strong communication channels with the UK parliament and other policy stakeholders. Robin Williams (Director ISSTI, Edinburgh) and I co-Chair the Association. Membership of the Association now numbers around 350 and is composed of social science and humanities scholars working in the science and technology and innovation studies field, as well as some natural scientists. The Association’s membership includes expertise in a diverse range of science policy fields (including biomedicine, energy, health/mental health, digital systems/social media, the economics of S&T, military and security systems, finance and transport), drawing members from over 30 universities and a range of key UK research centres. It has been great to see similar initiatives being taken this past few years in other countries across Europe and elsewhere.

In many ways, my personal view is that AsSIST-UK tries to engender what I called a few years ago in a paper in Social Studies of Science a ‘serviceable STS’, by which I meant one that offers a critical yet useable STS within the complex and ever-changing S&T policy world. That of course requires engaging closely with policy players, and not just by ‘electronic mail’: what’s required is ongoing engagement to try to reframe some of the assumptions underlying policy. Many members of EASST are doing this across Europe and elsewhere as we see in annual conferences and publications. SATSU will, I am sure, continue to do this in the future under its new Director, Joanna Latimer, who will now pick up the story to look forward to the programme of work that lies ahead. Meanwhile, I will continue with work on the new ‘biomodifying technologies project’ that began in 2017: a name that perhaps conjures up too the way running a Unit for 30 years does have a personal biomodifying effect – the result of sleepless nights worrying about something or other and very enjoyable SATSU BBQs we had each year worrying about the next beer!

Creating spaces for debate and action

This editorial is written in the middle of a strike in UK academia. I sincerely hope that by the time this appears, a satisfactory solution will have been found, but at the moment I am rather sceptical. The strike seems to be the culmination of a series of political events that have deep influence on academic life, and although the formal reason for strike is the proposed changes to pensions of UK academic staff, these pensions also represent broader problems in contemporary academia and its financing system. Next to pension problems sit vast increases in student fees and huge salaries for vice-chancellors (see also https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/11/university-vice-chancellors-are-paid-far-more-than-public-sector-peers?CMP=share_btn_tw). This of course is all interlinked with forms of metric based governance, expressed in rankings, indexes and evaluation systems, including REF and TEF. These problems are specific to the UK while to some extent mirrored in other countries too.

Here is an important question that arose for me and my colleagues: How can we as academics effectively protest and change the ways in which universities are governed? Is disrupting teaching the most effective way to give a message to the management, or are there other ways to disrupt administration? In any case, with cancelled classes and supportive students, the reactions of university managers were often absent or remarkably slow. Some sense of urgency came only weeks into the announcement and the actual strike, but without any satisfactory solution so far. This is especially disconcerting since the university management is largely composed of academics and as such reflects some deep problems in our own community which already have been excellently addressed in recent Manifestos by colleagues from Aberdeen (https://reclaimingouruniversity.wordpress.com) and the Netherlands (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11024-015-9270-9).

In the UK action and debates took place in various spaces: on the picket line, through empty lecture halls and offices, during teach-outs, through the occupation of buildings, and on twitter. The strike was occupying the digital space too. Twitter was actually the best source of information on the strike, providing a value that is often unclear (see for many examples #ucu on twitter).

As an STS-er in another country, one is always somewhat of an outsider, while trained in ethnographic methods too, and as such I spent some time trying to understand the UK system in strike mode. My early field notes are full of surprise. Especially concerning the amount of rules and regulations that different parties stipulate. I will not go into detail here, but it certainly comes across as a very disciplined strike, in which different strike levels can be subscribed to, requiring careful registration. To me, this seems a bit against the idea of rebellion and unruliness that goes with striking, and I think I would prefer a simple strike: no work – none whatsoever! – till a solution is found.

Twitter was a means to check what actually happened. Here I could find information about motivations and actions, about the different organisations involved, about the ways in which my own university handled the situation, and what was taking place at other universities. These tweets are brilliant research material (who takes this up?), and show the emotional engagement – including anger, frustration, and hope – covered with some good sense of British humour. And even the negotiations were at one point arranged through a twitter exchange (see below), perhaps in line with contemporary politics but I could not believe my eyes.

negotiations through twitter exchange

The importance of (virtual) spaces for debates and actions also became a main discussion point during the meeting ‘Science, Technology and Public Value: Beyond responsible innovation?’ organised by the Biotechnology and Society Research Group at King’s College Department of Global Health & Social Medicine. In a wonderful meeting space called ‘Wallacespace’ in the heart of London, we gathered around tables to search for positive ways forward based on experiences with RRI type of research. We reflected on the importance of space for interaction, and how the spatial design can enhance both formal and informal exchanges. This connects to my own work on the Francis Crick Institute which is especially designed to enhance collaboration, and it is of course also relevant when thinking about interactions between (social)scientists, stakeholders and publics. What would be the way forward here?Do we need to complement common time with common space, or is it about inviting each other in our own familiar space, or creating a new common home? Another important discussion evolved around the occupation of epistemic spaces, and how the process of priority setting is an important place to analyse and influence (see colleagues Ismael Ràfols and Jack Stilgoe on priorities in biomedical research: https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2018/mar/16/who-benefits-from-biomedical-science).

Within our own academic community spaces for debate and discussion are crucial too. We need to, for instance, pay attention to the identity of scientists, and the education of new generations of researchers within transforming academic environments. The relations between community and identity in contemporary techno-science was on the agenda in workshop in Vienna last year, supported by EASST funds and reported on in this issue by organiser Karen Kastenhofer of the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) and the Austrian STS network (see also http://www.sts-austria.org/events/). One of its key members, the STS department of the University of Vienna is celebrating its 30th birthday with an academic party: congratulations Helga, Uli, Max and all colleagues!

Within a community that studies the interaction between science and society, it is no surprise that political and social developments are permeating academia. However, recent events such as the science marches (see colleague Bart Penders on this topic: https://doi.org/10.15252/embr.201744935), the UK strike and the effects of brexit do not only require action but also analysis and reflections. Thereby it seems important to have an academic platform outside of twitter, where discussions and debates on these developments can take place.

The British strike action fell together with what has been named, the ‘big freeze’, or the ‘beast from the east’ which added to disruptions in life, but at the moment the last snow is melting under the sunshine and we are awaiting Spring. Here is hoping for some positive (green)energy in the months to come!