Climate change among global challenges explored in University anniversary talks

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Food shortages, climate change, children’s rights, big data and tobacco harm will be debated by leading academics, industry figures and politicians, at the University of Stirling’s 50th anniversary lecture series.

The Challenges of our Time programme will run from Monday 18 to Friday 22 September, and each lecture will feature talks and discussions focussing on a great challenge. The series will also showcase the role the University’s research and impact has played in each area, during the last 50 years.

The events are free to attend and open to all but as there has been significant interest, those planning to attend are asked to register in advance via the individual event pages for each lecture.

The following talks will take place during the Challenges of our Time series:

Monday 18 September (6pm-7pm)

The importance of Children's Rights: policy and research in Scotland

Chaired by Professor Alison Bowes, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, this two-part lecture will be delivered by Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, and Dr John I'Anson, Deputy Director of the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection, based at the University of Stirling.

The session will look at the need for a far more mature understanding of how society and services can support children’s rights and how strengthening children’s rights benefits our society.

Tuesday 19 September (12:30pm-2pm)

Tobacco harm reduction: how e-cigarettes and vaping devices have transformed tobacco control 

Chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman, Chancellor of the University of Glasgow and featuring Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and CRUK/BUPA Chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention, and Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Lead at Public Health England.

The presentation will draw on a growing body of evidence from studies conducted at the University of Stirling, partner universities in the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and international academics, including evidence on: safety and risks; health effects; trends in use; smoking cessation; and harm perceptions.

Wednesday 20 September (1:30pm-3:30pm)

How to feed a growing population

This lecture will be introduced by Professor Maggie Cusack, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, with the keynote address delivered by Professor Tim Benton, Dean of Strategic Research Initiatives at the University of Leeds and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House.

It will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by Professor Rachel Norman, Chair of Food Security and Sustainability at the University of Stirling.

The lecture will explore one of the greatest challenges of our time; how to ensure everyone has access to safe and nutritious food in the light of a growing population, climate change and competing demands for resources such as water.

Thursday 21 September (6pm-7pm)

Big Data Revolution: Transforming Our Futures

Hosted by Professor George Burt, Deputy Dean of the Stirling Management School, this lecture boasts a number of notable speakers. Victoria Clark from The Datalab, Scotland’s data science innovation centre, will introduce the topic of the global data revolution. Raymond Martin, Customer Insight Manager at Virgin Money, and Jonathan Cameron, Head of Strategic Development at the NHS, will discuss how advanced analytics are helping to design and deliver better products and services.

The University’s Professor William Webster will close the event by highlighting the importance of sound data governance to safeguard data protection and privacy.

Friday 22 September (5:30pm-6:30pm)

Climate change: greatest human rights challenge of our times?

In this two-part talk, the Rt Hon Lord Jack McConnell, former First Minister of Scotland, and Dr Andrea Schapper, from the University’s Division of History and Politics, will speak about climate change, climate justice and sustainable development.

The lecture will explore how the relationship between climate change and human rights flows in two directions. On the one hand, the consequences of climate change – including droughts, floods and extreme weather events – lead to adverse effects on the right to life, the right to self-determination and the rights to food, water, adequate housing and health. On the other hand, the implementation of climate policy instruments can also infringe on the rights of local populations and indigenous peoples.

Following this talk, and to bring the Challenges of Our Time week to a close, the audience is invited to join Lord McConnell and members of the University at a drinks reception in the Crush Hall.

If you require any additional information about the Challenges of our Time series, please contact the University's Events Team at

Background information

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