With the rise of artificial intelligence, the threat of climate change and the challenges of how to feed the world, educate our children and remain healthy as we age, we all turn towards scientific research to provide the insights and breakthroughs that will improve and save lives.
For a year, the academic open-access publisher Frontiers, has been searching for the hottest research that could have a ground-breaking impact. Almost 800 teams came together around research topics addressing some of these major global challenges. Frontiers has now shortlisted 10 outstanding finalists — topics edited by the brightest minds from the best universities around the globe, for this new Spotlight Award.
Frontier's Executive Editor, Dr. Frederick Fenter, said, "Frontiers is thrilled to be announcing the ten finalists for this new and prestigious research award. Science plays a critical role in solving many of the global and complex challenges of our time — and we are confident that this award will catalyze thinking and action around these key issues".
Teams came together to write collections of articles around major scientific challenges. As humans grapple with the rise of artificial intelligence, one common research track was around enhancing human intelligence. For example, one research topic addressed current techniques to augment human brain function, another explored how exercise and video games could enhance our brains. A third topic looked at how mastering new motor skills shapes a child's development and can be used to enhance their intelligence as well as emotional and social well-being.
Other cutting-edge research tackles the challenge of our increasingly complex society by merging the tools of mathematics and physics with social science to help us better understand human interactions and their social and political impacts.
Another topic looked at what it would take to protect the oceans and save marine life that is disappearing at an alarming rate. Looking beyond earth, other research explored high energy particles and how they may make long distance space travel possible by preventing radiation effects — while at the same time unveiling new potential applications for these high-energy particles in treating cancer.
Frontiers researchers also identified strong trends in the plant sciences. Here teams looked at are at how the relationship between microbes and plants may influence agriculture – and in the future may help us build a more sustainable world. In other research also focusing on microbes scientists looked at how the hidden world of microbes that cover us inside and outside are silently shaping us and our environment. One big question is – are we our own microbiome?
The US$100,000 Frontiers Spotlight Award will support the winning team to organize an international scientific conference around their research topic in 2018. The conference aims to provide a forum that will catalyze, inspire and mobilize the rest of the research community to help tackle this challenge. The meeting will be held in Switzerland at the premier SwissTech Convention Center on the campus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL).
The ten finalists are:
Just how much can we augment our brain?
Augmentation of brain function: facts, fiction and controversy, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, edited by Manuel Fernando Casanova, University of Louisville, USA; Mikhail Lebedev, Duke University, USA; Ioan Opris, University of Miami School of Medicine, USA.
What will it take to save the oceans and marine life?
Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Science in Assessing the Health Status of Marine Ecosystems, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, edited by Angel Borja, AZTI Pasaia, Spain; Michael Elliott, University of Hull, UK; Maria C Uyarra, AZTI Tecnalia, Spain; Jacob Carstensen, Aarhus University, Denmark; Marianna Mea, Jacobs University Bremen, Germany
Enhancing children's development through motor activity.
Motor skills and their Foundational Role for Perceptual, Social, and Cognitive Development, published in Frontiers in Psychology, edited by Petra Hauf, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada; Klaus Libertus, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Shaping your brain with exercise and video games.
Cognitive and Brain Plasticity Induced by Physical Exercise, Cognitive Training, Video Games and Combined Interventions, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, edited by Soledad Ballesteros, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain; Claudia Voelcker-Rehage, Technische Universität Chemnitz, Germany; Louis Bherer, Université de Montréal, Canada
How physics and mathematics is helping us understand society.
At the Crossroads: Lessons and Challenges in Computational Social Science, published in Frontiers in Physics, edited by Javier Borge-Holthoefer, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Spain; Yamir Moreno, University of Zaragoza, Spain; Taha Yasseri, University of Oxford, UK
High-energy charged particles could protect astronauts in space and treat cancer.
Charged Particles in Oncology, published in Frontiers in Oncology, edited by Marco Durante, TIFPA INFN, Italy; Francis A Cucinotta, University of Nevada, USA; Jay Steven Loeffler, Massachusetts General Hospital, USA
Your daily task of repairing your DNA.
Ubiquitin and Ubiquitin-relative SUMO in DNA damage response, published in Frontiers in Genetics, edited by Ivan Dikic, Goethe Business School, Germany; Kristijan Ramadan, University of Oxford, UK
Could anaerobic digestion in agriculture slow climate change?
Anaerobic digestion, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, edited by Gavin Collins, NUI Galway, Galway, Ireland; Eric D. van Hullebusch, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education,Netherlands; Giovanni Esposito, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy; Cynthia Carliell-Marquet, University of Birmingham, UK; Fernando G. Fermoso, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain
How microbes affect plant life.
Biotrophic plant-microbe interactions, published in Frontiers in Plant Science, edited by Ralph Panstruga, RWTH Aachen University, Germany; Pietro Daniele Spanu, Imperial College London, UK
Are you your microbiome?
Microbiome interplay and control, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, edited by Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Medical University of Graz, Austria; Gabriele Berg, Graz University of Technology, Austria; Martin Grube, University of Graz, Austria