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Good morning, this is Zelda, bringing you the latest science & tech news. Today, as our second year with the pandemic starts, information security makes the headlines: experts in Geneva reflect on digital trust while others look into the pharmaceutical industry's contribution to fake news on Covid and vaccines.

Catch up on the Geneva Engage Awards which took place last week, celebrating winners within the international community for their online engagement.

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Zelda Chauvet


Science & Technology News

Photo article

The SwissCovid app. Source: Keystone.

📱 Covid contact tracing apps and building digital trust. Switzerland was among the first countries to introduce the Covid tracing app in June 2020. Yet in November, the app was used by only 22 per cent of the Swiss population, according to its developers at the EPFL, citing privacy and data protection concerns.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

🏆 UN Refugee Agency among four winners of Geneva Engage Awards. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was named one of the four winners of the 6th Annual Geneva Engage Awards on Thursday for its social media outreach efforts and in communicating their work from within international Geneva.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

💉 When the pharmaceutical industry finances fake news sites on Covid vaccines and the pandemic. 4315 brands have placed more than 42,000 ads on sites flagged for posting false news about Covid-19 and vaccines, according to a report by online misinformation assessment company NewsGuard.

Heidi.news (FR)

Here's what else is happening

Anticipatory reads by GESDA

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New research has found that a group of genes that reduces the risk of developing severe COVID-19 by around 20% is inherited from Neanderthals (© Bjorn Oberg, Karolinska Institutet)

Neandertal and us: such an interlinked story. Once again, our closest ‘cousin’, Neandertal, far from being only another hominin very distant in history, is scientifically helping us to understand both the present - the COVID-19 pandemic - and, maybe, us, our brain and our endless wisdom.

A new research has shown last week that a group of genes that reduces the risk of developing severe COVID-19 by about 20% has been inherited from Neanderthals. These genes, located on chromosome 12, code for enzymes that play a vital role in helping cells destroy the genomes of invading viruses! According to the scientists, “this genetic variant was passed to humans around 60,000 years ago via interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals.”

And a few days before, another team managed to recreate a Neandertal “mini-brain” in a Petri dish. “What is it about DNA that makes the human brain ‘human’?”, asks the journal Science, which also published the article (see below). Seeking to understand how our complex brains evolved, researchers have now, with modern genome-editing tools (CRISPR) switched a single human gene out for its Neanderthal counterpart in brain tissue grown in a lab dish. Changes to the resulting organoid reveal the role this gene may have played in ancient – and modern – brain development.”

In two very different ways, Neandertal, albeit extinct, brings light on our humanity. Twice thanks for that.

- Olivier Dessibourg

Neanderthal-inspired ‘minibrains’ hint at what makes modern humans special. They were created in lab with CRISPR.

Science (EN)

Quantum network is step towards ultrasecure internet. Experiment connects three devices, demonstrating a key technique that could enable a future quantum internet

Nature (EN)

Rescue plan for nature: how to fix the biodiversity crisis.

NewScientist (EN)

Transformations within reach: pathways to a sustainable and resilient world.

International Science Council (EN)

A new artificial intelligence makes mistakes - on purpose. A chess program learns from human error.


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This selection is proposed by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator GESDA, working on anticipating cutting-edge science and technological advances to develop innovative and inclusive solutions for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants.

Next on the agenda

📍24 February | But who is smart in the city? A round table to discuss our role as citizens and that of public authorities in the implementation of participatory, inclusive processes that protect the personal data collected.


📍2 March | 2021: The emergence of digital foreign policy. An event to assess the current situation, share lessons learned, and enter into a discussion with practitioners.

DiploFoundation (EN)

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