The Conversation

From April 2017, Josephine Lethbridge will be The Conversation’s Interdisciplinary Editor, funded by the ISRF. Josephine’s role will include working with scholars at The Conversation’s member universities, as well as past and present Fellows of the ISRF, to bring interdisciplinary social research to millions of readers worldwide.

Any ISRF Fellows wishing to pitch an idea for an article to Josephine, or simply interested in knowing more, should contact her directly at

Recent Interdisciplinary Articles at The Conversation

Free divers have long defied science – and we still don’t really understand how they go so deep
Kevin FongHonorary | UCL

Free divers swim to extreme depths underwater (the current record is 214m) without any breathing apparatus. Champions can hold their breath for extraordinary amounts of time – the record for women is nine minutes, and men 11.

I’m a doctor with a special interest in extreme environments, so was intrigued when I was asked to collaborate in an art project about free diving for the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition Somewhere in Between. Scientists and those who practise free diving are in many ways utterly alien to one another. When you look at the stresses this sport places on our physiology, it initially looks almost impossible that anyone should be able to dive to such profound depths – and yet they do.

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Why women with HIV are persistently invisible – and how we can challenge it
Theo Gordon | UCL

The night before International Women’s Day, I volunteered behind the bar at “A Catwalk for Power, Resistance and Hope”, a fabulous fashion show for women with HIV organised by ACT UP London Women (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and Positively UK, an organisation that runs peer-led support groups for people with HIV.

After a poetry reading by the incredibly talented writer and motivational speaker Bakita, these women led the call and response chants, derived from the anti-apartheid movement, of “THE POWER! – IS OURS!” and “AMANDLA! – NGAWETHU!” in front of a packed-out house at London’s Brixton East. Then the main show began: 25 women with HIV strutted their stuff on the runway with confidence, humour and pride.

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Economists are unfairly maligned – but they are often pretty prejudiced themselves
Esteban Ortiz-Ospina | University of Oxford

I am an economist, and I have spent many hours of my life trying to fight misleading stereotypes about what I do. People, for example, often assume that when I say “I’m an economist”, I mean “I worship the creed of self-righting markets”.

In response to such assumptions or accusations, some of the world’s leading economists are attempting to explain #WhatEconomistsReallyDo. This is an important effort. But I think this discussion is also a great opportunity for economists to reflect on their own prejudices, in particular those regarding other social sciences.

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How to build a computer with free will
Mark Hadley | University of Warwick

Do you have free will? Can you make your own decisions? Or are you more like an automaton, just moving as required by your constituent parts? Probably, like most people, you feel you have something called free will. Your decisions are not predetermined; you could do otherwise.

Yet scientists can tell you that you are made up of atoms and molecules and that they are governed by the laws of physics. Fundamentally, then – in terms of atoms and molecules – we can predict the future for any given starting point. This seems to leave no room for free will, alternative actions or decisions.

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Liverpool FC’s Mohamed Salah’s goal celebrations: a guide to British Muslimness
Asif Majid | University of Manchester

Liverpool FC’s Egyptian-born forward Mohamed Salah is currently one of the Premier League’s most prolific goalscorers. This, his debut season with Liverpool, has seen Salah earn multiple accolades: most left-footed goals scored in a Premier League season, second-fastest player in Liverpool’s history to reach 30 goals, one of the top ten goalscorers in Europe, and 2017 African Footballer of the Year.

Beautiful though they are to watch, what I find most interesting about Salah’s goals are his celebrations and their reception. Because consistently, Salah does two things after scoring. First, he hugs his teammates, a typical response. But then, he performs sujood, the Islamic act of prostration.

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Use of the word ‘radicalisation’ is ballooning – and it’s hiding the real causes of violence
Rob Faure Walker | UCL

“Radicalisation” recently started appearing as an explanation for US high school shootings in my newsfeeds. In an article titled “Call the Florida shooting what it is: terrorism”, Teen Vogue explores the murderer’s connections to white supremacy and claims that “the source of their radicalisation” is the “main question currently plaguing our society”.

This was the first time that I had noticed that the US media were using “radicalisation” as an explanation for this horrendous phenomenon. Researching the emergence of a violent discourse of radicalisation and extremism for my PhD and compiling the Prevent digest – a monthly summary of news on the UK government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy – tends to keep me abreast of new uses of the word. It also leaves me concerned when I see them. Here’s why.

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Josephine Lethbridge
Interdisciplinary Editor

About Josephine

Josephine Lethbridge became Interdisciplinary Editor at The Conversation after over three years as the UK’s initial Arts + Culture Editor. As well as articles on new research, she also commissioned academics to write commentary on popular culture news and to review films and art exhibitions.

Josephine has an MA in English Literature from the University in Glasgow, and since autumn 2015 has also been studying part-time towards an MSc in Science, Technology and Society at UCL, which she will complete in September 2017. She is mostly looking at the history of the idea of going to war on global warming and visions of geoengineering the climate. These diverse interests mean that she is thrilled to have become The Conversation’s first Interdisciplinary Editor.

In her spare time, Josephine enjoys going to the cinema and exploring London’s industrial history. She is also a trustee of the Queille Trust, which organises a biennial arts festival in the south of France and aims to support the careers of emerging performers. She lives in south east London.