Gaia space observatory reveals new maps of the Milky Way

The third data release from the Gaia space observatory has revealed new details on nearly two billion stars in our galaxy. 

Gaia is an international mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) to create a 3D map of the Milky Way. Its new findings offer the largest-ever catalogue of data for objects in and beyond our galaxy.

The data provides a multidimensional map of stars, moons, asteroids, quasars and galaxies, and UK-built technologies such as components of its 1-billion-pixel camera are crucial to Gaia instruments.

Key to Gaia’s success are its scientific instruments developed by experts across the UK, supported by investment from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and UK Space Agency. 

 Gaia’s data release three has recorded details including: chemical compositions; stellar temperatures; colours; masses; ages; and the speed at which stars move towards or away from us (radial velocity).

The new data release also includes Gaia’s first major release of spectroscopy data, that measures the absorption and splitting of starlight.


First UKRI review

ARIA appointments The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published an independent review of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), led by Sir David Grant. Launched in April 2018, UKRI is the Government’s primary funder of research and innovation. It includes the seven disciplinary Research Councils; Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England; and Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. 

This is the first review of UKRI since its creation, and follows the publication of UKRI’s first five-year strategy. Ministers and the UKRI leadership have expressed their support for the review’s 18 recommendations, which include investment in harmonising IT systems, clarifying roles and responsibilities within UKRI and with BEIS, as well as a further focus on demonstrating outcomes from their funding.


ARIA appointments

The Government has appointed Ilan Gur as Chief Executive of the UK’s Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA). His role will be to set the agency’s agenda, direct its initial funding of high-risk programmes, build the team of Programme Managers and engage the domestic and international R&D sector. 

It has also announced the appointment of talent investor and entrepreneur Matt Clifford as ARIA’s Chairman. He will support the work of the CEO, acting as the steward for ARIA’s effective governance.

Programme aims to build public trust in AI

A new research programme has been announced that will see researchers collaborate with industry and policymakers to tackle some of the of the biggest ethical questions posed by artificial intelligence (AI).

The £8.5 million programme aims to build public trust and ensure the UK remains at the global forefront of the research, development and deployment of AI technology. The Enabling a Responsible AI Ecosystem programme is led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UKRI, and will be delivered in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute. The programme will move beyond AI ethics frameworks, creating recommendations and using case studies that can be put into practice for a range of AI applications, including:

  • biometrics and facial recognition;
  • big data analytics in the financial sector;
  • diagnostics in healthcare.

Harnessing the expertise of researchers and innovators from a range of disciplines, from the humanities to computer science, the programme will involve diverse perspectives to tackle these complex ethical challenges.

How can Government regulate innovation?

The Regulatory Horizons Council(RHC) has set out how the gap can be closed between existing principles for innovation-friendly regulation, and how they are applied in practice. 

The RHC is an independent expert committee set up to identify the implications of technological innovation and advise on appropriate reforms to its regulation.

RHC chair Cathryn Ross said: “We have found that while regulation can be a barrier to innovation, when it is done right it can be a key enabler. Our research uncovered a number of gaps between current regulatory practice and what needs to happen to enable the rapid and safe adoption of technological innovation.”

The report was commissioned by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in line with the UK’s Innovation Strategy. The Council outlines six focal points in its report:

  • regulation should adopt a proportionate approach to benefits and risks;
  • regulation and innovation should
  • embrace ethics and public engagement;
  • regulation should take account of commercial considerations and the need to attract investment;
  • regulatory design and implementation should consider alternative forms of regulation;
  • regulation must get the timing right;
  • regulators should foster a culture of
  • openness and a growth mindset.

The report highlights that innovation does not occur in isolation, and that a collaborative effort from Government, regulators and innovators is the best way to foster an environment that supports and promotes innovation.