on the radar

Upcoming Houston conference to address biology, technology and climate change

The De Lange Conference is taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

Every other year, Rice University hosts a conference that addresses "issues of great concern to society," and this year will look at the intersection of technology, biology, and climate change.

The De Lange Conference, taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, is centered around the theme “Brave New Worlds: Who Decides? Research, Risk and Responsibility” this year. Chaired by Luis Campos, Baker College Chair for the History of Science, Technology and Innovation, the conference is an initiative of Rice’s faculty-led consortium Scientia Institute.

“We wanted to have a broad topic that would connect a lot of different disciplines and parts of campus,” Campos says in a news release. “Synthetic biology, the uses of data, climate change—whatever our field, job or profession, we have all heard of these things, and we all want to know more about them. So we’re bringing in scholars, scientists and artists to think about how these frontiers of scientific innovation and research relate to larger social contexts.

“Everybody is concerned with the future of their health, the future of their society, the future of the climate that they live in and the future of how their data is being used. This is a conference that weaves all those realms together with forms of artistic intervention and creative practice.”

Rice’s De Lange Conference explores future of synthetic biology, data technology and climate changewww.youtube.com

Attendees of the event can anticipate two days of discussions led by thought leaders, artistic interventions, screenings, and more from a roster of scientists, researchers, scholars, and artists. The full schedule is listed online.

The event is free to attend, but registration is required.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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