GSS Day 1

The 2016 Global Scholars Symposium kicked off on the morning of Friday, 13 May. After registration, we all sat down to listen to the Symposium start. The afternoon began with an opening discussion on the theme from GSS Executive member, Rebecca Peters. Rebecca discussed the origins on the 2016 Symposium theme Spaces in Between. 


She then introduced the Warden of Rhodes House, Mr. Charles Conn. Mr. Conn told delegates that almost ‘everything in today’s world will be found in intersections, not the disciplines.’ He emphasized the space between finding technical solutions to problems and implementing them, the space between the humanities and the sciences, and in reference to his time as an environmental advocate, the space between the human and non-human.

Executive member Michael Mackley then gave delegates an overview of how sessions would run and the rules of Rhodes House in the fun format of #DelegateTips.

Michael then introduced the first panel of the day, featuring Baroness Helena Kennedy and Sir John Bell in a session titled ‘From the clinic to the courtroom: the future of genomic medicine.’ Sir Bell explained the reasoning behind the UK’s current effort to sequence not one, not two, but 100,000 genomes over four years. Baroness Kennedy told us delightful stories of papparazi snooping in celebrities’ rubbish to find used dental floss for paternity testing, as well as other ethical pitfalls of sophisticated genetic technologies. 

Executive member Anne State introduced Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, Ngaire Woods. Dean Woods talk, ‘The revolt against globalisation,’ aimed to find the space between concerns over inequality and globalization. Her answer: people feel like economic system’s are rigged. To fix this, Dean Woods emphasized the need for transparency in global trade. She called for politicians to take responsibility for economic problems, instead of sending central banks to ‘the frontline’ with risky monetary policy.

Next, Dean Woods introduced our panel speakers, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Israel Dr Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg and Cambridge Professor Bill Janeway around the topic the “Economics of innovation”. Dr. Baudot-Trajtenberg explained the recipe and ingredients of Israel’s prolific start-up culture: investment in higher education, state support of venture capital, and the bitter pill, mandatory military service. Professor Janeway warned delegates about the limits of prospective cost-benefit analysis for infrastructure: the costs are always easier to calculate than the benefits. 

The first breakout session featured nine simultaneous hour long facilitated sessions. Here are a few highlights.


Bill Janeway

Professor Janeway on innovation, economics, and visionary politics.





Rebecca Farnum

Rebecca Farnum’s group talked about scholar activism.



Felipe Hernandez discussed his non-profit, peace education program.


alex baron


We then returned for our afternoon panel, introduced by Executive member Amba Kak. This panel titled “Can ‘effective altruism’ change the world?” featured Max Harris, Salil Tripathi and Sam Deere. The conversation generated heated discussion, but everything cooled off following in the Rhodes garden to enjoy the sunshine and drinks.


eff altruism

Effective Altruism Panel: Max Harris, Salil Tripathi, and Sam Deere.


cooling off

Cooling off after a heated discussion


Our dinner in the marquee further fostered the ongoing conversation. Following dinner, delegates enjoyed our evening entertainment. First, the Oxford Imps, an improvised comedy group, gave us some laughs with their informal antics. Next, EquinOx showcased their dance talent. Lastly, the men’s acapella group the Oxford Commas At the end of the night as delegates left Rhodes House, some broke off for the Jericho Tavern and others to G&Ds for ice cream. Check back soon for a review of day 2 for our 2016 GSS Delegates!

oxf commas equinox