Big Questions


Through iTunes U and (launched in October 2008) the University provides over 5,500 hours of video and audio content – from First World War poetry to quantum mechanics, philosophy to business and economics. The podcasts can be downloaded free of charge to computers and a range of mobile devices.

The new audio podcast series, ‘Big Questions – with Oxford Sparks’, takes a broad theme and then enlists leading Oxford University scientists to explore related big questions in their areas of science. The series is a new initiative from the Oxford Sparks online public science portal and is also available to non-iTunes users here.

The first episode, which launches on 13 October 2014, is on the theme of ‘Origins’ and each part tackles a different area of research:

Part one: Origins of the Universe 
Professor Jo Dunkley of Oxford University’s Department of Physics explains how we can look back in time at the light from the early Universe. This ultra-cold light can be used to create a picture from soon after the Big Bang. With no stars or galaxies, the image formed shows a universe that was just starting to grow the features we see today.

Part two: Origins of Earth and the Solar System
Professor Alex Halliday of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences explains how planets form from nothing but an area of space full of dust. Tiny differences between the elements that make up meteorites can give you an idea of how old they are and which part of the solar system they came from.

Part three: Origins of Human Life
Drs Suzannah Williams and Dagan Wells of Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology explore the secrets and processes behind human fertilisation. Sperm and eggs must face huge challenges before they even meet. After fertilisation, they go on to form a small ball of cells with huge potential.

Professor Jo Dunkley of Oxford University’s Department of Physics said: ‘To me one of the biggest questions we can ask is how the Universe began. We can actually come close to an answer by looking at the earliest picture we have of the cosmos, a snapshot from almost 14 billion years ago, taken most recently by the Planck satellite.

‘In this new podcast I had fun explaining how this works and why it is so interesting, and I hope people will share my excitement that we are able to work out what happened in the first trillionth of a second of the Universe’s life.’

Peter Robinson, manager of Oxford University on iTunes U, said: ‘Oxford on iTunes U is a unique repository of free knowledge, across all subjects we have over 6,000 talks with something for everyone.

‘The Big Questions series is presented in a friendly, engaging way and I’d recommend them for any student at school or University. They’re a perfect starting point for the hundreds of other great science podcasts we make available for free on the University’s Oxford on iTunes U channel. If you like the Big Questions format you’ll probably also love our series on ‘Chemistry for the Future’ or ‘Flash Talk Physics’.’

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Oxford On Film: From Attic To Archive series launched

This summer saw the launch of ‘Dreaming Spools’, a media project run by our team to unearth and exhibit film footage of the University and the surrounding city through time.

The project was borne out of the pre-existing University film archive, which had already catalogued a number of video clips and short films. However, the archive’s collection of historical films was limited, and the Educational Media Services team wanted to try and expand these video and film records in order to rediscover moments in the University’s past and to revisit Oxford’s film history.

We worked with our alumni office, the local radio and newspapers to provoke public interest in our research and this has led to a number of ex-students and local amateur film-makers getting in contact with their videos and 8mm or 16mm films.

We have documented the project’s progress on our blog- to allow the public to keep up-to-date with our research and findings and also so that others might learn ideas on how to track down archive film from within the local community and from national archives.

We are now proud to announce the product of our summer’s work: ‘Oxford On Film: From Attic To Archive’, a series of themed videos for the Oxford University Podcasting channel (, which is free for public viewing.

The Oxford on Film series can be seen on the web here:

‘Oxford on Film’ is also available in Oxford on iTunesU, were you can press the ‘View in iTunes’ subscribe button and download the whole series to your iTunes software. Visit the link here:

The series currently contains the following episodes:

Episode 1- Attic to Archive: Welcome to the Dreaming Spools Project
In this episode we take you on a trip through time as we introduce a selection of the archive footage that the Dreaming Spools project has discovered.

Episode 2 – Oxford: Then and Now
We compare and contrast locations in and around the city from the 1940s, and the present day. How have the places and people changed? How present is the Second World War in 1940s Oxford? Has the modern world penetrated the historic backdrop of the Dreaming Spires?

Episode 3 – A Day on the River: The Oxford Steamers
Salter’s Steamers have operated since 1858, and we revisit them in the 1940s as an American U.S.A.F Unit make use of a break from their war service to enjoy a leisurely day on the river. Includes very rare colour 16mm film taken on a river trip from Oxford to Wallingford during autumn 1944.

Episode 4 – Oxford At War: Footage from Mount Farm Airbase
World War Two arrives in Oxford in this episode, in which William Lorton – producer and director of the short documentary, ‘Spitfire 944’ – talks about the 16mm footage that his great-uncle, James R. Savage, filmed during his time as a Flight Surgeon for the 14th Photo Reconnaissance Unit at Mount Farm Airbase in Oxfordshire. This film includes never before seen colour and black and white 16mm film of Oxford during the war.

More films will be upload to the ‘Oxford on Film’ series in the next few weeks.

Oxford on Film Podcast Series

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Oxford on iTunesU celebrates its 6th birthday – 6,000 talks for free.

Oxford on iTunesU celebrates its 6th birthday this month. It is a unique repository of free knowledge, with over 6,000 talks and lectures available now for free.

A new series ‘Big Questions in Science’ is typical of what we release, the latest research on globally important issues by world-class researchers. We always recommend subscribing to a series as more talks will be added in future and you’ll see related topics to explore further at your own pace. The Big Questions series is presented in a friendly, engaging way, they’re a perfect starting point for the hundreds of other great science podcasts we make available for free. If you like the Big Questions short and snappy format you’ll probably love our series on ‘Chemistry for the Future’ or ‘Flash Talk Physics’. The benefit of using iTunes is that the content can be synced to your music player and mobile device. But if you don’t want to use iTunes then here is a parallel web site,, for those who want to play the material through a web browser.

Other interesting content released over the last month includes series on Condensed Matter, Practical Ethics, World War Two poetry, Egyptian collections and a set of talks from the recent Alumni Weekend.

The quickest way to find out which series have new content released is by checking the series page, which is sorted on date order –

Oxford on iTunesU –
Podcasting web site –

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Dreaming Spools project starts

The Dreaming Spools project is a self-contained media management project looking at archive footage of Oxford in the past, finding the stories of people and place which can be used for the future to engage the public and promote the university to new audiences. The project will be working with archive film from Oxford’s own collections and liaising with other agencies such as museums and foundations who hold archive materials about the University’s people and places.

The film still below is taken from an 8mm colour film taken in the 1950’s of President Harry Truman’s visit to Oxford to get an honary degree in civil law.
Former President Harry Truman at Oxford, captured on colour 8mm film

The project is internal to the Educational Media Services team, part of IT Services and our aim is discover, catalogue and present film online for re-use and to share the culture of Oxford.

Follow the project through the blog –

and if you have any news about old films shot in Oxford then contact the project via

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Broadcasting your event to the world

Are you thinking of organising an event that might be of interest to the wider world? Are you running a series high-profile talks linked to a research project? Is there a VIP giving a talk soon in your department that your alumni might like to see ?

Well if so, why not consider broadcasting your event live to a global audience?

The webcast streaming service offered by Educational Media Services (EMS) is a solution that provides a live video stream of your event, lecture or conference on the internet. The webcast is available to anyone who has the URL. It’s an easy way to reach a large international audience. The media team will handle all technical aspects so the speaker and organisers can concentrate on the content. There is no need for the audience to register or pay to view, you just need to advertise the event through your normal communication channels such as maillists, twitter and facebook . It’s perfect for those occasions where you know more people would like to attend an event than can fit in the lecture theatre. The system allows you to see how many viewers are logged in watching the events and there is a twitter feed channel setup so that you can receive instant feedback.

How the streaming system works

• A small team of staff from EMS will come to the event with at least two cameras. These cameras will be set up in as unobtrusive positions as possible and will avoid capturing faces of members of the audience.
• A vision mixer will live mix the video signals and send the signal out to the main computer for streaming.
• The stream can be watched on any computer within the University or on the wider internet, the webstream works on ipads and android phones too
• Wireless mics will be provided for the speakers to wear whilst they are talking to capture the best quality of audio possible. A roving mic will also be supplied.

If you’re interested in finding out more then contact the service at

Here are two pictures from recent events we’ve webcast. Stephen Fry at St Catherine’s college in February and the Physics Flash Talks evening.

Live events webcasted at Oxford University

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TESconnect – A new channel for reaching schools

Looking for inspirational material for teaching school age kids? Academic IT services is offering a set of free teaching materials from Oxford University for school teachers via a portal hosted on the Times Educational Supplement website (also known as TESconnect).

Oxford University in TESconnect

Oxford University in TESconnect

The Oxford area of the TESconnect portal now contains more than 200 Oxford University resources for Key Stages 2-5 from subjects including English, Science, Art and Design, History and Geography. The materials have been carefully selected by a former secondary school teacher and Oxford graduate, who has identified each of the resources as suitable for classroom use. New cataloguing has been done to create descriptions to effectively frame the items for teachers. The resources were mainly selected from existing outreach media published already on web sites and Oxford on iTunesU. Highlights include many of the short TED style talks from Physics researchers, the Learn to Draw series from the Ruskin Art project and many talks relating to World War One.

Many of the resources could be used as starter activities in the classroom to stimulate discussion or introduce a new unit. Alternatively, they could be set as a homework task to stretch gifted and talented students and in some cases, give them a taster of higher education study.

A recent talk about the work attracted an audience of outreach officers and academics from across the university; fruitful discussion ensued over how the work might develop further.
To see the types of materials currently shared in the portal, please see Oxford’s TESconnect profile (

If you have materials created for outreach for schools or short talks aimed at the general public and may be interested in this new publishing opportunity then please contact podcasts @

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Supporting Mental Health Awareness Week …

with our podcasts on The New Psychology of Depression and on iTunesU

We live in a world filled with material wealth, live longer and healthier lives, and yet anxiety, stress, unhappiness, and depression have never been more common. What are the driving forces behind these interlinked global epidemics? In this series, Professor Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman discuss the recent scientific advances that have radically altered our understanding of depression and related disorders. They discuss the latest treatments and therapies that are offering hope to those suffering from depression including Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 13-19 May, is physical activity and exercise, highlighting the impact they have on mental health and wellbeing.

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Find out more about Meteorites!

Oxford scientist Ken Amor’s recent StarGazing talk is on iTunesU at and on our website here –

Stargazing podcast series from Oxford Physics

If you were intrigued by the recent massive Meteorite crash then we have a brilliant overview of the science behind it by Oxford researcher Kenor Amor. He recorded a StarGazing talk in January 2013 entitled “The science of large meteorite impacts on Earth”.

If you want to find out more about our night sky, from new planets to far-off galaxies and the vastness of the Universe then we recommend the StarGazing podcast series.  A great series of short talks  for the general public from leading astronomy researchers at the Oxford University Physics department. The series includes talks on finding new planets, robots in space, cosmology and why we can describe a galaxy as a bowl of fruit. The series is available on the web and via Oxford on iTunesU.

Oxford on iTunesU –

Web –

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Can the secrets of love be revealed by Oxford researchers?

Short talks on Love

Romantic ideals, sexual attraction, platonic love, marriage – all talks from Oxford researchers relevant for Valentine’s day?

In this series of short talks, Oxford academics tackle the great questions on ‘Love – and other things’.

• How do we find love online? – Dr. Bernie Hogan
• If marriage is a trade, then what price romance?’ – Dr. Sos Eltis
• Who did Plato (not) love?’ – Dr. Cressida Ryan
• How did Jonathan Swift use an elaborate combination of language and code to tease his reader? – Dr. Abigail Williams

Enjoy the Love and other things trailer!

and why not subscribe in advance to the free podcast feed and listen to more from the series Oxford Abridged, including:

• What role do pheromones play in sexual attraction? – Dr. Tristram Wyatt
• Darwin and Friends – how many friends can you really have? – Prof. Robin Dunbar

Subscribe to the series in advance on Oxford on iTunesU: or via the web site


And don’t forget you can always search for Love on our Podcasts site here:

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Engage Talks: Top Ten Tips on Social Media

By Joanna Wild

Last term Academic IT Services and the Bodleian libraries ran a series of events under the name Engage: Social Media Michaelmas (here on Facebook). The 9-week programme included workshops, courses and talks by invited speakers from both Oxford and other UK Universities.

The speakers shared their social media strategies and told their own stories of how they had used digital technologies to communicate their subjects to a wider public (Marcus du Sautoy and Peter Gill), increase the outreach and citation of research outputs (Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Leach), attract project funding (Dave White), and help career development (Lucy Hawkins).Engage Podcast Series

The series of talks has been published on our Podcasts website. In this blog post we have pulled together our speakers’ top ten tips for using social media in academic practice.

1. Define what you want to achieve in using social media and decide whom you want to reach. This will help you manage your online presence and think about your writing style. Writing for a specialist academic audience will be different from writing for a non-academic audience (Peter Gill).  When setting up your Twitter account, think of three key messages you want to get across in your profile (Lucy Hawkins).

2. Both blog and tweet. Blog to promote work around your publications. Describe what your article is about and link to an Open Access version of your paper.

Then tweet to publicize your blog posts (Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Leach).

3. To attract readers to a new blog post, tweet between 10 and 5 on Mondays to Fridays: this is when people are most active on Twitter.

4. Consider blogging about your work in progress or rejected papers that you would like to publish.  This will enable you to attract comments from the scholarly community. “You can have a much more interactive process where publication is not an end point but a starting point for generation of new research and information” (Elizabeth Leach).

5. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas even if they are not yet fully formed. “It all comes back to the idea of being part of a flow of discourse rather than making sure you’re right before you show anybody your stuff. That’s a bit of a different approach culturally than what we’re used to perhaps.” (Dave White)

6. Struggling to find the time? Schedule blogging into your working week. It’s enough to blog once or twice per month. Finding time for tweeting is easy, especially if you have a smart phone: you can tweet “when you wait for things to happen, like queuing in Sainsbury’s” (Elizabeth Leach).

7. Check your blog and tweets regularly to see if people have responded. “With social media and institutional Open Access repositories you do have to do, I call it, gardening – looking after the things that you’ve planted” (Melissa Terras).

8. Remember that communication is a two-way process. Social media are a great tool for promoting your work but they work best when you engage with other people: conversation is key. Blog, but read and comment on other blogs too (Lucy Hawkins). Tweet about your work but also follow other people, reply to their tweets and pass on (retweet) interesting tweets to your own followers. “If you only go online to tell people about you, you, you then very soon people are going to turn off: it’s about engaging, chatting with people, helping out” (Melissa Terras).

9. Blogging and tweeting are an easy way to network, but finding your own way in using them takes time. “It’s experiential. You can’t really get sense of what social media is and how it works unless you actually get stuck in and start using it” (Dave White). Before jumping in, do some ‘social listening’: see what others are saying and how they use social media. You can lurk as long as you want to before you decide to write your first tweet.

10. Consider writing for blogs run by others (e.g. the impact of Social Sciences blog run by LSE), it will help you attract new readers to your own blog (Nando Sigona).

The ‘Engage: Social Media’ recordings are now available via iTunes or the podcasting website :

Via  Oxford on iTunes

Via the Podcast web site
        Engage Series:

or Via a web RSS reader

·         2 video talks:

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