Strategic Partnership

Call 2020

Selected projects

Children’s participation in shaping the physical and global environment

Social Sciences

This project aims to investigate the embodied potential of children's participation in shaping their local and global
environment, also concerning climate changes, and to get a better understanding of its relation to children's wellbeing.
The rationale is based on the children's right for participation in all matters affecting their lives. The
opportunity to participate relates and contributes to the children's well-being in person and as a group in the
present and in the future. However, children and youth are consistently excluded and unrepresented in decisionmaking
processes, mostly in the public arena. Studies show that the children's physical environment plays a
crucial role in their well-being, uniquely addressing their safety affected by the biological and physical threats. The
United Nations' Agenda 21 declared that "the specific interests of children need to be taken fully into account in
the participatory process on environment and development”. Programs for children's representation in the
authorities' planning process have succeeded in improving child-related indicators of health, education, protection,
etc., but their contribution is insufficient. Moreover, being at a critical developmental stage, children are more
vulnerable healthily, psychologically and socially, and face greater risks by climate changes. We argue that children
should be broadly involved in the subject, allowing their voices to be heard and realizing their potential when
dealing with it locally and globally. For that cause, we propose a program of intensive research seminars with the
goals of studying the field and formulating a broad international study project.

Prof. Daniel Stoecklin
University of Geneva
Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

From synapses to brain-wide activity: thalamocortical loops during learning


The brain is constantly learning, acquiring new knowledge extracted from experiences and senses, but little is known of how different brain areas containing billions of neurons and an even higher number of synapses interact during this process. An area central to learning is the cerebral cortex. It receives sensory information from the thalamus, which was long considered a passive relay station. However, recent evidence suggests that higher-order thalamic nuclei actively interact with multiple cortical areas at a time, thereby forming thalamocortical loops that are thought to be crucial for learning. Thus, it is essential to understand how information from individual thalamic nuclei is distributed over various cortical areas, and how this alters during learning. In the proposed collaboration, we will bridge the study of brain-wide mesoscale neuronal activity with microscale synaptic plasticity. At both HUJI and UNIGE, we will train mice on a sensory discrimination task and continuously image neuronal activity as they learn. At HUJI, we will apply a mesoscale approach, using wide-field imaging and fiber photometry to simultaneously image neuronal populations in both the higher-order thalamus and many cortical areas (Fig. 1 left). This will enable us to study the interactions between those regions and identify cortical areas of interest. At UNIGE, we will implement a microscale approach, zooming in on areas of interest and image axonal terminals originating from the thalamus to study synaptic plasticity (Fig. 1 right). This combined approach is made possible through this unique HUJI-UNIGE collaboration, and will help unraveling the mechanisms of learning.

Prof. Anthony Holtmaat
University of Geneva
Dr. Ariel Gilad
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Genetic basis for epilepsy and encephalopathy: GNAO1 and WWOX as exemplary underlying genes


With 65 million people worldwide suffering of epilepsy and the inadequacy of current pharmacological approaches,
the need to advance our understanding of the molecular aetiology of this disease is clear, as is the urgency to
develop novel medical treatments. Several hundred genes linked to epilepsy have been identified. The
collaborating labs at UNIGE and HUJI work on two of them: GNAO1 and WWOX. GNAO1 encodes G?o – the
major neuronal ?-subunit of heterotrimeric G proteins. De novo mutations in GNAO1 were described in a subset of
paediatric epileptic patients, suffering in addition to epilepsy from motor dysfunction and developmental delay.
Although occurring in amino acids conserved from humans to Drosophila, these mutations and their functional
consequences have not been analysed at the biochemical or neuronal levels, preventing development of
therapeutic interventions. WWOX encodes a protein containing two N-terminal WW domains and C-terminal
catalytic domain homologous to short chain dehydrogenase/reductase family proteins. High sequence conservation
of WWOX orthologues from insects to humans suggest its significant role in physiology and homeostasis. Indeed,
data obtained from human patients and animal models demonstrate that WWOX deregulation results in severe
pathological consequences, including neuropathy and epilepsy. The collaborating laboratories will establish models
of encephalopathy / epilepsy caused by mutations in GNAO1 and WWOX. The goal will be to identify molecular
mechanisms underlying the aetiology of disease in order to ultimately advance towards drug discovery programs. A
unifying theme behind our research on GNAO1 and WWOX in epilepsy is their potential to affect the Wnt signalling

Prof. Vladimir Katanaev
University of Geneva
Prof. Rami Aqeilan
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Role of the Standard on the Liability of the Driver- Vehicle Interfaces (DVI) Designers for the 3L (3nd level) AVs (autonomous vehicles)

Digital Studies

In the next few years, millions of autonomous vehicles (AV) will be on the road with various levels of vehicle autonomy. This project is concerned with AVs equipped with higher automation levels still requiring or allowing the human to override the vehicle (3rd and 4th level of automation (L3 and L4), but not 5th level) [1]. For the near future, this level of automation is predicted to be the most prevalent and therefore requires more focus.

The project aims to look into the liability regime linked to the Driver-Vehicle Interfaces (DVIs) design of (autonomous vehicle) AV and requirements for DVIs technical standards.  AVs are not simple vehicles. They run on the road thanks to advanced technologies that are embodied inside, as radar and LiDAR technologies, GPS, sensors, digital and video cameras. AVs also use Internet of things (IoT) devices which allow them the interconnection with other connected objects within the network. When an accident occurs, many actors of the AV building process might be held jointly liable. This project is concerned with one of these actors:  the DVIs design.

Human and vehicles communicate and exchange messages and information through DVIs.  The DVIs convert the machine inner thinking into an external representation for a human.

In L3 AVs the human and algorithmic driver essentially share the control over the vehicle – with authority over the vehicle changing over time and in different situations. In this model of operation it is of the upper most importance that  DVIs  use comprehensible language, signals or representations, in order for human drivers to understand them properly. This is especially the case in emergency situations, where the vehicle guides human driver to take a specific action. In this context, the design shall enable the human driver to understand quickly and unambiguously the notifications sent from the system, and if necessary adapt to the specific drivers' condition (whether psychological or medical) or state of mind.

Leveraging an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists and law experts this project investigates the following research questions:

How to design standardised DVIs adapting to the current situation of the driver?

  • What is the legal significance of different DVIs design principles?
  • Does the adaptability of the DVIs raise data protection issues?
  • What is the importance of the standards for building understandable and adaptable DVIs?
    Should there be liability for accidents involving DVI design?
  • Should there be liability for accidents caused by a confusing signal of the vehicle, that would have otherwise been prevented by the driver?
  • Should there be liability for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) systems provided to the driver without direct engagement with their manufacturer?
  • Is there a need for standardizing the signaling system of the AV given that we are experiencing an interim phase of this technology?
Giovanna Di Marzo Serugendo
University of Geneva
Prof. Yuval Shany
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Dr. Maria Assunta Cappelli
University of Geneva
Prof. Omri Rachum-Twaig
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Gadi Perl
Hebrew University of Jerusalem