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Standing up for Science workshop in June

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Calling all early career researchers- Sense about Science will be running a Standing up for Science media workshop this June.

The workshop will take place on Friday 30 June at the University of Warwick. This free to attend event is a great opportunity for early career researchers and scientists to learn how to make their voices heard in public debates about science.

Attendees will hear from scientists who have engaged with the media, learn from these distinguished scientists about how the media works, how to comment and what journalists expect from scientists. This is a free event and is open to all early career researchers and scientists- PhD students, post-docs or equivalent- in all sciences, engineering and medicine.

The deadline for applications is 14 June. You can find out more information here.

The previous workshop was held in Manchester in April. You can find out what attendees Jade and James thought of the workshop and view photos here.

If  you have any questions please email Joanne from Sense about Science.

Scientist James Lovelock visits BU’s Faculty of Science & Technology

Bournemouth University was privileged to host a Q & A session with James Lovelock, who spoke to a packed lecture theatre where he delighted an audience of students, academics, university staff and local environmental practioners with insights into his life and career as a scientist.

James Lovelock CH CBE FRS is an inventor, an environmentalist, futurist and above all, one of the most influential scientists of our time. James has worked for the Medical Research Council, NASA, Harvard and Yale Universities, but is best known as an independent scientist. James’ many achievements have had a profound effect on our understanding of environment. He developed the electron capture device, which has transformed trace analysis and resulted in being able to demonstrate that CFCs were not being broken down in the environment. This led to the discovery that these chemicals were depleting the ozone layer. However, James is best known for his Gaia theory, which states that the Earth is a self-regulating living-being. This theory has and a profound effect on how we view our plant and has influenced environmental policy at an international level for decades.

Questions were plentiful and James was able to give is views and share anecdotes on a variety of subjects, ranging from where he gained inspiration for the Gaia theory to the future of nuclear energy, the possibilities of cryogenics to life on other planets. The whole audience was captivated by this exceptionally inspiring scientist and after the session James kindly spent time talking to students and signing books.

Many thanks to James for taking the time to visit us! Thanks also to Dr Iain Green and Dr David Foulger for organising such a rare treat and also to those who participated in the session making it a truly memorable occasion.

Ayesha Pyke

After the Olympics: stories from Rio’s sex workers

Amanda De Lisio, Bournemouth University and Michael Silk, Bournemouth University, write for the Conversation.

The vibrant city of Rio de Janiero has played host to some of the world’s best parties – from Carnival, to the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Authorities have spent billions to ready the city, and each time tourists flocked in, local businesses braced for a bumper season. But these high expectations weren’t limited to legal businesses: those working within Rio’s semi-legal, underground economies thought they would benefit too. The Conversation

Nowhere is this clearer than in Centro, the downtown area of Rio, tucked in the shadow of the newly-constructed Olympic Boulevard. Once home to the historic red light district, Centro has since become the beating heart of big business, with towering office blocks bearing the names of major corporations such as Petrobras, BG, Total, Chevron, Electrobras, BNDES and Vale.

And yet, a closer look at the shop fronts suggests the presence of another kind of commerce. Here, the “termas” – saunas, complete with bar and discotheque – can be spotted near the brothels and love hotels, alongside the “privés” – massage parlours operating in rented, high-rise apartment space – that comprise the infamous commercial sex industry of Brazil. In reality, the seemingly demure finance district of the nation’s former capital has never ceased to be a hub for commercial sex.

A hidden venture.
Amanda De Lisio, Bournemouth University, Author provided

The Rose Without Thorn is nestled in a quiet lane, not far from the Saara – a street market that is usually crammed with pedestrians. It was built in 2010, shortly after Rio won the bid for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in 2007, and the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics in 2009. As an illegal brothel operating within the financial district, it survived, even thrived, alongside the decade-long Olympic facelift. It was here that we – an international research collective, partnered with Observatório da Prostituição (Prostitution Policy Watch) – came to understand the impact of event-led urban reform on Rio’s sex workers.

Rose Without Thorn

From the outside, the house has a nondescript colonial façade. But the music, which ricochets down the narrow staircase entrance and into the street, hints at something more. Inside, working-class men perch on stools, often alone with chopp (Brazilian draft beer) in hand, while women move throughout the house in barely-there lingerie and high-heeled shoes.

One of these women is Thayna (this is her “nome da batalha”, her “battle” or work name), who has worked in the house since the age of 21. Now 24, her work is the sole source of income for her and her two children. As Pedro the manager says: “She is the breadwinner for her family, if she does not work, they do not eat”.

Behind closed doors.
Amanda De Lisio, Bournemouth University

In Brazil, sex work has forever existed as a semi-legal, entrepreneurial pursuit for those in search of financial stability and social security. The profession is officially recognised by the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and Employment’s classification of occupations, which can guarantee certain social securities to those registered as a “profissionais do sexo” (sex professionals). Although the adult, consensual exchange of sex for money has never been criminalised, “houses of prostitution” are still considered illegal.

As such, places such as Rose Without Thorn operate at the discretion of law enforcement and a local elite. As Rafael, a civil servant, explained: “Prostitution in Rio de Janeiro has never occurred without the involvement of police.”

Inside the cubicle-sized office space on the third floor of the brothel, the bass of the funk music is muffled by chatter. Each “programa” (a private session) is recorded in a notebook (35 a page) by a madam perched at a desk, near the top stair. On the Thursday before carnival, she had filled a page and a half by two o’clock in the afternoon, and was hopeful for at least five more.

Post-Olympic crisis

At the time, Brazil was named as the first Latin American host of an internationally-recognised sporting mega-event, and it was on the brink of economic boom. The Lula oil field (formerly, Tupi old field) was found in 2006, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, and with it came the promise of economic prosperity. But the nation continued to rely upon the export of raw material commodities – a temporary solution, much like the sporting mega-event – instead of establishing a more sustainable, internal economy.

The ongoing Petrobras corruption scandal deflated political-economic optimism for the future, and by 2016, the state government of Rio de Janeiro was paralysed with possibly its worst recession in history. Amid halted salaries, political tumult and severe economic debt, the promise of the boom has since been long lost.

Military police on patrol outside an Olympic venue in Copacabana, near a major prostitution zone.
Amanda De Lisio, Bournemouth University

But people still need to earn to survive, and for some, sex work serves as a viable option for survival. And so, the economies and social networks created around commercial sex have so far survived the fall. As Simone, 54, widower, mother of five, and madam of the house expressed: “We are family too. We live together everyday. I live more with them than my own children.” She is proud yet honest about business, during this tense time:

Rose Without Thorn is famous. It is not very fancy but it is certainly well known. It is the heart of downtown! But after the [Olympic] Games, even we started to feel the crisis. No one has the money to come like before.

Before the bust, the Olympic Games was a highly anticipated business opportunity in Brazil – a time for entrepreneurial creativity and innovation. Yet many of the sex workers who anxiously awaited the boon from foreign clientele found that it did not materialise. Only a few benefited financially from the event, while well-intentioned campaigns urged authorities to crack down on “sex tourism”. The Rose Without Thorn’s manager Pedro said:

Listen, it is an illusion that FIFA or the Olympics are good for business. This is a myth. Some of the biggest [sex-related] businesses in Ipanema went bankrupt during the games. And now it is worse. The economy is a mess, so too is the government. And it all started around the games. The Olympics did not improve the situation. It only furthered the fall.

Don’t believe the hype.
Amanda De Lisio, Bournemouth University

Instead, what surfaced was a heightened security presence in the street, provided in part by Centro Presente – a quasi-public police force, partially funded by the local commercial and business association. Thayna explained:

Look, it was good. The city was beautiful. The party was fun. I really liked that Centro Presente provided more security in the street. But business here was not great. I expected more. I prepared for more. A lot of money was spent in a city where too many people starve. I work today to give my children a better future, not to leave my daughter in public school. Healthcare is the same. I pay for education and health insurance otherwise my daughter would be without them. To spend our money on tourist fun is hypocrisy.

During the mid-afternoon lull, Thayna ate her lunch on a twin bed. As she kicked through white rice in the foil container in search of another cut of red meat, she was bored with Olympic talk, and excited about the post-carnival time. It was the first week of the unofficial Brazilian new year, and she wanted to see her brothel with a queue. She was confident that, amid Olympic dust and carnival debris, the political-economic crisis that devalued urban land and stunted police salaries will only further cement the presence of sex workers within the city’s financial core.

Names and places have been changed to protect anonymity. The authors would like to especially acknowledge the insightful contributions of Thaddeus Blanchette (Professor, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro/Observatório da Prostituição), Thayane Brêtas (Research Affiliate, Observatório da Prostituição), and João Gabriel R. Sodré (Civil Servant, Defensoria Pública do Estado do Rio de Janeiro).

Amanda De Lisio, Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, Bournemouth University and Michael Silk, Professor of Sport and Social Sciences, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Harvesting big data could bring about the next transport revolution, right now

Marcin Budka, Bournemouth University and Manuel Martin Salvador, Bournemouth University, write for The Conversation

The future of transport appears full of fun and flashy possibilities. From super-fast hyperloop transport systems, to self-driving cars and hovering taxis, new technology promises to move us further and faster than ever before. Yet for cities facing everyday problems such as congestion, air pollution and under capacity, the most effective solution could be the humble bus – coupled with the power of data. The Conversation

Of course, in many cities, technology has already begun replacing printed timetables with live departure boards, using real-time data about buses’ locations sourced from GPS monitoring. But this is just the beginning. There’s one source of data which could offer a live overview of a city’s entire transport network without a single penny of investment. And you’ve probably got it on you right now.

Modern mobile phones contain an array of sensors, including GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, digital compass and more, which are capable of producing a constant stream of data. Individual units of movement, tracked by a phone’s GPS and processed on mass, can give detailed information on journey times, speed and destinations.

Fair trade

Of course, using this data without compromising users’ privacy is a challenge. When dealing with location information, anonymisation can only take you so far. But there is a neat solution. In exchange for their data, passengers could receive a wealth of benefits, including more flexible routes and timetables, predictive of need at any given hour. The level of service could be directly linked to the amount of data a passenger chooses to share.

By combining these data with efficient ticketing across a range of transport modes, including bus, tram, train, taxi and others, it would be possible to create a flexible and responsive system, which can tailor transport solutions to every person’s needs.

Individuals would be able to dial in their destination as they leave home, to be guided by the fastest, cheapest, healthiest or most environmentally friendly route to their destination on a given day, by whatever means, at a standard unit of price per distance. The routes would be responsive to changing weather and road closures, with flexible timetables and services, to cater for a wet Tuesday when everyone wants to take the bus rather than walk or cycle. Overcrowding could be reduced by balancing the load of commuters across different modes of transport.

Breath in.
Emily Lindsay Brown, Author provided

The best thing is, the system would constantly be learning and improving. It is relatively straightforward to automatically schedule extra services in real time if, say, there’s an unusually large number of people waiting at a particular stop. But, with sophisticated machine learning, which processes large amounts of historical data to detect patterns, slumps and hikes in demand could be preempted. Allowing a transport network to self-learn using data from its consumers can help it to evolve a better service, while maintaining the modest margins of the provider.

The transport system can also be used as a tool to promote social good. For one thing, price can be used as a powerful influence for positive behavioural change: discounts could be offered for getting off a stop earlier and walking the remaining distance. The bus or tram itself can also be enhanced by making it a place for culture, education and information. Advertising could be complemented or even replaced by community television, public art and educational information, which offer a more positive experience for the captive audience.

Here today?

All of this potential can be unlocked today: not in the future, but in the here and now. The main challenges are overcoming tradition, using a single ticket across various transport modes and apportioning revenue between a complex tapestry of transport providers within the domain of a single transport authority.

Alongside Bournemouth University, a small digital technology company, We Are Base, is attempting to do exactly that. Together, we are finding ways to leverage data to make public transport a better option than private vehicles in terms of punctuality, flexibility and comfort. We are also collecting and analysing real-time data to demonstrate how a transport network could use machine learning to optimise its customer transport efficiency.

The technology is the relatively easy part; negotiating local politics often proves more difficult. For instance, finding a fair way of distributing ticket revenues among operators involved in a journey which uses more than one mode of transport, potentially across a number of zones and boroughs. Gaining consumer trust is also essential. For such systems to work, the consumer must choose to follow journey suggestions, even though they might not seem to be optimal at the time. This is particularly difficult; after all, how many of us can say that we trust our local bus companies when some still struggle to run the services to a static timetable?

The opportunity for a transport revolution is here – but for it to work it must be aspired to. This starts with consumers and local authorities understanding and seeing the benefits of a self-learning, adaptable and truly flexible local transport system. And given that it’s within reach, they shouldn’t put up with anything less. So, next time someone proposes a flashy new solution to transport woes, just remember that true innovation lies in the hands of the commuters themselves – locked inside their mobile phones.

Marcin Budka, Principal Academic in Data Science, Bournemouth University and Manuel Martin Salvador, PhD Candidate, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Alternative Career Pathways after your PhD – 8 June

Live online event on the 8th June 2017

The academic jobs market is becoming more challenging and competitive post-PhD. With the number of PhD holders increasing, there is enormous pressure on the academic job market and declining academic job prospects for doctoral graduates.

What can I do after my PhD? It is a difficult decision for any PhD student on whether to pursue a career in academia, or consider alternative careers. In our dedicated live Q&A we are bringing forth a panel of experts who have moved outside of academia, to share their top tips and advice on alternate career pathways following PhD studies.

To help all those who are considering options after doctoral studies, is holding a FREE 60-minute live video event via a live YouTube Q&A called ‘Alternative Career Pathways After Your PhD’. Find out more and register today.

More details are at:

Understanding panic attacks

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (#MHAW17), which is an opportunity both to increase our knowledge about mental health and learn about ways to improve our well being.  Professor Roger Baker, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences has carried out extensive research into emotional processing, which includes work to help people overcome trauma and understand panic attacks.  Around 10% of people will experience a panic attack in their lives and understanding what’s happening can help in coping with and overcoming them.  Below he explains what happens during a panic attack and why it’s not a mental illness.

For more information, see Professor Baker’s website.