Category / Research communication

Nature, nurture & beyond: what underpins exceptional sport performance?

What makes an exceptional athlete? Are people born with innate abilities which help them to succeed or is sporting talent nurtured through practice and training? As part of his ‘Great British Medallists’ research project conducted for UK Sport, Professor Tim Rees explored the importance of both nature and nurture in the development of elite athletes. The findings, which will be shared as part of his inaugural lecture, identified some of the differences between elite athletes (non-medal winning Olympians) and super elite athletes – those winning Olympic gold medals.

Expectations of top level athletes are ever increasing, so research that can help identify strategies to improve performance can make a significant difference to results. As part of his lecture, Professor Rees will dispel some of the commonly held misperceptions around sporting performance and will discuss what the future holds in terms of supporting top athletes.

Professor Tim Rees is a leading authority on human performance and talent development, his work published in the most prestigious and high-impact academic publications and featured in all major media including extensive interviews for BBC Radio 4 and US National Public Radio. His ‘Great British Medalists’ project was the most downloaded Sports Medicine article of 2016, earning a nomination for the Times Higher Education Project of the Year. His specialism has led to speaking engagements, collaborations, and consulting appointments worldwide.

Bournemouth University’s inaugural lecture series aims to celebrate new professorial appointments and the depth and breadth of research produced by the university. For further information on the inaugural lecture series, please visit www.bournemouth.ac.uk/public-lecture-series

About the event

To book your free ticket, click here.

Venue: AFC Bournemouth, Vitality Stadium, Dean Court, Kings Park, Bournemouth, BH7 7AF.

Date: Monday 20 November.

Time: 6:30pm for a 7pm lecture start.

Refreshments will be provided at the event.

For more information about the event, please contact Matthew Fancy: mfancy@bournemouth.ac.uk.

AHRC report about arts and humanities research on mental health

A new report, Exploring Mental Health and Wellbeing, published by the Arts and Humanities Research Council highlights the important role that arts and humanities based research can play in helping to address complex issues around mental health.

The report brings to life a wealth of case studies that are contributing to the mental health debate. These include examining the work of academics at the University of Cambridge who are pioneering an innovative design of a personalised fragrance dispenser to help manage anxiety to a project being managed by the University of Essex to educate policy-makers on the issues surrounding impaired decision-making capacity.

Research around mental health is focused around developing a cross-disciplinary approach – and arts and humanities scholars have a key role to play. The AHRC has funded research in many different aspects of mental health research in recent years, with an investment of over £10m in seventy-six projects since 2010.

The new cross-disciplinary mental health research agenda sees the UK’s seven research councils joining forces to collaborate on mental health research. Published in August this year, the agenda paves the way for cross-council collaboration on mental health, highlighting the importance of including the arts and humanities in this area of research.

New research shows that active gaming technology could help people with Multiple Sclerosis

A new study published by Bournemouth University has shown that using the Nintendo Wii™ could help people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) become more active.  Being more physically activity has a range of potential benefits, including better balance and posture, improved confidence and improved mood.

The study saw 30 participants trial the use of Wii Fit Plus™, Wii Sports™ and Wii Sports Resort™ games at home, following initial orientation and guidance from physiotherapists in a hospital setting.  People recorded how often they used the Wii™, as well as responding to a number of questionnaires exploring its effects.  Dr Sarah Thomas, lead researcher, explains the rationale behind the project:

“Physical activity is known to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of people with MS, but they often face greater barriers to participation.  I’d noticed from my own family that playing the Wii appealed across the generations and was interested to see whether its ease of use and accessibility would make a difference to people with MS,” says Dr Thomas.

“Conversations with the Dorset MS team showed that they’d been thinking along the same lines, as they’d noticed that the Wii was increasingly being used by their patients.  That’s what led us to develop a successful grant application to the MS Society.”

As part of the Mii-vitaliSe study, people with MS were allocated  at random to one of two groups – one which trialled the Wii intervention immediately alongside their usual care for 12 months, and one which started the Wii intervention after a 6 month delay.

“The people we worked with were relatively physically inactive at the beginning of the study,” explains Dr Thomas, “Through regular 1-2-1 sessions with a physiotherapist, they were able to develop individual goals, which they then worked towards achieving using the Wii™ in their own homes.”

“We found that people were using the Wii™ on average about twice a week, most often for balance exercises, yoga or aerobics,” continues Dr Thomas, “Our participants found it a fun and convenient way to increase their physical activity levels, with people reporting benefits such as reduced stress, increased confidence and better balance, among others.”

“In day-to-day life, people noticed improvements such as dropping fewer pegs when hanging out washing, finding it easier to get in and out of the shower and walking further.”

We hope to build on these promising initial findings by carrying out a large multi-centre trial to test whether this intervention is effective.”

The full study can be read here.

A briefing paper about the research can be found here.

A terrible fate awaits North Korean women who escape to China

As North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and provocative missile tests draw the world’s attention, one crucial reality about the totalitarian regime has been left largely unnoticed: as bleak as life is for most who live in North Korea, it is often far worse for those who flee – most of whom are forced to suffer horrific human rights abuses away from the world’s scrutiny.

Since China shares a border with North Korea, it has become the first destination for desperate North Koreans who risk their lives to escape. An unofficial figure estimates that there are between 50,000 and 200,000 North Koreans living in China. The Chinese government denies most of them refugee status, instead treating them as economic migrants who have illegally crossed the border to seek work. Most have no formal identification or legal status. In addition, Beijing works together with Pyongyang to capture defectors and send them back, making their lives as escapees completely untenable.

I have interviewed many North Koreans now settled in the UK. Many of them told me they had been caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to the north a number of times, but managed to escape again and again. The combination of desperation, the denial of legal status and the terror of the Chinese police operation exposes these people to gross exploitation – especially women.

Among those who successfully leave North Korea, women make up the majority. In their search for freedom, many of them paradoxically end up being trafficked, detained and treated inhumanely because of their precarious and insecure positions in China as “illegal migrants”.

Vulnerability exploited

Drawn to what they hope is a guarantee of work, some women who cross the border are instead sold to Chinese or Korean-Chinese men in rural areas who cannot find wives due to poverty, undesirable living conditions, disability and the lopsided gender demographics created by the now-replaced one-child policy. Other women are abducted in public spaces, such as streets and trains, and forced into prostitution. As a survival strategy, a few women or family members volunteer themselves to be sold. Some are lucky enough to find decent and kind men, but they are a vanishingly small minority.

Most are locked up so they cannot escape. They are denied contact with their family members or friends, and often a whole village effectively becomes a community of guards to watch them so they cannot run. Many of the women forced into these relationships endure physical hardships, forced to work in the fields and do endless household chores. Some are trafficked to households with several men, where their keepers take turns to violate them on a regular basis.

During their captivity, many of them also become pregnant. If they manage to escape to other countries, such as South Korea, they are forced to leave their children behind – and since these children aren’t officially recognised in China, they are denied basic rights and entitlements, foregoing even basic healthcare and education.

And so even those fortunate enough to escape from their dire situations in North Korea and China are left with agonising worry and guilt about their left-behind children. Out of shame, many never talk about the intense pain they feel, instead suffering in lonely silence.

What must be done

A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights situation in North Korea criticised the Chinese government for its violation of the human rights of North Korean refugees on a number of counts, including its repatriation of North Korean refugees, its failure to protect them from trafficking, and its refusal to recognise the children of North Korean women and Chinese men. However, the Chinese government rejected the commission’s report and refused to change its stance.

It is therefore time for the rest of the world to change the way it interacts with China. International organisations, governments and the media must apply even greater pressure on Beijing to change its policy towards North Korean refugees and the children they have in China; it must recognise that they’re entitled to refugee status by virtue of the human rights abuses they endure at home.

If governments are to act, their citizens and media must pressurise them to make this issue a higher priority. If a global campaign can gather enough momentum and strength, the Chinese government will be forced to listen and reconsider.

The ConversationIt may be a significant obstacle, but it is a challenge we can all play our part in. By demanding action, we can all support the fight against the sustained human rights abuse of desperate North Korean defectors and their invisible children. We might not be able to see it, but we know it’s happening – and we have a human duty to act.

Hyun-Joo Lim, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Bournemouth University

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

CMMPH student wins prestigious Iolanthe Midwifery Trust award

Congratulations to Dominique Mylod, clinical doctoral student in the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal and Perinatal Health , Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

Dominique was awarded a Midwives Award from the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust for her research into early labour, which explores whether using a birth ball at home in early labour improves birth outcomes. She is supervised by Professor Vanora Hundley, Dr Sue Way, and Dr Carol Clark.

The picture shows Dominique receiving her award from Baroness Julia Cumberlege CBE, Patron of the Trust.

 

Business School Staff Research Seminar Series 2017-18

We are pleased to announce the commencement of the Business School Staff Research Seminar Series organised by the Faculty of Management.

The seminars give a great opportunity to showcase the research activities of the Business School. We encourage all to come and participate. For further information email to mchowdhury@bournemouth.ac.uk.  The schedule of this year is given below:

Business School Staff Seminar Series 2017-18, Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University
Date Speaker Affiliation Presentation Topic Time and Venue
04/10/2017 Dr Lucy Lu Associate Dean (Global Engagement), Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University Innovation in Chinese Firms: Strategies and Challenges 16:00-17:30, BARNES
18/10/2017 Dr Sabine Graschitz and Jörg Hering Assistant Professor, University of Innsbruck and PhD Candidate, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (i) Competency-based Learning in Accounting, and (ii) Form 10-K Textual Analysis and Future Stock Returns. 16:00-17:30, CREATE LT
25/10/2017 Dr Dermot McCarthy Principal Lecturer, Department of AFE, Bournemouth University The Role of Person-Organisation Fit in Understanding the Impact of Public Service Motivation on Organisational Commitment: A Co-Created Paper 16:00-17:30, BARNES
01/11/2017 Dr Geoff Pugh Professor of Applied Economics, Business School, Staffordshire University Separate and policy mix effects from regional and national innovation subsidies on the cooperative behaviour of Spanish manufacturing firms 16:00-17:30, BARNES
15/11/2017 Samreen Ashraf Lecturer, Department of Marketing, Bournemouth University Who am I or who I maybe? Identity conflict and bank choice in the context of Pakistani banking sector 16:00-17:30, BARNES
29/11/2017 Dr Peter Case Professor of Organization Studies, Business School, University of the West of England (Un)assuming Leadership: An Anthropological Perspective on Leadership Phenomena 16:00-17:30, BARNES
06/12/2017 Dr Todd Bridgman Senior Lecturer, School of Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand A new history of management: Why rethinking our past has relevance for today 16:00-17:30, BARNES
07/02/2018 Dr Sangeeta Khorana Professor of Economics. Department of AFE, Bournemouth University Trade Agreements: Costly Distractions for Developing Countries 16:00-17:30, BARNES
14/02/2018 Dr Elvira Bolat Senior Lecturer, Department of Marketing, Bournemouth University From Compassion to Defence: Exploring Brands’ Trust Repair Mechanisms across Traditional and Digital Media 16:00-17:30, CREATE LT
28/02/2018 Dr Steve McCorriston Professor of Agricultural Economics, Business School, Exeter University What drives alternative forms of Cross Border Acquisitions 16:00-17:30, BARNES
07/03/2018 Dr Peter Erdelyi Senior Lecturer, Department of LSO, Bournemouth University Entrepreneurship Theory and Market Studies: Parallels and Disconnects 16:00-17:30, BARNES
14/03/2018 Dr Phyllis Alexander Principal Lecturer and Interim HoD of AFE, Bournemouth University Determinants of Tax Morale 16:00-17:30, BARNES
18/04/2018 Dr David Jones Associate Professor and Interim HoD of LSO, Bournemouth University Academic leisure crafting: Individual respite or collective transformation 16:00-17:30, BARNES
25/04/2018 Dr Juliet Memery Professor of Marketing, Department of Marketing, Bournemouth University Trust repair in the service sector 16:00-17:30, BARNES
09/05/2018 Dr Parisa Gilani Lecturer, Department of LSO, Bournemouth University The Shadow Side of Leadership Development 16:00-17:30, CREATE LT

Student interns aren’t entitled to the minimum wage and it’s costing them big time

For university students, work placements are heralded as a highly valuable opportunity. Taking a year out from studying to work in their chosen industry gives students a chance to learn more about their sector and get real life experience. Placements also allow students time to make contacts and network and prove themselves in a working role.

Shutterstock

Research has found that students are twelve times more likely to get higher grades after a placement. And that after a placement, student employability increases as many return to the same company for their first job.

Placements also allow universities to strengthen their reputation by building robust relationships with employers. And placement employers have the opportunity to try before they buy – assessing prospective employers in a real work situation without the drawbacks of interview. Other employers also gain from student placements, as they increasingly want graduates who can make an immediate impact on their organisation, and students who have completed a placement are able to offer this as evidence of their experience and skills.

There’s just one catch though – a lot of these placement years are unpaid. And this is perfectly legal – provided these placements are attached to a university course and last no more than one year.

Placement pressures

Students required to do an internship for less than one year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course aren’t entitled to the national minimum wage. And our new research shows that because of this, doing a placement can mean that many students get into debt and other financial difficulties.

The placement year is a time when students may have higher travel costs in actually getting to work, as well as additional expense of socialising in establishments that are more costly that the student union bar. Then there is also the work clothing to think about – students have to look smart when they are in the working world. Students are also liable for university fees during their placement – albeit at a lower rate than a tuition year. All of which can add up.

Placements can be a great opportunity for students but they can also end up being very costly. Shutterstock

The irony is of course that most interns are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage – but this doesn’t apply to so called “student internships”. So you could have an intern and a student on placement working side by side, doing the same job, and the same hours, with one entitled to the minimum wage and the other entitled to nothing.

This is something that impacts a lot of students – with more and more courses now offering an optional or even compulsory placement for students. It isn’t just smaller companies who aren’t paying people on placement either, even well-known, large companies have been found to be using unpaid interns.

Universities to some extent have acknowledged these extra outgoings and do provide small amounts of funding – for example to purchase an interview suit.
They can also provide grants to help offset these costs and may also grant bursaries to help students. But other sources of funding are limited, and student loans are only available up to £1,850 for the placement year.

Financial headaches

But for students with savings, or those from wealthier families, the picture is quite different. These students are often better placed to do unpaid placements – and through connections can sometimes even find ones that pay quite well.

This is creating a two tired system, and means that those students from less fortunate backgrounds may opt out of the work placement simply because they can’t afford it. It also means that firms also miss out on the unique talents and skills students from diverse but poorer backgrounds may offer.

Students should be paid for their work, not paying to work. Shutterstock

Going back into your final year of university with a load of debt and financial worries on your mind is of course not a great place to be – and will undoubtedly impact students in their critical year of study.

It’s not surprising then that studies into student well-being have shown poor mental health is often linked to financial problems. And in some cases, these financial problems can even result in students abandoning their university study altogether. It is clear then that this is something that needs to change, because ultimately during placement, students should be working to develop their careers, and not simply working up their debt.

Julie Robson, Senior Principal Acdemic (Marketing), Bournemouth University and Jillian Dawes Farquhar, Professor of Marketing, Southampton Solent University

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

BU Sociology article in The Conversation

Congratulations to Dr. Hyun-Joo Lim Senior Lecturer in Sociology at BU who has just written an interesting piece on human rights issues faced by North Korean female defectors in China in The Conversation. You can access this article by clicking here!

 

Well done!

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH

 

A terrible fate awaits North Korean women who escape to China

South Koreans protest against China’s treatment of northern defectors. EPA/Jeon Heon-KyunAs North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and provocative missile tests draw the world’s attention, one crucial reality about the totalitarian regime has been left largely unnoticed: as bleak as life is for most who live in North Korea, it is often far worse for those who flee – most of whom are forced to suffer horrific human rights abuses away from the world’s scrutiny.

Since China shares a border with North Korea, it has become the first destination for desperate North Koreans who risk their lives to escape. An unofficial figure estimates that there are between 50,000 and 200,000 North Koreans living in China. The Chinese government denies most of them refugee status, instead treating them as economic migrants who have illegally crossed the border to seek work. Most have no formal identification or legal status. In addition, Beijing works together with Pyongyang to capture defectors and send them back, making their lives as escapees completely untenable.

I have interviewed many North Koreans now settled in the UK. Many of them told me they had been caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to the north a number of times, but managed to escape again and again. The combination of desperation, the denial of legal status and the terror of the Chinese police operation exposes these people to gross exploitation – especially women.

Among those who successfully leave North Korea, women make up the majority. In their search for freedom, many of them paradoxically end up being trafficked, detained and treated inhumanely because of their precarious and insecure positions in China as “illegal migrants”.

Vulnerability exploited

Drawn to what they hope is a guarantee of work, some women who cross the border are instead sold to Chinese or Korean-Chinese men in rural areas who cannot find wives due to poverty, undesirable living conditions, disability and the lopsided gender demographics created by the now-replaced one-child policy. Other women are abducted in public spaces, such as streets and trains, and forced into prostitution. As a survival strategy, a few women or family members volunteer themselves to be sold. Some are lucky enough to find decent and kind men, but they are a vanishingly small minority.

Most are locked up so they cannot escape. They are denied contact with their family members or friends, and often a whole village effectively becomes a community of guards to watch them so they cannot run. Many of the women forced into these relationships endure physical hardships, forced to work in the fields and do endless household chores. Some are trafficked to households with several men, where their keepers take turns to violate them on a regular basis.

Pro-defector outrage at the Chinese embassy in Seoul. EPA/Jeon Heon-Kyun

During their captivity, many of them also become pregnant. If they manage to escape to other countries, such as South Korea, they are forced to leave their children behind – and since these children aren’t officially recognised in China, they are denied basic rights and entitlements, foregoing even basic healthcare and education.

And so even those fortunate enough to escape from their dire situations in North Korea and China are left with agonising worry and guilt about their left-behind children. Out of shame, many never talk about the intense pain they feel, instead suffering in lonely silence.

What must be done

A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights situation in North Korea criticised the Chinese government for its violation of the human rights of North Korean refugees on a number of counts, including its repatriation of North Korean refugees, its failure to protect them from trafficking, and its refusal to recognise the children of North Korean women and Chinese men. However, the Chinese government rejected the commission’s report and refused to change its stance.

It is therefore time for the rest of the world to change the way it interacts with China. International organisations, governments and the media must apply even greater pressure on Beijing to change its policy towards North Korean refugees and the children they have in China; it must recognise that they’re entitled to refugee status by virtue of the human rights abuses they endure at home.

If governments are to act, their citizens and media must pressurise them to make this issue a higher priority. If a global campaign can gather enough momentum and strength, the Chinese government will be forced to listen and reconsider.

It may be a significant obstacle, but it is a challenge we can all play our part in. By demanding action, we can all support the fight against the sustained human rights abuse of desperate North Korean defectors and their invisible children. We might not be able to see it, but we know it’s happening – and we have a human duty to act.

Hyun-Joo Lim, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Bournemouth University

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

Emerald removes embargo period on all journal articles in open access repositories

Emerald has today, 26th September 2017, removed the embargo period on all Green open access. Author accepted manuscripts (AAMs or postprints) of journal articles held in open access repositories such as BURO will now be available on publication. This applies not only from today, but also to any Emerald publications currently under embargo in repositories.

Emerald Group Publishing

This is a huge advance for open access as Emerald had previously extended their embargo periods in response to the RCUK/ Finch statements on embargo periods and green open access.

It’s important to keep tourism afloat in areas that experience natural disasters

In 2016, tourism in the Caribbean saw a healthy growth of 4.7% and Mexico earned its place among the top ten tourist destinations. Tourism is an important source of income for both the Caribbean Islands and Mexico. In Mexico, the industry was responsible for 16% of total GDP in 2016, with North America its main source market.

Both the Caribbean and Mexico were recently in the headlines due to a series of natural disasters. Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the Caribbean, causing widespread destruction and loss of life, and a deadly earthquake hit Mexico on September 19. Some 326 people have so far been reported dead in Mexico. Both the earthquake and hurricanes have left major infrastructural and super structural devastation in their wake. The search for survivors is ongoing. Bodies are being recovered and the significant loss of lives mourned.

How should the tourism industry respond to such disasters? Of course, the interests of holidaymakers are far from important now, but tourism is economically key to these countries. Currently, the mood is certainly not right for tourists to return to either Mexico or the worst-hit Caribbean islands. And besides the lack of infrastructure and security in affected areas means many would not want to go.

At the same time, developing countries such as Mexico need the income, employment opportunities and foreign exchange generated by tourism. If tourists stay away from such destinations the resident population will not only lose loved ones and belongings, they could also lose their livelihood. As such, it is important that the industry is not damaged too much.

The importance of this can be seen from past instances of disaster. Soon after the 2005 Boxing Day tsunami, for example, Thailand started its marketing campaign with Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s prime minister, asking tourists to “stop fearing ghosts” and to return to the region. Similarly, in 2002, following the Bali bombing, the Indonesian minister of culture and tourism asked people to visit Bali, saying “it makes no sense to isolate them” (the people of Bali). So how much should we worry about this in the case of Mexico and the Caribbean?

The Caribbean sands that attract so many tourists.
Maridav / Shutterstock.com

Tourism has proven to be resilient industry, although it can be susceptible to shocks from risk-increasing events. Such disasters sometimes have large initial negative effects, but later these tend to decrease or even disappear. But potential tourists can become used to negative events if they occur frequently enough; the shock factor decreases over time.

This has been evident in the responses to the terrorist attacks in Europe that have occurred in recent years. The impact of shock initially put people off from travelling but in many cases there has been a strong rebound once the threat is perceived to have been removed. Overall, studies have shown that impact and recovery depends on a number of factors including destination and tourist type, the type of event, the frequency and scale of destruction.

An earthquake or a hurricane is quite different to an intentional terrorist attack, however. As such, once it is over the risk associated with it tends to diminish, unless the cause of it is perceived to remain. Therefore, given the strength of Mexico as a destination, the recent hurricanes and the Mexico earthquake may impact tourism less than we might expect.

Natural disasters tend to lead to considerable infrastructural damage which in itself impedes the recovery of tourism, in particular if it damages tourist-related infrastructure. In the case of Fukushima, in Japan, for example, multiple connected crises – an earthquake, causing a tsunami, which in turn triggered a nuclear disaster – resulted in a longer recovery time for the tourism industry. Tourist arrivals in Japan did not exceed their pre-disaster levels until early 2013.

The overwhelming majority of tourists going to Mexico and the Caribbean come from within the region, particularity from North America, they tend to be familiar with the hurricane season, although perhaps not earthquakes. Even though the earthquake in Mexico has affected the capital and around it, many tourists areas in the country remain untouched. It is important to pay respect to people who lost their lives during the earthquake, but as long as the foreign office are not advising against travel to these destinations, there may be more reasons to go than not.

The ConversationThe concept of leisure tourism might be seen as fractious when many people are suffering due to the natural disasters in Mexico and the Caribbean, but staying away and watching the scene on TV will not help Mexico to rebuild lives in affected areas. The tourist economy, however, might.

Yeganeh Morakabati, Associate Professor in Risk and Resilience, Bournemouth University

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

Newly discovered 6m-year-old Cretan footprints stolen – finder writes about how we must protect precious sites

File 20170915 13360 lvndej
Vandalised site, showing fresh sand along the edges of the slab where it has been lifted and the holes left by the removal of two blocks in the centre.
Babis Fassoulas, Author provided

There has been a lot of interest in our discovery of nearly-6m-year-old footprints on Crete, first reported by the The Conversation – suggesting that human ancestors could have roamed Europe at the same time as they were evolving in East Africa.

Sadly the site was vandalised in the last week, with four or five of the 29 tracks stolen. We are fortunate that many of the best tracks remain – the people who did it clearly didn’t know what they were looking for. Our guess is that they were simply intending to sell them.

The theft occurred despite the site being afforded protection under Greek heritage law and being in the care of local officials. Police, we are told, have made an arrest in connection with the incident, and it is hoped that the missing material will be returned soon. The damage, however, is irreparable.

The site has now been buried.
Babis Fassoulas, Author provided

The Cretan authorities moved swiftly to bury the site temporarily while a more permanent conservation solution, such as moving the entire surface, is sought. We are lucky that the whole area has been 3D-scanned with an optical laser scanner in high resolution as part of the original study. In due course this data will be made available via the Natural History Museum of Crete and the Museum of Evolution at Uppsala University in Sweden. So there will fortunately not be much of an impact on the research.

Yet the event is devastating. To understand the significance to someone who studies ancient tracks like these, consider it equivalent to an attempt to steal part of the Sphinx at Giza or vandals dislodging one of lintel blocks at Stonehenge.

Unfortunately, the theft and vandalism of tracks is nothing new. For example, there was a recent case on the Isle of Skye in Scotland of vandalised dinosaur tracks dating from around 165m year ago that lead to a police probe. The ethics around the collection and sale of fossils and artefacts is complex, and many of the great scientific collections today are based on collection and sales by amateurs in the past. Ultimately, it seems wrong to collect and sell artefacts that there’s only a limited number of.

Conversation challenges

But how can you conserve what is essentially a slab of soft rock, close to the sea and open to the elements? Oddly, erosion at such sites is to be encouraged because it often helps reveal new surfaces which may contain additional prints.

It’s tricky – a problem I first faced following my discovery of the Ileret hominin footprints, the second oldest such tracks in the world at the time, and preserved in nothing but packed silt.

The site has been buried in haste to avoid further thefts.
Babis Fassoulas, Author provided

I did some research on this with colleagues and concluded that the only option is to excavate and digitally record them in 3D. This can be done either with a laser scanner or just with a digital camera in the field. Some 20 pictures of a track from different angles is enough to create a 3D image. These days 3D printers can easily create models for museums and for collectors.

Digital preservation is probably the key for the Cretan tracks as well. This worked well for the 2,100-year-old human footprints of Acahualinca
in Managua (Nicaragua), where the originals are perfectly preserved under a roof built over the site, and in an adjacent museum.

The 120,000-year-old human footprints at Nahoon Point in South Africa are marked by a footprint-shaped visitors’ centre that looks great from Google Earth. There are also a number of excellent examples of dinosaur track sites preserved in museums and under shelters, such as those at Las Cerradicas in Spain.

Perhaps the most controversial of conservation solutions has been to bury the world’s oldest confirmed hominin footprints – from Laetoli in Tanzania – which were first documented in the late 1970s. These tracks were buried as a way of protecting them from weathering and natural-decay.

There has been extensive debate about what should happen at this site and many scientists are unhappy about the lack of access. Plans for the site over the years have varied from an on-site museum to the removal of the whole slab to another site. The debate continues, but ultimately it is money that precludes a solution that would allow access to the public and scientists alike.

The footprints pictured in the research paper are still intact.
Author provided

Indeed, the challenge is always money. It is expensive to erect and maintain protective structures, and to gain funds you need publicity to ensure that all the stakeholders involved are aware of the scientific, social and emotional value of a site.

One of the reasons for publicising the Trachilos tracks was not only to get the discovery debated in open scientific circles, but also to raise its public profile – thereby seeking better protection and ultimately its preservation in a local museum. That would bring visitors and fuel local revenue.

The ConversationThe trouble is the very publicity aimed to assist the site’s protection may have led to an enhanced perception of its monetary value. After all, the site had been known locally for years. Publicity though, is a double-edged sword and we have been lucky on this occasion to avoid the full length of its blade.

Matthew Robert Bennett, Professor of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Bournemouth University

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

Tourist codes of conduct are a bad idea – here’s why

As the detritus from another summer season is swept from the streets of holiday hot spots around the world, locals are wondering if it was all worth it. Disquiet has grown about tourists behaving badly and making local communities suffer for their pleasure. In Palma de Mallorca, graffiti recently appeared telling tourists to “go home”. In New Orleans, a “neighbours, not tourists” campaign argues that AirBnB rentals erode local communities. In Venice, posters have been put up telling tourists they are ruining the city.

There is a belief that the tourism system, like the financial system, is not working for everyone. Local residents are starting to feel like they’re receiving less than they’re giving. A combination of societal and economic concerns, a reduction in quality of life, alongside innovations that seem to push out traditional tourism work in place of a “gig economy”, is in part driving new tensions.

When Spanish taxi drivers torched ride-sharing cars, they were reacting not only to the disruption of the so-called sharing economy, but also how predatory capitalism is creating new distrust, jealousy and social distance in an industry which politicians and businesses have long heralded as bringing stable jobs, intercultural dialogue and opportunity.

Destinations such as Santorini in Greece and Cinque Terre in Italy are considering restrictions on tourist arrivals. Dubrovnik has introduced cameras to monitor the number of visitors. In Paris, incivility police tackle antisocial behaviour such as littering, while Magaluf introduced 64 bylaws to curb behaviours such as dropping cigarettes in the street, defecating, urinating or spitting in public places.

Watch your behaviour in Venice.

A climate of mistrust has created a new wave of tourist codes of conduct. The aim is to assign rules to make tourists more sensitive to local residents. Hvar in Croatia warns tourists that they face fines of €600 if they fail to dress appropriately. Dubrovnik enforces a dress code. Venice can hand out fines ranging from €25 to €500 for bad behaviour. That includes breaking a rule that states “no standing at any time” – even to eat and drink. Other codes of conduct have been introduced in Vietnam and Cambodia.

A moral code

But there’s a problem here. City authorities, and managers of tourist attractions who impose moral laws aren’t accountable to the people who are supposed to abide by them. The danger is that they perpetuate narratives about marauding tourists. They do, however, work as marketing strategies, with local politicians and businesses happy to gain reputational capital by scapegoating tourists for bad behaviour in their area.

Requiring tourists to dress a certain way does not nurture trust and solidarity. Nor does it reduce exploitation or over-commercialisation. Codes create more social and physical distance between tourists and residents. They won’t make relations between tourists and residents any warmer, protect historic buildings, increase low pay for tourism workers, or prevent AirBnB from saturating residential areas. Indeed, distrust may contribute to the decline of tourism’s cultural merits.

A message for tourists in Barcelona.
EPA

To rebuild trust and restore faith in the tourism system, authorities must step outside of their traditional roles. They need to work towards a smarter governance model that puts people rather than businesses first. It must recognise all those who have a stake in tourism and come up with strategies that work for all sides.

The ConversationMost people realise that tourism is economically and socially important. By putting people at the heart of everything they do, tourists and residents can coexist with and relate to each other without regulating behaviour or imposing codes of conduct. That might mean limiting the number of hotels that can operate or AirBnB properties that can be registered. Longer term tourism strategies could also seek to cut out the short-term political meddling that can leave local residents asking themselves who is really benefiting from tourism in their area.

Michael O’Regan, Senior Lecture in Events & Leisure, Bournemouth University

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

Our controversial footprint discovery suggests human-like creatures may have roamed Crete nearly 6m years ago

The human foot is distinctive. Our five toes lack claws, we normally present the sole of our foot flat to the ground, and our first and second toes are longer than the smaller ones. In comparison to our fellow primates, our big toes are in line with the long axis of the foot – they don’t stick out to one side.

In fact, some would argue that one of the defining characteristics of being part of the human clade is the shape of our foot. So imagine our surprise when we discovered fossil footprints with remarkable, human-like characteristics at Trachilos, Crete, that are 5.7m years old. This research, published in the Proceedings of the Geologist Association, is controversial as it suggests that the earliest human ancestors may have wandered around southern Europe as well as East Africa.

The period corresponds to a geological time interval known as the Miocene. The footprints are small tracks made by someone walking upright on two legs – there are 29 of them in total. They range in size from 94mm to 223mm, and have a shape and form very similar to human tracks. Non-human ape footprints look very different; the foot is shaped more like a human hand, with the big toe attached low on the side of the sole and sticking out sideways.

The footprints were dated using a combination of fossilised marine microorganisms called foraminifera and the character of the local sedimentary rocks. Foraminifera evolve very rapidly and marine sedimentary rocks can be dated quite precisely on the basis of the foraminifera they contain. These indicated an age somewhere in the span 8.5m to 3.5m years. However, at the very end of the Miocene, about 5.6m years ago, an extraordinary thing happened: the entire Mediterranean sea dried out for some time. This event left a clear signature in the sediments of the surrounding areas. The sediments that contain the footprints suggest they probably date to the period immediately before this, at about 5.7m years.

Cradle of humanity

The “cradle of humanity” has long been thought to lie in Africa, with most researchers suggesting that Ethiopia was where the human lineage originated. The earliest known body fossils that are accepted as hominins (members of the human lineage) by most researchers are Sahelanthropus tchadensis from Chad (about 7m years old), Orrorin tugenensis from Kenya (about 6m years old) and Ardipithecus kadabba from Ethiopia (about 5.8-5.2m years old).

Laetoli footprints.
Tim Evanson/Flickr, CC BY-SA

The oldest known footprints, however, were found at Laetoli in Tanzania and come from the next geological time interval, the Pliocene. These are some 3.66m years old and even more human-like than those of Trachilos. The second oldest tracks are those at Ileret made by Homo erectus (1.5m years old), and are little different from the tracks that we ourselves might make today.

If – and for many it is a big if – the tracks of Trachilos were indeed made by an early human ancestor, then the biogeographical range of our early ancestors would increase to encompass the eastern Mediterranean. Crete was not an island at this time but attached to the Greek mainland, and the environment of the Mediterranean region was very different from now.

Oldest known footpints.

The discovery comes just months after another study reported the discovery of 7m-year-old Greek and Bulgarian fossil teeth from a hominin ape dubbed “El Graeco”. This is the oldest fossil of a human-like ape, which has led some to suggest that humans started to evolve in Europe hundreds of thousands of years before they started to evolve in Africa. But many scientists have remained sceptical about this claim – as are we. The presence of Miocene hominids in Europe and Africa simply shows that both continents are possible “homelands” for the group. In theory, El Graeco could be responsible for the Trachilos foorprints but without any limb or foot bones it is impossible to tell.

Alternative solutions

But there are other ways to interpret the findings. Some might suggest that the distinctive anatomy of a human-like foot could have evolved more than once. The tracks could have been made by a hitherto unknown Miocene primate that had a foot anatomy and locomotive style not unlike our own.

There are examples throughout the fossil record of what is called “convergent evolution” – two unrelated animals developing similar anatomical features as adaptations to a particular lifestyle. However, there is nothing about the Trachilos footprints themselves that suggests such convergence.

Convergence rarely produces perfect duplicates; rather, you tend to get an odd mix of similarities and differences, like you see when you compare a shark and a dolphin for example. Now, imagine if the Trachilos footprints combined human-like characters with a few other characters that simply didn’t “fit”: for example, that the toes looked human-like but carried big claws. This would be a reason to suspect that the human-like features could be convergent. But the Trachilos footprints don’t show any such discordant characters, they simply look like primitive hominin footprints as far as we can tell.

The footprints.
Author provided

For those unable to see beyond Africa as the “human cradle”, these tracks present a considerable challenge, and it has not been easy to get the discovery published. Some have even questioned whether the observed features are footprints at all. However, collectively, the researchers behind this study have published over 400 papers on tracks, so we are pretty confidence we know what they are.

Although the results are controversial, suggesting that the rich East African evidence for early hominids may not be telling the whole story, it’s important that we take the findings seriously. The Trachilos tracksite deserves to be protected and the evidence should be debated by scientists.

The ConversationIt is now for the researchers in the field to embark on finding more tracks or, better still, body fossils that will help us to better understand this interesting period of primate diversity, which ultimately led to our own evolution irrespective of where this first happened. The very essence of this type of science is prospection, discovery, evidence-based inference and debate. We are sure that this paper will stimulate debate; let us hope that it also stimulates further discoveries.

Matthew Robert Bennett, Professor of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Bournemouth University and Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University

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

REF & TEF: the connections – 11th October 2017

The outcomes of this year’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the direction for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as set out in the 2017 consultation response are likely to have significant implications for the higher education sector.  The links between research and teaching are likely to become ever more important, but set against the context of increasing emphasis on student experience, how should the sector respond and where should it focus?

REF & TEF: the connections will be hosted at Bournemouth University and will bring together some of the leading experts in higher education in both research and teaching policy.  During the morning, attendees will have the opportunity hear from experts from across the higher education sector, as they share their insights into the importance of the links between teaching and research.  The afternoon will feature a number of case studies with speakers from universities with a particularly good record of linking research and  teaching.

Speakers confirmed to date include Kim Hackett, REF Manager and Head of Research Assessment, HEFCE and John Vinney Bournemouth University, William Locke University College London, Professor Sally Brown Higher Education Academy.

For more information or to book on visit: https://reftef.eventbrite.co.uk

FHSS Research Seminars 2017-2018

The Faculty of Health and Social Sciences Research Seminar Series will be starting again in the coming academic year.

But first I’d like to say a big thank you again to all those who contributed to the seminars last year. We had a wonderful mixture of presentations and it was great to see the range of research going on in the faculty.

We noted that the best attended were those involving a range of presentations in a one hour slot. These bite-size selections of research topics were great in attracting an audience from across disciplines and created a fun, friendly atmosphere.

To build on this in the coming year we will be moving to monthly Research Seminars with 2-3 presenters at each session. These seminars are open to everyone, so whether this is your first venture into research or you are a veteran researcher please feel free to come along and share your experiences.

Seminars will be held on the first Wednesday of every month (second Wednesday in October) between 1 and 2pm at the Lansdowne Campus.

If you are interested in presenting please get in touch with Clare at: ckillingback@bournemouth.ac.uk

BU’s PhD student Juan Camilo Avendaño Diaz and Dr. Xun He presented their research at the 7th Joint Action Meeting.

On July 22-26, Dr. Xun He and Juan Camilo Avendaño Diaz (PhD student) attended the 7th bi-annual Joint Action Meeting (JAM), held at Queen Mary University of London. This meeting brought together researchers from many different fields (psychologists, philosophers, physicists, musicians, engineers and neuroscientists, just to name a few), interested in studying people’s ability to act together (they had a full day covering human-robot interaction as well!).

Dr. Xun He gave a talk titled “A dual-EEG study of the shared attention effect in dyads: Sensory processing or top-down control?”, examining the information processing in the brain when people co-attend to the same spatial locations. Juan Camilo presented the poster “Visual attention in dyads: The role of group membership”, suggesting that co-attending with members of the same vs. different social group could have distinct effects on visual attention.

Attending JAM 2017 was a great opportunity to meet some key figures in the field, and to hear and discuss about the research that is been performed worldwide, including the research carried out at BU.

If you would like to learn more about our research, please do not hesitate to contact me at javendanodiaz@bournemouth.ac.uk