Category / Research news

Speed Collaboration – Interdisciplinary – Think Outside the Box! Find New Research Partners! Your funding will depend on it!

We are running an exciting Speed Collaboration session on Thursday 22 March, starting at 11.30 and including a networking lunch. It is part of a stimulating Interdisciplinary Research Week program starting next week.

Comments about Speed collaboration/networking events from all over the world:

It was kind of fun, it was kind of light, it wasn’t highly pressured… It was just ‘Lets see if we can make a connection and then take it further if we need to’.”

“What appealed to me about speed networking was the opportunity to meet a lot of people within a short space of time.”


On 31 January 2018, I attended a Speed networking event run by Innovate UK in London to see what the fuss is all about. They have gone for the structure where there are 5 Challenge Proposers – Siemens, Deloitte, European Space Agency, Jaguar Land Rover and Reed Smith. The Proposers list their challenges and organisations (about 30 reps attended) apply to pitch their ideas to each Proposer. The Proposers are set up in 5 tables and each organisation is given 5 minutes to present. The Hostess rings a bell and they have to move on to  the next Proposer.

There was fantastic energy and buzz floating around; and I can feel that definite connections were made. Attend our RKEO Speed Collaboration event and you will find out for yourself how we will be running it and what you can take away from it.



You have to be in it, to win it! A last comment to leave you with:

It’s a research project that may never have come together, or at least come together as quickly, if it hadn’t been for the speed-networking event. The bottom line is, if you don’t meet people, you will never find someone who can find you new information and a new vision. Breakthroughs can only happen if you acknowledge you don’t know everything.”

All you have to do to book your place is to click here and see what happens next!

NERC – Scoping group for Earth system plastics

Closing date: 16:00 on 4 April 2018

NERC invites applications to join a scoping group that will develop the science case for a potential large strategic research programme on Earth system plastics.


The overarching aim is to provide an understanding of the pathways and fate of plastics in the environment.

Potential research questions include:

  1. What is the nature and scale of plastic sources to the Earth system?
  2. What are the main pathways of plastics across the Earth system? What are the potential stocks and flows of plastic between terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems? What are the key physical, chemical and ecological mechanisms that control fate, behaviour, concentration, decomposition, distribution, and transport over various time scales?
  3. Across their entire life-cycle, how are different types of plastics modified physically, chemically and biologically? What environmental processes promote their degradation or fragmentation? At what point, if any, do plastics no longer interact with the environment and cease to present a risk to the biosphere?
  4. At which points in the cycle might interventions be effective, and which interventions are most appropriate? How can science and industry collaborate to deliver some of these interventions? What is the environmental impact of plastic alternatives?

The SPA will support research on pathways and fate of a range of plastic types, shapes and sizes to gain a comprehensive picture of the behaviour of plastics in the environment to ensure that effective interventions are developed.

Applications are invited from individuals wishing to join the scoping group that will develop the science case for consideration by NERC.

Please click here for further details on the background, details of the scoping group meeting, and how to apply via their online registration form by 16:00 4 April 2018.

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s SURE 2018

Around 80 students took part in BU’s third annual undergraduate research conference: Showcasing Undergraduate Research Excellence (SURE).  The conference is an excellent opportunity for undergraduates and recent graduates to share their work and develop their presentation skills.  This year’s contributions reflected the breadth and depth of outstanding undergraduate research taking place across BU.

The conference allows students to present their work to peers, academics staff and attendees from external organisations.  As well as demonstrating their academic successes, it enables students to see the real world application of their work and develop potential cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Dr Mary Beth Gouthro, co-chair of the conference, said: “The quality of the undergraduate research underway across all our faculties is testament to the potential of our students, and the professionalism and expertise of the staff that support them.  SURE is a great opportunity to celebrate the work of our undergraduates, showcasing their academic progress and provides encouragement into the next steps in their careers.”

As part of SURE, two BU academics shared their own research with the student presenters and conference attendees.  Professor of Behavioural Ecology Amanda Korstjens delivered a session on ‘Interdisciplinary approaches to conservation’ encouraging students to look outside their disciplines to build better practice when conserving wildlife and natural habitats.  Associate Professor Richard Berger presented progress made into his research on ‘MediaLitRefYouth’, a 2 year EU funded project which seeks to understand the lives of unaccompanied refugee children across Europe.  Both of these keynotes provided students the ability to reflect the power and reach of academic research combines with real world applications to help improve lives, for the better.

There were a number of prize winners as part of the conference, including £30 amazon vouchers for best posters, 4 funded spots to participate at BCUR 2018 for one student from each faculty.  The overall winner, Andrew Watt, has been offered a Masters fee waiver.

Winner of the prize for best overall contribution, Andrew Watt, commented, “It feels pretty exciting, I didn’t expect it. My presentation was about how fallers and non-fallers in the elderly differ from a bio-mechanical perspective, which is pretty niche. I found the feedback I received from my presentation were positive and it was good practice to have some difficult questions, especially for this next conference.”

“I’ve had several lecturers who weren’t at the conference contacting me to say congratulations.  I think my lecturers are just really proud of the physiotherapy students who presented. It’s great that they are so supportive.”

More details about the conference can be found on the SURE 2018 website.

SUBU prizes:

 FM winner Claudia Wilkin
FST winner David Hurst

Best poster, demonstration or art installation:

HSS winner Thilo Reich
FST winner Stelian Tsekov
FM winner Dan Pryke
FMC winner Kate Edge

Best original research via oral presentation:

HSS winner Andrew Watt
FST winner Isobel Hunt
FM winner Atanas Nikolaev
FMC winner Bethan Stevenson

Best overall contribution:

Masters Fee Waiver Andrew Watt


NERC standard grants (July 18 deadline) – internal competition launched

NERC introduced demand management measures in 2012. These were revised in 2015 to reduce the number and size of applications from research organisations for NERC’s discovery science standard grant scheme. Full details can be found in the BU policy document for NERC demand management measures at: Policy for NERC Demand Management Measures.docx.

As at March 2015, BU has been capped at one application per standard grant round. The measures only apply to NERC standard grants (including new investigators). An application counts towards an organisation, where the organisation is applying as the grant holding organisation (of the lead or component grant). This will be the organisation of the Principal Investigator of the lead or component grant.

BU process

As a result, BU has introduced a process for determining which application will be submitted to each NERC Standard Grant round. This will take the form of an internal competition, which will include peer review. The next available standard grant round is July 2018. The process for selecting an application for this round can be found in the process document here – the deadline for internal Expressions of Interest (EoI) which will be used to determine which application will be submitted is 28th March 2018.  The EoI form can be found here: I:\R&KEO\Public\NERC Demand Management 2018.

NERC have advised that where a research organisation submits more applications to any round than allowed under the cap, NERC will office-reject any excess applications, based purely on the time of submission through the Je-S system (last submitted = first rejected). However, as RKEO submit applications through Je-S on behalf of applicants, RKEO will not submit any applications that do not have prior agreement from the internal competition.

Following the internal competition, the Principal Investigator will have access to support from RKEO, and will work closely with the Research Facilitator and Funding Development Officers to develop the application. Access to external bid writers will also be available.

Appeals process

If an EoI is not selected to be submitted as an application, the Principal Investigator can appeal to Professor Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Any appeals must be submitted within ten working days of the original decision. All appeals will be considered within ten working days of receipt.

RKEO Contacts

Please contact Rachel Clarke, RKEO Research Facilitator – or Jo Garrad, RKEO Funding Development Manager – if you wish to submit an expression of interest.

Congratulations to the following winners of the Doctoral College 10th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference

On Wednesday 7 March 2018 the Doctoral College hosted the 10th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference which was a huge success with lots of positive feedback from students and staff alike. We are happy to announce the category winners below. Well done to everyone who took part!

Oral Presentations:

1st Prize Mark Stevens (Advancing a social identity approach to understanding physical activity: preliminary evidence from parkrun, Faculty of Management)

2nd Prize Stephen Allard (The intimate masses: poetry and emerging new concepts of ‘Netiquette’ in online environments, Faculty of Media and Communication)

3rd Prize Louise Oliver (Child-parent-violence and abuse: lifting the veil of secrecy, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)

Poster Presentations:

1st Prize Giulia Levi (Between silence and agitation – coping strategies and third-party interventions in divided societies: a comparison between post-conflict Bosnia and post-referendum UK, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)

2nd Prize Amal Musa Almoualed (Saudi women journalists – an exploration of their roles and practices in an age of social media, Faculty of Media and Communication)

3rd Prize Ejike T. Ezeh (Shared decision-making: web-based information tool to support treatment choices of people with advanced pancreatic cancer, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)


Winner Nurist S. Ulfa (The paradox of Muslim girl’s freedom of experimentation in girl games: when the digital virtual consumption practices and the religious norms are predominantly discordant, Faculty of Media and Communication)



We would also like to say a special thank you to the following people for their invaluable contribution to the day.

Opening Remarks
Professor John Fletcher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Innovation (Office of the Vice-Chancellor)

Keynote Address
Professor Lee Miles, Professor of Crisis & Disaster Management (Faculty of Management)

Guest Speakers – Deputy Deans for Research & Professional Practice
Professor Vanora Hundley (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Professor Michael Silk (Faculty of Management)
Professor Iain MacRury (Faculty of Media and Communication)
Professor Tiantian Zhang (Faculty of Science and Technology)

PGR Chairs
Clare Gordon (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Sara Glithro (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Ella Onyinye Ejime (Faculty of Management)
Duncan Ki-Aries (Faculty of Science and Technology)

Judging Panel – Oral Presentations
Professor Alison McConnell (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Dr Sue Way (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Dr Vanessa Heaslip (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Professor Adam Blake (Faculty of Management)
Dr Daniel Lock (Faculty of Management)
Dr Einar Thorsen (Faculty of Media and Communication)
Professor Marcin Budka (Faculty of Science and Technology)

Judging Panel – Poster and Photography Exhibition
Jane Healy (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences)
Professor George Filis (Faculty of Management)
Professor Candida Yates (Faculty of Media and Communication)
Dr Christos Gatzidis (Faculty of Science and Technology)

Congratulations to Professor Julian McDougall whose book has been shortlisted for the UKLA Academic Book Award 2018.

The UK Literacy Association (UKLA) has selected four books to be shortlisted for the 2018 Academic Book Award, including Dr John Potter (University College London) and BU Professor Julian McDougall’s book Digital Media, Culture and Education, Theorising Third Space Literacies (Palgrave Macmillan).

“We were delighted to be shortlisted,” says Professor McDougall, “The UKLA is an organisation we have both engaged with for many years and value highly. The award is really prestigious so it’s exciting and great to find out that the field you are writing with and for has received the book so well. And we’re in really good company in the shortlist!”

This book provides a critical commentary on key issues around learning in the digital age in both formal and informal educational settings, addressing the concept of third space literacies. It speaks to a range of readers, extending their knowledge and understanding of media literay and how technology can enhance educational practice and learner development.

“We wrote the book to address the lack of a meeting point between these fields – literacies, media and education, as this comes up again and again, especially when we look at PhDs in particular,” says McDougall. “Examiners often ask researchers where exactly their project sits in and across these areas, so we wanted to have a go at joining them up but also clearly come at this from two very established approaches – literacies and cultural studies.”

The winner of this year’s Academic Book Award will be announced at the UKLA International Conference in Cardiff which takes place on 6 July – 8 July 2018. The shortlist was chosen by UKLA Membership and Awards committee, and the final panel will be chaired by Professor Morag Styles (Homerton College, University of Cambridge).

Doctoral College Researcher Development Programme

The Doctoral College would like to present the March monthly update.

This monthly update is for PGRs and their supervisors to outline upcoming research skills and development opportunities including events, workshops and networking opportunities supported by the Doctoral College. In this update we would like to promote the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT®) event, R.E.D talks, the Researcher Development Programme for 2017-18, and the 10th Annual Postgraduate Conference.

We are very happy to announce that 10th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference is taking place today. The conference will see PGR students, academics and other colleges from across BU come together to  celebrate the diverse and exciting research being undertaken. More information about the day will be sent over the next week.

Don’t forget to check out the Doctoral College Facebook page

Subjective Evaluation of High-Fidelity Virtual Environments for Driving Simulations

We would like to invite you to the latest research seminar of the Centre for Games and Music Technology Research.

Title: Subjective Evaluation of High-Fidelity Virtual Environments for Driving Simulations

Speaker: Dr Carlo Harvey
Birmingham City University

Time: 2:00PM-3:00PM
Date: Wednesday 14 March 2018
Room: PG10 (Poole House)


Virtual environments (VEs) grant the ability to experience real-world scenarios, such as driving, in a virtual, safe, and reproducible context. However, to achieve their full potential, the fidelity of the VEs must provide confidence that it replicates the perception of the real-world experience. The computational cost of simulating real-world visuals accurately means that compromises to the fidelity of the visuals must be made. This talk presents a subjective evaluation of driving in a VE at different quality settings. Participants (n = 44) were driven around in the real world and in a purposely built representative VE and the fidelity of the graphics and overall experience at low-, medium-, and high-visual settings were analysed. Low quality corresponds to the illumination in many current traditional simulators, medium to a higher quality using accurate shadows and reflections, and high to the quality experienced in modern movies and simulations that require hours of computation. Results demonstrate that graphics quality affects the perceived fidelity of the visuals and the overall experience. When judging the overall experience, participants could tell the difference between the lower quality graphics and the rest but did not significantly discriminate between the medium and higher graphical settings. This indicates that future driving simulators should improve the quality, but once the equivalent of the presented medium quality is reached, they may not need to do so significantly.

We hope to see you there.

NERC announces funding opportunities

Two NERC funding calls have been released.  One is a pre-announcement so please do look out for the announcement if you’re interested in this call.


Pre-announcement: Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund 2018

NERC is launching a new annual scheme, the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund, to support UK environmental science researchers to establish new collaborations with international partners. This scheme replaces NERC’s International Opportunities Fund (IOF).

The Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund will support UK environmental science researchers to develop new, ‘best with best’ international partnerships and networks, which underpin the development of long-term collaborations.

Key features of the scheme are:

  • Standard NERC principal investigator eligibility rules apply. New investigators, who may not already have international research partners, are encouraged to apply.
  • A single level of grant up to £100,000 (100% full economic cost) over two years, with a total annual budget of £1 million.
  • One or more international project partners are mandatory.
  • Proposals will be directly evaluated by an assessment panel of independent academic experts.
  • An announcement of opportunity will be published annually in March and close in early May. Funding decisions will be made in July with awards to start from September.

Call for Open Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellowships 

Proposal deadline: 16:00 on 17 April 2018

Interview dates: 12, 13 & 14 June 2018

NERC wishes to award a number of Open Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellowships. The NERC Open Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellowships are intended to enable the sharing and flow of knowledge and expertise between the NERC funded researchers and their user communities with the aim of generating impact from NERC funded research. KE Fellows work between 20% and 80% of their time on a work plan of their own choosing to generate impact from NERC-funded research in their host institution. The KE Fellowships will cover 100% of the Fellow’s salary on a pro-rata basis including superannuation, NI and specific allowances, plus up to £40,000 for travel and other associated costs. They cover direct costs only and do not include overheads. There is no budget limit for salary costs and applications are particularly welcomed from individuals who are working at a senior level within a department or school. The KE Fellow must be employed by their host institution for the duration of their fellowship.

If selected for interview, the applicant will be asked to give a 10 minute presentation followed by 35 minutes of questions from a panel of up to four people. In addition, the applicant’s head of department (or, if the head of department is the applicant, then a more senior individual) is expected to join the interview in person or by telephone to provide a strategic overview of the work. Success rates appear to be the same regardless of whether the supporter appears in person or telephones in.

Further information including supporting documentation can be found here.

If you are interested in applying, please inform your RKEO Funding Development Officer in the first instance.

Brexit – UK Government position regarding access to Horizon 2020

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has released the report: UK Participation in Horizon 2020, based on the EU/UK Joint Report published on 8 December 2017.

The key message for UK-based researchers seeking to apply for Horizon 2020 funding is:

The UK Government encourages the UK research and innovation (R&I) community to continue applying for Horizon 2020 funding and participating in Horizon 2020 projects because:

● Until our departure from the EU, we remain a Member State, with all the rights and obligations that entails. This means that UK entities are eligible to participate in all aspects of the Horizon 2020 programme while we remain a member of the EU.

● The UK and the EU fully intend UK entities’ eligibility in Horizon 2020 to remain unchanged for the duration of the programme, as set out in the Joint Report. This includes eligibility to participate in all Horizon 2020 projects and to receive Horizon 2020 funding for the lifetime of projects.

● The Government’s underwrite guarantee remains in place in the event that commitments made in the Joint Report are not met.

This report also considers the UK’s involvement in the next Framework Programme, the Underwrite Guarantee and mobility of researchers in the Q&A section.

The UK Research Office (UKRO), to which BU subscribes, worked closely with BEIS in the preparation of this report and is updating their own FAQs and related documents. If you have not already registered to access their services and to receive UKRO announcements, you are encouraged to do so, to keep fully up to date with developments. UKRO also invites queries and comments from subscribers, as these are vital to inform the development of future guidance.

If you are considering developing your international research portfolio, please contact your faculty’s research facilitator.