Are you interested in developing the real-world impact of your research? How about increasing your public profile? If you’ve answered yes to any one of those questions, then the Research Communication Day is for you.
This day event on Wednesday 23 May 2018, 10.30 – 16.00, will provide you with a better understanding of the benefits of communicating your research, how you can go about it and who can help you with this within BU.
Subjects covered will include: planning and promoting your Festival of Learning event, practising in our radio studio and in front of a camera, writing for the research website and sharing your research via social media.
You’ll also have the chance to pitch your work to Stephen Harris, Commissioning and Science Editor for The Conversation. Stephen covers science, technology and health for The Conversation. He previously spent five years as senior reporter and special projects editor at The Engineer, the world’s oldest technology magazine and professional journal.
Creating & Marketing your Public Engagement Event
Sharing your Research via Social Media
Developing the Impact of your Research
Pitching to The Conversation
Developing your Digital Profile
Influencing Policy Makers
More information about the day schedule and a booking link can be found here.
The collapsing Nazi government ordered all U-boats in German ports to make their way to their bases in Norway on May 2, 1945. Two days later, the recently commissioned U-3523 joined the mission as one of the most advanced boats in the fleet. But to reach their destination, the submarines had to pass through the bottleneck of the Skagerrak – the strait between Norway and Denmark – and the UK’s Royal Air Force was waiting for them. Several U-boats were sunk and U-3523 was destroyed in an air attack by a Liberator bomber.
U-3523 lay undiscovered on the seabed for over 70 years until it was recently located by surveyors from the Sea War Museum in Denmark. Studying the vessel will be of immense interest to professional and amateur historians alike, not least as a way of finally putting to rest the conspiracy theory that the boat was ferrying prominent Nazis to Argentina. But sadly, recovering U-3523 is not a realistic proposition. The main challenges with such wrecks lie in accurately identifying them, assessing their status as naval graves and protecting them for the future.
U-boat wrecks like these from the end of World War II are the hardest to match to historical records. The otherwise meticulous record keeping of the Kriegsmarine (Nazi navy) became progressively sparser, breaking down completely in the last few weeks of the war. But Allied records have helped determine that this newly discovered wreck is indeed U-3523. The sea where this U-boat was located was heavily targeted by the RAF because it knew newly-built boats would flee to Norway this way.
The detailed sonar scans of the wreck site show that it is without doubt a Type XXI U-boat, of which U-3523 was the only one lost in the Skagerrak and unaccounted for. These were new types of submarines that contained a number of innovations which had the potential to make them dangerous opponents. This was primarily due to enlarged batteries, coupled to a snorkel, which meant they could stay permanently underwater. Part of the RAF’s mission was to prevent any of these new vessels getting to sea to sink Allied ships, and it successfully prevented any Type XXI U-boats from doing so.
With the U-boat’s identity correctly established, we now know that it is the grave site of its crew of 58 German servicemen. As such, the wreck should either be left in peace or, more implausibly, recovered and the men buried on land. Germany lost over 800 submarines at sea during the two world wars and many have been found in recent years. It is hopelessly impractical to recover them all, so leaving them where they are is the only real option.
Under international law all naval wrecks are termed “sovereign immune”, which means they will always be the property of the German state despite lying in Danish waters. But Denmark has a duty to protect the wreck, especially if Germany asks it to do so.
Hundreds of wartime wreck sites such as U-3523 are under threat around the world from metal thieves and grave robbers. The British cruiser HMS Exeter, which was sunk in the Java Sea on May 1, 1942, has been entirely removed from the seabed for scrap. And wrecks from the 1916 Battle of Jutland that also lie partly in Danish waters have seen industrial levels of metal theft. These examples serve as a warning that organised criminals will target shipwrecks of any age for the metals they contain.
Germany and the UK are among a number of countries currently pioneering the use of satellite monitoring to detect suspicious activity on shipwrecks thought to be under threat. This kind of monitoring could be a cost-effective way to save underwater cultural heritage from criminal activity and its use is likely to become widespread in the next few years.
The recovery cost is only a small fraction of the funds needed to preserve and display an iron object that has been immersed in the sea for many years. So bringing a wreck back to the surface should not be undertaken lightly. In nearly all cases of salvaged U-boats, the results have been financially ruinous. Lifting barges that can raise shipwrecks using large cranes cost tens of thousands of pounds a day to charter. Once recovered, the costs of conservation and presentation mount astronomically as the boat will rapidly start to rust.
The U-boat U-534 was also sunk by the RAF in 1945, close to where U-3523 now lies. Its crew all evacuated that boat, meaning that she was not a grave when recovered from the sea in 1993 by Danish businessman Karsten Ree, allegedly in the somewhat incredible belief that it carried Nazi treasure. At a reported cost of £3m, the operation is thought to have been unprofitable. The boat contained nothing special, just the usual mundane objects carried on a U-boat at war.
Similar problems were experienced by the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in the UK when it raised the Holland 1 submarine in 1982. In that case, the costs of long-term preservation proved much greater than anticipated after the initial rust-prevention treatment failed to stop the boat corroding. It had to be placed in a sealed tank full of alkali sodium carbonate solution for four years until the corrosive chloride ions had been removed, and was then transferred to a purpose-built exhibition building to protect it further.
The expensive process of raising more sunken submarines will add little to our knowledge of life at sea during World War II. But each time a U-boat is found, it places one more jigsaw piece in its correct place, giving us a clearer picture of the history of the U-boat wars. This is the true purpose of archaeology.
“Our vision is to host a successful, safe and secure Games that deliver a lasting legacy for the whole of Scotland, and to maximise the opportunities in the run up to, during, and after the Games.”
This was the promise made by the Scottish government to the Commonwealth in 2014. In the 12 days of competition that followed, the city of Glasgow achieved a “hero-like status”, Team Scotland achieved its biggest-ever medal haul of 53 medals, and the games recorded the highest number of tickets sold for a sporting event in Scottish history.
Minister for sport Aileen Campbell hailed the event as a huge success by announcing that Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games was the largest sporting and cultural event ever held in Scotland and had changed the lives of thousands of people.
The message from the host nation was clear: the games were not just about showcasing elite athletes, but about delivering a legacy that would provide a flourishing economy, celebrate cultural diversity, embrace sustainable living, and create a more physically active nation. But four years on, not all those ambitions have been achieved.
Getting a nation off the couch
The games were considered a golden opportunity for Scotland to harness the power of sport to motivate a sedentary nation. A ten-year implementation plan was launched in 2014 to tackle physical inactivity across Scotland as well as myriad other initiatives to support communities in improving the local sporting infrastructure.
Two and a half years after the games, an interim report by the Scottish parliament’s Health and Sport Committee was undertaken to assess the progress made in increasing physical activity levels across Scotland.
The report concluded that there was no evidence of an active legacy being achievable. More alarmingly, any evidence of a relationship between the hosting of a major sporting event and raising the host nation’s physical activity levels was inconclusive.
This raises serious questions as to why such an ambitious legacy aim was included in the first place given the likelihood of failure. It could be that the Scottish government included the aim of increasing participation within its legacy pledge as a desperate attempt to address Scotland’s poor health profile, one of the worst in Europe.
A final evaluation report on the impact of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games published by the Scottish government days before the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games highlighted the harsh reality that the active legacy programme had not “resulted in a step change in population levels of physical activity in Scotland”.
In fact, the GoWell East study that tracked participant levels within the surrounding area of Glasgow found that overall rates had actually declined, with just over 53% achieving the recommended physical activity levels in 2016, compared to 62% in 2012.
However, the east end community surrounding the main games site is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, with some of the worst statistics in Europe for child poverty, health, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse. This could account for the declines in physical activity levels in the east end of Glasgow as the underlying reasons behind social inequalities in sports participation is poverty – not having the income to spend on sport.
But Glasgow is not alone. Other nations hosting major sporting events have failed to capitalise on the perception that a sprinkling of magic over a big sports event will motivate a population to become active. Data that tracked participation levels of Australians before, during and after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games found they had declined, due – ironically – to Australians spending more time watching sport on TV than taking part themselves.
Undoubtedly, many nations believe that elite sporting success and the hosting of major sporting events on home turf can encourage mass involvement, and in turn create an active nation. An example of this is London’s 2012 Olympic Games, which promised to “do something no other Olympic Games host nation had done before”: inspire a new generation of young people to get involved, get active and take part in sport. This bold statement from the UK government has since been questioned, because in fact, no previous games had even attempted to leverage improved physical activity as a legacy outcome.
It became abundantly clear post-London 2012 that the Olympic Legacy promise had failed to come to fruition with figures showing no more young people taking part in sport than before the games. As has been argued elsewhere, there is still a lack of robust evidence to suggest that the presumed trickle-down effect of hosting a major sporting event can trigger an increase in physical activity.
Big spend but no return
The failure of London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 to create and inspire a nation to get active is not really surprising. For more than 40 years, community sports policy in Britain has been plagued by failings to meet physical activity performance indicators set by governments.
This could be down to a variety of factors including: poor policy analysis to inform future policy-making decisions; overambitious or naïve participation targets; inadequate resources to deliver long-term programmes; and changes in direction leading to ambiguity regarding who is responsible for delivery.
Given these issues, it is understandable that grass-roots sport policies and major sporting events have failed to encourage more people to get active. Future government policy on community sport needs to have an all-party group commitment, that is evidence-based to ensure objectives are realistic. It needs to have a long-term plan and be adequately funded to ensure that there are real and lasting results.
In the end, we have to face a difficult truth: governments continue to invest in costly elite sport and big extravagant sporting events that come at the expense of community sport.
With more than 278,000 followers on Facebook, Hungary’s Two-Tailed Dog Party was the the most popular party on social media to stand in the country’s 2018 election. However, its online popularity did not help win seats in the vote which delivered Viktor Orbán a third term as prime minister by a landslide. In an anti-establishment approach, the Dogs’ campaign was carried out entirely by volunteers and official campaign funds were used to support community projects.
Despite only coming away with 1.71% of the votes, however, the party has pushed an important boundary in Hungarian politics.
The Two-Tailed Dog Party was founded in 2006, although formal recognition didn’t come until 2014. It defined itself as a joke party from the start, becoming famous for making fun of other political groups – mainly the mainstream Fidesz, led by Orbán.
Its activities range from street art to graffiti to urban gardening. It even smuggles soap and toilet paper into hospitals in order to highlight the dire state of some healthcare facilities. In 2016, the party crowdfunded €100,000 to cover the country in satirical posters mocking the government’s call to vote against EU refugee quotas in an impending referendum.
Then in 2018, just a couple of weeks before the deadline, the party managed to get enough signatures to be able to participate in the national parliamentary elections. The jokers were getting serious.
A Two-Tailed Dog sticker appears on a Budapest lamp post.
In an election campaign dominated by the supposed “threat” posed by immigration and the perceived influx of migrants to Hungary, the Two-Tailed Dog party used social media to draw attention to a statistic published on the national police website showing that one migrant had been “caught” in the last 30 days. Its satirical response to this shocking figure read: “There is an enormous interest in our country. But we cannot rest assured: The migrant entered our country.”
All political parties use emotions to persuade people to vote for them. The Two-Tailed Dog party and its kind are trying to undermine establishment organisations by turning humour into political action.
In a process social scientists call “kynicism”, the Two-Tailed Dog party borrowed and remixed government messages for its own aims. The idea is to mock the government’s rhetoric in order to disperse fear and anxiety.
In Hungary, it’s unclear what the future holds for the Two-Tailed Dog party, or these joke parties more broadly. There is a fundamental mismatch between the way everyday politics works and the vision of the party.
Party leader Gergő Kovács told us:
I can’t really tell how many of our Facebook fans would vote for us … To be honest, for me the parliamentary elections are not important. For me, it’s much more important to see what we can do … I have to confess: my aim is to create something creative and funny, and yet meaningful … I think it is useless to have one more opposition party that has a serious programme. I have no interest to do politics in the traditional way.
If the case of Iceland’s Pirate party shows us anything, it is that parties like the Two-Tailed Dog have a tendency to lose their edge once they gain political influence. In 2016 the pirates topped opinion polls, and seemed to become a real political force by winning ten seats in the parliament. However, in the latest elections, they won only six seats.
Alternative parties, like the Two-Tailed Dog exist to mock from outside the mainstream. But what’s the point of a political party if it doesn’t really want to get elected and to introduce its policies?
For now, that’s not a question the Two-Tailed dogs need to answer, since they failed to make it into parliament.
But the group has nonetheless radically re-energised young people. It has tested the limits of convention in Hungary’s political process. Kovács told us that when it comes to larger campaigns, “two thirds, or three quarters, of our ideas come from the people … For instance, we write an economic programme, post it to Facebook and in a couple of minutes, there are three to four better ideas in the comments, so we take it down and add these ideas. So, in fact it really comes from the people”. The next step is for the group to translate those likes on social media into actual votes.
Australian cricket is engulfed in scandal after TV cameras caught Cameron Bancroft attempting to manipulate the condition of the ball during the team’s third Test match against South Africa. Bancroft and the Australian captain, Steve Smith, subsequently admitted to the offence and the collusion of the player leadership group in the decision to do so.
Altering the condition of the match ball is against the rules of the sport, contrary to “the spirit of cricket”, and deemed to be “unfair”. It is a form of cheating.
What is ball tampering?
Cricket is not only controlled by a set of rules but, according to the sport’s laws, it should also be played “within the spirit of cricket”.
Like most sports, cricket is a self-regulating entity. The national associations and, ultimately, the International Cricket Council (ICC) enforce the laws. That said, cricket remains tied to gentlemanly ideals and the myth of “fair play”.
This “spirit” encourages respect for players and officials while advocating for self-discipline. Significantly, it says the:
… major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains.
Within these rules, law 41.3 identifies changing the condition of the match ball as an offence and “unfair play”. Specifically, law 41.3.2 states:
It is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball.
But why is the condition of the ball so important?
The ability to “swing” a ball is a prized skill in cricket. Altering the condition of one side of the ball can help it to swing, and may provide an advantage to the bowling team.
Players try regularly try to “rough up” one side of the ball by, for instance, deliberately bouncing it on hard ground or applying sweat or saliva to it in ingenious ways. Such practices are not deemed to be contrary to the laws, even if they may not be within the spirit of cricket. Cricketers can bend the rules but not break them.
In this case, Smith has been banned for one match and fined his match fee. Bancroft, who was caught with a piece of yellow sticky tape that he was attempting to use to tamper with the ball, has also been fined most of his fee and issued three demerit points.
When games are evenly matched, small gains from cheating can be enough to swing the result one way. This has occurred in other sports.
Sport is now a commercial product with large rewards for winning. In addition, when players are representing their country, there may be considerable pressure to win at all costs, particularly when sport plays a prominent role in the country’s national identity.
According to Smith, the Australians “saw this game as such an important game”. Here, the significance of the game and the team’s desire to win are used to justify cheating. The spirit of cricket and “fair play” were given little thought.
In his work on match-fixing, investigative journalist Declan Hill identifies several questions that may be considered when players are contemplating cheating. The importance of the game is a key factor. Prospective cheats will also evaluate whether they can win without cheating and the sanctions they risk if they are caught.
The Australian cricketers believed the game was slipping away from them. They either did not think they would be caught, or were not deterred by the possible sanctions.
Leading by example
In several cases of cheating, it has been senior players that have induced their younger teammates to cheat.
Two former cricket captains, South Africa’s Hansie Cronje and Pakistan’s Salman Butt, both recruited younger, less experienced players in their attempts to manipulate cricket matches. Similarly, Bancroft is at the start of his Test career and appears to have been influenced by others in the team.
Rather than ensuring fair play, Smith contrived to break both the game’s laws and spirit. Worryingly, it was not just Smith and Bancroft, but a group of senior players who were initially involved.
The players will have evaluated whether it was morally right to cheat and decided that winning was more important. While not a “crime” in the traditional sense of the word, the premeditated nature of these actions increases the level of deception and subsequent outrage surrounding the decision.
The event calls into question not only the behavioural integrity of those involved but also more broadly the moral integrity of the environment in which they function. This is an environment that leaves players viewing ball-tampering on this scale as a viable match-winning strategy.
Smith’s role, as captain, has often been described as the second-most-important job in Australia (after the prime minister). It is for this reason that the Australian Sports Commission has called for him, along with any members of the leadership group or coaching staff “who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball”, to stand down or be sacked.
The plot to tamper with the ball was a clear attempt to cheat and has brought the spirit of cricket into question. The implications of being caught cheating or significance of the action were overruled in favour of an outcome: winning a match.
Such actions demonstrate the short-term focus players can have in the moment, ignoring the magnitude of their decisions. In this case, the fallout will be far greater than any punishment the sport will hand out.
Huge numbers of pregnant women and new mothers are taking their own lives in Nepal as they deal with extreme poverty, natural disasters, domestic violence and oppression. Research shows suicide represents 16% of all deaths in women of reproductive age. The rate is higher than previously recorded and there has been a considerable increase over the past few years. But a new project which trained midwives about mental health issues might hold the key to turning this around.
Suicide is primarily associated with unwanted pregnancy or the feeling of being trapped in poverty or situations of sexual and physical abuse. A study of 202 pregnant women (carried out between September and December 2014) found that 91% of them experienced some kind of physical, emotional or sexual abuse – mostly at the hands of their husbands and/or mother-in-laws.
Pregnancy is a known trigger for mental health problems. But gender discrimination and domestic violence are making matters worse. In addition to these issues, natural disasters are also a huge contributing factor to the spiralling mental health problems of young mothers.
Lack of control
In Nepal, making decisions about seeking maternity care is not in the hands of the pregnant woman but usually lies with her mother-in-law or husband. When young women marry they move in with their husbands’ family and their lives are ruled by their in-laws. These women often have little say in seeking health care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.
In many poor families, husbands migrate for work leaving their young wives with family. Nepal has a real migrant workers economy with close to 50% of Nepalis relying on financial help from relatives abroad. Mental health problems can worsen for women who have been taken away from their own families. In other cases, young women face domestic violence due to their husbands’ drinking leading to mental health issues and suicide.
There is also a lack of understanding of pregnancy and childbirth-related mental health issues and husbands and mothers-in-law often fail to support these vulnerable young women. They in turn are reluctant to seek help due to the stigma associated with mental illness.
Cultural and social norms
Cultural practices and social norms, like gender inequalities and early marriage, hinder women who have a lack of choice when it comes to their role as mothers. There is also a preference for sons rather than daughters, who are seen as an “economic burden” in many families. If a woman is expecting a daughter, especially for the second or third time, this can also trigger mental health issues.
Depression and anxiety are common and affect ten to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women in the country. Postnatal depression is often reported, but less attention is given to more common and less obvious mental health issues.
Natural disasters and midwives
Recurrent earthquakes and floods exacerbate issues of depression and helplessness as women are forced to live in temporary shelters and have the burden of increased poverty.
For many rural Nepali women, the most qualified birth attendant they can expect to look after them is the Nepali Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). But a study found that they received little or no formal training on perinatal mental health issues. Although there have been gradual improvements in health care for women during pregnancy, mental health support is leaving many women feeling that suicide is their only option.
As part of a Tropical Health and Education Trust project, funded by DFID, around 80 ANMs were trained on perinatal mental health issues. The project used UK-based volunteers in Nepal over two years.
The training helped raise awareness of mental health well-being and improved access to mental health care for pregnant women and new mothers. This is a vital first step towards improving community-based services for pregnant women in rural Nepal. But to offer hope to more young women there needs to be a significant increase in this type of training and awareness raising.
In the days before social media – and, presumably, media training – Gerald Ratner’s description of some of the products sold in his chain of jewellers as “total crap” became a byword for the corporate gaffe. Recently the chief executive of publisher Hachette Livre, Arnaud Nourry, seems to have suffered his own “Ratner moment” when he described ebooks in an interview with an Indian news site as a “stupid product”.
The interview, which was intended to address the future of digital publishing and specific issues facing the Indian publishing market, was widely misquoted and Nourry’s comments taken out of context. But there is no denying the fact that the publisher criticises his own industry (“We’re not doing very well”) and attacks ebooks for lacking creativity, not enhancing the reading experience in any way and not offering readers a “real” digital experience.
Some commenters on social media welcomed Nourry’s comments for their honesty. They highlight his seeming support for the idea that publishers should be championing writers and artists working to exploit the creative potential of digital formats to provide readers with experiences that may be challenging and disruptive, but also exhilarating and boundary pushing.
But many of the 1,000-plus commenters reacting to coverage of the story on The Guardian’s website spoke out against “fiddling for the sake of it” – claiming they were not interested in enhanced features or “gamified dancing baloney” borrowed from other media. They also listed the many practical enhancements that ebooks and ereaders do offer. The obvious one is the ability to instantly download books in remote locations where there are no bricks and mortar bookstores. But there are other less obvious enhancements, including being able to instantly access dictionary and encyclopedia entries (at least if you have wifi access) and the option to have the book read to you if you have visual impairments.
Elsewhere, Australian researcher Tully Barnett has shown how users of Kindle ereaders adapt features such as Highlights and Public Notes for social networking, demonstrating that even if ebooks are not that intrinsically innovative or creative, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be made so by imaginative users.
Nourry clearly isn’t averse to the provocative soundbite – in the same interview he went on to say: “I’m not a good swallower” when asked about mergers and conglomeration in the publishing industry. On the other hand, he also seems very aware of the special place of books and reading in “culture, education, democracy” – so his use of the word “stupid” in this context is particularly inflammatory and insensitive.
My research on digital reading has taught me that debating books vs ereaders is always likely to arouse strong passions and emotions. Merely mentioning the word Kindle has led in some instances to my being shouted at – and readers of “dead tree” books are rightly protective and passionate about the sensory and aesthetic qualities of physical books that the digital version possibly can’t compete with.
But, equally, my research has shown that enhancements in terms of accessibility and mobility offer a lifeline to readers who might not be able to indulge their passion for reading without the digital.
In my latest project, academics from Bournemouth and Brighton universities, in collaboration with Digitales (a participatory media company), worked with readers to produce digital stories based on their reading lives and histories. A recurring theme, especially among older participants, was the scarcity of books in their homes and the fact that literacy and education couldn’t be taken for granted. Our stories also demonstrated how intimately reading is connected with self-worth and helps transform lives disrupted by physical and mental health issues – making comments about any reading as “stupid” particularly damaging and offensive.
I would like to know if Nourry would still call ebooks stupid products after watching Mary Bish’s story: My Life in Books from our project. A lifelong reader who grew up in a home in industrial South Wales with few books, Mary calls her iPad her “best friend” and reflects how before the digital age her reading life would have been cut short by macular degeneration.
As well as demonstrating that fairly basic digital tools can be used to create powerful stories, our project showed that the digital also makes us appreciate anew those features of the physical book we may take for granted, the touch, smell and feel of paper and the special place that a book handed down from generation to generation has in the context of family life.
Athletes from Western nations have various protections, and many now share equal rights in most aspects of the law. But when they travel to compete in countries with regressive human rights records, these protections can be lost.
Australia competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, both of which were held in Russia. It will again send a team to Russia to play in this year’s FIFA World Cup and aims to compete in the 2022 edition in Qatar. Both countries have poor human rights records, particularly on LGBTI+ issues.
Sport is often lauded as a platform to advance human rights. But, for LGBTI+ individuals and athletes, this may not necessarily be true. The continued hosting of mega sporting events in countries with anti-LGBTI+ laws brings the role of sport in campaigns to advance human rights into focus.
Sochi became a platform for LGBTI+ rights when Western activists called for a boycott based on several human rights concerns. Their resistance increased in direct response to the implementation of laws in Russia outlawing sexual minorities.
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Athlete activists have begun to challenge the hosting of mega sporting events in countries like Russia that ignore human rights and reinforce systems of oppression. But what has really changed since Sochi for Olympians?
This year a country with a questionable stance on LGBTI+ rights is again hosting the Winter Olympics. South Korea scores only 13% on the Rainbow Index, which measures the impacts of a country’s laws and policies on the lives of LGBTI+ people. This is only a marginally better score than Russia’s 8%.
Although homosexuality is legal in South Korea, LGBTI+ rights remain highly volatile. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has courted controversy with comments opposing homosexuality, and sexual minorities continue to face significant stigma in the region.
Australia is taking 51 athletes to compete in South Korea, with two openly gay women on the team. One, Belle Brockhoff, has criticised the anti-LGBTI+ laws in host countries. She joined 26 other athletes who signed a letter opposing Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to its anti-LGBTI+ policies.
However, it is not only host nations that can be called to account for their poor LGBTI+ records. Adam Rippon, an openly gay figure skater who has won bronze in Pyeongchang, recently said he did not want to meet Vice President Mike Pence as part of an official reception for the US team. Rippon argued the Trump administration does not “represent the values that [he] was taught growing up”.
A Fox News executive has criticised the inclusion of “African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes” in the US team. He claimed that “Darker, Gayer, Different” was now a more suitable Olympic motto than “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
Current evidence suggests that anti-LGBTI+ discrimination is rising. Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBTI+ charity, reports hate crimes toward the LGBTI+ community have increased: one in five LGBTI+ people have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.
In the US, Donald Trump tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Several states have attempted to pass laws to restrict access to bathrooms for people who are trans or gender-diverse.
With increased visibility comes increased risk
An increasing number of athletes now openly demonstrate their sexual orientation, but many acknowledge it leaves them open to homophobic abuse – especially on social media platforms.
Mega sporting events can be problematic for LGBTI+ athletes as many may not be “out” and there can be serious implications if they were to do so.
The safety and welfare of LGBTI+ athletes made headlines when a journalist went undercover in the athletes’ village at the 2016 Rio Olympics to identify out or closeted athletes. Several athletes who were identified were from countries where being gay is criminalised or even punishable by death.
Sport is responding at a notably slow pace to the advancement of LGBTI+ human rights.
Major sporting codes have shown they are not ready to tackle trans and gender diversity. For example, the Australian Football League recently banned transgender player Hannah Mouncey from joining its women’s competition.
There is still much work to be done around athletes with intersex variations, sex testing in elite-level competition, and transgender and transitioned athletes.
Hope for the future?
One particular social inclusion legacy to come from a mega sporting event is Pride House International. This initiative provides a safe space for the LGBTI+ community to engage with a sporting event.
In addition, the Principle 6 campaign, launched in response to Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, led to the expansion of that particular part of the Olympic Charter to include sexual orientation as something sport should be free from discrimination on.
It will be interesting to see whether the 2018 Winter Olympics can contribute to the advancement of LGBTI+ rights within South Korea and beyond. However, more scrutiny must be directed to the human rights records of potential host nations when awarding mega sporting events.
Western society has a rather specific view of what a good childhood should be like; protecting, sheltering and legislating to ensure compliance with it. However, perceptions of childhood vary greatly with geography, culture and time. What was it like to be a child in prehistoric times, for example – in the absence of toys, tablets and television?
In our new paper, published in Scientific Reports, we outline the discovery of children’s footprints in Ethiopia which show how children spent their time 700,000 years ago.
We first came across the question of what footprints can tell us about past childhood experiences a few years back while studying some astonishingly beautiful children’s footprints in Namibia, just south of Walvis Bay. In archaeological terms the tracks were young, dating only from around 1,500 years ago. They were made by a small group of children walking across a drying mud surface after a flock of sheep or goats. Some of these tracks were made by children as young as three-years-old in the company of slightly older children and perhaps young adolescents.
The detail in these tracks, preserved beneath the shifting sands of the Namibian Sand Sea, is amazing, and the pattern of footfall – with the occasional skip, hop and jump – shows they were being playful. The site also showed that children were trusted with the family flock of animals from an early age and, one assumes, they learnt from that experience how to function as adults were expected to within that culture.
No helicopter parents
But what about the childhood of our earlier ancestors – those that came before anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens)? Children’s tracks by Homo antecessor (1.2m to 800,000 years ago) were found at Happisburgh in East Anglia, a site dating to a million years ago. Sadly though, these tracks leave no insight into what these children were doing.
This assemblage of tracks is capped by an ash flow from a nearby volcano which has been dated to 700,000 years ago. The ash flow was deposited shortly after the tracks were left, although we don’t know precisely how soon after. The tracks are not as anatomically distinct as those from Namibia but they are smaller and may have been made by children as young as one or two, standing in the mud while their parents and older siblings got on with their activities. This included knapping the stone tools with which they butchered the carcass of the hippo.
The findings create a unique and momentary insight into the world of a child long ago. They clearly were not left at home with a babysitter when the parents were hunting. In the harsh savannah plains of the East African Rift Valley, it was natural to bring your children to such daily tasks, perhaps so they could observe and learn.
This is not surprising, when one considers the wealth of ethnographic evidence from modern, culturally distinct human societies. Babies and children are most often seen as the lowliest members of their social and family groups. They are often expected to contribute to activities that support the mother, and the wider family group, according to their abilities. In many societies, small boys tend to help with herding, while young girls are preferred as babysitters. Interestingly, adult tools – like axes, knives, machetes, even guns – are often freely available to children as a way of learning.
So, if we picture the scene at Melka Kunture, the children observing the butchery were probably allowed to handle stone tools and practice their skills on discarded pieces of carcass while staying out of the way of the fully-occupied adults. This was their school room, and the curriculum was the acquisition of survival skills. There was little time or space to simply be a child, in the sense that we would recognise today.
However, these observations contrasts to the story that emerged last year based on tracks from the older Homo Homo erectus (1.5m-year-old) at Ileret, located further south in the Rift Valley, just within the northern border of Kenya. Here the tracks have been interpreted as the product of adult hunting groups moving along a lake shore, rather than a domestic scene such as that at Melka Kunture. However, these scenes aren’t mutually exclusive and both show the power of footprints to provide a snapshot into past hominin behaviour.
But it does seem like the overwhelming parenting lesson from the distant past is that children had more responsibilities, less adult supervision and certainly no indulgence from their parents. It is a picture of a childhood very different from our own, at least from the privileged perspective of life in Western society.
There is a widely held view, fuelled by the media, that the north of England is hard done by when it comes to transport spending. Over 70,000 people recently signed a petition to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, calling for more investment in transport in the north. Grayling has responded by saying the figures used to make this assessment are misleading, and that the northwest region now receives more transport spending than the southeast.
The issue of transport spending is awash with statistics. A recent House of Commons document confirmed that public spending on transport in absolute, per person and modal average terms is higher in parts of the north than in the southeast region outside London but not in the capital itself. In the 2015/16 financial year, transport spending per person was £401 in the northwest, £380 in Yorkshire and the Humber, and £299 in the northeast. For the southeast, it was £365 per head, while for London it was £973.
The think tank IPPR North has estimated that from 2016/17 onwards, the figures will be £680 for the northwest, £190 for Yorkshire and Humber, and £220 for the northeast. The southeast will get £226 and London £1,040.
So Grayling is right to say the northwest is doing well right now compared to the southeast (not including London), which is receiving similar amounts to the other northern regions. But this ignores the fact that London still receives far more than any other part of the country.
The problem with these kind of figures for individual years is that they can skew the overall picture of spending. For example, money for large infrastructure projects such as Crossrail in London and the southeast, and Manchester’s Metrolink programme, tend to be allocated to the particular years when the projects are completed.
Looking at all the spending data over a longer period of time is a better indicator of the gap between north and south. In terms of total transport spending, the southeast has actually received 13% more than the northwest since 2011/12. And looking at bus and rail services, London has received over five times more public spending in the last five years than the northwest.
But the real picture is even more complicated than this. Transport infrastructure in London is not just for Londoners. Many people in the southeast benefit hugely from London transport spending, especially those who commute in every day. Yet people from elsewhere in Britain also benefit when they visit, as do millions of international tourists.
London is very different from the other English regions, with much greater population density and a more mobile workforce. Its transport serves a different, wider purpose and also benefits from local government funding because of devolution. So a like-for-like comparison is inherently misleading.
The government’s recent budget has also gone some way to further reducing the north-south divide. The northeast will receive £337m for new rolling stock on the 40-year-old Tyne and Wear Metro network. Greater Manchester has been promised £240m to ease road congestion. A £1.7 billion fund will improve links between city centres and suburbs across the country. But the lack of news about the much-needed modernisation of the Manchester to Leeds transPennine route put on hold earlier this year is very disappointing, and Leeds still desperately needs a new mass transit system.
It might come as a surprise for those in the northwest and Yorkshire to hear that they get about the same amount of transport spending (or more) than the southeast, but at the moment it is technically true. The northeast, meanwhile, remains the poor relation in every measurement of spending. But these simple facts don’t take account of the much higher spending in London or the very different circumstances by which this money is allocated.
Derek Robbins, Senior Lecturer in Transport and Tourism, Bournemouth University
This is a comprehensive review of current transport investment and expenditure, well illustrated by published data. It can be difficult to separate data from political spin and government PR, which have the unnerving tendency to portray funding that has already been allocated as if it were newly announced. But the underlying premise of this article that transport investment in the northwest and Yorkshire has increased is well made.
I take greater issue with the conclusion that recent announcements have gone some way to further reducing the north-south divide. As the article illustrates, long-term investment is a better indicator, and the north still has some considerable catching up to do. The new projects are only a first step. I would also describe the lack of progress towards a modernised and reliable transPennine rail route as more than disappointing, given that it is an essential investment for future economic growth in the north.
While I also accept that London is different, I think the benefits of the capital’s transport links to the other English regions can be easily overstated.
Julie Robson from the Department of Marketing (FoM) has co-authored an article published today in The Conversation about unpaid student placements and debt.
The piece is loosely based on earlier research that examined students as vulnerable consumers where debt is concerned. This project was made possible following a successful application to the BU Undergraduate Research Assistant Programme (URAP) in 2015. Results from the research will be published in November 2017 in the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education. The article is entitled Working up a debt: Students as vulnerable consumers. The authors are Julie Robson (BU), Jillian Dawes Farquhar (Southampton Solent) and Christopher Hindle (BU URAP).
The article in The Conversation is entitled – Student interns are not entitled to the minimum wage and its costing them big time and can be accessed here.
Odours provide a richness to our perception of the world. But, despite the ubiquity of smell, we understand less about smell memory than we do about visual and auditory memory.
The classic example of smell memory is what has become known as a Proustian memory (or involuntary memory). For this phenomenon, mere exposure to a stimulus can automatically trigger a strong memory from the past. For Proust, it was tea-soaked madeleine that activated a detailed memory of his aunt’s house.
As a researcher of odour memory, people often tell me stories of smells that triggered vivid autobiographical memories. This might be the smell of hospital food, a certain alcoholic drink or the shampoo of a former lover. This strong relationship between odour and emotion is thought to result from the part of the brain involved in processing odours being positioned within the limbic system – an area of the brain integral to emotion.
Testing short-term memory for smells
Not all smell is stored in long-term memory, though. Some smells are only retained in memory for short periods. Imagine you’re shopping for a new aftershave or perfume. You wouldn’t smell two products at the same time as it would be difficult to distinguish between the two. To decide which one you prefer, you need to smell them one after the other. This means you have to temporarily store the smell and then recall it to make a comparison. We have been examining how people store odours in short-term memory and the extent to which odour memory works differently from other types of memory.
The simplest explanation is that people perform smell memory tasks by verbally labelling the odours (for example: “smells like cheese”). But using this kind of verbal strategy results in the memory task being a test of verbal rather than olfactory memory, because we’re storing the word “cheese” in verbal memory not the actual smell of cheese in odour memory. As researchers, we can limit the use of this strategy by selecting odours that are hard to name. For example, non-food odours are typically harder to label.
Another trick we use is asking participants to repeat words that are irrelevant to the task during the test; this is called “concurrent articulation”. Concurrent articulation disrupts the participant’s ability to name the odours and their ability to silently rehearse the names during the task. For example, if you’re repeating “the, the, the” while sniffing something that smells like new-mown grass, you won’t be able to store the words “new-mown grass” in your verbal memory. It’s a bit like trying to read a book while listening to the news.
It has been shown that people can perform short-term olfactory memory tasks when the odours are hard to name,
and when undertaking concurrent articulation. These findings suggest that while verbal labelling can improve the memory for an odour, people are also able to store the actual odour within memory. This is supported by research showing that different parts of the brain are activated when remembering easy-to-name and hard-to-name odours; specifically, the inferior frontal gyrus and the piriform cortex, respectively.
One method by which olfactory short-term memory has been compared with other types of memory is by examining how well people can remember a list of odours. Depending on the specifics of the memory task, people are typically good at remembering the first and last item on a list (a phenomena known as primacy and recency). There is some evidence that, for some tasks, smell memory produces different primacy and recency effects to that of other stimuli. These differences might indicate that your smell memory works in a different way to other types of memory.
Smell memory as a diagnostic tool
You might, quite reasonably, ask why you should be interested in testing smell memory, since most of the time we use our olfactory perception to make judgements about odours (that smell is nice/horrible). But research has shown that an impaired sense of smell memory is a predictor of developing dementia.
To further emphasise this link, people with the ApoE gene (a genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s), who show no signs of dementia, have impaired odour identification. These findings suggest that an olfactory memory test could potentially be used as part of the armoury in detecting the early stages of dementia. Early detection is important, as the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.
The Australian version was launched in March 2011 and generates 85k unique visitors per month; it has 15 commissioning editors and 5k contributors from universities and research. The UK project has the backing of 13 UK uni’s as well as the Wellcome Trust, Nuffield, HEFCE and the editorial team will be based at City University London. Content from the site will be provided on an open access basis under a creative commons license.
There is clearly a large appetite from the public for reading about research given the Australian readership statistics so this will be a great route to publicise and highlight your research. Prof Barry Richards has already had an article feature on this site which you can read here.
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