Posts By / Amanda Edwards

How to ensure your research has impact: new online workshop for 2021/22

Planning for impact: Thursday 2nd December: 9:30-11:30 Online

If you want to ensure your research makes a real-world difference, book now onto this RKEDF interactive online workshop. This training is also useful for anyone applying for this year’s call for the Research Impact Fund (closing date: 10th December). Early career researchers are welcome to attend, and the session is suitable for any career stage.

Impact consultant Saskia Gent, director of Insights for Impact, explains: “This is a hands-on, practical workshop with exercises supporting researchers to build a draft impact plan.” You will learn how to create a strategic plan for embedding impact in your research at any stage in the research lifecycle by:

  • identifying relevant stakeholders
  • developing impact goals
  • understanding the different types of impact that can arise from your research
  • identifying evidence sources.

Book your place.

 

How to plan for impact from your research: sign up now for new training!

Planning for impact: Thursday 2nd December, 9.30-11.30

Do you want to ensure your research has real-world impact? Would you like to understand how to integrate impact into your project plan to enhance the chance of getting funding? This new online impact training session provides the tools and insights you need.

Impact consultant Saskia Gent, director of Insights for Impact, explores how to plan for impact throughout the research lifecycle.  The session addresses the key elements of impact planning by asking five questions:  why, who, what, how and how do we know?

This approach enables you to consider your impact goals, identify relevant beneficiaries and stakeholders, plan engagement activities and consider evidence requirements and opportunities.

Sign up here.

This session is useful for you, whichever stage of your research career you are at, and ECRs are welcome to attend.  You are also encouraged to attend if you are considering applying for the Research Impact Fund (which closes 10th December).

 

Apply now: the Research Impact Fund is open for 2021/22!

We are pleased to announce that the Research Impact Fund is now open for applications.

This call is for researchers at all stages of their careers to support the planning and development of impact from new or ongoing research. For 2021/22, the fund has been split into two strands:

Strand 1: To support the development of new research partnerships and networks, to lay the groundwork for future research projects.

Strand 2: To provide support for emerging impact from existing underpinning research.

Who can apply?

Strand 1 is aimed at early career researchers (those who are within 7 years of completing their doctorate, or equivalent experience, and are not associate professors / professors) and staff who are new to research (academic staff who have not published an academic output, or received internal or external funding for research). The funding aims to support colleagues to engage with key stakeholders at the very beginning of the research process, to establish partnerships and networks to support the co-creation of research questions. The panel would like to fund multiple projects and therefore particularly welcome applications for projects up to £2,000.

Strand 2 is aimed at academic staff with existing research which has the potential for impact, or is starting to result in impact. The funding aims to support the development of research impact across BU and begin to identify potential case studies for post-REF2021 exercises. The panel would like to fund multiple projects and therefore particularly welcome applications for projects up to £4,000.

What we’re looking for

Applicants need to demonstrate a clear understanding of how their research – whether proposed or existing – can lead to impact. The UKRI defines research impact as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”.

For strand 1, the emphasis is on establishing and developing relationships with partners, organisations and research users that will lead to impact in the future. This may involve:

  • Collaborating with partners to apply for external funding
  • The co-creation of research questions
  • Building relationships with policymakers and policy brokers
  • Creating a stakeholder advisory group to suggest additional activities for achieving impact, as well as reviewing and providing feedback on proposed activities.

With strand 2, the focus is on maximising the potential of existing research by identifying activities that will translate outputs into impact/s.

This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Developing printed and digital resources
  • Collating further data sets
  • Creating briefings and information leaflets for policymakers
  • Updating and developing websites to disseminate findings and encourage/monitor use
  • Identifying additional potential beneficiaries and stakeholders
  • Undertaking media activity to raise awareness, change opinions or attitudes, mobilise action or influence decisions by people with power.
  • Creating new methods of engagement with the research findings, e.g., video, podcasts, apps etc.
  • Developing associated educational resources based on insights.

Application process

To apply, please first read the policy and guidance notes. Then submit the relevant online form. PDF versions are supplied so that you may preview the form, but must not be submitted:

Strand 1 application form

Strand 1 application form pdf version

Strand 2 application form

Strand 2 application form PDF version

Applications must be submitted by Friday 10th December.

If you have any questions about your application, please email Amanda Edwards.

Applicants are strongly advised to attend the surgery session on applying for internal funding for impact and public engagement on Thursday 18 November and / or book a 1-2-1 session with an Impact Advisor. Find out more about the surgery and book a place here.

BU’s Research Principles

Putting the Research Impact Fund into strategic context, under BU2025, the following funding panels operate to prioritise applications for funding and make recommendations to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC).

There are eight funding panels:

  1. HEIF Funding Panel
  2. GCRF Funding Panel
  3. Research Impact Funding Panel
  4. Doctoral Studentship Funding Panel
  5. ACORN Funding Panel
  6. Research Fellowships Funding Panel
  7. Charity Support Funding Panel
  8. SIA Funding panel

Please see further announcements regarding each initiative.

These panels align with the BU2025 focus on research, including BU’s Research Principles.  Specifically, but not exclusively, regarding the Research Impact Funding Panel, please refer to:

  • Principle 5 – which sets of the context for such funding panels,
  • Principle 6 and Outcome 9 – which recognises the need for interdisciplinarity and the importance of social science and humanities (SSH).

Ingenuity launches at BU: sign up today to help drive the UK’s recovery and rebuild a better society after Covid-19

The Ingenuity 2022 Programme is now live and open to Bournemouth University staff, students and alumni

Ingenuity exists to tackle the UK’s major social and environmental challenges through the creation of innovative start-ups. Registration is open to everyone, no matter your background or experience. If you have an idea or are motivated to see change, Ingenuity is ready to help. Find out more at ingenuityimpact.org.

Register today: forms.office.com/r/m39e80f2Rw. Deadline: 2 December 2021.

What is Ingenuity?

The Ingenuity Programme helps you turn your ideas for change into a business that creates impact. If you want to build stronger, more inclusive communities, improve the physical or mental health of those around you, or are interested in tackling climate change, then register for the Ingenuity Programme today.

Participants will hear from industry experts and gain support from specialist mentors to develop their idea into a business plan. They can submit the idea to a competition and be in with a chance of winning significant investment and support.

Ingenuity Summit

Ingenuity’s ‘state of the nation’ summit will explore the following three areas of focus from local, national, and lived experience perspectives:

  • Building Stronger Communities
  • Improving Health
  • Tackling Climate Change

The summit takes place 6 – 8 December 2021 and brings together industry experts, regional panellists, and the local community to share their insights on how to build stronger communities, improve health, and tackle climate change.

New Research Impact Fund call launching soon

The next round of the Research Impact Fund will be launched in early November

This funding is open to researchers at all stages of their careers, whether building relationships for future research projects, or seeking to realise the real-world changes their existing research could make.

The Research Impact Fund will:

  • Deliver support for developing impact
  • Improve the culture of research impact
  • Create a pipeline of potential case studies for future assessment exercises
  • Reward and recognise the efforts of those working towards developing the impact of their research.

For the 2021-22 call there will be two main strands:

Strand 1: Supporting the development of impact – aimed at early career researchers or those new to research / impact

The aim of this strand is to support the development of new partnerships and networks. These will lay the groundwork for future research projects which start with considering how to meet the needs of key stakeholders with proposed research questions.

Strand 2: Supporting areas of emerging impact

This will be used to support academic staff who have evidence of underpinning research and evidence of the impact potential of this research. The aim is to develop and accelerate research impact and support the creation of an impact pipeline in preparation for future REF exercises.

In addition, a small travel fund will be available throughout the year that will facilitate relationship building with external stakeholders such as policymakers or industry contacts, and can lead to impact development.

Details of the full call will follow early next month. In the meantime, for any informal enquires about the fund, please email Research Impact.

You can watch a short video introduction to impact here.

“Research impact is the good that researchers can do in the world.”
Mark Reed, Fast Track Impact

Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM

Ada Lovelace

Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of  the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU,  in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Dr Rebecca Neal and Dr Amanda Wilding.

Dr Rebecca Neal

Dr Rebecca Neal, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology and Programme Leader for the Sport and Exercise Science degree programme. Rebecca teaches physiology and research methods units across the Department of Rehabilitation and Sport Sciences and the Department of Sport and Events Management. She has conducted research in the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth in the areas of exercise and environmental physiology and sports performance for the English Institute of Sport, British Triathlon, GlaxoSmithKline and the Ministry of Defence.

Susan Dewhurst, Head of Department and Principal Academic in Exercise Physiology, who nominated her, says: “Rebecca is an early career researcher excelling in the traditionally male-dominated field of sport and exercise science. Her work in the field of extreme environmental physiology is published in prestigious physiology journals and she has been the recipient of external and internal grants to advance her work. [She] contributes greatly to transferring her research findings to the end user, through public engagement events, magazine articles and podcasts aimed at raising the awareness of the issues and needs of individuals exercising in extreme environments.”

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?  

“The vision that Ada Lovelace had, to create and use a computer that would produce an answer that has not been pre-programmed, is fundamental to research in STEM. I’ve been interested in understanding how the body works since trying to develop athletic skills as a child. I chose to follow this up with a degree in sport and exercise science, where the lecturers and my desire to adventure inspired me to dig deeper into what happens to our bodies in different stressful environments, whether that was exercise, disease or different extreme environments. Now, research from sports science and environmental physiology, like that of my PhD research on heat and hypoxia, is being used to explore therapeutic treatments to aid clinical populations.”

What sparked your interest in male-dominated sports and extreme environmental physiology?

“Growing up, my drive to be involved with sports stemmed from wanting to explore, learn new skills, and compete. When you’re competitive, you want to achieve, no matter what sport it is, so I would train with anyone who thought the same – often men. The same was true for exploring science throughout school and my degree, and these experiences led to me completing a PhD in Environmental Physiology, working with a team of like-minded people.

 What do you consider to be your biggest achievements so far in your career?

“So far, I’m particularly proud of the series of publications that came out of my PhD, as the experiments were demanding, involving about 40 different types of whole-body and molecular physiological measurements, with human participants visiting the laboratory over 30 times across several months. More recently, I led the successful launch of a new degree programme at BU, during a pandemic, which we are excited to see develop now our new students are back on campus and in the Human Performance Laboratory.”

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman? 

“Exercise physiology is a STEM area that combines topics that have historically been led by men: science and sport/exercise. We have progressed in many ways, but in both areas, there is much work to do for equal opportunities. Support exists for women researchers and educators in exercise physiology, however there is not equal representation yet at international conferences, and the focus of this research is often on male physiological responses. Still, the ability of women to lead complex studies is often underestimated. There is a drive in current research, which our research at BU is a part of, to include and focus studies on female physiology both during exercise and at different stages of their life – to better serve more people and further our knowledge.”

Dr Amanda Wilding

Dr Amanda Wilding, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Psychology. Amanda has supported athletes, coaches and parents in hockey, rugby, fencing and athletics, from county to international level, including athletes at their relevant world championships. She is also visiting lecturer at the Azerbaijan Sport and Physical Education University

Her colleague, Susan Dewhurst, Head of Department and Principal Academic in Exercise Physiology, says: “In addition to teaching, Amanda works as a sports psychologist in professional male football and army rugby. Her involvement in male-dominated sports led to her being invited to lead a workshop on Women in Sport to women at the Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia.”

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?  

“As a child I was always told I was no good at maths. I’m the fanciful Ada that wanted to fly, not the logical one. I never imagined I would end up in a STEM subject.”

 What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject? 

“As a child, I was a runner. My father pointed out a woman once and told me: ‘She’s the lady who went to the Olympics’. ‘Wow!’, I thought. How do you do that? I’m never going to be a professional athlete but how do I ensure others are?’ At the end of my undergraduate degree I still hadn’t found my passion, but I knew the woman still worked in athletics so I contacted her. She told me that on her way home from the Olympics, she asked a man what event he did. He told her he was a sports psychologist, and helped ‘people to be at their best under pressure’. She told him: ‘I wish I’d met you three days ago, I could have been sat here with a medal. I underestimated myself and just ran my slowest time of the season.’ That was when I knew I was destined to be a sport psychologist.”

 What sparked your interest in male-dominated sports?

“I fell into it. When the Premier League started the Elite Player Performance Plan, football clubs were required to hire a registered sport psychologist. Southampton FC contacted me and 11 years later I’m still there. It’s been an accident rather than design, but I love it.

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman? 

“I’m working on a project called ‘Women in elite football: have you got the balls for it?’, investigating female experiences of operating in a male-dominated environment. I’ve previously been told not to stand on the side-lines as it’s ‘not your place, go to the grandstand’, I’ve been to places with no changing facilities as there are ‘no women in football’. The challenge is to be taken seriously without compromising my own identity and philosophy.”

Tell us about your area of work/research

“It is all about getting the best out of people, whether that’s an elite athlete striving for the Olympics, a stroke patient trying to walk again, or a student getting a first in their degree. My work is about people, helping them to understand themselves and the environment around them. It about educating the next generation, and also working directly with those in the sports arena: athletes, coaches, parents etc. I research the real world to drive up professional standards. I currently work with Southampton FC Ladies first team, the Royal Signals Rugby team and England Athletics coaches to support integrating sport psychology into their high-performance teams.”

What would you like to change as a result of your research?

“I’d like to see more women working in the elite context as scientists. The perception that women wear suits, not tracksuits, is something I’d like to see change. My goal is to help males feel more comfortable with women entering their domain, so women don’t feel the need to mould themselves into something they’re not. I don’t want a female to feel like she can’t enter the field because of her gender. ”

What do you consider to be your biggest achievements so far in your career?

“Getting my PhD was amazing. I had two children during this period and thought it was never going to happen. I remember being on stage and as I went to walk across, I got so overwhelmed I cried. It suddenly hit me how much I had given to it.”

What was it like leading a workshop on Women in Sport to women at the Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia?

“The trip was petrifying and amazing. Getting into the country was so intimidating as I was travelling alone but the country, the people, and the whole experience was fantastic. The ladies were so engaged – I learnt just as much from them as they did from me. We compared and contrasted our different cultures, our approaches to sport and where women fit into this picture. This trip sparked my interest in examining female experiences in elite sport and male-dominated environments.”

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career? 

“There is much more to STEM subjects than what we are taught at school. You can go down avenues you never knew existed. Keep going until you find the right path for you. Ask questions, seek experiences, and go for it – you never know where it will take you.”

Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM

Ada Lovelace

Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of  the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU,  in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Dr Roya Haratian, Dr Vanessa Heaslip and Dr Michele Board.

Dr Roya Haratian

Dr Roya Haratian, Assistant Professor in Electronics in the Department of Design and Engineering. Roya works in multidisciplinary topics such as Mechatronics, Signal Processing and Control System Design applied across different industries. Roya is the co-lead for Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) in her department and submitted their application for the SWAN bronze award with the aim of supporting women in their career development. They have also formed an inclusivity committee to address diversity and equality.

Dr Diogo Montalvao, Deputy Head of the Department of Design and Engineering, who nominated her, says: “Roya has led the department’s submission to Athena Swan and championed the Women in Engineering Society at BU, [launched in 2019]. Her contribution to raising the profile of women in engineering aT BU has therefore been of the utmost importance. She has been challenging gender stereotypes by being the most qualified engineering professional we have in Electronics. She is our ‘in-house’ specialist in a range of fields… traditionally dominated by men, namely mechatronics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, with applications to biomechanics.”

Please tell us a little about your area of work/research

“My research is currently focused on, but not limited to, on-body sensing and signal processing systems for the development of new algorithms to improve the quality of life… [The aim is] to bring awareness to the early signs of issues and provide biofeedback for stress management by collecting physiological signals. My research looks at how awareness of user experience affects the human-machine interaction (HMI), in areas such as utility, ease of use, and efficiency. The machine’s ability to recognise users’ experience during user-machine interaction would improve the overall HMI usability and such machines could adapt their speed, for example, based on the user experience.”

What would you like to change as a result of your research?

” My research is mainly centred on the design and development of assistive technologies for long-term monitoring of mental well-being.”

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career?

“My advice to women who are considering a career in STEM is to believe in their abilities and power to break the gender stereotypes which still exist in the 21st century. Although now it is more subtle in comparison to decades ago, we need to be aware that still it exists.”

 

Dr Vanessa Heaslip

Dr Vanessa Heaslip, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department for Nursing Science. Vanessa was nominated by her colleague Professor Steven Ersser, Head of Department for Nursing Science, who describes her as an “amazing leader in nursing related to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups [especially] that of the health of the Romany/travelling community.”

In 2019, she was honoured as a Woman of the Year at the prestigious annual Women of the Year Lunch and Awards held in London. She was named for her commitment in ensuring health and educational equity for individuals from marginalised communities. Vanessa’s educational research in widening participation and fair access in higher education, alongside her clinical research in vulnerability and vulnerable groups in society, whose voices are not traditionally heard, is nationally and internationally recognised.

Her current and recent research includes her role as principal investigator on a project funded by the Burdett Trust to co-produce a technological solution to support rough sleepers to self-care by locating and accessing services, and leading a systematic review exploring experiences of vulnerability among adult male prisoners. She also worked with BU archaeology colleague Professor Tim Darvill on the Human Henge project at Stonehenge, which investigated the impact of immersive experiences of prehistoric landscapes on the well-being of participants with mental health issues.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject? 

“My research interests in health equity and addressing health disparities faced by many socially excluded groups derived from my clinical experience as a nurse working in both hospitals and community settings. I find it simply unacceptable that those who need healthcare services the most often face the most barriers in accessing it, and feel compelled to raise this educationally, clinically and politically.

“I am honoured to be recognised in this way and recognise I stand on the shoulders of women like Ada. who came before me, those who dared to follow their passion and ask questions of the world in which we live.”

Dr Michele Board

Dr Michele BoardAssociate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department for Nursing Science. Michele, who is the deputy lead for the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre.  was also nominated by colleague Professor Steven Ersser, who says: “[Michele] is an “amazing leader in gerontological nursing, with specialist expertise in the field of dementia care and frailty.”

Michele describes herself as being “passionate about caring for the person, not the diagnosis”.  She has been an adult nurse since 1985 and has had a broad range of clinical experience, with a specific focus on nursing the older person. She started lecturing in 2003, and has also led the development of dementia education programmes for health and social care staff working in the NHS and the private sector.

Michele’s general research interests are in the field of nursing older people and people with dementia. As a qualitative researcher she uses creative approaches to collect and present research data. A recent grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK enabled her to evaluate their app, A Walk Through Dementia – designed to put people in the shoes of someone living with dementia – for its effect on learners’ understanding of the lived experience of dementia.

Her other research work includes widening participation and nurse education, as well as consideration of the impact of changes to nurse education funding on recruitment and retention of staff. She also works one day a month with the Dorset Memory Advisory Service, contributing to the assessment of people with a cognitive impairment.

BU celebrates Ada Lovelace Day 2021

Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852

To commemorate Ada Lovelace Day today Heads of Department have nominated colleagues who are leading in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). These women are being profiled all week on the Research blog and across social media channels.

Yesterday we featured Professor Wen Tang and Dr Melanie Coles from Creative Technology and Computing respectively.

Tomorrow the spotlight will be on the areas of sports psychology and exercise physiology with profiles of Dr Amanda Wilding and Dr Rebecca Neal.

Thursday highlights Dr Roya Haratian from Electronics, as well as Dr Michele Board and Dr Vanessa Heaslip from the Department of Nursing Science.

We close the week on Friday with a post featuring Professor Jane Murphy, Professor of Nutrition and Dr Sue Green, also from the Department of Nursing Science.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace Day is named after Ada Byron, the Countess of Lovelace, who is often regarded as the first computer programmer for her work in machine programming. Born in 1815 to the poet Lord Byron and Lady Anne Byron, a mathematician, Ada collaborated with inventor Charles Babbage on his general purpose computing machine, known as the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and to have published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.

Ada Lovelace Day is now an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM subjects. It aims to raise the profile of women working in these subjects and, in doing so, encourage more girls into STEM careers, as well as supporting women already working in STEM.

Find out more about Ada Lovelace day celebrations on the Finding Ada website.

Ada Lovelace Day 2021 at BU: celebrating women in STEM

Ada Lovelace

Tuesday 12th October is Ada Lovelace Day: an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Find out more about her here.

All week we are profiling a selection of  the women who work in STEM disciplines at BU,  in areas as varied as games technology, sport psychology, electronics and clinical nutrition. Today we feature Professor Wen Tang and Dr Melanie Coles.

Professor Wen Tang

Professor Wen Tang, Professor of Games Technology in the Creative Technology Department. Wen is Director of the Centre for Smart Immersive Technology and the lead developer of the BU Games Analytics Platform.

Her colleague, Fred Charles (Head of Department of Creative Technology) says, “Throughout her career as an academic in Computer Science, Wen has provided leadership and mentoring to staff and students in Mathematical Modelling, Algorithmics, Physics in Simulations, Computer Games Programming, Virtual and Augmented Reality. She is inspiring as a teacher and a researcher, and her funded projects have led to positive impacts on society.”

Wen has an impressive list of research funding awards to her name, including, most recently, £2 million worth of projects for which she is BU’s PI, such as H2020-MSCA-RISE-2018:iGame, looking at gaming techniques for e-health and m-health apps, Interreg 2 Seas Mers Zeeen PATH, aimed at improving perinatal mental health, and Interreg Channel ASPIRE, creating tools for healthier lifestyles.

What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?  

“Ada Lovelace is a great inspiration and a towering figure for women in all walks of life, especially in STEM subjects. She is proof that women are equal to men in STEM subjects –  in creativity and in practice. I am inspired by both Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, for their love of science and their intellectual power of thinking.”

What or who inspired you to pursue your career in a STEM subject?  

“When I was a young girl growing up in China during the cultural revolution, my father taught me to pursue knowledge and to have intellectual curiosity.  As an engineer himself, he advised me to study an engineering subject in my first degree.  I was also greatly inspired by a Chinese female poet from the 9th century Song dynasty, Li Qing Zhao, who is revered as one of China’s greatest poets.”

Have you faced any challenges in your chosen field because you’re a woman?  

“Although women are increasingly studying STEM subjects at school and university, there is still a very low glass ceiling in China for the employment or promotion of woman in companies or universities after their education. And there are still barriers too in Europe. For 15 years I was the only female on the committee of the European Association for Computer Graphics. During my academic career, I was one of very few female members of my teaching group, and for a very long time I was the only female in my department. It can be lonely and there can be barriers when communicating over different issues, but this does not detract from my love of computer graphics-related subjects (games, VR, AR) and the enjoyment of researching and teaching in this area.”

What would your advice be to girls looking at STEM subjects as a possible career?  

“I would very much encourage girls to look towards STEM subjects as possible career paths, and am always very happy to meet girls studying games, software engineering and games design courses. I tell them during open days that girls are just as good as boys in computer programming.  The situation is slowly improving, but the UK digital industry really still needs more woman and girls.”

Please tell us a little about your area of work/research. 

“My research area is concerned with digital games, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. While I research novel algorithms and frameworks to address specific technical questions, I am also interested in how the technologies can be used to address societal challenges through interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborations. My recent large European projects have been focused on digital technologies for healthcare.”

What would you like to change as a result of your research?   

“By working within large consortia of project partners across different countries, I have gained an understanding of gaps in digital technologies in real-life applications. These gaps require new ways of research thinking… we need to think and work more creatively and imaginatively to put emerging technologies to real-life use.”

Wen is clearly an inspiration to young women in computing. A former student of hers, who now works for a Cambridge-based company as a user interface designer, recently wrote to her: “I gave a presentation for International Women’s Day, describing my experience in the industry as a woman. I also discussed [what] it was like going through university, and that you were the only female professor on our course. I would like to thank you for being a wonderful inspiration to me personally too.”

Photo by David Latorre Romero on Unsplash

Dr Melanie Coles, Deputy Head of Department in Computing and Informatics. Her colleague Dr Vegard Engen describes her as “one of the most experienced, knowledgeable and pragmatic problem solvers we have in the department, often being a key person both academic and professional support staff reach out to if they have a problem. As one of the deputy heads, Melanie is the only female in such a leadership position in the computing department.

“She continuously champions gender equality, and challenges gender stereotypes through her leadership role, teaching and Athena SWAN contributions. While having moved into management and leadership, she retains her technical curiosity and involvement with students, and makes a real difference to our department – for students and staff alike.”

Melanie’s research in computing began in the early 1990s, putting her in the vanguard of women studying computing and information systems. She received her MSc in Distributed Information Systems from the University of East London in 1994, having attained a BSc (Hons) in Psychology prior to that. She was the recipient of Technology Strategy Board Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grants in 2009, and worked alongside computer scientists at Morning Data Limited and Hark Solutions.

Her teaching experience has informed her research and, as she explains, “[my research] has impacted upon subsequent teaching and learning developments. I have taught programming for a number of years, with different sized cohorts, at different levels, on different degrees and it was this experience that led me to explore why programming can be difficult to both learn and teach, and what can be done to improve the student experience in learning to program.”

Combining her expertise in psychology, pedagogy and computing/information systems, Melanie’s research is powerfully demonstrated in publications she has co-authored on subjects such as the application of innovative technologies and practices in remote learning, undergraduate students’ learning approaches in programming and brain types as programming aptitude predictors.

Melanie continues to teach Principles of Programming, Persuasive Technology and Behaviour Change, and Cyberpsychology. She also mentors several members of staff and, in the words of another colleague, Dr Gernot Liebchen, “always looks at the best interest of the students in a student-centric approach, while focusing on academic integrity”.

Profiles by Nicolette Barsdorf-Liebchen

Research impact at BU: building privacy and security into software design; reporting on disaster in Nepal

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Productive security and privacy by design: building security and privacy tools into the earliest stages of software development

Research areas: Systems Security Engineering, Computer Science & Psychology

Staff conducting research: Dr Shamal Faily, Dr Jane Henriksen-Bulmer, Dr John McAlaney

Background: Dr Faily’s research explores how personas – as a vehicle for user experience (UX) techniques in general – can be instrumental in incorporating security into software design prior to architectural design and software development. His work demonstrates how the activity of creating personas leads to better security requirements and how the elicitation and management of personas can be incorporated into integrated tool-support. In addition, his findings show how personas based only on assumptions can help find security problems once software has been developed and where the design data is sub-optimal.

Dr Faily and Dr McAlaney collaborated on a number of research projects with the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), identifying factors that influence how security analysts interpret risk, as well as principles for designing software used by cybersecurity risk-based decision-makers. Dr Henriksen-Bulmer has also explored whether the design techniques and tools for security are equally applicable when considering privacy – particularly in helping organisations and charities make sense of the General Data Protection Act’s impact on products and services.

The impact:

Supporting industry

BU’s research was adopted by Ricardo Rail (RR), a consultancy that provides technical expertise, assurance and specialist engineering services to rail companies around the world, enabling its clients to better understand emergent qualities of their systems such as safety, security and usability and the relationship between them. RR’s first application of the research was on a project conducting cyber security risk analysis of a rolling stock platform developed by a major UK-based manufacturer. By modelling personas developed by BU, RR was able to identify and investigate threats and control measures in greater detail, which would not have been the case otherwise

Supporting UK government

DSTL uses ‘the best science and technology capabilities’ to respond to the Ministry of Defence’s needs regarding current operations and future defence strategy. A key element is its support of military operations in rapidly changing situations in coalition with other nations. It is therefore essential that risk-based decision-making is understood across organisational boundaries. DSTL has used BU’s research to support its work with Defence Spectrum Management ‘to ensure defence use of the electromagnetic spectrum [signals such as radio, infrared or radar] is efficient’ and remove the potential for conflict between different users.

Supporting charities

When the new GDPR legislation was introduced in 2018, UK charities were struggling to establish how to demonstrate compliance. BU worked with renowned UK addiction rehabilitation charity StreetScene to demonstrate how techniques and tools resulting from our research could help. Dr Henriksen-Bulmer helped them evaluate the readiness of their existing policies and procedures with BU’s privacy risk assessment processes and tools, which were then used to train staff. This training, and that of other charities across the region, helped them reduce the amount of time and resources spent on privacy compliance activities, allowing for more time to be devoted to their charitable goals.

Strengthening disaster preparedness and resilience of news media in Nepal

Research areas: Journalism & Communication

Staff conducting research: Dr Chindhu Sreedharan, Professor Einar Thorsen

Nepal earthquake, 2015

Background: After the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, it emerged that the country’s news outlets were ill-prepared to report on such events. This was despite the fact that journalists play a vital role during disasters: facilitating accurate public messaging, holding power to account, and aiding in the national recovery process. Dr Sreedharan and Professor Thorsen’s research identified for the first time that a lack of editorial preparedness was preventing the news media from meeting this responsibility.

BU’s Aftershock Nepal study mapped the key challenges Nepali journalists faced after the 2015 earthquakes. The project explored the requirements of sustained disaster journalism, assessed the levels of news media preparedness, and suggested good practices and culturally specific recommendations to strengthen post-disaster journalism. Using a website that published earthquake reportage by student journalists, researchers analysed the non-preparedness of Nepali journalists to identify their disaster-specific training needs.

In 2019, in partnership with UNESCO Kathmandu, BU published a bilingual book in Nepali and English that expanded the scope of Aftershock Nepal to consider resilience in the context of floods, landslides, and other climate-induced disasters. The book’s recommendations focused on three areas: building resilience for journalists, building capacity for news investigations, and building resilience for the future.

This was followed in August 2020 by a bilingual report, published with the Nepal Press Institute, which mapped the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the news industry. Findings revealed journalists experienced increased vulnerability, anxiety and grief, while others had taken a pay cut or lost their jobs. The report outlined 10 recommendations targeting psychological resilience of journalists, financial solutions, health protection and building future disaster resilience.

The impact:

Changing policy and practice

BU’s research has had far-reaching impact on the policies and practice of a range of news organisations, as well as UNESCO and the Nepal government:

  • In direct response, Kamana Group – one of Nepal’s largest media groups, with a daily audience reach of 850,000 – adopted a disaster-specific editorial policy across all its publications,
  • UNESCO used the research to strengthen its planning on disaster journalism capacity-building,
  • Following BU recommendations, news organisations were included in Nepal’s Disaster Risk Reduction National Strategic Plan of Action 2018-30 for the first time,
  • The Federation of Nepali Journalists, the country’s umbrella organisation of media professionals, made disaster journalism a strategic priority,
  • The national organisation of women journalists in Nepal, Working Women Journalists, based its capacity-building activities on the BU research,
  • Responding to BU recommendations, the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Nepal investigated the impact of Covid-19 on Nepali society, recognising the vital part disaster-specific investigations play in strengthening resilience.

Capacity building for journalists and students:

  • Nepal Press Institute, the national industry training body for journalists, adapted its training delivery and curriculum to meet the present pandemic climate, with 76 journalists to date trained in disaster reporting.
  • Disaster Journalism Network was established in 2020 by six community news organisations, in direct response to BU recommendations to bolster disaster resilience by creating collaborative networks. To our knowledge, this is the world’s first ‘multi-room collaborative to strengthen disaster journalism’. Through its activities and journalism, it has helped protect the physical safety of journalists and supported community members in getting their voices heard by politicians.
  • After observing the impact on students of participating in Aftershock Nepal, Tribhuvan University (12th largest in the world with 600,000 students) revised its undergraduate journalism curriculum to include disaster journalism lessons.
  • Kantipur City College initiated curriculum changes to its courses, based on BU research, incorporating disaster journalism in subjects such as Media Theories, Public Communication and Media Management.

Research impact at BU: digital preservation of human fossil footprints; creating an interactive role for readers

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Discovering and preserving human fossil footprints at White Sands National Park, New Mexico

The dunes at White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Research areas: Environmental & Geographical Sciences, Data Science, Hominin Palaeoecology

Staff conducting research: Professor Matthew Bennett, Professor Marcin Budka, Dr Sally Reynolds

Background: Fossil footprints are an important, but neglected, part of the palaeontological and archaeological record. Professor Bennett, a recognised authority on human footprints, received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to develop analytical approaches for the capture and analysis of human footprints, and then translate the work into the freeware DigTrace. DigTrace is an integrated software solution for the capture and analysis of 3D data of footprints, and can be applied to both fossil footprints and forensic practice. Along with similar  ‘Structure from Motion’ photogrammetry approaches, DigTrace has revolutionised vertebrate ichnology, providing data for advanced biomechanical analysis, enhanced visualisation, and the preservation of fragile fossil footprints.

Professor Bennett was approached by the US National Park Service (NPS) to help them identify human tracks at White Sands National Park in New Mexico and advise on conservation methods. They had already found the tracks of Ice Age animals such as giant ground sloth and mammoth but wanted to know more about potential human fossil footprints. In collaboration with David Bustos, the park’s resource manager, Professor Bennett quickly confirmed the presence of human footprints. Casts of the fossil tracks are now on display in Harvard University’s Peabody Museum and PLOS SciComm listed the findings as number one in its ‘Top 9 discoveries in human evolution’ in 2020.

The research is ongoing, including the discovery and analysis of the longest known human trackway so far reported, and the team has also pioneered the geo-prospection of human tracks using geophysical methods. The discovery of the footprints was featured in The Conversation, and covered extensively in the media, including: National Geographic, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, The Times, Atlantic, BBC Radio, New Scientist and many more.

The impact: 

Using DigTrace, and the research findings, Professor Bennett helped the NPS develop conservation management methods and approaches, enabling them to digitally conserve the eroding footprints. Using geophysics, the researchers developed methods for mapping hidden tracks for the NPS staff to use.

The intense media interest generated in the footprints, together with the description of how the humans involved would have been actively hunting giant ground sloth, was used by local politicians to launch draft legislation to re-designate White Sands as a Park and include the words ‘palaeontology’ and ‘archaeology’ in the founding legislation. The legislative process was slow but President Trump finally signed off on the name change and re-designation in December 2019. The NPS acknowledged the importance of Professor Bennett and his team’s track research in bringing about the re-designation and the Smithsonian National Museum confirmed the site’s significance within the Americas.

Independent research undertaken by a non-profit research group at the time suggested that the impact to the local economy of Alamogordo (Otero County) was likely to be worth $6m a year due to an enhanced number of visitors to the park.

Enabling the Genarrator Generation: creating a more active, participatory role for modern readers

The Genarrator website

Research area: Literature

Staff conducting research: Dr Jim Pope, Dr Simon Frost

Background: Too often, readers have seen themselves as mere passive recipients of the outputs from a professionalised corporate literature industry. This view is underpinned by an understanding of literature through the so-called author-centric conduit model, whereby the author transmits a narrative to a single reader who decodes the story.

BU researchers have explored theoretical and practical ways in which the reader is placed closer to the centre of literary practice, creating a collaborative model in which users and producers are co-creators of a narrative experience. Research findings suggested that readers create their texts’ values as an active expression of the desires they see being supported, obstructed or ignored. Because these values are made possible by the intertextuality of other publicly available works, where the meanings and values of works are shaped by one another, they are fundamentally collaborative. This theorisation, especially the social political ambition, was articulated in outputs by Frost and Pope.

BU’s research concluded that the collective interaction between all agencies, technologies and economies enable the reader-user to gain a personalised narrative experience, creating value in relation to the reader’s desires. Dr Pope spearheaded the creation of the web-based app Genarrator, a free space for digital interactive stories, in which readers participate more fully by choosing the direction and outcomes of a narrative. In addition, researchers also set up the open call New Media Writing Prize (NMWP), now in its 11th year. New media industries draw on BU research outputs in their own research and development opportunities, sponsoring collaboration with prizewinners and providing internships.

The impact:

The Genarrator website and app

The Genarrator website operates as a professional publishing platform and is home to more than 2,000 narratives. Available free of charge, and free of advertising, it enables people to produce interactive narratives, with branching pathways and multiple endings, and provides a collaborative online space for the interactive narrative community. It allows readers to connect with storytelling and, crucially, provides authors with new ways to reach their audiences and tell their stories. The NMWP, the first and only global prize of its kind, showcases the best in new media writing with innovative digital fiction, poetry and journalism which integrate a variety of formats, platforms and digital media. Both Genarrator and the NMWP have changed the way participants view their relationship with literature, enabling them to create their own interactive stories, and helping them find and use their voices in ways that were never possible before.

Empowering young people

In 2016, working with AIM Central (a charity sponsored by Children in Need/BCP Council), BU researchers undertook a co-creation workshop with AIM users, young people at risk, and those not in education, employment or training (NEET). Each participant self-designed and created an interactive narrative using Genarrator, which was subsequently published on the Genarrator community site. The workshops improved participants’ understanding of digital storytelling, their creative writing, filming, artistic and technical skills, and enhanced teamwork and cooperation. They also provided acknowledgement of their work, as it was displayed alongside professional outputs, and gave employers a place to see their art.

Between 2018 and 2019, BU researchers held a series of workshops with students aged 14-15 from ‘working class/non-working families’ at Bishop of Winchester Academy. BU students and the school’s sixth-formers mentored participants, and narratives included stories about bullying, racism in football and anxiety. The sense of achievement many students felt was translated into aspiration for higher education, illustrating that Genarrator had provided inspiration and links to university study for disenfranchised young people.

Improving careers of narrative practitioners

The NMWP has contributed to the development and promotion of new media writing over the past 10 years, engaging a range of practitioners including journalists and documentary makers as well as writers and artists. Following the British Library’s public event ‘Digital Conversations’ in 2019, which focused on celebrating the NMWP, national arts charity One-to-One Development Trust praised the impact of the prize, commenting on its “unique” and “cross-discipline” features and crediting it for attracting a broad range of entries and widening the field of new media.