Posts By / Julie Northam

BU research explores the use of comic artistry and storytelling in public health information

Research at Bournemouth University is looking at the effectiveness of comic artistry and storytelling in the sharing of public health messaging.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) the project will catalogue and analyse comic-style public health graphics, specifically those created during the Covid-19 pandemic, and seek to make recommendations on how the comic medium can be effective at delivering public health messaging to help drive behaviour change.

The idea for the research began as Dr Anna Feigenbaum, the lead researcher, and her colleagues Alexandra Alberda and William Proctor shared clever comic-style graphics with one another that had been created and shared on social media about Covid-19. These single, sharable, comic-style graphics blend the artistry and storytelling of comics with the Covid-19 messaging we have seen throughout the pandemic.

Dr Feigenbaum, an Associate Professor within the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University, said, “What we saw from these comic graphics was the way that the artistry and storytelling combined to share messages in a more emotive and interesting way. This built on work we were already doing on how public health messaging could utilise this medium to make their own messaging more engaging and even lead to better behavioural outcomes.”

José Blàzquez, the project’s postdoctoral researcher, has started work in collating over 1200 examples of comic-style Covid-19 messaging with the aim of understanding what makes them so compelling, and how this genre of communication could be further used to create what the project’s research illustrator, Alexandra Alberda, calls an “accessible, approachable and relatable” style of messaging when communicating important public health messages. The team aims to build a database that archives these comics, including information about their artistic and storytelling techniques, audience engagement, circulation, and what implications they may have for the sharing of health messaging in the future.

The final outcomes will be shared as a report and an illustrated set of good practice guidelines. Results will also be shared in the team’s edited collection Comics in the Time of COVID-19 and a special journal issue for Comics Grid. It is hoped these guidelines will inform public health communicators, as well as graphic designers and educators.

The team has even created their own Covid-19 web-comics, published by Nightingale on Medium. https://medium.com/nightingale/covid-19-data-literacy-is-for-everyone-46120b58cec9

Dr Feigenbaum continued, “Data comics are on a real upsurge as people look to make sense of the world through data visualisation, and there are some wonderful examples from amateur artists who have been incredibly clever and creative in taking what are, essentially, public health messages, and turning them into emotive comic-style stories.

“These sharable comic graphics are engaging and informed – there is a lot to learn here about the way we make sense of the world and how this genre could help us to see the communication of important messages in a whole new light. What we’re researching now could be seen as best practice in years to come.”

In addition to the main team of Dr. Feigenbaum, Dr. Blàzquez and Alexandra Alberda, this research will be conducted with Co-investigators Dr. Billy Proctor, Dr. Sam Goodman and Professor Julian McDougall, along with advisory partners Public Health Dorset, the Graphic Medicine Collective, Information Literacy Group and Comics Grid.

More information about the project will soon be available at www.covidcomics.org.

Why research matters at BU – now more than ever

On Monday, I added a post about the role of universities throughout history and how they have played a critical role in the creation and advancement of knowledge. The Government’s R&D Roadmap (June 2020) recognises universities as a crucial part of the UK’s R&D infrastructure, particularly in regard to ensuring the knowledge they create gets into the public domain and has social and economic benefits.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a damaging effect on research across all universities. Some research projects have been suspended or cancelled, there has been a delay in awards being made by funders, and the start dates for some new awards were postponed. Research requiring access to labs and/or fieldwork was impacted, particularly last summer. Some research may even have been rendered unfeasible due to COVID. Furthermore, the move to different models of educational delivery and pastoral support for students reduced time and capacity for research. COVID-19 also impacted university finances, creating additional uncertainty and a lack of stability, resulting in a reticence to commit to long-term projects and/or those considered to be risky. However, although the research process was impacted by COVID-19, the outputs of research are crucial to post-pandemic recovery, as discussed in Dr Rebecca Edwards’ post on Wednesday. This creates all sorts of exciting new opportunities for colleagues to get involved in research and change the direction of their research. Although challenging, it is important that time is carved out for research, now more than ever.

Research is a priority for Bournemouth University. It is central to our institutional strategy and ethos and it is fundamental to Fusion. Our research capacity has grown considerably over the past few years. More staff are now engaging actively in research, as demonstrated through the proportion of staff submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF). This has increased from less than a third of staff (REF 2014) to over three quarters of staff (REF 2021). We have invested in the Strategic Investment Areas and new institutes (such as the Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions, IMSET and the Institute for Medical Imaging and Visualisation, IMIV) to bring research to life through programmes of research and collaborative, multidisciplinary research teams. Research undertaken by Bournemouth University makes a real, tangible difference within our region as well as nationally and internationally, as demonstrated through our plethora of impact case studies due to be submitted to the REF next month. The world needs research to recover from the impact of COVID-19 and our research can help.

The capacity and responsibility for research are key things that differentiate a university from a college of further education. Research is critical to Bournemouth University’s purpose and it is our research excellence that sets us apart from other universities, giving us our unique identity. It is our research excellence that underpins and influences our educational offering and attracts students to study with us and staff to work with us. Research is fun, exciting and rewarding. It stretches us, challenges our ways of thinking and introduces us to interesting new people. It gives us the power to make a difference in the world.

Bournemouth University researchers are making a difference through their research. Earlier this month we featured some of our global research projects, including:

We’re keen to share more stories about your excellent research and hear about what makes research exciting to you. Email me (Julie Northam) with your thoughts and ideas so we can work together to create a buzz around research at Bournemouth University.

Research and the role of the university…

Research is a priority for Bournemouth University and we are proud of the contribution our research makes to society. Ten years ago, I wrote a blog post on the role of universities in the 21st century and the importance of research, inspired by an article in the Guardian – What are universities for? As the pandemic is changing the very fabric and structure of our lives, it seems timely to revisit this and to reflect on what the role of a university such as BU should be during and after the pandemic and the importance of research in this. There will be a handful of blog posts this week exploring this topic.

The role of a university has been debated since the nineteenth century. In 1852 Cardinal Newman wrote that the sole function of a university was to teach universal knowledge, embodying the idea of ‘the learning university’. Newman believed that knowledge is valuable and important for its own sake and not just for its perceived use to society (this is quite different from the current thinking on the importance of research impact, public accountability and the value of research findings to society at large, issues which I imagine Newman would have thought of as irrelevant!). There was not a great deal in Newman’s work about the importance of research in a university, but research was beginning to play the starring role in mainland Europe where Prussian education minister Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote of the concept of ‘the research university’ and eventually set up the Humboldt University of Berlin. After the Napoleonic Wars, von Humboldt’s view was that the research university was a tool for national rebuilding through the prioritisation of graduate research over undergraduate teaching. This model soon became the blueprint for the rest of Europe, the United States and Japan. Arguably the Russell Group universities are today still structured in a similar way to that envisaged by von Humboldt two hundred years ago.

Moving into the twentieth century and we come across American educationalist Abraham Flexner who wrote of ‘the modern university’. In Flexner’s view universities had a responsibility to pursue excellence, with academic staff being able to seamlessly move from the research lab to the classroom and back again. The pursuit of excellence features in many universities strategies and the union and seamless movement between research and education sounds like an early version of BU’s Fusion strategy.

Taking into consideration the complexity of universities in the twenty first century, all of these views are a little too simplistic. Today’s universities have much broader remits and a much greater role in society. Peter McCaffery notes that universities now regularly encompass four roles:

  • Finishing school (the last stage of general education)
  • Professional school (the training of elite workers)
  • Knowledge factory (the production of science, technology and ideology)
  • Cultural institution (the expression of our individual and collective sense of being)

The Government’s R&D Roadmap (published June 2020) sets out the UK’s vision and ambition for science, research and innovation. It recognises universities as a critical part of the R&D infrastructure, particularly in regard to advancing knowledge and knowledge creation and ensuring that research gets into the public domain and has social and economic benefits. This is a significant remit for universities but makes them exciting places to work.

A quick look at the mission statements of a handful of UK universities indicates a common purpose based on the views of all of the aforementioned scholars:

  • “…to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence” (Cambridge)
  • “[The University] contributes to society through scholarship and research, by developing creative graduates and through its cultural, social, economic and environmental activities” (Bristol)
  • “…to be a world-leading, research-excellent, educationally outstanding university, driven by creativity and curiosity, which fulfils its social, cultural and economic obligations to Cardiff, Wales, the UK and the world” (Cardiff)

The creation and sharing of new knowledge and new ideas has become the principal purpose of many modern universities. In Northern and Western Europe and North America the university has become the key producer of knowledge (through research) and the key sharer of knowledge (through teaching).  Professor Eric Thomas (former Vice-Chancellor at University of Bristol) claimed that universities are the knowledge engines of our society having produced the vast majority of society’s breakthroughs and innovations, such as: the computer, the web, the structure of DNA, Dolly the Sheep, and the fibre optic cable. We can now add the COVID vaccine to that list, as developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. Where would we be without these breakthroughs and would they have come about so quickly without university research?

Being part of an environment in which knowledge creation thrives creates a unique and amazing learning experience for students, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. BU’s focus on the Fusion of research, education and professional practice enables the creation of this type of environment through the continuous and valuable exchange of knowledge.

In Wednesday’s blog post we’ll look at the role of universities post-pandemic recovery.

10 things you need to know about the BU Financial Regulations and RKE

Please read the following 10 things you need to know about the BU Financial Regulations in relation to research and knowledge exchange (RKE).

1. The purpose of the BU Financial Regulations is to provide control over university resources, ensuring the resources are being properly applied to achieve the university’s objectives. They provide practical guidance on the university’s policies relating to financial control. All matters concerning finance must be carried out in line with the Financial Regulations.

2. They apply to all of us, irrespective of your grade, role, department that you work in or what type of employment contract you hold.

3. Non-compliance with the regulations is potentially a disciplinary matter. See below for a non-exhaustive list of examples of potential breaches of the Financial Regulations in relation to RKE.

4. They apply to all university activities irrespective of the source of funding. Specific external funding such as research grants are still subject to our Financial Regulations because the funds are awarded to the university and not to an individual member of staff.

5. All bids/applications/quotations to external funders/clients must be costed by RDS and approved via the Activity Proposal Form (APF) process, prior to submission. The approved costs must match those submitted to the funder. If a named sub-contractor is included within the bid/application, this will be subject to BU Procurement procedures (see #7).  No commitment to outside agencies or to incur expenditure can be made without the proper approval being in place.  If a bid commits BU at the time of submission then the Contract Signing Policy & Procedures will need to be followed at bid stage.

6. A contract/agreement/grant offer letter, etc. cannot be signed until it has been reviewed by Legal Services. There are only certain people who can sign documents or agreements/contracts ‘on behalf of the university’. RKE projects cannot start until there is a signed contract in place. See the Financial Authority Limits and the Contract Signing Policy & Procedures.

7. All purchasing must be made in accordance with the BU Procurement Manual. There are thresholds determining when quotations and tendering procedures are required.

8. Principal Investigators are responsible for ensuring their RKE projects do not exceed the funds available/the approved budget. This can be monitored using the Research & Enterprise Database, RED.

9. All purchases must be approved prior to commitment. All purchases must have a purchase order raised prior to the order being placed or the work taking place.

10. Travel and Business Expenses can only be incurred in accordance with the Financial Regulations. The specific rules in are in the BU Business Travel Policy and the Staff & Visitors Expenses Policy.

Examples of potential breaches of BU Financial Regulations, which could lead to further action (such as disciplinary proceedings):

  • Signing a contract that has not undergone legal review and/or without the required approvals in place.
  • Changing the financial figures in an external funding application so they no longer match those approved via the APF process.
  • Starting work on an externally-funded RKE project, before a contract has been signed.
  • Committing to purchases, without prior approval or without having a purchase order.
  • Exceeding the budget available for an RKE project.
  • Spending more on travel, subsistence or accommodation than the rates specified in the Staff & Visitors Expenses Policy, without prior approval.
  • Not adhering to the procurement procedures set out in the BU Procurement Manual.

Updated guidance for RKE activities in this lockdown period

The Government announced that new national restrictions came into force across England on 5th January to curb the spread of COVID-19 and that these will remain in place until at least late February 2021. In a similar way to the first lockdown, during this time you must not leave your home except for permitted reasons. Only essential activity will continue on-campus (further details to follow). Research remains a priority for BU and we have put processes in place to ensure time-critical research requiring access to campus facilities can continue. However, the fundamental message remains Stay at Home if you can.

Research on-campus: All on-campus research activity has been suspended temporarily. However, researchers and research students undertaking time-critical research which cannot be undertaken from home and who require access to specialist facilities, resources and equipment on-campus for their work can make a request to their Faculty to access the campus during this lockdown period. You will need to contact your Faculty Operations Team to request access, even if you have received approval previously. On-campus research activities involving face-to-face contact with participants are unlikely to be permitted during this lockdown period. It is recommended that before requesting permission to proceed with research on-campus, you read the latest government guidance on labs and research facilities.

Research off-campus and outside of the home: Research and knowledge exchange activities which take place off-campus and outside of the home should be reviewed in light of the latest government guidance on essential work. If these activities can be undertaken in a compliant way, the risk assessment should be updated and approved by the relevant Deputy Dean (Research & Professional Practice) and Faculty Operations Team. If the research cannot be undertaken under the new lockdown conditions, it should be paused until late February 2021. For colleagues that have previously completed the return to research process and/or undertaking research in the context of COVID-19 process, and have received a letter stating that they can undertake research off-campus, this permission is now paused until restrictions are lifted. If you have reviewed the activities, still wish to proceed and have the approval from your Deputy Dean (Research & Professional Practice) and relevant partner approvals, please email RDSProjectAdmin@bournemouth.ac.uk and an appropriate letter will be issued. It is recommended that before requesting permission to proceed with research activities, that you read the latest government guidance on research. This is important as although BU’s campuses have been made COVID-19 secure enabling you to continue to come into work, this cannot be guaranteed in off-campus locations, and therefore careful consideration needs to be taken as to the feasibility of research proceeding between now and late February 2021.

Further information:

Read the Government’s latest information on universities and the COVID restrictions here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/950367/Students_returning_to_and_starting_higher_education_in_Spring_Term_2021.pdf

Changes to the BU Bridging Fund Scheme

In summer 2015, we launched the BU Bridging Fund Scheme which aims to provide additional stability to fixed-term researchers who are often employed on short term contacts linked to external funding. This situation may impact on continuity of employment due to breaks in employment, job security and can result in a costly loss of researcher talent for the institution.

The Scheme aims to mitigate these circumstances through early career planning, forward research project planning, redeployment where possible, or where feasible, by providing ‘bridging funding’ for the continuation of employment for a short-term (usually up to three months, but up to six months can be considered in exceptional situations) between research grants. It is intended to permit the temporary employment, in certain circumstances, of researchers between fixed-term contracts at BU, for whom no other source of funding is available, in order to:

(a) encourage the retention of experienced and skilled staff, and sustain research teams and expertise;

(b) avoid the break in employment and career which might otherwise be faced by such staff;

(c) maximise the opportunity for such staff to produce high-quality outputs and/or research impact at the end of funded contracts/grants.

The Scheme was updated in 2020 to:

  1. Update the process to link the funding model with the conditions at the point of application:
      1. Sufficient external funding has been secured to retain the researcher but there is an unavoidable gap between funding (usually up to three months, but up to six months can be considered). If these conditions are met at the point of application and the application is approved then the central budget will cover 100 per cent of the salary and employers’ on-costs during the bridging period.
      2. The researcher is named on a submitted application for research funding and the decision is pending with an outcome expected before the end of the bridging period. If these conditions are met at the point of application and the application is approved then the central budget will cover 50 per cent of the salary costs during the bridging period. The Faculty will be required to meet the remaining 50 per cent of the salary and employers’ on-costs during the bridging period.
  2. Employment legislation updates.
  3. Add an additional financial approval to the application process.

To find out more about the scheme, including how to apply for bridging funding, see the scheme guidelines.

 

The Bridging Fund Scheme is an action from our Athena SWAN action plan (which aims to create a more gender inclusive culture at BU) and our EC HR Excellence in Research Award (which aims to increase BU’s alignment with the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers).

RDS advice to academics during COVID-19

RDS have created a blog page to give up-to-date advice on research activity affected during COVID-19.

Each working day the advice will be updated, which will include official notifications from funders, RDS operations during the quarantine, delays to the REF, ethics, and any other useful information. The date of the latest updates from the funders will be shown against each funder name. This will only show the major funders that BU applies to.

Today’s (6/4) update includes:

  • The deadlines on all UKRI open funding opportunities will be extended to give applicants more time to submit their applications. These extensions will be managed on a case by case basis by the appropriate Council or fund. Follow this link for a list of all open and coming calls with their current deadlines and their extensions: Calls April – May (PDF, 103KB).
  • Research England has published some FAQs about their contingency planning for REF 2021, in light of the impact of the pandemic –https://www.ref.ac.uk/faqs/.
  • The link to UKRO’s slides from their webinar held on 3/4/20 on the topic of ‘COVID-19 and EU Funding update‘.

Please click here for further information.

Reminder: Expressions of Interest invited from senior academics to join the BU REF Appeals Panel

Our BU REF 2021 Code of Practice states that in the event of an appeal the Vice-Chancellor will convene and chair the BU REF Appeals Panel to undertake a review of each case. The role of the Panel is to:

• Review and consider all appeals submitted by appraising all documentation pertaining to the REF Steering Group decision and the case for appeal.

• Decide on whether or not an individual should be referred back to the REF Steering Group and/or the REF Circumstances Board for further consideration.

• Ensure final decisions are communicated to the Head of RDS who will report to the REF Steering Group and notify the individual of the outcome of the appeal.

The Panel is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor with support from a member of Research Development & Support (RDS). Membership will include at least three senior academics.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from senior academic colleagues (G10+) who are interested in joining the REF Appeals Panel. Successful applicants will be required to attend one or more meetings of the REF Appeals Panel (to be held in late September 2020), have a thorough knowledge of the REF guidance and the BU REF Code of Practice, and undertake REF-focussed equality and diversity training. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Panel. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality and diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

We are seeking to recruit a diverse group of at least six senior academics to potentially be called upon in the event of an appeal. Colleagues who are interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in being a member of the BU REF Appeals Panel and summarising the experience, skills and attributes you could bring to the Panel (max 250 words).  Your nomination should state your name, job title, Faculty and Department.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 27th March 2020. Nominations should be emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Appeals Panel.

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from senior BU academic staff (Grade 10+). You must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions and cannot be members of the REF Steering Group, REF Committee or REF Circumstances Board).

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam (Head of RDS)  in the first instance.

Expressions of Interest invited from senior academics to join the BU REF Appeals Panel

Our BU REF 2021 Code of Practice states that in the event of an appeal the Vice-Chancellor will convene and chair the BU REF Appeals Panel to undertake a review of each case. The role of the Panel is to:

• Review and consider all appeals submitted by appraising all documentation pertaining to the REF Steering Group decision and the case for appeal.

• Decide on whether or not an individual should be referred back to the REF Steering Group and/or the REF Circumstances Board for further consideration.

• Ensure final decisions are communicated to the Head of RDS who will report to the REF Steering Group and notify the individual of the outcome of the appeal.

The Panel is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor with support from a member of Research Development & Support (RDS). Membership will include at least three senior academics.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from senior academic colleagues (G10+) who are interested in joining the REF Appeals Panel. Successful applicants will be required to attend one or more meetings of the REF Appeals Panel (to be held in late September 2020), have a thorough knowledge of the REF guidance and the BU REF Code of Practice, and undertake REF-focussed equality and diversity training. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Panel. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality and diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

We are seeking to recruit a diverse group of at least six senior academics to potentially be called upon in the event of an appeal. Colleagues who are interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in being a member of the BU REF Appeals Panel and summarising the experience, skills and attributes you could bring to the Panel (max 250 words).  Your nomination should state your name, job title, Faculty and Department.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 27th March 2020. Nominations should be emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Appeals Panel.

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from senior BU academic staff (Grade 10+). You must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions and cannot be members of the REF Steering Group, REF Committee or REF Circumstances Board).

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam (Head of RDS)  in the first instance.

Reminder: Expressions of Interest invited from senior academics to join the BU REF Appeals Panel

Our BU REF 2021 Code of Practice states that in the event of an appeal the Vice-Chancellor will convene and chair the BU REF Appeals Panel to undertake a review of each case. The role of the Panel is to:

• Review and consider all appeals submitted by appraising all documentation pertaining to the REF Steering Group decision and the case for appeal.

• Decide on whether or not an individual should be referred back to the REF Steering Group and/or the REF Circumstances Board for further consideration.

• Ensure final decisions are communicated to the Head of RDS who will report to the REF Steering Group and notify the individual of the outcome of the appeal.

The Panel is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor with support from a member of Research Development & Support (RDS). Membership will include at least three senior academics.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from senior academic colleagues (G10+) who are interested in joining the REF Appeals Panel. Successful applicants will be required to attend one or more meetings of the REF Appeals Panel (to be held in late September 2020), have a thorough knowledge of the REF guidance and the BU REF Code of Practice, and undertake REF-focussed equality and diversity training. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Panel. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality and diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

We are seeking to recruit a diverse group of at least six senior academics to potentially be called upon in the event of an appeal. Colleagues who are interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in being a member of the BU REF Appeals Panel and summarising the experience, skills and attributes you could bring to the Panel (max 250 words).  Your nomination should state your name, job title, Faculty and Department.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 6th March 2020. Nominations should be emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Appeals Panel.

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from senior BU academic staff (Grade 10+). You must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions and cannot be members of the REF Steering Group, REF Committee or REF Circumstances Board).

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam (Head of RDS)  in the first instance.