Posts By / lesteves

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 5): lessons learned

As the week ends, we would like to close this series of blogs by sharing with you some of the lessons we believe can be learned from the experiences of 70 BU colleagues who completed our survey. Many thanks to all who have already contributed to this research. The results we have presented so far are only part of the data. The survey will remain open until the end of May, when we will then analyse all responses to improve our understanding of the impact of the C-19 lockdown on academics across the UK and beyond. If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you are kindly invited to do so here: tiny.cc/acad19, and please do share with your networks. This is a cross-faculty (FHSS and FST) collaboration conducted by an interdisciplinary team with expertise in social sciences (Prof Sara Ashencaen Crabtree), public health (Prof Ann Hemingway) and physical geography (Dr Luciana Esteves).

Lesson learned 1. The complementarity of the quantitative and qualitative data.
The quantitative data helped identifying the factors that are affecting the largest number of respondents and where there are contrasting views or experiences between groups of respondents. The qualitative data provided insights into how the factors have affected the respondents and why, particularly on specific personal circumstances and other aspects that were not included in the closed-ended questions. This research would be deficient without one or the other.

Lesson learned 2. Working from home is bringing compounded benefits to the majority and is something that is wished to remain as an option in the longer term.
You can find some insights about the benefits identified by respondents at the end of blog Part 2. Academics are not alone in wishing for flexibility to work remotely to continue after lockdown and some employers have already surveyed their employees preferences as they start planning for reshaping their office spaces.

Lesson learned 3. Some negative aspects of working from home will subside when lockdown restrictions are reduced but others will persist.
These are some examples:

  • Less pressure from balancing family and work needs when schools re-open; home-care support can resume; when social distancing measures allow some more interaction with family and friends (even if just a small number)
  • Inadequate workspace at home may persist due to space and/or financial difficulties in making adjustments to transform home shared spaces into quiet workspaces.

Lesson learned 4. Online teaching is seeing as positive by some and negative by others (see blog Part 2).
Part of the negative effect was due to the increased workload resulting from the fast pace in which adjustments needed to be made, sometimes under duress of lack of experience/training (including how to use software/tools) and/or inadequate equipment. Considerations of how to provide training and sharing of good practices are likely to be beneficial to some staff.

Lesson learned 5. The increased inequities that are arising from the rapid changes in the academic environment.
Conditions are wide ranging when the workspace is each one’s home. Some are perfectly suited or can be well adjusted, others were never meant to be. Identifying and supporting the staff who need to work from an office outside their home becomes crucial and urgent. Other long-standing inequities have been aggravated during lockdown (see blog Part 4), including but not limited to gender bias, with strong consequences to research.

Lesson learned 6. A fresh management approach is needed to address these emerging inequities.
Providing the specific support that is needed by staff who have been the most negatively affected should be prioritised to reduce inequities. The resulting short and long-term impacts of lockdown on staff productivity, health and wellbeing need to be taken into consideration in appraisals and career progression decisions.

Lesson learned 7. Most are greatly concerned about workloads and work-life balance when lockdown ends (see blog Part 1).
In addition to addressing emerging inequities, there is considerable concern and opposition to a possible ‘return to normal work’, which has been expressed by respondents (and the academic community at large) as working arrangements and demands affecting productivity and the health and wellbeing of staff.

Lesson learned 8. There is a need to improve communication and guidance from managers to staff dealing with students’ requests and concerns, such as programme leaders.
Managing students’ expectations is a major concern for a large proportion of respondents, more so for specific cohorts or programmes.

Lesson learned 9. Many staff are missing the interaction and support from colleagues.
Identifying ways to promote spontaneous interactions 1-2-1 or in small groups is likely to benefit staff.

Lesson learned 10. Staff wish that their experiences inform decisions and help shaping the ‘new normal’ working environment.
A working group with university management, UCU and senior leadership staff could be formed to co-create and shape the ‘new normal’ and the strategies that can be implemented to reduce emerging and long-standing inequalities.

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 3)

In our previous blogs, we showed that work-life balance during lockdown got worse for 59% and improved for 37% of the 70 BU academics who responded to our survey (blog Part 1). We also showed how some aspects of life in lockdown have affected groups of people differently. For example, a considerably higher proportion of respondents under 40 years of age reported negative effect from switching to online teaching (75%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (50%) in relation to other age groups (blog Part 2). This blog Part 3 focuses on how the main concerns of academics shifted through time and the support they have found most helpful.

If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you are kindly invited to do so here: https://bournemouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/impact-of-lockdown-on-academics, and please do share with your networks. If you want us to be able to identify that you are BU staff, you will need to provide this information in one of the open questions.

We asked respondents to identify the three main concerns they had at the start of the outbreak, at the start of the lockdown and at present from a list of 15 options. While respondents’ main concerns have changed through time, the health of a family member or close friend have always remained within the top three (Figure 1). Own health and coping with changes at work were within the top three main concerns at the start of both the outbreak and lockdown but subsided in priority afterwards. As lockdown progressed, main concerns shifted to broader issues such as the duration and/or gravity of the pandemic and longer-term impacts in the country or the world in general. It is important to note that, from the start of the outbreak to the time they responded to the survey (end of April/early May), work-life balance and the consequences to own work in the longer-term became a major concern to a considerably larger proportion of respondents.

Figure 1. Respondents’ main concerns at the start of the outbreak, at the start of the lockdown and at present.

In open comments, respondents identified other aspects that are of major concern, which can be grouped as worries about own or others health, managing circumstances at home or at work (Table 1).

Table 1. Other major concerns expressed by respondents

Figure 2 highlights the types of support that were considered to be helpful and the ones that need to be improved to help a larger number of staff (e.g. provision of IT equipment, which BU is currently addressing and support from line managers). Unsurprisingly, having good internet connection at home was considered very helpful by 65% of respondents and the support from family and colleagues was considered extremely valuable at these critical times .

Figure 2. Respondents indication of how helpful were these particular types of support available to them.

Responses to open questions provided insights on the relevance of support received and identified other means of support not listed in Figure 2. These other means of support are summarised in Table 2.

The support offered by learning technologists and other colleagues to enable the quick turnaround to online teaching was considered invaluable. In terms of support provided by the university, the extra days of leave were mentioned most often. Respondents indicate that they appreciate the ‘gesture of goodwill’ but are concerned that they might not be able to take these days in the near future due to work pressures. It was also mentioned that these extra days do not cover for the costs of working from home, e.g. internet charges.

Table 2. Examples of other types of support and coping strategies respondents found useful during lockdown.

Respondents identified four aspects in which support from the university could be more effective:

  • Availability of equipment and workspace adequate for job – this included computer/laptop, desk/chair, internet and quiet space at home.
  • Better communication and/or more timely guidance from the university to help staff dealing with student queries – issues of concern included the cascading of communication, with staff sometimes learning information from students and poor/insufficient information and support to staff, particularly affecting programme leaders, the first port of call to student cohorts.
  • Need for management to plan ahead more efficiently
  • Support and guidance to staff undertaking PhDs

 

Who are the respondents?

Exposure to Covid-19

  • 7% of respondents (5 out of 68) had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive or live with someone who did. All are female respondents in their 20s, 30s and 50s. Two of these households had someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • 22% of respondents (15 out of 68) had close family members, friends or colleagues who had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive. All are female respondents in their 30s, 40s and 50s (the majority, 9 respondents).
  • 41% of respondents (28 out of 68) live in a household where there is at least one person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 2)

Our blog Part 1 (posted on Friday May 15th) provided a very crude overview of the preliminary results from the survey we have launched to collate data on the impact of C-19 lockdown on the work-life balance of academics. This Part 2 focuses on differences between groups of respondents and identifying whether particular groups have been more negatively affected. We are yet to do any statistical tests on these data, so please consider differences between groups with care.

We have received 170 responses to date, 70 we could identify as being from BU staff (63 from female colleagues). If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you can still to do so here: https://bournemouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/impact-of-lockdown-on-academics, and please do share with your networks, as the survey is open to all academics. If you want us to be able to identify that you are BU staff, you will need to mention BU in one of the open questions. This research is a cross-faculty collaboration conducted by Sara Ashencaen Crabtree (FHSS), Ann Hemingway (FHSS) and myself (FST).

Work-life balance during lockdown got worse for the majority of respondents (59%) and improved for 37%. The most common reason for worsening or improving work-life balance were ‘workload increased’ (31%) and ‘I could do what was needed and be at home/with family’ (24%), respectively (Figure 1a). Although there are differences across gender (Figure 1b), any differences between male and female respondents should not be considered representative of the wider community due to the small number of male respondents.

Figure 1. Changes in work-life balance of respondents during Covid-19 lockdown and the selected reasons for identifying positive or negative change (a) and reported changes per gender of respondents (b). Blue shades indicate work-life balance improved and red shades indicate it worsened.

A higher proportion of academics under the age of 40 (82%) indicated that their work-life balance has worsened during lockdown when compared with other age groups (Figure 2a). Most of these academics reported that work-life balance worsened because they couldn’t work much. For academics in their 50s or older, the key reason for worsening of work-life balance was the increase in workload.

Figure 2. Changes in work-life balance of respondents during Covid-19 lockdown per age group (a); presence of children in the household (b) – the group ‘with children’ includes children ages 0-12 and teenagers; and household size (c).

Balancing work and childcare and/or homeschooling  was mentioned as a negative effect on work-life balance during lockdown by 18% and 7% respectively. However, this does not seem to be the main cause affecting respondents under the age of 40, when responses between groups with and without children are compared. In fact, 87% of respondents in their 40s live in a household with children 12 years old or younger and yet the proportion of this age group reporting worsened work-life balance was lower (55%) than the proportion of respondents with no children (60%). However, respondents who live in a household with younger children seem to be more negatively affected.

All respondents (N=8) who live with children under the age of 5 years have reported that their work-life balance have worsened (Figure 2b), the majority indicated an increase in workload as the main reason. However, no major differences were found when comparing groups of respondents who live with children (all ages under 19 included) and households without children. Interestingly, a lower proportion of respondents who live with children aged 5-12 years report worse work-life balance (50%) than respondents who do not have children in their household (60%) (Figure 2b). Further, work-life balance has improved for a higher proportion of respondents who live in a household of three people (45%) than in other household sizes (<40%) (Figure 2c).

In all faculties, a higher number of respondents reported work-life balance getting worse than improving, except FST (Figure 3a), where work-life balance has improved for 50% of respondents and worsened for 36%. Professors were the only group with more respondents indicating work-life balance improved (50%) than worsened (25%); in contrast, all associate professors reported worsened work-life balance (Figure 3b), but the small sample in both groups may not be representative.

Figure 3. Changes in work-life balance of respondents during Covid-19 lockdown per faculty (a) and position (b).

Switching to online teaching and not being able to meet with colleagues in person, socialise and engage with preferred leisure activity were the factors affecting negatively more than 50% of respondents (Figure 4).When lockdown restrictions are lifted, two of these factors (socialise and engage with preferred leisure activity) will have less effect on academics work-life balance, but more could be done to support colleagues negatively affected by the switch to online teaching and missing the contact with colleagues while working remotely.

More respondents have indicated a positive than negative impact from changes in the number of meetings and switching to online meetings emails (Figure 4). Fewer and more effective meetings were reported as the positive impacts. However, for some respondents, there are too many online meetings and they are getting tired of (avoidable) prolonged screen time (an effect that has been called Zoom fatigue). Therefore, guidance on how best to use, organise and participate in online meetings and how to manage and reduce screen time/tiredness may be useful.

Figure 4. The impact of selected factors on the work-life balance of respondents during lockdown.

A considerably higher proportion of respondents under 40 years of age report negative effect from switching to online teaching (75%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (50%) in relation to other age groups (Figure 5). This age group also shows lower proportion of staff indicating positive effect from these three factors.

Figure 5. Reported impact per age group from (a) switching to online teaching; (b) changes in number of emails; and (c) changes in number of meetings.

FMC is the only faculty with more than 50% of respondents reporting negative effect from switching to online teaching (58%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (67%). FST and FM are the faculties with 50% of respondents reporting positive impact from changes in the number of meetings.  FHSS has the largest proportion of respondents indicating negative effect from switching to online teaching (62%) and strong negative effect due to changes in the number of emails (54%). Increased number of emails from students has been reported, particularly by FHSS staff who support students who were asked to work for the NHS.

Figure 6. Reported impact per faculty from (a) switching to online teaching; (b) changes in number of emails; and (c) changes in number of meetings.

Figure 7 shows word clouds based on responses to the open questions asking for the two most important factors leading to negative and positive impacts on their work-life balance during lockdown. Increased demand for student support was the most cited negative factor (by 27% of respondents), followed by missing contact with colleagues and inadequate equipment (e.g. IT, desk, chair) and balancing childcare (19%). Less commuting or travel for work was the most cited factor affecting work-life balance positively (46% of respondents), followed by time with family (25%) and enjoying working from home (15%).

Figure 7. Word cloud showing how respondents expressed the negative (a) and positive (b) factors affecting their work-life balance during C-19 lockdown.

In responses to open questions, it is apparent that many negative aspects of the lockdown relate to aspects that are likely to subside when restrictions are lifted (e.g. reopening of schools, meeting with family and friends, enjoying leisure activities). Other negative aspects relate to the fast pace in which academic staff had to switch to online activities, sometimes without adequate workspace, equipment and/or training, leading to overwork. On the other hand, respondents report many substantial advantages of working from home, many wishing that this can continue (at least for part of the time) in the longer term. This is a summary of the advantages respondents have identified:

  • No travelling = more control over time + less exhaustion + less expense + better for the environment + spending more time with family
  • Healthier – nutritionally better, more physical rest, more exercise
  • Staying safe – better protected at home, avoiding traffic hazards
  • Gaining extra hours to work
  • Slower pace = more time to concentrate; a breathing space
  • Greater autonomy to manage time and priorities
  • Greater flexibility = ingenuity and novelty, new ways of teaching and supporting students remotely
  • Less stress and physical/mental wear-&-tear
  • Stripping back work dross – basic priorities reveals a lot of bureaucracy that can be avoided

 Who are the respondents?


Exposure to Covid-19

  • 7% of respondents (5 out of 68) had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive or live with someone who did. All are female respondents in their 20s, 30s and 50s. Two of these households had someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • 22% of respondents (15 out of 68) had close family members, friends or colleagues who had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive. All are female respondents in their 30s, 40s and 50s (the majority, 9 respondents).
  • 41% of respondents (28 out of 68) live in a household where there is at least one person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Royal Geographical Society-BU joint event at the EBC -17th Nov

neptuneHave you thought about how much our landscapes have changed in the last 50 years?

The National Trust owns 775 miles of our coastline and you can hear about the changes they have mapped between 1965 and 2015 on a seminar organised by the Royal Geographical Society, this Thu 17th Nov, 7.00-8.30pm at the Executive Business Centre (room EB708).

50 years of the National Trust Neptune Project: coastal land use and maps

Karin Taylor (Head of Land Use Planning, National Trust) and Huw Davies (Head of Conservation Information, National Trust) present an overview of the coastal land use changes mapped during the 50 years of the Neptune Project. The lecture will discuss the fascinating impacts of town and country planning, the National Trust ownership, and the difference in survey techniques used between 1965 and 2015.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Enterprise Neptune (a major appeal to fund the acquisition of pristine coastal land) the National Trust commissioned a re-survey of a coastal land use survey that was completed of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish coastlines in 1965.  Comparative analysis of the two surveys provide insightful evidence of the changes in land use that have occurred between 1965 and 2015, and the impacts of both the advent of town and country planning and the consequences of national Trust ownership. The lecture will also show differences in the survey techniques between then (geography students armed with maps, pencils, walking boots and tents) and now (GIS and other desk-based techniques).

For more information and tickets, please click here (free for RGS-IBG members, students and university staff, others £5):

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/50-years-of-the-national-trust-neptune-project-coastal-land-use-and-maps-tickets-25784848175.

Women in Coastal Geoscience and Engineering (WICGE) Network

IMG_3231

Panel discussion, launch of the WICGE network on 8 Mar 2016 (Sydney, Australia). From left to right: Professor Robin Davidson-Arnott (University of Guelph, Canada), Dr Luciana S. Esteves (Bournemouth University, UK), Dr Shari Gallop (Macquarie University, Australia) and Professor Julie Cairney (School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, University of Sydney).

I am very proud of being one of the founding members of the Women in Coastal Geoscience and Engineering (WICGE) network, officially launched on 8 March 2016 during the 14th International Coastal Symposium in Sydney, Australia. The idea to create WICGE was led by Dr Shari Gallop (Macquarie University, Australia) and Dr Ana Vila-Concejo (University of Sydney), who was also the first women to chair the International Coastal Symposium (the largest conference focused on coastal science). To join WICGE or just to find out more, please click here.

The event was attended by about 70 conference attendees (male and female as you can see in the photo) and it created an opportunity for the keynote (Prof Julie Cairney), the members of the discussion panel (named in the photo caption)  and attendees to shared their experiences. It was interesting to learn that members of the panel, including myself, expressed that they were not aware of gender inequalities and/or discrimination in their work environment at first. The reasons for this late realisation were varied, including a common feeling of ‘I thought I was the problem‘ or the simple acceptance that certain attitude towards woman was just ‘as always is‘. As Shari Gallop indicates in this blog about the WICGE launch, another contributing factor may be the fact that, in the academic environment, the imbalance greatly increases towards the more senior positions and is not as evident at early career stages.

Another common theme in the discussion was that we (men and women) are guilty of unconscious bias, a prejudice deep-rooted in long-established social behaviours, which are now increasingly questioned, but changing incredibly slowly.  Most people (and therefore our society) are stubbornly averse to change. Where and when change is required, it does not come easy; it takes huge effort and time to get the message across. Even when we understand the need for change, it may take a while until we are able to embed in our lives new ways of doing (or being). It becomes evident then the importance played by continuing and widening the open debate about diversity, equality and fairness to raise awareness and educating us all, especially about the little things we can do to make the big changes we need. And this is why we need WAN, WICGE , the Aurora Programme, Athena Swan and the growing number of initiatives aiming to promote equal opportunities and a fairer working environment for all of us.

Luciana S. Esteves, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life & Environmental Sciences

The British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) is coming to BU!

On 25-26 Apr 2017, BU will be hosting the highly valued and increasingly popular BCUR (http://www.bcur.org/).  Almost 400 UG students from across the country attended BCUR 2016 at Manchester Metropolitan University. Hosting BCUR will be hard work, but also a great opportunity to promote BU’s excellent facilities and postgraduate opportunities. Undergraduates of all levels are invited to submit an abstract to BCUR, abstracts are peer-reviewed and works accepted can be presented in a variety of formats (oral presentations, posters, art displays, workshops and performances).

Prof Gail Thomas (Head of CEL), Dr Luciana Esteves (SciTech) and Dr Mary Beth Gouthro (Faculty of Management) are co-chairing BCUR 2017 and are currently setting up the organising committee. If you are interested in helping organising the event, please contact one of the chairs. Representatives from all Faculties, SUBU and central services are welcome.

You can also help by stimulating your students to submit their abstracts to BCUR – your incentive is the most important factor influencing students’ decisions in taking part of extra-curricular activities. Submissions are likely to be open between Oct-Dec – so watch this space!

BU’s application to host BCUR was one of the successful outcomes of the Fusion-funded SURE project (Showcasing Undergraduate Research Excellence). The project has delivered two SURE conferences (March 2015 and 2016), an  extra-curricular opportunity open to all BU UG students (across all levels and programmes). You can find a brief summary of the two conferences in this CEL blog.

BU students taking part in the SURE conferences not only gain valuable transferable skills and experience, they can win fantastic awards and prizes (see below) and be selected to present their work in the Posters in Parliament event. You can read about this year’s BU research showcased in Parliament here.

SURE Conference award winners:

Research Excellence (MSc or MRes fee waiver): Jozef Kulik, Psychology (2015); Rosie Lumley, Nutrition (2016)

Best oral presentation (funds to present at an external conference): Ben Hayes, Physiotherapy (2015); Charlotte Fodor, English (2016)

Best poster (iPad): Emma Packer, Biological Sciences (2015); Christopher Dwen, Forensic Science (2016)

2016 winners

 

Networking and research dissemination in San Diego

 

San Diego
For the ones interested in human interaction with coastal and marine spaces and oceanography in general, San Diego (California, USA) is one of the most interesting and iconic places on earth. San Diego has a diverse and thriving marine life due to the rich waters of the California Current; an outstanding coastal geology shaped by tectonics and coastal erosion; and settings that create a varied range of landscapes and habitats (not to mention the perfect sunsets). If the natural settings alone were not already extraordinary, the proximity with Mexico, the vast military facilities, and the southern California lifestyle make San Diego a unique location. In addition to all that, San Diego is home of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the oldest, largest, and most important research centres  in the world for ocean, earth and atmospheric science.

In May 2015, I went to San Diego to attend Coastal Sediments, one of the most important international conferences with focus on coastal research (there were over 350 attendees from the private, public and research sectors). The presentations of my two papers were very well-attended and created very good opportunities for networking. For example, after my presentation on the first day, Julia Chunn-Heer (San Diego County Policy Manager at Surfrider Foundation) contacted me to say she found the presentation very relevant to their work, in particular to current coastal development pressures they face in San Diego. As I was staying in San Diego after the conference to visit local organisations and collate material for teaching and research, I was able to meet Julia again and find out more about one of their projects. She showed me locations in Solana Beach where local property owners are filling wave-cut notches at the cliff base with ‘erodible concrete’ as an attempt to slow down the cliff retreat. Surfrider’s concerns are the preservation of the natural cliff line and therefore to ensure that the concrete used is actually eroding at rates similar to the natural cliff.

After the conference, I visited colleagues of the San Diego State University, Geography Department, and many interesting coastal locations in southern California, including: the Border Field State Park at the border with Mexico, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Coronado Beach, Cabrillo National Monument, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and many other interesting coastal settings between the Mexican border and Oceanside Beach.

I also had the opportunity to visit Scripps installations, including the famous pier, with Ron Flick. At the Scripps pier measurements of water parameters, waves and weather have been collected since 1975. These data and other coastal environment data collected elsewhere are made available online through the Coastal Data Information Program. Ron is currently interested about how high water levels are used as a public land boundary at the coast, and the implications concerning private property legislation (e.g. the implementing private coastal defence structures). One important aspect we discussed, which may result in a future collaborative publication, concerns changes in the position and elevation of the high water line due to major storm impacts or sea-level rise and how/how often public land boundaries may need to be updated. So watch this space for updates!

Conference attendance and the extended stay in San Diego were facilitated by a Fusion funds (SMN) and my R-budget.

Flying through Mexico – a reconnaissance tour

 

I visited Mexico for 2 weeks earlier this month (6-20 June) to assess the potential for future research collaboration and to establish links between Bournemouth University (BU) and Mexican organisations. As I have the role of School of Applied Sciences (ApSci) Academic Lead for Students Placements, one of my objectives was to find potential hosts for our students and also opportunities for staff and student exchange. The talks I gave (5 in total!) allowed me to disseminate some of the work I do, the wider teaching and research at ApSci and to promote BU overall. After the talks there was always a good interaction with students and staff and I think there is a good chance that this was the start of long-lasting partnerships between BU and at least some of the organisations I visited:

  • Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanologicas, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, Ensenada – researchers from other departments and also from CICESE (Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education) also attended the talk, what was very good. Many thanks to Dr Amaia Ruiz de Alegria Arzaburu for organising everything. It was great to catch up with you and hopefully we will be doing something together soon.
  • Instituto de Ingenieria, Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City -attendance to the talk was very good and there was also an interview and material will be added to their website, so quite good dissemination. Dr Rodolfo Silva Casarin is a star, brilliant head of a very interesting group, it was great to have met him after so many emails we have exchanged in the recent past. Many thanks!
  • CINVESTAV (Center for Research and Advanced Studies), National Polytechnic Institute, Merida – here I had a closer contact with research conducted by staff and PhD students and also with coordinators of relevant programme, including some clear demonstration of will for visiting BU and start collaboration. Thanks to Dr Ismael Marino Tapia for the invitation and for being such a great host. Very interesting research are being conducted in CINVESTAV.
  • Laboratorio de Ingeniería y Procesos Costeros, Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico, Sisal – this people are so lucky, they have brand new facilities right at the beach, beautiful settings and they are building new labs, which I’m sure will host great quality research. The talk was well attended and hopefully we will be able to keep in touch with colleagues that were very interested in staff and student exchange. Many thanks to Dr Ernesto Tonatiuh Mendoza Ponce and Dr Cecilia Enriquez for the opportunity to visit your facilities – I look forward to working with you.
  • Instituto EPOMEX (Instituto de Ecología, Pesquerías y Oceanografía del Golfo de México), Universidad Autonoma de Campeche – Thanks to Dr Gregorio Posada Vanegas for introducing the research conducted at EPOMEX and for facilitating the contact with students and other staff. The interactions  after the talk were very informative and hopefully we will continue our collaboration in the future.

This was my first time in Mexico and I had the opportunity to see a bit of very different parts of the country, talk to researchers and students and learn about their work, culture and life style. I call it a tour because in two weeks I visited Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico City and a number of locations in the Yucatan Peninsula, including Merida, Sisal, Campeche and also part of the coast of Quintana Roo. So every other day I was packing and unpacking, which was very tiring. But all worth it for the people I met and the things I learned.

Many thanks to BU’s EUADS (EU Academic Development Scheme) funds for allowing me to engage in this reconnaissance tour.

I will keep you posted of further developments from this initiative.

FIF Staff Mobility and Networking award helping me fly

Early in January I received the good news that my application to the Fusion Investment Fund SMN strand was successful. What a great way to start the New Year!

The main aim of my FIF SMN project is to consolidate newly developed partnerships with European and non-European researchers and stakeholders. Planned activities include visits to colleagues who were involved in the development of the research proposal “Living with Extreme Events at the Coast” (LEEC), submitted to the EU FP7 call on Environment (Challenge 6.4 Protecting citizens from environmental hazards). LEEC successfully passed stage 1 and we are now waiting for the outcome of stage 2, so keep your fingers crossed.

As my FIF SMN proposal builds from LEEC, I decided to call it “Living with Extreme Events at the Coast Grant Development” (LEEC GraDe). Not very creative, but it reflects well the main objective, which is to explore opportunities for collaborative research in topics related to LEEC. LEEC aims to better understand how extreme storms and climate change in coastal areas will affect flood risk and impact on society, infrastructure, economic activities and the natural environment throughout the 21th century.

Besides, the development of collaborative research proposals, I will also be exploring opportunities for enhancing students’ experience, e.g. through work placements. By the time I submitted the FIF SMN proposal, I had just taken the role of ApSci’s Academic Lead for Placements. In this role, one of my objectives is to increase the offer of research-based placements to our students. So I thought my networking visits would be a great opportunity to discuss with colleagues from organisations in Europe and abroad whether they are interested in offering to our students a research-based working experience. Many researchers systematically plan their fieldwork campaigns or dedicate larger proportion of their time to research in the summer, so a work placement can be mutually beneficial.

I so much believe in the benefits of this arrangement that I am offering two placements this summer to undergrad ApSci students. If you are interested in doing the same, please contact me.

LEEC partners are from 13 organisations spread across eight countries (Estonia, Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, UK, Mexico and Vietnam). The FIF SMN award will allow me to visit some of these organisations and engage in other networking opportunities. I will be very busy networking throughout 2013! Hopefully the effort will result in the submission of more collaborative research proposals and a number of arrangements made to enrich students’ experiences through placements or exchanges.

The first of my planned activities was to attend the 12th International Coastal Symposium (ICS) in Plymouth (http://ics2013.org/) earlier this month. This is the largest international conference focused on coastal research with over 500 participants, so a great venue to disseminate research results, to keep updated with research progress worldwide and to network! I was invited to be the convener of the Coastal Evolution and Geomorphology session, so worked very hard evaluating abstracts and full papers before the conference! I also presented a paper on the Coastal Management session, entitled “Is managed realignment a sustainable long-term coastal management approach?” You can find a copy of the paper on BRIAN.

ICS offered the opportunity to meet many ‘old’ friends and make new contacts worldwide, including from countries I had none before, such as Trinidad & Tobago and South Africa. I have already exchanged email with a few of the new (and old) contacts and there are very exciting prospects for future collaboration. I have discussed the preparation of a joint paper with a colleague from the University of Rostock (Germany), explored ways to collaborate with practitioners from a government agency in Trinidad & Tobago and I am already working on a proposal with colleagues from South Africa. The most immediate result from networking during ICS was the invitation to visit five different organisations in Mexico, which is planned to happen in June.

Networking is also about maximising the opportunities and I will be doing exactly that next month in Brazil. I was invited to give a keynote talk in the National Symposium of Coastal Vulnerability. As the hosts are taking me to Brazil, I will extend my stay and visit two universities using SMN funds. The plan is to start building a joint research proposal to submit to the Science without borders programme (funding source from Brazil) with the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco and discuss exchange of postgraduate students and other opportunities with the Universidade do Vale do Itai.

Please watch this space for upcoming news!

Luciana Slomp Esteves (Lecturer in Physical Geography, ApSci)