Posts By / Rachel Bowen

Conversation article – Stonehenge: how we revealed the original source of the biggest stones

Stonehenge: how we revealed the original source of the biggest stones

Andre Pattenden/English Heritage

David Nash, University of Brighton and Timothy Darvill, Bournemouth University

Stonehenge, an icon of European prehistory that attracts more than a million visitors a year, is rarely out of the news. Yet, surprisingly, there is much we don’t know about it. Finding the sources of the stones used to build the monument is a fundamental question that has vexed antiquaries and archaeologists for over four centuries.

Our interdisciplinary team, including researchers from four UK universities (Brighton, Bournemouth, Reading and UCL) and English Heritage, has used a novel geochemical approach to examine the large “sarsen” stones at Stonehenge. Our results confirm that the nearby Marlborough Downs were the source region for the sarsens, but also pinpoint a specific area as the most likely place from where the stones were obtained.

Two main types of stone are present at Stonehenge: sarsen sandstone for the massive framework of upright stones capped by horizontal lintels; and a mix of igneous rocks and sandstones collectively known as “bluestones” for the smaller elements within the central area.

Part of Stonehenge casting shadows.
Inside the sarsen circle.
James Davies/English Heritage

Research in the last decade has confirmed that the igneous bluestones were brought to Stonehenge from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, over 200km to the west. The sandstones have been tracked to eastern Wales although the exact outcrops have yet to be found. However, the origins of the sarsen stones has, until now, remained a mystery.

Stonehenge is a complicated and long-lived monument constructed in five main phases. The earliest, dated to about 3000BC, comprised a roughly 100m-diameter circular enclosure bounded by a bank and external ditch. Inside were various stone and timber structures, and numerous cremation burials.

The sarsen structures visible today were erected around 2500BC and comprised five trilithons (the doorway-like structures formed from two uprights joined by a lintel) surrounded by a circle of a further 30 uprights linked by lintels. The trilithons were arranged in a horseshoe formation with its principal axis aligned to the rising midsummer sun in the northeast and the setting midwinter sun to the southwest.

Locating the sarsen source

Conventional wisdom holds that the sarsens were brought to Stonehenge from the Marlborough Downs, some 30km to the north, the closest area with substantial scatters of large sarsen boulders. However, the Marlborough Downs are extensive and greater precision is needed to understand how prehistoric peoples used the landscape and its resources.

Our research has identified what might be termed the “geochemical fingerprint” of the Stonehenge sarsens. We started by analysing the geochemistry of all 52 remaining sarsens at Stonehenge (28 of those originally present are now missing, having been removed long ago).

This phase of the work involved using a non-destructive technology called portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (PXRF). Carrying out the PXRF analyses required access to the monument when it was closed to visitors and included several night shifts and one early morning analysing the lintel stones from a mobile scaffold tower. Data collection is never easy!

Diagram of Stonehenge layout
Most sarsens had the same chemical signature.
David Nash, University of Brighton, Author provided

Analysis of the PXRF data showed that the geochemistry of most of the stones at Stonehenge was highly consistent, and only two sarsens (stones 26 and 160) had a statistically different chemical signature. This was an interesting result as it suggested we were looking for a single main source.

Then came a major stroke of luck. We were able to analyse three small samples that had been taken from one of the stones in 1958, Stone 58, part of the group of sarsens with a consistent chemistry. Using a method known as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) gave a high-resolution geochemical fingerprint for the Stonehenge sarsen. Like all good detectives, we could now compare our fingerprint with those of the potential sources.

Man examining stone rod.
David Nash examining the core from Stone 58.
Sam Frost/English Heritage

Sarsen blocks are found widely scattered across southern Britain, broadly south of a line from Devon to Norfolk. We sampled stones from 20 areas, including six in the Marlborough Downs, and analysed them using ICP-MS.

Comparing the geochemical signature from Stone 58 against our resulting data revealed only one direct chemical match: the area known as West Woods to the south-west of Marlborough. We could therefore conclude that most of the Stonehenge sarsens were from West Woods.

Our results not only identify a specific source for most of the sarsens used to build Stonehenge, but also open up debate about many connected issues. Researchers have previously suggested several routes by which the sarsens may have been transported to Stonehenge, without actually knowing where they came from.

Aerial view of Stonehenge
Many mysteries remain.
Andre Pattenden/English Heritage

Now these can be revisited as we better appreciate the effort of moving boulders as long as 9m and weighing over 30 tonnes some 25km across the undulating landscape of Salisbury Plain. We can feel the pain of the Neolithic people who took part in this collective effort and think about how they managed such a Herculean task.

We can also ask what was special about the West Woods plateaux and its sarsens. Was it simply their shape and size that attracted attention? Or was there some more deep-seated reason rooted in the beliefs and identities of the people that built Stonehenge?

Revealing that all the stones came from a single main source is also important and accords with the evidence that the sarsens were all erected at much the same time. But what about the two sarsens whose fingerprints differ from the main source? Where did they come from? The quest continues, and the questions just keep coming.The Conversation

David Nash, Professor of Physical Geography, University of Brighton and Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation – National anthems in sport: songs of praise or memorials that are past their use-by date?

National anthems in sport: songs of praise or memorials that are past their use-by date?

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University; Daryl Adair, University of Technology Sydney, and Jamie Cleland, University of South Australia

International sport has resumed in the UK with the cricket Test match between England and the West Indies. Before play, in addition to a rendition of Jerusalem (the “official hymn” of England cricket), both teams and officals “took a knee” in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Nationalistic traditions, such as playing anthems at sport matches, have been a key part of society for many years but now may be time for change.

Symbols of colonialism, such as statues, place names and rituals, are attracting unprecedented criticism in postcolonial, liberal-democratic societies. That is especially so when memorialised individuals and institutions are viewed as unworthy – by 2020 standards – of such honour.

The most immediate concern, driven in part by BLM, is racism. One aspect of that is whitewashed commemoration, in the way that civic observances tend to sanitise uncomfortable truths.

Nationalistic songs – especially national anthems, which venerate a particular tradition – can both embrace and marginalise. So it’s no surprise that debates around the suitability of anthems – both official and unofficial – are not new. For instance, in 2016 the suitability of the British national anthem was debated in the House of Commons.

Intriguingly, the concept of “the nation” – and anthems invented to represent them are – historically, young. The modern nation state is a product of the 19th and 20th centuries.

So, it is not surprising that many of the ideas and assumptions associated with national identity are rooted in what historian Eric Hobsbawm has deftly labelled “the invention of tradition”. In the context of the British Empire, this process involved both the celebration of conquest and, as is typical of imperialism, the subjugation and control of indigenous cultures.

Given the major role sport played in the establishment of empire for Britain, it is no surprise that the first sporting event to feature a national anthem was a rugby match in 1905 between Wales and New Zealand. Soon after, in the United States, the playing of the national anthem before baseball matches became a feature during the first world war. The Star Spangled Banner, not officially recognised until 1931, carried patriotic weight as the song was already used to honour the nation’s military.

Anthemic activism

Exceptionally, national anthems at sport events have involved athlete activism. More than 50 years ago, the Black Power salute protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos (supported by Australia’s Peter Norman) during the US anthem at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games received worldwide attention. Smith and Carlos were vilified for highlighting the racism and discrimination present both inside and outside of American sport.

American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, along with Australian Peter Norman, during the award ceremony of the 200-metre race at the Mexican Olympic games.
Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publishers)

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem ahead of NFL matches. He stated: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”

He and fellow anthem protesters were labelled by loyalist critics as anti-American. They received death threats, and were described as “sons of bitches” by the US president, Donald Trump (whose comments often pander to white nationalist sentiments).

But in the wake of BLM, sport has become a site for widespread anti-racism activism. Athletes are increasingly using their profiles to draw attention to social movements that challenge inequalities and injustices – especially those underpinned by structural racism.

In professional sports leagues from Britain to Australia, matches have been preceded by players taking a knee. Players and officials are keen to show their support of BLM and, belatedly, Kaepernick.

Even the typically conservative NFL is now allowing athletes to advocate openly in respect of BLM. The league has also indicated a plan to play the song Lift Every Voice and Sing, widely known as the Black national anthem, during the first week of the season.

Moreover, in another sign of changing times, the Washington Redskins has announced it will review their name – which, after all, speaks to conquest and genocide of Indigenous Americans. The power of BLM to invoke change cannot be underestimated. As recently as 2013, the Redskins’ owner said that the team would never change its name, conveniently ignoring repeated appeals and protests by Native Americans.

Swing low and other stories

In Britain, BLM has catalysed debate about the appropriateness or otherwise of fans singing the “unofficial anthem” for English rugby, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. This song has been sung with gusto at [rugby matches since the 1960s].

Precisely why it was embraced by fans is unclear. But some black players now reveal they are uncomfortable with their sport revelling in what was, originally, a black Christian hymn that combined “spiritual belief with the hardships of daily life as a slave in antebellum America”.

Whether or not it knew of the song’s history, the Rugby Football Union has commercialised and profited from its appropriation of an African-American slave hymn.

In Australia, too, there has been debate about whether the national anthem is appropriate in that it fails to recognised Indigenous Australians. This movement saw a protest by Indigenous Australians ahead of key rugby league games in 2019.




Read more:
Our national anthem is non-inclusive: Indigenous Australians shouldn’t have to sing it


Our recently published research found that protests by high-profile Indigenous athletes can move debates on societal inequalities back into the spotlight.

Making positive change

Formula One World champion Lewis Hamilton has championed BLM activism in his sport. He remarked recently that racism is still not understood by many people, especially by whites who have not experienced it.

In societies where whiteness has long been privileged, the voices of black and indigenous athletes are important in raising concerns about inequalities and maltreatment according to race. In sport, part of that discussion involves nationalist rituals and symbols that – by their colonialist nature – reinforce structural inequities.

Is it justifiable to question the nationality or commitment to the nation of anyone that critiques the viability of a national anthem or what it stands for, merely by choosing not to stand or sing when it is performed?The Conversation

Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Events Management, Bournemouth University; Daryl Adair, Associate Professor of Sport Management, University of Technology Sydney, and Jamie Cleland, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Management, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation: How Bali could build a better kind of tourism after the pandemic

Farizun Amrod Saad

Jaeyeon Choe, Bournemouth University and Rick Stafford, Bournemouth University

COVID-19 has hit tourism-reliant destinations hard. The Indonesian island of Bali, for example, where 70% of the population depend on tourism, has seen extensive job and income losses since it closed its borders in April.

The economic impact so far has been greater than that of the Bali bombings of 2002, with losses of around 9.7 trillion rupiah (about £551.3 million) a month.

In the past, the island’s image as a peaceful paradise with a rich cultural and religious heritage has made it a highly resilient tourist destination. Bali recovered swiftly in the wake of past crises, both natural and man made, including the Gulf War (1990), a cholera outbreak (1995), Sars (2003) and bird flu (2007).

But without significant investment and diversification, there are widespread concerns that this crisis could be different.

A different approach may now be needed to save the tourism industry – and to make sure its benefits are more evenly spread. We believe that now is the time to adjust the model in Bali away from surf, parties, and yoga towards rural villages with high poverty rates across the island (especially the underdeveloped north-east).

To do this, government support is required to build small-scale tourism that will provide new livelihoods. This might include everything from dolphin watching and snorkelling trips, to food tourism and “experience tourism” focused on traditional fishing and farming.




Read more:
African tourism has been put on ice by coronavirus – here’s how some countries are reviving it


That support does not necessarily need to be in the form of cash. When we interviewed small-business representatives in Bali last year, they called not for financial subsidies, but for marketing training and access to tourism-research data.

As one entrepreneur told us: “Many local creative businesses are managed as informal family businesses. They lack knowledge in professional management and marketing skills.”

He also spoke of the need for improved collaboration between IT experts, business consultants, local universities and policymakers.

Yet there are important risks to consider when attempting to build a new kind of tourism. “Authentic” experiences can often be manufactured by large businesses, preventing regional economic development (other than occasional low-paid work) in the most deprived areas.

And without investment in tourist infrastructure, it would be too easy for tourists to prefer the manufactured version over the true “authenticity” on offer from local communities. Carefully considered investment, however, could lead to sustainable development.

According to Dr Luh Putu Mahyuni, a sustainable business consultant and economist at Undiknas University: “The pandemic provides a wake up call for Bali to foster […] new types of tourism such as gastronomic tourism.”

She told a webinar we hosted in May: “The tourism sector needs to develop products with other sectors so as to create a more resilient and sustainable economy.”

Reliable visitors to Bali’s shores.
Shutterstock/NattapolStudiO

To boost that economy, the island should also consider a tourist tax, while reducing taxes on small-scale home-stays, and better regulating the presence of Airbnb. It also needs to restrict foreign ownership of property, limit destruction of viable farmland and limit business sizes in the south of the island.

An island of opportunity

Notwithstanding all the devastation it has caused, COVID-19 has given the world an opportunity to pause and reflect on how things may change in its aftermath. The tourism industry in Bali (and many other places) is no exception.

For tourism is often seen as a solution to all kinds of problems, from economics to conservation. But as our research has shown, unless tourist money is kept in the local community, the benefits do not materialise.

And besides the major financial concerns on Bali, and the need for a tourism-led recovery, the authorities must also face up to deeply entrenched levels of structural inequality. Poverty, homelessness and dispossession existed long before the pandemic.

The island must learn from what happened 18 years ago, when the bombings led to job losses and increased rates of depression, alcoholism and crime. And we hope that Bali can use the current crisis as an opportunity to look at the causes of such social problems, rather than the symptoms. To move on and build a more resilient island, where responsible tourism plays a major role in alleviating poverty.The Conversation

Jaeyeon Choe, Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Leisure, Bournemouth University and Rick Stafford, Professor of Marine Biology and Conservation, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Sierra Leone faces coronavirus as rainy season hits – local disaster planning will be key

Sierra Leone faces coronavirus as rainy season hits – local disaster planning will be key

Local coroanvirus awareness raising in Funkia Market, Sierra Leone.
Trocaire/Flickr, CC BY

Lee Miles, Bournemouth University

The government of Sierra Leone called a state of emergency on March 25, seven days before the first case of COVID-19 was even confirmed. The virus has spread steadily since then, with 1,272 cases confirmed and 51 deaths as of June 19.

At the same time, the country has begun the rapid countdown to the full onset of the annual rainy season, which raises challenges of its own, especially for the flood-prone local communities in the capital, Freetown. In mid-2019, Freetown and other major Sierra Leonean cities were engulfed in major flooding. Before this, in 2017, more than 1,000 people died in major mudslides in the capital.

This year, there has been recognition that more forthright action is required. My colleagues and I are currently working with Sierra Leone’s Department of Disaster Management and Freetown City Council to create disaster preparedness guides for district councillors, disaster managers and local volunteers. The goal is to have several guides and handbooks available by July 2020 across four major cities of Sierra Leone to improve scenario planning if multiple disasters happen at once.

In recent years, there has been a strong focus among those who plan for disasters to build more robust forms of resilience in local communities. Not least in Sierra Leone, where – like most of Africa – disaster management relies heavily on local volunteers and traditional forms of community leadership.

Across Africa, there are many poverty-stricken slums and informal settlements. These are vulnerable to natural hazards such as flooding, suffer from overcrowding, and often lack running water and electricity.

As past experiences of Ebola in west Africa demonstrated, it’s also important to focus on the local communities. Poor handling of pandemics and other natural disasters by national governments and international institutions can lead to resistance, inertia and non-compliance among communities and influential community leaders. In the case of the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, there were many instances where local communities did not trust or were slow to heed advice that ultimately delayed responses to the disease and ended up costing further lives.

Today, local communities in Sierra Leone could be confronted with a perfect storm when it comes to preparing for future disasters and events. Better disaster management is an imperative, particularly in the face of three inter-linked challenges.

Coronavirus transmission

First, there is the impact of COVID-19. Community transmission is becoming a stark reality. The situation in both Sierra Leone and elsewhere in Africa remains highly challenging given the fragile state of many African health services and the limitation of bringing external humanitarian assistance on the ground during the crisis. It’s possible that overcrowded urban communities in some parts of Africa will become sources of future COVID-19 outbreaks and even be an endemic source of reoccurring COVID-19 incidents in the future.

Current COVID-19 prevention tools, such as social distancing and the prevention of mass gatherings to reduce the spread of the disease, are highly challenging to administer in such areas. In many ways, the local communities in Sierra Leone – and Africa more widely – often do the best they can with what is available. Yet, the reality is that COVID-19 is likely to have an impact on the local communities.

Climate threat

Second, the practical, discernible impacts of climate change mean that many local communities are already facing worsening dry seasons with increased fires and droughts, followed by more unpredictable and erratic rainy seasons. Cities in west Africa, such as Accra in Ghana or Freetown in Sierra Leone, or central African cities such as Yaounde in Cameroon, now endure almost annual experiences of flash flooding and landslides that threaten to overwhelm poverty-stricken communities.

There is a growing paradox of frequency here. Local disaster managers and volunteers must meet public expectations to handle ever more frequent disaster. But they also recognise there is very little real time to build this local knowledge and review capacity before the onset of the next deluge, flood or fire.

Overlapping disasters

Third, local communities in Africa are increasingly aware that they also face multiple hazards that are very likely to overlap over the rest of 2020.

There will be major difficulties in delivering effective responses to flood and pandemics such as COVID-19 simultaneously. The standard response to flooding in Freetown is to move those affected to the safety of a large stadium or hall or school, placing them out of harm’s way in often large, robust locations. Yet this poses challenges for carrying out measures needed to contain COVID-19, such as avoiding large gatherings or social distancing.

Local communities need to think more deeply through how they plan for these combinations of possible disasters to save lives in the future. And yet, as my own research is finding, this raises a very serious challenge in that the local areas often lack even the most basic and accessible documentation, guidance and training in risk assessment and disaster management plans.

It’s often said that all disasters are local. The rest of 2020 is likely to prove this point more than ever for resource scarce, often poverty-stricken local communities in Africa. There is an urgent need here that must be addressed as quickly as possible.The Conversation

Lee Miles, Professor of Crisis & Disaster Management, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article – Coronavirus: the future of women’s football is under threat

England’s Nikita Parris and US’s Crystal Dunn at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi Final match in France.
Jose Breton- Pics Action/Shutterstock

Beth Clarkson, University of Portsmouth; Alex Culvin, Durham University; Keith Parry, Bournemouth University, and Stacey Pope, Durham University

Women’s football has made great strides in recent years. Attendances at the women’s FA Cup final continue to set new records. One survey suggested that one-third of adults are interested in the women’s game and 69% of those believe it deserves the same profile as men’s football.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has left the game in a precarious position. Although the suspension of elite football in England was initially applied evenly to both men’s and women’s competitions, there will be deeper and more far-reaching consequences for the women’s game.

The Football Association’s (FA) 2017 Game Plan for Growth, which included doubling the number of women and girls taking part in football by 2020 and improving commercial prospects, has largely been left unfulfilled. Such promises of equality (football for all) by the FA are starting to sound hollow. The Women’s Super League (WSL) and Championship seasons have now been cancelled. In contrast, plans to resume the men’s Premier League and Championship advance at pace.




Read more:
There are plenty of female superstars in football, but very few women coaches – here’s why


In our recently published research – the first academic study on this topic – we have highlighted why the pandemic is impacting men’s and women’s football differently.

Significant challenges

Prior to the pandemic, elite women’s football was already facing poor pitches, lower wages and prize money and conditions far behind men’s clubs. The biggest challenge for women’s football is that elite women’s teams rely on sponsorship for income. For example, 80% of Manchester City Women’s turnover is from commercial activity, most of which is sponsorship.

Women’s sport is also underfunded when compared to men’s in terms of things like marketing and prize money – see the tweet below. COVID-19 is also likely to hit many businesses’ profits hard, leaving companies who previously wanted to invest in women’s football unable to. If this causes the pool of sponsors to shrink – a pool that is already small – the future of women’s football will be under financial threat.

At the same time, financial strain on men’s football means women’s football could be one of the casualties. The majority of elite women’s teams are secondary sides under the umbrella of the professional men’s club. There are numerous examples in recent history where relegation or financial hardship for the men’s club has resulted in cutting ties with the women’s team.

For example, when the men’s club withdrew their financial support in 2017, Notts County women’s club collapsed the day before the new season, leaving their players jobless and, in some cases, homeless. When men’s teams cut their ties like this, women’s teams can be left with no choice but to fold.

Finally, elite women’s football is partially funded by the FA. The association has put significant investment into the women’s sport since professionalisation occurred in 2018, but historically, women’s football has been undervalued by the FA. It banned women’s matches from the grounds of FA-affiliated clubs between 1921 and 1971. And during earlier periods of financial insecurity, clubs and the FA cut investment to the women’s game.

Worryingly, the governing body has predicted a loss in excess of £100 million as a consequence of COVID-19. Grassroots and women’s football are not areas likely to be axed, but at present, there is no clear message that women’s football will continue to be invested in.

Steps to save the game?

Women’s football has gone through tough times before. It is resilient. So, COVID-19 may not be a fatal blow. However, swift and decisive action is needed to protect the recent momentum and growth of women’s football in England. Our recommendations are:

1) Clubs must shift their perspective so that women’s football is viewed as a core business and not as a goodwill gesture to the community.

2) Clubs should be entrepreneurial and innovative in their approaches to generating revenue for the women’s game, such as crowdfunding.

3) Women footballers are often on short-term contracts and juggle other jobs and family responsibilities alongside football careers. Issues surrounding wellbeing might be felt more acutely in women’s football. Clubs must work to actively support players.

4) The 12-month delay to the Women’s European Championship, now due to be held in England in 2022, should be seen as an opportunity. Leveraging mainstream interest in the Men’s 2022 FIFA World Cup, a “festival of football” could be created to attract fan interest in the women’s game.

5) When the game restarts, women’s football supporters must remain faithful in their support of the game. Visible advocates will show the governing body and clubs that there is a sustained demand for women’s football.




Read more:
Sing when you’re women: why it’s time to take female sports fans seriously


If we are to continue advancing a “new age” of women’s football, it is important that the women’s game is part of the conversation about football’s return. Without a clearly communicated strategy for the women’s game, the future of clubs and players’ health and wellbeing remain at risk.The Conversation

Beth Clarkson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management, University of Portsmouth; Alex Culvin, Postdoctoral Researcher in Professional Women’s Football, Durham University; Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Events Management, Bournemouth University, and Stacey Pope, Associate Professor in the Sociology of Sport, Durham University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to support children with special educational needs as they return to school

Children and parents have struggled to adjust to homeschooling. Now, some have to cope with returning to schools which will seem very different to those they left at the beginning of lockdown. One group of children, though, are facing challenges beyond those experienced by the majority.

Children with special educational needs (SEN) make up around 15% of all pupils in mainstream education. Developmental dyslexia is the most common condition in this group, estimated to affect between 10%-16% of the UK population. Autism is much rarer, affecting about 1.1%.

Our research suggests that children with these conditions might find it especially difficult to adapt to changes in their education. We need to recognise the extra challenges homeschooling and online learning have posed for many children – and take this into account as schools reopen.

Extra challenges

Many people think of dyslexia as a language disorder, but it also affects the memory and people’s ability to verbalise ideas and to pay attention. Even in the best of learning environments, struggles in school are likely to lead to low self-esteem for dyslexic children.

Dyslexia can affect many aspects of a child’s life.
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

These difficulties are also experienced by autistic children, who may perceive the sensory world differently. Sounds can be magnified, for example, making it hard for a child working at the kitchen table to drag their attention away from the ticking of a clock or the dripping of a tap. Their experience of “not fitting in” also affects their self-esteem.

Another aspect of autism is concrete, black and white thinking. Some autistic children struggle with homework because they think school is for work and home is for play. Routine and predictability is crucial for these children. The move to home education has been another change for them in a sea of turmoil caused by the pandemic.

In school, autistic and dyslexic children would often have specialist support in place to help them with these problems. Without this kind of support, problems with attention and self-esteem may make learning at home very difficult.

It’s also important to recognise that dyslexia and autism are often inherited. Educational and emotional support at home may be limited, further disadvantaging the child and reinforcing the parent’s own potential sense of inadequacy. Children with SEN are also more likely to come from poorer families, an additional layer of inequality.

Positive impacts

Recent research has found that while many children with SEN (and their parents) are indeed more anxious and sad than usual, some families actually report minimal or even positive impacts of distance learning under lockdown. For some children, lockdown is a respite. For dyslexic children, it means they are not the child who is taken out of typical lessons to catch up on other work.

Some parents of children with SEN have reported positive outcomes from home learning.
MIA Studio

For autistic children, it may be an escape from the bullying which is tragically endemic in this group. Many autistic children, including those with a type of autism called pathological demand avoidance, are simply too anxious to attend school regularly.

Remote online education may offer children a greater opportunity for personalised learning at their own pace. For these reasons, many parents of SEN children choose to homeschool their children even under normal circumstances. They argue that home-schooling allows teaching to be built upon the child’s interests, while removing them from rigid standardised testing which is focused on the majority of learners and may set children with conditions like autism or dyslexia up to fail.

Back to school

As schools begin to reopen, advice is already emerging around how best to protect and support children. It’s important to make children feel safe and in control as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts suggest that emotional and social development should take precedence over school work. Some children may need special help with this. Autistic children, for instance, may need to be explicitly taught how to play appropriately, and may need adult assistance to make friends.

Learning in small groups may benefit children with SEN.
iofoto/Shutterstock

Before the coronavirus pandemic, teachers were advised to set up small circles of friends for vulnerable children. As such, the current advice, which recommends that children should stay in small groups, may be well suited to those with special educational needs. However, teachers will also need to actively adopt other strategies to foster social bonds between the child and their peers.

As always, it will be important for parents and teachers to collaborate closely to ensure as much consistency as possible. There are things that teachers and parents can do to help children deal with difficult emotions. Children might also be dealing with bereavement and new financial insecurity at home. The involvement of other child specialists, like psychologists and social workers, might therefore be beneficial.

To help build a sense of control, we need to do more to help children with special educational needs succeed in school, respecting their own pace and learning styles. As this situation evolves, we must be mindful of its impact on the already entrenched inequality that hampers these learners. However, the situation also forces us to come face-to-face with the cracks in our previous systems and come up with new ways of doing things which might, in the long term, reap surprising benefits.The Conversation

Julie Kirkby, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University and Rachel Moseley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Panel member recruitment: shaping the future of knowledge exchange at BU – deadline extended

In 2020, universities across England will be submitting to the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) for the first time.  The KEF will measure performance in seven different areas, including working with businesses, local growth and regeneration and skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Research England (who will administer the KEF) intends for it to be a tool that will increase effectiveness in the use of public funding for KE, create a culture of continuous improvement in universities and increase awareness of the types of support universities can provide.

During the course of this year, universities will also be considering their responses to the new Knowledge Exchange Concordat; a joint initiative by Universities UK and GuildHE to help guide universities in making informed decisions in shaping their KE strategies.  The Concordat sets out eight guiding principles of themes for institutions to consider when creating/shaping/changing their KE provision.

To help BU prepare for these changes and to develop its knowledge exchange activities, a Knowledge Exchange Working Group is being established.  The group is being led by Ian Jones, Head of External Engagement and Professor Wen Tang, in her capacity as Chair of the HEIF Funding Panel.  We are currently recruiting for academic members of the group.

Role of working group members

We are looking make four academic appointments to the group, who will help to shape the future direction of knowledge exchange at Bournemouth University.  We are interested in recruiting staff who, between them, have taken part in a variety of knowledge exchange activities and who have worked with a wide range of non-academic organisations.

Members of the working group will be expected to work as part of team in order to review BU’s strengths and weaknesses in knowledge exchange and make recommendations for change.

The working group will meet c. 4 times per year.  Terms of reference for the working group can be downloaded here.

Application criteria

To apply for the role, please submit a short expression of interest (no more than 1 page) to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Working Group (via knowledgeexchange@bournemouth.ac.uk), outlining how you meet the following criteria:

  • Experience of developing or leading a range of knowledge exchange activities (scored out of 5: Working group members are expected to have taken part in or led on a range of knowledge exchange activities as part of their research. Please give examples of these activities, outlining your role and what happened as a result of these activities.
  • Experience of working with a variety of different non-academic organisations (scored out of 5): We are looking to appoint academics who, between them, have worked with a variety of different types of organisations and with a wide range of different industries.  Please outline your experience and what it would bring to the working group.
  • Demonstrable interest in developing knowledge exchange at BU (scored out of 5): Working group members will be expected to work together to review BU’s strengths and weaknesses in knowledge exchange and make recommendations for change. Please state why you would like to be part of the group and how you would work to make it a success.

Application deadline

Please submit your application to knowledgeexchange@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on Wednesday 18 March.

Review process

Applications will be reviewed by the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Panel after 18 March.  Applicants will be contacted about the outcome during the week of 23 March.

Panel member recruitment: shaping the future of knowledge exchange at BU

In 2020, universities across England will be submitting to the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) for the first time.  The KEF will measure performance in seven different areas, including working with businesses, local growth and regeneration and skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Research England (who will administer the KEF) intends for it to be a tool that will increase effectiveness in the use of public funding for KE, create a culture of continuous improvement in universities and increase awareness of the types of support universities can provide.

During the course of this year, universities will also be considering their responses to the new Knowledge Exchange Concordat; a joint initiative by Universities UK and GuildHE to help guide universities in making informed decisions in shaping their KE strategies.  The Concordat sets out eight guiding principles of themes for institutions to consider when creating/shaping/changing their KE provision.

To help BU prepare for these changes and to develop its knowledge exchange activities, a Knowledge Exchange Working Group is being established.  The group is being led by Ian Jones, Head of External Engagement and Professor Wen Tang, in her capacity as Chair of the HEIF Funding Panel.  We are currently recruiting for academic members of the group.

Role of working group members

We are looking make four academic appointments to the group, who will help to shape the future direction of knowledge exchange at Bournemouth University.  We are interested in recruiting staff who, between them, have taken part in a variety of knowledge exchange activities and who have worked with a wide range of non-academic organisations.

Members of the working group will be expected to work as part of team in order to review BU’s strengths and weaknesses in knowledge exchange and make recommendations for change.

The working group will meet c. 4 times per year.  Terms of reference for the working group can be downloaded here.

Application criteria

To apply for the role, please submit a short expression of interest (no more than 1 page) to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Working Group (via knowledgeexchange@bournemouth.ac.uk), outlining how you meet the following criteria:

  • Experience of developing or leading a range of knowledge exchange activities (scored out of 5: Working group members are expected to have taken part in or led on a range of knowledge exchange activities as part of their research. Please give examples of these activities, outlining your role and what happened as a result of these activities.
  • Experience of working with a variety of different non-academic organisations (scored out of 5): We are looking to appoint academics who, between them, have worked with a variety of different types of organisations and with a wide range of different industries.  Please outline your experience and what it would bring to the working group.
  • Demonstrable interest in developing knowledge exchange at BU (scored out of 5): Working group members will be expected to work together to review BU’s strengths and weaknesses in knowledge exchange and make recommendations for change. Please state why you would like to be part of the group and how you would work to make it a success.

Application deadline

Please submit your application to knowledgeexchange@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on Wednesday 11 March.

Review process

Applications will be reviewed by the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Panel during the week of 16 March.  Applicants will be contacted about the outcome during the week of 23 March.

Panel member recruitment: shaping the future of knowledge exchange at BU

In 2020, universities across England will be submitting to the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) for the first time.  The KEF will measure performance in seven different areas, including working with businesses, local growth and regeneration and skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Research England (who will administer the KEF) intends for it to be a tool that will increase effectiveness in the use of public funding for KE, create a culture of continuous improvement in universities and increase awareness of the types of support universities can provide.

During the course of this year, universities will also be considering their responses to the new Knowledge Exchange Concordat; a joint initiative by Universities UK and GuildHE to help guide universities in making informed decisions in shaping their KE strategies.  The Concordat sets out eight guiding principles of themes for institutions to consider when creating/shaping/changing their KE provision.

To help BU prepare for these changes and to develop its knowledge exchange activities, a Knowledge Exchange Working Group is being established.  The group is being led by Ian Jones, Head of External Engagement and Professor Wen Tang, in her capacity as Chair of the HEIF Funding Panel.  We are currently recruiting for academic members of the group.

Role of working group members

We are looking make four academic appointments to the group, who will help to shape the future direction of knowledge exchange at Bournemouth University.  We are interested in recruiting staff who, between them, have taken part in a variety of knowledge exchange activities and who have worked with a wide range of non-academic organisations.

Members of the working group will be expected to work as part of team in order to review BU’s strengths and weaknesses in knowledge exchange and make recommendations for change.

The working group will meet c. 4 times per year.  Terms of reference for the working group can be downloaded here.

Application criteria

To apply for the role, please submit a short expression of interest (no more than 1 page) to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Working Group (via knowledgeexchange@bournemouth.ac.uk), outlining how you meet the following criteria:

  • Experience of developing or leading a range of knowledge exchange activities (scored out of 5: Working group members are expected to have taken part in or led on a range of knowledge exchange activities as part of their research. Please give examples of these activities, outlining your role and what happened as a result of these activities.
  • Experience of working with a variety of different non-academic organisations (scored out of 5): We are looking to appoint academics who, between them, have worked with a variety of different types of organisations and with a wide range of different industries.  Please outline your experience and what it would bring to the working group.
  • Demonstrable interest in developing knowledge exchange at BU (scored out of 5): Working group members will be expected to work together to review BU’s strengths and weaknesses in knowledge exchange and make recommendations for change. Please state why you would like to be part of the group and how you would work to make it a success.

Application deadline

Please submit your application to knowledgeexchange@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on Wednesday 11 March.

Review process

Applications will be reviewed by the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Panel during the week of 16 March.  Applicants will be contacted about the outcome during the week of 23 March.

 

 

Conversation article: Oscars 2020: Why people are talking about visual effects

As the presentation of the 2020 Academy Awards approaches, there has been a lot of buzz around the visual effects category. Two films – Sam Mendes’s 1917 and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman have, in particular, attracted a lot of attention for the tricks they use to immerse the viewer in the characters and storyline.

The first film to win an award for visual effects, in the first ever Oscars ceremony in 1929, also won best picture. American special effects artist and film director Roy Pomeroy won for Wings, a first world war movie featuring breathtaking realistic dogfight sequences. His work still looks amazing, given the tools he had to work with. In the 90 years since he won his award, though, visual effects have become ever more sophisticated.

Big bangs theory

If we take a look at the films that are nominated for Best Visual Effects in this year’s Academy Awards, we see five very different types of film.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the continuing sci-fi saga of the battle between the Jedi and the Sith. A set of tried-and-tested visual effects techniques were used in the film.

This included the return of a fully digital replacement for Princess Leia using pieces of old footage of the late Carrie Fisher and computer-generated elements to create a complete character that blended seamlessly into the new narrative. Most of the environments were created in the computer and then composited with actors’ performances against a green screen that allows backgrounds to be replaced with digital sets.

Avengers: Endgame, is the final episode of a comic book-based world of superheroes and their enemies in one final, epic battle. Green screens played a huge part in this film as well, allowing intricate digital environments to play their part in the storytelling.

As you’d expect there are plenty of pyrotechnics, explosions and battle scenes that were made with animated digital characters.

Rumble in the jungle

The Lion King, a computer-generated remake of the Disney classic, originally animated, on the whole, by hand in 2D. Many of the techniques used in this movie were originally developed for the making of the 2016 remake of Jungle Book which, like The Lion King, was reworked as a fully digital film – apart from Mowgli who was played by a real boy.

In The Lion King, director John Favreau developed a technique that he felt would inform the animation of the animals in a far more realistic way than how animation is traditionally created. Rather than simply recording voice actors in a sound booth, he put them in a studio and filmed them acting together so that animators had nuanced reference to work with to ensure the tiniest of reactions were captured in the creatures’ performances.

Virtual reality also played a big part in the making of the film. Camera operators were able to use digital sets to see the environments and move digital cameras in a realistic way.

Forever young

The Irishman jumps between present-day action and as far back as the 1950s, made more complicated by the fact that the characters are played by the same actors. The point of difference is that prosthetics and makeup weren’t used, but stars including Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were “de-aged” using computers, using images of the actors from photographs and previous films to build “digital masks” in the computer that replaced the actor’s real faces.

This meant that De Niro who plays the lead role was, at 74 when filming began, playing the role of a man in his 30s and by the end of the film the same man in his 80s. How successfully is something that has been hotly debated – but nobody can doubt the expertise with which the artists carried out their task.

Spot the joins

The final film nominated is the first world war epic 1917, co-written, produced and directed by Sam Mendes. Loosely based on a story Mendes was told by his grandfather, the film relies on a single shot depiction of the entire narrative, following the main character on his journey to get a message to the front line. This technique, also used in 2015’s best picture winner, Birdman, required meticulous planning to ensure that the cuts that occurred were invisible to the viewer.

Camera moves were choreographed to allow two scenes that were filmed in the same location at different times to be taken into the computer and “stitched” together as if they were one complete shot. Doing this over and over enabled the illusion of one continuous sequence.

Like many films though, 1917 used a host of other visual effects techniques that were unseen. This is often regarded as the pinnacle of success in visual effects – an effect that can’t be seen versus one that is smacking you in the face with a large, wet fish.

Appliance of science

Some of the nominated movies need visual effects to create worlds and creatures that don’t exist, while some employ tricks to enhance the cinematic experience and the ability of the filmmaker to tell their story. All of them use the technical expertise of visual effects artists to bring the director’s vision to the screen.

And there’s a great deal of scientific knowhow that goes into creating cinematic illusion. The movie that won the visual effects award in 2014, Interstellar, involved recreating the appearance of a black hole. To do this, visual effects artists worked with scientists to accurately model the phenomenon. The results were so advanced that scientists have since cited its importance to their ongoing work.

This scientific knowledge underpins flawless visual effects production. Not only does a visual effects artist need to know how their tools work, they need to be able to understand the science that informs the visuals we see on the screen. Human and animal anatomy, lighting, pyrotechnics, fluid simulation, mechanical engineering and robotics are just a few of the scientific disciplines that add strings to a visual effects artist’s bow.

So, when we talk about visual effects and the people who create them, remember the science that supports almost everything they do. Every frame is looked at in minute detail, so much so that the casual viewer might never understand the hours that go into making one of these films look the way they do and allow us to sit back and enjoy the story.The Conversation

Chris Williams, Senior Principal Academic, National Centre for Computer Animation, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation: Trump the transgressor: the psychological appeal of leaders who break the rules

Many of today’s politicians appear to appeal to the basic human need for safety, presenting their versions of strong leadership as the best hope for order and safety in a fearful world of growing instability and risk. Much evidence confirms that this appeal is certainly an important factor in the political landscape.

But alongside this, other psychological dynamics are currently influential in a number of Western democracies – particularly in attracting people to support populist leaders and their agendas.

One of these – which is of particular relevance to the impeachment trial of the US president, Donald Trump – concerns the pleasure and excitement that some citizens appear to find in a leader who breaks rules and ignores taboos. These transgressions can come in various forms, such as controversial statements, unconventional lifestyles or disrespectful approaches to the political process. But they can also extend to improper activities and abuse of power – such as those detailed in the impeachment charges against Trump – or anti-democratic activity and violence.

 

Rule breakers

I suggest that support for this kind of leader can be understood as “identification with the transgressor”. This is an idea modelled on the concept of “identification with the aggressor”, a term coined by the psychoanalyst Anna Freud in 1936. Since then, psychologists have used the concept to understand a range of behaviours, including our tolerance of or collusion with bullies.

Different types of transgressive leader can appeal to transgressive parts of ourselves. Like others before him, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Anna’s father, observed that some measure of resentment towards authority and of a longing to cast aside the rules, is a universal feature of the human psyche. In its development since Freud, the psychoanalytic tradition has examined how this longing is a legacy of the painful process of emotional development we each undergo very early in life as we come to accept the limits placed on us as requirements for membership of human society.

Where there are good reasons to think that normal political processes are failing, many people can feel a surge of gratitude towards a leader who breaks with some conventions with the aim of bringing more integrity and legitimacy to political life. Lech Wałęsa in Poland and Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, and others who led the way out of totalitarianism for countries in the Communist bloc, were certainly transgressors within the political worlds they confronted. They could be identified as a force for good in a corrupt or sclerotic system.

But given our built-in ambivalence towards authority and rules, we can also identify with political leaders whose transgressions are driven at least in part by more destructive impulses. While promising their supporters a better world, these leaders use rhetoric that focuses on the urgent need to attack existing authorities and destroy existing arrangements, with little real attention paid to how to replace them.

One example is a coup leader who, once in power, has little plan for bettering their country. At worst is the leader free of most if not all moral constraint, who is contemptuous of international standards of conduct, and unconcerned by the human costs of his or her own conduct.

Trump set out to break the rules of American politics.
By oleskalashnik/Shutterstock

Impact on voters

Therefore, one psychological question hanging over the US impeachment proceedings is the extent to which Trump’s support base will judge him negatively over the events at the centre of the impeachment trial. When Americans head to the polls in November 2020, how many will be inclined to enjoy Trump’s truculent dismissal of any criticism, and his capacity to brazen it out?

Remember, evidence of Trump’s questionable moral conduct was available to the US electorate in 2016. Following the release before the election of a videotape in which he boasted about groping women without their consent, 91% of those likely to vote for Trump said in a CBS/YouGov poll that the tape didn’t change their view of him. And Trump was elected.

The refusal by many voters to censure Trump for his transgressions has a powerful psychological basis to it in the wish to break free of authority. This can also be enjoyed without the guilt that would, for most people, usually accompany an assault on widely held values.

That’s because a leader like Trump offers an opportunity to combine transgressive pleasure with the moral high ground. This emotional package is offered to those who identify with Trump’s (somewhat erratic) self-presentation as a fusion of pleasure-seeking rebel and visionary saviour, leading an insurrection against the corrupt authorities – “the swamp”.

The eulogistic book on Trump by Conservative commentator Ann Coulter is one of many demonstrations of how much his supporters are energised by the wish to attack the “establishment” for their own alleged transgressions. Of course, not all Trump supporters feel this way, or support him for the same reasons.

This populist attack on the established elite can enable the supporters of the transgressive leader to feel that they are on a moral crusade, as well there for a pleasure kick. This could be a powerful aid to Trump in the coming election. We should expect such a transgressor figure to continue attracting strong identification and support, unless challenged by a leader who can somehow disrupt the transgressor’s psychological relationship with their support base.The Conversation

Barry Richards, Professor of Political Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation – Fergal Keane: hopes that BBC reporter’s courage will help remove stigma of PTSD in journalists

In the hard-nosed world of journalism, admitting to suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has traditionally been taboo – a sign of weakness never to be admitted to colleagues in the newsroom where the remedy was often a stiff drink or two. Despite repeated efforts over the past decade to draw attention to the dangers of mental illness faced by foreign correspondents, that stigma has not gone away.

It can only be hoped that may change now that one of the BBC’s most high-profile correspondents, Fergal Keane, has shared publicly the PTSD he has been tussling with privately for several years.

The BBC announced that after decades of covering conflict, its veteran war reporter would be changing his role from that of Africa editor to “further assist his recovery”. The corporation’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, said: “It is both brave and welcome that he is ready to be open about PTSD.”

Keane is not the first correspondent by any means to have shared in public the impact that covering a relentless diet of conflict, crisis and disaster can have on even the most resilient human being. His BBC colleague Jeremy Bowen, Middle East editor, spoke about his own diagnosis of PTSD in 2017, characterised by bouts of depression related to his work.

Janine Di Giovanni, winner of the 2018 Courage in Journalism Award.
World Bank Photo Collection, CC BY-SA

Renowned foreign correspondents such as Janine di Giovanni have also written movingly about the effects of PTSD. In her 2011 memoir, Ghosts by Daylight, she confessed that crisis had become normality and “this real life, with all its sharp edges was terribly difficult”.

Combat fatigue

Almost two decades ago, research by South African psychologist Anthony Feinstein underscored the importance of efforts to introduce structured trauma training and counselling into news organisations. His first major study of 140 war journalists published in 2002 found that they had significantly more psychiatric difficulties than journalists who did not report on war.

In particular, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in journalists who cover war was similar to rates reported for combat veterans, while the rate of major depression exceeded that of the general population. In 2018, Feinstein conducted a retrospective study of PTSD data collected over 18 years from journalists who have covered conflict across four continents.

Between 1999 and 2017, data had been collected from 684 journalists covering stories ranging from the 9/11 attacks and the Arab Spring to drug wars in Mexico and the refugee crisis in Europe. The data showed that the majority of the correspondents did not display prominent symptoms of PTSD at any one moment in time. But over a longer time-frame (many correspondents were spending well over a decade covering conflict) the data confirmed that rates of the full PTSD syndrome can approach those experienced by those engaged in actual combat – and he cautioned that news organisations could not afford to be complacent when it came to their duty of care.

Raising awareness

Large news organisations such as the BBC and Reuters have made great strides in recognising the issues associated with PTSD and providing both training and support. This has been reinforced by the work of a US-based global charity, the Dart Centre for Journalism & Trauma which offers a range of best practice guidelines and resources to safeguard the mental well-being of journalists.

This is not just about those on the frontline of foreign reporting. Almost every journalist will end up covering traumatic news events in their career – whether this be sexual violence, traffic accidents, or criminal trials. Most recently, there is a growing awareness of the dangers posed to journalists in the newsroom monitoring incoming, raw user-generated content from the sites of conflict, terror and disaster worldwide – what has been dubbed the “[digital frontline]”.

It is a point that was highlighted in a 2015 survey by Eyewitness Media Hub. This major study on the issue surveyed 122 journalists around the world and concluded that:

Office-bound staff who used to be somewhat shielded from viewing atrocities are now bombarded day in and day out with horrifically graphic material that explodes onto their desktops in volumes, and at a frequency that is very often far in excess of the horrors witnessed by staff who are investigating or reporting from the actual frontline.

Slowly but surely, journalism courses at universities in the UK are becoming aware of the importance of trauma training before students enter this professional environment. We would like to think that the work we are doing at Bournemouth University through both education, research and professional practice – in conjunction with the Dart Centre, BBC and others – is starting to make a difference.

The aim is to create an awareness of how people caught up in traumatic news might react and how to conduct ethical interviews with victims and survivors of trauma. In addition, we feel it is only responsible to make our journalism students aware of the mental stresses that journalists are exposed to whether on the frontline or in the newsroom.

Coping strategies

That doesn’t mean we should assume that every journalist who covers a distressing news story or handles sensitive material will develop PTSD. But it is important to do our best to build resilience and develop coping strategies so that journalists can bounce back stronger from the impact of covering distressing news.

As Keane’s case illustrates, PTSD can often present itself long after events. He has spoken and written about the effects that covering the 1994 Rwanda genocide had on him. It can only be hoped that the courage Keane has displayed in moving himself away from the frontline will send a signal that it is acceptable to recognise mental health issues in journalism.

Far from turning his back on the profession, according to the BBC he intends to “continue to provide original and compelling journalism” and hopes to draw on his experiences to guide and nurture young journalists. This can only be positive for the next generation of journalists.The Conversation

Stephen Jukes, Professor of Journalism, Bournemouth University and Karen Fowler-Watt, Senior Principal Academic, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP), Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Fusion Professorial Lecture: Addressing the environmental crisis

With so many reports and news stories about the environmental issues we currently face, including climate change, biodiversity loss and plastic pollution, which problems should cause us most concern and how can we tackle them?

A Bournemouth University (BU) academic will talk at RNLI College on Thursday 13 February to address these issues in the first of a series of free public lectures. BU’s Professor of Marine Biology and Conservation, Rick Stafford, will launch the Fusion Professorial Lecture Series with his talk, ‘Addressing the environmental crisis: from reusable coffee cups to political reform, what really works?’

Rick, from the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, said: “It’s vital we address the environmental crisis properly in the very near future. This talk will bring together my research over the last two years and present a timely message that it’s not too late to act, and give a positive vision of what the future could be like if we do.”

Using his research, Rick will demonstrate that plastic pollution is a real threat, but has been overemphasised in order to maintain the economic and political status quo. His findings also show that climate change and biodiversity loss need large systematic changes in economic and political thinking to be successfully tackled, although nature-based solutions such as tree planting and a respect for nature are also important.

Rick will demonstrate the benefits to biodiversity and society of changing our approach to economics, and show that necessary changes will be advantageous to most people, both in developed and developing countries.

Rick added: “It’s very timely, and hopefully it will inspire people to support the necessary changes we need at local, national and international levels.”

The Fusion Professorial Lecture Series is free and open to the public, with six planned throughout the year, and cover a wide range of topics from BU academics.

Rick Stafford’s research began studying rocky shores, and developed into mathematical and computer models of animal behaviour. He currently works on topics as diverse as marine protected areas, fisheries, artificial reefs, as well as climate change and biodiversity loss.

The free to attend lecture takes place on Thursday 13 February, 6:30pm, and is ticketed. You can register for tickets on Eventbrite.

Conversation article: 3D printing of body parts is coming fast – but regulations are not ready

In the last few years, the use of 3D printing has exploded in medicine. Engineers and medical professionals now routinely 3D print prosthetic hands and surgical tools. But 3D printing has only just begun to transform the field.

Today, a quickly emerging set of technologies known as bioprinting is poised to push the boundaries further. Bioprinting uses 3D printers and techniques to fabricate the three-dimensional structures of biological materials, from cells to biochemicals, through precise layer-by-layer positioning. The ultimate goal is to replicate functioning tissue and material, such as organs, which can then be transplanted into human beings.

We have been mapping the adoption of 3D printing technologies in the field of health care, and particularly bioprinting, in a collaboration between the law schools of Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom and Saint Louis University in the United States. While the future looks promising from a technical and scientific perspective, it’s far from clear how bioprinting and its products will be regulated. Such uncertainty can be problematic for manufacturers and patients alike, and could prevent bioprinting from living up to its promise.

From 3D printing to bioprinting

Bioprinting has its origins in 3D printing. Generally, 3D printing refers to all technologies that use a process of joining materials, usually layer upon layer, to make objects from data described in a digital 3D model. Though the technology initially had limited applications, it is now a widely recognized manufacturing system that is used across a broad range of industrial sectors. Companies are now 3D printing car parts, education tools like frog dissection kits and even 3D-printed houses. Both the United States Air Force and British Airways are developing ways of 3D printing airplane parts.

The NIH in the U.S. has a program to develop bioprinted tissue that’s similar to human tissue to speed up drug screening.
Paige Derr and Kristy Derr, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

In medicine, doctors and researchers use 3D printing for several purposes. It can be used to generate accurate replicas of a patient’s body part. In reconstructive and plastic surgeries, implants can be specifically customized for patients using “biomodels” made possible by special software tools. Human heart valves, for instance, are now being 3D printed through several different processes although none have been transplanted into people yet. And there have been significant advances in 3D print methods in areas like dentistry over the past few years.

Bioprinting’s rapid emergence is built on recent advances in 3D printing techniques to engineer different types of products involving biological components, including human tissue and, more recently, vaccines.

While bioprinting is not entirely a new field because it is derived from general 3D printing principles, it is a novel concept for legal and regulatory purposes. And that is where the field could get tripped up if regulators cannot decide how to approach it.

State of the art in bioprinting

Scientists are still far from accomplishing 3D-printed organs because it’s incredibly difficult to connect printed structures to the vascular systems that carry life-sustaining blood and lymph throughout our bodies. But they have been successful in printing nonvascularized tissue like certain types of cartilage. They have also been able to produce ceramic and metal scaffolds that support bone tissue by using different types of bioprintable materials, such as gels and certain nanomaterials. A number of promising animal studies, some involving cardiac tissue, blood vessels and skin, suggest that the field is getting closer to its ultimate goal of transplantable organs.

Researchers explain ongoing work to make 3d-printed tissue that could one day be transplanted into a human body.

We expect that advancements in bioprinting will increase at a steady pace, even with current technological limitations, potentially improving the lives of many patients. In 2019 alone, several research teams reported a number of breakthroughs. Bioengineers at Rice and Washington Universities, for example, used hydrogels to successfully print the first series of complex vascular networks. Scientists at Tel Aviv University managed to produce the first 3D-printed heart. It included “cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers” and used cells and biological materials from a human patient. In the United Kingdom, a team from Swansea University developed a bioprinting process to create an artificial bone matrix, using durable, regenerative biomaterial.

‘Cloneprinting’

Though the future looks promising from a technical and scientific perspective, current regulations around bioprinting pose some hurdles. From a conceptual point of view, it is hard to determine what bioprinting effectively is.

Consider the case of a 3D-printed heart: Is it best described as an organ or a product? Or should regulators look at it more like a medical device?

Regulators have a number of questions to answer. To begin with, they need to decide whether bioprinting should be regulated under new or existing frameworks, and if the latter, which ones. For instance, should they apply regulations for biologics, a class of complex pharmaceuticals that includes treatments for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, because biologic materials are involved, as is the case with 3D-printed vaccines? Or should there be a regulatory framework for medical devices better suited to the task of customizing 3D-printed products like splints for newborns suffering from life-threatening medical conditions?

In Europe and the U.S., scholars and commentators have questioned whether bioprinted materials should enjoy patent protection because of the moral issues they raise. An analogy can be drawn from the famed Dolly the sheep over 20 years ago. In this case, it was held by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that cloned sheep cannot be patented because they were identical copies of naturally occurring sheep. This is a clear example of the parallels that exist between cloning and bioprinting. Some people speculate in the future there will be ‘cloneprinting,’ which has the potential for reviving extinct species or solving the organ transplant shortage.

Dolly the sheep’s example illustrates the court’s reluctance to traverse this path. Therefore, if, at some point in the future, bioprinters or indeed cloneprinters can be used to replicate not simply organs but also human beings using cloning technologies, a patent application of this nature could potentially fail, based on the current law. A study funded by the European Commission, led by Bournemouth University and due for completion in early 2020 aims to provide legal guidance on the various intellectual property and regulatory issues surrounding such issues, among others.

On the other hand, if European regulators classify the product of bioprinting as a medical device, there will be at least some degree of legal clarity, as a regulatory regime for medical devices has long been in place. In the United States, the FDA has issued guidance on 3D-printed medical devices, but not on the specifics of bioprinting. More important, such guidance is not binding and only represents the thinking of a particular agency at a point in time.

Cloudy regulatory outlook

Those are not the only uncertainties that are racking the field. Consider the recent progress surrounding 3D-printed organs, particularly the example of a 3D-printed heart. If a functioning 3D-printed heart becomes available, which body of law should apply beyond the realm of FDA regulations? In the United States, should the National Organ Transplant Act, which was written with human organs in mind, apply? Or do we need to amend the law, or even create a separate set of rules for 3D-printed organs?

We have no doubt that 3D printing in general, and bioprinting specifically, will advance rapidly in the coming years. Policymakers should be paying closer attention to the field to ensure that its progress does not outstrip their capacity to safely and effectively regulate it. If they succeed, it could usher in a new era in medicine that could improve the lives of countless patients.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend. ]The Conversation

Dinusha Mendis, Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law and Co-Director of the Jean Monet Centre of Excellence for European Intellectual Property and Information Rights, Bournemouth University and Ana Santos Rutschman, Assistant Professor of Law, Saint Louis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: You’re probably more susceptible to misinformation than you think

Online misinformation works, or so it would seem. One of the more interesting statistics from the 2019 UK general election was that 88% of advertisements posted on social media by the Conservative Party pushed figures that had already been deemed misleading by the UK’s leading fact-checking organisation, Full Fact. And, of course, the Conservatives won the election by a comfortable margin.

Internet firms such as Facebook and Google are taking some steps to limit political misinformation. But with Donald Trump aiming for reelection in 2020, it seems likely we’ll see just as many false or misleading statements online this year as in the past. The internet, and social media in particular, has effectively become a space where anyone can spread any claim they like regardless of its veracity.

Yet to what degree do people actually believe what they read online, and what influence does misinformation really have? Ask people directly and most will tell you they don’t trust the news they see on social media. And a landmark study in 2019 found 43% of social media users admitted to sharing inaccurate content themselves. So people are certainly aware in principle that misinformation is common online.

But ask people where they learned about the “facts” that support their political opinions, and the answer will often be social media. A more complex analysis of the situation suggests that for many people the source of political information is simply less important than how it fits with their existing views.

Spurious thinking

Research into the UK Brexit referendum and 2017 general election found that voters often reported making their decisions based on highly spurious arguments. For example, one voter argued that Brexit would stop the takeover of the British high street by foreign companies such as Costa Coffee (which was British at the time). Similarly, a Remain voter spoke of mass deportations of any non-UK born resident if the country left the EU, a much more extreme policy than anything actually put forward by politicians during the campaign.

During the 2017 election, various claims were made by survey respondents that unfairly questioned Conservative leader Theresa May’s humanity. For example, some falsely argued she enacted laws that led to flammable cladding being placed on the exterior of Grenfell Tower, the London block of flats that caught fire in June 2017, killing 72 people. Others called her Labour opponent Jeremy Corbyn a terrorist sympathiser, or a victim of a conspiracy to discredit him by the military and industrial elites. The common thread was that these voters gained the information to support their arguments from social media.

How do we explain the apparent paradox of knowing social media is full of misinformation and yet relying on it to form political opinions? We need to look more widely at what has become known as the post-truth environment. This involves a scepticism of all official sources of news, a reliance on existing beliefs and biases formed from deeply held prejudices, and a search for information that confirms bias as opposed to critical thinking.

 

People judge information on whether they find it believable as opposed to whether it is backed by evidence. Sociologist Lisbet van Zoonen calls this the replacement of epistemology – the science of knowledge – with “i-pistemology” – the practice of making personal judgements.

A lack of trust in elite sources, in particular politicians and journalists, doesn’t fully explain this large-scale rejection of critical thinking. But psychology can provide some potential answers. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Twersky developed a series of experiments that explored under what conditions humans are most likely to jump to conclusions about a specific topic. They argue intelligence has little impact on making ill-informed judgements.

Intelligence tests demonstrate the capacity to perform logical reasoning, but cannot predict that it will be performed at every moment it is needed. As I have argued, we need to understand the context of people’s decisions.

Everyone wants your attention.
Andrew E Gardener/Shutterstock

The average undecided voter is bombarded with arguments from political leaders, especially in marginal seats or swing states that can make a difference to the outcome of an election. Every politician offers a redacted account of their or their opponents’ policies. And voters are aware that each of these politicians is trying to persuade them and so they retain a healthy scepticism.

The average voter also has a busy life. They have a job, perhaps a family, bills to pay and hundreds of pressing issues to address in their daily lives. They know the importance of voting and making the right decision but struggle to navigate the contested election communication they receive. They want a simple answer to that age-old conundrum, who most or who least deserves my vote.

So instead of conducting a systematic critical analysis of every piece of evidence they encounter, they look for specific issues that they see as driving a wedge between the competing politicians. This is where fake news and disinformation can be powerful. As much as we like to think we’re good at spotting fake news and being sceptical of what we’re told, we’re ultimately susceptible to whatever information makes it easiest to make a decision that seems right, even if in the long term it may be wrong.The Conversation

Darren Lilleker, Associate Professor of Political Communication, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: How breastfeeding sparked population growth in ancient cities

Historians down the ages have examined the ebb and flow of populations in ancient societies. But most of these examinations have tended to focus on male dominated events – the wars, the politics and the money. But there is another side to the past that struggles to be heard over the clashing of swords. It is this unreported history that our new research focuses on.

My colleagues and I at Bournemouth University and the University of Warsaw used advanced chemical techniques to study breastfeeding in some of the world’s early cities in ancient parts of Syria and Lebanon. We analysed small pieces of bone from infants, children and mothers interred in ancient Bronze Age cemeteries between 2800 and 1200 BC by using a technique known as stable isotopes analysis. From this we built computer models that estimated the age of weaning (the introduction of complementary foods to a breastfeeding child’s diet) and complete weaning (stopping breastfeeding entirely) in these populations.

Our research found that women seem to have exclusively breastfed their children until about the age of six months and completely stopped around the age of two and a half – earlier than was common elsewhere at this point in history. These earlier weaning times may have helped boost the population of these cities, which became flourishing centres of civilisation.




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The sites we excavated were urban centres on the Mediterranean coast, and between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what was called Mesopotamia. Children’s bones found by archaeologists are often more fragile than those of adults, as they are smaller and not completely mineralised (their bones have less inorganic material such as calcium than those of adults). This means they often get damaged or are lost through decomposition.

However, enough children were excavated at these cemeteries for chemical analysis and confident statistical modelling. That’s partially due to the ancient Near Eastern practice of burying infants and children in jars, which partially protected the bones from the burial environment.

A Middle Bronze Age infant from the Lebanese site of Sidon buried in a large jar.
Claude Doumet-Serhal, CC BY-NC-ND



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Breast or bottle feeding: the debate has its origins in Victorian times


Our ancient sites were metropolitan hubs and probably had wide-ranging contact from people all over the ancient world. Within these cities, women seem to have exclusively breastfed their children until about the age of six months, which fits with the World Health Organization’s recommendations for healthy infant feeding.

While other foods seem to have been introduced after six months, complete weaning stopped around the age of two-and-a-half. And these times seem to fit with written records from that part of the world. For example, there are some Babylonian contracts dating to as early as 1000 BC between parents and a wet nurse (a woman who would breastfeed the baby as if it were her own). According to these contracts, the wet nurse would breastfeed the baby for a proscribed amount of time, often around two to three years, and be repaid in barley, oil, wool and sometimes silver.

Later religious texts also provide clues. Some books in the Bible (Maccabees and Chronicles) note breastfeeding lasting for three years, and later sources from the first millennium AD such as the Quran and the Babylonian Talmud estimate this period as two years.

Relic from Mesopotamia (2000-1500 BCE) at The Sulaimaniya Museum, Iraq, shows a woman breastfeeding her child.
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin, CC BY

Breastfeeding on average for two and a half years might seem like a long time in most modern cultures but it’s shorter than in many ancient societies as revealed by archaeological studies from all over the world also using stable isotopes analysis to estimate infant feeding practices. These found that the global average length of time until initial weaning in in pre-industrial societies would have been one year (as opposed to six months in our ancient cities). And complete weaning occurred at around the age of three.

Breastfeeding and populations

The timing and nature of weaning and complete weaning have long-lasting health impacts through infancy and even into adulthood. But beyond their impact on the health of individuals, breastfeeding and infant feeding strategies also affect population structures.

Breastfeeding for longer tends to mean women have gaps between pregnancies, and this has been considered a major factor in controlling fertility in hunter-gatherer groups where breastfeeding up to and beyond the age of five was the norm. In contrast, earlier weaning is associated with early farming communities with higher population growth.

This means the shorter breastfeeding times shown by our findings may have helped boost the population of the cities of ancient Syria and Lebanon. It could have been the result of having access to cereal crops such as wheat and barley and dairy products such as yogurt, which could easily be fed to children as weaning supplements. Agriculture was introduced earlier in this part of the world than elsewhere and coincided with the emergence of urban civilisations and the establishment of wide reaching international networks.

Sidon, for example, grew into one of the Mediterranean’s great port cities, connecting the Phoenicians as a commercial power. And our research suggests the strategies they used for childrearing may have had a hand in their achievements. So breastfeeding and weaning in ancient Lebanon and Syria didn’t make it into the big historical texts. But our study shows that these seemingly modern issues had big impact on society.The Conversation

Chris Stantis, Postdoc in Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wafer-thin bicycles, speedy shorts, go-faster trainers: controversial technology in sport

When the Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours as part of the recent INEOS 1:59 Project Challenge, this was arguably one of the most significant achievements of athleticism since Sir Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954. But almost immediately afterwards there was controversy, not toward the runner or the unofficial nature of his run (his record has no official status), but over his running shoes.

The trainers in question were the AlphaFLY running shoes designed and manufactured by Nike. They are built around a carefully considered sole design that absorbs the energy of each foot strike and then helps store, channel and return it as the athlete runs. Its various patented innovations include the types of polymers used and how they and air pockets are located to absorb and return energy, coupled with a carbon plate built into the midsole. The question is, can a running shoe really be they key to sporting success? Or is it just an easy target for others’ misplaced jealousy?

A study published back in 2005 predicted the probable limits of the men’s marathon record. Yet since then the maximum projections in that study have already been exceeded by around two minutes, and nearly by four if you include Kipchoge’s time. On that basis it seems fair to suggest that the shoes are at least partly responsible for such large and unexpected performance improvements. The International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body, has established a group to study the Nike’s running shoes and report back with an adjudication.

A more recent study examining shoe technology supports this concern, suggesting that a predecessor to the Alphafly shoe design had been shown to improve running economy significantly. In fact, compared directly to other elite-level trainers in the same study, the performance gain was in the range of 2.6%-4.2%. At the razor thin margins of elite sport, that sort of benefit is the equivalent of bringing a gun to a knife fight.

Seeking an edge through technology

To be sure, as far as debating technological assistance in sport goes, we’ve been here plenty of times before. The Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman wore a one-piece aerodynamic suit in the 400 metres at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. In 2008, the very nature of disability itself was challenged when South African Oscar Pistorius attempted to run in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games the same year while using a pair of composite prosthetic legs. These, like Kipchoge’s shoes, also raised concerns about the nature of and extent to which technology contributes toward helping us perform at our very best. In a systemic review published in 2015, I found the impact of technology in sport as having brought a huge source of positive interest, but, on occasion, being hugely damaging.

The British Olympic team recently unveiled its new track cycling bicycle, dubbed HB.T, upon which athletes will be competing at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This machine (a project undertaken between British Cycling and manufacturers Hope and Lotus Engineering) pushes the rules to their absolute limits and demonstrates the flair that Lotus themselves applied back in 1992 when they designed Chris Boardman’s gold medal-winning Lotus bicycle. But this design was itself later banned from competition due to its perceived unfairness.

The new Team GB bicycle is resplendent with an unusual fork configuration and bowed, thin frame members that virtually disappear from view when you look at it head on. Engineers will be keen to know the measured advantages. But I’m wondering whether the real effects of the bike are in the psychological blow to its opposition as it is wheeled out for the first time – at a point probably and quite intentionally too late for competing cycling teams’ to respond to in time for Tokyo.

The general criticism behind such new technology is not just about how effective it may or may not be but also about its perceived fairness. Such arguments typically debate issues surrounding equal access to a technology, the ability to ensure any new technology is safe, that it is not fundamentally an unfair advantage, and that it doesn’t ultimately change the nature of the sport entirely.

Some sports governing bodies attempt to remove or marginalise the impact of technology. Cycling has tried several times to do so. However, even the relative simplicity of a sport such as running was changed forever when Kipchoge used a huge team of around 40 pace-setters in an aerodynamic formation and those shoes.

Technological progress can be slowed, but it can’t easily be halted – and arguably shouldn’t be. So there will be much more debate on the effects of technology ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games as more athletes, teams and manufacturers all compete for the most prized medals in competitive sport.The Conversation

Bryce Dyer, Principal Academic, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.