Category / BU research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The team has even created their own Covid-19 web-comics, published by Nightingale on Medium.

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

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

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

More information about the project will soon be available at

BU now part of BMJ Transformative OA journal deals

BU have successfully signed up to the BMJ Read and Publish Pilot for 2021. This means that qualifying funded research articles can be published Open Access without paying for an Article Processing Charge (APC).

  • To qualify, your research must be funded by : a UK Research Council (AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, STFC, NERC), British Heart Foundation, Blood Cancer UK, Cancer Research UK, Parkinsons UK, Versus Arthritis or the Wellcome Trust;
  • Articles eligible for funded publication under the Publish and Read deal: original research articles (original articles reporting on primary research) in our Transformative Journals (Standard collection)
  • Coverage: Original articles reporting primary research (not reviews, commentaries or rapid communications) in 28 subscription journals
  • Creative Commons Licence: CC-BY
  • Journal titles

Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases

Archives of Disease in Childhood

Archives of Disease in Childhood: Education & Practice edition

Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal & Neonatal edition

BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine

BMJ Quality and Safety

British Journal of Ophthalmology

British Journal of Sports Medicine

Emergency Medicine Journal

Evidence-Based Mental Health

Evidence-Based Nursing

Frontline Gastroenterology



Injury Prevention

Journal of Clinical Pathology

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Journal of Medical Ethics

Journal of Medical Genetics

Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry

Medical Humanities

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Postgraduate Medical Journal

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry

Medical Humanities

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Postgraduate Medical Journal

Practical Neurology

Sexually Transmitted Infections


Tobacco Control

See publisher webpage for more details.

Meet members of the Research Ethics Panels

This morning we meet members from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Ethics Panel (SSH REP).

Dr Parisa Gilani, Senior Lecturer in HR and OB, BUBS
I joined the Social Sciences and Humanities Ethics Panel in November 2019 as the departmental representative for People and Organisations (BUBS). As an Early Career Researcher I welcomed the opportunity to actively contribute towards the research community and meet and learn from knowledgeable colleagues across the university. I had also attended a number of SSH Ethics Panels as a researcher and found the experience to be a positive and rewarding one that enhanced the quality of research projects I had been involved in.

I joined the Panel at an interesting time – with the Pandemic hitting just a few short months after joining. I only had the pleasure of meeting my fellow Panel members in person once before we switched to virtual working. The current situation has also challenged our way of thinking about research in the current context. A lot of our recent discussions have focussed on researcher and participant safety and formulating suitable ethical protocols for online forms of data collection – particularly the use of Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

One of the things I have most enjoyed about being an SSH REP member is having the opportunity to learn about the exciting, innovative and important research that goes on across BU – outside of my own discipline. Every month I’m blown away by the innovative research projects that I have the pleasure of reading about. Many of these address current challenges such as the Covid Pandemic, well-being and links to the UN Sustainability goals.

Over the last few months we have changed the way we review Ethics documents that come to the Panel. Each research project is now assigned a lead reviewer and a secondary reviewer, which allows us the space and capacity to really delve into each project we are assigned to in-depth.

Working with fellow Panel members has also enhanced the quality of the Ethics documents I produce and enabled me to further support my own students as they embark on the Ethics process. Sometimes Ethics is seen as a tick box exercise, but if anything being a part of this Panel over the last year has reinforced to me the important role that Ethics plays in ensuring our physical and psychological safety, that of our participants and in strengthening the quality of research.

Finally, there is sometimes apprehension experienced over being asked to present research at Ethics Panels, however I can safely say that we are all a very supportive group of people, who strive to provide proportionate, consistent and high quality of research across the University. I have personally thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Panel. So if you are submitting your Ethics documentation – good luck and we hope to see you at a Panel soon!

Dr Osi Okwilagwe, Lecturer in Strategy, BUBS

A few years ago, whilst fresh out of my PhD journey and as a new member of staff, I joined the SSH REP. As an Early Career Researcher, I was indeed new to the world of research ethics and was especially pleased to be offered a place by Dr Sean Beer who was Panel chair at the time. In my four years on the role and currently working with a new Panel chaired by Prof Jonathan Parker, I have come to appreciate how large the industry of research is and how important it is for the members of the SSH REP to have a real interest in supporting Social Sciences & Humanities research at BU and in protecting potential participants’ interests – to give their opinion on whether the research methodology is ethical and fair. For me it has been an eye opener working with senior and more experienced colleagues reviewing each month an array of ethics checklists submitted by staff and postgraduate research students, all who conduct very interesting research.

I suppose when people think about ethical research, they think of rules for distinguishing between what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviour – right from wrong! Submitting ethics checklists for an ethics review or attending an interview with the Panel for a submission assessed as above minimal risk is really not daunting contrary to popular opinion. The SSH REP understands the sometimes complex issues involved in reaching ethical decisions; bear in mind that the Panel’s aim is to promote and facilitate research at BU. Staff and postgraduate research students who submit their ethics checklist should also not despair if the feedback from the Panel entails a long list of suggestions or amendments, as the role of the SSH REP is to ensure that all research carried out, is conducted to the highest possible ethical standards for research and to provides support to staff and students planning research projects. The mixed experiences and backgrounds of members that make up the Panel allow for wide perspectives as possible. Panel members take a robust approach to the consideration of risk and benefits of a research project. Each member brings their own valuable perspective, knowledge, and experience, as well as concern of the ethics checklist submitted for a particular research project to the Panel’s deliberations. Hence, the feedback given are usually suggestions for researchers to take on board to amend the ethics checklist or to improve the participant’s information sheet; invariably helping towards increasing the likelihood of participant recruitment and of generating quality and publishable research results.

The invaluable experience I have gained from reviewing submissions and working with the SSH REP, has allowed me to appreciate the diverse nature of research carried out by our colleagues at BU and has also ingrained in me that as researchers, a key duty is to promote ethical research.

Here are 3 top tips I like to share when considering making an ethics checklist submission:

1. If researchers are new to research, do ask for help, perhaps from a more experienced colleague/supervisor or send an email to the Research ethics team with any questions.

2. Complete the ethics checklist carefully and read the guidance on the documents to be submitted along with the checklist.

3. Spend a considerable amount of time on the Participant Information Sheet; the adequacy of consent is important. So do identify any contentious issues there may be in conducting the research.

RDS Research Funding Application Timeline

The Research Development & Support RKE Application timeline is your ultimate guide to applying for external R&KE funding. The timeline guides you through all the necessary steps, procedures and processes involved, including navigating through all the requirements of the internal quality approvals, costing preparations, legal and finances approvals, faculty approvals, etc.

The R&KE timeline also provides helpful guidance in the time needed in preparing and finalising external funding applications, taking you through initial planning, the submission preparation processes, legal and finance approval processes and to the submission to funder process.

You can also find useful links and information, as well as your Funding Development Team contacts on this timeline document.

Please click on this link to access this useful guidance document.

BU research matters: Tectonic shifts within and beyond BU

Bio | Roman's labDr Roman Gerodimos is an Associate Professor of Global Current Affairs in the Faculty of Media & Communication. In today’s blog post he reflects on the seismic shifts the pandemic has accelerated in research practice and the serendipitous benefits of this change: 

“The pandemic forced us to adapt and transform the way we do research, teaching and professional practice across the board. The restrictions to domestic and international travel have eliminated physical conferences and workshops, and have severely limited the amount and types of fieldwork we can carry out.

Yet, at the same time, we have observed the emergence of two very important trends: new modes of dynamic, collaborative research work and mutual support within BU; and an exponential increase in opportunities for participation in external events, which can greatly boost our global engagement.

Within BU: last summer, along with a few colleagues at the department of Communication & Journalism, we started to organise Virtual Research Days. We “borrowed” the format of our Writing Retreats – which in the good old days used to take place at the Miramar and the Green House Hotel: we picked a day of the week, then blocked our calendar for 5 hours (10am-3pm), joined a Teams call and had two focused sessions (10.00-12.15, 12.45-3.00) on a piece of research that we had chosen (this could involve any research-related task, from a bit of data analysis to writing a few paragraphs, and from sending emails to co-authors to reviewing a journal article). We used the first 15 minutes of each session to share our goal for the session with our colleagues, and the last 15 minutes to debrief and reflect on how the session went. The rest of the time we worked individually, with email and phones being switched off.

This simple format worked wonders: our productivity immediately shot up, while our short reflection session proved invaluable. I think I now understand more about my colleagues’ individual research interests and projects than at any other time over the last 20 years at BU, while seeing how everyone struggles with and overcomes creative, intellectual and practical barriers has been really interesting and made this work feel less solitary. Our summer ‘retreats’ became so successful that we decided to pilot and then formally roll them out throughout the academic year, so we now have at least one designated day each week for C&J colleagues and PGRs to come together and work on their research.

We have seen similar patterns across all our research sessions: attendance in our research seminars, research practice seminars, lunchtime sessions, and even our various conferences and workshops has been higher than ever, as the online format makes them much more accessible to people who may not be on campus, while it also allows participants to multitask and join conversations as needed, none of this would have been possible in the conventional physical format.

Beyond BU: the shift to online events has removed physical access barriers making both them and us available to a global audience. During the last few days, I have given a talk at Oxford University, delivered a keynote at a TechCamp conference organised by the US State Department, met with stakeholders from the European Parliament and Transparency International, participated in seminars with leading journalists from all over Europe, and next week will be giving an endowed lecture and doing a separate film screening and Q&A at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Last summer and autumn, I spoke or participated at countless conferences, seminars, book launches and media interviews organised by a very diverse range of external stakeholders, while I now get an average of one invite a day. Obviously, giving Zoom talks is not quite the same as being in Vancouver or Washington DC or even Oxford, and the convenience of doing this from home does change the cost/benefit calculation, putting a lot of pressure on us as academics to accept invites. But, while nothing can replace the experience of physical co-presence and the importance of random encounters that come with travelling, the opportunities for global engagement and networking are very significant.

All these tectonic shifts in our research practice happened within an extremely compressed period of time: academia’s equivalent to ‘overnight’. Seeing the way our teams have come together and embraced this new mode of working, as well as the opportunities for outreach and engagement that this has created, has been quite affirming and, despite all the challenges that we have been facing, makes me feel very optimistic about our future as a research community.”

Meet members of the Research Ethics Panels

On Monday we focussed on the work of the Research Ethics Panel and yesterday we heard from Dr Orlanda Harvey who visited the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Panel as part of her PhD journey.

Today you get to meet some of its members with the focus on the Science, Technology & Health Research Ethics Panel (STH REP).


Dr Liam Wignall (Psychology Department)

My research explores different aspects of sex and sexuality, looking at sexual identities and the experiences of non-heterosexuals; changing sexual practices, including during COVID-19kink activities and the changing role of the internet. Given my research interests on the often personal topic of sexuality, I am keenly aware of the need to consider the ethical implications of any research conducted. I have sat on numerous ethics panels and had fascinating discussions about my research and the ethical considerations. This has ranged from thinking about the wording of the questions and how participants may perceive them, to making sure I think of my own safety when collecting data in the field. These discussions forced me to think about how I conduct research and providing justifications for each step, ultimately improving my studies.

I became a member of the panel so that I could offer the same advice to others when they were conducting research, asking other researchers the same questions that I was once asked: “What precautions have you taken should things go wrong?”; “How are you protecting yourself when conducting research on a sensitive topic?”; “Do participants know what will happen to their data?” Often when conducting research, we can become so focused on one aspect of the project that it’s helpful for others to ask these questions – I see this as one of the jobs of the ethics panel.

The principal role of the STH REP is to ensure that all research is conducted in an ethical way, following principles and procedures set out by BU and associated bodies (e.g., British Psychological Society). I see my role on the panel as encouraging researchers to consider how they can follow these guidelines to conduct great research. Ethics is not about preventing research from being done, it’s thinking about how good research can be done in an ethical way.

On a personal note, it’s also amazing to see the range of research projects being conducted at Bournemouth University. Being on the panel allows me to chat with colleagues across the faculty and ask them about their research. As a panel, we have had ethical discussions relating to how technology can improve the lives of people with physical disabilities; the intricacies of how dating profiles are used; and how to explain research to children to ascertain consent. Three-hour meetings can just fly by…

Dr. Sofia Meacham (Senior Lecturer in Computing Department of Computing and Informatics)

“Why did I become a member?”

I became a member of the STH REP three years ago through my strong interest on the subject as part of my own research. Specifically, ethical considerations for Artificial Intelligence decision making and their acceptance from scientific and wider community was the matter that I came across first in my research. This raised an interest in how the two worlds: technical achievement and ethical considerations can be combined and the challenges arising from this combination can be overcome. Finding a community of like-minded academics from several fields was obviously the next step to progress this interest, get accustomed with BU’s processes on the matter and contribute through my previous knowledge on technical and ethical matters. Last but not least, ethics has been an integral part of my education from an early stage such as primary school through ancient Greek philosophy and family traditions.

“What do you like about being a member?”

After becoming a member and although the participation is voluntarily, I enjoyed every aspect of it. Without exaggeration, I have been given the option to reduce my workload by stepping down which I have rejected! Being a member, the panel discussions once a month provide a multi-disciplinary approach opening my personal horizons and patterns of thought. There is a democratic handling of all opinions and there is not a single meeting that was not beneficial and enjoyable. Although the panel meetings are taking place with a pleasant environment, the responsibility that the committee has to academia and the society is being taken very seriously.

Last but not least, I would like to emphasize that ethical considerations are of increasing importance in todays rapid technological and other developments. Academia should play integral role to ensure that research developments are performed in alignment with ethical considerations and STH REP is an excellent place within our BU academic community.

Thank you Liam and Sofia!

Tomorrow you get to meet members from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Ethics Panel

Postgraduate Researchers and Supervisors | Monthly Update for Researcher Development

Postgraduate researchers and supervisors, hopefully you have seen your monthly update for researcher development e-newsletter sent yesterday. If you have missed it, please check your junk email.

The start of the month is a great time to reflect on your upcoming postgraduate researcher development needs and explore what is being delivered this month as part of the Doctoral College Researcher Development Programme and what is available via your Faculty or Department. Remember some sessions only run once per year, so don’t miss out.

I am also in the planning phase for the RDP 2021-22 and need your input to help shape your development support for the next academic year. PGRs, please take some time to complete this researcher development needs survey.

Please also subscribe to your Brightspace announcement notifications for updates when they are posted.

If you have any questions about the Researcher Development Programme, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Natalie (Research Skills & Development Officer) 

BU Research Matters: ADRC adapt their approach in the time of COVID-19

In today’s blog post, Dr Michelle Heward, explores how the fantastic work of the Ageing & Dementia Research Centre has adapted to enable community engagement during the pandemic. Our older population, especially those who are extremely clinically vulnerable, have risked not being able to participate in shaping our future research owing to the restrictions in place over the last year. This engagement aspect is so important for ensuring research benefits society, and offers the bonus of social interaction for those who are having to isolate! Here Michelle explains how it is done: 

Michelle Heward

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on face-to-face interaction. To meet UK Government guidance and stop the spread of the virus, we have been unable to meet up with family, friends, and colleagues in the ways that we are used to. For older people, people with dementia and family carers, this has exacerbated many existing difficulties and problems they face, whilst also further intrenching feelings of loneliness and isolation. Technology has been a saviour for many and has proved invaluable in connecting people with their loved ones. The team from the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre (ADRC) have overcome the barriers by using digital approaches to continue our engagement and expand our networks with members of the public, service users and carers.  We have achieved this by developing a new series of monthly virtual ‘coffee mornings’ hosted on ZOOM.

We have designed each coffee morning to have a different theme/topic that may be pitching new ideas for research or sharing new findings. The group are invited to share their ideas, thoughts and ask questions. Ensuring that older people, people with dementia and family carers remain at the heart of our research activities has been central to the coffee mornings. The sessions have been well attended and the group have really engaged with the research topics and attendees are starting to get to know one another socially – many are returning each month which is fantastic!

So far, the group have contributed to discussions about nutrition with Prof Jane Murphy and wayfinding with Prof Jan Wiener. In the next session they will discuss nursing training in response to COVID-19 with Dr Michele Board. The discussion and questions raised have offered ‘food for thought’ for the presenters and will no doubt help us to shape future study ideas and generate new ideas for research.  In fact, one of the key challenges has been keeping within the allocated time for the session as there has been so much discussion!

The sessions are facilitated by Dr Michelle Heward (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and ADRC Service User and Carer Involvement Lead) and Caroline Jones (ADRC Administrator). On reflection it has been beneficial to have two facilitators; one to lead the session and the other to be on hand to help with IT issues and check the chat messages. We also offer support for people who have had little or no experience of using ZOOM beforehand to make sure they are comfortable using the technology and its functions prior to attending a session.

We acknowledge that the idea for the virtual coffee morning was drawn through our collaborative working with the Wessex Public Involvement Network (PIN), who shared their successes and experiences of developing a similar engagement model with us. This work has also been undertaken in consultation with BU Public Involvement in Education and Research partnership to ensure we are following current policy/procedures.

Although we recognise that not everyone is able to access the internet from home, we will continue to offer these sessions for the foreseeable future as they provide an alternative to those who may find it more difficult to travel or take part in our existing face- to-face approaches. Anyone interested in presenting their ideas or research in ageing or dementia that might be of interest to the group please contact Michelle to discuss.”

What it’s like to attend a Research Ethics Panel …. A PGR’s account

Undertaking Research – Facing the BU Ethics Panel

By Orlanda Harvey

When you start your PhD journey, one of the first hurdles that you face is gaining Ethical Approval for your study. This can be a very daunting concept at the beginning, as it is often a complete unknown, or it was for me, as this was the first time I had to go through the process. Looking back now; from the very comfortable vantage point of having achieved my doctorate, it is easy to forget the anxiety and mystique surrounding this process. Questions such as: What happens if I do not get approval? dominated my thoughts. I was one of the lucky ones, for although I was seeking approval to investigate people’s experiences of using substances (In this case Anabolic Androgenic Steroids) which would mean I would have to face the BU panel, I did not need NHS ethical approval. Sitting in an office (the joy of life pre-Covid) alongside peers who were facing that experience made me very thankful, for small mercies, as although the BU process feels as if it takes a long time comparatively, with hindsight it is efficient. This, however, does not mean to say that I did not experience a few bumps in the road.

The key to success for me was advice from my Supervisory Team to ensure that I took time to get all my ducks in a row prior to submission and to take the time to prepare all my information sheets and paperwork. This was valuable as there were no changes required to my initial submission, and it went straight through to the panel. I had also looked at the panel meeting deadlines so that I could plan for my submission date and sought advice from the Research Development and Support (Governance) Team to clarify a few points. Going through the online documentation felt a little bureaucratic and at times repetitive but it was very straightforward and easy to use. It certainly made the write up of the ethics and methodology element chapters of the Thesis easier; as one of my supervisors is prone to say, no writing, when it relates to your study, is ever wasted (thank you Edwin).

The panel meeting itself was an interesting experience, for although my supervisor was there to support me (thank you Margarete) it was very clear that the focus was on me and my plans for the research, so all the questions were directed my way. At first, I was apprehensive but actually the experience turned out to be quite enjoyable. After all, at that point I was incredibly enthusiastic about my project and these people wanted me to talk about it! I later learnt to treasure such moments. The questions they asked came from a place of curiosity, and it was not long into the meeting before I realised that they were interested in supporting the research and were ensuring that I had considered key ethical points. If I am totally honest there was only one question that I found a little left field, but you are never going to agree with everything.

It was not all plain sailing, I did pass the panel but still had the email with, a few minor amendments needed. However, these were easily resolved, added clarity to the participant information sheets and could be covered by just replying with the amendments to the panel chair. Overall, the whole experience was beneficial to both my development as a researcher, and my understanding of the ethics challenges.  The positive comments from the panel also proved to be a bolster to my confidence at that early stage in my PhD Journey.

A final unexpected outcome was that, as a result of going through the checklist I had to consider if my population was vulnerable, as people who use illicit drugs are quite often are given this label as a de-facto result of their drug use. This was interesting as although they were using drugs that although not illegal, they do fall into a grey area of the law and was something that we discussed at Panel. This made me think more deeply about the population as a whole, and as a result ended up in me writing a short paper, which was published on the ethics of using AAS and the perceived vulnerability of this group: ‘Shades of Grey’: The Ethics of Social Work Practice in Relation to Un-prescribed Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Use,  which, brings me back to Edwin’s sage advice: nothing you write should ever be wasted 🙂

BU Research Matters: the evolution of research during a global pandemic – joining our research community

Dr Marc Vander Linden - Bournemouth University Staff Profile PagesThis week on the Research Blog, we are exploring how our amazing community of researchers have evolved and adapted their research activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr Marc Vander Linden, who joined BU in March 2020 as part of the creation of the Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions starts the mini-series off. Below, Marc shares his reflections, details how he has adapted and explains why we still need face-to-face interaction: 

“A year ago, I joined Bournemouth University as a senior lecturer within the newly created Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions (IMSET). Obviously, the prospect of a national lockdown was then looming closer and closer but I never thought that, several months later, I would still be a “virtual colleague”, delivering my – new-ish by now – duties from home and through the 13inch window of my laptop screen. We all have experienced first hand the challenges of the current situation. Being married to an academic and parent of two (very resilient, I must proudly add!) children, it goes without saying that home-schooling has taken its toll on working conditions. These have not been ideal to discover and manage the many administrative and teaching tasks incurred by a new job. In this sense, doing research has been indeed a challenge, but overall less a luxury than a necessary intellectual lifeline.

I am an archaeologist working on past population history, and long-term human-environment interactions, especially the mechanisms and consequences of the introduction and development of early farming techniques across Europe. My research covers multiple facets, each having been affected in different ways by COVID-19. The most-well-known, “romantic” thing about being an archaeologist is the field, in my case digging in caves in Montenegro. Obviously, with travel bans and the local hardships of the pandemic, any form of fieldwork has been impossible to undertake. As I was about to start surveying a new region, the lack of fieldwork not only has an immediate effect upon my research, but will also have negative repercussions felt over several years to come as I cannot dig new sites, identify new research problems and apply for corresponding funding. Yet, this unexpected pause also offered opportunities to revisit and complete older work, and prepare it for final publication thanks to a collective effort involving former post-docs, PhD students, and local Serbian and Montenegrin collaborators.

Another part of my research draws on legacy data, which is assembling, compiling and analysing datasets from published and unpublished literature. This includes, among others, collating information scattered in a multitude of individual reports related to changes in past farming regimes (e.g. presence of certain crops and weeds, or the preference for particular animal domesticates, or the contribution of hunting to the economy). The resulting “big data” not only constitute the empirical baseline for a range of analyses, but these results can also be used by collaborators from disciplines that consider estimates of anthropogenic activity (e.g. anthropogenic land cover models). Such multi-layered work is only possible by being part of an extensive international network of researchers, meeting regularly in a virtual world of Zoom meetings, shared folders, google documents, sometimes spiced up by the pleasure of doodle polls to identify the right meeting slot across multiple time zones. In many respects, the COVID-19 induced familiarity of online platforms and tools has bolstered this dimension of my research and made me more open to new collaborations.

This being said, the picture is not entirely rosy and, in so many ways, I’d say the most difficult part has actually been to become a BU colleague. After all, it is difficult to lose sight, when constantly stuck at home in front of a laptop, that you’re part of a new institution, with rules to follow and timelines to respect. As part of IMSET, “older hands” have provided outstanding support to us newbies, and lots of energy has gone into creating and maintaining contact through weekly – virtual obviously – lab meetings. Though we’ve made huge strides to come together as a group, the biggest drawback still remains to not being able to pop in someone’s office for advice or a simple chat. Online collaboration presents numerous advantages when relying upon and interacting with a huge body of collaborators and, arguably, my research has developed well despite, if not thanks, to the “new normal” imposed by COVID-19.

Yet, I’m desperately craving for the inherent simplicity and spontaneity of unplanned interactions with talented colleagues for diverse scientific horizons, those simple moments which, in my experience, are so essential in generating successful, innovative and fun research”.


High Resolution 3D Digital Assets of Whole body Human Anatomy available for BU Research and Education

As one of the products from the HEIF6 Project, our team has developed a wide collection of digital assets to represent human anatomy. The understanding of human anatomy is vital to the delivery of healthcare. For medical students, this necessary awareness of anatomy and 3D spatial orientation is traditionally learned through cadaveric dissection. This is expensive and has practical as well as ethical constraints to available teaching time. The digital models can be used as assets for interdisciplinary research between the fields of Arts, Science and Healthcare. We welcome ideas from the BU community for proposals of novel use cases, research, grant applications and availability as teaching tools or base models for complex animation techniques.


Learn more about the available assets and how to collaborate with the Neuravatar team by contacting Dr Xiaosong Yang ( or Dr. Rupert Page (

👀 A glance at the 3D models available so far 👀


The role of the Research Ethics Panels at BU

Since 2014, the Social Sciences & Humanities (SSH) and Science, Technology & Health (STH) Research Ethics Panels have reviewed and continue to review ethics checklists submitted by staff and postgraduate research students (above minimal risk only). Their role is to review the ethical aspects of the study to facilitate high quality, safe research practice.  This may be involve a light-touch process if the research is deemed low risk, or it may include an interview with the Panel if it is assessed as above minimal risk.

When first established, the Panels were chaired by Dr Sean Beer (SSH REP) and the late Prof Holger Schutkowski (STH REP) who worked hard to establish the process we have today.  The current Panel Chairs are Profs Jonathan Parker (SSH REP) and Sam Porter (STH REP) who picked up the reins in February 2019 to continue and champion the work of the Panels and who work tirelessly to support our research community.

The Chairs are assisted by Deputy Chairs, Prof Richard Berger (SSH REP) and Dr Jayne Caudwell (STH REP) and academics colleagues from across BU and representatives from Professional Services and independent lay members.  Together, members have a wide range of experience and expertise.  This allows the Panel to provide well structured, consistent and balanced opinions when considering the ethical viability of projects submitted for review.

Support for the panels is provided Sarah Bell (SSH REP), who is the University’s Research Governance Advisor, and Suzy Wignall (STH REP), who is the Clinical Governance Advisor. They are happy to answer any queries that you may have.

Going through the process of an ethics review shouldn’t be a tick box exercise that is forgotten about once a favourable opinion is secured.  This isn’t what the process is about.  Ethical issues can occur at any time throughout the life cycle of a research project – when recruiting participants, in process of analysing data, in the reporting of research results.  Your ethics review is a living document that should be referred to and updated as and when appropriate.

Members are approachable should you have questions before you submit an ethics checklist and there is plenty of guidance available via the research governance & integrity website.  Never think you are alone in the process.  We are here to help and be a source of support throughout the life cycle of your research project.

Research Professional – all you need to know

Every BU academic has a Research Professional account which delivers weekly emails detailing funding opportunities in their broad subject area. To really make the most of your Research Professional account, you should tailor it further by establishing additional alerts based on your specific area of expertise. The Funding Development Team Officers can assist you with this, if required.

Research Professional have created several guides to help introduce users to Research Professional. These can be downloaded here.

Quick Start Guide: Explains to users their first steps with the website, from creating an account to searching for content and setting up email alerts, all in the space of a single page.

User Guide: More detailed information covering all the key aspects of using Research Professional.

Administrator Guide: A detailed description of the administrator functionality.

In addition to the above, there are a set of 2-3 minute videos online, designed to take a user through all the key features of Research Professional. To access the videos, please use the following link:

Research Professional are running a series of online training broadcasts aimed at introducing users to the basics of creating and configuring their accounts on Research Professional. They are holding monthly sessions, covering everything you need to get started with Research Professional. The broadcast sessions will run for no more than 60 minutes, with the opportunity to ask questions via text chat. Each session will cover:

  • Self registration and logging in
  • Building searches
  • Setting personalised alerts
  • Saving and bookmarking items
  • Subscribing to news alerts
  • Configuring your personal profile

Each session will run between 10.00am and 11.00am (UK) on the second Tuesday of each month. You can register here for your preferred date:

9th March 2021

11th May 2021

13th July 2021

14th September 2021

9th November 2021

These are free and comprehensive training sessions and so this is a good opportunity to get to grips with how Research Professional can work for you.

Have you noticed the pink box on the BU Research Blog homepage?

By clicking on this box, on the left of the Research Blog home page just under the text ‘Funding Opportunities‘, you access a Research Professional real-time search of the calls announced by the Major UK Funders. Use this feature to stay up to date with funding calls. Please note that you will have to be on campus or connecting to your desktop via our VPN to fully access this service.

NERC standard grants (July 2021 deadline) – internal competition launched

NERC introduced demand management measures in 2012. These were revised in 2015 to reduce the number and size of applications from research organisations for NERC’s discovery science standard grant scheme.

As at January 2020, BU has been capped at one application per standard grant round. The measures only apply to NERC standard grants (including new investigators). An application counts towards an organisation, where the organisation is applying as the grant holding organisation (of the lead or component grant). This will be the organisation of the Principal Investigator of the lead or component grant.

BU process

As a result, BU has introduced a process for determining which application will be submitted to each NERC Standard Grant round. This will take the form of an internal competition, which will include peer review. The next available standard grant round is July 2021. The deadline for internal Expressions of Interest (EoI) which will be used to determine which application will be submitted is Friday 26th March 2021.  The EoI form, BU policy for NERC Demand Management Measures and process for selecting an application can be found here: I:\RDS\Public\NERC Demand Management.

NERC have advised that where a research organisation submits more applications to any round than allowed under the cap, NERC will office-reject any excess applications, based purely on the time of submission through the Je-S system (last submitted = first rejected). However, as RDS submit applications through Je-S on behalf of applicants, RDS will not submit any applications that do not have prior agreement from the internal competition.

Following the internal competition, the Principal Investigator will have access to support from RDS, and will work closely with Research Facilitators and Funding Development Officers to develop the application. Access to external bid reviewers will also be available.

Appeals process

If an EoI is not selected to be submitted as an application, the Principal Investigator can appeal to Professor Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Any appeals must be submitted within ten working days of the original decision. All appeals will be considered within ten working days of receipt.

RDS Contacts

Please contact Lisa Andrews, RDS Research Facilitator – if you wish to submit an expression of interest.

NIHR issues final update on implementation of the Restart Framework

The NIHR published a Framework on 21 May 2020 – when the NHS started to restore routine clinical services – to support the restarting of research paused due to COVID-19. Developed in partnership with multiple stakeholders and the devolved nations, the Framework provides a flexible structure for local decision-making.

You can read the latest and final update here.