October’s Community Voices webinar welcomes Lorraine Stanley Founder and CEO of SWAD – where disability and sex come together.
As a newly disabled woman in 2007 Lorraine, unable to find accessible support and guidance about sex and disability decided to be pro-active and held disability discussion groups. Feedback from the groups, and further research highlighted that health and social care professional had a lack of understanding of the obstacles faced by people with disabilities to having a fulfilling intimate and sexual life. SWAD grew out of the need to meet the gap between the requirements of the disabled community and what was being offered by service providers. SWAD believes that sex is something that can be openly discussed and should not be swept under the carpet.
Community voices is a collaboration between BU PIER partnership and Centre for Seldom Heard Voices to provide a platform and a voice to local community activists.
The UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) is the representative body for postgraduate education and research. As BU is a member of the UKCGE, staff can attend online events free of charge.
The following online events are coming up in the next few months and may be of interest to research degree supervisors and academic and professional staff who support our PGRs:
Date, Time & Book
Supporting Neurodivergent PGRs
The online discussion session will examine issues surround how best to support neurodivergent PGRs. Attendees will also have opportunity to share and discuss challenges & successes in supporting neurodivergent PGRs in their own institutions.
Administrative Milestones to Support On-Time Completion
This online Town Hall discussion will focus on ways to improve completion rates amongst PGRs. Using a new initiative at the University of Sheffield as a starting point, attendees will have to opportunity to discuss & share challenges & successes in instigating administrative processes to support PGRs & their supervisors to completion.
Administrative Checks for Examiners of Vivas: Right to Work Checks and Other Challenges
This online discussion will examine some of the administrative issues faced by institutions in ensuring that examiners of vivas are appointed in an appropriate manner. For example a number of institutions have reported challenges with right to work checks for viva examiners. This discussion, led by the University of Westminster and held under the Chatham House rule, will allow colleagues from across the sector to share and discuss their own, and other institutions’, approaches in this area.
We are excited to announce that theDevelopment fund from the British Academy Early Career Research Network in the South West is now open.
Development fund: This fund provides the opportunity for ECRs to hold an event, roundtable, meeting or training activity, which promotes networking, collaboration, knowledge sharing or develops skills throughout the region, and can be extended to the wider ECR network if appropriate.
ECRs can claim a total of £3000 towards their activities which will need to be paid for by their institution and then expensed back to the BA.
BA Seed Fund is a rolling call and you can apply at any time.
BA Seed Fund bids will need a e-ITB to be completed 4 weeks before your desired submission date so the relevant FDO can open a RED ID, prep a costing and send off the approval request to the Faculty, before the PI can submit.
As announced earlier, the European Commission and the UK Government have concluded negotiations and reached an agreement in principle on the association of the UK to the Horizon Europe Programme.
UK researchers will be able to fully participate in the Horizon Europe on the same terms as researchers from other associated countries from the 2024 Work Programmes and onwards – including any 2024 calls opening this year.
If you are interested in participating in Horizon Europe and wish to find out more about existing EU grant support, please find some useful links for more detailed information below.
For more information regarding EU funding feel free to get in touch with Research Facilitator International Ainar Blaudums.
I would also like to remind you that as part of academic drop-in sessions (previously, funding briefings), there will be a presentation about the Horizon Europe association on 8 November 2023. To join the session, please follow this link.
Around the world, natural history museums hold a treasure trove of knowledge about Earth’s animals. But much of the precious information is sealed off to genetic scientists because formalin, the chemical often used to preserve specimens, damages DNA and makes sequences hard to recover.
However, recent advances in DNA extraction techniques mean that biologists can study the genetic code of old museum specimens, which include extremely rare or even recently extinct species. We harnessed this new technology to study a snake from the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe that was run over in 1982, and discovered it was a new species. Our research was recently published in PLOS One.
Here, a mysterious population of snakes first drew the attention of scientists around 1920. An unusual snake displaying a cobra-like defensive hooding posture was spotted in the grounds of Cecil Rhodes’ (prime minister of the Cape Colony in the late 19th century) Inyanga Estate in Nyanga.
This snake had unusual markings with red skin between its scales, creating the effect of black dots on a red background when its hood is extended. None of the other cobras found in the area match this description.
More snakes like this were reported in the 1950s, but no specimens were collected.
A rare find
The mystery surrounding these sightings piqued the interest of the late Donald G. Broadley, now considered to be the most eminent herpetologist (reptile and amphibian expert) of southern Africa. In 1961, Broadley was given some severed snake heads and identified the mystery snake as a rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus), a species otherwise only found in South Africa, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) and Lesotho.
A handful of specimens were observed and measured in later years, but the landscape has been drastically altered by forestry. The rinkhals from Zimbabwe has not been seen in the wild since 1988 and is feared to be extinct.
This population lives 700km away from other, more southerly populations, which made us suspect it may be a separate species. But the genetic material contained within the specimen from Zimbabwe was degraded, meaning we couldn’t do the DNA studies needed to confirm whether it is a different species from other rinkhals.
However, the latest DNA extraction and sequencing methods have been developed over the last ten years to help biologists study the remains of ancient animals. We used the new techniques to examine the Zimbabwe rinkhals specimen. Our study showed they represent a long-isolated population, highly distinct from the southern rinkhals populations.
Based on their genetic divergence from the other rinkhals, we estimate that the snakes in Zimbabwe diverged from their southern relatives 7-14 million years ago. Counting a snake’s scales can help identify what species it is. Subtle differences in scale counts, revealed by our analysis of other specimens, provided enough evidence to classify the Zimbabwe rinkhals as a new species, Hemachatus nyangensis, the Nyanga rinkhals.
The scientific name nyangensis means “from Nyanga” in Latin.
Hemachatus nyangensis has fangs modified to spit venom, although the behaviour was not reported from the few recorded interactions with humans. The closely related true cobras (genus Naja), some of which are known to spit venom, do so with the same specialised fangs that allow venom to be forced forwards through narrow slits, spraying it toward animals that are threatening them.
Venom in the eyes causes severe pain, may damage the eye, and can cause blindness if left untreated. Venom spitting appears to have evolved three times within the broader group of cobra-like snakes, once in the rinkhals, and twice in the true cobras in south-east Asia and in Africa.
A connection between human and snake evolution
Scientists think this defence mechanism may have evolved in response to the first hominins (our ancestors). Tool-using apes who walked upright would have posed a serious threat to the snakes, and the evolution of spitting in African cobras roughly coincides with when hominins split from chimpanzees and bonobos 7 million years ago.
Similarly, the venom spitting in Asian cobras is thought to have emerged around 2.5 million years ago, which is around the time the extinct human species Homo erectus would have become a threat to those species. Our study of Nyanga rinkhals suggests that the third time venom spitting evolved independently in snakes may also have coincided with the origin of upright-walking hominins.
If a living population of Nyanga rinkhals was found, fresh DNA samples would help us to more accurately determine the timing of the split between the two species of rinkhals and how this compares to hominin evolution. Technological advances may be giving us incredible insights into ancient animal lineages but they can’t make up for an extinction. We still hope a living population of Nyanga rinkhals will be found.
The possible relationship between venom spitting and our early ancestors is a reminder that we are part of the Earth’s ecosystem. Our own evolution is intertwined with that of other animals. When animals become extinct, we don’t just lose a species – they take part of our history with them.
Dr Paul de Vrieze as a International Scientific Expert for Scientific Panel of Research Challenges for Resilient and Responsible Collaborative Networks
Our research, conducted as part of the EU FIRST project, uncovered critical areas where businesses and organisations face challenges in adapting to the digital landscape. Despite the increasing digitisation of interactions and the transformation of informal collaborations into collaborative networks, SMEs still lack a comprehensive digital understanding and capability.
Our perspective on the scientific challenges in achieving more resilient and responsible collaborative networks includes:
How to effectively measure the resilience, execution, performance, and environmental impacts of collaborative networks?
Strategies for monitoring and enforcing invariants within collaborative networks.
Leveraging prediction and simulation techniques to enhance system quality.
Bridging the gap between laboratory-based collaborative networks and practical implementation.
Ensuring the security of collaborative networks in an increasingly digital world.
This 30-minute session is aimed at all academics to provide an overview of the Research & Enterprise Database, including how to access the system, the information available to view, budget management via RED, and how to use RED to identify your supporting pre and post award officers.
Wednesday 18th October 15.30-16.00 Online session
Tuesday 14th November 15.30-16.00 Online session
Friday 15th December 15.30-16.00 Online session
You can find a suitable date and book your space here.
We’re launching a new monthly blog series, The Month in Research – a round-up of some of our research and knowledge exchange successes from the previous month.
From successful funding bids to publications, events, and everything in between, we want to showcase and celebrate the amazing work taking place across BU.
The Month in Research will be published on the first Monday of every month, starting next month (November).
We want to hear from you – fill out our short form to share your achievements, or those of your colleagues, to be featured as part of the series. You can also find a link on the homepage of the research blog or scan the QR code below to be taken to the form.
The BU Research Staff Association (RSA) is a forum to promote research culture at BU. Research staff from across BU are encouraged to network with other researchers, disseminate their work, discuss career opportunities, hear updates on how BU is implementing the Research Concordat, and give feedback or raise concerns that will help to develop and support the research community at BU.
The Association is run by three leaders and supported by at least two reps from each faculty.
If you are interested in the FST reprole, please supply a few words to demonstrate your suitability, interest, availability in relation to the position to Researchdev@bournemouth.ac.uk by the 22/10/23.
Eligible research staff are those on research-only contracts – fixed-term or open-ended employment (not PTHP/casual contracts).
Please contact the RSA FST rep to chat about it if you have any queries.
The 15th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference 2023 will take place on Wednesday 29 November, and the call for abstracts is now open.
The conference is a great opportunity for postgraduate researchers to showcase and promote their research to the BU community whether they have just started or are approaching the end of their journey at BU.
Attending the conference is a great opportunity to engage and network with the postgraduate research community and find out more about the exciting and fascinating research that is happening across BU.
Abstracts are invited from postgraduate researchers to present via oral or poster presentation.
Among the bill’s key aims is to ensure it is more difficult for young people (under the age of 18) to access content that is considered harmful – such as pornography and content that promotes suicide or eating disorders. It places a “duty of care” on tech companies to ensure their users, especially children, are safe online. And it aims to provide adults with greater control over the content they interact with, for example if they wish to avoid seeing sexual content.
The legislation puts the onus on service providers (such as social media companies and search engines) to enforce minimum age requirements, publish risk assessments, ensure young people cannot access harmful content (while still granting adults access) and remove illegal content such as self-harm and deepfake intimate images.
The government has said the new law will make the UK the “safest place to be online”, but this isn’t something that can happen overnight. Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, is in charge of turning the legislation into something they can actually regulate. By the regulator’s own calculations, this process will take months.
There are many who view the bill as poorly thought out, with potential overreach that could conflict with fundamental human rights. The Open Rights Group has raised serious concerns around privacy and freedom of expression.
The challenges of regulating the internet
There are also aspects of the bill that are, currently, technically impossible. For example, the expectation that platforms will inspect the content of private, end-to-end encrypted messages to ensure that there is no criminal activity (for example, sexual communication with children) on their platforms – this cannot be done without violating the privacy afforded by these technologies.
If platforms are expected to provide “back doors” to technology designed to ensure that communications are private, they may contradict privacy and human rights law. At present, there is no way to grant some people access to encrypted communications without weakening the security of the communications for everyone. Some platforms have said they will leave the UK if such erosions in encryption are enacted.
There is a rich history of governments wrongly assuming encryption can be accessed that is not being reflected upon in current debates.
Furthermore, age verification and estimation technology is not yet foolproof, or indeed accurate enough to determine someone’s exact age. Yoti, a leading age verification and estimation technology provider has stated that their technology could correctly predict a user aged 13-17 being “under 25” 99.9% of the time. It’s entirely possible that many young adults would be falsely identified as being minors – which might prevent them from accessing legal content. There have been previous attempts to legislate age verification for pornography providers (such as in the 2017 Digital Economy Act), which the UK repealed due to the complexities of implementation.
While technology continues to develop, it seems unlikely there will be perfect implementations anytime soon for these issues.
What is ‘harmful’ content?
The other major argument against the bill is that, even with the best of intentions, the protections designed to keep children safe could have a chilling impact on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Previous versions of the bill placed expectations on platforms to explicitly tackle “legal but harmful” content for adults. This was defined at the time as content that would be viewed as offensive by a “reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities”. While these provisions are now removed, there is still a great deal of intangibility around what it means to protect children from “harmful” content.
Outside of illegal content, who decides what is harmful?
Platforms will be expected to make rules around content they deem might be harmful to certain users, and censor it before it can be published. As a result, this might also prevent children from accessing information related to gender and sexuality that could be caught up in the filtering and monitoring systems platforms will put in place. Without a clear definition of what harmful content is, it will be down to platforms to guess – and with moving goalposts, depending on the government of the day.
What would actually make the internet safe?
As someone who researches the ethics of technology and the habits of young people online, my concern is that this bill will be viewed as the solution to online harms – it clearly is not.
These measures, if effectively implemented, will make it more difficult for young people to stumble across content meant for adults, but they will not prevent the determined teenager. Furthermore, a lot of intimate content shared by young people is shared between peers and not accessed via platforms, so this legislation will do nothing to tackle this.
I often to speak to young people about what help they would like to be safer online. They rarely ask for risk assessments and age verification technologies – they want better education and more informed adults to help them when things go wrong. Far better, young people tell me, to provide people with the knowledge to understand the risks, and how to mitigate them, rather than demanding they are stopped by the platforms.
I am reminded of a quote from the American cybersecurity researcher Marcus Ranum: “You can’t solve social problems with software.”
The difference Bournemouth University’s research, education and expertise makes to society has been recognised through the third Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) exercise.
The KEF is released annually by Research England and aims to increase efficiency and effectiveness in public funding for knowledge exchange and to encourage universities to understand and improve on their performance.
BU’s performance in the third KEF demonstrates several areas of strength, including our research partnerships, working with business, and local growth and regeneration.
Our work with health and care providers, including partnerships with University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) and Dorset Healthcare, supports initiatives across research, education and practice in the region, helping people to live better for longer.
BU also supports business and entrepreneurship across the region. Around 60 SME owners have so far participated in the university’s Help to Grow: Management Programme while BU’s Eco-Entrepreneurs Fund, delivered in partnership with Santander, has supported BU students and graduates to develop businesses which address the climate and ecological crisis.
As well as regional engagement, the university works with communities and organisations on a national and international level – such as the Disaster Management Centre, which is assisting communities globally, including in Sierra Leone, in crisis preparedness and recovery.
Professor Keith Phalp, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Bournemouth University, said: “We are proud to be a catalyst for growth, using our skills and expertise to support our region and enrich society.
“The KEF provides an opportunity to assess our progress in knowledge exchange and the impact of our work. It is great to recognise the contribution of our staff, students and graduates in supporting this work on a regional, national, and international scale and making a real difference to the world around us.”
The results of the KEF have been published in the form of institutional dashboards, with institutions measured against seven perspectives – including working with businesses, the public and the third sector; intellectual property and commercialisation; and public and community engagement.
In recognition of the fact that universities have different areas of expertise and work in regions with different needs, all universities in England have been placed into different clusters according to their expertise, size and research activity.
BU is in Cluster E, alongside other large universities with a broad range of disciplines generating research. Other universities in the cluster include Oxford Brookes University, Nottingham Trent University, and Portsmouth University.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “Across the breadth of higher education, institutions make rich and diverse contributions to the economy and society through their knowledge exchange activities.
“The KEF continues to be a powerful tool to describe the breadth of scope of knowledge exchange. It also provides important evidence of different university strengths through peer group comparisons.”
We hope everyone has had good rest before start of the new academic year.
As promised, after return of all RDS Research Facilitators, we resume funding briefing sessions to be held as usual – every Wednesday at 12pm except during half term dates.
For this academic year, we have made some changes both regarding format and content of these sessions.
Firstly, we will be sending weekly email with newest funding opportunities in advance, so academics may join and ask specific questions regarding those new opportunities they are interested in.
Secondly, briefings this academic year will be organised as drop-in sessions, so you are welcome to join the session at any time between 12 and 12:30pm.
To allow more flexibility, spotlight sessions are not planned in advance. For example, as soon as important funding call is announced, one of the facilitators will present more details. The first spotlight presentation will be related to Horizon Europe on 1 November 2023. Until then, stay tuned and follow the news related to Horizon Europe association on Research Blog.
Please save the following link in your records for joining briefing sessions until 25 October: click here to join the meeting (after 25 October new link will be provided).
At Café Scientifique, you can explore the latest ideas in science and technology in a relaxed setting. Enjoy listening to a short talk before engaging in debate and discussion with our guest speaker and audience.
Barriers such as dams and weirs alter a river’s natural flow, severely affecting aquatic ecosystems and leading to a decrease in water quality. Researchers in Europe have been working to address this issue – with the goal of reconnecting 25,000km of rivers by 2030.However, with funding for long-term monitoring decreasing, how do they track the success of this rewilding process?
Join Bournemouth University’s Dr Demetra Andreou, an expert in environmental science on Tuesday 3 October to discover how citizen scientists might play a role in the collection of such vital long-term data.
This event will be held at The Black Cherry in Boscombe, Bournemouth. Although the talks start at 6:30pm, the café will be open early so we encourage you to arrive early for a drink and a bite to eat before the talk starts.
If you have any questions about this event, or you’re interested in getting involved with a future Café Sci event, please email the Public Engagement with Research Team: email@example.com
For many women, adult diagnoses of autism are “a light in the darkness”, an epiphany of self-understanding. My “lightbulb moment” came in my late 20s. “They thought you were autistic,” my mum mused when I told her I was embarking on an academic career in autism research.
As a child, I was painfully aware of being different. The adults and the children around me had noticed my strangeness, my inability to fit in. It turned out that autism had been suggested to my mother – but then dismissed by a child psychiatrist. I didn’t fit what was known about autism. Although socially gauche, I’d mastered eye contact and was fairly eloquent.
A few years after my mum had made that off-the-cuff comment, I was re-evaluating my life in the context of a shiny new diagnosis.
Researchers are learning more and more about the way autism differs in people of different sexes and genders. As they do so, the lights are coming on for more of us who’ve felt lost in the world.
The female face of autism
There is no one type of autistic person. The key features of autism – differences in the way we think, communicate and interact with others – show up in more diverse and subtle ways than the limited examples suggested by the diagnostic criteria. This is often true in autistic girls.
This article is part of Women’s Health Matters, a series about the health and wellbeing of women and girls around the world. From menopause to miscarriage, pleasure to pain the articles in this series will delve into the full spectrum of women’s health issues to provide valuable information, insights and resources for women of all ages.
While they struggle with social understanding, many autistic girls are adept mimics of the social behaviour of other people. In the way they speak and the things they talk about, they are more similar to neurotypical children than autistic boys are. This may explain why, on first impression, people tend to underestimate autistic girls’ difficulties.
In comparison to autistic boys, the conversation of autistic girls tends to be more social in nature, focusing more on the people and friendship groups around them. Their interests tend to be more social, involving fictional characters, animals or celebrities rather than non-living objects. Tellingly, they express greater longing for the friendships and relationships which often elude them.
As they grow, some girls learn scripts to use in social situations, and develop a passive way of behaving with others that focuses on making the other person feel comfortable. Many autistic girls and women engage in this kind of “social camouflaging” constantly in order to seem acceptable to others.
Undiagnosed autistic people are often painfully aware of their inability to fit in and to do the things that others do easily. If no one gives you an explanation, you’re left to find one yourself.
I knew as a teenager that I must be fundamentally bad, since I was bullied and had no friends at school. Autistic people I’ve worked with in my research have similarly blamed themselves for a lifetime of struggling and being abused, pinning these things on personal failings.
Across research studies, we late-diagnosed autistics are that societal subgroup with a history of academic struggles, employment problems, mental illness and relationship breakdowns. Our self-narratives are ones of inadequacy and failure.
Research has found that autistic girls and women have poorer mental health than autistic men. So are people who are diagnosed later in life compared to those diagnosed when young. These two facts are almost certainly interrelated. Autistic children who grow up without a diagnosis are unlikely to receive appropriate support. What’s more, they’re less likely to be viewed with compassion when they struggle.
Recognition of autism in girls and women may come at a crisis point. For some, this occurs in the pubertal chaos and complex social world of adolescence, where rates of anxiety and depression climb steeply in autistic girls. For some, it happens in the world-rocking turmoil of menopause, which appears to derail the coping skills and social camouflage that undiagnosed people rely on.
Beyond diagnosis, there are other ways that autistic girls and women face greater challenges than boys and men. While women generally suffer higher rates of sexual abuse, this risk is even higher for autistic women.
Autistic women often find their difficulties are poorly understood by employers, and must also contend with gendered pressures to perform emotional labour at work – taking on the unpaid and implicit responsibility to look after the emotions of others – or face damage to their reputation.
For we lucky women who got there in the end, a discovered autistic identity can be a life-changing gift. Finding ourselves means finding each other, release from self-blame and a new sense of belonging.