Category / BU research

Find out about Dr Samuel Nyman’s research into the psychosocial aspects of falls and their prevention in older people

Research by Age UK estimates that falls amongst older people in the UK could be costing the NHS in excess of £4.6m a day, with up to one in three people over 65 falling each year. Falls account for over 50% of hospital admissions among the over 70s, with around 14,000 older people dying annually in the UK after a fall. Evidence suggests that if older people regularly take part in exercise specially designed to improve strength and balance then their risk of falls can be cut by up to 55%. Dr Samuel Nyman in the Psychology Research Group (DEC) undertakes research primarily focused on the psychosocial aspects of falls and their prevention in older people, and has a particular interest in helping older people become physically active to prevent falls. His work has focused on how internet-based falls prevention advice can be made more motivating and inspiring for older people, and he was invited as a guest speaker to present his research at Arthritis Research UK’s Musculoskeletal Educators Conference in June 2011.

Samuel is part of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, led by Prof Marcus Ormerod at the University of Salford, who have been awarded funding from the MRC-led cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme to conduct a year-long pilot study called: “Go Far (Going Outdoors: Falls, Ageing and Resilience)”. Go Far starts in January 2012 and will investigate the role of the outdoor environment in shaping health inequalities, explore older people’s experiences of falling outdoors, develop and test tools and techniques to evaluate the relationship between at-risk people and the outdoor environment, and develop a clear road map for future cross-disciplinary research in this area. The project will also involve experts from Age UK, the UK Health and Safety Laboratory, and Toronto Rehab.

Working with Dr Claire Ballinger (University of Southampton) and Prof Judith Phillips (Swansea University), Samuel’s contribution will be to explore through focus groups older people’s perceptions of the key risk factors for falling in the outdoor environment. This aspect of the project will lead to an understanding of the environmental risk factors which have yet to be accounted for in the current evidence base. Overall, the project will develop a greater understanding of the many factors involved in outdoor falls and create practical tools which will significantly help older people’s health and wellbeing.

Prior to this project Samuel undertook a systematic review of older people’s participation in falls prevention interventions. Earlier this year Samuel presented this research at a symposium in Italy for the European Congress of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, which he also co-chaired. He will also present this work as one of the six selected oral presentations at the forthcoming 12th International Conference on Falls and Postural Stability to be held in Manchester on 9 September 2011. The work has also been published as two journal articles in Age and Ageing, a leading international geriatrics journal:

Samuel is currently developing a website to use with older people later this year with the aim of identifying further (with the use of psychological theory) what are the best ways of communicating falls prevention advice to older people to facilitate their ability to continue to lead healthy, independent, and active lifestyles.

Launch of the BU Fusion Fund

This week BU is proud to launch the Fusion Fund to support staff innovation.  Details and the application process for the fund are set out in the attached documents and the fund forms part of BU’s Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) Strategy.  The idea is to support innovative ideas which lead to employer, business or industry engagement enhancing core BU activity of research and education.  Availability of funds are modest in the first year (although build in subsequent years) but the key is to provide an opportunity for staff to explore innovative ideas around Fusion.  Ideas for new courses, enterprise ventures, industry secondments, or employer engagements can all be explored by this fund.  It is designed to allow staff to develop new ideas and innovations! 

The deadline for the first call is the 1 November 2011 – good luck!

Available documents:

Funding success for Dr Lee Ann Fenge

Dr Lee-Ann Fenge, Associate Dean Postgraduate Students at Bournemouth University’s School of Health and Social Care has secured nearly £10K from the Big Lottery Fund for the project, ‘Developing Practice with Older Lesbians and Gay Men – A Method Deck’ . 

The project follows on directly from work accomplished in the ‘Gay and Pleasant Land? Research Project’ carried out at the School at Bournemouth over the past three years and led by Dr. Kip Jones in which Dr. Fenge acted as Community Organiser.

A Method deck consists of a range of colourful playing cards which include exercises, suggestions for activities and brain-storming ideas for practitioners and their clients.  The Method Deck will develop, produce and distribute this educational training tool to promote understanding of the needs and experiences of older lesbians and gay men amongst their peers, communities and service providers within UK society. The deck of cards will include information and activities to promote good practice with older people from minority sexual groups. The deck of cards will be designed to inspire and empower local communities, community organizations and health and social care practitioners to review and develop their practice with such groups. This will encourage an inclusive approach to practice, promoting recognition of the diversity within the ageing population.

The content of the Method Deck will be particularly informed by the findings from two recent research projects at HSC: The Gay and Grey Project (2006) funded by Big Lottery led by Dr. Fenge and The Gay and Pleasant Land? Project (2009-2012), funded by the UK Research Councils under the umbrella of the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme. The Method Deck will support practitioners to reflect on their own practice, the agency context and the wider structural issues which influence the experiences of older lesbians and gay men in their local communities. Development of the deck will begin shortly with the input of the project’s community partners.

Thanks to the Social Innovation Lab for Kent for their earlier advice on their project and the use of their Method Deck in this photo.

The Holburne Museum, Bath

The mrg is currently completing a research project for the Holburne Museum in Bath (managed by N Pretty), a project that extends back to 2006 and builds on earlier museum studies conducted since 1998.

During 2002 a methodology was developed for research at the V&A Museum in London which was to inform the redevelopment and arrangement of the British Galleries and then later the Sculpture and Ceramics collections. The research was extended to include an evaluation of the representation of Black and Ethnic History at the V&A.  The methodology developed for this research was based on a number of previous studies but notably the work of Eilean Hooper-Greenhill who has published widely on the topic of art and interpretation including ‘Changing Values in the Art Museum: rethinking communication and learning’ (2000), a particularly influential paper.

In 2006 The Holburne Museum commissioned the mrg to conduct research to inform the development of their galleries and collection of mainly 18th century art. This research offered the opportunity to refine the methodology developed for the V&A and other museums. The work was completed in 2011 and the mrg is currently undertaking a review study, to test some of the assumptions and recommendations of the earlier research.

An interesting connection has developed from this research with the countryside research portfolio developed by the mrg over the past 15 years. The Holburne Museum is about to present an exhibition of Gainsborough paintings from which the museum wishes to gain a better understanding of the emotional response to the English countryside or how people imagine it. This has been  a key theme of the mrg’s countryside research and the subject of a recent book ‘Visions of England‘ by Roy Strong.

This work will form the basis of an AHRC bid this Autumn to fund a research project that ties together the key themes of art, countryside and leisure currently supported by a number of museums and collections.

Your Project Budget

 

We would really appreciate your feedback on the new budget screen that we are designing for RED. 

With this screen you will be able to go in and view the project expenditure against your budget.  This should enable you to keep track of the spending on the project.

We would really like some input on what budget headings you would find useful.  We want to keep it simple so that you can have a quick overview of the project.   You will be able to query any figures with your CRE Ops Officer and obtain a more detailed breakdown on request if necessary. 

Currently the headings are:

  • Total
  • Academic Staff
  • Consultants
  • Part time hourly paid staff
  • Travel and subsistence
  • Consumables

Click on this link to view the example RED Budget Screen.

If you have any thoughts on what should be included please add a comment below or email me.

 

BU research themes – volunteers wanted!

In May/June this year there was a lot of discussion on the Research Themes section of the blog about the shape, scope and structure of the emerging BU research themes. Thank you to everyone who contributed to these discussions – your input to date is hugely appreciated.

Based on the feedback and comments received it is proposed to reduce the number of themes from 10 to 8, with the themes of Ageing and Learning and Public Engagement becoming part the other 8 themes.

Summaries of the 10 themes, including all of the comments received, are available here:

Your research themes need you! – we are now looking for a volunteer(s) for each theme to be responsible for coordinating the discussions and developing a definitive description of the theme by early September.

If you are interested in leading one of the themes please could you let me know by email as soon as possible.

MRG project news

The mrg recently completed a complex and controversial research project for the Dorset Library Service which informed policy for the retention or closure of library services in the county. The feedback from the Library Service included the following comment:

Thank you to you and your team for your help and support with the consultation work. You have been extremely responsive in meeting our requirements and in particular being adaptable to meeting the deadlines. This is much appreciated as it enabled me to prepare the necessary reports for members, of which the consultation information was an important part. You (Lisa S) and Jon (H) have been very willing to meet our expanding requests for information and support and the youth focus groups are an example of that’.

The mrg has also recently been awarded a contract to conduct research for the Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership. This is a survey of residents to investigate quality of life metrics and satisfaction with public services in the area.

Further new research includes a study to investigate the decision protocols of 6th form students choosing their post ‘A’ level courses in the tertiary sector and data analysis for the Tank Museum at Bovington.

This year the mrg has been conducting a major research project investigating the drivers of visitor enjoyment and satisfaction at heritage attractions and countryside locations. A series of reports and presentations have already been submitted and 2 weeks ago a model of visitor satisfaction using structural equation modelling SEM) was submitted and has provided the basis for the next stage in the development of the research and the organisation’s strategic response.

Members of the mrg team have attended development programmes to improve their capability in causal modelling techniques including SEM in recent months.

Does anybody read this blog?

Referencing Dutch, Flemish & German names in the Harvard System

For academics writing and citing in the English language there is often confusion and misunderstanding about how to reference my name when quoting one of my scientific papers.  More generally, there is considerable confusion about quoting and referencing Germanic names with particles or prefix, especially since the Flemish, Dutch and German ways of doing it differ from each other.  In addition emigrants from these countries to English-speaking countries such as Canada and the United States often reference to names of Germanic origin differently again. This particularly the case when one uses the Harvard System of referencing; which is where authors are briefly cited within the text (e.g. Bennett et al. 2009; Smith & Jones 1999), and then given in full at the end of the paper or chapter in a reference list.  A few years I published a short piece about referencing Dutch, Flemish and German names for Medical Sociology News (Van Teijlingen 2004).  This current version is an update and expansion of it. 

German names – Starting with the biggest group of authors, names in German can be preceded by the particle ‘von’ or ‘von der’ or occasionally ‘van’ (in a family of Dutch descent), for example the First World War general Paul von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (better known as Paul van Hindenburg), the nineteenth century explorer Karl Klaus von der Decken or the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven.  The general advice to quoting these names in English is: “As a rule, when the surname is cited alone in English, the particle is dropped” (Trask 2002: 135).  Thus in the general media one would expect to read about Hindenburg’s victory or Beethoven’s Sixth symphony.   Under the Harvard System these particles or prefixes follow the author’s initials (Bett 1953: 17); something which is also advised by the widely used publication manual of the APA (American Psychological Association / http://www.apastyle.org/ ).  For an English-language audience it is often easier or more obvious to keep the family name and particle together (see Box 2).

Dutch and Belgium names – Dutch names can have a range of different particles, the most common one is ‘van’.  Also possible are, for example: ‘de’, ‘van der’, ‘van den’, ‘van het’, ‘op het’, or their  abbreviated forms such as: ‘van ’t’, ‘op ’t’ or ‘v/d’.  In the Netherlands, the particles take no capital letter, for example in de name of the former Manchester United goal keeper: Edwin van der Sar.  According to Trask (2002: 106) in Flemish-speaking Belgium (and South Africa) it is more usual to capitalize particles, for example: Paul Van Look.   

In contrast to German, Dutch particles are always included when the name is used in the text.  So, for example, Vincent van Gogh is referred to as Van Gogh.  Note that ‘van’ is without a capital when the first name is used and with a capital when the first name is not included, i.e. ‘Van’ is the start of the name.  Thus we would expect to read, for example, two Dutch football players: ‘Van Nistelrooij and Van der Vaart celebrated the second goal ..’ but if the first name is included we would use ‘Rafael van der Vaart and Edwin van der Sar celebrated ..’    In the reference list similar to German “particles are ignored when placing names in alphabetical order” (Trask 2002: 106).  However, the Dutch would not lose the particle, but place it after the initial.  For example, in a Dutch scientific article on the socio-linguistic study of city dialects, Roeland van Hout (1992) quotes two of his own articles as listed in Box 1.

Box 1   Example Dutch reference style of author with ‘van in the surname

 HOUT, R. VAN

1980 De studie van stadsdialect: van dialektologie, empirische linguistiek en sociolinguistiek.

Toegepaste Taalkunde in Artikelen 8, 143-162.

HOUT, R. VAN

1989 De structuur van taalvariatie. Een sociolinguïstisch onderzoek naar het stadsdialect

van Nijmegen. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.

If the Dutch football players mentioned above had each written something in a newspaper last week they would be found in the reference list of a paper by a sport psychologist or media studies researcher as:

Nistelrooij, R. van (2011)           

Sar, E. van der (2011)

Vaart, R. van der (2011)

Meijer (2009: 67) noted that in Belgium, where many people speak Flemish, a variant of Dutch, “it is customary to alphabetize under “V” anyway”.  Thus the action-film hero Jean-Claude Van Damme from Brussels (Belgium) whose real name is Jean-Claude Van Varenberg would always be listed in a reference list based on the Harvard under ‘V’.

Surnames of immigrants in English-speaking countries – Family names of Dutch emigrants often changed to suit the local style.  So in the United States we find medical sociologist Ray DeVries, the cyclist Christian Vande Velde, Gloria Vanderbilt and in France the French golfer Jean Van de Velde.  These ‘foreign’ names would be listed under the particle.  So alphabetically Vande Velde is listed after Vanderbuilt (Box 2).
Box 2  Examples of referencing Flemish, Dutch and German authors in English

German names Beethoven, L. van (1817) etc. etc.Beethoven van, L. (1817) etc.
Dutch / Belgium names Gogh, Vincent, van (1891) etc. etc.Van Damme, Jean-Claude (2002) etc.

Or keeping the family name and particle together:

van* Gogh, Vincent (1891) etc.

Van Damme, Jean-Claude (2002) etc.

North-American names Vanderbuilt, G. (1998) etc.Vande Velde, C. (2010) etc.

Legend: * note no capital for ‘v’.

Often academic journals will list all names in alphabetical order of the particle, in the same way the UK telephone directory does.  Thus van Teijlingen is listed under ‘V’. One final piece of advice for academic authors is the reminder to always check the author instructions of the journal you are targeting for its reference style. 

Edwin van Teijlingen

Bournemouth University

 

References:

Bett, W.R., 1953, The preparation and writing of medical papers for publication, London: Menley & James.

Hout, R. van, 1992, Het sociolinguïstisch onderzoek van taalvariatie in stadsdialecten (In Dutch: Socio-linguistic research into language variations in city dialects), Taal en Tongval Special Issue 5: 48-65 (available at: www.meertens.knaw.nl/taalentongval/artikelen/VanHout.pdf ). 

Meijer, E., 2009 The apacite package: Citation and reference list with LATEX and BibTEX according to the rules of the American Psychological Association, available at:   http://ctan.sqsol.co.uk/biblio/bibtex/contrib/apacite/apacite.pdf

Teijlingen, E. van, 2004, Referencing Dutch, German and Flemish names in English, Medical Sociology News 30(1): 42-44 (copy is available from BURO at: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/11930/2/Referencing_Dutch_Flemish_names.pdf).

Trask, R.L., 2002, Mind the Gaffe: The Penguin Guide to Common Errors in English, London: Penguin.

Research by Prof Colin Pritchard featured in The Guardian

Prof Colin Pritchard’s study comparing the effectiveness of the NHS with health services in 16 other western countries is published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, and was featured in The Guardian today. You can read the full story on The Guardian website  – ‘NHS among developed world’s most efficient health systems, says study’

The research also features on a number of websites, most notably:

Politics.co.uk website – http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2011/08/08/surprise-report-nhs-most-efficient-healthcare

GP Online website – http://www.gponline.com/News/article/1083812/nhs-among-cost-effective-health-systems-world/

UTV (Ulster – Northern Ireland) – http://www.u.tv/News/NHS-among-developed-worlds-most-efficient-health-systems-says-study/5901a770-528c-405b-b7ae-ac9ce576f07a

You can access the full-text of Colin’s paper here: http://shortreports.rsmjournals.com/content/2/7/60.full.pdf

The R&E Database (RED) and You!

The new version of RED is up and running and can be accessed by all academic staff.

Academic staff can login to RED to review their record of research and enterprise applications and successful projects.  Staff can view projects on which they are listed as a principle investigator or a co-investigator.  There is a facility to print off the reports which can be useful for appraisals.

Academic managers can use the system to review the activity that is going on within their schools.

The data held on RED is updated by the CRE Operations team based on the information provided by the PI and the contract or award letter from the funder.

Simple guidelines on how to access the system are available here.  You can access RED both on and off campus using your standard university login.

If you have any problems with accessing or using the system please contact Susan Dowdle in the Research Development Unit.

BU academics in the media

In the last few days, BU academics have achieved a series of major results by having their expertise featured in key national media outlets.

This includes stories in:

  • The Sunday Telegraph (31 July) – featuring Professor Rudy Gozlan in the School of Applied Sciences commenting on the decline of the world’s river fish at the recent  annual conference of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles hosted by BU; 
  • Broadcast* (29 July) – a thought leadership article by Jon Wardle in the Media School which calls for improved media education in light of the recent phone-hacking scandal;
  • The Times* (29 July) – a thought leadership article by Professor Edwin van Teijlingen in the School of Health and Social Care on the role of GPs in the provision of maternity care;
  • The Guardian (28 July) – a thought leadership article by Dr Heather Hartwell in the School of Tourism on link between tourism strategies and health and well-being.

 * – subscriptions are required to view these articles online. If you are a BU staff member and would like to receive a hard copy please email: press@bournemouth.ac.uk

Latest journal impact factors

Following the release of the latest Journal Citation Reports® on the Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Science database, we have compiled a list of the top ranking journals in various fields related to BU research. BU staff can access these lists by going to the designated folder on the collaborative I-drive: I:\R&KEO\Public\RDU\Journal Impact Factors 2011. If there are any additional subject areas that you would like to see included, do send me an email.

Related blog posts that may be of interest:
Journal impact factors explained

Find out about Dr Sarah Bate’s research into prosopagnosia

Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, refers to a severe deficit in recognizing familiar people from their face. The condition affects people in different ways with some experiencing difficulties in the recognition of faces and others experiencing problems recognising other things, such as objects, cars, or animals, as well as faces. Many of those people diagnosed with prosopagnosia report difficulties in other aspects of face processing, such as judging age or gender, and the majority report navigational difficulties. Dr Sarah Bate is a neuropsychologist working in BU’s Psychology Research Group and has been researching the condition for a number of years.

The condition might be more common than previously thought with one study suggesting that as many as 2.5% of the population might have developmental prosopagnosia.

Working with Dr Brad Duchaine (Dartmouth College), Sarah is developing and testing some intervention programmes that might improve face processing in prosopagnosia. Sarah has set up a website (www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org) to raise awareness of prosopagnia and to recruit candidates for her research. Sarah has devised an online test of face recognition ability which can be taken via the website. I took the test last night and highly recommend that others have a go. To date almost 4,000 people worldwide have taken the test. At the end of the test you will be given the option to register your details to visit Sarah at BU for a more formal assessment. During formal assessments Sarah makes use of BU’s eye-tracking technology to assess how prosopagnosics visually read faces.

Sarah is also interested in whether face blindness is hereditary and physiological rather than psychological. She is colaborating with genetics researchers to test families of prosopagnosics and examine any links. The research is ongoing, but initial findings suggest prosopagnia is hereditry, but not always. Sarah’s research aims to identify the sub-types and various causes of prosopagnia, and to improve public understanding of the condition, as well as increasing the early diagnosis of the condition in children.

The Psychology Research Group are always looking for volunteers to take part in their research (example projects include navigation and ageing, children’s language and literature development, and poor sleep in school children). To find out more, visit the psychology volunteers section on the Group’s website.

Sarah’s research has recently been featured in the Guardian. You can read the full story here: Researchers explore problems of ‘face blindness’

You can test yourself for prosopagnosia at Sarah’s website: www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org

Google Scholar’s new citations tracking tool

As the demand for information about the performance of research outputs increases, Google Scholar’s latest online citations tracking tool could prove to be a useful resource. Google Scholar Citations is currently being launched with a small number of users before widespread dissemination, but the early signs are that it could provide a simple way for academics to calculate key metrics and monitor them over time.

According to Google Scholar, the tool will ‘use a statistical model based on author names, bibliographic data, and article content to group articles likely written by the same author’. You can then identify your articles using these groups and Google Scholar will then automatically produce the citation metrics. Three metrics will be available: the h-index, the i-10 index (which is the number of articles with at least ten citations), and the total number of citations to your articles. Each of these metrics will be available for all outputs as well as for articles published in the last five years, and will be automatically updated as new citations are available on the web.

You will be able to update your ‘profile’ of outputs by adding missing items, merging duplicates or correcting bibliographic errors. You’ll also have the choice to make your profile public, the idea being that you’ll make it easier for colleagues globally to follow your research because your outputs will appear in Google Scholar search results.

To get a glimpse of Google Scholar Citations in action, there are some sample profiles available via the Google Scholar blog. You can also register your email address so that you will be notified when the tool is finally available to everyone.

Internationalisation and the research process

Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Professor Jonathan Parker from the School of Health and Social Care discuss some of their recent research that explores the experiences of exchange students.

Although internationalisation is much wider in reach than student exchanges it is recognised that such exchanges can play a critical part in enhancing students’ appreciation and understanding of global issues.  In this blog we describe some of our research exploring the experiences and perceptions of students undertaking an exchange and their ensuing culture shock. Accordingly, a three-year British Council PM1 2 funded research study into student mobility has provided a wealth of data on student learning in international social work placements; although this also provides some important implications for other types of international student exchanges.

BU students at a dinner hosted by Universiti Sains Penang

In respect of these particular student opportunities, the sustainable development of the placements was created through the forging of Memoranda of Understanding with two participating universities: Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) in East Malaysia; and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang. The history of the two universities differ; where like BU, UNIMAS is a new university, but with a lively social science faculty, which has been home to a thriving social work programme from the institution’s inception.  USM, by contrast, is a long established, APEX status, research-intensive university, boasting the oldest academic social work provision in the country, and where social work programmes are offered at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level.

Consequently, BU social work students on international placements were able to benefit from an international support network of experienced academics working in concert for the duration of the placements, as well as receiving day-to-day support from local agency staff at the placement settings. The research element of the placements focused on the process of student learning in an unfamiliar cultural context, in which the writing of a daily log and a critical incident analysis formed the raw data collected by the students.

An analysis of data indicates that the concept of liminality – a process of moving through experiences from a status-less position to one of becoming – is useful in understanding the transitions experienced by the students and their confrontation with professional and personal values, often markedly different from their own.  These are duly reflected on in terms of the mediation of the domains of familiar and unfamiliar ‘cultures’ and disciplinary practice. Liminality was also demonstrated by an awareness, new for some, of minority status and how this was perceived in the local context. Exposure to unfamiliar norms relating to gender, religion and culture, were also experienced, where, for example, previously unquestioned assumptions relating to Islam and women were re-examined upon encountering ‘strong’ Muslim feminists.

BU Student, Gatrine Muldoon, with the indigenous family who 'adopted' her.

Other aspects of liminality were constituted through the experience of encountering alternative ideological constructs, such as that of meritocracy as opposed to equal opportunities, ‘triage’ welfare provision as opposed to universal rights, or the strongly promoted Confucian values of family self-reliance wherever possible, even under the circumstances of absolute poverty. These experiences bring the students into sharp relief with their own, often, ethnocentric values, challenging notions of diversity, acceptance and cultural norms which, when worked through, can provide a depth of cultural sensitivity important in working in the contemporary global world.

While analysis of the data continues and the nexus of collaboration has widened over time to encompass other programmes in HSC, such as the new BA Sociology and Social Policy, dilemmas of how such partnerships may be fostered for mutual benefit in terms of expectation and reciprocation are raised. This has relevance for international partnerships between institutions where, for example, significant socio-economic differentials may exist, or where institutional research and resource capacity are unequal.

The outcome of this study, however, indicates a need to theorise teaching and learning in order to more comprehensively address global and internationalisation issues within and beyond the classroom setting. This also requires ways to address ethnocentricity effectively, so often implicit in the perspectives and assumptions of individuals, even those with insight into cultural relativity. Finally, the conclusion of this study will lead to practical outcomes in terms of follow-up research to examine whether international placements enhance employment opportunities for graduates.

Eating Cats & Top Journals

I have a big paper out today on the Laetoli footprints in Tanzania.  I am not first author, but still very proud of the paper.  Laetoli is the oldest footprint site known at over 3.75 million years and was first discovered in the late 1970s by the Leakey’s.  It consists of a couple of trails each of a dozen prints or so preserved in volcanic ash and is a site that has been argued over ever since its discovery with different teams interpreting the prints in different ways often basisng their arguements on specific prints.  The likely print maker is Australopithecus afarensis which is perhaps better known by the famous skelton called Lucy.  Some say the prints represent a primitive foot anatomy, function and gait, while other claim a more modern form and foot function.  One of the challenges here has been the lack of an objective methodology to allow different hypothesis to be explored.  At the heart of my current NERC grant with Liverpool University is a new objective approach based on calculating a mean footprint from a trail, which can then be statistically compared to others.  This provides the first objective method with which to interpret ancient footprint trails.  The paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface today applies this method to the Laetoli prints to good effect resolving, in our view at least, over 30 years of argument!

The paper is based on data that I collected back in 2008 during a rapid visit to Nairobi to scan casts of the prints during the height the post election troubles that year.  I remember the visit quite well not just for the 16 hours of plane flights in two days there and back stolen out of a busy term, but for the political tension still evident on the streets.  The paper it self stems from 2009 when Robin Crompton (Liverpool) and I first started to collaborate and has taken a while to gestate and find a home.  I suppose it’s the latter aspect that is worth mentioning because this paper was first tried in the top three science journals – Nature, Science and PNAS – without success or review.  In each case there was something of a jaundiced view from the editor ‘not yet another paper on Lateoli!’  Yet in our view the paper is top-notch and the science within it ground-breaking and we were very disappointed not to get the paper even reviewed.  There are several things here worth drawing out.  One is keeping faith with a paper as it is rejected by different journals and keeping your nerve, as you try and aspire to each top journal in turn.  Because it will find a home eventually if it is good and in truth the Journal of the Royal Society Interface is a great journal since not only does it have a high impact factor but there is much more space to describe the science!  The paper will be part of my REF submission that is for sure.  It has also attracted a fair amount of publicity today and my colleagues in Liverpool have been stars of local TV this evening.  The other aspect that is worth drawing out is around the sheer luck in getting things published in a top journal.  When I got my Science paper in 2009 not only was it based on a new discovery but there had not been many recent footprint papers so it had additional novelty.  When our current paper was doing the rounds this autumn we discovered subsequently that another team had submitted a Laetoli paper, and in our view an inferior paper, unsuccessfully a few months earlier making our research seem just that bit less noteworthy.  Journals such as Nature and Science have their pick of the best stories so want something to excite interest as well as be good science.  I suppose a headline of ‘Cat eats boy’ stands out when it is a rare event, but when there has been a run of stories about domestic cats eating boys it does not!  (And if you are wondering where this came from, the connection is that my cat is currently licking my abandoned desert bowl.)

This idea that success is not just about the sheer merits of something but is about the circumstances and timing is an interesting concept and goes to the heart of a book I have been reading recently entitled Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  He dissects a range of successful individuals – sports players, business men, billionaire etc – and shows how in most cases talent is not the sole reason for their success but the context and timing of their contribution is critical.  As is years of practice!  So in the context of trying to hit the top journals one could argue that it is all about timing and the current scientific context in vogue or considered to be novel.  If you talk to Ralph Clarke in ApSci who hit Science the same year I did he will tell you the same thing – you need a great a bit of research, but timing is also everything.  This cuts both ways in our case we did not know that other papers were hitting the editor’s desks at the same time, but if we had not tried then we would have been left always wondering if it could have made it.  But if you turn this around you also need to have an eye to what will hit the right buttons at any one moment and capitalise on it if you can.  Any way enough of this; time to do the washing up!

You can read the abstract here: 10.1098/rsif.2011.0258

And a review of the article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110719194356.htm

Be Bold – Host an Event or Conference at BU!

Professor Alan Fyall, Deputy Dean Research & Enterprise in the School of Tourism encourages staff to consider hosting an event.

In recent weeks the School of Tourism has hosted a number of events including the Seventh International Conference on Culinary Arts and Science, the Third Conference of the International Association for Tourism Economics and a workshop on Context-Based Services led by PhD students from the John Kent Institute of Tourism. Although such events are hard work, require much planning and last-minute stress, they represent a valuable opportunity to attract academics from across the UK and beyond to BU. If you have not considered hosting such an event, think again as BU provides a good level of support, something that was not the case a few years back. Why not ……………

  • Start small with a one-day workshop or similar event with staff who have undertaken an event before
  • Build up to a two-day event or conference with extended abstracts and/or external speakers, possibly in association with other universities or external bodies
  • Graduate to a fully-refereed academic conference, possibly with sponsorship from other universities, professional bodies or research councils, with publishers and journal editors present
  • Start an international association, as happened with the International Association for Tourism Economics which formalises what in reality are loose informal gatherings of like-minded academics with a passion for their subject

If you do decide to take the plunge and host one of the above, from experience I can assure you that Bournemouth has much to offer as a conference destination. We often tend to mock our own location and imagine that everybody else does it better. Simply not true! In addition, we have the distinct advantage of being geographically close to all the major publishers in Oxford so invite them, look after them and work with them in expanding the publication opportunities for you and your colleagues. Not only does their appearance guarantee additional delegates, especially from overseas, but it serves to raise the quality threshold of what you are trying to achieve from your event through association with leading international organisations. Also, always plan what outputs you are seeking in the early stages of your event planning as, for example, editors of journals are always seeking new themes for special issues! Finally, although they are hard work, events are great fun and can serve as the platform for new friendships, writing relationships and the foundations for future research grant applications ….. and funding, for that next conference!

High flying publication for BU academic!

Dr Scott Cohen in the School of Tourism has had a paper published in the latest issue of the Annals of Tourism Research, one of the most prominent journals in the field of tourism.

The paper explores the concept of what has been termed ‘binge mobility’ or ‘binge flying’ – the notion that excessive tourism could constitute a new behavioural addition. Scott co-authored the paper with James Higham and Christina Cavaliere from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

The Annals of Tourism Research is rated a 4* journal in the Association on Business Schools‘ journal ranking list –  the ABS Journal Quality Guide – and has a Web of Science impact factor of 1.95.

In addition the paper was one of only five papers featured in Elsevier’s July 2011 Flash Alert, Elsevier’s monthly round up of the top stories in the science, health and medical journals.

You can read a copy of the paper on our institutional repository BURO.

Congratulations Scott! 😀