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Photo of the Week: Understanding Digital Immersion within Streaming and E-Sports

Digital Tethering: Understanding Digital Immersion within Streaming and E-Sports

Our Photo of the Week series features photo entries from our annual Research Photography Competition taken by BU academics, students and professional staff, which gives a glimpse into some of the fantastic research undertaken across the BU community.

This week’s photo of the week is by Charlie Simmons, a final year undergraduate student on a BA (Hons) Business Studies with Marketing programme. This project was co-created with Dr Elvira Bolat, Senior Lecturer in Marketing in the Faculty of Management, and won a prize for the Centre for Excellence in Learning (CEL) co-creation awards. Charlie’s work is around digital tethering, particularly in understanding digital immersion.

Immersion is used outside of digital space as a term to measure the degree of involvement in a specific activity. Digital immersion is now a ubiquitous phenomenon that can be observed in all human activities starting with consumption of services and products as well as professional tasks. Overall academic literature, in particular business and management literature, lacks understanding of digital immersion, perhaps due to methodological challenges associated with researching this area. Using the context of e-sport, this research study revealed that in the context of digital connectivity immersion is not only a feeling but a state of mind; it causes behavioural changes in its e-sport players and keeps them habitually absorbed. At the heart of digital immersion are people, streamers (influencers) and community whom have the power to manipulate individuals’ behaviour.

At the heart of digital immersion is community; the more an individual is experiencing community and feels part of that community, the more likely they are to be immersed in the digital environment. Entertainment within content is also irrelevant to the digital immersion, which is contrary to existing research. Content allows users to escape from reality and forget about real world problems, and learning in combination with community factors found to have a strong and positive impact on digital immersion. Findings of this research have implications beyond its contextual focus, e-sports. Businesses can utilise learning, escape and community effects to improve online presence and stimulate much more meaningful engagement with a digital content.

For more information about this research, please contact Dr Elvira Bolat here.

Digital Me is an online collection of research publications/narratives within the domain of digital, written by BU academics and students. This research covers various disciplines, i.e. management and marketing, health and social science, computing and media, education and more; and spreads through various topics, i.e. digital consumption, digital business, education and digital and more. Find out more here.

How farms can help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people

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A visiting farmer tends the animals. Future Roots, Author provided

By Dr Sarah Hambidge (Post-Doctoral Researcher), Bournemouth University.

A couple of years ago, I met Adam (not his real name) at a farm in Dorset. Adam was 14 and had been excluded from mainstream education due to behavioural difficulties and a disruptive home life. He had consequently become involved in regular underage drinking and antisocial behaviour. Adam was being exploited and groomed as a drug runner for a London drug gang infiltrating rural areas. He told me that he had been given a knife by gang members and encouraged to use it to protect himself if necessary against rival gangs or local drug dealers.

The farm where I met him is not a normal farm, but a social one, where the therapeutic use of farming practices and animal assisted therapy is used to provide health, social and educational care services for disadvantaged young people that have become disengaged with mainstream education. Stories such as Adam’s are growing increasingly familiar to staff at the farm he attended, who see other vulnerable young people referred to their service.

Learning new skills. Sarah Hambidge

Many of the young people living in rural Britain who are being exploited by these gangs are, like Adam, those who are disengaged with mainstream education and are at risk of becoming, or currently are, NEET (not in education, employment or training). There are 808,000 young people (aged 16-24) in the UK who are NEET.

Being NEET has a long-term impact on a young person’s life, leaving them vulnerable to substance misuse, offending behaviour, physical and mental health problems, academic underachievement and reduced employment. These young people are subsequently regarded as a concern to the police, health, education and social care professionals.

Yet current interventions are failing to reduce the number of young people becoming NEET. These interventions typically focus on providing the young person with vocational education, despite the fact that the most common vocational qualifications in the UK have very little or no relevance to the labour market.

Interventions that offer a restorative approach, with therapeutic support and a focus on learning, however, are acknowledged to be more successful.

Farm animal therapy. Sarah Hambridge

A green future

Earlier this year, the government launched a 25-year environment plan. The plan acknowledged the importance of connecting children and young people to nature through learning, as well as the benefits of a physical, hands-on experience as a pathway to good health and well-being. The government has pledged £10m to support local strategies which use the natural environment and has further committed to a national expansion of social farming by 2022. This will treble the number of available places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England.

On social farms, health, social or specialist educational care services for vulnerable people are delivered through structured programmes of farming-related activities. Social farming is established in numerous European countries. Norway currently operates 1,100 social farms, compared to 240 in the UK.

Taking a break on the farm. Sarah Hambidge

Young people participate in a variety of seasonal farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management. Social farming has been found to have a positive impact on physical and mental health along with the opportunity to develop transferable skills, personal development, social inclusion and rehabilitation.

Social farming

When I met Adam, I was in the midst of a research project evaluating whether a year-long farming intervention can prevent disengaged young people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds becoming NEET. Participants typically attend a four-hour session once a week at the farm.

Future roots, the farm I researched, employs a mix of teachers, youth and social workers and therapists. It offers a different model of learning for those struggling in mainstream education. My research demonstrated that the use of the natural environment as a mechanism for change was effective in reducing the risk of becoming NEET.

The young people learn to care for a variety of animals. Sarah Hambidge

The young people I followed displayed a significant reduction in self-reported mental health risks and behavioural regulation difficulties; improved social relationships and coping; improved life and work skills; and re-engagement with learning. All of the young people were in employment or training six months after their time at the social farm finished.

Indeed, the social farm was the only place where Adam said he felt safe. He was able to develop a sense of belonging and trust which enabled him to talk about the difficulties he was experiencing in his life. Without the social farm intervention, staff said that Adam would likely have proceeded to harm himself or others. The farmer refers to the changes seen in the young people as a “chrysalis butterfly effect”: the positive transformation seen in these young people as they turn their lives around to look to the future are truly inspiring.


Dr Sarah Hambidge, Postdoctoral Researcher, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Photo of the Week: Welcome to BU from China!

Welcome to BU from China! From the beginning to the end of your studies at BU, let’s focus on the middle bit and the all-important ‘sandwich placement’!

Our Photo of the Week series features photo entries from our annual Research Photography Competition taken by BU academics, students and professional staff, which gives a glimpse into some of the fantastic research undertaken across the BU community.

This week’s photo of the week is a selfie taken by Vianna Renaud (Placement Development Advisor and Postgraduate Researcher, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice) with our Chinese students from Beijing Normal University Zhuhai (BNUZ). BU works closely with BNUZ to give students on a number of undergraduate courses the opportunity to complete their studies with us. In an increasingly global business environment, having the opportunity to study in an international community of academics and students is invaluable in helping to develop global perspective and gain a better understanding of how business is conducted across borders and elsewhere in the world.

With the idea of attending Bournemouth University planted in the minds of Chinese students who have attended the Global Festival of Learning on their home campus, the dream becomes a reality when they find themselves in the UK a few months later. Along with having to adjust to the British higher education system, they must begin looking for a sandwich placement suitable for their academic course which can be a challenging time for them.

Vianna is currently trialling a pilot project where she regularly engages with our BNUZ students on a monthly basis and will research to what degree an impact has been made from this intervention, which will include having coaching conversations, using the GROW Model & informational handouts signposting BU services, as well as encouraging the students to engage in peer-to-peer learning in their preparation for placement year.

“By building upon the relationship BU currently has with BNUZ, combined with the feedback from these students, I am confident we can build our own innovative approach to best support those students that choose BU,” says Vianna.

For more information about this research, please contact Vianna Renaud here.

Remembering Srebrenica, more than 20 years on

EPA/Jasmin Brutus

By Dr Melanie Klinkner, Bournemouth University and Giulia Levi, Bournemouth University.

One of the darkest hours in recent human history, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, has plenty of unpleasant parallels in today’s world, from Syria to Myanmar. 23 years after the massacre in and around the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, remembrance of what has been described as “scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history” is as important as ever.

The events in and around Srebrenica between July 10-19 1995 are well known. In those few days, an estimated 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces. Efforts to find, recover, identify and repatriate the victims’ remains are ongoing – and the task is a hugely complex one.

Every year at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery, more victims are laid to rest. This year, 35 people have been identified and will be buried. Of the 430 Srebrenica-related sites where human remains have been recovered, 94 are graves and 336 are surface sites with human remains scattered on the ground. Pathologists and anthropologists examined more than 17,000 sets of human remains related to Srebrenica, resulting in around 7,000 identifications, most of them via DNA. To gather enough DNA to make those identifications, more than 20,000 DNA samples had to be collected.

Slow justice

It was only in autumn 2017 that Ratko Mladić, a former general of the Bosnian Serb forces, was convicted of the crimes that took place in Srebrenica – genocide and persecution, extermination, murder, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer. Mladić is one of relatively few defendants to have appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charged with genocide.

This is because for a conviction on the grounds of genocide, the prosecution has to prove a catalogue of things. To be convicted of the crime of genocide, the accused must have deliberately intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such”. Punishable under Article 4(3) of the ICTY Statute are also conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, attempts to commit genocide and complicity in genocide. Two things have to be proven: the actus reus (the actual killings, serious bodily or mental harm and deliberate infliction of conditions designed to bring about the destruction of the group) and the mens rea (the specific intent to destroy the group).

Mladić’s 2017 conviction did not bring an end to all aspects of his case. In March 2018, both the defence and prosecution filed their notices of appeal. Though not in relation to Srebrenica, the prosecution submits that the trial chamber erred in two of its findings: first, that Bosnian Muslims in the areas of Foča, Kotor Varoš, Prijedor, Sanski Most and Vlasenica did not constitute a substantial part of the Bosnian Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and second, that Mladić (and others) did not intend to destroy those Bosnian Muslims. As a result, the proceedings are ongoing.

Bosnian Muslims carry coffins with remains of Srebrenica victims, 2017. EPA/Jasmin Brutus

During the 530 days of Mladić’s original trial, 377 witnesses appeared in court, some of them victims of war crimes. Victims often have many needs: to tell their stories, to contribute to public knowledge and accountability, to publicly denounce the wrongs that were committed against them and others, to bear witness on behalf of those who did not survive, and to receive reparations, public acknowledgement or apologies. They may wish to confront the accused, to find out the truth about what happened to their loved ones, to contribute to peace goals or to help prevent the perpetration of further abuse. Many risk their own personal safety to tell their stories, or those of victims who did not survive.

And yet, a recent report by international NGO Impunity Watch paints a bleak picture stating that “Western Balkan states have done very poorly when it comes to victim participation in [transitional justice] processes. Victims’ voices are marginalised and their rightful claims have been politicised by the different sides.”

Remembrance and responsibility

Impunity Watch describes a continuing “battleground of conflicting narratives, in which each side claims victimhood and blames the other for past abuses”. This does not bode well for the future.

The divisions in Bosnia are hard to ignore; Srebrenica’s Serb mayor, Mladen Grujičić, denies that the genocide occurred, as does Milorad Dodik the leader of Bosnia’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska. Many Serbian nationalists regard Mladić as a war hero. To many people, his conviction would therefore be effectively meaningless.

And yet, plenty of civil society activities, interventions and educational programmes have been devised. In Bosnia, Youth United in Peace and Youth Initiative for Human Rights, to name but two, offer young people the chance to hear different perspectives about the past through workshops and visits to commemorative places of all sides. Such projects try to counter ethnic segregation to offer shared space for dialogue.

In a speech to the United Nations in 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt famously said:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works.

Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

All too often this is forgotten. But with stark societal divisions palpable in many parts of the world, we have to keep reminding ourselves that all others are above all else human beings. Only if we do that will the idea of human rights be meaningful.


Dr Melanie Klinkner, Principal Academic in International Law, Bournemouth University and Giulia Levi, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Lunchbite Session Tuesday 5th June: Examining & Chairing Research Degree Viva Voce Examinations

 

This one hour lunchbite session is aimed at all academic staff who are new to, or experienced at, supervising research degree students and are interested in expanding their knowledge of a specific aspect or process in doctoral supervision.

Lunch and refreshments provided.

 

Tuesday 5th June 2018

12.00  – 13.00

Talbot Campus

Examining & Chairing Research Degree Viva Voce Examinations

 

Click here for further details and to book your place

through Organisational Development

 

This session will be led by a senior academic who will introduce the topic, and staff will be free to participate in discussions aimed at sharing best practice from across BU. It will be focused on expanding knowledge on the processes and responsibilities involved in examining & chairing research degree viva voce examinations.

 

Bookings can also be made for upcoming sessions covering different aspects of research degree supervision including:

These sessions will run again at intervals in the next academic year.

 

Photo of the Week: All My Meeples

All My Meeples

Our next Photo of the Week is Alexandra Alberda‘s photo of her drawing of  people engaging with Graphic Medicine comics at a museum exhibition. This weekly series features photo entries taken by our academics, students and professional staff for our annual Research Photography Competition, which gives a glimpse into some of the fantastic research undertaken across the BU community.

Alexandra’s work takes Medical Humanities and Graphic Medicine into non-clinical and public settings where health related works are being engaged with presently. Her research furthers Medical Humanities’ engagement with public perceptions of health by expanding the critical vocabulary available to scholars through Comics Studies and curatorial practice. The space of the museum holds a social identity as upholding and defining culture and has a history of exhibiting works that relate to healthcare and the “ill” other/body. How do these bodies and the experiences they illustrate reach our own interpretations of illness, flesh bodies, and lived experiences? Alexandra’s PhD research focuses on these experiences as they are tied to exhibitions and museums, which creates three groups of ‘people’ to the research.

The first group (green) are the people that exist in the museum: viewers, artists, curators, and other museum staff. The second group (pink) are the people represented in the exhibition artwork: both fictional and non-fiction characters in the case of memoirs. Her research focuses on the relationships and engagement that happens between the first and second groups. The third group (orange) involves the relationships between my supervisors, and their expertise, and Alexandra. These relationships will translate into her professional practices and research skills.

Alexandra Alberda is a PhD researcher in the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University. Her supervisors are Dr. Sam Goodman, Dr. Julia Round and Professor Michael Wilmore. She received her MA in Art History minoring in Sculptural Painting/Studio Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and BA in English and Art minoring in Honours, Art History and Writing at Briar Cliff University.

Find out more about the role that comics can play in the study and delivery of healthcare on the Graphic Medicine website here.

@ZandraAlberda

Autism screening tool may not pick up women with the condition

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Nikodash/Shutterstock.com

By Rachel Moseley, Bournemouth University and Julie Kirkby, Bournemouth University

Diagnosing autism is expensive and time consuming, so a screening tool is used to filter out those people who are unlikely to be diagnosed as autistic. This is all well and good, but our latest research suggests that a widely used screening tool may be biased towards diagnosing more men than women.

Earlier studies have cast doubt on the ability of one of the leading screening tools, called Autism-Spectrum Quotient, to accurately identify people with autism. Our study decided to look at another screening tool that hasn’t yet been investigated: the Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R), a widely used questionnaire for assessing autism in adults with average or above average intelligence.

We compiled the RAADS-R scores of over 200 people who had a formal diagnosis of autism. We compared scores between autistic men and autistic women on four different symptom areas: difficulties with social relationships, difficulties with language, unusual sensory experiences or motor problems, and “circumscribed interests” (a tendency to have very strong, fixed interests).

As there are known sex differences in these areas – for example, with women being better at hiding social and communicative difficulties, and men being more likely to show obvious, and hence easier to detect, circumscribed interests – we wanted to know whether RAADS-R was able to pick up these differences.




Read more:
Changing the face of autism: here come the girls


Our analysis showed that it didn’t: we found no sex differences in RAADS-R scores between autistic men and women in social relatedness, language and circumscribed interests.

A possible explanation for this result is that, since RAADS-R depends on people accurately judging and reporting their own symptoms, sex differences may only emerge when behaviour is diagnosed by an experienced clinician. Previous studies have shown that autistic people often lack insight into their own behaviour and find it difficult to report their own symptoms.

Another likely reason for finding no sex difference in autism traits is that this and most other studies only include autistic people who have received a formal diagnosis through assessment with the very tools and tests we are investigating. As diagnostic and screening tools (including RAADS-R) were developed with male samples, they are most likely to identify autistic women with the most male-like profiles.

This might explain why fewer women tend to be diagnosed. It could be, then, that the screening tests filter out all of the autistic women with more female-like autism traits, and the autistic women with more male-like traits go on to be diagnosed. Or it could be that the underlying sample is biased because the formal diagnostic tools select people with more male-like traits, and the screening tool merely reflects this underlying bias.

Our results could show that our sample didn’t represent a diverse range of autistic women, then. And this is a problem that affects all research on sex differences in autism.




Read more:
GPs urgently need training on autism


As more males than females have received a diagnosis of autism, many of the theories we have about autism are based on these diagnosed cases, and, as a result, may only apply to males. Likewise, as we base our screening tools and diagnostic tools on males who have been diagnosed, we may only pick up women who show male-like symptoms.

We could be missing the women who have very different, more female presentations of autism, but who still show the core features that are central to the diagnosis. These include problems with social interaction, communication and restricted behaviour and interests.

Because screening and diagnostic tests focus on the most common, male manifestations of these core symptoms, females tend to be overlooked. Circumscribed interests in males, for example, are more likely to be based on unusual topics, whereas girls and women may centre their interests on things like celebrities or fashion, only the intensity of the interest sets them apart from non-autistic females.

One clear difference

There was only one prominent sex difference that emerged in our study: autistic women reported more sensory differences and motor problems than autistic men. Sensory and motor symptoms are common in autism. People may be over or under sensitive to sights, sounds, touches, smells and tastes, and are often clumsy and poorly coordinated.

Some autistic people are sensitive to certain fabrics. Purino/Shutterstock.com

This self-reported finding, that women have more sensory and motor symptoms than men, needs to be investigated more thoroughly. However, it appears to be consistent with a few studies that have found that autistic women do have more sensory and motor symptoms than men.

If these types of symptoms are especially problematic for autistic women, they could be important for providing a diagnosis. Although RAADS-R measures sensory and motor symptoms, they play a very minor role in gold-standard diagnostic tests, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

The importance of a diagnosis?

Efforts are now underway to develop screening tools that are better at identifying autism in females.

Diagnosis is important for autistic people for many reasons. For example, it is the only way they can access support services, such as dedicated support workers to help them with activities at home or in daily life. They might also receive financial support if they need it. (Unemployment affects most of the autistic population and may in part be due to high levels of mental illness in this group.)

Other people have spoken about how having a diagnosis has helped them understand the struggles they’ve faced in their lives – that these things weren’t their fault. And it has helped them meet other people who accept them for who they are.


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

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Small charities face bankruptcy for not complying with GDPR, but put clients at risk if they do

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The way charities use and hold data on behalf of their clients and donors creates problems under GDPR. Tashatuvango/Shutterstock

By Dr Shamal Faily, Bournemouth University

You will no doubt have received the emails yourself: don’t forget to opt in, click here to stay in touch, we don’t want to lose you. The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, comes into force on May 25, and organisations and businesses large and small are racing to ensure the way they collect, store and use the personal data of their customers and clients meets the new, higher standards of this new European Union privacy law.

Compliance with GDPR can be costly, requiring organisations to analyse the way they work, the data they use, how it is handled and secured. Documenting how personal data is held and processed is tedious and time consuming, as is developing procedures for dealing with individuals’ requests to see the data held on them, security breaches that involve loss of data, or assessing the privacy impact of some new product or service.

To data protection authorities across the European Union, such as the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), this is just good practice – the cost of doing business in a free and open market. But what if yours is a non-profit organisation? Several UK charities have been fined for breaking existing data protection laws. Many others are acutely aware that a single penalty for non-compliance could put them out of business.

The ICO has produced guidance for charities, and reading it you might think that the challenges charities face are the same as those facing any small business. Both have limited resources, time and money to spend on ensuring compliance. Losing or misusing personal data leads to the erosion of trust, irrespective of whether those affected are paying customers or charity donors. But scratch beneath the surface and you can see how GDPR causes unique problems for small charities, particularly those that work to help society’s most vulnerable.

Duty of care

The new privacy regulations require that personal data is “processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data”. Any security expert will tell you that perfect security is impossible, so businesses can meet this requirement by investing in security considered “good enough” to meet the duty of care to their clients and customers.

But for charities, the duty of care they have for both their vulnerable client base and their donors is so strong that a culture of cost-cutting has formed. Because charities lack the expertise to understand the risks they face, they may wrongly believe they are avoiding risks, or accept risks without understanding the implications. Ultimately, this works against charities investing in the security they actually need. A report commissioned by the UK Department for Culture Media and Sport in 2017 found this culture even led to some charities intentionally relying on out-of-date or low technology solutions. In one case, a charity was even prepared to accept the risk of damaging data losses, in the hope that their donors would be sympathetic and appreciate that, to them, cybersecurity is a luxury they cannot afford.




Read more:
GDPR comes with teeth – here are the winners and losers


Charities care for others, but are not always able to care for their data. perfectlab/Shutterstock

Ethical tensions

The new privacy regulations are built around fair treatment, but this also fails to appreciate the ethical tensions faced by charities. Under GDPR, organisations can only collect data from individuals when they have a legal basis for doing so, for example that the individual has given their consent (such as signing up for an email newsletter), or that the organisation must do so in order to comply with a legal obligation (such as banking information required to meet money laundering regulations). However, complications arise because while an individual may give consent, they may also withdraw it.

Imagine, for example, that Bob suffers from a drug addiction. In a moment of clarity, he checks into a rehab centre for help, and gives consent for the centre to collect what personal data they require. But Bob later relapses, and – to keep this information from his family – withdraws his consent and exercises his right to be forgotten, demanding that the rehab centre deletes the data on him that it holds.

The GDPR provides some discretion for processing personal data in matters of life and death, but not if Bob is capable of giving consent. And so the rehab centre faces a dilemma: it can assert Bob isn’t capable, exposing themselves to the risk of a fine should he report them to the ICO. Alternatively, they can comply and expose Bob to future risks that may threaten his health or life, and reduce or remove the information they know that might one day help save his life.

ICO guidance for not-for-profits should answer the sorts of questions regularly raised by charities. But instead it treats small charities like any other small business. The ICO claims the is information that charities want, but it is not the information they need. If guidance fails to acknowledge the risks to small charities, what incentive do charities have to invest time and money following it?

What charities need are less platitudes on what they should be doing – they already know this – and more advice on how to do it, given the very particular challenges they face. In a speech given to the charities attending the Funding and Regulatory Compliance conference last year, the information commissioner said that getting privacy right can be done, that it should be done, and she would say how it can be done. Yet as the deadline looms, charities are still waiting to hear about the “how”.


Shamal Faily, Senior Lecturer in Systems Security Engineering, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New GCRF-funded study in South Asia

A new multidisciplinary project in South Asia, run between two of Bournemouth University’s Faculties, has recently been funded.  The cross-faculty project “Scoping Study to understand the maternal health, ageing and wellness in rural India to develop a grass-root centre addressing these issues” has Dr Shanti Shanker (Psychology) as its principal investigator in collaboration with Prof Edwin van Teijlingen (Human Sciences & Public Health).   These BU lead researchers have been working in India and Nepal for more than a decade.

This project was recently awarded £76k from the HEFCE GCRF (Higher Education Funding Council for England, Global Challenge Research Funds) Call, at Bournemouth University.  The project will be running from 2017 to 2021 between Maharashtra, India, Nepal and the UK.  This important research initiative  aligns closely with Bournemouth University’s strategic plan around South Asia through Connect India.  Connect India is BU’s hub of practice which focuses on the world’s most populated areas and a global region which is developing rapidly in many ways.

How to hunt a giant sloth – according to ancient human footprints

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: Alex McClelland, Bournemouth University

By Matthew Robert Bennett, Bournemouth University; Katie Thompson, Bournemouth University, and Sally Christine Reynolds, Bournemouth University.

Rearing on its hind legs, the giant ground sloth would have been a formidable prey for anyone, let alone humans without modern weapons. Tightly muscled, angry and swinging its fore legs tipped with wolverine-like claws, it would have been able to defend itself effectively. Our ancestors used misdirection to gain the upper hand in close-quarter combat with this deadly creature.

What is perhaps even more remarkable is that we can read this story from the 10,000-year-old footprints that these combatants left behind, as revealed by our new research published in Science Advances. Numerous large animals such as the giant ground sloth – so-called megafauna – became extinct at the end of the Ice Age. We don’t know if hunting was the cause but the new footprint evidence tells us how human hunters tackled such fearsome animals and clearly shows that they did.

White Sands National Monument. Matthew Bennett, Bournemouth University, Author provided

These footprints were found at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, US, on part of the monument that used by the military. The White Sands Missile Range, located close to the Trinity nuclear site, is famous as the birth place of the US space programme, of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative and of countless missile tests. It is now a place where long-range rather than close-quarter combat is fine-tuned.

Tracking the footprints. Matthew Bennett, Bournemouth University, Author provided

It is a beautiful place, home to a huge salt playa (dry lake) known as Alkali Flat and the world’s largest gypsum dune field, made famous by numerous films including Transformers and the Book of Eli. At the height of the Ice Age it was home to a large lake (palaeo Lake Otero).

As the climate warmed, the lake shrank and its bed was eroded by the wind to create the dunes and leave salt flats that periodically pooled water. The Ice Age megafauna left tracks on these flats, as did the humans that hunted them. The tracks are remarkable in that they are only a few centimetres beneath the surface and yet have been preserved for over 10,000 years.

Footprint comparison. David Bustos, National Park Service

Here there are tracks of extinct giant ground sloth, of mastodon, mammoth, camel and dire wolf. These tracks are colloquially known as “ghost tracks” as they are only visible at the surface during specific weather conditions, when the salt crusts are not too thick and the ground not too wet. Careful excavation is possible in the right conditions and reveals some amazing features.

Perhaps the coolest of these is a series of human tracks that we found within the sloth prints. In our paper, produced with a large number of colleagues, we suggest that the humans stepped into the sloth prints as they stalked them for the kill. We have also identified large “flailing circles” that record the sloth rising up on its hind legs and swinging its fore legs, presumably in a defensive, sweeping motion to keep the hunters at bay. As it overbalanced, it put its knuckles and claws down to steady itself.

Plaster cast footprints. David Bustos, National Park Service

These circles are always accompanied by human tracks. Over a wide area, we see that where there are no human tracks, the sloth walk in straight lines. Where human track are present, the sloth trackways show sudden changes in direction suggesting the sloth was trying to evade its hunters.

Piecing together the puzzle, we can see how sloth were kept on the flat playa by a horde of people who left tracks along the its edge. The animals was then distracted by one stalking hunter, while another crept forward and tried to strike the killing blow. It is a story of life and death, written in mud.

Matthew Bennett, dusting for prints. David Bustos, National Park Service

What would convince our ancestors to engage is such a deadly game? Surely the bigger the prey, the greater the risk? Maybe it was because a big kill could fill many stomachs without waste, or maybe it was pure human bravado.

At this time at the end of the last Ice Age, the Americas were being colonised by humans spreading out over the prairie plains. It was also a time of animal extinctions. Many palaeontologists favour the argument that human over-hunting drove this wave of extinction and for some it has become an emblem of early human impact on the environment. Others argue that climate change was the true cause and our species is innocent.

It is a giant crime scene in which footprints now play a part. Our data confirms that human hunters were attacking megafauna and were practiced at it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cast light on the impact of that hunting. Whether humans were the ultimate or immediate cause of the extinction is still not clear. There are many variables including rapid environmental change to be considered. But what is clear from tracks at White Sands is that humans were then, as now, “apex predators” at the top of the food chain.


Professor Matthew Robert Bennett, Professor of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Bournemouth University; Katie Thompson, Research Associate, Bournemouth University, and Dr Sally Christine Reynolds, Senior Lecturer in Hominin Palaeoecology, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunken Nazi U-boat discovered: why archaeologists like me should leave it on the seabed

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Sea War Museum

By Innes McCartney, Bournemouth University.

The collapsing Nazi government ordered all U-boats in German ports to make their way to their bases in Norway on May 2, 1945. Two days later, the recently commissioned U-3523 joined the mission as one of the most advanced boats in the fleet. But to reach their destination, the submarines had to pass through the bottleneck of the Skagerrak – the strait between Norway and Denmark – and the UK’s Royal Air Force was waiting for them. Several U-boats were sunk and U-3523 was destroyed in an air attack by a Liberator bomber.

U-3523 lay undiscovered on the seabed for over 70 years until it was recently located by surveyors from the Sea War Museum in Denmark. Studying the vessel will be of immense interest to professional and amateur historians alike, not least as a way of finally putting to rest the conspiracy theory that the boat was ferrying prominent Nazis to Argentina. But sadly, recovering U-3523 is not a realistic proposition. The main challenges with such wrecks lie in accurately identifying them, assessing their status as naval graves and protecting them for the future.

U-boat wrecks like these from the end of World War II are the hardest to match to historical records. The otherwise meticulous record keeping of the Kriegsmarine (Nazi navy) became progressively sparser, breaking down completely in the last few weeks of the war. But Allied records have helped determine that this newly discovered wreck is indeed U-3523. The sea where this U-boat was located was heavily targeted by the RAF because it knew newly-built boats would flee to Norway this way.

Identification

The detailed sonar scans of the wreck site show that it is without doubt a Type XXI U-boat, of which U-3523 was the only one lost in the Skagerrak and unaccounted for. These were new types of submarines that contained a number of innovations which had the potential to make them dangerous opponents. This was primarily due to enlarged batteries, coupled to a snorkel, which meant they could stay permanently underwater. Part of the RAF’s mission was to prevent any of these new vessels getting to sea to sink Allied ships, and it successfully prevented any Type XXI U-boats from doing so.

The Type XXI U-3008. Wikipedia

With the U-boat’s identity correctly established, we now know that it is the grave site of its crew of 58 German servicemen. As such, the wreck should either be left in peace or, more implausibly, recovered and the men buried on land. Germany lost over 800 submarines at sea during the two world wars and many have been found in recent years. It is hopelessly impractical to recover them all, so leaving them where they are is the only real option.

Under international law all naval wrecks are termed “sovereign immune”, which means they will always be the property of the German state despite lying in Danish waters. But Denmark has a duty to protect the wreck, especially if Germany asks it to do so.

Protection

Hundreds of wartime wreck sites such as U-3523 are under threat around the world from metal thieves and grave robbers. The British cruiser HMS Exeter, which was sunk in the Java Sea on May 1, 1942, has been entirely removed from the seabed for scrap. And wrecks from the 1916 Battle of Jutland that also lie partly in Danish waters have seen industrial levels of metal theft. These examples serve as a warning that organised criminals will target shipwrecks of any age for the metals they contain.

Detailed sonar scans have been taken. Sea War Museum

Germany and the UK are among a number of countries currently pioneering the use of satellite monitoring to detect suspicious activity on shipwrecks thought to be under threat. This kind of monitoring could be a cost-effective way to save underwater cultural heritage from criminal activity and its use is likely to become widespread in the next few years.

Recovery

The recovery cost is only a small fraction of the funds needed to preserve and display an iron object that has been immersed in the sea for many years. So bringing a wreck back to the surface should not be undertaken lightly. In nearly all cases of salvaged U-boats, the results have been financially ruinous. Lifting barges that can raise shipwrecks using large cranes cost tens of thousands of pounds a day to charter. Once recovered, the costs of conservation and presentation mount astronomically as the boat will rapidly start to rust.

The U-boat U-534 was also sunk by the RAF in 1945, close to where U-3523 now lies. Its crew all evacuated that boat, meaning that she was not a grave when recovered from the sea in 1993 by Danish businessman Karsten Ree, allegedly in the somewhat incredible belief that it carried Nazi treasure. At a reported cost of £3m, the operation is thought to have been unprofitable. The boat contained nothing special, just the usual mundane objects carried on a U-boat at war.

U-534 after the rescue. Les Pickstock/Flickr, CC BY

Similar problems were experienced by the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in the UK when it raised the Holland 1 submarine in 1982. In that case, the costs of long-term preservation proved much greater than anticipated after the initial rust-prevention treatment failed to stop the boat corroding. It had to be placed in a sealed tank full of alkali sodium carbonate solution for four years until the corrosive chloride ions had been removed, and was then transferred to a purpose-built exhibition building to protect it further.

The expensive process of raising more sunken submarines will add little to our knowledge of life at sea during World War II. But each time a U-boat is found, it places one more jigsaw piece in its correct place, giving us a clearer picture of the history of the U-boat wars. This is the true purpose of archaeology.


Innes McCartney, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of Archaeology, Anthropology and Forensic Science, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship Interview Training – Book Now

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship Interview Training

Monday, 14th May 2018 – 09:30-16:00

Reserve your place now!

This workshop is aimed primarily at ECRs but may be of benefit to academics and researchers wishing to apply for RAE fellowships that require an interview. This intensive event will introduce the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship scheme and go through eligibility, requirements and assessment criteria.

Attendees will think about how they fulfil these criteria, start to plot ideas for a proposal and consider whether the Fellowship is right for them. There will even be a chance to practice interview skills so you’ll get an insight into every step of the application process.

 

For the future, there will also be a similar workshop for the Royal Society on 5th July 2018. You can book now for that event too.