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Face Blindness Public Awareness Campaign Gets Underway!

Research from BU’s Centre for Face Processing Disorders was featured in a CBBC documentary today.  The film was entitled ‘My life: Who are you?’ and followed the journey of Hannah, a teenager with face blindness, as she participated in one of our training programmes and discusses the difficulties of everyday life.  The documentary also featured Hannah meeting another girl with face blindness for the first time, and her encounter with Duncan Bannatyne who also has the condition.

We are so pleased with the documentary, and felt the producers did an excellent job in portraying the condition with scientific accuracy, and in demonstrating the difficulties associated with face blindness.  Despite Hannah’s struggles she still maintains a positive attitude to life and the film does an excellent job of presenting her as the remarkable young lady that she is, who was so keen to make the film in order to raise public awareness of the condition.  Hannah’s story illustrates how life can be affected by brain injury, but her remarkable positivity shines through as the programme follows her journey.

If you missed the programme you can watch it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/cbbc/episode/b01rlyc9/My_Life_Who_Are_You/

We recently launched an e-petition that aims to promote public and professional awareness of prosopagnosia by campaigning for its discussion in the House of Commons.  We need to gain 100,000 signatures to make this happen, so if you were moved by the documentary, please do add your signature:

http://www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org/awareness/e-petition

Our public awareness campaign has only just taken off so watch this space for more activities!

Ant Colony Optimization for Dynamic Optimization Problems

This interesting talk will take place next Wednesday the 5th of December, 16:00-17:00 at P302.
Our external guest is Dr Michalis Mavrovouniotis from the University of Leicester, an specialists in evolutionary algorithms, ant colony optimization, memetic computation and dynamic optimization.

Dr Mavrovouniotis will discuss very recent advances in nature-inspired computational intelligence. These ideas have also relevant implications for optimization problems, knowledge transfer and meta-learning; thus I think may be of great interest of many students, PhD candidates and senior researchers of the three centres in our school.
Abstract: In the last decade, there is a growing interest to apply nature-inspired metaheuristics in optimization problems with dynamic environments. Usually, dynamic optimization problems (DOPs) are addressed using evolutionary algorithms. Recently, ant colony optimization (ACO) algorithms proved that they are also good methods to address DOPs.

However, conventional ACO algorithms have difficulty in addressing DOPs. This is because once the algorithm converges to a solution and a dynamic change occurs, it is difficult for the population to adapt to a new environment since high levels of pheromone will be generated to a single trail and force the ants to follow it even after a dynamic change. A good solution to address this problem is to increase the diversity of solutions via transferring knowledge from previous environments to the pheromone trails of the new environment.

Best wishes, Emili

Emili Balaguer-Ballester, PhD

School of Engineering & Computing, Bournemouth University

Center for Computational Neuroscience, University of Heidelberg

Are we born to yawn?

Yawning consistently poses a conundrum to neurologists and neuroscientists. Increasingly, evidence is found to link neurological disorders through the commonality of yawning episodes and contagious yawning. Despite discrete incidences (such as parakinesia brachialis oscitans) in brain stem ischaemic stroke patients, there is considerable debate over the reasons for yawning, with the mechanism of yawning still not fully understood. Cortisol is implicated in the stress response and fatigue; repetitive yawning may be the link between neurological disorders and with a strong correlation between yawning and a rise in cortisol levels. Evidence has now been found in support of the Thompson Cortisol Hypothesis that proposes cortisol levels are elevated during yawning [1]. Additional data is in press, and further research is planned with longitudinal consideration to neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and stroke. Funding for such initiatives is currently being sought.

[1] Thompson, S.B.N., & Bishop, P., 2012. Born to yawn? Understanding yawning as a warning of the rise in cortisol levels: randomized trial. Interactive Journal of Medical Research, 1(5), e4:1-9. Doi: i-www.jmr.org/2012/e4/

Abortion a hot topic in UK in the 1960s and 1970s: A sociological analysis of book reviews of the edited volume Experience with Abortion: A case study of North-East Scotland

Prof Edwin van TeijlingenLate August Sociological Research Online published my historical analysis of the reviews of the book Experience with Abortion: A case study of North-East Scotland edited by Aberdeen-based academic Gordon Horobin. Experience with Abortion, published in 1973 by Cambridge University Press, was the first study of abortion of its kind to be published in the UK since the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act. The book’s contributors had been involved in a multi-disciplinary longitudinal study of women’s experience of abortion in Aberdeen in the period 1963-1969.

The paper is content analysis of the book reviews which I found in the late 1980s when I helped clear out Gordon Horobin’s former office in the Department of Sociology (University of Aberdeen).  Amongst the papers to be thrown out were photocopies and cuttings of reviews of  Horobin’s book of the first social medicine study on abortion published since the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act. I saved the paperwork from recycling. Since then I have searched electronically for further reviews at the time and this resulted in the recently published article.

The paper in Sociological Research Online sets the scene at the time of publication in the early 1970s, and includes abortion as a societal issue, the 1967 Abortion Act and the role of the MRC Medical Sociology Unit in Aberdeen. The reviews were analysed using content analysis. Considering the controversy of abortion at the time, it is interesting that the book reviews were overwhelmingly positive towards both Experience with Abortion and the need for high quality social science research in this field. Several reviews highlighted the importance of having someone like Sir Dugald Baird in Aberdeen and of the Aberdeen-based Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Medical Sociology Unit. Other reviews highlighted Aberdeen’s reputation as a city with a fairly liberal policy towards abortion before the Abortion. One of the chapters in Experience with Abortion reported that between 1938–1947, some 233 women in North-East Scotland had their pregnancies terminated in Aberdeen, less than 25 per year!  Dugald Baird started offering abortions on the NHS in the 1950s. He would offer to terminate the unwanted pregnancies of women with too many children and offer subsequent sterilisation. Today nearly 40 years later, abortion has largely disappeared from the social policy agenda in the UK, although not in many other countries.
Edwin van Teijlingen

References:
Horobin, G. (ed.) (1973) Experience with Abortion; A case study of North-East Scotland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
van Teijlingen E.R. (2012) A Review of Book Reviews: A Sociological Analysis of Reviews of the Edited Book Experience with Abortion, Sociological Research Online 17 (3) available online: http://www.socresonline.org.uk/17/3/14.html

Munchausen by Internet

Online health forums offer much needed support, advice and friendship for people suffering with illnesses. But within this supportive atmosphere, unwelcome visitors sometimes lurk; a breed of malicious, hurtful Internet trolls masquerading as real group members.

Munchausen by Internet (MBI) sees people faking illnesses and fabricating serious health conditions in online support groups, building relationships with genuine sufferers and generating sympathy for their invented condition.

In one case documented in 2011, a brother and sister posed as relations of a multiple sclerosis sufferer on a social networking website and created an elaborate narrative, which included diagnosis of terminal cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a baby miscarriage, pneumonia and the death of a loved one through a heart attack. They trapped their victim – a genuine MS sufferer called Elizabeth – into providing half a year of time-consuming and emotionally draining interaction with themselves and their fake personas.[i]

Events such as these can have devastating effects on online health communities, destroying trust when the hoax is exposed and sometimes damaging the communities beyond repair. But what can be done to manage this more effectively?

Andy Pulman and Dr Jacqui Taylor from Bournemouth University are the authors of a recent article on MBI and its motivation, opportunity, detection, effects and consequences. They suggest that MBI trolling should be formally acknowledged: “This will help patients, caregivers and practitioners to more effectively identify cases of MBI and minimise the growth of this behaviour as more and more people seek reassurance and support about their health in an online environment,” they explain.

Pulman and Taylor also suggest that more research is required in order to provide victims of suspected MBI trolls with the right advice and for facilitators of discussion groups to effectively manage interactions. “There is a clear, compelling need to recognise that in addition to MBI being classed as a condition in its own right, there is a subsection of people currently tagged as MBI sufferers who are MBI trolls intentionally harming well intentioned support groups and abusing members for their own pleasure or enjoyment. It is this area which needs urgent attention and action either by group users or the creators of the software that host them.”

‘Munchausen by Internet (MBI): Current research and future directions’ is published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). Read it online here.

[i] Case documented in Cunningham JM, Feldman MD. Munchausen by Internet: current perspectives and three new cases. Psychosomatics 2011 Apr;52(2):185-189.

BU’s ECOSAL Team visiting Northern Ireland to investigate the coastal salt working site at Ballycastle, Co Antrim

BU’s ECOSAL Team recently visited Northern Ireland to investigate the coastal salt working site at Ballycastle, Co Antrim. ECOSAL is a multi-national EU-funded project that is recording the archaeological evidence for salt working around the Atlantic Coast of the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. It is also recording the ecology and biodiversity of these sites, many of them located in fragile environments such as lagoons. Key sites will be included on a European Salt Route, linking sites from all four countries while telling the story of salt production, the uses of salt, its economic history, etc.

The photo shows that it’s not all sunshine and celebrity media events, but on this occasion we found some excellent evidence for the 17th to 19th century salt-workings at Ballycastle, a once thriving industry now completely gone.

From left to right in the photo: David Cranstone, Wes Forsythe, Mark Brisbane, Michael Fradley and Danny McGill.

You can find out more about ECOSAL at our BU website: http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/applied-sciences/research/ecosal-atlantis/index.html

School of Tourism’s Dr. Debbie Sadd undertaking an ethnographic study of volunteering at the Olympics

Dr. Debbie Sadd, from School of Tourism, had the fantastic opportunity to work as a volunteer with the world’s photographers and journalists covering the basketball at the London Olympic Games. Her duties varied from day to day but involved sitting court side with the photographers making sure they don’t stray from their allotted areas to working ‘backstage’ ensuring all the required technical material is available for them to transmit their stories/photos back to their respective editors. Some days the sports specialists rang through whilst the transmissions were live on US television asking for facts and figures, which have to be available immediately for broadcast in the US. Debbie’s group had their own system called info+ which contained all the necessary information and they were required to be proficient in its use pretty quickly.

In Debbie’s own words, the experience was “quite stressful and tiring but gosh have I seen some exciting games and met some wonderful people and I even got to see my hero Kobe Bryant!”

School of Tourism’s Ivana Rihova gets ‘stuck in’ with her research fieldwork at this year’s summer festivals!

School of Tourism’s Ivana Rihova – a PhD Student at the John Kent Institute in Tourism – certainly experienced what ‘getting stuck in’ with fieldwork can feel like at this year’s summer festivals. As part of her research project entitled “Consumers as producers: customer-to-customer co-creation in the context of festival experiences” Ivana is visiting five multi-day outdoor festivals in England and Wales this summer. Through participant observation and interviews with festival goers she aims to explore how value is co-created in the context of festival participants’ social practices and experiences. Ivana’s research, supervised by Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis, Dr. Miguel Moital and Dr. Mary Beth Gouthro (all based at the School of Tourism), highlights various issues related to customer co-creation in socially dense festival contexts. The findings will not only contribute theoretically to our understanding of how people co-create value with each other, but could also help turn event and festival experiences from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

BU internal peer-review scheme for your research proposal

Why is the internal peer review of research proposals important?

  • The competition for research funds is high and is likely to increase.  Research Council funding presents a particular challenge – with the ESRC having one of the lowest success rates.
  • In recent years funders have expressed their growing concern over the number of poor quality research proposals they receive, with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) taking the action to implement a ban on submissions from unsuccessful candidates who fail repeatedly and requesting evidence on steps institutions take to improve academic skills in producing research proposals.
  • Internal peer review has been credited with producing higher quality research proposals and increased success rates and is a process encouraged by the Research Councils.

Who reviews the applications?

  • The Peer Reviewers are a selection of BU academics who have a considerable track record in successfully gaining research funding, who sit on funding panels and who review research proposals for funders.
  • We select two reviewers to review your proposal.

Who can apply to the RPRS?

  • The service is open to anyone at BU and for any type of research funding.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • Peer reviewers will provide feedback on the proposed research in terms of topic selection, novel value, clarity of ideas proposed and advise on how the proposal can be further strengthened. They may also provide the names of potential collaborators where applicable.
  • Feedback will be delivered within 3 weeks of submission – often before.

Will the RPRS help with unsuccessful applications?

  • Yes, if you have a unsuccesful proposal, the RPRS will provide feedback on your submission on how you could potentially improve the style of the proposal, advise on other possible funders and provide other useful information.   The system works as for as yet unsubmitted drafts.

How do I submit an application?

  • Contact RKEO Funding Development Team to obtain a rough costing for your proposal. RKEO FDT will guide you through the process
  • Send in a Word or PDF version of your electronic submission draft (such as Je-S) and submit to Jo Garrad and Dianne Goodman/Giles Ashton.
  • The RKEO FDT will undertake review of the proposal and forward to 2 experts
  • You will receive feedback within 2-3 weeks

Remember

  • Please allow sufficient time in your proposal development to allow for the  mandatory internal deadline of five working days for the submission of Research Council bids via the Je-S system. This internal deadline also applies to applications made via the E-Gap2 and Leverhulme Online e-submissions systems (affecting applications made to the British Academy, the Royal Society and the Leverhulme Trust).

Who can I ask for further help?

  • Jo Garrad and Dianne Goodman/Giles Ashton  in the Research and Knowledge Exchange Development team look after the RPRS and will answer any questions you have.