Category / Fusion Investment Fund

Fusion Investment Fund: Neuroscience has found that emotions are a primary factor in learning to change behaviour: A project to apply and study these findings in many areas of practice (for example, public health, sports science, youth work, neurological rehabilitation, special education, and potentially many others).

 

We were very fortunate to receive Fusion funding for our collaboration between colleagues and students in Health and Social Sciences, Sports Science, and a variety of external practice partners. Essentially the funding will enable us to obtain psychophysiological recording equipment to be used to measure emotional responses in a wide variety of learning and training settings. Below is a screenshot of a typical recording from this kind of equipment.

 

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Huge progress has been made over the last couple of decades in our understanding of emotion and feelings. A compelling conclusion from this enormous body of work is the primacy of emotion in how we operate in the world. Darwin knew this, as did Freud, but many still cling to the notion of the achievements of homo sapiens (“wise man”!) as founded on cognition and rational thinking. For them, feelings are a vestigial remnant of our evolutionary past, not dissimilar to the appendix – no longer having any purpose, and also potentially a threat to our well being.

Affective neuroscience completely opposes this so-called rational approach: emotions and feelings guided our survival in our evolutionary past, but the big news is that they still do! Accumulations of theory and research from fields such as affective neuroscience, positive psychology, and health psychology support this simple but crucial switch in emphasis. Some everyday practice reveals the primacy of emotion, for example emotionally skilled doctors tend to bring about better health outcomes for their patients, children are taught to pay attention to their ‘uh oh’ signs (involuntary emotional responses of sweaty palms and heart beating faster) to keep them safe. So emotions are not the redundant and fickle “appendix” of our behavioural systems, but in fact are their driving force.

Despite an array of pragmatic findings about the way emotions and feelings work, this largely ‘pure’ body of neuroscience has not been directly applied to any particular field of practice. This project aims to correct that omission. The applications of affective science to how we learn and change our behaviour are potentially enormous, as the physiological emotional measures offer a straightforward ‘window’ into the person’s emotional responses.

The Fusion funding enables us to build on one of the applications, through running a study developing a previous pilot. This will be based on a form of training using natural horsemanship that has been demonstrated to be very successful in behaviour change for young offenders and young people who do not engage with school. This is an example of what it looks like (thanks to TheHorseCourse for the picture):

 

TheHorseCourse picture

 

The equipment, and experience gained through carrying out the initial study, will also allow for projects with other practice partners to go ahead, for example, work with people with acquired brain injuries, and children with profound learning disabilities. If any of this interests you, please get in touch with Sid Carter or Emma Kavanagh, and we’d be glad to tell you more.

 

Fusion Investment Fund — Introducing the Bournemouth-Athens Network in Critical Infrastructure Security (BANCIS)

Although largely invisible to us, our lives are dependent on critical infrastructure (CI).  CI is made up of roads, rail, pipelines, power lines, together with buildings, technology, and people.  Some of this infrastructure is modern, but much of it is ageing and interconnected in so many ways that we fail to realise our dependency on CI or its dependencies until its loss disrupts our day-to-day lives.

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This dependency has not been lost on governments, which now invest significant sums on securing this infrastructure from cybersecurity threats. Unfortunately, in most cases, this investment entails bolting security mechanisms onto existing infrastructure.  Such investment decisions are made by people with little knowledge of the infrastructure they are securing and, has such, little visibility of the impact that poorly designed security might have on the day-to-day delivery of these critical services.  Moreover, because technology innovation does not evolve at the same pace in different cultures, and security which mitigate the risks faced by critical infrastructure in one country may not be as effective in another.   The reason for these differences are myriad, and range from differences in working practices to expectations about the scale of infrastructure being secured.  There is, therefore, a need to evaluate security solutions against specification exemplars based on these nuanced, representative environments.  However, to develop exemplars of such environments requires data collection and knowledge sharing about nuances associated with particular forms of critical infrastructure for different cultures.

The Bournemouth-Athens Network in Critical Infrastructure Security (BANCIS) project will examine and model the nuances associated with two forms of critical infrastructure in different national cultures.  It will do so by building a network between Cybersecurity researchers at BU, and the Information Security & Critical Infrastructure Protection Laboratory at Athens University of Economics & Business (AUB). These nuances will be modelled as specification exemplars of UK and Greek water and rail companies. By developing these exemplars, researchers and practitioners will be able to conduct a cost-effective evaluation of new ideas based on realistic CI environments.  The exemplars will also help students appreciate the challenges associated with designing security for complex, real-world systems.  The exemplars will be modelled using the CAIRIS security design tool; this is an open-source software product maintained by researchers at BU. The data necessary to build these exemplars will be collected over a series of visits by AUB researchers to BU, and BU researcher to AUB.

Please contact Shamal Faily if you’re interested in finding out more about BANCIS, or getting involved in the project.

Understanding how people with depression think about how the past could have turned out differently

The period of funding from the BU Fusion Investment Fund (Co-Creation and Co-Production Strand) has just finished for my joint psychology and psychiatry research project into the role of counterfactual thinking in depression. Counterfactual thinking is thinking about how the past could have been different. It is closely tied-up with the emotion of regret but can help people prepare to deal more effectively with similar situations in the future. For example, a person who thinks that an intimate relationship that failed would have survived if they had taken more account of how their partner was feeling (counterfactual thinking) can adapt their behaviour accordingly in their next intimate relationship in order to try to prevent the breakdown of the relationship and ensure its longevity.

My collaborator on the Fusion-funded project is Dr Paul Walters who’s a Consultant Psychiatrist for Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust (DHUFT) based at Weymouth. A student from the Psychology Department’s Foundations in Clinical Psychology Master’s degree course (Stephen Richer) worked on the project by interviewing DHUFT patients who are diagnosed with depression. The project ran from December 2013 to July 2015, in which time a total of 29 patients were assessed. Although the project funding has ended, participant recruitment will continue until the required number of 65 participants is reached, which should be by October 2015.

Preliminary analysis of the data from the project suggests that the patients assessed tend to focus on aspects of the self (e.g., personality characteristics) when thinking counterfactually about a negative social event from their past. This finding contrasts with the counterfactual thoughts of people that have not received a formal clinical diagnosis of depression who, our previous research has found, tend to focus more on factors that are external to the self (e.g., other people’s behaviour) when mentally ‘undoing’ a previous negative social event. Once the data are collected from all 65 participants with depression, more meaningful comparisons between the counterfactual thoughts of depressed and non-depressed people will be drawn. Ultimately, Paul Walters and I hope that the findings of the project will aid in the refinement of the cognitive behavioural therapies that psychiatrists and clinical psychologists administer for the treatment of depression. Once the results of the data from all 65 participants have been analysed and written-up for publication, Paul and I plan to submit a funding bid to the National Institute of Health Research for a follow-on intervention project into tailoring cognitive behavioural therapies for depression based on the factors that influence the counterfactual thoughts of the patients with depression.

Overall, the BU Fusion funding has been immensely beneficial for engaging students and a key external stakeholder in the local community (DHUFT) in a valuable piece of applied research that has important psychotherapeutic implications for mental health patients and professional best practice implications for mental healthcare professionals.

Thank you, Fusion Investment Fund, I couldn’t have done the research without you.

Dr Kevin Thomas, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science and Technology.

Networking and research dissemination in San Diego

 

San Diego
For the ones interested in human interaction with coastal and marine spaces and oceanography in general, San Diego (California, USA) is one of the most interesting and iconic places on earth. San Diego has a diverse and thriving marine life due to the rich waters of the California Current; an outstanding coastal geology shaped by tectonics and coastal erosion; and settings that create a varied range of landscapes and habitats (not to mention the perfect sunsets). If the natural settings alone were not already extraordinary, the proximity with Mexico, the vast military facilities, and the southern California lifestyle make San Diego a unique location. In addition to all that, San Diego is home of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the oldest, largest, and most important research centres  in the world for ocean, earth and atmospheric science.

In May 2015, I went to San Diego to attend Coastal Sediments, one of the most important international conferences with focus on coastal research (there were over 350 attendees from the private, public and research sectors). The presentations of my two papers were very well-attended and created very good opportunities for networking. For example, after my presentation on the first day, Julia Chunn-Heer (San Diego County Policy Manager at Surfrider Foundation) contacted me to say she found the presentation very relevant to their work, in particular to current coastal development pressures they face in San Diego. As I was staying in San Diego after the conference to visit local organisations and collate material for teaching and research, I was able to meet Julia again and find out more about one of their projects. She showed me locations in Solana Beach where local property owners are filling wave-cut notches at the cliff base with ‘erodible concrete’ as an attempt to slow down the cliff retreat. Surfrider’s concerns are the preservation of the natural cliff line and therefore to ensure that the concrete used is actually eroding at rates similar to the natural cliff.

After the conference, I visited colleagues of the San Diego State University, Geography Department, and many interesting coastal locations in southern California, including: the Border Field State Park at the border with Mexico, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Coronado Beach, Cabrillo National Monument, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and many other interesting coastal settings between the Mexican border and Oceanside Beach.

I also had the opportunity to visit Scripps installations, including the famous pier, with Ron Flick. At the Scripps pier measurements of water parameters, waves and weather have been collected since 1975. These data and other coastal environment data collected elsewhere are made available online through the Coastal Data Information Program. Ron is currently interested about how high water levels are used as a public land boundary at the coast, and the implications concerning private property legislation (e.g. the implementing private coastal defence structures). One important aspect we discussed, which may result in a future collaborative publication, concerns changes in the position and elevation of the high water line due to major storm impacts or sea-level rise and how/how often public land boundaries may need to be updated. So watch this space for updates!

Conference attendance and the extended stay in San Diego were facilitated by a Fusion funds (SMN) and my R-budget.

The virtual and the field: enhancing visualisation in archaeology using serious game technologies

The FIF funded collaborative project between the Creative Technology and Archaeology Frameworks has produced another output.

Virtual&Field

A visualisation of the Iron Age banjo enclosure discovered in the Bournemouth University Durotriges Big Dig at Winterborne Kingston has been produced using Unreal Engine 4. The system allows users to explore the environment as it may have appeared in the Iron Age at a human scale.

This was a pilot study that was produced as part of a Fusion Investment Fund project at Bournemouth University in collaboration between staff and students on the Archaeology and Games Technology courses. It is anticipated that the environment will be further developed by Games Technology students as part of their final year project studies with enhancements made to the existing environment and with the addition of visualisations of the same site at different historical periods of habitation.

A fly through of the Iron Age environment can be seen at:

For more information about the visualisation please contact djohn@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Fusion Investment Fund – is it for you?

Lots of people know about the Fusion Investment Fund (or FIF as it’s affectionately known!). Since 2012 we’ve awarded £2m spread across more than 200 projects. Here are a couple of facts that you might not know though…

Professional Services staff can apply for FIF too

FIF is open to professional services staff as well as academic staff. If you have a great idea which could change the way we work here at BU and move us towards our Fusion goals, then we want to hear from you!

What sort of ideas?

Well, in the past, FIF has supported these projects from Professional Services staff…

Under the Staff mobility and networking strand we have supplied funding for:

  • Visiting US partners to conduct research about / promotion of Summer Schools
  • My Community: Our Heritage workshops at the British Science Festival 2013

Under the Co-creation and co-production strand we have supported:

  • BU Lego Challenge
  • Sharing PAL: Students sharing their experiences of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) to create collaboration, engagement and learning
  • Global Skills: articulating international experiences in academic and professional contexts

Interested? Then do get in touch. See the links at the bottom of this post.

Erasmus for training

Did you know that our Erasmus funding is available for those who want to take training abroad as well as those who want to teach? Every year our academic staff visit European institutions to teach, exchange ideas and build their networks. What’s less well known is that staff (both academic and professional services staff) can apply for funding to go to a European Higher Education institution, or enterprise, to train, learn new techniques, share best practice and widen your horizons.

Erasmus provides up to €1,000 towards your travel and subsistence costs when travelling to another EU member country.

Priority will be given to staff who have not previously received funding from this strand so, if you’ve never considered it before, now might be your chance!

Want to find out more?

Well, hurry! Applications close this Friday at 12 noon. Visit the FIF website for further details and for information about how to apply. Sue Townrow, the FIF Co-ordinator, is available on both campuses this week so, if you’d like to meet, please get in touch. You can also contact us by email with any queries.

FIF – maybe it’s for you after all?!