Category / Fusion themes

From spin doctors to social media: The evolution of political communication

New media, particularly social media, have become instrumental in political elections and campaigns today. Politics has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, partly due to the continuously emerging forms of communication. The field of political communications combines different elements of political science, communication, cultural studies, media, and psychology, and has been established at Bournemouth University since 2002.

The Centre for Politics and Media Research at BU focuses upon the soft power exerted through political campaign communication and its impact upon society and the citizen, the social and cultural frameworks which shape ideology and the collective psychology of publics, and the psychology of political violence. BU academics Professor Barry Richards, Professor Candida Yates and the Director of the Centre, Dr Darren Lilleker, have different research backgrounds within media, advertising, cultural and communication studies and psychology.

“I’ve always been interested in the relationships between politics, emotion, culture and society” explains Professor Yates, “my Doctoral research focused in particular on the cultural politics of emotion, film and masculinity in crisis. From there, I began to look more widely at the ways in which different emotions are shaped, experienced and communicated in politics, culture and society.”

Throughout the 1990s, political communication in Britain and elsewhere underwent a huge change which is often associated with Tony Blair’s New Labour government with its use of spin doctors and mediatised news management. There was also a significant increase in news media competition and advances in technology that seemed to provide citizens with a sense of choice and control over media consumption, although this sense of empowerment with regards to social media is now often questioned and problematized.

“I turned my attention away from the study of masculinity in film and instead turned to the analysis of political communication and the culture of politics more widely; I analysed the fantasies and feelings that emerged in relation to some key political figures at the time and how those psycho-political formations relate to the ways in which we engage with and emotionally invest in politics,” says Professor Yates.

“People thought of spin as this manipulative, domineering process that was all about bringing the techniques of marketing into politics in a bad way,” says Professor Richards. “However, I thought that there was something potentially more positive in this shift in political communication, and so the arrival of spin and political marketing increased my interest in electoral politics.”

Throughout this time, mainland Britain was also facing political violence and terrorism.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, it was almost exclusively Irish Republican terrorism, and then in the late 1990s and early 2000s we had the arrival of Islamist terrorism across the world,” explains Professor Richards. “I had always been interested in terrorism: the impact it has on the British public and the psychology of how people could come to carry out attacks.”

These years showed a huge shift in global politics. With this, political communication started to become more and more promotional, and celebrity culture began to infiltrate politics.

“There was a dominant set of ideas by the government at the time and then there were other marginal ideas that didn’t get voiced,” explains Dr Lilleker. “When I started doing my research, what interested me was how politicians developed ideologies, how they were sold and then understood by citizens.”

With the introduction of social media in the early 2000s, the hegemony of the mass media was challenged and political communication changed dramatically. The prevalence of social media in politics has made parties and officials more accessible and accountable to citizens. “Now, citizens can react immediately to an event and they can even influence what’s being said by using social media to come together to form a mass,” explains Dr Lilleker.

With evolutionary changes such as new media and globalisation shaping politics, political communication is clearly evolving rapidly and becoming increasingly important. Future research within the Centre for Politics and Media Research will include looking further into the psycho-dynamics of contemporary political culture, the marketization of political discourse and campaigning, and comparative politics.

“I am now looking at the role of empathy in relation to the current political, social and cultural landscape of Brexit and its aftermath, which is very polarised” says Professor Yates. “I’m interested in how empathy can emerge in groups and whether there is a way that we can actually help to facilitate it as a way to encourage constructive rather than destructive debate.”

“I’m embarking on some research into national identity and its relationship to the needs for safety and for dignity, which I think are major drivers of our experience and action as citizens. The starting point is how much do people think of themselves as having a national identity these days. This is a very rich psychological area as well as an important political issue,” says Professor Richards.

Meanwhile, Dr Lilleker is concerned with the dangers of social media and the misleading and fake news that is shared and consumed by millions. In the light of recent revelations about the use of data from social media sites, such as Facebook, this has perhaps never been so important.

“Media literacy has never really been taught but I think now it’s crucial to understand what’s happening on social media, especially for young people who should be educated on this issue.”

“At BU, there are a few of us now who look into the structures of feeling and emotions that underpin politics as it represented, communicated and experienced ,” says Professor Yates. “We want to develop that field to become a centre of excellence.”

To keep up with the latest news from the Centre for Politics and Media Research, visit

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

Mothers, midwives and post-natal ‘blood’ loss

‘Blood’ loss after childbirth is a normal occurrence for women, due to the separation of the placenta. Excessive blood loss within the first 24 hours is known as primary post-partum haemorrhaging, while excessive blood loss after this period is known as secondary post-partum haemorrhage. Research undertaken by former Bournemouth University staff explores the prevention and early detection of the latter, which can result in chronic ill health and even the need for emergency medical care.

The ‘blood’ loss, known as lochia, gradually changes colour and reduces in volume over several weeks. Observations of the lochia and the gradual reduction in size of the uterus in the first few weeks after childbirth have long been a standard part of midwifery care. These observations are an essential part of monitoring for warning signs of secondary post-partum haemorrhaging.

Dr Sally Marchant and Emeritus Professor Jo Alexander were the lead researchers behind the project, which was partly inspired by Dr Marchant’s earlier career as a practicing midwife.

“I was a Ward Sister for around ten years, specialising in postnatal care,” explains Dr Marchant, “During that time, I noticed that there were some inconsistencies in practice. Midwives were taking very different approaches to the same task, as a lack of evidence meant it was unclear which method was best.”

A review of guidance for midwives in textbooks showed that while certain postnatal practices were advocated as being correct care, there was very little evidence to underpin them. Having established the gaps in knowledge, the next stage of the research was for Dr Marchant to carry out a longitudinal survey of postnatal women to see how their lochia changed over time and what advice they were being given.

“The second stage of the research was quite revealing, as it showed us that there was a huge lack of knowledge among new mothers about why they were being asked to monitor their ‘blood’ loss”, explains Dr Marchant, “Women were aware of what to look for, but not why it was important or why a change might be significant and could be something to be concerned about.”

“For midwives, it seemed to be perceived as just another test which needed to be conducted as part of their routine checks. We also found that the way notes were written up was quite inconsistent. The terms and language midwives used to describe the postnatal uterus varied hugely, so there was sometimes miscommunication about the normality of a woman’s health.”

As a result of their research, the team were able to make a number of evidence-based recommendations which still underpin the advice in midwifery textbooks today. These recommendations also inform World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on this aspect of postnatal health.

The final stage of the research was a case control study in which Dr Marchant compared retrospective data of 530 women who had not experienced secondary postpartum bleeding against 265 women who had. The aim was to establish predictive factors, which might help to identify at-risk women.

“Among other things, Dr Marchant found that if women had a previous history of the condition then they were at higher risk of it happening again,” says Professor Alexander, “We also found that smoking during pregnancy was a risk factor, which wasn’t an obvious connection.”

“In addition, we looked at the extent to which midwives’ observations were predictive of the likelihood of secondary post-partum haemorrhaging. We found that they were significantly predictive, which was reassuring!”

The project took place as part of the work of a wider group of researchers who were exploring a number of different avenues related to the health of women, babies and their families. This included considerable work in the area of post-natal care and breastfeeding which, among other successes, resulted in a module about breastfeeding for the website HealthTalk. This site brings together video clips of women recounting their experiences, with best quality evidence in order to help others to gain a better understanding of any health challenges they may be facing and to feel less isolated.

For more information about BU’s research in the area of maternal health, visit the website of the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal and Perinatal Health:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

Researching with students: The challenges and opportunities of BU2025 for students and staff

A first year BA Television Production student, Rowan Prosser and Lecturer, Annie East share their thoughts on a pilot research project using 360-degree filming technology.

Fusion BU2025 looks to ensure that students are informed in the ‘latest thinking in practice and research’ it also looks to ensure graduates are ‘innovative’ and ‘have research skills’. The doctoral research that Annie East is engaged with seeks to discover the ways in which students are working with health and safety risk management processes on their location film shoots. The pilot study looked to test the use of a 360-degree camera on a student shoot as a Virtual Reality (VR) elicitation tool for data gathering . Here Annie East and first year student, Rowan Prosser, reflect on his role as student research assistant, working with the 360 degree camera on a second year student film shoot.

Thoughts on student/lecturer collaboration.

Rowan Prosser: As a first year student the opportunity to work on academic research was both intriguing and a great opportunity to learn. The project gave me a chance to see how research is carried out in an academic way, seeing the correct processes of it all. It was all carefully considered and planned accordingly, my needs and any questions I had were answered immediately; something you don’t get when working with other students. When planning for the pilot project, the meetings that took place were well informed. In contrast, when I work with fellow students, there is sometimes difficulty in getting to the point of the discussion or the heart of the problem.

Annie East: Finding a student keen to work on research that was testing relatively new technology was key for this pilot. Meeting with Rowan for the first time as a researcher rather than as lecturer was a turning point. The power dynamics of student/lecturer dissolved with Rowan becoming more of an equal in our journey to master the technology and workflow of the camera. I chose to work with a student to lessen the power dynamic on the student film shoot; taking myself physically away from their shoot and allowing a student to operate the 360-degree camera.

360-degree camera

Reflections on the approach.

Rowan Prosser: It was an interesting scenario to be surrounded by second year BA Television Production students. Due to the role I had (responsibility for the 360-degree camera) they all tried to adhere to my needs and requests throughout the shoot. This allowed me to make sure that my camera work was achieved. If I was in the way, they would politely ask me to move the camera. The kit used really interested me; 360-degree video is something that is slowly coming into the fold – people (including the 2ndyear students I was working with) are very interested in the camera and how it works. This allowed me to educate and show them.

Annie East: Interestingly it is not just the power dynamics of lecturer/student that are changing with this work but also student-to-student interactions. The collaboration gave Rowan a new perspective and a window into the world of a second year student film shoot, levelling the inter-year dynamics somewhat. Silently it also afforded him institutional power; he became the educator and sage.

Reports from the field.

Rowan Prosser: Observing second-year students on their film shoots gave me the ability to blend in since I was a fellow student.  We were able to talk about the course, topics we enjoyed thus allowing the presence of a camera filming their every movement less uncomfortable. It was interesting to observe the similarities of 2nd-year students to 1st years on the shoot. The classic way in which clear leaders can sometimes emerge and take over other people’s role was seen, this being an issue with student filmmaking, when someone isn’t happy with how someone else is conducting their role.

Annie East: Rowan’s reflections display some of the key tensions in setting up this research project; how do we observe students in the field and in what ways does that change the way they behave. This pilot confirmed going forward that the data to be captured is not the footage itself but the conversation about the footage when each crew member put on their VR visor to re-immerse themselves back into their field. This shifts the research focus away from behaviour and towards reflections on action and reflections in action.

Moving forward

Rowan Prosser: I really enjoyed the experience, as the opportunity to carry out research for an academic is not something that happens a lot. It gave me a clear insight into the future on how I can carry out future research and also taught me a lot about 360 cameras which I have not previously used. The group of second year students responded very well to me being around, and in the group, so it would be interesting to see how other groups would react to my involvement.

Annie East: These reflections suggest a shift in student identity and changing power dynamics between researcher and student and between student-to-student. The confidence that this work appears to have afforded Rowan sets him on the path of the lifelong learner; someone thirsty for new challenges. The challenge for BU2025 is the possible perception that working on academic research is a rare experience. Going forward Rowan can choose to be part of the full study and be more experienced for it; a scaffolded approach to collaborative research rather than a siloed one. The vision of fusion in BU2025 features a strong sense of inclusivity which we can promote to our students creating not only rounded academics but also fully rounded students, confident to take on ‘intriguing’ research projects.


Bournemouth University BU2025 Strategic Plan 2018 (online). Available from: (Accessed 10 August 2018)

Foucault, M., 1991. Discipline and punish. The birth of the prison. London: Penguin.

Schön, D. A., 1983. The reflective practitioner. [online] : how professionals think in action. New York : Basic Books.

Vygotsky, L. S. and Cole, M., 1978. Mind in society : the development of higher psychological processes / L. S. Vygotsky ; edited by Michael Cole … [et al.] Cambridge : Harvard University Press.

Hunger by the sea: human stories of food poverty told through animation

Turn to the food bank.
Hunger by The Sea

Sue Sudbury, Bournemouth University

You can’t say it’s your own fault if you’ve had to change benefits for some reason. You can say it’s our fault if we went out and blown [the money] in the bookies or in the pubs, then yeah, it would be our own fault. Most people just can’t afford to pay rent and buy food.

These are the words of one of the contributors in my film, Hunger by the Sea, a four-minute animation about people’s experiences of food banks in an English seaside town. Using voiceovers, it presents the human stories behind food bank use – which hit a record high in 2018.

The idea came about after watching Ken Loach’s film, I, Daniel Blake. I was particularly shocked by the scene in the food bank in which a mother, who had not eaten for days because she had given what little food she had to her children, opens and scoffs a can of cold food while because she is so hungry and cannot wait. The mother apologises and cries when a food bank helper comes over because she is very embarrassed. I wanted to find out if scenes like this were really happening in Britain today or whether they were only in the realm of fiction.

Figures from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank provider, show that between April 2017 and March 2018 there was a 13% increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies given out compared to the previous year (they now count food parcels rather than people). They gave out 1,332,952 of these supply packages, and 484,026 of these went to children.

I’m a documentary filmmaker and academic at Bournemouth University, and I worked with students on this idea. My initial plan was to give people who use food banks cameras, allowing them to become first-person storytellers and speak directly to policymakers and politicians. But after my student researcher, Charlie Mott, spent several weeks volunteering in three local food banks, it became clear that people were ashamed to admit they had had to resort to food banks. They felt it was their fault; they did not want to be visible.

As one participant in the end film said: “I’m a bit ashamed as I don’t like asking for help, so it’s a big thing for me.”

The project was then recast as an animation in which people could speak openly and anonymously and so we took on another co-researcher, Xue Han, an animation student. Even with this new plan, we had to approach 14 different food banks before finding one that was prepared to let us record people’s voices. It so happened that it was situated by the sea and its location provided strong images to accompany the people struggling to keep their heads above water. Coastal communities have been particularly hit by economic inequality, with some of the highest unemployment rates and lowest pay in the country.

Asking for help is difficult.
Hunger by the Sea, Author provided

Food bank managers, also speaking for the film, confirmed that scenes like the one in I, Daniel Blake occur with shocking regularity. As one in the film laments: “We often have situations where perhaps the mothers haven’t eaten for days just so they can feed the children.”

Mothers going hungry to feed the kids.
Hunger by the Sea, Author provided

Another spoke about the physical and psychological effects of hunger:

When you’re not eating you don’t get the hunger pangs, you don’t get the starving, you get a pit in your stomach, I suppose, you try and fill, you bulk yourself out with water, [but] it’s your pride that really feels it the most.“

Deeper feelings.
Hunger by the Sea, Author provided

Tragically, the people who speak in the film were not hard to find and all had their own desperate stories.

“This food bank is a lifeline for us. We haven’t had a meal for two weeks,” said one. Another couple said that “everything is going up and all our money goes on bills”. One man with a brain tumour was “devastated” that it has come to this after paying his own way all his life.

The ConversationIn making the film, we hope these voices will be heard far and wide and have an impact on policymakers and government officials by humanising stories that are often lost to the statistics.

Sue Sudbury, Principal Academic in Television and Film Production, Bournemouth University

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

Developing doctoral research at Bournemouth University

Over the last fifteen years, more than 640 students have completed their doctoral studies at Bournemouth University in a range of subjects, from engineering to midwifery, from business management to animation. During that time, support for postgraduate research students (PGRs) has gradually developed, so that Bournemouth now has a thriving community of over 630 postgraduate researchers.

“Our new Doctoral College has its roots in the establishment of the Graduate School, back in 2003,” explains Dr Fiona Knight, one of the Doctoral College’s two Academic Managers. “Originally, our aim was to help make postgraduate research student’s journeys more consistent. At the time BU had 7 Academic Schools and postgraduate research students experiences really varied according to where they were based. We wanted to make sure that no matter where you were in the university, you had the same outstanding experience.”

“We began to work much more formally; introducing a Code of Practice for Research Degrees, developing training and formal qualifications for our supervisors, and giving much more structure to the research degree journey. The route to getting your PhD became much clearer,” continues Dr Knight.

The Doctoral College team have also worked hard to develop a sense of community among Bournemouth University’s postgraduate research students. This year will see their 10th annual Postgraduate Research Conference take place, where postgraduate research students from across BU will be able to share their research via presentations, posters and photography. “It’s the perfect opportunity for others working at BU to find out more about the exciting research being carried out by our postgraduate researchers” explains Dr Julia Taylor, the other Doctoral College Academic Manager.

Throughout the year, postgraduate research students can also develop their research, professional and personal skills by signing up to any number of skills and training courses offered through the Doctoral College’s Researcher Development Programme or hone their public speaking skills by taking part in the internationally renown 3 Minute Thesis™ .

Olivia Placzek, a postgraduate student in the Faculty of Management has been studying at Bournemouth University for the last eighteen months and is Chair of the Postgraduate Researchers Rep Committee.

“I’ve really enjoyed my journey so far, and it’s great to see how well the students, supervisors, administrators and the Doctoral College work so well together,” says Olivia, “I like all the opportunities we have to learn something new; whether it’s taking a course, going to a workshop or just catching up with other student’s research over coffee.”

“Having all these opportunities to choose from means that you can improve your skillset and the chances of going into the career you aspire to; which might be continuing in research or going into industry. There are always workshops on offer to help improve your skills, no matter what your goals are.”

Doctoral college case study

 Min Jiang joined Bournemouth University in 2010 to begin her studies in MSc Computer Animation and Visual Effects, after completing her first Master’s course at the Communication University of China whose programme is in partnership with Bournemouth University (BU).

“I thought I was certain to return to China after the one year’s Master’s course, however, BU won me over with their amazing animation course,” says Min. “I’ve learnt so much here and the life in Bournemouth is just too good to be over so quickly, so I continued my study as a PhD student in Computer Animation for a further 5 years.”

Alongside her PhD studies, Min also participated in group research projects which helped to develop her real-world skills such as project management and working effectively with others including external researchers and experts.

“Throughout my experience at BU, the Doctoral College has been very helpful. They provide funding for us to attend and present at conferences, conduct experiments and buy advanced equipment,” says Min. “They arrange all our training sessions and seminars to help us go through each stage of our PhD smoothly.”

After Min graduated from her studies in 2016, she went on to work for Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai and is now working for Moving Picture Company in London, a global leader in visual effects.

“Luckily, BU gave me a very good introduction to the entire industry. Not only do we use the same system and animation tools as the university, but many of my colleagues are BU graduates too!”

“The Doctoral College really cared about our studies as well as our lives outside the university. All the tutors there were very kind and helpful; they took the time to get to know us all individually and take care of us.”

To find out more about BU’s Doctoral College, visit:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

New BU publication disability & pregnancy

Two days ago the Open Access journal BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth published an important article on women with disabilities and their experiences with the maternity services when pregnant [1].  The new paper Dignity and respect during pregnancy and childbirth: a survey of the experience of disabled women’ has been co-authored by BU’s Dr. Jenny Hall (Centre for Excellence in Learning/CEL) and Prof. Vanora Hundley (Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health/CMMPH) in collaboration with Dr. Bethan Collins (formerly of BU and now based at the University of Liverpool) and BU Visiting Faculty Jillian Ireland (Poole NHS Foundation Trust). The project was partially funded by the charity Birthrights and Bournemouth University.

Women’s experiences of dignity and respect in childbirth revealed that a significant proportion of women felt their rights were poorly respected and that they were treated less favourably because of their disability. The authors argue that this suggests that there is a need to look more closely at individualised care. It was also evident that more consideration is required to improve attitudes of maternity care providers to disability and services need to adapt to provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate disability, including improving continuity of carer.



Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health



  1. Jenny Hall, Vanora Hundley, Bethan Collins & Jillian Ireland (2018) Dignity and respect during pregnancy and childbirth: a survey of the experience of disabled women, BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 18:328

Tackling global disasters to reduce risks, build resilience and ensure recovery

Disasters and crises can involve human, material, economic and environmental loss, whether natural or as a result of human activity. Their impacts can exceed the ability of the affected community to cope through their own resources; however, they can be reduced, or possibly even prevented, with the appropriate risk management and the right guidance and training.

When BU’s Disaster Management Centre (BUDMC) was first established in 2001, it was a small operation, led by Richard Gordon, Director of BUDMC, who grew the centre by concentrating its work overseas instead of emulating similar organisations who were focusing on the UK post 9/11. From the start, BUDMC focused on delivering executive disaster management training to senior government ministers and their representatives, including key military appointments and overseas delegations.

“The earliest project we worked on was an EU initiative that looked at ways to bring together the new nation states that emerged from the former Yugoslavia in such a way that they could incorporate crisis and disaster management,” says Richard. “The project broke down so many barriers. On day one, they were focused on local concerns, but by day two, they were learning to work together – and it was the most beautiful thing to see.”

Over the next decade, the Centre gradually built up its reach and reputation in training and enterprise. By 2015 the team was regularly delivering executive training sessions in 12 nations annually, both abroad and in the UK. Since 2015, Professor Lee Miles and Dr Henry Bang have joined BUDMC, with the aim of widening the Centre’s research capacity in disaster management.

“When I joined in 2015, BUDMC was already carrying out some fantastic work in terms of its training and education. We now had the opportunity to also increase its research activity,” explains Professor Miles. “One of the distinctive features of the Centre is that we carry out quite a lot of research before delivering a training course; this is then fed into the course and subsequently built into the crisis simulations. It is a very practical example of research led professional practice and the practical impact of research ideas. It represents fusion in practice.”

Today, all of the Centre’s projects now seek to combine effective enterprise delivery with innovative research which means BUDMC staff work closely together to produce world class activity of international excellence. The combination of research with training allows the Centre to contribute innovative and fresh ideas which are helping to assist policy makers and professionals in crisis and disaster management across the world.

One of BUDMC’s most recent projects – the PINPOINT programme – identifies single points of failure in disaster management in the Caribbean.

“We’ve just completed the first phase of the PINPOINT programme,” says Professor Miles. “This project, which is led by Richard and I, has been looking at the British Virgin Islands in particular. They have recently faced huge challenges, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which caused extensive damage to the British Virgin Islands with homes, businesses and roads destroyed and communities left with no power, sanitation or water.”

BUDMC carried out two major research data collections, both just before and after Hurricane Irma, to identify the actual vulnerabilities and offer an accurate snapshot of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and in particular the specific single points of failure across the respective territories of the BVI prior to and after Irma and Maria. This research showed that there are real differences between the islands and that overall there were major issues, such as with communication networks, and reliance of key institutions and individuals, that would severely affect their responses to major hurricanes.

Professor Miles reported on this PINPOINT research in national and international press, such as the BBC News Channel, Good Morning Britain (ITV), CNN International and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. Moreover, the research has also fed into media training to statutory bodies and media professionals in the Caribbean (April 2017) as well as into the reflections of the UK Government in the run-up to the 2018 Hurricane season.

“One of the Centre’s distinctive features is that it is recognised externally as having expertise in strategic thinking around disaster management,” explains Professor Miles, “This is important as it means that the research and recommendations that we develop within the BUDMC are being put into practice by professionals working in industry and in government, both home and abroad. It also means that we are able to gain feedback from those working in the field, which in turn, can help us to shape our future research to be as relevant as possible.”

The Centre is looking to continue to develop and widen its education provision into the future whilst also developing its research environment by expanding the numbers of recruited Masters and PhD students, both from overseas and in the UK. BUDMC’s world class provision and global recognition has attracted substantial interest from postgraduate candidates as well as visiting fellows from other countries; all keen to work alongside BUDMC staff in disaster management training and participate in BUDMC research projects.

“With around 14 years working outside of the UK, our work is becoming much more relevant now to the UK and indeed we as a nation will find ourselves learning from many of the countries where BUDMC has been operating over the years,” says Richard.

For more information, visit BUDMC’s webpage:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

From face blindness to super-recognisers: how research is changing lives

Around 1 in 50 people are thought to be affected by prosopagnosia or face blindness. The condition can have a significant effect on people’s personal and professional lives, but has only relatively recently begun to gain public attention. Bournemouth University’s Dr Sarah Bate has spent much of her career researching people affected by the condition, and more recently those at the other end of the spectrum: so-called ‘super-recognisers’.

Prosopagnosia affects people’s ability to recognise even the most familiar of faces. People are largely born with the condition, although in rare cases they may develop it in later life, following a head injury or illness. Until recently, it was thought that only a small number of people had prosopagnosia, but research led by Dr Bate has proved otherwise.

“My interest in the area stemmed from my undergraduate studies at the University of Exeter, where I first heard about the condition,” says Dr Bate, “My lecturer was in touch with one person with prosopagnosia and offered me the chance to work with that person for my final year project. It was a unique opportunity at the time, as not many people were thought to have prosopagnosia.”

“I continued researching face blindness for both my Master’s and PhD studies, but still with quite a limited pool of people as the condition was believed to be rare. It wasn’t until I’d completed my PhD and moved to Bournemouth University (BU) to set up my own research lab that I discovered this was quite far from the truth!”

“Not long after I moved to BU, my research gained considerable media coverage, which was probably one of the first times that face blindness had gained much public attention. It also coincided with people beginning to rely more on using the internet to better understand their symptoms. The combination of the two meant that suddenly I was being approached by thousands of people who thought they had the condition,” explains Dr Bate.

At the time, very few GPs and medical staff knew about prosopagnosia, so for many people, talking to Dr Bate was the first time they’d been able to fully understand their symptoms. In due course, the increased need to acknowledge people’s symptoms, combined with Dr Bate’s extensive research into diagnosis of prosopagnosia led to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recognising it as an official health condition in 2014.

Since then, much of Dr Bate’s research has moved on to focused on how to diagnose the condition in children. The tests used to diagnose prosopagnosia in adults do not work particularly well with children, so Dr Bate’s team have developed new methods involving eye-tracking technology to help with diagnostics.

“The tests we use with adults aren’t very suitable for children, as they tend not to have the concentration needed to make them work,” says Dr Bate, “We use state-of-the-art eye tracking technology, which enables us to pinpoint which parts of the face children are looking at. This is important because our research shows that typical people tend to spend more       time looking at the eyes, whereas those with prosopagnosia look at other areas of the face.”

“The main aim of developing better diagnostic tools for children is so that we can improve early intervention treatments for them. As with many conditions, the earlier interventions can be made, the more likely they are to succeed,” continues Dr Bate, “It’s harder to treat adults, as many will have developed their own coping strategies and they don’t always want to try something new.”

At the other end of the spectrum are so-called ‘super-recognisers’, who have above average abilities when it comes to recognising faces. This is an area of research that Dr Bate has begun to explore more recently, in an attempt to understand if prosopagnosia is a developmental disorder or a sliding scale of ability.

“The idea was that if we have people who are at the bottom end of a normal range when it comes to facial recognition, then there must be people who are at the top range too,” explains Dr Bate, “We’ve developed research in this area, which is now beginning to help organisations such as the police and border control to identify which of their staff are best at recognising faces.”

“We found that different people are better at different aspects of facial recognition, so it’s not just about screening for the ‘best’ people. Computer software is a long way off being able to perform this function of policing and border control, so it was important for us to have rigorous research to back our theories.”

For more information about prosopagnosia and super-recognisers, visit the Centre for Face Processing Disorder’s web page:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

Understanding the origins of modern-day broadcasting

Over the last twenty-five years, Bournemouth University (BU) has built up a wealth of expertise in the area of media history. Not only has this knowledge helped to better understand the development of radio programmes of the time, but it is also helping to inform the teaching and education of future broadcasters.

Professor Hugh Chignell, Head of BU’s Centre for Media History, is a well-known media historian who specialises in radio broadcasting – covering both news and drama programmes. His research in the area began in the late 1990s when Bournemouth University began to host an archive of radio programmes produced by the BBC.

“At the time that we began hosting these archives, there were a number of researchers at BU who were keen to learn more about the history of radio and TV broadcasting. They felt it would be useful knowledge for our students, who would hopefully go on to produce future broadcast content,” explains Professor Chignell, “It was an approach to teaching pioneered by Bournemouth and became a really useful resource for our undergraduates, as it gave them a sense of where our contemporary radio and TV broadcasts come from. It’s also what sparked my own PhD research.”

For his doctoral research, Professor Chignell explored BBC Radio 4’s longstanding current affairs programme, Analysis. His research spanned a wide range of topics, including the political nature of current affairs programmes, the evolution of news and current affairs at the BBC and a better understanding of how to interpret old radio content.

“Current affairs programmes are reasonably unique to British media culture,” says Professor Chignell, “The BBC chose to keep its news broadcasts purely factual, in order to maintain their impartiality, but its current affairs programmes were very different. Their focus on explaining the context of the news and what was going on around it made them quite political.”

“For example, the Analysis programmes of the 1980s were partially responsible for introducing listeners to the neoliberal policies and ideas of Margaret Thatcher’s government. Although the programme itself didn’t have a political agenda, its role in making policies more accessible did end up giving it a political stance.”

Through his research, Professor Chignell also developed a better understanding of how to listen to and interpret old radio programmes, as outside of their temporal context, some broadcasts can be difficult to fully appreciate. Often their creators and producers are no longer around to ask questions of, which means that understanding the context in which they were made, can be a challenge.

“Older radio programmes can sound quite strange to us now. It’s not the same experience as watching an old Hollywood film, for example,” explains Professor Chignell, “My current research interests are around radio dramas of the 1950s. To fully appreciate them, an understanding of 1950s theatre is needed, as radio productions were heavily influenced by trends in the theatre. For that era in particular, French theatre dramas were extremely influential.”

“The first step for any media historian is to understand the context – what happened, the programmes that were made and what was said. Only then can you move onto the analysis, which enables us in the present to learn from the past. By exploring older radio dramas, for example, you can gain quite a fascinating insight into the culture of the time, often in quite a surreal way.”

“Not only does it give us a window into the past, but it can help to spark ideas for the creation of new programmes and broadcasts.”

Bournemouth University’s Centre for Media History was established in 1998 and compromises over 20 academics and post-graduate researchers from across the university. While it takes its origins from an interest in radio history, the Centre now specialises in media history across all forms of broadcast media.

For more information, see:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

The effects of emotional processing on physical health

Almost every day, we face and overcome any number of small stresses and difficulties which mostly have no effect on our overall wellbeing. However, every now and again we experience life-changing events, a serious illness, the death of a parent or the breakdown of a relationship, all of which can be extremely difficult to deal with. Research carried out at Bournemouth University suggests that not only can these events affect our mental health, but they can also have consequences for our physical health.

The link first began to emerge in the early 1980s, when Professor Roger Baker and a team of other clinical psychologists were exploring how best to treat people experiencing panic attacks. Panic attacks were a relatively unknown condition at the time and were only just beginning to be distinguished from generalised anxiety disorders. One of the first stages of the research was to start to understand what was causing them.

“Panic attacks are a very sudden physical event, which can be quite overwhelming and distressing for the people experiencing them. Your heart might start beating faster, you might feel dizzy and experience breathing difficulties. The symptoms can feel quite similar to a heart attack; around
25% of people taken to hospital apparently experiencing cardiac arrest symptoms are actually having a panic attack,” says Professor Baker, “Through interviewing people who had suddenly started having panic attacks, I began to see that there might be a connection between their physical symptoms and earlier traumatic events.”

“Although they often described their lives as going well, many had experienced difficult or stressful life events in the run up to the start of their panic attacks. This could be anything from the death of a friend to the loss of a job or a divorce. People often spoke about their emotions in terms of suppression, which was supported by a further large-scale study in the area – panic attack patients were clearly supressing their emotions and focusing on somatic sensations rather than understanding the emotional connection with stressful events.”

Over the course of several years and a number of different studies, Professor Baker and other research colleagues explored the link between emotion suppression and a multitude of different medical conditions. Repeatedly there was shown to be a strong connection between problems with processing emotions and a number of psychological conditions and even physical illnesses.

“It became apparent to me that what was needed was a psychological scale, which would help clinical practitioners to identify potential problems with emotional processing,” says Professor
Baker, “However, in order to create such a scale, a large amount of data needed to be collected.”

The creation of the final published scale took decades worth of work to finalise which factors should be taken into account and to establish a range of norms against which to benchmark people’s emotional processing skills. During that time, the emotional processing scale went through a number of different iterations and was tested in a wide range of research studies.

“One such study, conducted by Dr Carol Wilkins at BU, explored the link between the likelihood of developing postpartum depression and emotional processing,” says Professor Baker, “By using the emotional processing scale, the research was able to show that if women’s emotional processing skills were problematic during pregnancy, then they were more likely to develop depression after giving birth. It was a very clear indication of the link between emotions and mental health.”

After decades of work on the subject, the final emotional processing scale was published in 2015, and much of Professor Baker’s time is now dedicated to sharing it more widely with clinical practitioners to increase its use in research and in all types of therapy.

“The idea that emotional processing can have an effect on both our mental and physical health is still yet to become a mainstream idea within counselling and the medical professions. At the moment, there’s still quite a focus on the medical model of treating people, but in time, I hope that this will begin to change,” says Professor Baker.

For more information about the work of Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU), please visit:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

Brexit: champagne, parmesan, prosecco and feta could soon be at the centre of negotiations

As Brexit day creeps closer, one issue that remains unresolved is the way that food names will be protected in Britain and the EU. From parmesan and feta to cornish pasties and Bavarian beer, the EU is fiercely protective over protected designations of origin (PDOs) or protected geographical indications (PGIs).

A number of highly popular products are protected under this legal framework that dictates certain products can only be produced in certain regions. So champagne must be produced in the Champagne region of France and prosecco in a small pocket of north-eastern Italy. These are products with big market shares in the UK, with consumer loyalty being built up and consolidated through the use of these reputable geographical names.

The issue is also important to the UK. Many British products are also protected under the EU regime. It helps protect both their quality and value.

Accept no imitations.

But when the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer be under the laws that govern the protective status of these products. The government’s recently launched white paper, which outlined the UK’s plans for Brexit, declares that Britain will set up its own protection of geographical names to provide for continuous protection of UK products within the UK. But it doesn’t mention any continuation of the EU’s protection scheme.

Some in Brussels have expressed fear that British producers will start exploiting previously protected European names. Yet, rather ironically, British products would not lose their status in the EU (and could still seek new EU registrations in the future), since the EU allows for the protection of geographical names from non-EU countries. It’s an imbalance which seems to please British negotiators.

So, the European Commission fears that after Brexit the high level of protection that European products currently enjoy in the UK under EU law may evaporate. The white paper proposal rather contrasts with the commission’s proposal, which suggests that the UK continue protecting geographical indications, as it does under the EU.

US interference

But the EU’s desire that post-Brexit Britain keep its protection of geographical indications is bound to collide with US strategic interests. The US position is an important factor to take into account in the Brexit negotiations. If the UK signs a trade deal with the US, it will likely clash with a lot of EU regulations – including provisions governing the use of geographical names for food and beverages.

The US plays by different rules when it comes to the protection of these names. There are numerous US food companies that freely use European geographical expressions (including parmesan and feta for cheese) to identify products that have not been produced in the relevant European locations. In the US, these are considered to be generic names that describe the products and cannot be monopolised by anyone, not even by the producers coming from the relevant European geographical area.

Is it feta or ‘Greek-style cheese’?

That is why the US is lobbying the UK to abandon the EU’s protection of geographical indications, namely to allow US food and beverage companies to enter the British market by freely using European names. A US-UK trade deal would likely be contingent on the UK dropping the EU-level protection of geographical indications. But this, in turn, would scupper the prospects of a trade deal with the EU – an even bigger trading partner for the UK.

Sticking point

The EU has continuously placed great emphasis on the protection of its geographical names during trade negotiations. It proved to be a big sticking point in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. France and Greece, for example, threatened to veto a deal with the US unless it upheld their geographical indications. More recently, Italy’s minister for agriculture noted that Italy may not ratify the EU’s trade deal with Canada because, in his view, it does not adequately protect Italian geographical names.

The ConversationIt is therefore not a stretch to say that the entire Brexit deal could hinge on the issue of geographical indications. There is no doubt that providing a level of protection in the UK which is comparable to the current EU scheme – for example, via a mutual EU/UK recognition scheme – would facilitate an agreement not only on the specific issue of geographical names, but also of the entire Brexit deal. This would, however, make favourable trade agreements between the UK and the US less likely. The battle over geographical indications will surely go on.

Enrico Bonadio, Senior Lecturer in Law, City, University of London and Marc Mimler, Lecturer in Law, Bournemouth University

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

Social Work, Precarity & Sacrifice as Radical Action for Hope

Congratulations to Professor Jonathan Parker on the publication of his latest article in the International Journal of Social Work & Human Services Practice. [1]   In this paper Professor Parker outlines the history and development of social work, primarily in the UK, in the context of uncertainty and ambiguity.  He suggests that in an age of increased precariousness, social work itself represents a precarious activity that can be misconstrued and used for political ends as well as for positive change. As a means of countering potentially deleterious consequences arising from this, the concept of sacrifice which is used to consider social work’s societal role as scapegoat on the one hand and champion of the oppressed on the other. The paper concludes that social work’s potential for developing and encouraging resilience and hope is indicated in the ‘sacrifices’ social workers make when walking alongside marginalised and disadvantaged people.

The paper is Open Access, meaning that anybody across the globe with internet access will be able to read it  free of cost.



  1. Parker, J. ‘Social Work, Precarity and Sacrifice as Radical Action for Hope’, International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice Vol.6. No.2, 2018, pp. 46-55.

BU Professor Gives Keynote in Japan

Professor Jonathan Parker was invited to present the keynote address to the Japanese Association of Social Workers conference in Okayama in July. The conference brought together Ministry of Welfare officials, key social work professional organisations and academics from every university in Japan to discuss growing professionalisation in social work in Japan and the Asia Pacific region.

Professor Parker was invited because of his long-standing association with social work in Japan resulting from translations of his best-selling books Social Work Practiceand Effective Practice Learning in Social Work, which have been consistently used in Japanese social work education over the last decade. He has also undertaken research and published with Professor Tadakazu Kumagai of Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare who was also a BU visiting professor.

Professor Parker’s keynote address warned of the ‘two-edged sword’ of professionalism and the dangers of recognition by the state, which restrict social workers’ role in resisting government prescriptions for the social control of individuals, families and groups without promoting a concomitant emphasis on human rights and social justice. Using psychoanalytic concepts, he argued that social work is an ambivalent entity in the minds of the general public and government and liable to be hated and blamed when tragedies occur whilst loved and required in times of need. Accepting this ambivalence, social workers need to take forward their resistance agenda by walking alongside those who are ostracised and marginalised.

The keynote was well received and has led to potential developments in UK-Japan funded research.

VISTA AR – Interreg have released promotional video about the people behind their projects

Bournemouth University as a partner is involved in Interreg project “Visitor experience Innovation through Systematic Text Analytics and Augmented Reality” (VISTA AR).

The project deals with development and implementation of a range of exciting augmented reality and virtual reality experiences for a number of tourist attractions in the South of England and the North of France.

The Vista AR project is featured in a promotional video of Interreg. In the video Prof Andi Smart (project PI, University of Exeter) introduces the project.

You can watch the video on-line here.


New BU migrants’ health publication

The Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health (Springer) just accepted the latest paper by former FHSS Ph.D. student Dr. Pratik Adhikary (photo). [1]  His latest paper ‘Workplace accidents among Nepali male workers in the Middle East and Malaysia: A qualitative study’ is the fourth, and probably final, paper from his Bournemouth University Ph.D. thesis.  This latest paper is based on the qualitative part of the mixed-methods thesis, his previous papers focused more on the quantitative data. [2-4] 

Since this is a qualitative paper it also offers a more theoretical underpinning than the previous papers.  The work uses the dual labour market theory which associates labour migration specifically to the host economy as it explains migration from the demand side. Labour migrants from less developed economies travel to fill the unskilled and low-skill jobs as guest workers in more developed economies to do the jobs better trained and paid local workers do not want to do.  This theory also explains the active recruitment through labour agents in Nepal to help fulfil the demand for labour abroad, and it helps explain some of the exploitation highlighted in host countries. The theory also helps explain why lowly skilled migrant workers are often at a higher risk to their health than native workers . Similar to migrant workers from around the world, Nepali migrant workers also experience serious health and safety problems in the host countries including accidents and injuries.

The latest article will be Open Access in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health!



  1. Adhikary P, van Teijlingen E., Keen S. (2018) Workplace accidents among Nepali male workers in the Middle East and Malaysia: A qualitative study, Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health (First Online),
  2. Adhikary P., Keen S., van Teijlingen, E. (2011) Health Issues among Nepalese migrant workers in Middle East. Health Science Journal 5: 169-175.
  3. Adhikary, P., Sheppard, Z., Keen, S., van Teijlingen, E. (2017) Risky work: Accidents among Nepalese migrant workers in Malaysia, Qatar and Saudi, Health Prospect 16(2): 3-10.
  4. Adhikary P, Sheppard, Z., Keen S., van Teijlingen E. (2018) Health and well-being of Nepalese migrant workers abroad, International Journal of Migration, Health & Social Care 14(1): 96-105.