Category / Global engagement

Successful Bid-generating Sandpit designed and facilitated by BU academics Catalin Brylla and Lyle Skains

image with sandpit title, facilitator names, and sponsor logos27 early career academics from ten universities came together 30 April-1 May in Bournemouth for a two-day sandpit funded by The British Academy Early Career Researcher Network and organised by Dr. Catalin Brylla (Centre for the Study of Conflict, Emotion, and Social Justice) and Dr. Lyle Skains (Centre for Science, Health, and Data Communication Research). The participants specialise in a variety of disciplines such as performance, media, business management, environmental sciences, anthropology, computing, architecture, law, engineering, tourism, and health studies. They brought their interests in a sustainable world and society (as represented by the UN Sustainable Development Goals) to the sandpit for networking, team-building, and funding and project development workshops, many of which were based on the successful and innovative NESTA-developed ‘Crucible’ programme (no longer online, but see the Welsh Crucible).

image of 27 people seated in two rows of chairs facing one another, talking animatedlyThe success of the sandpit’s activities is highlighted by the culmination of six projects proposed to a panel of subject experts from Bournemouth University: Prof. Amanda Korstjens (ecology), Prof. Adele Ladkin (business), Prof. Huseyin Dogan (computing), Dr. Lyle Skains (arts practice and interdisciplinarity), Dr. Catalin Brylla (media practice) and Zarak Afzal (research development). These experts provide mentorship and feedback on the projects as they develop toward funding proposals. Two sandpit follow-up sessions will also aid the participants in developing their funding proposals.

A group of people around a table, writing notes, talking animatedly to one another. Other similar tables are in the background.This is the first ‘crucible’ sandpit of its kind offered through the BA ECRN, though plans are under development for further offerings in both the Southwest and other regional hubs.

To receive news of further sandpits and development opportunities, join the BA ECRN.

New Nature paper by IMSET researchers

An internationally significant and ground-breaking paper has appeared in the journal Nature, led by Dr Phil Riris of the Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions.

The work investigates 30,000 years of population resilience, with contributions from collaborating scholars from 14 institutions in 7 countries. The paper marks a watershed in our understanding of how people in the past adapted to, and overcame, disturbances. It is available in open access.

A schematic diagram of disturbances and population responses

Left: A sketch of an archaeological population time series with downturns and metrics obtained during the analysis. Right: Example types and groups of disturbances noted in the literature.

The key finding of the paper is that land use – the kinds of subsistence practices, mobility regimes, and extent of infrastructure investments – enhanced both how often a population experienced downturns and their ability to recover from them. In particular, agricultural and agropastoral societies in prehistory were especially likely to suffer demographic busts. However, they also displayed an improved ability over time to “bounce back”.

This result has wide-ranging implications for the development of sustainable land use practices, as traditional lifeways may have intrinsic rates of failure “baked into” their function and operation. The paper speculates that, similar to resilient ecosystems or ecological communities, such localised, small-scale, or short-term failures in human socio-environmental systems may contribute to building improved long-term resilience for the system as a whole.

Artistic impression of some of the types of disturbances experienced by ancient societies.

Importantly, these patterns only reveal themselves in the macro-scale comparison of independent case studies, and take multiple decades or even centuries to unfold. Archaeology is the only field able to tackle these timescales systematically, and underscores the value and contribution of the historical sciences to resilience-building and sustainability challenges in the present.

URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07354-8

The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/X002217/1).