Category / Research communication

Postdoc Appreciation Week: Enabling insights into reading behaviour

This week is UK Postdoc Appreciation Week and we are celebrating and showcasing the achievements of our postdoctoral researchers and their important contribution to research at BU. 

Today’s post is by Dr Julie Kirkby and Professor Marcin Budka about the work of Postdoctoral Researcher in Machine Learning for the Modelling of Eye Movements Thomas Mercier… 

Enabling Insights into Reading Behaviour and related Pathologies through Eye-Tracking Technology and Machine Learning

In the past decades, eye-tracking technology has emerged as an invaluable tool for uncovering the cognitive processes involved in reading by offering unique insights into individuals’ reading patterns. This technique involves measuring an individual’s gaze position on a computer screen over time with high accuracy to reveal critical information about where and how long their eyes are fixating while navigating text. This provides essential clues about mental processes at play during the act of reading.

Eye-Tracking Technology in Reading Research:

The data collected from eye-tracking technology has proven valuable not only for studying general reading behaviour but also specific disorders such as dyslexia. By examining an individual’s eye movements during a reading task, researchers can better understand the cognitive mechanisms engaged in comprehending written material and potentially improve interventions for those who struggle with reading due to neurological differences or other factors. Additionally, this technology has been used to gain insight into accessibility-related issues of visual stimuli such as web pages.

Challenges in Eye-Tracking Data Analysis: Line Assignment and Measurement Noise

While technological advancements have enabled the recording of gaze points during reading with high accuracy, raw eye-tracking data still requires post-processing to identify which gaze positions are part of fixations (periods of relative positional stability) and which are part of saccades (rapid ballistic eye-movements). Furthermore, for most data analysis in reading research these fixations need to be assigned to an area of interest in the reading stimulus, such as a character or word, depending on the experiment design.

This line assignment can become significantly more difficult when dealing with multi-line passages of text, usually requiring laborious manual correction. The assignment process is made non-trivial by noise present in the tracking data due to factors such as loss of calibration during an experiment, subtle head movements or pupil dilation. Such measurement noise may manifest as dynamically changing vertical drift of recorded gaze positions, causing them to appear closer to lines above or below the actual line being read.

Attempts have been made to create algorithms that automate the line assignment process to enable researchers to carry out larger studies involving multi-line reading experiments that more closely resemble reading as it would happen outside the lab. However, these techniques often lack sufficient accuracy and reliability, leading to manual correction remaining the gold standard for addressing noise in eye-tracking fixation data.

Julie Kirkby (Department of Psychology) and Marcin Budka (Department of Computing and Informatics) are working with post-doctoral researcher Thomas Mercier, to tackle this noise correction/lines assignment problem using modern machine learning algorithms. This works by utilising deep neural networks that work directly on sequences of fixations and assign each of them to their most appropriate line of text.

Thanks to the rich and diverse datasets from previous studies carried out at BU, Thomas was able to train such a model to outperform all previously published methods of automatic line assignment. This new model is highly consistent across all datasets, unlike previous models, which makes our model a robust, default choice that will automate this task and enable researchers across psychology and the cognitive sciences to carry out and analyse eye-tracking studies with larger amounts of text without being limited by the bottleneck of manual line assignments or the need to test multiple models.

As a result, Thomas’s work represents an important step forward in advancing our understanding of cognitive processes through improved methodologies for analysing large volumes of text-based eye-tracking data (paper currently under review in the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, a high impact journal).

Thomas will make the current code public and follow up with a publication focusing on usability of the program for non-machine learning researchers. Thomas is currently extending this model, to include diagnosing specific disorders such as dyslexia and schizophrenia.

If you’d like to write a blog post to share your appreciation for our postdoctoral researchers, please contact research@bournemouth.ac.uk. You can also get involved on social media during Postdoc Appreciation Week by using #LovePostdocs and #NPAW2023 on Twitter and Instagram and tagging us @BU_Research or @UK_NPAW.

Researchers discover huge Neolithic monument on the Isle of Arran

Bournemouth University researcher involved in groundbreaking discovery on Scottish island.


by Stephen Bates

A team of researchers have discovered what is believed to be a complete Neolithic cursus set within a rich prehistoric landscape on the Isle of Arran, Scotland.

This monument type is amongst the first that was built by farmers in Neolithic Britain and is huge – measuring 1.1km long and 50 metres wide.

A cursus is a vast Neolithic monument comprised of one or more rectangular enclosures. The cursus on Arran is defined by a large stone, earth and turf bank running around the entire perimeter of the enclosure. Constructing this monument would have involved staggering amounts of labour, transforming the entire local landscape.

This monument type could date to perhaps as early as 3500 BC, researchers say. It is the most complete example of this site type found in Britain and the opportunity to investigate a cursus bank is very rare and hugely exciting.

Prehistoric field boundaries, clearance cairns and round houses, at least some of which may be contemporary with the monument, have also found in the same landscape, all preserved within peatland, sealing the archaeological layers. Ancient soils representing the original Neolithic land surface, together with cultivated soils from the Bronze Age period, provide an unparalleled opportunity to understand how contemporary farming practice and settlement interacted with the cursus monument and how early farmers transformed this place.

Dr Emma Jenkins, Associate Professor in Archaeology at Bournemouth University, co-led the landscape geoarchaeology and environmental science work at the site, supported by Dr Sarah Elliott, Deputy Head of Department, Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) and Harry Manley, Demonstrator in LES.

This involved excavating areas near the cursus into the Neolithic land surfaces and Bronze Age field systems which will allow samples to be taken for dating and other environmental evidence. This will help the team to understand how people used and managed this important landscape and feed critical information into the rewilding strategy about the landscape history of the area.

Dr Jenkins said, “The Isle of Arran is well known for Machrie Moor with its Prehistoric stone and timber circles; standing stones and burial cairns but the discovery that these may be part of a much larger complex which included this enormous cursus elevates this into a region of global significance on a par with other ceremonial landscapes like Stonehenge. As an environmental archaeologist I am particularly excited by the discovery of well-preserved soils, contemporary with the creation of the cursus which means we can investigate how people used and modified this landscape from the time of the first farming communities in Britain.”

This research will provide invaluable information about landscape history and past ecosystems that will feed into the Rewilding strategy currently being put together by landowner David Bennett and the Northwoods Rewilding Network and wider work by Arran Geopark.  The team also supported participation by members of the local community in the research process and are exploring future learning and creative opportunities responding to the investigations.  Artists from the region were supported by North Ayrshire Council and Arran Theatre and Arts Trust to explore the excavation.

Professor Nicki Whitehouse, Professor of Archaeological Science, University of Glasgow,  said: “The initial discoveries reveal a highly unusual combination of a ceremonial monument within a prehistoric farming landscape. It is part of a continuum that likely linked to the ritual site at Machrie Moor, probably forming part of something much more extensive. The science work will allow us to understand about the animals and plants people farmed, how people impacted the landscape and its ecosystems and transformed their soils for cultivation – and what we may learn from this today.”

The combination of investigating all these elements together is highly unusual and has also involved experts from Universities of Birkbeck, Reading, Coventry, Birmingham, and Southampton as well as archaeologists from Archaeology Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland.


The discovery has seen widespread media coverage, including in The National, The Guardian, The Times (paywall) and The Scotsman (paywall).

Introduction to Patient and Public Involvement

This half day course is an introduction to PPI and will:
1. Define PPI and why it matters
2. Explore the links between PPI and health equity
3. Explain how to deliver PPI and support those involved

It will be an interactive session, including input from someone with lived experience, talking about their involvement in research.

It will be delivered by Sue Bickler from the Involving People team at Help and Care, an organisation that ‘helps people and communities live the lives they choose’.

Sue has worked in the voluntary sector, local authorities, and health, and has substantial experience engaging with people and communities to ensure that services meet their needs.  Her current role brings together the four Healthwatch in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (HIOW), ensuring that patient voice is central to decision making in the HIOW Integrated Care System and that people are equipped to support effective Patient and Public Involvement (PPI).

The session is funded by Clinical Research Network Wessex and is open to all health and care researchers working in Wessex including public contributors and community organisations.

Book your place here.  A link to the online training will then be sent to you.

Conversation article: how to recover from childbirth – an expert guide

Rosie Harper and Malika Felton write for The Conversation about the physical changes that take place during pregnancy and childbirth and share advice on recovery.

How to recover from childbirth – an expert guide

Rosie C Harper, Bournemouth University and Malika Felton, Bournemouth University

After all the physical changes during pregnancy and following childbirth, many women are left wondering how to get active again and where to begin. Of course, activity after childbirth is an individual journey with multiple things to consider – and one of the first considerations may not be what you expect: your pelvic floor.

Your pelvic floor muscles sit at the base of the pelvis. The muscles form a hammock-like structure that supports the bladder, womb and bottom. As many as one in three women experience unwanted bladder leaks or vaginal prolapse in their lifetime and many of these symptoms can start during pregnancy or following childbirth. This is because this small muscle group takes the weight of the baby for nine months and may be stretched during vaginal delivery.

Your pelvic floor supports the bladder and vaginal tissues, helping bladder and bowel control and vaginal position. Recovery of these muscles prevents unwanted leaks, improves internal comfort and allows women to confidently increase activity.


This article is part of Women’s Health Matters, a series about the health and wellbeing of women and girls around the world. From menopause to miscarriage, pleasure to pain the articles in this series will delve into the full spectrum of women’s health issues to provide valuable information, insights and resources for women of all ages.

You may be interested in:

Spain is the egg donation capital of Europe – here’s what it’s like to be a donor

‘Dirty red’: how periods have been stigmatised through history to the modern day

The orgasm gap and why women climax less than men


So focusing on your pelvic floor around pregnancy and postnatally can help you to recover more easily after childbirth and will allow you to get ready to be more active when you feel up to it.

If you’ve just given birth (or are about to) and you’re wondering where to start, here’s what you need to know:

1. Keep your poo soft

Straining on the toilet can overstretch the pelvic floor muscles which makes it harder for them to work properly. To avoid this you can keep your poo soft by drinking lots of water and increasing the fibre in your diet, such as high-fibre cereals, brown pasta and nuts.

Also, consider your position on the toilet. The use of a stool underneath your feet can make it easier to poo without straining as it helps to straighten the end of the bowel.

2. Get your pelvic floor moving

Squeezing and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles daily can improve blood flow to the area and speed up recovery following childbirth. This is because pelvic floor activity can improve the strength and function of the muscles to help bladder control and vaginal support.

The evidence shows that it usually takes a good three months of regular pelvic floor use to change symptoms – and every squeeze can make a difference. After a vaginal delivery and even after a c-section, the recovery time for the pelvic floor continues for up to one year.

Woman lying on a bed with baby in the air.
You can do pelvic floor exercises anytime.
pexels monica turlui, CC BY

One of the biggest problems with pelvic floor training is that women aren’t sure they are doing the exercises correctly and regularly forget to do the exercises.

To engage your pelvic floor muscles imagine you are holding in wind and trying to close the vaginal opening at the same time. You may feel a lifting and tightening inside of you. Try to breathe normally and relax other muscles like your tummy and buttocks.

To check you are doing it correctly, you can use a mirror to look at the area between your front and back passage. This area (the perineum) will move slightly up and inwards with a correct contraction. After each contraction, let your pelvic floor muscles fully relax. Pelvic health physiotherapists recommend squeezing your pelvic floor for ten seconds before relaxing for ten repetitions, followed by ten short squeezes. And to do this three times a day.

3. Let things settle and go gently

The pelvis and abdominal muscles also need time to recover from carrying a baby. Many women have a normal stretch and separation of their tummy muscles, which in a lot of cases improves around eight weeks after delivery, for others it can take six months. The tummy helps to support the pelvis so rushing back to activity too quickly can put unnecessary strain on these areas.

Opt instead for a gentle increase in activity to help the muscles and joints settle such as walking, yoga or pilates rather than starting higher impact activity, like running, too early.

4. Check your mental health

The pressures on women postnatally can feel overwhelming and combined with sleep deprivation things can take a toll mentally. The National Perinatal Mental Health Project Report focuses on improving mental health support for women after they have given birth by providing more support services. These services can be accessed by speaking to your GP, midwife, health visitor or pelvic health physiotherapist.

Although a good level of activity can improve mental health, over-training can have a negative effect on the body, so take it steady and keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re functioning at a pace that feels comfortable and that you’re not overdoing it. Listen to your body and avoid comparison as everybody and every pregnancy is different.

Above all else, remember to be kind to yourself, your body has just gone through a massive change. Looking after your mental health and concentrating on your pelvic floor are good starting points. Getting more active with the muscles around your pelvis, including your tummy, can all help during the natural recovery time frame. But listen to your body and take things at your own pace.The Conversation

Rosie C Harper, Clinical academic PhD candidate, Bournemouth University and Malika Felton, Senior Lecturer in Health and Exercise Physiology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

NIHR Be Part of Research platform

The NIHR Be Part of Research platform is an online service that makes it easy for research participants to find and take part in health and social care research. Participants may search for trials and studies taking place looking at certain health conditions and in locations accessible to them.

Clinical researchers may also make use of the service to extend their recruitment and widen their recruitment methods, as the platform has been designed to make it easier for researchers and potential study participants to find each other.

Using Be Part of Research to recruit participants

To use the service for your recruitment, the study must meet the following requirements:

  • Be funded or supported by the NIHR. This includes studies on the NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio.
  • Have Research Ethics Committee approval to use the service as a recruitment tool.
  • Have a dedicated point of contact such as a pre-screener or website for interested volunteers to engage with your research team.

Getting your study onto the Be Part of Research platform

Once your study has been registered on either ISRCTNClinicalTrials.gov, or on the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS), your project will then appear on Be Part of Research. Given those visiting the site are mostly patients and members of the public, medical and scientific terminology should be omitted when writing your study summary, with plain English used to ensure the information is accessible to a broad audience. In order to do this, you should:
  • Keep it short – but don’t oversimplify it. The reader must understand what the study is trying to achieve.
  • Imagine you are talking to the reader.
  • Take out any jargon.
  • Make sure you cover the what, why, when, where and how so they have the basics of your study.

Additionally, to make sure that participants contact the appropriate person, the contact details provided on ISRCTN or ClinicalTrials.gov should be up to date and accurate. In general, the registry record should be monitored continuously so that any changes are reflected on Be Part of Research as soon as possible.

Further support/contact

If you have any questions regarding the platform or regarding clinical research in general, please email Suzy Wignall, Clinical Governance Advisor: swignall@bournemouth.ac.uk or clinicalresearch@bournemouth.ac.uk

PTHP advert for a Research Assistant ( TANGERINE)

Do you have experience in quantitative data analysis and analysing large datasets?

 

We have an exciting opportunity for a part-time research assistant role to undertake secondary data analysis of UK Biobank and Understanding Society data using statistics software (e.g. Stata, R).

We have secured prestigious funding from UKRI (MRC) for a project starting 30th September 2023. The project is a collaboration between Bournemouth University as lead, Loughborough University and University of Chester that aims to develop a food-based intervention to improve nutrition in UK South Asian and Black African and Caribbean older adults.

There is up to 240 hours of funded work to be delivered between a 6-12 month period and can be undertaken through secure remote working.

If you would like to know more about the opportunity, please send your CV and email (no later than 25th August 2023) to Professor Rebecca Hardy, Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics r.j.hardy@lboro.ac.uk. or Professor Jane Murphy, Professor of Nutrition jmurphy@bournemouth.ac.uk. Please contact Professor Hardy if you have any queries about the skills required for the post.

 

We welcome expressions of interest from people from a Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic background but accept applications from all groups.

 

Conversation article: Fans are finding out just how disappointing merchandise for women’s football is

Dr Keith Parry co-authors this article for The Conversation about the choice and availability of kits for women’s football fans…

Fans are finding out just how disappointing merchandise for women’s football is

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University; Beth Clarkson, University of Portsmouth, and Katie Sveinson, UMass Amherst

England goalkeeper Mary Earps was named player of the match in England’s victory over Nigeria in the Fifa Women’s World Cup. She has played a key role in England’s recent successes, not just at the World Cup but in previous tournaments. Her performances have made her a hero to her fans.

But Earps’ fans are unable to emulate her by wearing a replica of her goalkeeper shirt: it is not being put up for sale by team kit manufacturer Nike. Earps has said that her goalkeeping shirt not being available to buy is “hurtful”, and a petition by fans calling for the shirt to be produced has reached over 35,000 signatures.

We are currently researching the availability of kits for women’s football fans, together with colleague Jess Richards. The merchandise and clothing available to female fans and male fans of women’s teams is often limited, undesirable or just not available.

Female fans have expressed dissatisfaction with merchandise offered in varying shades of pink. A women’s Manchester United shirt with a low neckline produced in 2015 was criticised for sexualising fans.

Or women may feel obliged to buy a shirt that doesn’t fit them if women’s cuts (shirts made to fit the shape of a female torso) of men’s team shirts are unavailable.

Here, we’ve looked at the kits women can buy on the official online stores for six teams to explore some of these issues.

World Cup clothing

The official online store for England football kits currently highlights the women’s home kit on their home page. Fans can buy a men’s cut – a shirt fitted to the shape of a male torso – of the Lionesses’ shirt, including personalised versions with player names on.

But female fans have fewer items available specifically for them in the store. There are no women’s fit versions of the men’s national team jersey.

The same is true for France – men can buy a men’s fit of the women’s team kit, but there is no women’s fit of the men’s team jersey currently available.

In their official online shop the Republic of Ireland offer women the women’s national team jersey in two different fits. They do also have the women’s national team goalkeeper kit for sale. However, the men’s team shirts are available in both long and short sleeved versions, but the women’s team shirts only come with short sleeves.

The online store for Canada Soccer also features the women’s kit prominently, but the high-end “authentic jersey” is only available for the men’s team, and only in men’s sizes. A women’s fit of the men’s jersey is not available at all.

US soccer fans hoping to emulate women’s team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher are currently only able to buy outfield shirts with her name on it on the official kit website. The only goalkeeper jersey on offer is for the men’s national team and it is only available in a men’s fit. The store has many more items for men than for women, even for products replicating the women’s national team kit.

In 2020 in Australia the away version of the Matildas’ kit, produced by Nike, was not initially available in a women’s cut. Football Australia now has equal availability in terms of the replica jerseys and there are more items for women than for men. But the replica shirts that are currently available for the men’s team are only offered in men’s sizes.

Buying merchandise and especially replica shirts is important to fans. It is a way to show loyalty to a team and helps to develop a sense of identity.

The fan clothing worn by women can affect whether they feel they are considered as “authentic” fans. Sporting culture continues to be dominated by men.

Subtle differences in how women’s sport is treated, such as those we have found here, show that women are still disadvantaged. It is important that fans continue to push for equal opportunities on and off the pitch.The Conversation

Keith Parry, Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Event Management, Bournemouth University; Beth Clarkson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management, University of Portsmouth, and Katie Sveinson, Assistant professor, UMass Amherst

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

An Appreciate Inquiry into NHS Maternity Services

 

 

Congratulation to Dr. Rachel Arnold and her Centre for Midwifery & Women’s Health research team on the publication yesterday of their paper ‘I might have cried in the changing room, but I still went to work’. Maternity staff balancing roles, responsibilities, and emotions of work and home during COVID-19: An appreciative inquiry [1].   This paper focuses on how to support staff and enhance their well-being in a small UK maternity service.  The underpinning methodological approach is appreciative inquiry using interviews with 39 maternity staff and four group discussions exploring meaningful experiences, values and factors that helped their well-being.

The key findings are that maternity staff members were highly motivated, managing a complex melee of emotions and responsibilities including challenges to professional confidence, mental health, family situation, and conflict between work-life roles. Despite staff shortages, a demanding workload, professional and personal turmoil, and the pandemic participants still found meaning in their work and relationships.  The authors go on to argue for a ‘whole person’ approach, since this approach provided insight into the multiple stressors and emotional demands staff faced. It also revealed staff resourcefulness in managing their professional and personal roles. They invested in relationships with women but were also aware of their limits – the need to be self-caring, employ strategies to switch-off, set boundaries or keep a protective distance.  Overall, the paper concludes hat staff’s well-being initiatives, and research into well-being, would benefit from adopting a holistic approach that incorporates home and family with work. Research on emotion regulation strategies could provide insights into managing roles, responsibilities, and the emotional demands of working in maternity services. Emotion regulation strategies could be included in midwifery and obstetric training.

This paper was proceeded by a more methodological paper on the application of Appreciative Inquiry in this study [2].

 

References:

  1. Arnold, R., Way, S., Mahato, P., van Teijlingen, E. (2023) “I might have cried in the changing room, but I still went to work”. Maternity staff managing roles, responsibilities, and emotions of work and home during COVID-19: an Appreciative Inquiry, Women & Birth (online first) 
  2. Arnold, R., Gordon, C., Way, S., Mahato, P., van Teijlingen, E. (2022) Why use Appreciative Inquiry? Lessons learned during COVID-19 in a UK maternity service, European Journal of Midwifery 6 (May): 1-7.

Conversation article: How community markets for all could be a sustainable alternative to food banks

Dr Rounaq Nayak writes for The Conversation about his research into the value of community food banks…

How community markets for all could be a sustainable alternative to food banks

Troyan/Shutterstock

Rounaq Nayak, Bournemouth University

The number of people using food banks in the UK has increased from 26,000 in 2008-09 to more than 100 times that in 2023. Nearly one in five British households experienced moderate to severe food insecurity in September 2022.

In the financial year to April 2023, Trussell Trust, the largest (but not the only) network of food banks in the UK, distributed emergency food parcels to nearly three million people.

Food banks provide free, pre-prepared parcels of food to those most in need. They have provided a great deal of support for low-income families, especially during the cost of living crisis.

However, they are not perfect. Food banks offer people little choice, are dependent on unreliable supply chains. Research has also shown that people who use food banks often experience shame and stigma when doing so.

My research, with colleague Heather Hartwell at Bournemouth University, has found a viable alternative. Community markets selling food and household items at subsidised rates to all could be a sustainable solution to the problems with existing food support programmes.

Food banks rely heavily on donations. But rising food prices means even would-be donors are struggling to buy that extra can of beans and other items. Beneficiaries of food banks also told us that parcels were mostly made up of dried, tinned and processed foods.

While it is important that parcels have a long shelf life, people experiencing food poverty want a choice of fresh and frozen food items, including meat. The constraints in the range and quality of food available are also associated with health problems such as diabetes, asthma and obesity.

Food banks also do not empower people who use them to become self-sufficient. Rather, they often result in long-term reliance on food aid. Hence, food banks offer temporary relief from hunger without addressing the bigger issues that lead to food insecurity.

Community markets

Community markets operate differently to food banks. They are open to everyone in the local community, regardless of income level, and provide a range of food choices along with other items such as school uniforms and toiletries.

We interviewed 38 people who regularly used or were involved in the operation of these programmes in the UK. Through these discussions, we assessed how well community markets address the challenges of food security, and found that they are a possible solution to the limitations of food banks and parcel distribution.

Community markets do not solely rely on donations from the public or businesses. They pay a subscription to charity networks such as FareShare, which provide the market with items in bulk, which are sold to the community at a subsidised rate. All revenue from sales is reinvested to pay for future bulk purchases.

People with low incomes who shop at community markets told us they enjoyed having food at affordable food prices and felt a stronger sense of autonomy, and being part of the community. They did not feel their reliance on food support was a barrier to being part of society. As one person said:

I very much prefer being able to choose my food instead of being given parcels. … It just feels dignified to be able to pay for goods, even if it is at subsidised rates, and then being able to choose what I want based on what I would like to eat.

A middle-aged man wearing a face mask and carrying a shopping basket in front of refrigerator cases in a supermarket
People across social classes are struggling with high food prices.
Anna Nahabed/Shutterstock

Food for all

These markets can be used by people from across the community, including those on a higher income. People who were more well-off told us they wanted to shop at the markets because they felt they were giving back, spending their money to be reinvested in the programme:

I thought that people who would come to the market … would be very needy, not only financially but mentally as well but it isn’t like that … I like shopping here because the money I pay is invested back into the community.

Additionally, community markets serve as a hub, offering organised group activities and services for people, such as cooking and gardening classes, yoga and sewing. Through these activities, the community markets are tackling loneliness and other health issues – not just hunger.

Community markets are economically self-sufficient. They use revenue generated from selling products at subsidised rates to subscribe to charitable food surplus redistribution organisations. This financial independence sets them apart from food banks, which often rely on grants. They can also be environmentally sustainable, actively reducing food waste and their carbon footprint by redistributing surplus food to local emergency services and farms.

As more people rely on food aid, it’s important that local councils and national governments support alternatives to food banks. For the family struggling to fill the fridge or the student coping with higher rent, our findings show community markets could be of significant help, while allowing people to maintain their dignity and be part of their community.The Conversation

Rounaq Nayak, Lecturer in Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Masterclass: Writing for Policy and Building your Online Profile – 7th September

This is a free online event for academics interested in policy engagement, run by Showrunner Communications on 7th September, 13:00-15:00. You can sign up via Eventbrite.

During this session, participants will learn to write for policy stakeholders, including advice on drafting comment articles and blogs, and Select Committee and Government consultation responses.

This session will also focus on building participants’ professional social media profiles and emphasising their expertise online.

Showrunner’s training workshops build the understanding and skills that academics need to effectively achieve policy impact throughout their careers.

This session will be delivered by Nicky Hobbs and Jennifer Harrison, who are communications, policy, and education specialists, in partnership with Showrunner Communications and the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network.

Jennifer Harrison

Jennifer has a distinctive track record within the fields of policy, public affairs, and communications, on behalf of national and local government, the voluntary and community sector, and higher education. Her work has been used by think tanks and policy institutes, directly influenced legislative and policy change, and has represented policy interests at the highest level, including meetings with ministers, in regional and national media, and at parliamentary inquiries.

Jennifer was Durham University’s first policy engagement lead, working with academics to successfully achieve REF and societal impact. This included helping to secure the first ever parliamentary inquiry into urban soil health, securing changes to criminal justice legislation, and campaigning to end irresponsible lending practices that exacerbate poverty. She has been Chair of the Russell Group Political Affairs Network and has contributed widely to thought leadership across the sector, including policy blogs and conference speaking engagements focusing on the nature of policy engagement and research impact.

Nicky Hobbs

Nicky is a communications and engagement leader with over two decades of experience, Nicky has run programmes and led teams for multiple private and public sector organisations.

Nicky has led award-winning communications departments in two Russell Group universities; UCL and Queen Mary and stakeholder engagement at a Government department. At Queen Mary, Nicky led communications for the ground-breaking City of London Institute of Technology which opened in 2022. As a consultant, she has led engagement campaigns for multiple social enterprises and charities and has significant expertise in developing high-impact digital content with a focus on higher and further education.

 

The call for the next round of BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants will be opening soon.

Call opens: 6 September 2023 
Expected deadline: 8 November 2023
 

We will be welcoming your proposals for the upcoming BA/Leverhulme Small grants call!

The below deadlines will be in place to ensure that the pre-award team can provide all interested academics with optimal support in a timely manner.

Please see below our timelines and the updated process.

6th September 2023

6th September till  25th September 

RDS British Academy Guidance session 

Join us to review the guidance and then start work on your application; Slides and proposal form will be available after the session on Brightspace.

Work on your proposal and once your draft is ready, forward to RDS.

6th September 2023 Call Opens
29th September  
Intention to bid form latest date to be submitted
Remember to advise your referee that you will be sending them your completed application on FlexiGrant and they will need to provide their supporting statement by 1st November. 
 29th September If you are Grade 8 or below and you wish to use the support of an External Application Reviewer (EAR), you must submit your draft application to RDS by this date.
01/11/2023 at the latest  Nominated referee supporting statement to be completed via FlexiGrant

Note that the earlier you complete you application on FlexiGrant, the more time the referee will have to review your bid and provide the supporting statement.

02/11/23 at the latest.  Your final application must be submitted on FlexiGrant by this date at the latest.

Click ‘submit’ and the form will be sent to BU’s account for RDS checks.

 02-08th November Institutional checks to take place by RDS

RDS will work with you to ensure compliance with all funder’s requirements.

Conversation article: ChatGPT isn’t the death of homework – just an opportunity for schools to do things differently

Professor Andy Phippen writes for The Conversation about how educate can adapt to AI technology…

ChatGPT isn’t the death of homework – just an opportunity for schools to do things differently

Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock

Andy Phippen, Bournemouth University

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) platform launched by research company Open AI, can write an essay in response to a short prompt. It can perform mathematical equations – and show its working.

ChatGPT is a generative AI system: an algorithm that can generate new content from existing bodies of documents, images or audio when prompted with a description or question. It’s unsurprising concerns have emerged that young people are using ChatGPT and similar technology as a shortcut when doing their homework.

But banning students from using ChatGPT, or expecting teachers to scour homework for its use, would be shortsighted. Education has adapted to – and embraced – online technology for decades. The approach to generative AI should be no different.

The UK government has launched a consultation on the use of generative AI in education, following the publication of initial guidance on how schools might make best use of this technology.

In general, the advice is progressive and acknowledged the potential benefits of using these tools. It suggests that AI tools may have value in reducing teacher workload when producing teaching resources, marking, and in administrative tasks. But the guidance also states:

Schools and colleges may wish to review homework policies, to consider the approach to homework and other forms of unsupervised study as necessary to account for the availability of generative AI.

While little practical advice is offered on how to do this, the suggestion is that schools and colleges should consider the potential for cheating when students are using these tools.

Nothing new

Past research on student cheating suggested that students’ techniques were sophisticated and that they felt remorseful only if caught. They cheated because it was easy, especially with new online technologies.

But this research wasn’t investigating students’ use of Chat GPT or any kind of generative AI. It was conducted over 20 years ago, part of a body of literature that emerged at the turn of the century around the potential harm newly emerging internet search engines could do to student writing, homework and assessment.

We can look at past research to track the entry of new technologies into the classroom – and to infer the varying concerns about their use. In the 1990s, research explored the impact word processors might have on child literacy. It found that students writing on computers were more collaborative and focused on the task. In the 1970s, there were questions on the effect electronic calculators might have on children’s maths abilities.

In 2023, it would seem ludicrous to state that a child could not use a calculator, word processor or search engine in a homework task or piece of coursework. But the suspicion of new technology remains. It clouds the reality that emerging digital tools can be effective in supporting learning and developing crucial critical thinking and life skills.

Get on board

Punitive approaches and threats of detection make the use of such tools covert. A far more progressive position would be for teachers to embrace these technologies, learn how they work, and make this part of teaching on digital literacy, misinformation and critical thinking. This, in my experience, is what young people want from education on digital technology.

Children in class looking at tablets.
Young people should learn how to use these online tools.
Ground Picture/Shutterstock

Children should learn the difference between acknowledging the use of these tools and claiming the work as their own. They should also learn whether – or not – to trust the information provided to them on the internet.

The educational charity SWGfL, of which I am a trustee, has recently launched an AI hub which provides further guidance on how to use these new tools in school settings. The charity also runs Project Evolve, a toolkit containing a large number of teaching resources around managing online information, which will help in these classroom discussions.

I expect to see generative AI tools being merged, eventually, into mainstream learning. Saying “do not use search engines” for an assignment is now ridiculous. The same might be said in the future about prohibitions on using generative AI.

Perhaps the homework that teachers set will be different. But as with search engines, word processors and calculators, schools are not going to be able to ignore their rapid advance. It is far better to embrace and adapt to change, rather than resisting (and failing to stop) it.The Conversation

Andy Phippen, Professor of IT Ethics and Digital Rights, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.