Tagged / impact

Ingenuity launches at BU: sign up today to help drive the UK’s recovery and rebuild a better society after Covid-19

The Ingenuity 2022 Programme is now live and open to Bournemouth University staff, students and alumni

Ingenuity exists to tackle the UK’s major social and environmental challenges through the creation of innovative start-ups. Registration is open to everyone, no matter your background or experience. If you have an idea or are motivated to see change, Ingenuity is ready to help. Find out more at ingenuityimpact.org.

Register today: forms.office.com/r/m39e80f2Rw. Deadline: 2 December 2021.

What is Ingenuity?

The Ingenuity Programme helps you turn your ideas for change into a business that creates impact. If you want to build stronger, more inclusive communities, improve the physical or mental health of those around you, or are interested in tackling climate change, then register for the Ingenuity Programme today.

Participants will hear from industry experts and gain support from specialist mentors to develop their idea into a business plan. They can submit the idea to a competition and be in with a chance of winning significant investment and support.

Ingenuity Summit

Ingenuity’s ‘state of the nation’ summit will explore the following three areas of focus from local, national, and lived experience perspectives:

  • Building Stronger Communities
  • Improving Health
  • Tackling Climate Change

The summit takes place 6 – 8 December 2021 and brings together industry experts, regional panellists, and the local community to share their insights on how to build stronger communities, improve health, and tackle climate change.

New Research Impact Fund call launching soon

The next round of the Research Impact Fund will be launched in early November

This funding is open to researchers at all stages of their careers, whether building relationships for future research projects, or seeking to realise the real-world changes their existing research could make.

The Research Impact Fund will:

  • Deliver support for developing impact
  • Improve the culture of research impact
  • Create a pipeline of potential case studies for future assessment exercises
  • Reward and recognise the efforts of those working towards developing the impact of their research.

For the 2021-22 call there will be two main strands:

Strand 1: Supporting the development of impact – aimed at early career researchers or those new to research / impact

The aim of this strand is to support the development of new partnerships and networks. These will lay the groundwork for future research projects which start with considering how to meet the needs of key stakeholders with proposed research questions.

Strand 2: Supporting areas of emerging impact

This will be used to support academic staff who have evidence of underpinning research and evidence of the impact potential of this research. The aim is to develop and accelerate research impact and support the creation of an impact pipeline in preparation for future REF exercises.

In addition, a small travel fund will be available throughout the year that will facilitate relationship building with external stakeholders such as policymakers or industry contacts, and can lead to impact development.

Details of the full call will follow early next month. In the meantime, for any informal enquires about the fund, please email Research Impact.

You can watch a short video introduction to impact here.

“Research impact is the good that researchers can do in the world.”
Mark Reed, Fast Track Impact

Expression of Interest

We are seeking Expressions of Interest in participating in an NIHR funded project to develop a patent protected mobile phone-based app to monitor impairment of sensory nerve function. The project will involve the development of a phone attachment device to couple vibrations from the phone to the body to assess nerve function. The developed phone attachment device will be used in a clinical study of diabetic patients.

The position holder will participate in or wholly undertake research and technical development of the mobile phone attachment. Using 3D printed parts, the position holder will model and develop innovative attachments of different morphology and complexity that can alter the vibration characteristics of mobile phones transmitting as a probe. Good 3D modelling knowledge and skills will be required together with experience of specific software packages (e.g. Solidworks), 3D scanning of shapes and 3D printing. The vibration characteristics of mobile phones with standardised devices will be evaluated and refined to automatically calibrate different phone vibrations and provide consistent readings. The post holder would contribute or be wholly responsible for producing printed parts and liaising with project/business partners and clinicians across the team and be involved in project management and dissemination of findings.

This position will be of interest to those who have relevant experience in software modelling, a mechanical/electronics engineering background with relevant technical skills. Experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team with experimental aptitude would be an advantage.

Key Objectives:

  • Work within a team and effectively support the technical development of the project
  • Develop attachment probes for different mobile phones using 3D technology
  • Design, model and print parts on 3D printing machines and test their functionality
  • Attend research meetings and project management meetings
  • Disseminate research findings through joint publications

Project management:

  • Assist the management of the project and communicate effectively with project team and partner Liaise with project partners across hospitals and industrial partners
  • Work with stakeholders from the Healthcare sector and user community
  • Comply with General Data Protection Regulation, Research Governance and

The post is remunerated and can be either P/T (2 years) or F/T (1 year) for suitably qualified candidates such as a PDRA or a PhD student who has completed their project work and is writing up/finished.

The closing date for EoIs is 29th September 2021. If you are interested and wish to make a formal application or want to know more about this exciting project, please contact:

Professor Tamas Hickish

Tamas.hickish@uhd.nhs.uk

Mobile: 07702255509

Research impact at BU: building privacy and security into software design; reporting on disaster in Nepal

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Productive security and privacy by design: building security and privacy tools into the earliest stages of software development

Research areas: Systems Security Engineering, Computer Science & Psychology

Staff conducting research: Dr Shamal Faily, Dr Jane Henriksen-Bulmer, Dr John McAlaney

Background: Dr Faily’s research explores how personas – as a vehicle for user experience (UX) techniques in general – can be instrumental in incorporating security into software design prior to architectural design and software development. His work demonstrates how the activity of creating personas leads to better security requirements and how the elicitation and management of personas can be incorporated into integrated tool-support. In addition, his findings show how personas based only on assumptions can help find security problems once software has been developed and where the design data is sub-optimal.

Dr Faily and Dr McAlaney collaborated on a number of research projects with the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), identifying factors that influence how security analysts interpret risk, as well as principles for designing software used by cybersecurity risk-based decision-makers. Dr Henriksen-Bulmer has also explored whether the design techniques and tools for security are equally applicable when considering privacy – particularly in helping organisations and charities make sense of the General Data Protection Act’s impact on products and services.

The impact:

Supporting industry

BU’s research was adopted by Ricardo Rail (RR), a consultancy that provides technical expertise, assurance and specialist engineering services to rail companies around the world, enabling its clients to better understand emergent qualities of their systems such as safety, security and usability and the relationship between them. RR’s first application of the research was on a project conducting cyber security risk analysis of a rolling stock platform developed by a major UK-based manufacturer. By modelling personas developed by BU, RR was able to identify and investigate threats and control measures in greater detail, which would not have been the case otherwise

Supporting UK government

DSTL uses ‘the best science and technology capabilities’ to respond to the Ministry of Defence’s needs regarding current operations and future defence strategy. A key element is its support of military operations in rapidly changing situations in coalition with other nations. It is therefore essential that risk-based decision-making is understood across organisational boundaries. DSTL has used BU’s research to support its work with Defence Spectrum Management ‘to ensure defence use of the electromagnetic spectrum [signals such as radio, infrared or radar] is efficient’ and remove the potential for conflict between different users.

Supporting charities

When the new GDPR legislation was introduced in 2018, UK charities were struggling to establish how to demonstrate compliance. BU worked with renowned UK addiction rehabilitation charity StreetScene to demonstrate how techniques and tools resulting from our research could help. Dr Henriksen-Bulmer helped them evaluate the readiness of their existing policies and procedures with BU’s privacy risk assessment processes and tools, which were then used to train staff. This training, and that of other charities across the region, helped them reduce the amount of time and resources spent on privacy compliance activities, allowing for more time to be devoted to their charitable goals.

Strengthening disaster preparedness and resilience of news media in Nepal

Research areas: Journalism & Communication

Staff conducting research: Dr Chindhu Sreedharan, Professor Einar Thorsen

Nepal earthquake, 2015

Background: After the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, it emerged that the country’s news outlets were ill-prepared to report on such events. This was despite the fact that journalists play a vital role during disasters: facilitating accurate public messaging, holding power to account, and aiding in the national recovery process. Dr Sreedharan and Professor Thorsen’s research identified for the first time that a lack of editorial preparedness was preventing the news media from meeting this responsibility.

BU’s Aftershock Nepal study mapped the key challenges Nepali journalists faced after the 2015 earthquakes. The project explored the requirements of sustained disaster journalism, assessed the levels of news media preparedness, and suggested good practices and culturally specific recommendations to strengthen post-disaster journalism. Using a website that published earthquake reportage by student journalists, researchers analysed the non-preparedness of Nepali journalists to identify their disaster-specific training needs.

In 2019, in partnership with UNESCO Kathmandu, BU published a bilingual book in Nepali and English that expanded the scope of Aftershock Nepal to consider resilience in the context of floods, landslides, and other climate-induced disasters. The book’s recommendations focused on three areas: building resilience for journalists, building capacity for news investigations, and building resilience for the future.

This was followed in August 2020 by a bilingual report, published with the Nepal Press Institute, which mapped the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the news industry. Findings revealed journalists experienced increased vulnerability, anxiety and grief, while others had taken a pay cut or lost their jobs. The report outlined 10 recommendations targeting psychological resilience of journalists, financial solutions, health protection and building future disaster resilience.

The impact:

Changing policy and practice

BU’s research has had far-reaching impact on the policies and practice of a range of news organisations, as well as UNESCO and the Nepal government:

  • In direct response, Kamana Group – one of Nepal’s largest media groups, with a daily audience reach of 850,000 – adopted a disaster-specific editorial policy across all its publications,
  • UNESCO used the research to strengthen its planning on disaster journalism capacity-building,
  • Following BU recommendations, news organisations were included in Nepal’s Disaster Risk Reduction National Strategic Plan of Action 2018-30 for the first time,
  • The Federation of Nepali Journalists, the country’s umbrella organisation of media professionals, made disaster journalism a strategic priority,
  • The national organisation of women journalists in Nepal, Working Women Journalists, based its capacity-building activities on the BU research,
  • Responding to BU recommendations, the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Nepal investigated the impact of Covid-19 on Nepali society, recognising the vital part disaster-specific investigations play in strengthening resilience.

Capacity building for journalists and students:

  • Nepal Press Institute, the national industry training body for journalists, adapted its training delivery and curriculum to meet the present pandemic climate, with 76 journalists to date trained in disaster reporting.
  • Disaster Journalism Network was established in 2020 by six community news organisations, in direct response to BU recommendations to bolster disaster resilience by creating collaborative networks. To our knowledge, this is the world’s first ‘multi-room collaborative to strengthen disaster journalism’. Through its activities and journalism, it has helped protect the physical safety of journalists and supported community members in getting their voices heard by politicians.
  • After observing the impact on students of participating in Aftershock Nepal, Tribhuvan University (12th largest in the world with 600,000 students) revised its undergraduate journalism curriculum to include disaster journalism lessons.
  • Kantipur City College initiated curriculum changes to its courses, based on BU research, incorporating disaster journalism in subjects such as Media Theories, Public Communication and Media Management.

Research impact at BU: digital preservation of human fossil footprints; creating an interactive role for readers

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Discovering and preserving human fossil footprints at White Sands National Park, New Mexico

The dunes at White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Research areas: Environmental & Geographical Sciences, Data Science, Hominin Palaeoecology

Staff conducting research: Professor Matthew Bennett, Professor Marcin Budka, Dr Sally Reynolds

Background: Fossil footprints are an important, but neglected, part of the palaeontological and archaeological record. Professor Bennett, a recognised authority on human footprints, received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to develop analytical approaches for the capture and analysis of human footprints, and then translate the work into the freeware DigTrace. DigTrace is an integrated software solution for the capture and analysis of 3D data of footprints, and can be applied to both fossil footprints and forensic practice. Along with similar  ‘Structure from Motion’ photogrammetry approaches, DigTrace has revolutionised vertebrate ichnology, providing data for advanced biomechanical analysis, enhanced visualisation, and the preservation of fragile fossil footprints.

Professor Bennett was approached by the US National Park Service (NPS) to help them identify human tracks at White Sands National Park in New Mexico and advise on conservation methods. They had already found the tracks of Ice Age animals such as giant ground sloth and mammoth but wanted to know more about potential human fossil footprints. In collaboration with David Bustos, the park’s resource manager, Professor Bennett quickly confirmed the presence of human footprints. Casts of the fossil tracks are now on display in Harvard University’s Peabody Museum and PLOS SciComm listed the findings as number one in its ‘Top 9 discoveries in human evolution’ in 2020.

The research is ongoing, including the discovery and analysis of the longest known human trackway so far reported, and the team has also pioneered the geo-prospection of human tracks using geophysical methods. The discovery of the footprints was featured in The Conversation, and covered extensively in the media, including: National Geographic, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, The Times, Atlantic, BBC Radio, New Scientist and many more.

The impact: 

Using DigTrace, and the research findings, Professor Bennett helped the NPS develop conservation management methods and approaches, enabling them to digitally conserve the eroding footprints. Using geophysics, the researchers developed methods for mapping hidden tracks for the NPS staff to use.

The intense media interest generated in the footprints, together with the description of how the humans involved would have been actively hunting giant ground sloth, was used by local politicians to launch draft legislation to re-designate White Sands as a Park and include the words ‘palaeontology’ and ‘archaeology’ in the founding legislation. The legislative process was slow but President Trump finally signed off on the name change and re-designation in December 2019. The NPS acknowledged the importance of Professor Bennett and his team’s track research in bringing about the re-designation and the Smithsonian National Museum confirmed the site’s significance within the Americas.

Independent research undertaken by a non-profit research group at the time suggested that the impact to the local economy of Alamogordo (Otero County) was likely to be worth $6m a year due to an enhanced number of visitors to the park.

Enabling the Genarrator Generation: creating a more active, participatory role for modern readers

The Genarrator website

Research area: Literature

Staff conducting research: Dr Jim Pope, Dr Simon Frost

Background: Too often, readers have seen themselves as mere passive recipients of the outputs from a professionalised corporate literature industry. This view is underpinned by an understanding of literature through the so-called author-centric conduit model, whereby the author transmits a narrative to a single reader who decodes the story.

BU researchers have explored theoretical and practical ways in which the reader is placed closer to the centre of literary practice, creating a collaborative model in which users and producers are co-creators of a narrative experience. Research findings suggested that readers create their texts’ values as an active expression of the desires they see being supported, obstructed or ignored. Because these values are made possible by the intertextuality of other publicly available works, where the meanings and values of works are shaped by one another, they are fundamentally collaborative. This theorisation, especially the social political ambition, was articulated in outputs by Frost and Pope.

BU’s research concluded that the collective interaction between all agencies, technologies and economies enable the reader-user to gain a personalised narrative experience, creating value in relation to the reader’s desires. Dr Pope spearheaded the creation of the web-based app Genarrator, a free space for digital interactive stories, in which readers participate more fully by choosing the direction and outcomes of a narrative. In addition, researchers also set up the open call New Media Writing Prize (NMWP), now in its 11th year. New media industries draw on BU research outputs in their own research and development opportunities, sponsoring collaboration with prizewinners and providing internships.

The impact:

The Genarrator website and app

The Genarrator website operates as a professional publishing platform and is home to more than 2,000 narratives. Available free of charge, and free of advertising, it enables people to produce interactive narratives, with branching pathways and multiple endings, and provides a collaborative online space for the interactive narrative community. It allows readers to connect with storytelling and, crucially, provides authors with new ways to reach their audiences and tell their stories. The NMWP, the first and only global prize of its kind, showcases the best in new media writing with innovative digital fiction, poetry and journalism which integrate a variety of formats, platforms and digital media. Both Genarrator and the NMWP have changed the way participants view their relationship with literature, enabling them to create their own interactive stories, and helping them find and use their voices in ways that were never possible before.

Empowering young people

In 2016, working with AIM Central (a charity sponsored by Children in Need/BCP Council), BU researchers undertook a co-creation workshop with AIM users, young people at risk, and those not in education, employment or training (NEET). Each participant self-designed and created an interactive narrative using Genarrator, which was subsequently published on the Genarrator community site. The workshops improved participants’ understanding of digital storytelling, their creative writing, filming, artistic and technical skills, and enhanced teamwork and cooperation. They also provided acknowledgement of their work, as it was displayed alongside professional outputs, and gave employers a place to see their art.

Between 2018 and 2019, BU researchers held a series of workshops with students aged 14-15 from ‘working class/non-working families’ at Bishop of Winchester Academy. BU students and the school’s sixth-formers mentored participants, and narratives included stories about bullying, racism in football and anxiety. The sense of achievement many students felt was translated into aspiration for higher education, illustrating that Genarrator had provided inspiration and links to university study for disenfranchised young people.

Improving careers of narrative practitioners

The NMWP has contributed to the development and promotion of new media writing over the past 10 years, engaging a range of practitioners including journalists and documentary makers as well as writers and artists. Following the British Library’s public event ‘Digital Conversations’ in 2019, which focused on celebrating the NMWP, national arts charity One-to-One Development Trust praised the impact of the prize, commenting on its “unique” and “cross-discipline” features and crediting it for attracting a broad range of entries and widening the field of new media.

HEIF Small Fund Research Project: Virtual Reality Chillout

Using immersive and non-immersive virtual reality to distract children with moderate to severe eczema from itching.

Project team: Dr Heidi Singleton, Professor Steven Ersser, Professor Debbie Holley. Associate Professor Xiaosong Yang. Dr Emily Arden-Close. Yaqing Cui- (Research Assistant and software developer), Professor Liz Falconer (Virtual Heritage Ltd), Dr Sarah Thomas, Amanda Roberts (Nottingham Support Group for Carers).

Child aged 5 years using Oculus Quest 2™ Headset

The aim of this project was to co-create immersive and non-immersive VR based on the guided imagery approach to managing moderate to severe eczema, targeted at children aged between 5 and 11 years of age.

Co-creation and Evaluation

Through online surveys (n=6) and semi-structured interviews (n=6), children worked with software developers to codesign the VR Chillout software. Children selected settings, interactions, music and sound effects that they felt would best help them relax and be distracted from their eczema.

 

Two resources were developed for evaluation: a relaxing 360 video of a woodland scene (click the image to view the interactive video on Youtube) and immersive VR mobile phone games:

 

Games for mobile phones – (a) Lobby  (b) Snowy World (c) Flying over Sakura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Oculus Quest 2™, three games were developed. The first game ‘Lovely Fruit Grocery’ provides an immersive interaction experience with cartoon animals, via haptic controllers. The second game is ‘Hand Jet Flying’, which not only keeps the subject’s hand busy but also produces a highly immersive VR experience. The third game is ‘Nature Wonderland’, which focuses on presenting a visually and acoustically immersive and peaceful VR environment with animals, water, and natural elements.

Key findings

  • Evaluation of 360 woodland scene, via low-cost VR headsets: children found the experience relaxing and felt they were transported to a different space.
  • Evaluation of mobile VR software: children appreciated additional interactivity offered by the Snowy World animals and flying over Sakura landscapes.
  • Evaluation of Oculus Quest 2™software (VR game useability survey – n=10 and Children’s Dermatology Life Quality Index survey- n=4): children had the opportunity to use haptic hand controllers and reported that this enhanced the distraction from their eczema. Children felt that the Oculus VR Chillout games were very immersive.

“The animals were very realistic. I enjoyed playing with them and giving them food to eat. I loved the VR games; I feel they helped me to forget my itching.”

(Child aged 11)

Next steps

  • We have started discussions with the clinical eczema teams in the South of England and RDS regarding future bidding to proceed to clinical trials.
  • We aim to build upon this work with subsequent HEIF calls.

Links

Interactive 360 Video 

VR Chillout Software Show Reel

 

Student nurses experience ‘DEALTS2’ dementia training

On 8th July a group of 33 first year undergraduate nursing students attended a dementia themed workshop, led by Dr Michelle Heward from the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre (ADRC), to gain insight into the lived experience of dementia. The day included an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends session and simulation activities from the Dementia Education And Learning Through Simulation 2 (DEALTS2) programme, including the A Walk Through Dementia virtual reality app.

DEALTS2 uses an experiential learning approach to put trainees into the ‘shoes of a person with dementia’ to gain an insight into how the condition impacts on the person. In 2017, Health Education England commissioned the ADRC team to replace their original DEALTS programme with a new and improved version aligned to the learning outcomes of the national Dementia Training Standards Framework. Our research demonstrates that the training programme is being used nationally in acute care settings and has effectively increased trainer knowledge of dementia and confidence to utilise innovative training approaches (Heward et al., 2021). On the day it was great to see the students engaging positively with the innovative training approaches to gain a unique understanding of the lived experience of dementia.

The dementia day is part of a simulation programme being delivered by the Clinical Skills Nursing team at Bournemouth University. The simulation programme has been designed and created in response to a current shortage of nursing placements due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The placement has allowed the students access to varying specialist nurses and healthcare providers, from Nutrition Nurse specialists to Advanced Clinical Practitioner nurses working within the Air ambulance service, giving the students access that they may not have encountered within their practice.

Dorset Integrated Care System (ICS) Innovation Hub: Open call for priority support

Dorset Integrated Care System (ICS) Innovation Hub: Open call for priority support

Dorset ICS Innovation Hub

To help improve health and social care outcomes, equity and accessibility across Dorset, University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust is implementing a Dorset Innovation Hub. It will seek to address the unique challenges of caring for the population of Dorset, and the need to innovate and transform care.

The Hub will support adoption of proven innovations across the Dorset ICS. It will coordinate horizon scanning approaches and prioritise which innovations to bring to Dorset for rapid adaptation and adoption, at scale. A core project team of innovation multidisciplinary professionals will be assisted by a wider well-established network of subject matter experts.

Details of the Call

The Innovation Hub recognises that there is a plethora of improvement, transformation and innovative workstreams being undertaken and it has therefore been agreed that an open call would be made to partner organisations such as Bournemouth University so that each could made one request for priority support.

Priority Support Available

The Innovation Hub is seeking to support a range of local priorities across health and social care in the process towards implementation and adoption via the following ways:

  • Project management and oversight
  • Horizon scanning
  • Implementation
  • Training and education
  • Benefits realisation including evaluation
  • Finance, commission, and procurement advice
  • Quality and risk advice
  • Patient, public engagement advice

Therefore, if you have a health or social care related project that supports these local priorities and which would benefit from additional priority support to speed its implementation and adoption, you are strongly encouraged to submit your project for nomination.

 

 

Eligibility

Bournemouth University will nominate one project to go forward for priority support consideration by the Innovation Hub core project team.

Nomination assessment criteria

All projects submitted before the deadline will be evaluated using the following scoring criteria:

  • The project provides a solution to a problem in one of the following areas: Health inequalities/Population health management/Place based interventions/Workforce/Winter planning/Implementing clinical services review/Digital/COVID recovery
  • Novelty (Score 1-5): Projects should be novel and highly innovative in their support of local health or social care priorities.
  • Alignment with SIAs (Score 1-5): Projects that are nomination worthy will demonstrate alignment to the scope of one or more of the SIAs.
  • Interdisciplinarity (Score 1-5): Projects that are nomination worthy will demonstrate how they will secure interdisciplinary working that will achieve stronger outcomes than disciplines working in silos.
  • The potential for medium/long-term development and impact across Dorset (Score 1-5): Projects that are nomination worthy will demonstrate potential to secure societal impact with extensive reach and/or significance.

Application Process and Timescales

To apply, please complete and submit the application form to Lesley Hutchins (Research Commercialisation Manager) at innovate@bournemouth.ac.uk by 17:00 Friday 20 August 2021. Applications submitted after this time will not be considered.

Completed applications describing eligible projects will be reviewed by BU members of the Dorset Innovation Hub and the DDPPRs after the application deadline.

The nominated project will be informed and announced on the BU Research and Faculty blogsBU’s nomination will be submitted to the Dorset ICS Hub for consideration on or before Tuesday 31 August 2021. 

The Dorset Innovation Hub core project team will then approve which projects will be taken forward in their Tuesday 28 September 2021 meeting. If selected by the Innovation Hub, the BU nominated project’s Principal Investigators will be notified shortly thereafter.

Important: The Dorset ICS Open call for priority support may be promoted elsewhere. Please do not submit your application to any of these other portals as it will not be eligible for nomination. BU applications should only be submitted to innovate@bournemouth.ac.uk

Find out more

If you have any questions, please email Lesley Hutchins (Research Commercialisation Manager) at innovate@bournemouth.ac.uk

Research impact at BU: protecting sex workers in Brazil; defining standards for crowdsourced systems

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Improving the lives of sex workers in Brazil

Research area/s: Physical culture, mediated spectacles

Staff conducting research: Professor Michael Silk, Dr Amanda De Lisio

Background: Media speculation often points to heightened demand for sexual services around sporting mega events (SMEs), such as the Olympics. These reports tend to be used to justify policing and rationalise displacing sex work from the public spaces. Professor Silk had argued that SMEs are highly mediated commodity spectacles, during which governments seek to erase and/or hide from view those who are antithetical to market ‘logics’. However, there was a dearth of relevant data on the sexual landscapes associated with the Olympics or on the impact of large-scale sporting events on vulnerable populations of sex workers.

With funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Professor Silk and academic collaborators from Rio de Janeiro, Toronto and Kings College London undertook the first ever funded academic study that looked at the impact of the Olympics on sex workers. The project was centred on Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics and carried out with two Rio-based partners: the Observatorio Da Prostituicao (ODP), who had been collecting data on sex work in Rio for more than 10 years, and Davida, an NGO that supports sex workers in Brazil. Ethnographic data was collected from more than 100 sex workers, while interviews took place with key stakeholders such as clients, sex workers, venue managers, security personnel, police and local support groups. Observational data was collected from sex-related businesses and – in conjunction with the sex workers – field diaries and audio-visual data were recorded during and after the 2016 Olympics.

The project found that, within the Brazilian context:

  • Public discourse was once again focused on anti-trafficking strategies, which conflated forced migration and sexual exploitation with adult, consensual sex work.
  • Sex workers were forcibly evicted and displaced, with women unable to access justice without first asserting themselves as victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking – although they refused to lie about their consensual involvement in adult sex work.
  • Labour rights were denied, due to the conflation of sex work with sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
  • The expected boom in ‘sex tourism’ did not materialise.
  • There was a heightened security presence in the street.

The final report made several key recommendations, including:

  • Stopping the conflation of prostitution with trafficking and sexual exploitation in law, public policies and popular discourse.
  • Creating opportunities for sex workers to add to the SME narrative.
  • Developing strategies to recognise and act against state-sanctioned violence faced by sexual minorities, and to guarantee social and spatial justice for those marginalised in the development process.

The impact:

Displacing sex workers during SMEs can have wide-reaching consequences for their safety, particularly in Brazil, where sex work is a legal profession.  By providing an evidence base on the spatial regulation of informal sex economies during SMEs, this project elevated the voice of sex workers in Brazil and shaped policy.

Changing policy

The research informed a submission by Davida to the United Nations Human Rights Council in October 2016, which documented human rights violations against sex workers in Brazil during the staging of SMEs. The report highlighted the eviction of approximately 200 women from a sex venue in 2014, with one evicted woman providing data on the eviction, denial of access to justice and the need for empirical evidence in the creation and execution of policies and strategies surrounding sex work. As a result of the report, she was invited to attend the EU Human Rights Defenders First Annual Meeting in November 2016. Subsequently, the UN referenced the Davida report in its Universal Periodic Review (Brazil) of February 2017 and adopted the following recommendations for the Brazilian government:

  • Improving the under-reporting of sexual violence/harrassment and developing policies to punish and prevent such actions.
  • Protecting human rights defenders and their families by implementing a national programme, policy and/or plan.
  • Combating police violence against women through training.

In September 2017, the Brazilian government enacted these recommendations into federal law, committing themselves to including human rights education in schools, creating domestic violence centres across the country, running an awareness campaign and setting up a hotline to report cases of violence against women.

Improving the lives and working conditions of sex workers

The project enabled Davida to reach a generation of women involved in sex work and the organisation has used the data to influence discourse around child labour exploitation, enhance ties with the Brazilian government’s anti-trafficking committee and ensure less conflation of sex work with sexual exploitation/trafficking at government level.

The ESRC team collaborated with local partners to develop a sex worker-author exhibition, documenting everyday work and life during the Olympics.  Participants curated their own pages for the online exhibition: “It was such an innovative, motivating process… I feel full of hopes and expectations… I feel like I achieved something”. As a result of the project, two of the trans sex worker photographers have developed careers in the arts.

Altering perceptions of sex work in the context of SMEs

The ‘What You Don’t See’ virtual exhibition was curated into a physical exhibition, shown in London, New York and Bournemouth.  The exhibition was converted into a film narrated by sex workers (and project participants), which offered accounts of the banality of everyday life, oppression and prejudice, bringing to life the project findings and challenging sensationalist media accounts of sex work during SMEs.  The film debuted at the MoMA PS1 Sex Workers’ Festival of Resistance in New York City, attended by 1,000 people, all of whom received a newsletter summarising the ESRC project. Davida stated that the project “broadened cultural and political sensibilities, which might have never expected to see the work of Brazilian women involved in sexual commerce celebrated in art galleries”. Davida is currently incorporating the data into a project that is digitising sex work histories in Brazil for the State Archives of Rio de Janeiro.

Creating internationally recognised standards for crowdsourced systems

Research areas: Computing & Informatics, Software Engineering, Cyber Psychology

Staff conducting research: Dr Marios Angelopoulos, Professor Raian Ali, Professor Keith Phalp, Dr Jacqui Taylor

Background: Crowdsourcing can be defined as the practice of soliciting input from the general public. Crowdsourced systems incorporate devices provided by the public to opportunistically supplement their infrastructure. In crowdsourced systems, members of the general public permit the system to access and use the resources of their devices in return for an incentive; this can either be intrinsic (e.g. for social good) or extrinsic (e.g. receiving a service, a micropayment, etc).

However, the highly personal nature of devices like smartphones poses significant trust and privacy issues. Since crowdsourced systems are characterised by the network effect (their efficacy increases as the number of their users increases), such issues can hinder their adoption and development. In addition, the community has lacked a common understanding of which systems can be classified as crowdsourced systems and how such systems can be built following a trustworthy and transparent method.

BU researchers conducted a systematic survey of crowdsourcing research to extract and describe the taxonomy of features which characterise crowdsourcing. They analysed 652 papers, identifying 113 papers (72 academic and 41 from industry) as providing definitions on crowdsourcing. The paper detailed the methodology that was assumed in order to elicit the key features of the concept of crowdsourcing and the corresponding definition, which was adopted in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-T) standard. The model identified the four fundamental constituents of crowdsourcing: the crowd, the crowdsourcer, the crowdsourced task, and the crowdsourcing platform, and formed the basis for the reference architecture for crowdsourced systems specified in the ITU-T standard.

BU and European collaborators also assessed how crowdsourcing methods and tools can be used in designing systems (particularly in requirements engineering) and how these can be applied in industrial contexts. Dr Angelopoulos’ research underpinned the discussions within the ITU-T study group about implementation aspects of crowdsourced systems and corresponding use cases, and eventually helped shape the final text of the standard. These included architectural approaches for crowdsourced systems in a variety of applications, such as localised distributed computer infrastructure, crowd-enabled IoT systems and crowdsourced systems as enablers for citizen science.

The impact:

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the United Nations’ special agency for information and communication technologies, with global membership including 193 member states, as well as some 900 companies, universities, international and regional organisations, and 20,000 industry professionals. Its recommendations act as an international standard and common point of reference globally to enable members to develop policies at a local or national level.

The ITU accepted the definitions and reference architecture developed through BU research as the formal definitions for crowdsourced systems. Angelopoulos led the BU delegation for the recommendation throughout its lifetime, as part of ITU-T Study Group 20 (SG20), which develops recommendations in the field of Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities and communities. The terms defined were accepted by the Standardisation Committee for the Vocabulary and form part of official ITU terminology, which acts as a reference point for the international community. The recommendation was formally ratified by the ITU in February 2019 during the SG20 meeting held in China

Defining processes and attributes, and producing a standardised framework for the ways in which such systems are developed, helps to increase their transparency and provides a guarantee with regards to privacy and cybersecurity issues. This, in turn, helps increase public trust towards crowdsourced systems and, consequently, promotes their use. By helping to provide this formal, standardised framework – accepted by the global community through the ITU – BU has delivered a foundation of common understanding that will facilitate the growth and further adoption of crowdsourced systems and reference architecture, as well as identifying and addressing relevant security, privacy and trust issues.

 

Research impact at BU: creating a novel medical device; assessing Brexit’s effect on UK food prices

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Creating a global market for a novel medical device: how BU
research helped make it happen

Research areas: Orthopaedics, Exercise Physiology

Staff conducting research: Professor Robert Middleton, Associate Professor Tom Wainwright, Louise Burgess, Shayan Bahadori, Dr James Gavin, Tikki Immins

The geko™ neuromuscular electrical stimulator

Background: The geko™ and the technology behind it is the only product of Firstkind Ltd: a battery-powered, disposable, neuromuscular electro-stimulation device designed to increase blood flow in the veins of the legs. Firstkind Ltd approached Professors Middleton and Wainwright to design and conduct the first ever study of the device in patients following hip replacement surgery. The randomised control trial (RCT) compared the geko™ with compression stockings in order to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and oedema post-surgery. Results showed that not only was the device safe, tolerable for patients, and effective in preventing DVT, but that it significantly reduced oedema.

Before the trial, the device settings had been informed by research on healthy subjects in a seated position; Middleton and Wainwright’s research discovered that the device settings did not always work optimally for patients with oedema or neuropathy, or for patients in bed whose knee was extended. Further research confirmed this and highlighted the opportunity to optimise the device further.

BU’s research built on data from a study carried out by Firstkind, which looked at patients who had not responded well to the geko™ T1 device. BU’s TEDs2 study replicated the methodology from the earlier study, with additional blood flow measurements, and used the next generation of geko™ devices. This showed that the updated devices increased blood flow, were effective in preventing DVT, and significantly reduced oedema.

Middleton and Wainwright also conducted a pilot RCT on patients with ankle sprains, which showed that the device reduced swelling. It was the first clinical trial undertaken at home, with patients applying it themselves and wearing it for at least eight hours a day for seven days, and patients showed no adverse effects.

The impact:

Benefits for patients

Before BU’s involvement, the device was designed for use in athletes and healthy individuals to aid their recovery from sport, or to prevent DVTs while flying. Wainwright and Middleton’s research led to the device being used to help patients in a wide variety of clinical settings: e.g 28 NHS Trusts are working to adopt the device for acute stroke patients at high risk of blood clots, and more than 4,700 devices have been ordered by the NHS to prevent DVTs as a potential side effect of Covid-19.

In addition, a study of post-stroke patients showed that 2.4% of those treated with Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC) alone suffered from DVT within 90 days, compared with 0% of those prescribed the geko™. Patients had no adverse events and reported a greater tolerance of the geko™ than IPC.

In Canada, the device has been rolled out for chronic wound patients, leading to some experiencing complete healing, where other treatments were unsuccessful.

Approvals in the UK and USA

  • BU’s research demonstrating the effectiveness of the geko™ device led to Firstkind Ltd receiving approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to use it for venous thrombosis and oedema.
  • The device has also been approved for use by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). In its guidance, NICE estimated the cost-saving per patient using the device to be £197 (compared with those receiving no treatment) representing a significant saving to the NHS.

Firstkind Ltd acknowledged that BU’s research was pivotal in achieving both FDA and NICE approvals.

Benefits for Firstkind Ltd

The NHS and FDA approvals have expanded potential markets for the device on every continent. Firstkind Ltd. references BU’s research extensively in its brochures, demonstrating its importance in its day-to-day marketing, driving sales and commercial expansion into new markets. More than 700,000 individual units have been sold to date in at least 14 countries, and, in 2020, Firstkind Ltd. won the International Life Sciences award for the Most Innovative MedTech Company.

Delivering analytical capacity and advice to inform government of the effects of Brexit and future trade arrangements on UK food prices

Research area: Economics

Staff conducting research: Professor Tim Lloyd

Background: In 2017, Professor Lloyd was commissioned, with Exeter University colleagues, to undertake a confidential UK food pricing project for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to assess the impact of Brexit on food prices in Britain. The econometric models at the core of the project drew on expertise developed by Professor Lloyd over two decades of collaboration with Exeter’s Professor Steve McCorriston. They found that domestic food price inflation is significantly affected by world food commodity prices, the exchange rate and oil prices, rather than domestic demand pressures and food chain costs, and that food inflation in the EU may be influenced by differences in the food sector across the Union, particularly barriers to competition. The quality and impact of the research led to Professor Lloyd being called as an expert witness as part of a House of Lords EU Committee enquiry into food price spikes.

Underlying the econometric modelling of food inflation is price transmission – the mechanism describing how price changes move through a supply chain.  Much of Professor Lloyd’s research career has been devoted to understanding the theory, methods and data that economists rely on to analyse the price transmission mechanism. In his 2016 Presidential Address to the Agricultural Economics Society, he set out this literature and his contribution to it, including the econometric methodology he helped pioneer to quantify the speed, magnitude and asymmetry of price transmission in agricultural and food markets, much of which emphasised the importance of imperfect competition (e.g. dominant retailers) in modern food chains. Professor Lloyd’s food industry expertise led to his appointment to Defra’s panel of expert advisors in 2012 and reappointment in 2018 as Brexit withdrawal negotiations intensified.

Food prices and Brexit

After the 2016 referendum, Defra commissioned the confidential development of a new food inflation model to assess the dynamic impact of the potential trade scenarios arising from Brexit. This included the impact of food prices on consumers at different levels of income, i.e. disadvantaged groups, and a detailed examination of trade in processed food and agricultural commodities.

For the first time, the project provided data that was able to provide a more accurate representation of the types and sources of UK food imports. Using these new data, Professor Lloyd led the development of econometric models that quantified the impact of agricultural and food import prices on the price of food in the UK high street, as well as other factors such as domestic agricultural product prices, manufacturing costs and most importantly, exchange rates. The work demonstrated that the geography and type of food imported into Britain impacted retail food inflation markedly, implying that the changes in trade and trade policy arising from Brexit could impact food prices significantly

The impact:

Informing Brexit negotiations: a new scenario modelling tool

The researchers used results from their econometric modelling to develop the bespoke software interface STEFI (Scenario Tool Exeter Food Inflation). With a simple, user-friendly interface, STEFI enabled non-specialists in Defra to calculate the dynamic effects of various trade scenarios. The user manual featured a step-by-step guide to inputting alternative policy scenarios and interpreting the results, filling an important analytical gap in government at the time.

Four innovative features allowed Defra to assess the food price impacts of Brexit in ways that were previously impossible, by incorporating: (i) the origin of trade; (ii) trade in both raw agricultural materials and processed food products (iii) macroeconomic factors that determine retail food prices including effective exchange rates and unemployment and (iv) manufacturing costs in the food chain.

STEFI has been used since 2019 as part of the government’s assessment of Brexit – most notably in October 2019 when a ‘no deal’ exit became a realistic prospect, and again in January 2020, to simulate the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan. The potential impact of both these scenarios on food prices helped inform the government’s position in trade negotiations. The outputs from the Brexit pricing project continue to be used by Defra in trade negotiations and policy making.

Minimising the impact on low-income consumers

Defra asked for an econometric analysis to be undertaken to assess the effect of rising food prices on consumers across the income distribution. Numerical results quantified the effects, particularly for low-income consumers, who stand to lose the most from Brexit-related price shocks. These concerns were heightened by the potentially acute impact of Covid-19 on the availability and price of food. Amid concerns over panic buying in the early stages of the pandemic, Defra repurposed STEFI to provide objective evidence to support and inform the government’s response.

Enhancing Defra’s capacity: cutting-edge research

Defra acknowledged the impact of the research by Professors Lloyd and McCorriston, stating it was ‘impossible to overemphasise the enormous contribution’ their development of STEFI had made to its capacity, and that it was ‘unparalleled in understanding food prices’. The tool remains in regular use and Defra stated it will be used to analyse other domestic and global issues in the future, such as future bilateral trade negotiations and the coronavirus pandemic.

NIHR Bulletin

NIHR News

Updated guidelines for recruiting public members onto Trial and Study Steering Committees

NIHR launches Impact Toolkit
NIHR has developed an interactive dashboard that summarises, and signposts to, a range of tools to support research impact planning, delivery and/or assessment. (Will need to register for NIHR Learn if not already registered).

eBulletins and Newsletters

NIHR Funding and support round-up: July 2021

NHS England and NHS Improvement – In Touch

Events

New impact short course
NIHR has launched a new e-learning course, ‘Introduction to impact through the lens of NIHR’.
In this self-paced and short e-learning course, you will get an introduction to what impact is, what it isn’t, and why it’s important to the NIHR. Find out more.

Funding Opportunities

Latest NIHR funding calls

Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award (AI Award)
Competition 3

NIHR Senior Investigators
Call 15

Programme Development Grants
Mental health call

Public Health Research (PHR) Programme
21/523 Image and performance enhancing drugs
21/524 Health impacts of housing-led interventions for homeless people

Your local branch of the NIHR RDS (Research Design Service) is based within the BU Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU) should you need help with your application. We advise on all aspects of developing an application and can review application drafts as well as put them to a mock funding panel (run by RDS South West) known as Project Review Committee, which is a fantastic opportunity for researchers to obtain a critical review of a proposed grant application before this is sent to a funding body.

Contact us as early as possible to benefit fully from the advice

Feel free to call us on 01202 961939 or send us an email.

Research impact at BU: computer modelling to predict effects of human activity on birds; smart digital marketing for tourism and hospitality

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Using a computer model (MORPH) for environmental decision-making to balance the needs of birds and society

Research area: Conservation Ecology

Staff conducting research: Professor Richard Stillman

Background: The development of BU’s unique computer modelling software, known as MORPH, addressed the need for a robust method of predicting the effects of a diverse range of activities (e.g. housing and port development, shellfishing, recreational pastimes) on legally protected bird species. MORPH creates virtual versions of real ecosystems, including realistic ways in which animals respond to changes in their environment.

BU’s research on diverse bird species globally, conducted with former colleagues at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Furzebrook/Winfrith), provided the basis for MORPH’s detailed understanding of the behaviour and ecology of coastal and wetland birds. Although it is a single piece of software, MORPH can simulate multiple systems, and, in effect, learns how to mimic different environmental conditions, species behaviour and physiology. This flexibility is key, as it means MORPH can be applied rapidly to a diverse range of systems without any time-consuming changes to its underlying computer code.

It is initially set up for present-day conditions for which the behaviour of birds in the real system is known. Its predictions are then compared to observations to determine whether it represents the system with sufficient accuracy to reliably inform decision-making. The environment within MORPH is then changed to predict how changes in the real world may impact the birds, with the results used to inform decision making. MORPH is a rare example of a model that is able to make such predictions accurately, relying on the fundamental evolutionary principle that both model and real birds will always behave in ways that maximise their chances of surviving and reproducing.

Since 2007, MORPH has been used to model 25 bird species in 22 sites in Australia, USA, Europe and the UK – BU’s Individual Ecology website details all applications of MORPH, funders, publications, species modelled, issues addressed and conservation recommendations. The model is increasingly being used by industry, conservation NGOs and government organisations to improve the cost effectiveness of their work, set sustainable fishing quotas, and understand the impacts of new developments and human activity on the birds.

The impact:

Improving regulation of infrastructure development and plans

  • Independent coastal partnership Solent Forum commissioned BU to measure the potential effects of housing development on the local wintering bird population. MORPH predicted that the construction of 60,000 houses over the next 13 years could potentially increase the mortality of wading birds; as a result, the developers had to offset any negative effects by making contributions to fund conservation per house built, based on a sliding scale according to the number of bedrooms. Between 2014 and 2020, this totalled £3.4 million, which went towards creating Bird Aware Solent, a partnership that aims to raise awareness of protected birds.
  • BU worked with Natural England (NE) to asses the effects of habitat loss and disturbance on wildfowl populations due to new developments. This enabled NE for the first time to predict whether such losses might result in a decline in protected bird populations.
  • US-based conservation organisation Ducks Unlimited commissioned BU to look at the effects of habitat loss and disturbance on black brant geese in California and used the findings as a key piece of evidence for an impact assessment of the environmental effects of the expansion of aquaculture activity in the area.

Enhancing sustainable shellfishery management to allow economic growth while better conserving protected bird species

  • MORPH was used in the Wadden Sea, Netherlands – the world’s largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats – to help determine whether cockle harvesting could continue in 2020/2021. The decision depended on evidence that the management of the cockle fishery in previous years had been enough to sustain the oystercatcher population – which MORPH was able to confirm.
  • The Marine Stewardship Council has used BU’s research in the management of Welsh cockle fisheries and the Exe Estuary mussel fishery to identify the amount of shellfish needed to sustain birds such as the oystercatcher over winter. This then informs the quota for fishing.

Improving evidence-informed efficiency, resource management and cost-effectiveness of conservation organisations

  • BU has equipped Natural England with models and knowledge to predict in-house the effect of land use change on bird populations, enabling them to conduct a more cost-effective assessment of impacts.
  • UK conservation charity Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust used MORPH to diagnose the environmental causes of the population decline of the Bewick’s Swan, currently listed as ‘Endangered’ in Europe.
  • The British Trust for Ornithology now routinely includes MORPH (or related approaches) as one of its methods in conservation projects.

Digitisation of tourism and hospitality marketing: towards smart ecosytems

Research area: Tourism & Hospitality

Staff conducting research: Professor Dimitrios Buhalis

Background: Professor Buhalis has spent the past 20 years researching how Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) can revolutionise marketing in tourism and hospitality. Since his arrival at BU in 2007 his key focus has been how to use digital technology to engage with the consumer; and how tourism organisations and destinations can develop their competitiveness and improve their profitability by developing smart networks. His research during this period has focused on:

  • The use of the internet (Web 1.0) to enable organisations to communicate their offerings and facilitate eCommerce transactions.
  • The application of social media and Web 2.0 to interact with consumers and engage with stakeholders through two-way dynamic communications. This enables the ‘co-creation’ of experiences with customers, allowing personalisation and contextualisation, and generating additional value and loyalty.
  • The development of Smart Tourism ecosystems, using technology to develop agility, facilitate value co-creation and deliver services in real time. For tourism destinations and governments, this means that they can integrate their production and supply systems, enhancing their competitiveness.
  • For tourism businesses, such as hotels, travel agencies and tour operators, adopting a smart ecosystem can help develop their competitiveness and profitability through interconnectivity and interoperability.

The impact:

Tourism businesses

Individual tourism practitioners and organisations have applied insights from Professor Buhalis’ research to enhance profitability and competitiveness.  His work on co-creation has informed social media strategies for hotels across the world, enhancing their online brand reputation, improving customer engagement and increasing repeat business. These brands include:

  • the world’s largest franchisor of hotels, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts – which collaborated with BU on a number of initiatives;
  • Aliathon Resort, Cyprus – which estimates that Professor Buhalis’ insights have extended the tourist season, increased guest loyalty and enhanced revenue by approximately €4 million per year, 2013-19;
  • Aquis Hotel & Resorts – which attributes an occupancy rate 10% above, and average room rate 8% above the competition to insights gleaned from BU’s research;
  • Omnibees Booking Engine – which has based its development on Professor Buhalis’ research into smart ecosystems, enabling it to achieve the best conversion rate among booking engines.

National governments

Professor Buhalis has worked with more than 100 national governments and tourism bodies to develop e-tourism strategies, strengthen the competitiveness of destinations, and increase tourism revenue. This includes: Visit Britain, the British Hospitality Association, Tourism Australia, the Ministry of Tourism in Jamaica, the African Tourism Leadership Forum, the Ministry of Tourism in Oman and the Agency for Development of Human Resources in Cyprus, a country where he has trained more than 1,000 hotel owners and managers in the creative use of social media.

International organisations

Professor Buhalis has acted as an adviser to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) since 2006, which has helped him to put technology and digital at the top of the tourism agenda globally.  In 2018 the UNWTO’s World Tourism Day was themed around digital technologies, with the UNWTO stating that Buhalis’ research was “a major feature” in the debate around big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, which all form a “central part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector”.

Covid-19

During the pandemic Professor Buhalis has collaborated with the UNWTO, TravelDailyNews, hotel associations and other media organisations channels to facilitate more than 150 online live sessions and discussion forums, training industry and governments around the world on how to use smart technologies to restart tourism, adopt hygiene protocols and communicate dynamically with stakeholders.

 

Research impact at BU: developing character animation techniques; assessing economic effect of airport expansion

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Developing character animation techniques to improve production practice in the animation sector and create economic impact on Humain Ltd

Research area: Computer Animation

Staff conducting research: Dr Shaojun Bian, Professor Lihua You, Professor Jian J. Zhang, Jon Macey

Background: Since 2008, BU researchers have been tackling the problem facing animation studios of producing high-quality virtual characters within a short time scale. BU developed two new techniques to improve skin deformation (the representation of skin and its transformations and movements); was a partner in a European Commission-funded project looking at geometric modelling, image processing and shape reconstruction; and worked with Humain Ltd to develop new techniques of facial blendshapes. The findings of the BU research team comprise:

Facial rigging tools

  1. Hybrid facial rigging tool. Integrates facial blendshapes and bone-driven facial animation to create various facial expressions easily and quickly.
  2. Automatic correspondences for deformation transfer. To tackle the problem of deformation transfer in manually specifying correspondences of facial landmarks, this achieves full automation and avoids manual operations.
  3. Machine learning-based 3D facial expression production. Combines a 3D face morphable model with machine learning to reuse existing datasets for reducing manual work in producing facial animation from a single image.

Skin deformation techniques

  1. Automatic rigging. Automates the process of placing a skeleton in a 3D character model and creates an animation skeleton in a few milliseconds.
  2. Analytical physics-based skin deformation. Obtains the first analytical solution to physics-based skin deformations to create the animation of a horse model with 10,128 vertices at 205 frames per second.

Character modelling methods

  1. Fast character modelling with sketch-based partial differential equation (PDE) surfaces. Enables a simple, easy-to-use, efficient, and sketch-based character modelling tool for fast creation of detailed character models.
  2. Character model creation with ordinary differential equation (ODE) based C2 continuous surfaces. Avoids tedious and time-consuming manual operations of existing techniques in stitching two separate patches together to achieve the required continuities, significantly reduce data size, and provide more flexible and powerful shape manipulation handles.

The impact:

Before developing the new techniques, getting a 3D virtual character into production took anything from a few days to a few months. The new techniques enabled Humain Ltd. to reduce the time frame for creating models with realistic facial expressions from 30 days to minutes, resulting in significant time and cost savings.

As well as saving time, BU’s new techniques helped make the company’s workload more streamlined and efficient. Producing high-quality 3D virtual character requires experts, modellers and animators from different disciplines to work together, and involves heavy and time-consuming manual operations in the production process. The new methods have been integrated into the company’s product offerings, transformed its facial development pipeline from a labour-intensive process by highly specialised artists to a simple command line interface everyone in the company can run.

Transforming Humain Ltd.’s ways of working changed its external reputation – the techniques developed by BU researchers at the company enabled them to work with world-leading organisations in the technology and entertainment industry, such as Activision and Google. They also contributed to the successful delivery of a £500,000 project to Microsoft and served as the basis for a successful application to the Audience of the Future Immersive Technology Investment Accelerator in 2019. Over the past three years, the company has worked on 16 different projects, generating revenue of more than £1 million.

Using economic modelling to inform UK airport expansion

Research areas: Economics and Econometrics

Staff conducting research: Professor Adam Blake, Dr Neelu Seetaram

Background: Economic impact research has evolved since the 1970s with the use of input-output models, although these typically estimated static economic impacts are limited in their applicability. Building on these earlier models, Professor Blake was one of the first to introduce computable general equilibrium models to tourism economics. More recent research at BU, in which Blake was instrumental, extended and enhanced economic impact modelling in the following ways:

  • The inclusion of forward-looking dynamics in economic impact modelling of tourism, which takes techniques for applied dynamic economic models used in other contexts and adapts them for tourism impact modelling. The dynamic nature of these models allows the estimation of the economic impact that tourism has over time, while their forward-looking nature allows for the estimation of investment and other effects that will come about because of future demand.
  • The inclusion of uncertainty and stochastic random effects in dynamic economic models of tourism allows the impacts of investment to be assessed based on uncertain anticipation about future tourism demand by allowing different growth paths to be modelled, giving the ability to estimate the effects of this uncertainty as well as of changes in the potential future growth paths.
  • Demonstrating the importance of segmentation in econometric modelling of tourism demand, both in terms of tourists’ purpose of visit and country of origin and showing that models that do not include these effects are systematically biased.

The impact:

BU research was instrumental in the UK government’s 2018 decision to progress with building a third runway at Heathrow. The Airports Commission funded Professor Blake and Dr Seetaram to investigate the economic effects of various forms of future airport expansion in the UK. Building on Professor Blake’s previous use of economic modelling by purpose of visit and nationality, they constructed and used an econometric model of tourism demand into and out of the UK, with different estimations of elasticities based on mode of transport and destination (for UK outbound) or origin (for UK inbound). These estimates were then used to construct and test a spatial dynamic computable general equilibrium of the UK economy. The spatial element contained different regions of the UK, with the South East and the local areas around both Heathrow and Gatwick airports included as separate regions. The dynamic element followed the model methodology developed by Professor Blake.

The results from BU’s modelling formed part of the evidence base that led to the Airport Commission deciding to support a new runway at Heathrow instead of expansion of Gatwick or extension of the current Heathrow Northern runway. In June 2018, based on this recommendation, the government formally approved plans for the new runway at Heathrow. In the final announcement of this approval, the Secretary of State for Transport gave the wider economic benefits as one of the key benefits of the Heathrow expansion

Overall, BU’s development of a novel, robust economic modelling technique provided the Airports Commission and the UK government with a more accurate and detailed analysis of the airport expansion options than could otherwise have been obtained. This led to a much greater evidence base for the decision over airport expansion, and to more confidence within government about the option to be chosen. The modelling approach that was developed has expanded the capability of economic impact modelling to analyse the impact of proposed major investment projects in the future.

Research impact at BU: seeing Stonehenge in a new light; developing elite athletes

A series of posts featuring BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (These are edited versions of the final submissions – the full impact case studies will be published online in 2022.)

Reframing Stonehenge: improving the visitor experience and
mental wellbeing, bringing economic benefit to the heritage
sector, and preserving the landscape

Research areas: Archaeology,
Archaeological Sciences, Nursing Science

Staff conducting research: Professor Timothy Darvill, Professor Kate
Welham, Dr Vanessa Heaslip

Background: Despite Stonehenge’s status as the world’s best-known prehistoric monument, academic understanding of the site, as well as its presentation to the public, was fraught with problems and gaps in the early 2000s. BU has conducted five interconnected projects in the past 20 years to improve this situation:

  • Stonehenge World Heritage Site Archaeological Research Framework (SRF) – guided research in the Stonehenge landscape since its publication in 2005 and  provides a greater understanding of the landscape surrounding Stonehenge and the sequence of construction.
  • Strumble-Preseli Ancient Communities and Environment Study (SPACES)/Stones of Stonehenge Project (SoS) – located and contextualised the primary source of Stonehenge’s famous bluestones at sites in south Wales. SPACES also suggested the stones may originally have been associated with the perceived healing power of local waters and brought to Stonehenge for that reason.
  • Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP) – investigated the surrounding monumental landscape, filling important gaps in knowledge about a processional route through the site, making the landmark discovery of the ‘Bluestonehenge’ stone circle, and recognising settlement activity and Neolithic houses at Durrington.
  • Human Henge – building on the SPACES findings around perceived healing properties, examined whether a creative exploration of historic landscape could improve people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The impact:

Enhancing the visitor experience 

BU’s research provided: information for the Wessex Timeline – a new infographic running the length of the visitor centre, presenting the new chronology; digital plans for building full-size replicas of Neolithic houses; text, images, video, models, CGI reconstructions and physical artefacts for the exhibitions; updated content for the official website, guidebook, map, audio-tour, display cases and information panels.

An independent evaluation in 2014 confirmed that 70% of 300 visitors surveyed about the new content strongly agreed they better understood the chronology, context, building and significance of Stonehenge. The survey also indicated that after visiting the new centre, 68% of respondents strongly agreed they would like to explore the wider Stonehenge landscape.

After the opening of the new centre, visitor numbers immediately increased by 8% the following year (2014), becoming the UK’s third most visited paid-for tourist attraction. Numbers continue to rise, peaking at more than 1.6 million in 2019.

Improving mental wellbeing

Professor Darvill and Dr Heaslip worked with heritage NGOs and mental health charities to create ‘Human Henge’, a 10-week programme of activities taking place both within the stone circle and the wider landscape to improve mental wellbeing. It took place between 2016-18 and involved a group of 35 local participants with chronic mental health problems. A survey, based on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, demonstrated that 79.3% of the participants reported a positive impact on their mental health, which increased throughout the programme and continued a year later. Many credited the programme with increasing their optimism and confidence, inner strength and improving social interaction, and specifically cited feelings of connection with ancestors who had lived at the site, reconnecting with their community and engaging with the research.

Preserving the landscape for the future

BU’s research continues to feed into the future management and preservation of the Stonehenge landscape, forming a core component of the latest Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site Management Plan. Professor Darvill also sits on the A303 Scientific Committee, formed in 2017 to provide specialist advice to the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Heritage Monitoring and Advisory Group. BU researchers’ understanding of the extent and distribution of archaeological features in the wider landscape has thus been instrumental in negotiations with Highways England on the course of the planned tunnel and rerouting of the road.

The development of athletic talent: driving policy change in national sporting organisations

Research area: Sport sciences

Staff conducting research: Professor Tim Rees

Background: The initial driver for the
research was UK Sport’s desire to generate a better understanding of what underpins the development of world-class sporting talent (i.e. gold medal winners). Professor Rees and collaborators at Bangor University, the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, the University of Queensland, Australia, Queen’s University, Canada and University College London provided – for the first time – an authoritative and comprehensive review of the literature. The Great British Medallists Project serves as a key point of reference for researchers, practitioners and policymakers, as well as a guide for translating that knowledge into action. To date, it has been downloaded more than 46,000 times and has become the gold standard review.

Professor Rees carried out further research, examining the distinctions between super-elite athletes who have won multiple Olympic and World Championship gold medals and those of elite athletes who had not won any. Overall, the results showed the importance of early developmental experiences in the production of super-elite athletes, demonstrating the necessity of psychological screening.

Professor Rees’ research has helped develop an understanding as to how talented cricket players can successfully transition from the county academies and on through U17s and U19s into the Test side. He highlighted the importance of group memberships and social identity for coping with such transitions, as well as demonstrating that social group memberships also enhance resilience in the face of negative performance feedback. The findings suggest the importance of assessing players’ group memberships and monitoring ‘at-risk’ players who report belonging to relatively few pre-transition groups. They also highlight that groups are not just a context but  a critical psychological resource for athletes.

Professor Rees’ close working relationships with UK Sport, the English Cricket Board and England Rugby has allowed him to share his research at the very highest level of a number of sports, via senior management groups, performance directors, and practitioners. Publication of the research in open access format has also allowed it to reach physicians, sports medicine specialists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, team doctors and trainers alike, helping to bridge the gap between science and practice.

The impact:

UK Sport

Research by Professor Rees and collaborators was used in strategic planning by UK Sport for the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and continues to be used. Professor Rees’ findings have also been used to reshape UK Sport’s talent development pathway by making psychological profiling of athletes relatively routine and upgrading the talent data capture processes of governing bodies of sports to ensure that those most likely to become ‘super-elite’ are identified earlier.

England & Wales Cricket Board and Lawn Tennis Association

The findings of Rees’ research into the importance of group memberships and social identity has significantly influenced national junior player development programmes in both cricket and tennis. The England and Wales Cricket Board’s England Development Programme has focused on the development of training environments that provide higher levels of peer and social support, while also enabling individuals to remain connected to wider social groups at home.

The Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) player development strategy has also been informed by the same research, with equal emphasis placed on personal, social and academic development as well as tennis skills and game style. Its National Academies, for those aged 13-18, ensure young players are integrated into the wider school and local community and maintain contact with family and friends at home.

Overall, the research has impacted on the journeys into and through talent development programmes of more than 2,000 high potential young athletes.

England Rugby

As a result of Professor Rees’ emphasis on the importance of developmental experiences and psychological screening of young athletes, England Rugby now routinely engages in psychological profiling and monitors player dropout and de-selection for possible re-entry of players into England Rugby’s talent system. The continued influence of this work led to the formation of a board to oversee further development of the ideas.