This five day event includes a programme of lectures, art based events, film, discussions and healthy debate all designed to stimulate new ideas and examine important societal issues from across the globe.
Events also include funder visits from the Wellcome Trust who will be talking about their most recent collaborative project ‘Hubbub’ and why working across various disciplines, sectors and organisations is important to them as funders; and the British Academy who will share emerging findings from a project they are carrying out on interdisciplinary research. They are looking at how the whole higher education and research systems supports such research in terms of publishing, research funding, academic careers, teaching and beyond. Both events promise to be popular both within BU and externally and so do book your places now through the links above.
The IRW events are open to everyone (only one event is for BU academics and researchers only) and bookable through EventBrite. Do check out the whole programme of events to see what might interest you and publicise the week to your friends and family.
On Tuesday 12th May, Andy Ford, supported by Emily Norton, introduced us to the Landsat program, which has been running since 1972. The various Landsat satellites have been scanning the earth, providing researchers with images that can be compared to show changes in geographic features, such as glaciers and land use, such as deforestation in Brazil. Using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), these images can be produced with both accuracy and consistency, allowing comparison over time. These images also reveal the extent of natural disasters, including the Boxing Day tsunami and the recent earthquakes in Nepal. It is important that scanning, rather than aerial photography be employed, as this allows for the production of images using wavelengths, such as near infra-red, which the human eye cannot see. These can then be represented in ‘false colour composite images’, revealing much more than photographs alone.
Where, then is the relevance to mass graves? Bringing together the disciplines of environmental science, phenology, archaeology and forensic sciences has allowed the research team to address the issue of mass graves, which can be complex and present geographical challenges. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, there are over 200 excavation sites but over 10,000 persons still missing. Building on research conducted by Emily Norton, it was proposed that mass graves would, when compared with surrounding land, show vegetation growth with a spectral signature. This is where vegetation growth is weaker and the start of the season delayed. Using pilot research, including analysing a burial plot of animals following the UK Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001, these assertions have been shown to be correct. This interdisciplinary technique can, therefore, assist in the location of clandestine mass graves, along with eyewitness testimony, geophysics, soil probes, geospatial techniques and aerial photography. Of these, the on-going analysis of the Landsat images may prove to be the most valuable.
Although covering a highly technical subject, Andy’s presentation was engaging, leaving the audience in awe of the science, whilst demonstrating, clearly, the value of working across disciplinary boundaries.
Inspired? Then go along to one of our other Interdisciplinary Research Week events.
The BU Dementia Institute kicked off the Interdisciplinary Research Week last night with an inspirational and interactive lecture on improving the lives of people affected by dementia in Dorset.
Professor Anthea Innes opened the week and then went on to explain the interdisciplinary research that her institute carries out and the importance of collaboration in the community. She informed the audience how the language used to describe the people diagnosed with dementia can often be negative and derogatory and how people are often treated differently upon diagnosis. The Institute work with care providers, hospitals, GPs, etc. to change their perception and enable better lives for those diagnosed with dementia.
Anthea handed over to her team to show some of the ways that lives can be improved and how a dementia diagnosis does not mean that you can no longer learn. Andy Baker from the BUDI orchestra had half the audience clapping to the ‘oo-ah’ parts of ‘oo-ah Cantona, say oo-ah Cantona’ and the other half clapping to the ‘wood’ and ‘chuck’ in ‘how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood’. This was not an easy task but a good demonstration of how to play your part in an orchestra. He went on to show how his work had given people diagnosed with dementia the ability to learn something new and engage in a rewarding activity.
Clare Cutler then talked about the Intergenerational Technology club where school pupils have welcomed people with dementia and their carers into their schools to work together in an after school club where they have been learning to play on the wii, xbox and ipads together. This way of working offers opportunities to educate younger generations about dementia and to combat associated stigma, ignorance and fear of what it might mean to live with dementia.
Samuel Nyman ended the evening with an enthusiastic lecture on ‘Falls Prevention’ and how the amount of time we spend being sedentary increases our chances of falling and injuring ourselves. Research has shown that the more active we are in our 30’s and 40’s will decrease our chances of developing dementia. Samuel’s research is looking to develop behavioural change techniques that can be used to encourage a much more active lifestyle. He showed a clip of people choosing to use an escalator instead of the stairs. The stairs were transformed into a working piano overnight and usage of the stairs increased by 66% the next day.
The IRW audience clapping to 'Oo-ah Cantona'
It was an excellent evening with a great opportunity for the audience to engage with the BUDI team. I’ll end with just one of the positive comments from the audience, which was ‘Wonderful to hear from such enthusiastic and passionate presenters forging strong partnerships with those in the community. Many thanks.’
There are nine more interdisciplinary research events being held this week and so please do come along: https://research.bournemouth.ac.uk/interdisciplinary-research-week-2015/. Today’s events are:
There is a lot of talk in the sector at present about the benefits of interdisciplinary research. But what exactly does this mean? The best definition I have found is from a report by The National Academies (2004) – “Interdisciplinary research is a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.” (download the full report for free here).
At the HEFCE REFlections event last month there was a lot of talk about interdisciplinary research. Apparently most of the high-scoring impact case studies and outputs submitted to REF 2014 featured interdisciplinary research, and HEFCE are considering making interdisciplinary research a feature of the next REF assessment in which it could carry additional marks. They have commissioned Elsevier to conduct a review of interdisciplinary research with a view to the data feeding into the review of the REF and informing future exercises (read the sides here).
This seems a surprising turn of events, considering REF 2014 took so much flack in the months and years leading up to submission from academics who feared it would disadvantage interdisciplinary research. Ismael Rafols (University of Sussex), for example, claimed there is a systematic bias against interdisciplinarity in journal rankings, with the top-ranking journals covering a few specialist disciplines (read the full article here). In the run up to the REF submission there was concern that it wasn’t REF that was disadvantaging interdisciplinary research but institutions that were choosing not to submit it due to it being ‘too risky’ (see this article in The Guardian). But later articles started to look at how the REF actually benefited interdisciplinary researchers (for example, see this article in The Guardian).
The word from the HEFCE camp is that interdisciplinary research contributes to more world-leading research, as evidenced by it featuring in the highest scoring case studies and outputs, and that further interdisciplinarity is therefore beneficial and to be encouraged. Interdisciplinary research is one of the government’s research priorities and was listed, for example, as one of the UK research landscape’s strengths in the BIS science and innovation strategy.
Major funding initiatives are now more frequently interdisciplinary in nature, guided by the strategic priorities of major research funders, for example the Research Councils UK cross-council themes and the Horizon 2020 societal challenges.
There are inherent advantages to interdisciplinary research that are well known. Findings indicate that it is often in the spaces between disciplines from where innovative perspectives, collaborations and solutions emerge. Interdisciplinary researchers frequently speak of being more interested, engaged and stimulated by their work.
In support of interdisciplinarity, BU’s inaugural Interdisciplinary Research Week is taking place from 11-15 May. It includes a programme of lectures, demonstrations, discussions, and a film, all aimed at showcasing examples of the fantastic interdisciplinary research being undertaken at the University. It is open to staff, students and members of the public so please do come along.
Join us to celebrate the breadth and excellence of Bournemouth University’s research across its many disciplines, and spark new collaborations and ideas among our diverse research community.
This week-long event, which runs from 11 to 15 May, includes a programme of lectures, demonstrations, discussions, and a film, all aimed at showcasing some of the fantastic research being undertaken at the university.
This event is open to staff, students and the general public and we would encourage you to forward on the information to friends and colleagues from other institutions, so they can join in with the celebration.
Visit the Research website to find out more.