Tagged / ref2021

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.

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.

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.

Research impact at BU: the benefits of emotional processing & advising government and business on trade post-Brexit

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.)

Emotional processing and its impact on mental and physical health

Research areas: Clinical Psychology, Health Care Statistics & Epidemiology

Staff conducting research: Professor Roger Baker, Professor Peter Thomas, Dr Sarah Thomas

Background: In the late 1970s, Professor Baker began to see a connection between physical symptoms and the way earlier stressful events were emotionally processed. Emotional processing is a type of natural healing that protects people from emotional distress. However, there are some styles of emotional processing that inhibit successful processing and which could contribute to psychological disorders or psychogenic conditions, i.e. physical illnesses which have a psychological cause.

Together with a project team and clinicians, Professor Baker began the development of the Emotional Processing Scale (EPS) in 2000. Research findings indicated that nearly every psychological disorder they studied revealed significant difficulties with emotional processing. In 2012, the team collaborated with 70 research groups globally to develop a wide range of cultural, diagnostic and healthy norms. The final EPS consisted of 25 questions, covering five different dimensions, and was published in 2015.

Emotional processing offers an alternative approach to diagnoses of psychiatric illnesses. Problematic ways of emotional processing are implicated in nearly every type of clinical condition, from psychological disorders to medical conditions with or without organic pathology. The development of EPS has enabled clinicians to identify patients for therapy and measure change in significant emotional dimensions during therapy. It has also led directly to the development of emotion-based therapies in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), tinnitus and psychogenic epilepsy.

The impact:

Patient benefits in the UK

The EPS is used as a tool to diagnose and treat people with a variety of physical, behavioural and emotional pathologies. It has been employed by clinicians and in teaching, with examples including:

  • a consultant clinical neuropsychologist at Dorset HealthCare University Foundation Trust;
  • a psychologist working with the Dorset Youth Offending Team;
  • Sheffield’s Specialist Neurology Psychotherapy Service, for the treatment of patients with non-epileptic seizures; and
  • the Open University, which invited Professor Baker to contribute material on panic attacks – based on his Emotional Processign Model – for their new MSc in Psychology. The material has also been re-purposed for its OpenLearn Platform, where it has had more than 30,000 unique visits since March 2019.

Healthcare guidelines and policy

The British Psychological Society (BPS) awarded the EPS a 4/4* (Excellent) evaluation, describing it as “spearheading a revolution in thinking to overcome the limitations imposed by the ‘medical model’… [it] makes it possible to explore more fully the contributory role of key emotional factors in psychopathology and psychological therapy.” The Emotional Processing Scale now has BPS Registered Test status, which provides clinicians with reassurance that it meets the necessary quality standards.

A global resource

The EPS has been translated into 19 languages and been used by therapists, psychologists and teachers in France, Poland and Italy, while Professor Baker’s three self-help books – Emotional processing: healing through feelingUnderstanding trauma: how to overcome post traumatic stress and Understanding panic attacks and overcoming fear – have sold more than 90,000 copies worldwide in total. They have been translated into French, German, Polish and Czech and continue to receive positive reviews, including: “Best book ever if you suffer from panic attacks” and “My doctor told me to buy this book. It certainly worked for me.”

Supporting trade policy: Brexit and beyond

Research area: Economics

Staff conducting research: Professor Sangeeta Khorana

Background: From 2008, Professor Khorana took the lead in a series of studies on trade agreements, which demonstrated how data and techniques can support trade negotiations. In 2015-17, she led research on the European Commission’s ‘Public Procurement Initiative’ project, developing a methodology to use contracts data for negotiating free trade agreements with third countries, and devising a template that uses statistical tools to analyse negotiating positions.

As co-investigator for the European Commission’s ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme in 2015, Professor Khorana carried out research on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This led to her co-editing a book for EU member states to enable them to understand the implications of TTIP and how an agreement could affect the future of global economic governance.

After the UK’s EU referendum in 2016, Professor Khorana’s research focus shifted to an examination of the likely economic impact of Brexit. Her expertise in this area fed into the Handbook on the EU and International Tradeused as a learning resource and reference guide – as well as an edited book on Brexit, produced in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat. More specifically, she has utilised her computable general equilibrium techniques, which combine economic theory with real economic data to compute the impacts of policies or shocks in the economy, to conduct a series of economic impact assessments on Brexit.

The impact:

The Department for International Trade (DIT)

The DIT approached Professor Khorana to seek her expertise on trade negotiations post-Brexit. Her subsequent involvement included:

  •  contributing directly to the ‘Market Access’ project, an ongoing initiative at the DIT, to support UK trade negotiators in trade talks with the USA and Australia;
  • membership of the Expert Advisory group on Public Procurement and Expert Advisory member of the Department of International Development’s Trade and Development group;
  • advising DIT officials on which sectors the UK could target for greater market access in a trade deal with the USA and Australia.

Welsh Assembly

The Welsh Assembly commissioned Professor Khorana and Welsh Assembly Adviser at Aberystwyth, Professor Nicholas Perdikis, to report on the economic implications for Wales of the UK’s departure from the EU. The 2017 study’s findings – that the Welsh economy would suffer under all scenarios – informed Senedd Cymru’s (the Welsh Parliament) decision to update its policy, stating that Wales “must maintain full and unfettered access to the Single Market” post-Brexit. This became the official policy position adopted by the Welsh Government at Westminster from 2018-2020.

Professor Khorana also gave oral evidence to the UK government’s Welsh Affairs Committee in September 2020, providing an updated assessment on Wales’ preparedness to leave the EU on 1 January 2021. The Welsh Parliament acknowledged Professor Khorana’s contribution and support in making a decision on future trading with the EU, noting that the 2017 report “systematically influenced” its analysis of the impacts of post-Brexit UK-EU trade agreements on the Welsh economy.

Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)

Between May and November 2018 Professor Khorana researched the impact of Brexit on Scotch Whisky exports, and utilised CGE modelling techniques to examine potential scenarios. The findings presented loss of market access for all Scotch whisky producers, and especially those making the more expensive single malt. The SWA used Professor Khorana’s estimates of potential costs of the different scenarios in its Position paper, aimed at defending the industry’s interests at Westminster, and recognised that it enabled it to prepare for the different Brexit scenarios and associated costs.

Dorset business sector

Professor Khorana also led briefings for the Dorset Engineering and Manufacturing Cluster, advising more than 70 local businesses on the effects of Brexit on exports and their workforce. These sessions enabled members of the Cluster to understand how to prepare to mitigate the effects of various scenarios on the UK’s departure from the EU.

Research impact at BU: stories of older LGBT people change attitudes & the treatment of long-term conditions with electrical stimulation

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.)

Changing hearts and minds: how the stories of older LGBT people are changing attitudes, education and care

RUFUS STONE (2012)

Research areas: Performative Social Science & Social Care

Staff conducting research: Dr Kip Jones, Professor Lee-Ann Fenge, Dr Rosie Read, Dr Marilyn Cash

Background: In ‘The Gay and Grey’ and ‘The Gay and Pleasant Land’ projects funded by the National Lottery and ESRC respectively, Dr Jones and his team explored the experiences of older LGBT people. They discovered common themes of identity issues, isolation and exclusion and, in particular, a lack of participation from rural residents and limited understanding of participants’ life stories.

Working with an advisory group of older gay people and service providers, BU researchers looked at how older gay men and lesbians in rural areas interacted with their communities, while considering socio-economic and cultural effects and differing attitudes towards sexuality and ageing. Their findings showed: a lifelong impact on gay men who grew up when homosexuality was illegal (up to 1967); the struggle to be accepted in rural communities by many older LGBT people; difficulties negotiating with service providers; fear and loneliness; and the prevalent risk of suicide among older gay men.

Based on these insights, Dr Jones wrote and produced a short film, RUFUS STONE, which tells the story of two young boys’ experience of anger and rejection from a rural 1950s community when they develop feeling for each other. The film sees the two reunited 50 years later, although one character has never revealed his sexuality and ultimately takes his own life. As well as the film, Professor Fenge collaborated with a group of older LGBT people to produce a card deck called ‘Methods to Diversity’ for care agencies and service providers. the cards detail activities and exercises to prompt staff to think about inclusivity and the diversity of the ageing population.

The impact: 

Changing attitudes

RUFUS STONE was screened around the world, attracting attention for both its style and subject matter. It won international accolades, including an award for Best LGBT Film at Rhode Island International Film Festival 2013, and was also featured in the New York Times. As well as prompting discussion around sexuality and marginalisation, the film demonstrably changed attitudes: evidenced by student-teachers in Kazakhstan planning to screen it to pupils to help them “understand… that some existing values are remnants of the older generation”.

The film was also shared online in 2016 and, by December 2020, had been viewed more than 17,800 times in 73 countries.

Educating future generations

Several universities in the UK and abroad use RUFUS STONE in their teaching, including: the University of Manchester, which features it in an undergraduate sociology module; Brighton University, which describes it as ‘inspirational’; Istanbul Yeni Yuzyil University, which has added it to its syllabus at the Faculty of Fine Arts; and the School of Communication and Media Studies in Lisbon.

Transforming frontline care

Hampshire County Council has used the film and the card deck since 2014 in training sessions with emergency services, residential care staff among others, instigating “changes in attitudes and awareness amongst council staff”. It adds that the resources indirectly inspired the county’s first Gay Pride.

The Help and Care UK charity used the film and card deck with its ‘wayfinder’ staff, who signposted older people to information and services. Watching RUFUS STONE challenged their attitudes and perceptions around homosexuality and led to greater awareness. In a 2016 wayfinders briefing document, they included their support for “freedom from discrimination” on the grounds of sexuality.

The Alzheimer’s Society has used the film since 2013 to improve its local and regional teams’ understanding of LGBT issues: “There is no question [it] was a catalyst for change. It was… raw and real so made us think outside the box”.

How our electrical stimulation devices have improved long-term medical conditions

Research areas: Clinical Engineering, Orthopaedics, Design Engineering & Computing

Staff conducting research: Professor Ian Swain, Dr Jon Cobb, Tom Wainwright, Professor Robert Middleton, Professor Paul Taylor, Choukri Mecheraoui

Background: Electrical stimulation is a method of controlling muscles using an external device, following neurological disease such as stroke or musculoskeletal problems. When used to provide a specific function, such as walking or hand grasp, it is known as functional electrical stimulation (FES). The results of Professor Swain’s first ever randomised controlled clinical trial of an ES device to rehabilitate patients with dropped foot after a stroke demonstrated significant advantages over traditional physiotherapy. In addition to providing support and immediate improvement, the device means people receive therapy as they walk, improving walking and quality of life.

Since 2006, Professor Swain has steered a collaboration between BU, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust and Odstock Medical Limited (BU-SFT-OML), after taking the lead in patenting the first Odstock Dropped Foot Stimulator and helping establish OML. The clinical service has since expanded to include the treatment of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease.

Clinical trials supervised by Professors Swain and Taylor showed that 43% of participants who had suffered a stroke improved their walking speed, while people with MS also demonstrated a highly significant improvement. Recent findings showed that such use of ES was the most effective assistive technology treatment, and that it is possible to use surface electrodes to restore useful hand function to people with tetraplegia.

Professor Swain’s move to BU’s Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) to work with Wainwright and Professor Middleton has enabled techniques developed for people with neurological problems to be applied to those with orthopaedic problems. Combining this expertise has led to the development of new stimulators and training courses.

The impact:

Health benefits

The findings from the BU-SFT-OML partnership have helped develop the National Clinical FES Centre in Salisbury, the largest clinical service in the world. As of February 2020, more than 7,700 people have been treated, primarily for walking problems, although the service is expanding to treat upper limb weakness, facial problems such as Bell’s Palsy, and constipation.

The FES devices developed with BU research input have radically improved people’s lives, increasing their functional ability and their participation in society.

Further FES centres, using equipment from BU-SFT-OML, have been established in the West Midlands, London and Sheffield, treating more than 2,600 patients in total.

Policy impacts

In 2016, NICE focused on the PACE device system, developed by BU-SFT-OML, in one of its Medical Innovation Bulletins. Professor Swain also contributed to the development of new NICE guidelines on the use of electrical stimulation in non-neurological long-term conditions.

Since 2014, OML has also trained more than 1,000 staff in total in the UK and abroad on how to implement the devices and treatments developed with BU for people with both lower and upper limb restrictions.

Research impact at BU: the effects of terrorism on tourism & the benefits of digital reading

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.)

Understanding and helping to minimise the effects of terrorism on tourism destinations

Research areas: Quantitative Finance, Tourism Management, Retail Management, Quantitative Research Design and Analysis

Staff conducting research: Dr Anna Hillingdon, Professor John Fletcher, Professor Stephen Page, Dr John Beavis, Dr Gregory Kapuscinski

Background: Associate Professor Hillingdon is a leading expert in the area of terrorism and its impacts on tourists and tourism destinations. Her work, funded by both the World Bank and the United Nations World Trade Organisation, has offered a number of key insights:

  • Analysis of international tourism arrivals across the USA, Bali, Spain, UK and India showed that terrorist attacks seem to have a larger effect in developing countries than in large European capitals. Where there is a greater dependence on tourism in GDP terms, it is important to restore tourist confidence through efficient and effective post-crisis communication.
  • Demonstrating infrastructure which can quickly restore safety and order can help restore tourist confidence more quickly.
  • International incidents including terrorism do not necessarily have a long-lasting economic impact on tourism.
  • The willingness to travel to a destination after a terrorist attack differs according to personalities.
  • BU researchers conducted an analysis of 250 case study ‘hybrid threats’ (those which combine conventional military aggression with non-conventional means such as cyber-attacks, espionage and terrorism) and found a key area of threat is ‘economic leverage’. They found governments needed to take measures to counter their susceptibility to this threat by building strong, adaptive infrastructures.

The impact:

Enabling better communication for travellers after terrorist attacks

With global online travel company Travelzoo, Dr Hillingdon worked on the design and analysis of a survey of 6,000 consumers worldwide to investigate consumer perception of safety and security on holiday. Combined with her previous findings about tourists’ risk perceptions, this informed a major media campaign in 2015-2017. In more than 100 interviews with national and international media, Dr Hillingdon conveyed that, while terrorist attacks might contribute to a decline in tourism in a specific region, demand would simply go elsewhere. The research was also published in the White Paper, “State of Play: the Impact of Geopolitical Events on International Tourism in 2017”, which concluded the tourism industry and governments should unite to provide clearer information on the safety and security of tourism destinations. In 2017, the UK Foreign Office announced the removal of the terrorism threat level descriptors used at the time, to be replaced with more information about the predictability, context and mitigation of any threat.

Encouraging countries to invest in tourism after terrorist attacks

Dr Hillingdon worked with the World Bank in 2018 to investigate the effects of terrorism on tourist development and growth in Central Asia. As a result of data collected from a survey of tour operators, as well as her own comparative research on the actions governments can take to mitigate the impact of terrorist activities on their tourism sectors, Dr Hillingdon was able to provide evidence which led to a full risk analysis. The project concluded the impact on tourism of specific terrorist attacks was likely to be negligible unless further attacks took place. The tourist sector in Central Asia was encouraged to continue its development, and it was noted this would reduce the likelihood of future attacks as it would decrease the poverty that makes countries like Tajikstan an easy recruitment target for groups such as ISIS.

Enhancing the UK government’s and NATO’s understanding of hybrid threats

Dr Hillingdon contributed to a major NATO research project aimed at deepening understanding of so-called hybrid threats and exploring how to assess them. This work, together with her focus on the need for a strong, resilient economic infrastructure, fed into a handbook on the most effective ways to counter hybrid warfare, now in use by the UK and 13 other governments worldwide.

Reading on Screen: enhancing the benefits of reading through engaging with digital technologies

Research areas: English, New Media, Communication, Literature

Staff conducting research: Professor Bronwen Thomas, Dr Julia Round

Background:

Researchers at BU have challenged the negative perceptions around digital reading, providing insights into how and why people read on digital platforms. This has led to the development of innovative methods which capture how technology has enriched reading, enabling new social and cultural benefits.

The research was prompted by Thomas’s early work on fanfiction – a form of narrative which has exploded in popularity on the internet, and which enables fans to create their own stories about characters or plots. Thomas applied theories and methods developed by media and cultural studies scholars, revealing how fanfiction challenged boundaries between authors and readers, creation and interpretation. She also extended this approach to the study of online literary communities, using a combination of interviews and analysis to show a thriving, productive virtual culture.

An AHRC-funded project in 2012 investigated how people read online, as well as the insights and opportunities digital platforms provide for education and the creative industries. Some of the findings were that a preference for printed or e-books depended on genre, and that posting creative work in online forums boosted confidence.

The AHRC Research Network Award (2013-2015) brought together 29 academics and consultants from multiple disciplines to review existing scholarly models for researching reading practice. From this, the network developed innovative techniques adapted to analysing digital reading and prioritising engagement with readers both on- and offline. Building on the findings from the network, BU analysed activities in literature forums, detecting behavioural patterns to understand how users interacted with each other. They found that groups connect users with shared interests, allowing them to shape discussions themselves, and that moderators play a crucial role in shaping group identities and maintaining community bonds. Collectively, this work demonstrated how digital platforms have altered yet enriched reading.

The impact:

In 2017/18 Thomas established the Reading on Screen project, with the University of Brighton, the Reading Agency and DigiTales, a participatory media company. Readers from a diverse range of backgrounds aged 18-87 created digital stories capturing their experiences of reading in the digital age. The project demonstrated how engagement with the digital, far from being confined to younger generations, is in fact also delivering extensive benefits for the older population. It also highlighted how both digital and print reading practices and preferences are shaped by local cultures and environments but that these can change through life experiences and intergenerational interactions. The project achieved the following impacts.

Policy change

Thomas worked closely with the ‘Axe the Reading Tax’ campaign led by the Publishers Association, with the Book Trust and the National Literacy, to develop a new campaign strategy based on highlighting how the tax affects the most vulnerable. The Chancellor announced that VAT on digital publications would be removed from December 2020, although it was ultimately removed earlier, on 1 May 2020.

Benefits to organisations and charities

The Reading Agency delivers a range of programmes to more than 1.4 million people a year and applied the insights from BU’s research – particularly how and why people read on digital devices – to their own work. DigiTales runs digital storytelling workshops with young people, refugees, and the homeless. After working on the Reading on Screen project, they adapted their facilitator training and workshop model to reflect the requirements of working alongside academics with specific research questions in mind. The project also directly led to the organisation working with other universities and provided traineeships for two participants.

Enriching lives

For the participants who created the Reading on Screen stories, finding their voice was a transformative experience. An unforeseen impact is the beneficial effect workshops have on participants with complex social/health issues in terms of social inclusion and emotional resilience. They had no prior experience of using digital technologies in creative contexts and described how the project increased their feelings self-worth and achievement, with some developing resilience and others enjoying increased social interaction.

Research impact at BU: identifying malnutrition risk in older people & enhancing recovery after surgery

Celebrating BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021

New tools to identify older people at risk of malnutrition and improve their nutritional care

Research areas: Nutrition, Food Science, Health & Social Care

Staff conducting research: Professor Jane Murphy, Dr Joanne Holmes, Cindy Brooks, Dr Nirmal Aryal

Background: 

Malnutrition affects 1,300,000 (or 1 in 10) older adults living in the community, with far-reaching health consequences, an increased need for healthcare and higher rates of mortality. Research undertaken by Professor Murphy demonstrated that one of the key priorities for research into malnutrition and nutrition screening was the need for novel practical approaches to screening and tools that would allow for early intervention to prevent malnutrition. It also identified that limited training and a high turnover of staff in community teams created significant challenges in using the existing leading tool, the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST).

As well as identifying new ways of screening, Professor Murphy developed new interventions to reduce the risk of malnutrition in vulnerable groups, such as people with dementia (PwD), who are particularly at risk due to reduced appetite, difficulties associated with eating, and swallowing problems. A two-year, BU-led research project deployed innovative wearable technology for PwD in care homes to measure levels of physical activity, sleep patterns and energy expenditure, combined with information about their energy intake and nutritional status. It found that needs varied enormously between individuals, demonstrating the importance of person-centred care when considering how to support PwD to eat and drink well.

The impact:

BU researchers worked with the Patients Association to help test and refine the latter’s Nutrition Checklist, which has since been downloaded more than  2,000 times.  Professor Murphy wrote guidelines for using the checklist during the Covid-19 pandemic, and councils and NHS Trusts across the UK have been using it to screen their vulnerable populations. As the checklist was designed to be used by patients and carers, as well as professionals, it became a vital tool for diagnosing malnutrition in the community during this period.

Eat Well Age Well, a national project tackling malnutrition in older people living at home in Scotland also incorporated the checklist into its training and guidelines. More than 500 staff and volunteers were trained and nearly 700 older people screened by December 2020. Case studies included a 91-year-old and a 74-year-old who both gained weight after being given dietary advice after screening.

Key aspects of BU research were embedded in the National Dementia Training Standards Framework (2018), directly informing essential knowledge and skills on nutrition and hydration across nine of the 14 subjects for food and nutrition.

Professor’s Murphy’s research led to the development of a training toolkit to deliver person-centred nutritional care for PwD, which has been incorporated into guidance on websites including Dementia UK. Over 1,700 known recipients of the downloaded resources (including nurses and allied health professionals, hospital and care home staff from the UK and overseas) have reported benefits and action to reconfigure nutritional care.

Building on the success of the toolkit for the care workforce, 4,000 hard copies of a guide for family carers of PwD were distributed nationally. A survey of carers who used the guide found positive changes to PwD’s appetite and fluid intake, with feedback demonstrating that carers have been empowered to make changes to support their relatives.

Reducing costs and improving patient outcomes through Enhanced Recovery After Surgery approaches in orthopaedics

Research areas: Orthopaedics, Physiotherapy

Staff conducting research: Professor Robert Middleton, Associate Professor Tom Wainwright, Louise Burgess, Tikki Immins

Background:

In 2010, Professor Middleton and Associate Professor Wainwright published the results of the first UK study to implement Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) within orthopaedics. The study followed 2,391 consecutive hip and knee joint replacement patients at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital, where they found high levels of staff and patient satisfaction, along with good clinical outcomes, following the implementation of ERAS. The average length of stay (LOS) decreased from 7.8 days to 4.1 days and there was no increase in the rate of complications or readmissions. Wainwright and Middleton presented the first data to assess ERAS in much older people and found patients aged 85 years+ went home four days earlier after hip replacement compared to case-matched patients elsewhere in the UK.

The BU researchers recommended the implementation of ERAS within orthopaedics at other hospitals, stating that major economic and capacity savings could be realised at the same time as improving key aspects of patient care. They conducted the first systematic review examining patient experience of ERAS in hip and knee replacements and the research confirmed that patient satisfaction was high and not adversely affected by ERAS.

They have also sought to optimise elements of the pathway known to directly affect patient experience, such as pre-operative education. BU research was the first to demonstrate that for patients this is most important, and showed that those undergoing knee replacement, who were considered at high risk of an extended LOS, and who attended an education class prior to surgery, stayed, on average, 2.58 days less in hospital

In 2015, BU established the Orthopaedic Research Institute to advance research in orthopaedic surgery: it has since expanded to include advocating ERAS for fractured neck of femur, ankle replacement surgery, shoulder replacement surgery and the first ever paper on ERAS for major spine surgery.

The impact:

Following a series of education sessions conducted by Middleton and Wainwright in New Zealand, ERAS principles were implemented in 18 of the country’s participating district health boards for more than 11,000 people having elective hip and knee replacements and acute patients with fractured neck of femur, or broken hip – a potentially life-threatening injury, especially in older people. The results were significant:

  • average LOS fell from 4.63 to 4.05 days for hip replacement surgery and from 5.00 to 4.29 days for knee-replacement surgery, resulting in a nominal saving of NZ$ 1.8 million
  • the number of blood transfusions fell from 13.9% to 9.2% for hip replacements, from 17.8% to 5.5% for knee replacements, and 31.9% to 27.5% for fractured neck of femur, resulting in a nominal saving of NZ$516,000.

Wainwright has worked with the Scottish Government to implement a national programme to improve standards of care for orthopaedic joint arthroplasty patients across all 22 units in Scotland. Data collected from the Musculoskeletal Audit on behalf of the Scottish Government between September – December 2013 showed:

  • an increase from 21% (2010) to 92% (2013) of hip and knee arthroplasty patients benefitting from ERAS and
  • a decrease in LOS from 5.6 days (2010) to 4.8 days (2013).

A survey last year of attendees of the education sessions in New Zealand noted a range of benefits for patients as a result of implementing ERAS. Respondents reported shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and positive feedback from patients.

Next post: the effects of terrorism on tourism & reading on screen.

Research impact at BU: a science-art collaboration & rebuilding trust in the insurance industry

Celebrating BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021

An image of AfterGlow (2016) boredomresearch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhancing scientific practice & communication and enabling strategic and financial growth through science-art collaboration

Research area: Art & Design

Staff conducting research: Vicky Isley, Paul Smith

Background:

boredomresearch is a collaboration between artists Isley and Smith, who are internationally renowned for their projects combining art, science and technology. Both were research lecturers at BU’s National Centre for Computer Animation from 2005-20. Three interdisciplinary art-science research projects were featured in the impact case study.

Working with Oxford University neuroscientists, Isley and Smith’s Dreams of Mice (2015-2016) captured data displaying the patterns of neuron activity in sleeping laboratory mice. The artwork enabled complex neuroscientific research to be disseminated in a form understood more intuitively by experts and non-experts alike.

AfterGlow (2016) is a real-time digital animation depicting malaria transmission, created in collaboration with Glasgow University. It leads the viewer on a visual journey through a landscape illuminated by glowing spirals, representing mosquito flight paths and infected blood, thereby illustrating the intimate relationship between disease and its environment. AfterGlow won the prestigious moving image Lumen Prize award in 2016 and has been exhibited all over the world.

For Robots in Distress (2016-2019), boredomresearch worked with computer scientists from Austria’s Graz University during the creation of the world’s largest robot swarm – designed to monitor pollution in Venice Lagoon. Isley and Smith created an animation visualising emotional robotics, depicting a murky underwater world populated by small glowing robots seemingly helplessly navigating the hazards of plastic waste.

The impact:

By representing research data in visual, intuitive formats, boredomresearch provided their scientific collaborators with a fresh outlook, encouraging questions and insights into abstract concepts at the frontiers of research. As well as communicating research, all three art-science projects exemplified and promoted the actual practice of communicating science through art.

More than three million engagements from scientists, industry, civil society, policymakers and the public were recorded for the Silent Signal exhibition, which featured AfterGlow. BU research insights also enabled organisations to grow financially and strategically. The Biodesign Institute in Arizona used the BU findings to inform a successful $8.5m bid to establish the Arizona Cancer and Evolution Center. Animate Projects, which established the Silent Signal exhibition, exceeded their target audience of 24,000, thanks to AfterGlow contributing the “largest proportion of viewings of all commissioned projects”. In Berlin alone, 84,000 viewed the film at a single screening, and it also helped Animate Projects extend their reach into Asia.

Restoring consumer trust in the insurance industry

Research areas: Marketing, Strategy & Innovation, Retail Management

Staff conducting the research: Dr Julie Robson, Professor Juliet Memery, Dr Elvira Bolat, Samreen Ashraf, Kok Ho Sit

Background:

In 2016-17 Dr Robson and her team undertook two funded research projects to provide a greater understanding of trust, specifically the measurement of trust, trust erosion and trust repair. One project examined the trust repair process and mechanisms used in traditional and digital media within selected high-profile trust erosion examples.  The second project investigated trust repair in three very different high-profile contexts, including mis-selling in financial services.

This latter study identified the actions that organisations took to repair trust and how these actions influenced consumer attitudes towards, and trust in, the company and wider industry sector, taking into account different causes of trust damage. The outcome of the projects was a new management trust repair tool to help businesses better understand and respond to trust challenges. Specifically, it helps them to understand the conceptual differences between trust and trust repair. This tool is also is the first to initiate a framework offering a choice of mechanisms with which to repair trust. Details of the tool, and the step-by-step process to follow to restore trust, has featured in an online guide for practitioners

The impact:

By 2017, trust in the insurance industry had reached an all-time low, and a range of damaging practices, such as mis-selling, were assumed to be the cause. However, research was needed to identify accurately the specific causes and establish how to repair consumer trust.

Dr Robson worked with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) to develop a new Public Trust Index – shaped by BU’s own trust repair tool – to measure and track changes in consumer confidence in insurance. The Index identified that the key problem in building consumer trust was the practice of dual pricing – whereby new customers get cheaper insurance than loyal customers. Based on this finding, the CII worked with the industry regulator to produce new guidelines which prevent this practice, therefore protecting customers from overpayment, and repairing industry trust.

Next post: identifying the risk of malnutrition in older people & enhancing patient recovery after surgery.

Research impact at BU: support for those with ‘face blindness’ & preserving iconic wartime tanks

Celebrating BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021

Pinpointing prosopagnosia: the professional and social impact of achieving NHS recognition

Research area: Psychology

Staff conducting research: Professor Sarah Bate, Dr Peter Hills, Dr Nicola Gregory, Dr Rachel Bennetts, Dr Anna Bobak

Background: People with the cognitive disorder prosopagnosia cannot recognise faces, which can severely affect their everyday lives. In 2012, BU launched the Centre for Face Processing Disorders (CFPD), led by Professor Bate, to investigate the condition. Bate began by conducting a large-scale investigation of face recognition difficulties in primary school children, which showed that, despite low awareness of the condition, prosopagnosia is more common than other, better-known developmental disorders such as ASD. BU researchers interviewed adults with the condition and parents of children displaying face recognition difficulties, which enabled them to develop a detailed analysis of the strategies people use to cope, and subsequently to create the first evidence-based list of recommendations for managing prosopagnosia.

The impact: In 2014 – following a House of Commons roundtable discussion where the BU team presented their research findings – the NHS formally recognised the condition. Subsequently, the first ever page on prosopagnosia was launched on the NHS Choices website, under the A-Z of conditions. It links directly to the CFPD, and more than 20,000 people worldwide have used the resources. The vast media interest in Bate’s work increased substantially in the months after NHS recognition, with coverage of prosopagnosia in high-profile outlets such as The One Show, The Times, ITV News and Scientific American leading to raised public awareness and hundreds more people seeking a diagnosis. The NHS webpage also promotes Bate’s behavioural intervention techniques for improving face recognition skills. This unique resource offers the only known opportunity (globally) for prosopagnosic children to access an amelioration programme, and has reached participants from the UK, USA and Australia. Analyses show improvement in face recognition following 10 sessions of training compared with controls, with stronger improvements in children than adults, while parental feedback is very positive, suggesting that improvements transfer to everyday life.

Preserving historically important battle tanks and developing best practice in the heritage vehicle museum sector

Area of research: Design, Engineering & Computing

Staff conducting research: Professor Zulfiqar Khan, Dr Adil Saeed, Dr Hammad Nazir

The Tiger 131, which featured in the 2014 film Fury

Background: BU’s Condition Monitoring, Analysis and Prediction model (CMAP) develops reliable estimates of large engineering structures’ performance and vulnerability, by using improved simulations based on experimental observations and data. In 2009, Khan’s team began a collaboration with the Tank Museum, with the aim of implementing a framework to monitor and, ultimately, slow down structural deterioration. Initial experimental investigations analysed tanks’ corrosion and wear failures and provided valuable data to develop precision-based mathematical models to predict and prognose failures in military vehicles. The first prototype was commissioned by the Tank Museum and installed on two historically important battle tanks. This led to a patented novel sensor design and the development of a framework of remote sensing techniques, which were used to predict failures such as corrosion, deterioration, cracking, chipping, coating and significant wear and erosion. Combined with novel maintenance-scheduling algorithms, this enabled identification of the best time to perform maintenance, in terms of safety and cost.

The impact: The Tank Museum, which attracts 200,000 visitors a year, houses one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. It applied BU’s novel conditioning method – now patented – to significantly increase the lifespan of its vehicles and preserve them for future generations. The Tiger 131 (pictured) is one of only seven Tiger 1 tanks surviving worldwide and, thanks to the BU-Tank Museum collaboration, is currently the only one restored to running order. Following its improved performance, the tank was featured in the 2014 film Fury, which received widespread praise from critics for its realistic depiction of WWII. Increased public interest prompted the museum to hold special ‘Tiger Days’, which have taken place on a biannual basis since 2013. Thousands of spectators come to see the Tiger 131 and other iconic tanks. The increased visitor numbers have brought commercial benefits to the museum, contributing to the annual turnover of more than £20m, while the remote-sensing technology is helping to reduce inspection and maintenance costs. The research data was also critical in securing £2.5m in Heritage Lottery funding to build the museum’s Vehicle Conservation Centre, which established optimal preservation and operating conditions for heritage vehicles, and is defining best practice for museums worldwide.

Next post: restoring consumer trust in the insurance industry & a collaboration between art and science

Research impact at BU: improving wellbeing with multi-sensory art installations & saving an iconic freshwater fish from extinction

A series of posts highlighting BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (The full impact case studies will be published on the REF website summer 2022.)

KIMA: Improved wellbeing through participatory visual sound art

KIMA: Noise by Analema Group. Tate Modern 2019. www.analemagroup.com Image by Sophie le Roux. www.sophielerouxdocu.com

Research areas: Media & Arts Practice

Staff conducting research: Dr Oliver Gingrich, Dr Alain Renaud

Background: BU’s Gingrich and Renaud are practice-based researchers and members of the Analema Group, an arts collective which creates participatory experiences that explore the relationships between sound, colour, light, movement and form. They created three multi-sensory experiences which focused on audience participation through KIMA, an art and research project investigating the visual properties of sound. KIMA: Voice represents participants’ vocal harmonies in 3D form. BU worked with researchers from the Centre for Performance Science – a partnership between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London – to explore how such harmonies can measure social connectedness, happiness and loneliness. KIMA: Noise is an interactive sound art piece, developed with an urban noise and health expert from Queen Mary University London, which examines the negative effect of urban noise on social behaviour, health and wellbeing. KIMA: Colour, created with scientists and curators from the National Gallery and data and algorithm experts from King’s College, allowed audiences to experience a deeper understanding of the art and science of colour in its paintings by transforming the colour data into light and sound installations.

The impact: Engagement with the KIMA installations improved wellbeing by increasing feelings of social connectedness, particularly during the first Covid-19 lockdown. The projects raised awareness among clinicians and decision makers of the benefits of participatory art. KIMA: Colour, in particular, provided evidence of the way in which digital platforms can enable art collections and museums to stay relevant in the 21st century. The work also increased the public discourse on the relationship between art and health, including the detrimental effects of urban noise on wellbeing in KIMA: Noise.

Avoiding extinction: conservation initiatives to save a critically
endangered giant freshwater fish in India

Research area: Fish Ecology

Staff conducting research: Dr Adrian Pinder,
Professor Robert Britton

Background: The hump-backed, orange-finned mahseer is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish and unique to the Cauvery River basin in southern India. Of high global angling significance due to its size (>50kg), its spawning migrations have been threatened by dam building since the early 1900s, leading to decreasing fish numbers. This has since been compounded by unsustainable harvesting, which created local food security problems as the fish was an important protein source.  In 2010 Pinder was fishing in the Western Ghats of southern India, where the Cauvery river originates, and realised that the number and types of mahseer fish being captured did not reflect historical angling records for the region. Together with Britton, he initiated a mahseer research programme, which led to the identification and conservation of a fish now known to be at imminent risk from extinction.

The impact: BU’s research clarified the taxonomy of the orange-finned mahseer as Tor remedavii, which was vital in getting it classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. As IUCN noted: “Without… [BU’s] research, there is a very real possibility that this megafauna could have gone extinct without ever formally being recognised as a species.” By spotlighting the orange-finned mahseer as a conservation priority, BU researchers influenced responsible stocking policies across the mahseer genus, throughout India and southern Asia. Indian-based multinational utility company Tata Power amended its Mahseer Conservation Programme and specific guidance on protecting the fish was included in India’s Wildlife Action Plan. The research insights contributed to new conservation, outreach and education awareness programmes for local schoolchildren and anglers. Working with Tata, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the World Wide Fund for Nature India, the researchers helped develop a robust monitoring programme, which was initially due to be implemented last year, but is currently on hold due to Covid-19.

Next post: preserving heritage military vehicles & support for those with face blindness.

Research impact at BU: reducing fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis & tackling audiovisual piracy

A series of posts highlighting BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (The full impact case studies will be published on the REF website summer 2022.)

Reducing the impact of fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis using a novel fatigue-management programme

Research areas: Health Care, Digital Health, Psychology & Computing

Staff conducting research: Professor Peter Thomas, Dr Sarah Thomas, Dr Andy Pulman, Dr Sarah Collard, Dr Huseyin Dogan, Dr Nan Jiang

Background: Drug treatments for fatigue for people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) are not always effective and, although cognitive behavioural therapy has proved helpful for other conditions, there was a lack of evidence supporting its use for managing MS fatigue. BU researchers conducted a scoping exercise (funded by the MS Society) and a Cochrane review, which confirmed the evidence gap in psychological treatments for MS fatigue. Thomas and her team worked with Poole Hospital to develop FACETS (Fatigue: Applying Cognitive behavioural and Energy effectiveness Techniques to LifeStyle), a group-based fatigue management programme, designed to be easily implemented in clinical practice. The MS Society also commissioned the team to explore the digital delivery of the programme and a protoype Android app was developed and tested.

The impact: An estimated 13,931 PwMS in the UK have participated in FACETS programmes, and the CEO of the MS Society confirms: “Our feedback from people with MS has shown the positive impact that the FACETS programme has on their lives, making a real difference”. The MS Society also supported the national roll-out of FACETS via delivery of a one-day facilitator training course developed by the research team, which has so far trained more than 300 healthcare professionals in the UK.  FACETS was included in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for managing MS, and the MS Society website recommends its use. The impact of FACETS is global – it is being delivered in Ireland, Germany, Denmark, France and Australia, and the programme also been used or adapted for use in Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, Tasmania and New Jersey, USA.

Defeating the pirates: creating a technical guide to support EU law enforcement agencies in combatting audiovisual piracy

Research area: Computing & Informatics

Staff conducting research: Professor Vasilis Katos

Background: Cyber attribution involves processes in the tracking and identification of perpetrators using computer networks for hacking or conducting other crimes. In 2018, audiovisual (AV) piracy generated more than €940m in unlawful revenue in Europe alone. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) commissioned a technical guide to combat illegal Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) – television content formatted for internet delivery. Three areas of research undertaken by BU and academic collaborators – malware forensics, open-source intelligence and digital forensics – provided the basis for the 217-page guide, which underwent a three-month review by industry experts such as Sky and BT, law enforcement agencies and the European Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation.

The impact: The final version of the guide was distributed to all EU law enforcement organisations, who now use it in IPTV investigations; it is also included in training material by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training. In 2019, the guide supported operations by six EU member states to dismantle an international criminal network responsible for IPTV crime, with estimated damages of €6.5m. Last year it helped in the closure of an illegal international service, with more than 2m subscribers, representing an estimated €15m in profits for the criminal network. The guide also demonstrates how to identify pirate services and, for the first time, maps the illegal online video streaming ecosystem. The UK Intellectual Property Office said: ‘research conducted by BU has been critically important in providing a credible and collective analysis of how the environment of online streaming is both used and abused’ and has already identified the potential for transferring the research to other areas of IP crime.

Next post: saving an iconic freshwater fish from extinction and improving wellbeing with multi-sensory art installations.

Research impact at BU: representation of para-athletes in the media & protecting the right to use parody

A series of posts highlighting BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (The full impact case studies will be published on the REF website summer 2022.)

Implementing a parody exception in the UK: shaping policy and innovating the creative sector

Research areas: Intellectual Property & Innovation Law, Media Regulation

Staff conducting research: Professor Dinusha Mendis, Dr Kris Erickson, Professor Martin Kretschmer

Background: The Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property in 2011 focused on a number of issues, including copyright and parody. Against this background, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) commissioned BU researchers to conduct a study supporting the UK government’s consultation on the Review. This resulted in BU researchers producing three reports for the government, reflecting a legal and empirical analysis to assess the economic effects of parody, and recommending the introduction of a parody exception.

The impact: In 2014, the UK government adopted a parody exception, with the UKIPO acknowledging that the research by the BU team was “instrumental in paving the way towards [its] implementation…”. Seven years on, the exception has benefited a range of stakeholders including artists, film and documentary makers, legal practitioners and wider society. Parody artists’ careers have been enhanced by the legalisation of their work, leading to increased income through greater exposure; the number of parody legal disputes has drastically reduced; the creative sector has been able to commission  parodies, increasing innovation and freedom of expression; and charities have generated income for worthwhile causes by using parody in fundraising campaigns.

Shaping para-sport policy and broadcast coverage

Research areas: Sport & Politics, Media & Education

Staff conducting research: Dr Emma Pullen, Professor Michael Silk, Dr Daniel Jackson, Dr Richard Scullion

Background: With the entry of Channel 4 as rights holder in the UK, the Paralympic Games has become an increasingly important site of disability representation. BU researchers undertook the largest ever academic project to examine the implications of the rapid commercialisation of the Games and the increasing visibility of (selected types of) disability in the media. The project aimed to capture the intentions and practices of Channel 4’s broadcasting of the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the influence of this on the content of Paralympic coverage and mediated forms of disability representation, and the wider impact on public attitudes toward disability.

The impact: Findings from the AHRC-funded project ‘Re-presenting para-sport bodies: Disability and the cultural legacy of the Paralympics’ have been utilised by Channel 4, Paralympics GB and UK Sport to shape future broadcasting, policy, practice and the promotion of para-sport.  Channel 4, which will broadcast the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games later this year, stated that BU’s research will “underpin… future coverage of the Paralympics”. The insights from the research data will also frame the decision-making of Paralympics GB, the governing body for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the Paralympics. BU also collaborated with UK Sport to develop the UK Sport Public Attitudes Survey, focusing on public attitudes towards para-sport, the Paralympics, and media coverage of such events. The research team’s analysis of the initial results has helped shape UK Sport’s approach to parasport events, enabling them to “explore territory that we had never specifically entered into before and enhanced our knowledge accordingly”.

Research impact at BU: a citizen science dementia project & action against financial scamming

First in a series of posts looking at BU’s impact case studies for REF 2021. (The full impact case studies will be published on the REF website summer 2022.)

The impact of the Sea Hero Quest app on public awareness of, and engagement with, ageing and dementia research

Research areas: Psychology, Health & Social Care

Staff conducting research: Professor Jan Wiener, Professor Anthea Innes, Dr Sarah Muir, Dr Shanti Shanker, Dr Ramona Grzeschik

Background: BU’s Wayfinding Lab has developed a deep understanding of how ageing, both typical and atypical, affects the cognitive processes involved in spatial recognition. Professor Wiener’s expertise in the design of navigation tasks, environments and experimental levels was used in the design of a mobile gaming app, ensuring it could track age-related changes in navigational abilities.

The impact:  The Sea Hero Quest app encouraged users to navigate complex virtual seascapes. In the process, they provided data on their own wayfinding ability and learned how it is affected by typical/atypical ageing. It reached more than 4.3 million users in 194 countries, making it one of the most successful citizen science projects ever conducted. The app established the value of BU laboratory research in the real world; raised awareness of spatial disorientation in atypical ageing and the importance of research in overcoming it; triggered diagnostic innovation; and provided new commercial domains for gaming developers.

Safeguarding vulnerable adults from financial scams

Research area: Social Care

Staff conducting research: Professor Lee-Ann Fenge, Professor Keith Brown, Dr Sally Lee, Emily Rosenorn-Lanng, Davide Melacca

Background: BU’s National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work is widely regarded as the leader of research into financial scamming and fraud. Beginning with a grant from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) in 2015 to explore the extent of financial scams that target vulnerable individuals, Professors Brown and Fenge and their team then worked with Age UK, the London Borough of Croydon, CTSI’s National Scams team, the Royal Mail, and the Burdett Trust for Nursing, as well as the victims of scamming and their families.

The impact: Based on its research, BU developed key learning resources, which have been distributed nationally, raised awareness of scamming, and increased the protection of vulnerable groups. Nationwide charities, local authorities, the NHS, financial institutions and government all use BU’s research and materials to protect vulnerable people from being defrauded, helping to save consumers from scams worth more than £22 million.

Next post: the media representation of para-athletes & protecting the right to use parody.