Campus round-up - 20 June 2013

June 20, 2013

Source: Getty

Remember them

Education experts will lead a project to send two pupils and a teacher from every state secondary school to the battlefields of the First World War. Working with the Education Travel Group operator, the Institute of Education, University of London will run the £5.3 million venture to commemorate the centenary of the start of the conflict. The tours of the Western Front battlefield will run from spring 2014 to 2019. “The project will encourage them to think critically about the war’s social, economic and political consequences and its continuing significance,” said Stuart Foster, professor of education at the IoE. “It’s vital that the legacy of the war is sustained by future generations,” he added.

Imperial College London
Weighty problem

The number of children admitted to hospital for obesity-related problems quadrupled in less than a decade, scientists say. Nearly three-quarters of these admissions between 2000 and 2009 were caused by problems such as asthma, breathing difficulties during sleep and complications of teenage pregnancy rather than by obesity itself, according to researchers at Imperial College London. Thirty-one people under the age of 19 had weight-loss surgery in 2009 compared with just one in 2000, while overall child admissions for obesity-related problems rose to 3,806 in 2009, the report also found.

University of Liverpool
Wider and wider

A university has trumpeted its success as one of six Russell Group universities to exceed its targets for supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The University of Liverpool said that it exceeds its benchmarks for the recruitment of students from low participation neighbourhoods, and from the state schools and colleges sector, according to a recent report from the Office for Fair Access and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. “Widening participation of under-represented groups in higher education is central to our strategic vision, and we are justifiably proud of [our] achievements,” said Paul Redmond, Liverpool’s head of careers and employability.

University of East Anglia
Research subjects have feelings too

Communities and voluntary groups must be treated as equal partners in research – not simply as data providers, a conference has heard. David Horton Smith, a Fulbright visiting professor at the University of East Anglia, told the Community Participation in Research conference that human research subjects are often viewed “as if they were rocks or plants” and that this must change. “The role of communities in research should not be limited to providing information for academic studies. The entire culture of research institutions needs to change if participatory research is to become more common and effective,” he said. The event, held at UEA on 6 June, was the culmination of a series of open lectures and masterclasses that have explored the value of community participation in research.

University of Edinburgh
Less is more

Consumers are more likely to find online rating systems useful if only a small number of people have given feedback, according to a study. People giving online reviews of products and services – for example on websites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor or even RateMyProfessors – exaggerate their scores in surveys where many others have already contributed. They do so to try to increase the impact of their response, University of Edinburgh researchers found. As a result, online surveys that have received many scores are more likely to be affected by extremely good or bad ratings, distorting results for consumers. The paper appeared in the Journal of Public Economics.

Heriot-Watt University
Sing the cultural heritage

Scotland’s tourism industry must extend its focus beyond castles and monuments if it wants to truly reflect the cultural riches of the nation, an expert has claimed. Máiréad Nic Craith, professor of European culture and heritage at Heriot-Watt University, said that “world heritage” as commonly defined always had a strong focus on architecture, historic buildings and the built environment. However, such an approach risked overlooking Scotland’s oral traditions such as The Mod (a festival of Gaelic song), muckle sangs (traditional ballads) and the waulking songs of the tweed weavers. “Scotland’s emphasis on safeguarding historic structures…is at odds with the Gaelic term dùthchas, which implies a collective heritage – one that connects living people to particular places,” she said. Professor Nic Craith was speaking on 29 May at a lecture, Scotland’s Living Heritage(s): A Global Perspective, part of the university’s inaugural lecture series.

De Montfort University
First sight of last resting place

A PhD student has digitally recreated the church in which Richard III’s recently discovered body was buried. Asem Al Bunni, a researcher at De Montfort University, has produced a design of what the Greyfriars Priory in Leicester might have looked like before it was destroyed during the Reformation. Mr Al Bunni put the images together using specialist software after studying historian John Ashdown-Hill’s book The Last Days of Richard III plus examples of the remains of other Franciscan priories such as Litchfield and Walsingham. The digital reconstruction of the nave, choir and steeple give an idea of how large the church was – a possible indication of its importance in the city at the time.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Free riders pay it forward

Free bus travel for teenagers in London has cut traffic congestion, urban pollution and road traffic injuries, a study suggests. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also found that the bus pass scheme, introduced for 12- to 16-year-olds in 2005 and 17-year-olds in 2006, did not reduce the amount of walking by teenagers. Although some short walking or cycling journeys were instead made by bus, young people were out and about more often, making extra trips overall, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The increase in the use of public transport may help to establish travel behaviour in later life that entails some physical activity, such as walking to the bus stop, as well as helping to reduce car use, the report adds.

University of York
Get set, shoot

Scientists at a UK university have discovered a way in which seeds use gene networks to control when they germinate in response to environmental signals. Researchers at the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products in the University of York’s department of biology have found that a regulator gene called SPATULA can control the expression of five other regulatory genes that are known to affect when a seed germinates. The research, which was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Garfield Weston Foundation, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. “Discoveries such as this should underpin the development of better quality seeds for farmers,” said Ian Graham, director of the centre and chair of biochemical genetics, who led the research.

University of Exeter
Patient mentor warning

The downsides of encouraging people with chronic diseases to engage with other patients who can act as their “mentors” has been highlighted by researchers. Drawing on 25 papers analysing such schemes in countries including the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, a team led by the University of Exeter Medical School flagged up the risk of emotional entanglement for mentors, particularly when the recipient’s condition deteriorated, and the sense of loss experienced after the severance of a relationship. The research was published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling.

University of Nottingham
Rising to the challenge

A university’s wholly owned subsidiary has signed a licence agreement with global food giant Tate & Lyle for the use of a technology designed to reduce the sodium levels in baked products. The process – developed by Eminate, a firm owned by the University of Nottingham – transforms the solid sodium bicarbonate crystals used in baking into hollow microspheres, which means that far fewer are needed without any impact on quality. With further development, it is hoped that the technique will lead to a reduction in sodium bicarbonate of up to 50 per cent. Eminate made a similar deal with Tate & Lyle in 2011 for its SODA-LO® salt microspheres technology.

University of Wolverhampton
Coming of age

Celebrations have marked 21 years since an institution’s metamorphosis from polytechnic to university. The University of Wolverhampton came into existence on 17 June 1992, as a result of the Further and Higher Education Act. On 17 June 2013, guests from across the Black Country, including current and past staff and students, and five local mayors, came together to celebrate at a “21 and Proud” event.

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