Campus round-up - 27 June 2013

June 27, 2013

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One, two, tree…

A project to map every tree in the UK has been launched and members of the public are being asked to help. Treezilla, an Open University initiative, aims to create a database of the UK’s trees to aid research into arboreal diseases and how climate change affects tree growth and health. It is a “citizen scientist” project, meaning that anyone can upload data about trees in their own area to help complete the database. Jonathan Silvertown, professor of ecology at The Open University, said: “We know there are 3.8 billion trees in forests and woodlands and another 123 million elsewhere in the countryside, but no overall estimate exists of the number of urban trees, or trees on private estates.”

University of Exeter
Last chance investment

Research has found that older males make better fathers…in beetles. Academics at the University of Exeter have found that more mature male burying beetles make better fathers than their younger counterparts because, having little chance of reproducing again, they invest more effort in both mating and in parental care. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, showed that older males were good fathers and looked after the young even when they were unsure whether the offspring were theirs. Younger males, who had a higher chance of reproducing again, cared less for offspring, particularly when uncertain of their paternity.

Norwich University of the Arts
Creative digital hub

A £1.5 million Digital Centre for Innovation is to be built in Norwich to help support the city’s growing digital creative industries sector. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has approved funding for the centre at Norwich University of the Arts. It will be located in the heart of the institution’s city-centre campus and will offer a “high-quality incubation space for new digital creative business”. John Last, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “This project allows us to support students after graduation, offering opportunities to stay and work within the region, as well as providing existing regional businesses with access to our academics and research facilities.” It is hoped that building work will start in the next few months and will be completed by late 2014.

University of Essex
Chancellor announces departure

The distinguished lawyer Lord Phillips of Sudbury is to step down as chancellor of the University of Essex after 10 years in the role. Lord Phillips said he had “treasured greatly” his position at the institution, which he described as an “extraordinary university, which, I am convinced, deserves to have, and will have, a distinguished future”. After founding the law firm Bates, Wells and Braithwaite in London in 1970, Lord Phillips served as a senior partner until 1998. From 1976 until 2002, he appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jimmy Young show as its “legal eagle”, giving advice to listeners. Lord Phillips is the university’s fourth chancellor, and arrangements will now be put in place to appoint his successor.

University of Warwick
Perinatal shortcomings

Research suggests that too many mothers are still being denied their human rights in childbirth despite more than 50 years of campaigning. A paper by Angela Davis of the department of history at the University of Warwick, titled “Choice, policy and practice in maternity care since 1948”, says women’s preferences about how and where they give birth are still widely ignored by healthcare providers. “Women are primarily critical of a lack of information, lack of choice in their care and dissatisfaction with their caregivers, rather than the procedures themselves,” Dr Davis says.

University of Glasgow/University of Dundee
Softly, softly

Police should be sympathetic when they find people who have gone missing to reduce the risk of their disappearing again, according to a study. The project was conducted by the universities of Glasgow and Dundee, the police and the charity Missing People. Forty-five people in the Grampian region and the London metropolitan area were interviewed. Hester Parr, a reader at Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, explained: “When police are unsympathetic, people can be left feeling confused and guilty, and perhaps more likely to go missing again in the future.”

Swansea University
American collaboration

A Welsh institution has announced a series of links with universities in Texas. Swansea University will conduct joint research with the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston and launch a programme of research and training focused on global water, energy and fuel crises with Texas A&M University and Rice University. Swansea has said that there will be a “massive increase” in staff and student exchanges and collaboration with institutions in the US state. The university has also appointed a number of “distinguished research professors” who will remain at their current institutions but spend a fifth of their time working for Swansea.

University of Birmingham
Shedding light on dark matter

Researchers have found evidence that the mysterious dark matter that pervades the universe behaves as predicted by the cold dark matter theory, known as CDM. Astronomers at the University of Birmingham, Academica Sinica in Taiwan and the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan have published a paper detailing their findings in Astrophysical Journal Letters. After years of observations and data analysis, it was found that the fall in dark matter density from the centre of galaxy clusters to their outskirts matches CDM theory.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Unkindest cuts

Reductions in Spain’s healthcare system could put lives at risk, medics claim. Massive cuts to national and regional budgets in 2012 have coincided with rising demands on Spain’s health system, including increased cases of depression, alcohol-related disorders and mental health problems, since the financial crisis hit and unemployment rose, according to a paper published in the British Medical Journal. Austerity measures may end up costing the health service more in the long term, said Helena Legido-Quigley, a lecturer in global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the study alongside researchers from three Spanish universities. “If no corrective measures are implemented, [public health] could worsen with the risk of increases in HIV and tuberculosis – as we have seen in Greece where healthcare services have had severe cuts,” she said.

Manchester Metropolitan University
Well that’s a new excuse…

Allergies to semen, often misdiagnosed because the symptoms are similar to those of dermatitis and certain sexually transmitted diseases, may be more common than previously believed. In a paper published in the journal Human Fertility earlier this month, Michael Carroll, lecturer in reproductive science at Manchester Metropolitan University, along with colleagues working in local hospitals, examined the cases of four women. By separating the sperm cells from the seminal fluid and carrying out skin prick tests, they were able to demonstrate an immune reaction to the seminal fluid. The use of condoms proved effective in dealing with symptoms such as irritation and eczema. Dr Carroll also notes that there were “numerous cases… of successful pregnancies achieved naturally and through assisted reproductive technology in women with this condition”.

University of Edinburgh
Voice of liquid gold

The tone of speeches made by US Federal Reserve heads may have the power to move the price of precious metals, an analysis of about 400 communications between 1999 and 2012 has found. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s business school used text analysis to find the level of certainty, optimism and realism in the banker’s voice. A 1 per cent increase in the certainty of the language of Alan Greenspan (chairman from 1987 to 2006) increased the gold price by 0.1 per cent, they found. However, there was no similar effect with his successor Ben Bernanke, the current chairman.

Goldsmiths, University of London
Concerned youth

About 200 young people will visit a university next month to debate youth issues. Politicians, police officers and anti-crime campaigner Doreen Lawrence – mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence – will also take part in the London Youth Speaks event at Goldsmiths, University of London, on 11 July. Organised by the college’s Centre for Identities and Social Justice, participants aged nine to 25 will present their views on youth-on-youth violence, stop and search rates, young refugees and school exclusions.

University of Salford
A calling to dig

Archaeologists and community volunteers are to excavate the Manchester cavalry barracks that housed troops sent to disperse protesters demanding parliamentary reform in the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, when 15 people were killed. University of Salford researchers will investigate Hulme Barracks, as part of the Dig Greater Manchester project. Brian Grimsditch, senior archaeologist at Salford, said that “members of the community will be able to find out more about a site that spans over 100 years of the city’s explosive development, and which was part of many of the great events that shaped Manchester throughout the Industrial Revolution”.

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