Campus round-up - 28 November 2013

November 28, 2013

Selfie consciousness

When the Oxford Dictionaries declared “selfie” – a photo of oneself, taken by oneself, usually on a smartphone – the 2013 Word of the Year, we used our Twitter account to ask for your examples. Hundreds joined in the #myHEselfie fun, including (from top left to bottom right): @elebelfiore, @pdotwebber, @thomsonpat, @loufederer, @emeliehelsen, @bobbailey_cbu, @canterburyccuni, @charliemuss, @phillgray, @johngcanning, @jennifermjones, @supercheesecake, @charlotteejk and @jerrycoulton. Say cheese!

Queen Mary, University of London
Banishing violent thoughts

Prisoners with schizophrenia are three times more likely to commit acts of violence on release than other convicts if they fail to access mental health support, a study says. Almost 1,000 inmates jailed for sexual or violent crimes have been analysed by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, who found that those with untreated psychosis are more likely to reoffend than those who get help in prison and post release. With prison psychiatric teams thought to identify only 25 per cent of prisoners with severe mental health problems, the study underlines the need to improve screening to reduce recidivism.

Kingston University
Witness protection

A law scholar is to advise the government on whether vulnerable witnesses should be allowed to give evidence in court via pre-recorded statements. Penny Cooper, professor at Kingston Law School, will sit on the Ministry of Justice advisory group monitoring a pilot programme using the approach in Kingston, Leeds and Liverpool. The pilot comes in light of concerns over the trauma experienced by victims of sexual abuse, particularly children, when they testify in court.

University of East Anglia
Tongue lashing

Complacency about learning foreign languages will have adverse effects on the UK’s ability to operate effectively on the world stage, an academic has warned. Roger Baines, head of the School of Language and Communication Studies at the University of East Anglia, was speaking after a British Council report, Languages For The Future, found that the UK has a worrying shortage of people who speak what it says are likely to be the 10 most important languages in the coming years – including Russian and Turkish. “At a time when traditional UK employment opportunities are threatened by problems in the economy at home…it is frustrating that we continue to neglect an area where there is huge and growing demand,” Dr Baines said.

Anglia Ruskin University
Sight seers

The number of people blinded by cataracts globally decreased from 12.3 million to 10.8 million between 1990 and 2010, according to a major analysis of worldwide vision impairment and blindness data. Led by Rupert Bourne, associate director at Anglia Ruskin University’s Vision and Eye Research Unit, the study examines the main causes of blindness and vision impairment across the world and by geographic region. Regional causes differ substantially, with the prevalence of cataracts being lowest and macular degeneration highest in the richest areas. The data were published in The Lancet Global Health journal.

Bangor University
Mindless consumerism

The brain of a supermarket shopper “effectively shuts down” 40 minutes into a shop, according to preliminary research into consumers’ thought processes. Scientists at Bangor University are putting participants into a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner while getting them to simulate an £80 shop, choosing produce on a screen in front of them. Early results suggest that after only 23 minutes, participants start making choices with the emotional rather than the cognitive parts of the brain, impairing their capacity for logical decision-making.

University of Kent
At last, I will have my revenge!

People unaccustomed to power are more likely to be vengeful when placed in charge, while those with more experience are more tolerant of perceived wrongdoing, a study has found. The research explores the relationship between power and revenge, and found that acts of aggression are more likely to be enacted by individuals with little experience of authority. “Power is not simply good or bad; it affects different people in different ways,” said researcher Mario Weick, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Kent. “Our studies highlight some of the negative effects power can have on people who are less accustomed to being in charge.” The research was co-led by Kent in partnership with the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Coventry University
Brain and brawn combined

A university’s Institute of Applied Entrepreneurship will showcase plans to make smaller businesses’ innovative ideas a reality through the application of “corporate might”. Staff from the Coventry University institute will attend the West Midlands Cloud, Data and Smart Mobility Expo 2013, held in Birmingham on 28 and 29 November. They intend to share the IAE’s latest business support package, the Open Innovation Programme, a European Regional Development Fund-supported initiative “devised to match up the innovative ideas of SMEs with the corporate might of larger organisations to bring benefits to both parties – and to the economy”.

Harper Adams University
Sowing seeds for future harvest

The Duchy of Lancaster has unveiled a student award scheme to support the next generation of farmers. Students taking degrees in agriculture at Harper Adams University in Shropshire or Myerscough College in Lancashire will soon be able to apply for awards of up to £2,500 a year to support their studies. Nathan Thompson, chief executive of the Duchy of Lancaster, said that a central aim of the organisation was “to protect the future of our agricultural land holdings and one of the key ways we can do this is by supporting the next generation of farmers”.

University of Liverpool
Outreach formula 

Les Ebdon, the director of fair access, has been shown first-hand evidence of a university’s outreach work with primary schools. Professor Ebdon visited the University of Liverpool and, accompanied by vice-chancellor Howard Newby, took in a physics lecture for pupils from Merton Bank Primary School, St Helens. Liverpool said that as a result of its outreach work, school pupils of all ages “spend time on campus and with students to demystify university life and take part in a range of activities including talks, practical lessons and workshops to explore higher education”.

Leeds Met
Morris miners

Morris dancing’s “strange and contested position in English culture” has been explored in a paper published by the journal Leisure. Karl Spracklen and Stephen Henderson, academics at Leeds Metropolitan University’s Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, carried out in-depth interviews with 13 morris dancers and musicians. They found that despite a culture of inclusivity and community, the pursuit remains unfashionable and dominated by white men. Many expressed concerns that it may die out. Professor Spracklen said: “Every weekend in the summer, one can find hundreds of morris sides out dancing across England. However, many people see it as uncool or unfashionable.”

University of Stirling
Fat is a heating issue

The rise in energy prices this winter could trigger a growth in obesity, researchers have warned. A study by researchers in the Behavioural Science Centre at the University of Stirling of 13 years of data for more than 100,000 adults in England found that those who live in well-heated homes have lower body mass index figures than people living in colder abodes, even when controlling for age, gender, social class and other factors. “The research suggests that people may eat less and burn more energy when residing in a warmer indoor environment,” explained Michael Daly, senior lecturer in management, work and organisation and one of the researchers who worked on the study.

Mum’s dead; best kill Bambi, too

Deer hunters who cull females should kill their young offspring, too, researchers have argued, because orphaned deer are likely to die sooner without maternal protection. Scholars from the universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge and Calgary looked at nearly 40 years’ worth of data gathered from a deer population on the Isle of Rum in Scotland. As well as reducing their survival chances, being orphaned caused male deer to develop their antlers later than their peers. The research supports current guidelines for stalkers, which recommend culling both mothers and their offspring.

The agony of anticipation

Dreading pain can be worse than pain itself, research indicates. In a study funded by the Wellcome Trust, researchers at Imperial College London and University College London asked 35 volunteers to choose between electric shocks of varying degrees of intensity administered at different times. They found that most people chose to hasten the pain and would accept more severe shocks to avoid having to wait. The findings of the research team, which is led by Imperial neurologist Giles Story, were published in the PLOS Computational Biology journal.

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