Campus round-up

November 15, 2012


Pluck of the Irish

Historians have set up a website to highlight Irish involvement in the First World War. The site includes a list of the war dead mentioned on family graves in Belfast City Cemetery, as well as academic research and information on events to commemorate the centenary of the Great War's outbreak in 1914. The site is being run by Richard Grayson, head of history at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Catriona Pennell, lecturer in history at the University of Exeter, who will use it to bring together researchers on the subject.

University of Essex

Eyes without a face still have it

Humans are biased to look at the eyes, even if they appear on the bodies of headless monsters, a research paper co-authored by University of Essex scientists has revealed. The study - devised by 14-year-old Julian Levy, son of Alan Kingstone, psychologist at the University of British Columbia and one of the paper's three authors - rules out the possibility that the well-known human bias to look at the eyes is in fact a bias to gaze at the middle of the face, where the eyes happen to be. The authors experimented using images of people and monsters, with Mr Levy helping them to select images from the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons. Co-author Tom Foulsham, lecturer in Essex's department of psychology, said: "This confirms that the eyes are special and has implications for psychology, neuroscience and research into autism." The paper, "Monsters are people too", was published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

University of Bedfordshire

Whither the whistleblowers?

Recent criticism of football referees could be doing long-term harm to the recruitment of the next generation of match officials. According to John Brewer, director of sport at the University of Bedfordshire, the Football Association's Respect campaign, launched in 2008, to encourage players to act appropriately towards officials, "seems a distant memory, with players and coaching staff now openly criticising referees, and placing them under ever-increasing pressure and scrutiny during games". His comments came after Chelsea Football Club complained to the FA over the alleged "inappropriate language" used by referee Mark Clattenburg in an on-pitch argument with midfielder John Obi Mikel.

Queen Mary/Liverpool

Mass losses

Global warming is causing animals to shrink but for aquatic life the trend is 10 times more serious, a study shows. Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Liverpool found that the body size of adult fish and other marine species decreases by 5 per cent for each degree Celsius of warming, whereas similar-sized species on land shrink by just 0.5 per cent. The results may have worrying implications for aquatic food chains and fish stocks for human consumption.

University College London

Terracotta 'Toyotism'

The craftsmen who created the weapons for the Terracotta Army used a sophisticated labour model now associated with Toyota, the world's biggest car maker, research has found. Analysing the swords, daggers and arrows found with the 7,000 ancient Chinese figures, archaeologists at University College London found evidence of an innovative production system in action more than 2,000 years before the Japanese manufacturer was founded. Sometimes referred to as "Toyotism", the approach involves using small workshops of highly skilled engineers capable of producing any model of car as and when needed, rather than a production line where each unit concentrates on making individual components.

Nottingham Trent University

Leaf out of green book

A university has begun work on an eco-friendly library. The 1,000 sq m building at Nottingham Trent University, expected to open next summer, will be built on the institution's Brackenhurst Campus, home to its School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences. It will incorporate large open spaces and smaller study areas to accommodate group and quiet study. It aims to achieve the highest possible energy efficiency rating thanks to a biomass boiler that will be partly fuelled with waste from the university's farm. The library's building materials will be sourced from environmentally friendly suppliers.

University of Nottingham

Sick habit

Smokers are costing the UK economy £1.4 billion by taking nearly three extra sick days a year on average, a study has found. Researchers at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, based at the University of Nottingham, analysed 29 studies conducted between 1960 and 2011 across the world, involving more than 71,000 workers. They conclude that smoking was clearly tied to workers' absences. They also found that current smokers are nearly 20 per cent more likely to be off sick than former smokers.


High point

Technology that can detect drug use through people's fingerprints has won a share of the state-backed £39 million Biomedical Catalyst healthcare fund. Intelligent Fingerprinting, a spin- off company from the University of East Anglia, has been awarded £425,000 in total to improve drug-screening services in accident and emergency and coroners' departments. The first £135,000 award will fund a project in partnership with the University of Leicester to research the feasibility of using the technology to screen patients on admission to hospital. Paul Yates, business development manager for Intelligent Fingerprinting, said: "Our technique for detecting the presence of drugs in [the] bloodstream by analysing a simple fingerprint could help doctors to make better informed decisions about...treatments."

Edge Hill University

You can count on us

The success of a university programme to help schoolchildren catch up in mathematics has been recognised by additional government funding to the tune of £1.14 million over two years. Launched in 2009 as part of Edge Hill University's Every Child Counts project with the support of the Department for Education, the Numbers Count initiative has already helped almost 30,000 six- to eight-year-old children who were falling behind in maths through a term of one-to-one lessons by specially trained teachers. The department has now chosen Edge Hill to continue to run the national scheme. Innovations this academic year will include Numbers Count 2 - a teacher-led intervention programme aimed at older primary school children.

University of Salford

Firefighting fit

A university has signed an agreement with the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service that could lead to a number of pioneering collaborations. Under the deal, the University of Salford's College of Health and Social Care hopes to put together fitness programmes designed by sports scientists and occupational health experts specifically for firefighters. Salford's virtual reality centre at MediaCityUK may also be used to support training aimed, for example, at senior officers required to deal with major incidents where multiple crews have to be deployed and coordinated with other emergency services.

University of Warwick

Nourishing mothers of Reinvention

The University of Warwick has joined forces with Monash University, its partner in Australia, to produce an academic journal designed to showcase the world's best undergraduate research. Although Reinvention has been published by Warwick for the past five years, it will now be run and edited by students from both institutions and appear under their joint banner - a step towards the closer alignment heralded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance earlier this year. Reinvention will play a prominent role in next spring's conference of undergraduate research being hosted simultaneously at Warwick and Monash.


Don't look now, you've got mail

Cyberbullying at work is as common as conventional bullying and is even more distressing, researchers have discovered in a study of university staff. The analysis by occupational psychologists from the universities of Sheffield and Nottingham surveyed employees in several UK universities. Of 320 respondents, around 80 per cent had experienced an example of cyberbullying - such as being humiliated, ignored or gossiped about - at least once in the past six months, while up to 20 per cent had experienced such events at least once a week. This is a similar rate to conventional bullying but the researchers found that cyberbullying had a worse effect on employees' mental state and job satisfaction.

Oh look, there is such a thing as society

How can you capture the meaning of the "social sciences" and "society today" in a single picture? This was the challenge of Portraits of Britain, a photographic competition organised by the Economic and Social Research Council to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Festival of Social Science. The competition featured eight categories, with the "Society" section being won by Bob Aylott's Day Trippers (pictured). The eight winners were drawn from 450 entries and announced at a ceremony at the Strand Gallery in London on 7 November, with prizes presented by David Willetts, the universities and science minister. "We are very pleased to see the interest and engagement this competition has sparked in the public - not least from schools, where young people have contributed imaginative new ways of depicting British society," said Paul Boyle, the ESRC's chief executive. "The pictures reflect a diverse range of views from people of all ages about what 'society' means to them."

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