Who got that cash?

January 27, 2006

One way an academic from a small teaching-led institution can land a big medical research grant is to develop a unique selling point and exploit it to maximum effect.

This is how Bill Hardcastle of Queen Margaret University College secured a £348,000 grant from the Medical Research Council to further his work in helping to unravel the complexities of speech.

Professor Hardcastle, director of the Speech Science Research Centre at QMUC, is using the grant to explore how a technique for visually recording tongue movement, which he developed 30 years ago, might be adapted to help improve the speech of children with Down's syndrome.

Professor Hardcastle said: "(This grant) illustrates the fact that we have developed our uniqueness and focused on areas where we have particular expertise.

"I hope it will encourage other researchers from small non-research intensive institutions to go for funding."

Professor Hardcastle has helped children and adults with speech disorders through electropalatography (EPG). EPG uses a custom-made artificial palate covered in electrodes that allows patients and therapists to see whether the tongue is moving correctly when forming certain sounds.

Professor Hardcastle is working with Sara Wood, a QMUC lecturer and language therapist, and Jennifer Wishart, professor of special education at Edinburgh University. QMUC will also employ two research fellows during the three-year project.

The Government wants all children with learning difficulties to be in mainstream education, but Professor Hardcastle said that there was a lack of research into the problems they faced.

"This is a major grant that gives priority to what has traditionally been an underfunded area," he said.

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