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Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

October 20th, 2014

The Gaskell’s beautifully restored home on Plymouth Grove is now open to the public.  I visited earlier this month and was very impressed with the transformation.  If you have any interested in Elizabeth Gaskell’s writings, or in early Victorian domestic architecture, or in the social history of the period I would urge you to go along.  Details of the opening times, along with a programme of special events and activities, can be found on their website at:

Support for researchers in the Arts and Humanities post-doctorate

October 20th, 2014

“The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy have announced the results of a detailed survey which highlights the kind of issues faced by Arts and Humanities researchers in the period immediately following doctoral study. Many early career researchers are on fixed-term contracts and 92% of those surveyed expressed concern at their career development and the prospects of achieving a permanent position.”

“The report, [Support for Arts and Humanities Researchers Post-PhD,] gives insights into the diversity of roles, opportunities and employment which researchers who work for research organisations undertake immediately after their doctorate, and their needs and aspirations at this stage of their careers. The research was conducted by Oakleigh Consulting Ltd by an online survey and interviews with a selection of research organisations in the UK and with early career researchers (ECRs) in the arts and humanities.”

“The report suggests elements of good practice which would provide better support and advice to help alleviate the concerns and overcome the challenges identified in the survey.”

To view the report go to:

Botulism’s genetic triggers found

October 20th, 2014

“Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce the most deadly toxin we know of. Scientists from the BBSRC strategically-funded Institute of Food Research (IFR) have discovered genes that are crucial for its germination, which may present a new way of stopping these deadly bacteria growing in our food.”

“Botulinum spores are found throughout the environment. If they contaminate food, under certain conditions they can germinate and reproduce in our food, and generate a neurotoxin. This is when they become dangerous, as anyone eating this can develop botulism, a rare but potentially fatal condition. Stringent measures are taken by food manufacturers to stop this happening, and fortunately botulism outbreaks are now quite rare. But until now, we’ve known surprisingly little about the germination process.”

“Botulinum spores only germinate in a suitable environment, for example in the presence of nutrients which they sense through specialised receptors. These receptors then trigger a chain of events that lead to the spore becoming viable.”

“Clostridium botulinum has had its genome sequenced, and by comparison with other bacteria it is possible to identify genes that look like they might be involved in the spore germination process.”

“The researchers at IFR systematically turned off these candidate genes to see which were crucial for germination.”

“The research, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens [Open Access], identified two sets of genes that C. botulinum needs, and which must act together for the spores to germinate in response to the correct stimulus, in this case the presence of a nutrient amino acid. This allowed them to build a much better understanding of exactly how the spores germinate.”

Reference: Brunt J, Plowman J, Gaskin DJH, Itchner M, Carter AT, et al. (2014) Functional Characterisation of Germinant Receptors in Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium sporogenes Presents Novel Insights into Spore Germination Systems. PLoS Pathog 10(9): e1004382. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004382

[Source BBSRC news: ]

Digimap webinars and training

October 20th, 2014

“Digimap have scheduled some short webinars on the use of Digimap, every Wednesday afternoon in November at 4pm.”

“Webinars are open to any interested staff or students.” Have a look at their Events page for full details and booking forms:

Digimap training required?

“The Digimap team is currently planning the Digimap workshop schedule for the next few months.  If you are interested in attending or hosting a workshop we’d like to hear from you.”

“There is no charge associated with hosting a workshop and Digimap do all the administration.  We just need you to help us with finding and booking a suitable PC lab, that is open to attendees from other institutions.”

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

Digimap team

[Source email from Digimap support]

Jisc enables the safe and secure sharing of medical research data

October 20th, 2014

“Jisc is enabling researchers across the UK to safely and securely share health data to progress their research with a collaborative initiative.”

“Jisc is working in partnership with leading UK universities to support three new initiatives. Rather than each of the research programmes and organisations developing one-off solutions to manage collaborative secure communication and user authentication between partners, Jisc is securing the networks across the organisations so that approved researchers working in one partner organisation can gain access to the data they need wherever it is stored.”

“The first is the development of the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, a UK-wide virtual organisation with four connection points and ten funding organisations. The Farr Institute provides a cutting-edge collaborative infrastructure for the safe use of patient and research data for medical research. This will lead to advances in preventative medicine, improvements in NHS care and better development of commercial drugs and diagnostics. It will also allow researchers to discover new insights into the causes of ill health, which in turn will lead to new therapies.”

“The second initiative, Medical Bioinformatics, is funded by the Medical Research Council, and will provide capacity for the safe use and analysis of biological and patient data for medical research across all diseases.”

“The Administrative Data Research Network is the third programme, and is the first phase of the Big Data Network funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. This network aims to facilitate access to and linkage of de-identified administrative data routinely collected by government departments and other public sector organisations.”

[Source JISC news: ]

New computer codes to aid greener, leaner aircraft design

October 20th, 2014

“A computer model that accurately predicts how composite materials behave when damaged will make it easier to design lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft.”

“Innovative computer codes form the basis of a computer model that shows in unprecedented detail how an aircraft’s composite wing, for instance, would behave if it suffered small-scale damage, such as a bird strike. Any tiny cracks which spread through the composite material can be predicted using this model.”

“The codes are being developed by researchers at Imperial College London working with partners, Airbus, and with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).”

“The new model will enable panels to be made less bulky while still meeting the stringent safety margins demanded by the aviation industry. The result should be aircraft that are lighter than current designs and so use less fuel and produce fewer greenhouse emissions.”

[Source EPSRC news: ]

Library of Congress Fellowships for 25 postgraduate and early career researchers

October 20th, 2014

“Twenty-five postgraduate students and early career researchers have been offered the opportunity to enhance their research with short-term fellowships of up to six months at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.”

“The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s International Placement Scheme (IPS) provides funded fellowships at some of the world’s leading research institutions, offering dedicated access to their globally renowned collections, resources and expertise.  This opportunity enables postgraduate students and early career researchers to enrich their research, understandings and connections through immersion in thriving research cultures, with privileges unavailable to independent visiting scholars.”

“Twenty-five researchers, including eight ESRC researchers, will be hosted by The Library of Congress (LOC) and will be based at the John W Kluge Center.”

“Many of the projects to be supported have an international  aspect, including research projects on ‘Sherlock Holmes as Travel Writing’, a study of the Lilli Lehmann diaries, tracking foreign intervention through medicine and social science in Haiti, ‘China in the US imagination’, and an exploration of ‘Soviet Hippieland’. Find out more about the research that will be conducted at the Library of Congress here.”

“These LOC IPS Fellows join thirty other IPS Fellows at other host organisations in 2014, including the Yale Center for British Art, The Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas at Austin), The Huntington Library, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Institutes for the Humanities in Japan (NIHU).”

“The AHRC’s International Placement Scheme will open for applications from early November 2014 with a closing date of mid-January 2015. Launch events will be held in early November to support the scheme opening.”

More details can be found on the IPS webpages:

[Source AHRC news: ]

Being Human: UK’s first national humanities festival unveils a rich programme of events

October 20th, 2014

“Forget the eponymous TV programme featuring fanciful adventures of vampires, ghosts and werewolves, Being Human is a powerful nine-day festival highlighting the richness and vitality of humanities research to actively engage members of the public.”

“More than 100 free-to-attend public events led by over 60 universities will take place across the UK – from Orkney to Truro, Belfast to Swansea, and Liverpool to Norwich. Events will be hosted in all sorts of places including museums, galleries and cultural and community centres – even caves.”

“Conceived earlier this year, Being Human is led by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Since its launch, over 100 universities have applied to take part in what is the first festival of its kind in the UK.”

“The programme will offer a range of experiences from a joke-generating computer programme from Brunel University’s Feeling Funny/Being Human project and a coming together of archaeologists, artists, environmental scientists and the local Orkney community in Wilder Being (University of the Highlands and Islands), through to an exploration of the impact of ‘data overload’ on the human consciousness from Too Much Information (School of Advanced Study).”

The full programme can be viewed here:

[Source AHRC news: ]

Music industry must change definition of talent

October 20th, 2014

“Millions of aspiring musicians are being denied the chance to develop careers in the creative industries because companies, colleges and the media haven’t evolved their understanding of talent for the digital age, according to a new report.”

“The Channelling Talent report, published by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), concluded that “these days David Bowie probably wouldn’t make it past the X-Factor auditions” and recommended that during a time of flux for the industry, that executives, educators and journalists would do well to take a critical look at what they mean by talent.”

“The report was funded by University of Manchester and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Music Communities ‘pilot demonstrator’ project.”

“Examining the mechanisms that generate, develop, promote, recognise and reward talent in music, it came as no surprise to many of the research participants that being wealthy, well-connected and good looking provides a fast track to success. Yet others pointed to a worrying set of consequences for young people aspiring for careers in music. One study highlighted that 95% of front covers of NME in the last two decades featured men; a former NME editor responded saying there were no women of note.”

“The RSA found the potential for financial reward for “bedroom musicians” is limited as live music becomes the only remaining profitable part of the business. This fuels fears that only the already affluent will be able to pursue music as a career – despite growing evidence of the broad benefits to all of participating and practicing music.”

“The report called on the big and the small players in the music industry to do more to live up to their own standards of supporting creative expression and commercial success, taking steps to ensure that norms of talent are constantly questioned.”

[Source AHRC news: ]

Open Access events

October 14th, 2014

Open Access week (20-26 October) is coming up!

To highlight Open Access the Open Access Steering Group (Library and RKE) is organising a series of lively Open Access information sessions and debates taking place across the University in October as follows:

16th October, Open Access in the Humanities, 12 – 2pm in Geoffrey Manton

Includes talks from MMU Professor Cathy Urquhart, Dr. Frances Pinter (Manchester University Press) and Dr. Martin Eve (Open Library of Humanities) as well as a “tradeshow” with representatives from Open Access publishers. Book tickets at:

22nd October, Open Conversations, 12-1.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections

A light-hearted and provocative exploration of different perspectives on Open Access. Speakers include MMU’s Dr. Sam Illingworth, Professor Cathy Urquhart, Ruth Jenkins and Rob Johnson (Director of Research Consulting and lead of a national project on costs associated with Open Access). Book tickets at:

24th October, RKE Social “Open All Hours”, 4 – 5.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections

Join the RKE team at their regular end of the month networking session. Join MMU’s Sam Illingworth, Mary Pickstone and Jayne Burgess who will talk you through their perspectives on Open Access. Book tickets at:

Please join us to find out more and engage with the debate.

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