Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

British Academy experts welcome government’s prison reform plans

Monday, February 29th, 2016

“The group of expert researchers who produced a British Academy policy report on imprisonment have welcomed the government’s decision to implement reforms aimed at reducing violence, substance abuse and self-harm within prisons, as well as rates of reoffending.”

“The Prime Minister announced an overhaul of Britain’s 121 prisons in a bid to ‘tackle our deepest social problems and extend life chances’. He commented further that ‘prison reform should be a great progressive cause in British politics’ and that there are ‘diminishing return from ever higher levels of incarceration’, which echoes the British Academy’s policy report A Presumption Against Imprisonment: Social order and Social Values.”

“This report draws on expertise from the humanities and social sciences to offer an evidence-based approach to reducing reoffending through re-evaluating the current use of custodial sentences. It was written by a group of academic experts including Professor Andrew Ashworth FBA, Professor Roger Cotterrell FBA, Professor Andrew Coyle, Professor Antony Duff FBA, Professor Nicola Lacey FBA, Professor Alison Liebling and Professor Rod Morgan.”

You can download the report from here:

[Source British Academy news: ]

Research Outputs 2015 published

Monday, February 29th, 2016

“The report ‘Research Outputs 2015’ provides an overview of data gathered by EPSRC during the first submission period of Researchfish, supplemented with data and information from other sources.”

“Researchfish is an online web-based system for reporting UK research outcomes.”

“The report highlights EPSRC-supported research delivered impacts across a wide range of sectors including energy, digital communications, healthcare, environment, aerospace, manufacturing, transport and the creative industries.”

“As well as a significant contribution to global knowledge, the data shows impressive levels of results:

  • Over 50,000 research papers published
  • £3 billion further funding from £1.2 billion grants
  • Almost 400 examples of policy influences
  • 454 spin-out companies created of which 80 per cent are still active.”

“The outcomes and impacts data highlighted in the report will contribute to the overall understanding of the value of investing in engineering and physical sciences for the UK.”

To read the report go to:

[Source EPSRC news: ]

Valentine’s day love letter – February 1477

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

“This is probably the oldest surviving Valentine’s letter in the English language. It was written by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston in February 1477. Describing John as her ‘right well-beloved valentine’, she tells him she is ‘not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you.’ She explains that her mother had tried to persuade her father to increase her dowry – so far unsuccessfully. However, she says, if John loves her he will marry her anyway: ‘But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore.’ There was a happy ending to the story, as the couple would eventually marry.”

“The letter comes from one of the largest collections of 15th century English private correspondence, known as the Paston letters.”

[Source British Library, Language and Literature, English timeline: ]

Johnson says UK will pursue gold open access

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

“Universities and science minister Jo Johnson has said that the UK should continue to pursue the gold open-access route ‘where this is realistic and affordable’.”

“Johnson’s comments were made in response to a review of the government’s open-access policies, published on 11 February, which did not recommend any substantial changes to open-access policies in the UK. The review, commissioned by Johnson and carried out by Adam Tickell, chairman of Universities UK’s Open Access Co-ordination Group, said, ‘Gold should still be the preference, but green routes are also important.’ This was in contrast to the influential Finch report, published in 2012, which recommended a strong preference for gold open-access routes.”

“In the report, Tickell said that by April 2017 almost all journal articles published by UK university academics would be available under open-access routes, and estimated that of these 20 per cent will available on the date of publication and without any further restrictions. Such figures are ‘higher than anywhere else in the world’, the report said. This progress, it continued, has been stimulated by clear mandates, and in some cases, financial support from the research councils, the funding councils and major charitable funders. Although Tickell did not recommend major changes, his report set out some suggestions for minor ones. He said that UK open-access policy should strive to offer greater choice to research producers.”

The review and the Minister’s response can be found here:

[Source Research Professional news:  ]

Jisc response to the Higher Education Commission report ‘From Bricks to Clicks’

Monday, February 1st, 2016

“[Jisc] welcome[s] the Higher Education Commission (HEC)’s report ‘From Bricks to Clicks: the potential of data and analytics in Higher Education’.”

“It contains the findings of the Commission’s ten-month inquiry into the potential impact of data and analytics for universities, students and the sector as a whole.”

You can read the report here:

Paul Feldman, Chief Executive of Jisc, has written a blog commenting on the report:

[Source Jisc news: ]

British Academy welcomes the UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2015 and OECD Building Skills for All study

Monday, February 1st, 2016

“The British Academy welcomes the UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2015 and OECD Building Skills for All study. It is positive to see the growth in overall vacancies, however, it is concerning to note that the number of skill-shortage vacancies has gone up by 43% since 2013.”

“Evidence from our work into the nature of language skills in the labour market, Born Global, shows how increased efforts to develop language skills could help to tackle many of the other skills shortages reported by employers, including: problem-solving, time-management and prioritisation, customer relations, persuading and influencing. Our evidence points to a transferable skill-set gained through language learning and international experience.”

“Further concerning shortages have been identified in quantitative skills (QS). 29% of respondents to the survey found ‘complex numerical and statistical skills’ to be difficult to obtain from applicants, with 24% struggling to recruit those with basic numerical skills. In the OECD report, 9 million in England were reported as being unable to “estimate how much petrol is left in the petrol tank from a sight of the gauge.” The Academy’s Count Us In report (2015) also points to the growing QS deficit across the whole system of schools and colleges, universities and the workplace.”

The OECD Building Skills for All study can be accessed here:

The UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2015 can be accessed here:

[Source British Academy news: ]

What about YOUth? Consultation

Monday, February 1st, 2016

“What about YOUth? is a newly established survey, begun in September 2014 and commissioned by the Department of Health, designed to collect local authority level data on a range of behaviours amongst 15 year olds.”

“What about YOUth? is a new study which aims to make improvements to the health of young people across England. As part of the study, thousands of 15 year-olds answered questions about important subjects such as their health, diet, exercise, bullying, alcohol, drugs and smoking. What about YOUth? 2014 is the first survey of its kind to be conducted and it is hoped that the survey will be repeated in order to form a time series of comparable data on a range of indicators for 15 year-olds across England.”

“The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) published a report on the findings in December 2015 and the results are also available in a data visualisation tool. The anonymised survey data will be available from the UK Data Service later this year.”

“The HSCIC is undertaking a consultation to find out how useful the survey findings are, how the data are being used and any improvements that could be made. They would like to hear from any data users who have used the survey or the report. The consultation period runs from 18 January until 28 February 2016.”

“If you would like to participate in this consultation please go to the HSCIC website, where you can download the consultation paper and access the online consultation survey.”

A report on the survey findings and a link to the data visualisation tool can be accessed here:

[Source UK Data Service news: ]

British Academy publishes workshop report: Exploring a new social contract for medical innovation

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

“The British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences have published a report of a one-day workshop held in association with the Medical Innovation Academic Consortium entitled ‘Exploring a new social contract for medical innovation’.”

“The meeting on 3 June 2015 aimed to explore what is known, and what remains to be known, about how the value and risks of medical innovation are perceived and acted upon throughout society. It considered whether there is a need to adopt a new social contract for medical innovation – a conceptual agreement whereby the diverse interests of different stakeholders are reconciled in order to achieve a common good, in this case an effective and sustainable heath system, of which a key aspect is the adoption of medical innovation.”

A full report of the workshop can be downloaded from the website:

[Source British Academy news as above]

Benefits and drawbacks [to] selenium supplementation for immunity

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

“A more thorough evaluation of selenium supplementation is needed to better understand its benefits to our immune systems, and the risks.”

“That’s the finding of a new study from the Institute of Food Research, funded by the Food Standards Agency, which has found that selenium supplementation can have positive and negative effects on our immune system, depending on how we receive the selenium and the dose.”

“Selenium deficiency has for a long time been associated with an impaired immune system. People with low levels of selenium have been shown to have lower levels of key components of the immune system, and a reduced ability to respond to viral infections. Studies with mice have shown selenium supplementation increases immunity to flu, but similar evidence in humans is lacking.”

“In the UK, the amount of dietary selenium has been dropping in recent years, in part due to a switch away from flour imported from North America which is naturally higher in selenium than European wheats. The generally low selenium status in the UK has led to calls for a supplementation programme, but before this can happen we need a better idea of the overall benefits, and potential risks or side-effects.”

The research has been published in the following paper: Selenium supplementation has beneficial and detrimental effects on immunity to influenza vaccine in older adults, Ivory K., Prieto-Garcia E., Spinks C., Armah C., Dainty J., Nicoletti C., Clinical Nutrition doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2015.12.003

[Source BBSRC news: ]

Screening technique to reinforce fight against ash dieback

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

“Researchers at the University of York led a pioneering study which opens up a new front in the battle against a disease affecting ash trees across Europe.”

“The research identified genetic markers to predict whether specific trees in populations of ash will succumb to the disease or are able to tolerate and survive a fungal pathogen that is causing ash dieback.”

“The technology could help to maintain the ash tree as part of the UK landscape through pre-screening of individual tree seedlings to identify non disease-susceptible individuals before they are planted out.”

“The paper ‘Molecular markers for tolerance of European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) to dieback disease identified using Associative Transcriptomics’ is published in Scientific Reports.”

[Source BBSRC news: ]