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Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Archive for the ‘Full-text electronic documents’ Category

Average household income at pre-crisis levels

Monday, March 16th, 2015

“Average household income in 2014–15 is at around the same level as it was in 2007–08 – but still more than two per cent lower than in the peak years of 2009–10, according to new figures from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). The IFS report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, suggests that the recovery in living standards has been much slower than after the three previous recessions.”

“Key findings from the report include:

  • The recovery in household income may finally be strengthening
  • The recovery in living standards has been slow
  • Incomes for those of working age remain below pre-crisis levels
  • Household consumption is still below pre-crisis levels
  • Falls in income have been larger for higher-income households – but low-income households have faced higher inflation”

To read the report go to:  http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN165.pdf

[Source ESRC news:  http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/features-casestudies/features/33935/average-household-income-at-pre-crisis-levels.aspx ]

UK engineering – a success story that needs sustaining

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

“An independent report on the economic impact of engineering in the UK [has been published] by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Royal Academy of Engineering.”

“The report, Assessing the economic returns of engineering research and postgraduate training in the UK, has been compiled by the Technopolis group. It highlights the remarkable contribution of engineering to the nation’s economy and the everyday lives of UK citizens.”

“The report estimates that engineering-related sectors contributed circa £280 billion in gross value added (GVA) in 2011, equivalent to 20% of the UK’s total GVA. Engineering-related sectors exported goods and services valued at around £239 billion in 2011, some 48% of the total value of exports for that year.”

“The report also flags up the importance of engineering research to key sectors including aerospace, pharmaceuticals, software and computing and highlights the fact that sectors with high concentrations of graduate engineers report high levels of innovation activity and productivity.”

“The report concludes that the quality of engineering research carried out in the UK and our world class engineering facilities and businesses attract substantial high-value, high-tech inward investment from around the world.”

You can read the report ‘Assessing the economic returns of engineering research and postgraduate training in the UK’ here: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/pubs/econreturnsengresreport/

http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/ukengineeringsuccess/

Pollution and climate change put pressure on wildlife

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

“The impact of pollution on wildlife could be made dramatically worse by climate change according to a new study published in the journal PNAS.”

“Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded researchers from the University of Exeter and Astra-Zeneca found that clotrimazole, a chemical that disrupts hormones and is commonly used in anti-fungal treatments, skewed sex-ratios in zebrafish in favour of males. These effects were amplified when the experiment was conducted in warmer water temperatures predicted for the year 2100 given current rates of climate change.”

“Inbred populations fared worse than those with higher genetic diversity highlighting the extinction risk that climate change and pollution presents to endangered species living in small, isolated populations.”

To read the article (Open Access) go to:  http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/02/26/1416269112.full.pdf+html?sid=fad29079-8fad-4640-bd27-7e71de7e1fe9

[Source BBSRC news:  http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/fundamental-bioscience/2015/150303-pr-pollution-climate-change-wildlife-extinction.aspx ]

Making learning visible: First ‘Technology in Education’ evaluation published

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Oliver Quinlan writes in a Nesta blog:

“As part of our technology in education programme we have been trialing different types of digital technology in schools and exploring its potential for learning. After many months working with teachers and schools across the UK our first independent evaluation report has now been published.”

“The Visible Classroom project explored the use of real time speech to text transcription for teacher professional development and student learning. This was a collaboration with Ai-Media UK and the University of Melbourne, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation as part of their work on evidence in education. The independent evaluation was carried out by NatCen.”

“The report has found that this approach has potential to benefit teaching and learning in schools, with teachers reporting they found the feedback a valuable part of professional development.”

“This was a pilot project, with the aim of developing the use of technology in this way in schools and respond to feedback from teachers. Therefore the evaluation looked at how it worked practically in schools and feedback from teachers on the effect it was having. At this early stage we did not formally measure the effect that it had on the learning of the children, although there was some promising feedback relating to this from teachers. The pilot gave us the chance to try different types of professional development in different stages.”

To find out more about the Visible Classroom project and download the report go to: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects/university-of-melbourne-making-teaching-and-learning-visible/

[Source Nesta blog:  http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/making-learning-visible-first-technology-education-evaluation-published ]

Pathways of resistance: from mercury to methicillin

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

“In a climate of rising fear over the diminishing efficacy of antibiotics, Wellcome-supported microbiologists have looked back at the bacteria-killing substances of the pre-antibiotic era – toxic metals. Jemima Hodkinson looks at how resistance to these metals may be linked to drug resistance in bacteria…”

“Dr Jon Hobman, University of Nottingham, and Dr Lisa Crossman, from the University of East Anglia, recently published a review of bacterial antimicrobial metal ion resistance in the Journal of Medical Microbiology. Their article concludes that the ancient pathways of resistance that bacteria have evolved against metals such as mercury, copper, arsenic and silver may be intimately linked to the antibiotic resistance genes that are circulating in bacterial populations today.”

“Metals and metallic compounds have been used for medical and biological purposes for millennia: as antiseptics, diuretics, and dental fillings; cosmetics, tonics and chemical weapons. Most are indiscriminately toxic, and you have to wonder whether some of these historical cures were actually worse than the ailments they were intended to treat. Mercury-laced teething powder, anyone?”

Here is the link to the article (Open Access):  http://jmm.sgmjournals.org/content/early/2014/11/19/jmm.0.023036-0.full.pdf+html

[Source Wellcome blog:  http://blog.wellcome.ac.uk/2015/02/24/pathways-of-resistance-from-mercury-to-methicillin/ ]

Study shows urban habitats provide haven for UK bees

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

“Urban environments might not seem the best habitat for pollinators at first glance but a new study suggests that bees and other pollinating bugs actually thrive as well in towns and cities as they do in farms and nature reserves. The study, published [] in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has for the first time compared the suitability of different landscapes for pollinating insects across the UK.”

“Bees, which play a vital role in pollinating some of the UK’s most important crops, have been declining in recent years, but the effects of urbanisation on pollinating insects is poorly understood.”

“This new research from the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading in collaboration with the University of Cardiff found that bee abundance did not differ between three studied landscapes (urban, farmland, nature reserves), but bee diversity was higher in urban areas than farmland. They also found that while hoverfly abundance was higher in farmland and nature reserves than urban sites, overall pollinator diversity did not differ significantly.”

Here is the link to the article (Open Access):  http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1803/20142849

[Source Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) news:  http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2015/150211-pr-urban-habitats-provide-haven-for-bees.aspx ]

Unhealthy eating habits outpacing healthy eating patterns in most world regions

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

“Worldwide, consumption of healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables has improved during the past two decades, but has been outpaced by the increased intake of unhealthy foods including processed meat and sweetened drinks in most world regions, according to the first study to assess diet quality in 187 countries covering almost 4.5 billion adults, published in The Lancet Global Health journal, and funded by the Medical Research Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

“Improvements in diet quality between 1990 and 2010 have been greatest in high-income nations, with modest reductions in the consumption of unhealthy foods and increased intake of healthy products. However, people living in many of the wealthiest regions (eg, the USA and Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand) still have among the poorest quality diets in the world, because they have some of the highest consumption of unhealthy food worldwide.”

“In contrast, some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and some countries in Asia (eg, China and India) have seen no improvement in their diet quality over the past 20 years.”

“The authors warn that the study presents a worrying picture of increases in unhealthy eating habits outpacing increases in healthy eating patterns across most world regions and say that concerted action is needed to reverse this trend.”

‘Dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries in 1990 and 2010: a systematic assessment’ by Imamura et al, is published in The Lancet Global Health and can be accessed (Open Access) at:  http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/langlo/PIIS2214-109X(14)70381-X.pdf

[Source Medical Research Council news: http://www.mrc.ac.uk/news-events/news/unhealthy-eating-habits-outpacing-healthy-eating-patterns-in-most-world-regions/ ]

3 ways to fix the drop-out problem in education

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

“The Local Government Association published research on achievement and retention in post-16 education []. It’s not good news, and reinforces the importance of the innovative work of our portfolio companies in the area of education and employability for young people.”

“The report, written by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, finds that 180,000 16- to 18-year-olds dropped out of AS-, A-Level or apprenticeship commitments in 2012/13. More specific to our current interest in apprenticeships, the research also found that a staggering 25 per cent of apprenticeships were not completed. Altogether, the CEEI estimate that more than £800m of Government money is wasted due to shortfalls in achievement and retention.”

“These numbers are worrying but avoidable. The investments we have made in this area highlight a number of improvements that would all have an impact on the achievement and retention of 16 to 18 year-olds in education.”

To read the rest of the blog go to: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/3-ways-fix-drop-out-problem-education

To read the report  Achievement and retention in post 16 education go to: http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/11431/Achievement+and+retention+in+post-16+education%2C%20February+2015/746a1fb2-2a89-49e9-a53b-f5339288d4b1

[Source Nesta blog as above]

Report identifies vulnerable research skills and capabilities in the UK

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

“The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC), in collaboration with the Society of Biology, have identified vulnerable skills and capabilities facing the UK bioscience and biomedical science research base.”

“In consultation with academia, businesses and other research organisations, skills and capabilities within the following five areas were highlighted:

  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Maths, statistics and computation
  • Physiology and pathology
  • Agriculture and food security
  • Core research and subject specific skills”

“Strengthening vulnerable skills and capabilities within these areas could help support UK researchers to deliver further impact for society and the economy.”

“A survey was conducted in summer 2014 to identify vulnerable skills and capabilities.”

“A large number of responses reflected an increasing need for cross-disciplinary working in the biological and medical sciences to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration between researchers. Within both sectors, there are concerns about the future supply of skilled individuals to work in the fields of physiology and pathology in relation to both animals and plants.”

“The survey also highlighted the need for improved maths, statistics and computational skills as there is difficulty recruiting skilled researchers at postgraduate and postdoctoral levels.”

To read the report go to: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/organisation/policies/reviews/consultations/1501-vulnerable-capabilities-report.aspx

[Source BBSRC news:  http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/people-skills-training/2015/150204-n-report-vulnerable-research-skills-capabilities.aspx ]

EPSRC welcomes Independent superbug report

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

“The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [] welcomed a new report by an independent review which calls for global investment, better diagnostics, better surveillance and greater support for researchers in the international race to solve the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).”

“Antimicrobial resistance is a huge and complex problem for healthcare and agriculture. Antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial infections in humans and animals for 70 years, but these medicines are becoming less and less effective. No new classes of antibiotics have been discovered for 25 years and some strains of bacteria are now unharmed by the drugs designed to kill them.”

“In the UK alone £275 million has been spent on research in this area since 2007, yet, to date, no effective solutions have been found. It has been estimated that current antibiotics may become useless within the next two decades.”

“Economist Jim O’Neill was commissioned by the Prime Minister in July 2014 to review and make recommendations on a package of actions that should be agreed internationally to tackle antimicrobial resistance. In the new report [], he acknowledges the crucial role research has to play and calls for investment in a global innovation fund to support blue sky science.”

“The research councils have already committed £28.5 million to improve our understanding of resistance, and ultimately, our ability to develop new drugs and therapies. The seven UK research councils have joined in an historic ‘war cabinet’ to co-ordinate and stimulate research across all areas impacted by antimicrobial resistance – from labs to livestock, drawing together a range of scientific expertise from the UK and abroad.”

To read the report go to: http://amr-review.org/

[Source EPSRC news:  http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/superbugreport/ ]

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