Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

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:

[Source Nesta blog: ]

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):

[Source Wellcome blog: ]

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):

[Source Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) news: ]

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:

[Source Medical Research Council news: ]

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:

To read the report  Achievement and retention in post 16 education go to:

[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:

[Source BBSRC news: ]

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:

[Source EPSRC news: ]

Report on the ecology of culture launched

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

“A report commissioned by the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project [has been] published. Written by John Holden, Visiting Professor at City University, London, the report – The Ecology of Culture – argues that the UK’s ‘cultural ecology’ is intensively interlinked, with many strengths, but also points of vulnerability.”

“Based on interviews with 38 cultural practitioners and experts from across the cultural field, the report covers a wide variety of cultural forms, including the visual arts, dance, fashion, choral music, popular music, and film.”

“The report examines the interdependencies of publicly funded culture, commercial culture and homemade culture that interact and “shape the demand for and production of arts and cultural offerings”. The report suggests that rather than seeing these interactions as an economy, they are better understood through an ecological approach that “concentrates on relationships and patterns, showing how careers develop, ideas transfer, money flows, and product and content move, to and fro, around and between the funded, homemade and commercial subsectors”.”

To read the Report the Ecology of Culture go to:

[Source AHRC news: ]

Monographs and Open Access report

Monday, February 9th, 2015

“HEFCE has [] published its report ‘Monographs and Open Access’, a welcome in-depth study of the impacts of open access publishing on the publication of monographs. The British Academy has been closely involved in debates regarding the adoption of open access models of publishing and their impact on academic research in the humanities and social sciences in particular. The Academy is very pleased to see this detailed analysis of the implications of open access for monographs – a major form of research output in our disciplines.”

“One of the key issues is how business models can be developed that would make open access publication of monographs viable. This report analyses this question in detail, raising concerns about whether a model in which authors pay for publication can extend from journal publication to monographs. It also highlights the important issue of the value of the physical text – both in terms of the inherent qualities of layout and design in a printed text, and the importance of future access to scholarly volumes within the national and international research communities. The particular challenges of open access monographs was explored in our series Debating Open Access, in a chapter authored by Professor Nigel Vincent FBA – a member of the steering group for the HEFCE report.”

“Continued engagement between funding bodies, publishers, learned societies and the research community in its entirety is essential in order to ensure that open access publishing delivers its intended benefits without disadvantaging any of the critical stakeholders in academic publication. The HEFCE report provides a very important contribution to this conversation.”

The full report is available to read on the HEFCE website:

[Source British Academy news: ]

Discussion Paper “The Future of Security Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities”

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

“Security, the security of society and of individuals, is at the centre of concerns of contemporary society. In recent years it has, however, become clear that developing new technologies alone will not improve our security. It is now widely accepted that security depends as much on attitudes and behaviour of individuals and groups as on availability of new technological solutions. If we want to feel more secure, better protected, we need to better understand the social, cultural and psychological factors underlying human understanding of security but also of insecurity. This can only be achieved through contributions from multiple disciplines of social sciences and humanities: sociology and psychology, history and philosophy, law and theology, anthropology and linguistics, and others working closely together with medical, technical and environmental sciences.”

“Aware of the challenge to integrate the humanities and social sciences in considerations of security, the ESF Standing Committee for the Humanities (HUM (formerly SCH)) invited Professor J. Peter Burgess (Peace Research Institute Oslo, PRIO; Vrije Universiteit Brussels) to prepare a discussion paper analysing the current state of security research and proposing new research avenues.”

“The present paper is very timely, taking stock of recent debates and developments and it challenges up-to-date approach to security research. It argues that security research faces a major change and calls for new and innovative scientific thinking.”

To read the discussion paper go to:

[Source European Science Foundation news: ]