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Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Understanding the interdisciplinary research environment

Friday, October 21st, 2016

“HEFCE and Research Councils UK have published a review of the interdisciplinary research landscape in the UK, supported by a report examining 10 institutional case studies in English universities.”

“The studies complement work recently published by the British Academy, the Global Research Council and HEFCE with the Medical Research Council.”

“The reports will form part of the discussion at the conference: ‘Interdisciplinarity: Policy and Practice’ on Thursday 8 December 2016, co-hosted by HEFCE, the British Academy and Research Councils UK.”

“The reports provide an overview of the current interdisciplinary research landscape in the UK, drawing on a survey of over 2,000 participants, workshops, interviews and case studies.”

“The findings reflect researcher, strategic leader and funder perspectives, highlighting interdisciplinary research (IDR) as a crucial part of the UK research landscape.”

“A desire to achieve broader impact, the challenges associated with peer review and evaluation, the importance of institutional support and the value of flexible funds featured as common themes.”

“The case studies identified good practice in a range of institutions seeking to grow, sustain and embed interdisciplinary practice in their research cultures.”

To read the reports go to:,110229,en.html

[Source HEFCE news:,110324,en.html ]

The Fusion Effect: The economic returns to combining arts and science skills

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

“This research explores the fusion of arts and science skills in UK companies and the impact of this combination on performance.”

“Key findings

The report found that ‘fused’ companies, those that combine art and science skills in their workforce:

  • Show 8% higher sales growth than science-only firms.
  • Are 2% more likely to bring radical innovations to market.
  • Employ approximately 3.5 million people – despite accounting for around a tenth of UK companies, they employ roughly a fifth of all workers.”

“The authors of this report used official data to analyse the contribution of employees’ science and arts skills to the performance of their companies between 2010 and 2012. The research comes at a time when the government is promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) rather than STEAM – with the addition of Arts – in spite of a burgeoning creative economy.”

“Using official UK data on innovation and firm capability, the report analyses the finances of firms that use arts and science skills. We found compelling evidence to suggest that firms combining these skills are more likely to grow in the future, are more productive, and are more likely to produce radical innovations. Our findings support the hypothesis that the impact of arts skills in the UK economy extends beyond the creative industries.”

To read the report go to:

[Source Nesta website: ]

Seven key findings from the new Creative Industry statistics

Monday, June 13th, 2016

“The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) [has] published the latest UK creative industry statistics. Reports were published on:

  • Creative employment
  • Creative services exports”

“This post summarises seven key findings from these. In what follows the Creative Economy refers to employment in Creative Industries (in creative occupations and other jobs) plus creative occupations employed in other industries.”

To read the report go to:

To read the blog go to:

[Source Nesta blog as above]

Major funders collaborate to produce first in-depth guide on evaluating healthcare system innovations

Monday, June 13th, 2016

“An e-book [just] published is the first to comprehensively address the challenges faced by healthcare providers in evaluating system-level innovations in healthcare services in an evolving landscape.”

“If innovations can be better evaluated then better, evidence-based decisions can be made by healthcare providers to improve the quality of health services in the UK.”

“Entitled ‘Challenges, solutions and future directions in the evaluation of service innovations in health care and public health’, the book is the result of a partnership between the MRC [Medical Research Council], the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Health Foundation, together with Universities UK and Academy Health.”

“The e-book, edited by Professor Rosalind Raine at University College London and Professor Raymond Fitzpatrick at the University of Oxford, brings together a global range of expert opinion following a two-day symposium in London last year. The event saw over ninety world-leading applied health researchers and methodologists debate how to address increasing complexity, diversity and pace of change within health systems. The e-book captures and advances those discussions in a series of essays which set out a repertoire of methodologies for evaluation.”

[Source Medical Research Council news: ]

Study finds virtual reality can help treat severe paranoia

Monday, May 16th, 2016

“Virtual reality can help treat severe paranoia by allowing people to face situations that they fear, an MRC[Medical Research Council]-funded study has found. The virtual reality simulations allowed the patients to learn that the situations they feared were actually safe.”

“The study, carried out by researchers at Oxford University, is published [] in the British Journal of Psychiatry. It combines evidence-based psychological treatment techniques with state-of-the-art virtual reality social situations to reduce paranoid fear.”

“About 1-2% of the population has severe paranoia, typically as a central feature of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. Patients show extreme mistrust of other people, believing that others are deliberately trying to harm them. The condition can be so debilitating that sufferers may be unable to leave the house.”

“Coping mechanisms such as avoiding social situations, reducing eye contact or making any social interaction as short as possible worsen the situation, since they reinforce paranoid fears: patients come to believe that they avoided harm because they used these ‘defence behaviours’.”

“The research team, led by Professor Daniel Freeman from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, wanted to test whether patients could ‘re-learn’ that a situation was safe, by experiencing situations they feared without using their defence behaviours.”

To read the article in the British Journal of Psychiatry go to:

[Source MRC news: ]

Research links heart disease with testosterone

Monday, May 9th, 2016

“Testosterone might be involved in explaining why men have a greater risk of heart attacks than women of similar age, according to a study funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could lead to new therapies to help reduce heart attack risk.”

“Each year in the UK 188,000 people visit hospital whilst suffering from a heart attack, which is one person every three minutes.”

“Scientists at the University of Edinburgh examined the effects of testosterone on blood vessel tissue from mice. They found that the hormone triggers cells from the blood vessels to produce bone-like deposits – a process called calcification. When the mouse cells were modified, by removing the testosterone receptor, so they could no longer respond to testosterone, they produced far less of the calcium deposits. The team also looked at blood vessel and valve tissue from people with heart disease who had undergone surgery for their condition. They found that cells from these tissues contained bone-like deposits and also carried the testosterone receptor on their surface. This suggests that testosterone may trigger calcification in people.”

“Calcification causes blood vessels to harden and thicken, which means the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. It is strongly linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Calcification can also affect the heart’s valves, meaning that the valves cannot open and shut properly and may need to be replaced. Little is known about what triggers calcification and there are currently no treatments. The research team now hope to drill down into the exact mechanism behind this process.”

“Although naturally occurring, testosterone is also used to counteract low levels of natural testosterone production in a treatment known as androgen replacement therapy. Synthetic substances similar to testosterone are also sometimes misused by athletes in order to enhance athletic performance.”

Reference: Ablation of the androgen receptor from vascular smooth muscle cells demonstrates a role for testosterone in vascular calcification. Dongxing Zhu et al. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 24807 DOI: 10.1038/srep24807

[Source BBSRC news: ]

Festivals help to fuel sense of belonging

Monday, May 9th, 2016

“A new report that examines the wide ranging impact of British Music Festivals has been published by AHRC [Arts and Humanities Research Council] fellow Professor George McKay.”

“Launched at the annual Cheltenham Jazz Festival the report ‘From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury: The Impact of British Music Festivals’ takes a detailed look at the wider economic, social and cultural impact of music festivals. The report shows how [] hugely popular and diverse festivals help to create a sense of community and belonging for the people attending and help to generate wider benefits for the local economies and communities.”

“Prof McKay, a professor in media studies in UEA’s School of Art, Media and American Studies, said: “When you think about it, it’s extraordinary that the music festival has become such a dominant feature of the seasonal cultural landscape, especially the outdoors pop festival.”

“‘With the vagaries of the typical British summer there is often mud, toilet facilities are usually not the most pleasant, traffic jams in country lanes, crowds on site everywhere, watching bands playing in the distance. And yet, festivals thrive today. Why? Because, while culture and life may be ever more fragmented, festivals speak to our need for community and belonging, they can offer us an intense, special space-time experience, often in a beautiful landscape, surrounded by the music we like.’”

To read the report go to:

[Source AHRC news: ]

British Academy publishes evidence from Born Global

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

“’Born Global’ is a resource for the languages community to use to help make the case for the importance and value of studying languages.”

“’Born Global’ consists of quantitative and qualitative data on the complex relationship between language learning and employability. Each data set is accompanied by a booklet with background information and a summary of key findings. The data is open and free to use, it is available on the British Academy website.”

“The British Academy has used this evidence in a new publication Born Global: Implications for Higher Education. It offers reflections on the current state of play for languages at university, and can be downloaded from the British Academy website.”

To access the ‘Born Global’ website go to:

[Source British Academy news: ]

‘Creating Living Knowledge’ Report released

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

“The ‘Connected Communities’ programme promotes new forms of university-community research collaboration. It is funded by Research Councils UK and the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC]. Since 2010, over 300 projects linking academic and community expertise have been funded.”

“The research provides important lessons about how to fund, conduct and sustain high quality research collaborations between academics and civil society in the arts, humanities and social sciences. These lessons have important implications for the research community – in particular those involved in funding, policy making and universities.”

“The research report, ‘Creating Living Knowledge’ focuses on the lessons to be learned from the programme about how to bring together expert and public knowledges – a trend in both universities and the wider policy and public spheres.”

To read the ‘Creating Living Knowledge’ report go to:

[Source AHRC news: ]

British Academy launches report on state of economics today

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

“Called Reflections on Economics, the report [], written by Timothy Besley FBA London School of Economics, Lord Gus O’Donnell Hon FBA and Lord Nicholas Stern, President of the British Academy, follows a series of wide-ranging forums in 2014/15 for careful examination of, and reflection on the subject of economics. These forums brought together academic and professional economists, economic historians, politicians, policy makers and business people and discussed questions such as:

  • What are the weaknesses in knowledge and understanding that should be examined?
  • What is the relationship between different areas of economics and the policy questions being asked and decisions being made? Does government ignore or misuse the advice of economists?
  • Do economists have valuable advice to give?”

To download a copy of the report go to:

[Source British Academy news as above]