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Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Launch of Life Study

Monday, March 16th, 2015

“The recent launch of Life Study, a unique study tracking 80,000 babies, has attracted international attention including the prestigious Nature magazine”.  [In particular] “the study’s groundbreaking feature of starting at the stage of pregnancy has made headlines.”

“The study, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council, was officially launched on 23 February at the House of Lords. It will track the growth, development, health and wellbeing of over 80,000 UK babies and their parents as they grow up, in order to identify which factors in early lives are important for health and wellbeing in adulthood. The Life Study will create the largest UK collection of information to support research and policies aimed at children and young people.”

To access the Life Study website go to:

[Source ESRC news: ]

New research into how young people learn about sex and relationships

Monday, March 16th, 2015

“New research joint funded by the Medical Research Council has highlighted the differences in how young men and women learn about sex and relationships, and identified a demand from both sexes for greater involvement of parents and health professionals in supplying sexual information.”

“Although more young people than ever are getting most of their information about sexual matters from school, the majority still feel they are not getting all the information they need, and men in particular are missing out, according to the new research published today in BMJ Open.”

“The findings come from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), the largest scientific study of sexual health and lifestyles in Britain. The research was carried out by UCL (University College London), the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and NatCen Social Research. The research was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust, with additional funding from the Economic and Social Research Council the Department of Health and the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR).”

Here is a link to the article Patterns and trends in sources of information about sex among young people in Britain: evidence from three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in BMJOpen:

And a link to the Natsal survey:

[Source MRC news: ]


There is also a blog on the survey findings from the Wellcome Trust, Let’s talk about sex (education) which may also be of interest:

Step change for screening could boost biofuels

Monday, March 16th, 2015

“Researchers at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) strategically-funded Institute of Food Research have developed a new way of rapidly screening yeasts that could help produce more sustainable biofuels.”

“The new technique could also be a boon in the search for new ways of deriving valuable renewable chemicals from plant-based wastes, reducing our reliance on petrochemicals.”

“Yeasts are a key step in producing biofuels, fermenting sugars into ethanol. First generation biofuels used sugars, starch and oils derived from plants grown for that purpose. These, however, may compete with food crops for land and resources, so there has been a lot of interest in producing biofuels from non-food sources, such as agricultural wastes like straw. But a problem with these “second-generation” biofuels is that the sugars are less accessible to the yeasts.”

“To try and boost the efficiency of generating second generation biofuels, The Biorefinery Centre at IFR has joined forces with the National Collection of Yeast Cultures (NCYC), a BBSRC-supported national capability, also within IFR.”

“NCYC has over 4,000 different yeast strains in its collection. Screening this collection could find yeasts that are naturally better at producing biofuels, especially if they are able to cope better with the compounds that reduce fermentation efficiency of conventional yeast strains. Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation (SSF) is seen as a big step forward for biorefining, as it simplifies the overall process, reducing costs.”

The article (Open Access), Methodology for enabling high-throughput simultaneous saccharification and fermentation screening of yeast using solid biomass as a substrate, Adam Elliston et al, Biotechnology for Biofuels, can be found at:

[Source BBSRC news: ]

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:

[Source ESRC news: ]

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:

Digital R&D Fund for the Arts: What we’ve learnt

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

“Throughout this year Nesta, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council will be sharing learnings from the projects supported through the £7 million Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.”

“Since its launch in 2012, the Fund has supported 52 individual projects, bringing together organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. Each project is testing how digital technology can be used to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts.”

“As the projects reach completion, our focus moves to capturing the learnings and disseminating insights to the wider arts sector. Today we are excited to be launching the first set of reports from five of these pioneering projects.”

“In the true spirit of research and development, the projects have shared what has worked well, as well as what hasn’t, so we can all learn from their experiences. The learnings from these projects are a huge asset for the whole sector – so a big thanks and congratulations to all those involved in getting the projects to this stage.”

“The five projects […] illustrate the breadth of collaborations the Digital R&D Fund supports.”

[Source Nesta blog: ]

Medical super-papers

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Jessica Bland in a Nesta blog reports:

“Research disciplines that take off on Twitter are also well-funded, with a couple of interesting exceptions.”

“Over two million research documents have been shared on social or mainstream media. Twitter accounts for roughly 20 times the number of mainstream media mentions; a tweet is less effort than a newspaper article.”

“Over half of these documents are about medical research, referring to around 800,000 original academic papers (at July 2014). New research from Tamar Loach and Jonathan Adams at Digital Science in London examines these papers. Many of these are only shared once – perhaps by the author or their university. But there is a significant group that are shared by thousands of people. These super-papers can be everything from novelty articles about how dogs look like their owners to major breakthroughs in cancer treatment.”

To read more go to:

[Source Nesta blog as above]

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:

[Source BBSRC news: ]

New cyclists still disproportionately young and male, research finds

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

“New research based on the analysis of Census 2001 and 2011 data has found that growing cycling levels have not been accompanied by greater age and gender diversity.”

“The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and part of a project led by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), found that in places where cycling to work has risen, cycle commuting has remained a disproportionately male activity. It has also become even more skewed towards younger age groups.”

“The findings are surprising because places where cycling levels are higher tend have higher proportions of female and older cyclists. For example, in the Netherlands, women cycle more than men, while in Cambridge, which has the UK’s highest cycling levels, almost equal proportions of men and women cycle to work.”

“The researchers first looked at the relationship between cycling levels and gender balance in all English and Welsh local authorities, using the 2001 and 2011 Census data. In both years there was a clear relationship: areas where cycling levels were higher, such as Cambridge, had a greater proportion of female cyclists. By contrast in areas with very low cycling levels, the gender ratio was extremely unequal, with men up to 14 times more likely to cycle to work than women.”

“The researchers then looked at representation of older adults (aged 55-74) among commuting cyclists. In 2001, authorities with higher cycling levels tended to have more equal representation of older people among cycle commuters, although in 2011 the relationship was less clear.”

[Source ESRC news: ]

Refugee Law Initiative joins international government project’s advisory board

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

“Every year millions of people are forcibly displaced by floods, wind-storms, earthquakes, droughts and other natural hazards. Although many find refuge within their own country, some have to move abroad, and protection for those affected remains inadequate.”

“The Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) research centre, led by Dr David James Cantor at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), has recently been invited to advise an international government process to address the issue of cross-border displacement in the disaster context by joining the consultative committee of the inter-governmental Nansen Initiative.”

“The first of its kind, the Nansen Initiative was set up by Norway and Switzerland in 2012, to help states resolve how to protect those forcibly displaced across borders. In the past six years this has amounted to some 160 million people, and the expertise provided by the consultative committee, which includes representatives from research institutions like RLI, NGOs and international organisations such as the UNHCR (UN Commissioner for Refugees), is crucial.”

“It will allow the Nansen Initiative to respond to the legal gaps and develop a consensus on a protection agenda which focuses on three types of movement – displacement, migration and planned relocation.”

[Source SAS news: ]

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