Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

National Libraries Day

Monday, February 8th, 2016

You may be aware that Saturday, February 6th is National Libraries Day. MMU Library is celebrating this with some events over the weekend including an Art Workshop (make your own notebook) on Saturday 11-1, and Mindfulness Colouring, both in the All Saints Library Chat Zone, and message boards in both libraries – ‘tell us what you love about the library’. On the library website we’ve highlighted ‘10 things to love about MMU Library’, featuring services and resources you may not have been aware of:

If you want to find out more about national celebrations, promotions and events go to: or call in at your local library.

‘Mr Selfridge’: more than an everyday tale of high street angst

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“Department stores have earned their ‘cathedrals of modernity’ label according to a newly published book, Tales of Commerce and Imagination – Department Stores and Modernity in Film and Literature.”

“It is the second volume resulting from a long-term project led by researchers at the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), a member of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, and the University of Exeter.”

“Co-edited by Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex (IMLR) and Professor Ulrike Zitzlsperger (Exeter), Tales of Commerce and Imagination challenges preconceptions of department store discourses and narratives as overwhelmingly negative – take ITV’s recent ‘Mr Selfridge’ series, which attracted much attention. It reaffirms stores as quintessential symbols of modernity that have always stood for economic and technological innovation and promoted social change.”

“And while invoking tales of the anti-modern scaremongering which took place on a large scale in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the authors, who were supported by an international group of academics, reveal how department stores were also very efficaciously used as collective symbols to support emancipatory drives of the early 20th century.”

[Source School of Advanced Study, University of London, news: ]

Update on the EPSRC Delivery Plan

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“Over the last year we have been working with our partners to help make the case for science and engineering using an outcomes-focused approach which recognises the contribution our whole portfolio, including long-term fundamental research, makes to the success of the nation.”

“In association with our university and business partners, and with our Strategic Advisory Teams and Networks, we have identified four inter-linked Outcomes which collectively underpin UK prosperity: Productivity, Connectedness, Resilience and Health – and developed ambitions within each of them. These Outcomes will form the framework for our Delivery Plan and will be used in the following ways:

  • A strategic expression of our plans which capture our value-add to the nation;
  • Providing contextual opportunities for seeking additional funding from government;
  • A framework to help researchers to think about their contribution to national and global challenges and to collaborate across disciplines.”

“Our funding will be accessed through the familiar entry points of our capability disciplines including Mathematics, Physical Sciences, ICT and Engineering, with decisions based on excellence. We also remain committed to a similar balance of challenge-driven and investigator-led research to that of our last Delivery Plan. The ambitions will help determine the challenge-led aspect of our portfolio but provide aspirations for all.”

[Source EPSRC news: ]

Energy, water, environment and food policy in the spotlight at new research centre backed by NERC

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“Finding new ways to understand how the lives of people in the UK are affected by government decisions is a central aim of the new Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN).”

“Based at the University of Surrey and initiated by leading UK bodies, including two research councils, Defra and the Environment Agency, its research will aid future decision-making on complex policy affecting a wide range of issues such as flooding and drainage, farming, housing and transport.”

“These policy areas operate within complex settings and require a robust approach to their evaluation. Each member of the core CECAN team is a world-leading researcher in their field, has worked with policymakers or in policy-relevant areas, and has already contributed to pioneering methodological approaches to policy evaluation.”

“Led by Director Nigel Gilbert, Professor of Sociology, the centre will launch on Tuesday 1 March, ahead of a public launch event this summer.”

[Source NERC press release: ]

Research Councils show impact of their investments in new impact reports

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“The Research Councils have [] published their impact reports for the 2014/2015 financial year, demonstrating the impact their investments have made on the economy, on policy and for society.”

“Each Research Council has produced its own report, showcasing specific examples of the impact of investment through their various awards, programmes and collaborations. The wide-ranging nature of the impact extends from furthering technological advances to combatting disease.”

“Collectively, the seven Research Councils invest £3 billion in research each year covering all disciplines and sectors, to meet tomorrow’s challenges today and provide the world-class research and skills that are the foundation of a strong and productive UK economy. This helps to achieve balanced growth as well as contributing to a healthy society and a sustainable world. It ensures the UK builds capacity, safeguards the long-term sustainability of research and remains a global leader in research and innovation. Additionally, by working in partnership, the Research Councils combine investments in a multitude of global societal and economic challenge areas to achieve even greater impact.”

The impact report of each Research Council is available from their respective websites.

[Source Research Councils UK news: ]

First STARS awards target vulnerable skills in the life sciences

Monday, February 1st, 2016

“BBSRC [Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council] has funded five universities across the UK to provide training programmes in strategically important and vulnerable skills for bioscientists in the first round of its Strategic Training Awards for Research Skills (STARS) scheme.”

“In total BBSRC will fund around £150,000 over three years to provide the postgraduate-level training, in areas of significant need for clearly defined academic and industrial sectors.”

“These will include bioinformatics and computational biology skills, entomology and plant pathology training and mathematical biology training for around 400 scientists.”

“These are the first set of awards made by the programme, which was set up following a BBSRC community consultation on vulnerable skills and capabilities in the biosciences.”

The next funding call for STARS closes on 3 February 2016. For more information, visit:

The successfully funded institutions are the universities of Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Warwick.

[Source BBSRC 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: ]

Nature inspired nano-structures mean no more cleaning windows

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

“A revolutionary new type of smart window could cut window-cleaning costs in tall buildings while reducing heating bills and boosting worker productivity. Developed by University College London (UCL) with support from EPSRC [Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council], prototype samples confirm that the glass can deliver three key benefits:

“Self-cleaning: The window is ultra-resistant to water, so rain hitting the outside forms spherical droplets that roll easily over the surface – picking up dirt, dust and other contaminants and carrying them away.”

“Energy-saving: The glass is coated with a very thin (5-10nm) film of vanadium dioxide which during cold periods stops thermal radiation escaping and so prevents heat loss; during hot periods it prevents infrared radiation from the sun entering the building.”

“Anti-glare: The design of the nanostructures also gives the windows the same anti-reflective properties found in the eyes of moths and other creatures that have evolved to hide from predators.”

[Source EPSRC news: ]