Thursday, 20 December 2012

Youth Violence Declining in UK

Youth violence is a major concern in most countries but physical violence among young people is on the decline overall in nearly thirty countries including the UK, according to an international study involving researchers from the University.

The study which involved Professor Fiona Brooks from the University’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) and other international researchers, shows that investment in violence prevention programmes and other support networks do make a difference to the world’s youth.

Over the last decade in the UK, a wide range of programmes have been made available to healthcare workers and educators to reduce violence and associated triggers. These programmes have proven effective and have helped to lower the rates of violence in the UK. Such programmes include developing life skills in children and young people, working with young people who are potentially violent, as well as reducing the availability and misuse of alcohol. Also, many schools across the UK have now signed up to the UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Award.  This is a UK-wide initiative which helps schools to use the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child at the heart of a school’s values.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

New Neighbours? Closest Single Star Like Our Sun May Have HabitablePlanet

As you stare into a star-studded sky, have you ever thought that one of those stars that you can see may host a planet which might be able to support life on it?  Well, Tau Ceti, one of our closest cosmic neighbours may now host five planets – one of which may well be in its habitable zone.

Artist’s impression of the Tau Ceti system  Picture credit: J. Pinfield for the RoPACS network at the University of Hertfordshire, 2012.
At a distance of twelve light years and visible with the naked eye in the evening sky, Tau Ceti is the nearest single star with same classification as our Sun. Originally thought to be a lone star, new research now suggests that Tau Ceti hosts a rich planetary system.

The international team of astronomers led by Mikko Tuomi and Hugh Jones, from the University’s Centre for Astrophysics Research, developed a new method to detect signals half the size previously thought possible – improving the sensitivity of searches for small planets.

The five planets around Tau Ceti are estimated to have minimum masses between two and six times that of the Earth. The planet of great interest is the one which may lie in the habitable zone of the star and has a mass around five times that of Earth.

Planets in orbit around the nearest Sun-like stars are particularly valuable.  With Tau Ceti being so bright and so close to Earth, we may be able to study the atmospheres of these planets in the not too distant future!


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Sense of Security Most important for Older People Receiving Care at Home

England’s population is both growing and ageing as people live longer. Latest figures show that by mid-2011 England’s population was at its highest level, at an estimated 53.1 million, of which 8.7 million people were aged 65 or over and 1.2 million were 85 or over. With these figures come challenges, where the NHS tackles how best to address the care and treatment needs of older people. Those living at home with complex health problems and disabilities are at high risk of unplanned hospital admission. They often rely on good inter-professional working – a combination of support from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and social workers, as well as care workers.

A new study led by Professor Claire Goodman from the University’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) has found that older people living at home believe they get more effective healthcare services when they have a sense of security and continuity of care through a key or specific professional.

The three year study, in collaboration with St. George’s University of London, Kingston University, University College London, King’s College London and University of Surrey, was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) Programme and published by the NIHR.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hertfordshire Agricultural Student Selected for Special Bursary Award

Georgia Mitrousia, a postgraduate agricultural student, is one of only five students to have been chosen to receive the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust’s ‘Centenary Award’ this year, with applications for the award received from across the UK.

Winners of the award are not only excellent academic performers, they also need to show commitment to the future of agriculture.  Georgia’s PhD research into the prevention of disease in oilseed rape will help to ensure higher quality growth of crops in the future – helping to secure our future food security.

The award scheme was launched by the UK’s leading rural insurer NFU Mutual to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2010 and gives annual bursaries to selected post graduate students in agriculture. Their objective is to select potential rural leaders of the future, so that the bursary payments will not only help the individual students, but also benefit the agricultural industry at large.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Healthcare Simulation in Chile

Guillaume Alinier, Professor of Simulation in Healthcare Education from the School of Health and Social Work, continues to be in great demand to share his knowledge in healthcare simulation.

He was the international guest of honour at the official opening of a new clinical simulation centre at University Mayor in Santiago, Chile, which is equipped with all the latest technology.  Guillaume gave a plenary lecture at the opening event on his experiences in designing and implementing different simulation projects around the world.

During his visit to Chile, Guillaume gave another lecture at Mayor University’s Temuco campus, some 500 miles south of Santiago.  This event was combined with an award ceremony for a nursing technician in recognition of her contribution to advancing patient safety through the use of clinical simulation.

Guillaume played a significant role in designing and running the University's large multi-professional Clinical Simulation Centre.  Over the years, he has held national and international roles in the simulation community – during this year alone, he has co-chaired the largest simulation event of the year in San Diego in the US, provided masterclasses and keynote lectures at international conferences held in Mexico, Turkey, and the UK.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Professor is Founding Trustee of New Institute of Health Visiting

Professor Sally Kendall (3rd from left) with iHV
colleagues and Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter
Professor Sally Kendall, from the University’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, is one of the distinguished founding trustees of the newly-launched Institute of Health Visiting (iHV).

For a hundred and fifty years health visitors have been helping to support Britain’s new families. And the launch of the new Institute of Health Visiting will promote best practice in the next generation of professionals.

Health visitors play a unique role in society – they are vital in improving the health and wellbeing of children, their families and the wider community. They walk through every door where there is a baby, they work with families from all backgrounds and help children to get the best possible start in life.

Sally’s research interest is in community and primary health care nursing and health visiting, especially family health.  This area of expertise, combined with her previous experience as a health visitor, provides fundamental knowledge to ensure the future skills of health visitors.

The new Institute, launched by Health minister Dr Dan Poulter, is backed by the Prime Minister and leading experts in the field of health visiting.  It will ensure that health visitors have access to the latest research and practice materials – raising professional standards in health visiting practice and helping them to best serve families in every sector of UK society.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Inspiring the Next Generation of Researchers

How do we get young people interested in considering a career in research?   What does research cover?  What do they need to find out about?

Well, year 11 pupils from several schools across Hertfordshire joined together to explore research at the University’s Research Exhibition for Schools. The special event, held as part of the University’s sixty year celebrations, aimed to inspire the next generation of researchers.

With interactive stands and exciting talks from senior researchers giving their personal insight into their specialist areas of research, the pupils had the opportunity to talk to professors and find out about research and what it covers.

From the many research stands available, the pupils met KASPAR, an interactive robot, designed to help children with autism to open up to their families and carers; they pictured themselves as an astronaut using a newly-developed video portrait system; the sky was brought to life by astronomers with a live link to our observatory at Bayfordbury.

Climate change, energy, engineering, healthcare, science and technology are just some of the areas where the University is breaking new ground for the benefit of people in our own country and across the globe.





Tuesday, 27 November 2012

From Robotics Research to Enterprise

Little did I realise what was in store for me when I started my Computer Science degree at the University. At the time as a struggling single parent, I could never have believed the fantastic journey that I was just setting out on - that it would lead to a PhD in robotics and then becoming CEO of my own international robotics and technology company, Que Innovations.

After completing my degree in 2001, I then went on to do a PhD with the world-renowned AuRoRA Project based at the University. My PhD investigated the use of robotics devices as tools or therapy aids for children with autism. In 2004, I spent some time with a research group in Canada as part of the project’s collaboration. This was an amazing opportunity, for both me and my young son, something that I am so grateful for.

I continued my post-doctoral research with the same group in Canada where I became increasingly frustrated that the results of my research didn’t seem to filter through to the real world. I would see children with severe autism laugh and be happy with a robotic device…but then we took the devices back to the lab and put them on a shelf! I really wanted to see the devices stay with the children, and so I decided to commercialise the best robotic device I had worked with, a device called KOULE.

That was almost four years ago. Now I am based between Canada and the USA and come to the UK as much as possible. And my company, Que Innovations, is just about to bring KOULE to market.

Doing a degree at the University of Hertfordshire is one of, if not, the best decision I have ever made. It gave me the tools and confidence I needed, which have enabled me to achieve the things I have in my life. I now have an international company that is bringing a product to market that can make a real difference in the world.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

“People at their best” wins photography competition


Professor John Senior, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), 
presenting Colleen Addicott with her award
Colleen Addicott’s photograph “People at their best” won the University’s Reflection on Research photography competition on Monday evening – and a £2000 cheque. The photo represents individuals jumping for joy, in whichever profession or career they find themselves.

As part of our sixty year anniversary celebrations, we invited all our research students to enter the photographic competition with an image that reflects their own research programme.

Colleen, an occupational psychologist, is currently doing a research degree at the University and is looking to develop a model to identify where people are at their best in work.

Colleen’s photograph, taken on a cloudy afternoon, shows the silhouettes of people jumping.  Each person carried a prop to represent their profession – a journalist with a pen and pad, a cook with a hat and spatula, a builder with a hammer and pliers, a wind turbine engineer with a mini turbine and a business consultant with a laptop.

Second prize was awarded to Joanna Denyer and the third prize was awarded jointly to Friedrich Newman and Peter Thain.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

“The Dark Universe” and “Spooky Nebulae” at the Bayfordbury Observatory

The Witch Head Nebula by Noel Carboni
Come along to Bayfordbury’s next open evening on Friday 2 November if you dare!

You’ll be welcomed by zombie astronomers to this spooky event!  With special talks on “The Dark Universe” and “Scary Nebulae in Outer Space” and dedicated planetarium shows and so much more…you’ll love this ghoulish-star studded evening!

Our spooky Bayfordbury Observatory Open Night takes place this Friday, 2 November.

Come along to see spooky witchy nebulae as well as thousands of twinkling stars, galaxies, planets and much more though our optical telescopes and radio telescope – weather permitting of course!

Our series of Public Open Evenings at our Observatory at Bayfordbury gives a great opportunity for everyone, from children to adults and budding amateur astronomers, to visit a working astronomical observatory and see our astronomers’ research.

There are still a few places available – so to book your place (if you dare) click here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dementia Patients Need Urgent Support After Diagnosis

How do people with dementia and their carers respond to being diagnosed with the condition?  What are their experiences and feelings around dementia diagnosis?  Are there any barriers to being diagnosed?

Many of us know someone who has dementia – perhaps a family member or a friend.  It mainly affects older people, affecting one in twenty people over the age of sixty-five and one in five over the age of eighty. And with aging populations around the world, the number of people with dementia is increasing – worldwide there are estimated to be over thirty-five million people with dementia and this number is set to rise to well over 115 million by 2050 according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.

In a paper just published in PLoS Medicine, researchers led by Dr Frances Bunn from the University’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), have found that there is an urgent need for support from outside the family both immediately after diagnosis of dementia and also on an on-going basis.

They found that the needs of people with dementia and their carers are complex and varied which makes diagnosing and supporting them very challenging. The research showed that support needs to be on-going, flexible and sensitive to their needs – so any future research must focus on the development and evaluation of ways to best meet those needs.

The paper “Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies” is now available.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Mediterranean Diet Revisited: What’s on your plate?

http://www.stockfreeimages.com
People often feel bombarded and confused with information about diet and health, especially as some of it is conflicting.  But what do you need to keep you fit and healthy?

Many people are aware that a Mediterranean diet provides many health benefits, particularly in terms of obesity and risk of heart disease…but what does a real Mediterranean diet put onto a UK plate?

Dr Richard Hoffman from the School of Life and Medical Sciences will be talking about the health benefits of Mediterranean plant foods at “The Mediterranean Diet Revisited” conference being held at Fishmongers’ Hall in London on Friday 2 November 2012.  As one of a series of high profile speakers at the event, Richard will reveal the lessons that can be learned from the Mediterranean diet in order to improve the consumption and nutritional value of plant foods in the UK.

The one-day conference, which HRH The Princess Royal will attend, takes a look at what constitutes a Mediterranean diet,  including the latest evidence on why it contributes to good health and how it could be adopted more widely and sustainably.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Children in Scotland are still eating too much sugar

courtesy of Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Much has been written about children’s health and their diets.  But a new survey on the eating, drinking and purchasing habits of schoolchildren living in Scotland reveals that they are still eating too much sugar and saturated fat.

The amount of sugar consumed has reduced since the previous survey in 2006, but children’s intake continues to be much higher than the Scottish Dietary Goals.   Sugars and saturated fat from soft drinks, sweets, biscuits, cakes, yogurt and fruit juice were the major sources.

Dr Wendy Wills, from the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), developed new questions for the survey, to assess what food and drink children purchase ‘beyond the school gate’.

This is the first time that food and drink purchasing has been assessed from a representative sample of children in Scotland. The survey dispels the myth that children usually buy ‘unhealthy’ foods and drinks from burger, chip or ice cream vans outside of schools and paves the way for further research to find out why so many children are choosing to buy food and drink from supermarkets and other outlets.

The dietary and food and drink purchasing survey was undertaken in 2010 on behalf of the Food Standards Agency in Scotland, and was carried out by the University of Hertfordshire, University of Aberdeen and Scotcen.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Signing in Babies Does Not Accelerate Language Development

So many times, you hear proud parents saying of their little bundles of joy, “I’m sure she’s trying to speak… I wonder what she wants to say”.  That’s why many mothers join baby signing courses so that they can start to communicate with their little one before he or she is able to talk.  But more than that, they want to give them a head start in learning to speak.

Can baby signing really accelerate babies learning to talk or even increase their vocabulary, as many baby sign supporters claim?  Or are there other benefits to baby signing?

Lara and Rosie asking for "more"
 - they're still hungry!
Researchers led by Dr Liz Kirk, from the Department of Psychology, found no evidence to support the claims that baby signing helps to accelerate babies’ language development but did find that mothers were more responsive to their babies’ non-verbal clues.

Babies learnt gestures and used them to communicate long before they started talking, However, they did not learn the associated words any quicker than the group of non-gesturing babies, nor did they did they show enhanced language development.

But interestingly, the study’s findings revealed that mothers who gestured with their babies were more responsive to their babies and also thought of them as an individual with a mind.  This has great potential in clinical situations where early gestures from babies or young children may provide timely interventions where there is risk of language delay or impairment.

The full research paper “To Sign or Not to Sign? The Impact of Encouraging Infants to gesture on Infant Language and Maternal Mind-Mindednessis published at Child Development.



Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Seeing Stars… at Open Evenings

Looking up to the heavens on cloudless night, you see so many stars, twinkling in the night sky.  But there’s so much more to see… galaxies, planets, suns, red dwarfs, brown dwarfs, black holes, newly formed stars and... more, importantly, identifying what it is.

Our series of Public Open Evenings at our Observatory at Bayfordbury gives a great opportunity for everyone, from children to adults and budding amateur astronomers, to visit a working astronomical observatory. 

Come along to talk to researchers and post-graduate students who will be providing expert demonstrations, tours and talks on many different aspects of astronomy including:
  • A tour around the sky in our planetarium

  • A demonstration of how our radio telescopes work

  • Visit our seven optical telescopes

  • A (recorded) video link to the Chilean observatories

  • Visit our Astrolab to participate in various  of computer and lab experiments

The Public Open Evening Season starts on Friday 5th October with a very special event to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) with a special speaker coming from the ESO HQ in Germany.

To book your place at this opening event on 5th October, or to see alternative dates, click here

Friday, 28 September 2012

Around the World with Healthcare Simulation

Guillaume Alinier, Professor of Simulation in Healthcare Education from the School of Health and Social Work, is in great demand to provide a truly international perspective on healthcare simulation.

Currently working in the Middle East at Sidra Medical and Research Center in Qatar, and after having been one of the co-chairs of the largest simulation event of the year in San Diego in January 2012, Guillaume has recently been invited to deliver keynote speeches and master-classes at two other international events.

At next week’s conference of the European Society of Emergency Medicine being held in Antalya, Turkey, Guillaume will help facilitate a two-day educator workshop with other colleagues from around Europe. He will also deliver a keynote lecture entitled “Simulation is becoming a reality! An overview of high level initiatives from around the world”.

Earlier in September, Guillaume gave the opening keynote speech at the 4th International BACCN (British Association of Critical Care Nurses) Conference in Brighton.  Collette Laws Chapman, BACCN Board member, commented that the conference had record delegate numbers and perfectly showcased BACCN’s dedication to innovation and education for critical care nurses and Allied Health professionals.  Guillaume’s speech, entitled, “Making Simulation real: A Global Perspective!” brought together his wide range of experience and the theme of the conference - “Going Global: Around the world in 48 hours. Quality and Safety in Critical Care”.  Guillaume also ran a pre-conference master-class with Dr Ramawad Soobrah from Imperial College to provide delegates with first-hand experience as to the benefits of using simulation in healthcare education.

Guillaume was instrumental in designing and running the large multiprofessional simulation centre at the University and, over the years, has held national and international roles in the simulation community.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

University Celebrates Over Forty years of Agricultural Research

Our long tradition of agricultural teaching and research at the University was celebrated at the Crop Protection, Conservation and Communication Conference on Thursday 20th September - where the speakers were graduates from the University and provided a passionate insight into their areas of work and research.

The event marked the achievements of graduates in Biology and Environmental Studies and the MSc in Environmental Management, launched new agricultural modules on the MSc in Environmental Management and also celebrated the MBE awarded to Dr Avice Hall earlier this year.
Dr Hall MBE, a lecturer and researcher in plant pathology at the University for more than forty years, has seen many students come through the doors.  She thought that it was great to see so many graduates and researchers at the event and see how the courses they studied here have underpinned their entire careers.

Agriculture faces many challenges, not least coping with the rising demand for food due to the increasing population and meeting the demands for a more sustainable industry.  Agricultural research carried out at the University is critical to understanding crop biology and crop protection, and is pivotal in developing and protecting our food security.  The new specialist modules on crop protection for the MSc in Environmental Management will educate the next generation of crop scientists in these issues, where science is balanced with the practical demands of the food producer.
Keynote speaker, Professor John Lucas, former head of microbiology and plant pathology at Rothamsted Research commented on the breadth of skills of the University’s graduates - the diversity of their experience together with their range of skills is inspiring and will be vital if we are to make progress on solving today’s food security issues.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

University Recognised Alongside Russell Group Through Funding Award

We’re delighted to be recognised as one of only twelve universities to benefit from an additional £6 million of Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF). And, we are particularly pleased that of the twelve, we are the only university which is not a member of the Russell Group.

The extra funding will be allocated by HEFCE among the twelve top performing universities in knowledge exchange and will be available during the 2013/14 academic year. This announcement was made by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, at the recent Universities UK (UUK) conference.

The HEIF funding aims to drive growth and create innovative enterprises, and has been found from efficiency savings in the science and research budget. In return for the release of the £6 million funding, all twelve universities must outline how they will use this funding to drive growth.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Psychology Professor Accepts New Editorial Role

Professor Keith Laws, from the School of Life and Medical Sciences, has been invited to be a Section Editor on the new journal BMC Psychology.

The journal strives for international representation across its editors, and, as one of only two Section Editors from the UK, Keith is delighted to accept this role – with others coming from Germany, the USA, Brazil and Taiwan.

Selection for the role was based on a combination of research on opinion leaders and colleague recommendations. All the Section Editors are highly respected, senior scientists in their respective fields with strong publication records, who also care about the concept of open access.

BMC Psychology is a peer-reviewed journal from the increasingly influential BMC (BioMed Central) series of Open Access journals.  Providing free and permanent online access to all original research articles immediately upon publication, the journal covers all aspects of psychology, human behaviour and the mind, as well as personality and individual differences.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Taking Ginkgo Biloba Does Not Improve Memory

Ginkgo Biloba leaves,
courtesy of James Field
Ginkgo Biloba has been widely used for a number of years to reduce the mental decline associated with aging and also to protect against developing Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a popular remedy having been used extensively in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years.  More recently, it has been marketed as a memory-enhancing supplement for healthy individuals – but are these claims valid?

Recently published research has shown that taking Ginkgo Biloba supplements does not help protect against developing Alzheimer’s nor does it help improve memory problems associated with Multiple Sclerosis - but does taking it have any impact at all for healthy people?

Researchers led by Professor Keith Laws, from the School of Life and Medical Sciences, have found that taking the Ginkgo Biloba supplements did not improve memory, attention or problem solving in healthy individuals. In fact, it had zero impact on the cognitive functions whatever the age of the people, the dose taken or the length of time of taking them. So taking Ginkgo Biloba supplements at any age to boost memory have no impact at all – and may be a waste of time and money.

The paper, “Is Ginkgo Biloba a cognitive enhancer in healthy individuals? A meta-analysis” (published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental) examined the published research of thirteen randomised control trials of over 1000 healthy individuals across all ages.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Modern DNA Techniques Applied to Old Nineteenth-Century Potatoes

Symptom of potato blight
What can old potato samples archived from the late nineteenth-century tell us about potato blight – a serious disease which still affects today’s food production?  How can modern analysis methods help?

Late blight of potato is caused by the microorganism, Phytophthora infestans, which rapidly destroys the leaves of potato crops and was responsible for the infamous Irish potato famine of the 1840s that left over one million people dead and another one million Irish emigrating.

It was the foresight of two nineteenth-century plant scientists to archive potato samples from their potato blight experiment that has enabled today’s modern DNA techniques to be applied - to better understand the disease and its implications for today’s food security.

Researchers, led by Professor Bruce Fitt, have the earliest proof of how this disease survived between the seasons in England and how the potato blight may have survived between cropping seasons after the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.

With growing concerns over food shortages and climate change, late blight remains a serious disease problem in current potato production and has also emerged as a significant disease threat to the organic tomato industry. This DNA technique is a very useful tool in plant disease diagnosis to test seed potatoes or tomato transplants for the presence of the blight pathogen.

The paper Evidence for presence of the founder Ia mtDNA haplotype of Phytophthora infestans in 19th century potato tubers from the Rothamsted archives is published in Plant Pathology.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Women with Alzheimer’s Deteriorate Faster than Men

© Halina Yakushevich | Dreamstime.com
More women than men have Alzheimer’s Disease, but is there any difference between the sexes in the progression of the disease? In a paper just published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, researchers from the School of Psychology have revealed that women with Alzheimer’s show worse mental deterioration than men with the disease – even when at the same stage of the condition.

The researchers, led by Professor Keith Laws, discovered that men with Alzheimer’s consistently and significantly performed better than women with the disease across the five cognitive areas they examined. Most remarkably, the verbal skills of women with Alzheimer’s are worse when compared to men with the disease – rather different to the profile of the healthy population where females have the clear advantage in speaking skills!

The findings indicate that there is something about Alzheimer’s that specifically disadvantages women. Possible explanations are for a hormonal influence, possibly due to oestrogen loss in women or perhaps a greater cognitive reserve in males which provide protection against the disease process.

The paper Greater Cognitive Deterioration in Women than Men with Alzheimer’s Disease: a Meta Analysis” is the most read article at the online journal from its publish date until the date of this blog with 1648 views.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Professor Shares Expertise on Crop Disease

Professor Bruce Fitt, a well-known expert in his field of crop diseases, is making a significant contribution to a project investigating the barley disease, Rhynchosporium.

Barley is a major cereal grain with important uses as animal fodder and also for the brewing and whiskey industry. Rhynchosporium is the most problematic and economically damaging disease of barley worldwide. Annual crop losses in the UK from this disease are around £7m despite fungicide treatments which cost about £25m.

With over 30 years’ experience in crop diseases, Bruce is a key collaborator on the project which aims to bring more genetic resistant varieties of barley to the market and so ensure our future food security. The five year project, Symptomless Infection of Barley: resistance breeding and integrated crop protection strategies (SIBLINGS project), is funded by the Technology Strategy board and carried out in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute (Dundee), KWS (barley breeding company), DuPont (agrochemical company) and Agrii (agronomy intelligence services).

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Whither the star clusters

Today’s astronomy is all about the growth of structure in the Universe – how stars and planets form, how star clusters form, how entire galaxies form...  The mid-scale of clusters is as perplexing as any spatial scale. We know from observation that most star clusters are destined to extraordinarily short lives, in that 9 out of 10 vanish by the time the dense dust and gas in which they are born has dispersed (a timescale of no more than a few million years, typically – a blink of an astronomical eye). We also don’t know what to make of the larger related structures known as OB associations.  Are they star clusters on steroids, or something different?

Image Courtesy of Nick Wright
To solve this, we have to get down to the details - learning all we can about the space velocities of the stars making clusters up. Are the stars flying apart, falling in, orbiting ...moving around chaotically, or what?   If we can discover what the stars are up to now, we can foresee what will happen next.   But this is much easier said than done, as it requires the wholesale measurement of tiny stellar motions in the plane of the sky, as well as the line of sight motion revealed by the Doppler effect.  But we are on the verge of doing it, and that’s what the newly published collaborative paper The Dynamics of an Expanding OB Association” is about.

The tiny stellar motions have to be deduced from high quality sky images obtained years apart. We at the University of Hertfordshire are at the forefront in this area, via our Galactic Plane surveys. Here, data from IPHAS (INT Photometric Hα Survey of the Northern Galactic Plane) steps in. This is the first comprehensive kinematic study of the massive northern OB association, known as Cyg OB2.  The results portray a complex hierarchical structure, at odds with simple dispersal.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Getting into the Mind-set of Psychology Research

Dr Liz Kirk (centre) with her new research assistants,
Emily Stears (left) and Lisa Wheatley (right)
It's great seeing some of our students and alumni in action at the Games, but it's not just sporting successes our students face this summer. Two of our outstanding students have the golden opportunity to gain an insight into scientific research over the vacation period.

Dr Liz Kirk, from the School of Psychology, has successfully secured two research grants, enabling her to provide “hands-on” research experience to two exceptional students.

Through the Undergraduate Research Assistant Award from the British Psychological Society, Dr Kirk has been able to employ Emily Stears, an outstanding second year psychology undergraduate during the summer vacation.  Emily is working as a research assistant on a project entitled “An exploration of the relationship between symbolic gesture and pretend play in infancy”.

As well as employing an undergraduate, Dr Kirk is also employing an exceptional psychology graduate as a research assistant. Through a new research grant funded by a collaboration between the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, Lisa Wheatley, who has just completed her degree this year with First Class honours, is working on a four month research project entitled “The relationship between symbolic gesture, maternal mind-mindedness and theory of mind.” This research follows up on the baby participants from a previous PhD study into baby-signing and who are now six years old!

These two grants provide a fantastic opportunity for these outstanding students to find out more about research, as well as giving their CVs that special competitive edge.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Internet for All?

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as Broadband are becoming a bigger part of peoples’ daily lives.  Use of the internet has increased particularly with the development of innovative communications platforms such as email and instant messaging.  But with the emergence of online social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, internet usage has rocketed and transformed.

With the use of ICTs changing the face of information seeking and communications in day-to-day life, governments have recognised the potential for economic growth and development.  So ICTs like Broadband are viewed as critical tools for daily life. But does everyone have the same access and ability to use these immense resources?  And what is the usage of these technologies in other countries around the world?

Not all government projects across the globe are successful at encouraging adoption and use.  And with an estimated 85% of e-government projects in developing countries being either total failures or considered as partial failures, what are the reasons for this?

Dr Jyoti Choudrie, from the Systems Management Research Unit, presented two papers on uptake of ICT in two developing countries at the recent Special Interest Group on ICT and Global Development meeting held in Barcelona, Spain.

The first paper, entitled “Culture and Gender’s Influence on E-Government Diffusion in Nigeria: A Qualitative Study”, looked to understand and explain the influence of culture and gender upon e-Government awareness channels in the three largest indigenous societies in Nigeria: Ibo, Yoruba and Hausa.  The findings showed that social interaction (based on culture and gender influences) had a large impact on awareness channels.  So to improve the diffusion of e-Government products and services, social interaction is a necessary element.

In the second paper, entitled “Adoption and use of e-Government Services in Abu Dhabi Police Force: A Qualitative Study”, the research results showed that age, education, position within an organisation and the individual’s job all contribute to either inhibit or encourage the use and adoption of e-services.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Livestock Feed Additives with a Beneficial Effect on the Environment

The environmental impact of the livestock raised for our food has had plenty of news coverage over recent times as it is claimed to account for about half of the human-caused greenhouse gases. But how can we control and reduce the waste gases produced by the livestock?

Livestock feed is often improved by the use of feed additives, which not only improve diet and health, but can be used to improve other aspects of livestock production such as increase milk yields, suppress the female reproductive cycle as well as improve the digestion processes in animals.

A new research contract awarded to the Agricultural and Environmental Research Unit (AERU) will review the chemical additives used in livestock diets, and critically evaluate their potential for delivering environmental benefits such as reducing the waste gases that may contribute to climate change.

Led by Dr Kathy Lewis, the study will undertake a thorough, critical and systematic review to produce a global inventory of current feed additives that offer environmental benefits. Funded by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), the information will support current European regulatory process on feed additives, and will help develop more sustainable policies in this area.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Venous Leg Ulcer Care Management

As leg ulcer management becomes increasingly complex, access to high quality, effective care is vital for timely healing of venous leg ulcers. In a recent article, I raised some of the key issues in clinical practice which impact on the Government’s vision of quality and equity in healthcare services as set out in the 2008 Darzi report (High Quality Care for All) and numerous subsequent publications from the Department of Health.

In the UK more than three per cent of the population is affected by leg ulceration and many more by chronic swelling of the lower limbs, known as chronic oedema. The main reason for ulceration is due to high pressure in the leg veins. Healing rates of venous leg ulcers which are relatively uncomplicated range from fifty to seventy per cent at 24 weeks and complicated ulcers take considerably longer, if they heal at all.

The main treatment is high pressure bandaging to reduce the venous pressure. Special training is necessary otherwise patients can be seriously damaged by the treatment. There are national guidelines for leg ulcer care but evidence suggests that patients often are not fully assessed and do not receive optimum care - at considerable cost to patient’s lives and health care services.

Most venous leg ulcer care is given by nurses, and better outcomes for patients are evident when the practitioner is knowledgeable about the condition and has sufficient skills to apply treatment safely and effectively. The Department of Health’s vision of quality and equity is only achievable if there is a focus on continuing professional development of healthcare staff and monitoring of the impact of such investment on patient outcomes.

The full article “Venous leg ulcers in context” was published in the July issue of Journal of Community Nursing.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Eyes Don't Have It: New Research into Lying and Eye Movements

Credit: http://www.stockfreeimages.com
Knowing how to tell if someone is lying is something a lot of people want to know how to do, and followers of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have long claimed that it is possible by noting a person’s eye movements.

NLP practitioners assert that when a person looks up to their right they are likely to be lying, whilst a glance up to their left is indicative of telling the truth – making it a widely-used approach to lie detection. But new research published in the journal PLoS ONE shows that this claim is unfounded.

Professor Richard Wiseman from the School of Psychology, together with Dr Caroline Watt from the University of Edinburgh, filmed volunteers as they either lied or told the truth.  Results showed no relationship between lying and eye movements.

In a further study, another group of participants, who were told about the NLP claims, watched the films and attempted to detect the lies on the basis of the volunteers' eye movements – this NLP knowledge did not improve their detection skills.

In a final study conducted in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Canada, the team analysed films of liars and truth tellers from high profile press conferences.  During this review, the alleged tell-tale pattern of eye movements failed to emerge.

Most members of the public believe that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses!  However, this new research provides no support for the idea and suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to lie detection.

The research paper “The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming” can be read here: http://bit.ly/MhVIwj

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

UKIRT discovers “impossible” binary stars

Over the past five years a team of astronomers and I have been using the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) to search the infrared sky for transiting or eclipsing systems. Such systems contain a star with an orbital companion that may be another star, or perhaps a planet. A system of two stars like this is known as a binary. If the companion regularly passes in-front of the star it will cause a dimming in the brightness we measure, and reveal its presence to our survey.


We recently analysed the survey measurements and discovered four very surprising binary cool stars with orbital periods less than four hours. The reason these objects are so interesting is that prior to this there was thought to be a hard lower limit to the periods of such binaries. Binaries containing hotter stars always have orbital periods above five hours, because although their orbital rate decreases over time they have not had enough time (even over the age of the Galaxy) to slow their orbits enough. The new cool star binaries break through this limit, so we are seeing evidence for a new kind of binary evolution.

It may be that cool stars like this are more magnetically active and produce powerful stellar winds that apply the brakes to their rotation. This would be analogous to a spinning figure skater extending their arms to slow down their spin. Indeed, these binaries will continue to spiral in and eventually (in a few thousand years) coalesce into one star.

For more information see: http://bit.ly/NKIsjQ

Friday, 6 July 2012

PhD Student Wins Accounting Award

David Marshall, a PhD student from the Business School, has won an award for the best essay on the contribution of accounting to the sustainability agenda.

The award, sponsored by Grant Thornton LLP and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS), was presented by Sir David Tweedie, the ex-head of International Accounting Standards Board. As a result of this contribution, David Marshall has been formally invited by ICAS to join their Sustainability Advisory Group.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Can simvastatin improve erectile function and sexual health relatedquality of life in men with untreated erectile dysfunction?

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual health problem in men over forty years affecting their overall quality of life, and that of their partners. It is a marker for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and consultation rates in primary care are low.

We conducted a trial to test whether simvastatin given to men who have untreated ED, but no other cardiovascular risk factors, improves erectile function and quality of life and reduces cardiovascular risk. 173 eligible men were randomised to receive either 40 mg simvastatin or a placebo (inactive dummy) for six months.

Patients with severe ED reported a small improvement in their erectile function, a significant improvement in their sexual health related QOL, reduced cholesterol and cardiovascular risk compared to patients on placebo. Simvastatin may reduce health services costs although larger trials are required.

Our findings could influence urological and primary care practice and provide a basis for improving care for patient benefit by including questions on ED during routine consultations and relevant clinic protocols. Raising awareness of the links between ED and CVD provides an opportunity to provide lifestyle advice and address CVD risk factors.

The project is funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research ‘Research for Patient Benefit’ programme (Project Number PB-PG-0107-11391).

This article outlines independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

New discoveries with language learning robots

Can a robot learn to understand and speak a human language?  New results from researchers from the University’s School of Computer Science and published in PLoS ONE, show it can begin to  develop basic language skills through conversation with a human!

In the same way that an infant picks up the frequency of sounds in speech, the childlike iCub humanoid robot called DeeChee has learnt some simple word forms.  Experiments carried out with DeeChee by Dr Caroline Lyon, Professor Chrystopher Nehaniv and Dr Joe Saunders as part of the iTalk project have shown how language learning might emerge.

Like an infant, DeeChee can only babble and perceives speech as a string of sounds.  But after humans speak to DeeChee as if it was a small child, the robot adapts its output to the most frequently heard syllables.  It “speaks” word forms such as the names of simple shapes and colours.

Although DeeChee is learning to produce word forms, it does not know their meaning - and learning meanings is another part of the iTalk project’s research.

The iCub robot named DeeChee learning basic language with Professor Chrystopher Nehaniv and Dr Joe Saunders
Teaching DeeChee to speak using methods similar to those used to teach children is a key part of the learning process of the human-robot interaction which could have a significant impact on the future generation of interactive robot systems.

The research paper “Interactive language learning by robots: the transition from babbling to word forms” can be read here: http://bit.ly/LUIeHz

A short video on iCub robot learning names of colours and shapes can be seen here: http://bit.ly/K1vSd3

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Helices of light: dark helices with a bright future

A laser beam can be made to form a helix, or corkscrew shape, of great light intensity. Laser beams can also be made to form dark helix shapes, dark threads embedded in a background of bright light. A study by Dr Ole Steuernagel at the University of Hertfordshire, published in Optics Express today, shows that dark helices can have considerable advantages over their bright cousins, studied so far.

Helices appear in all parts of our life; ranging in size from everyday objects like the handrail on a spiral staircase, coil springs and screw threads to microscopic features found in helical proteins or intertwined DNA doublehelices.

Helices formed from light may have fundamental and technological applications in various areas. Deployed in photo-lithography they will allow us to produce handed materials, materials containing helical imprints repeated over and over. In optical laser-tweezer setups handedness-sensitive particle trapping and manipulation may arise. In cold-atom-physics transport along helical intertwined waveguides can be implemented exploiting optical forces.

Dr Steuernagel’s study shows that dark helices are distinctive and can outperform bright helices because they are not resolution limited. Dark helices also interact less with trapped particles and so do less damage to, say, notoriously sensitive quantum systems.

In quite a few cases dark helices `can do' what bright helices are `not be able to do', Steuernagel says, which is why he hopes his theoretical investigation will soon be implemented by experimentalists.

Figure illustrates a single bright helix (red line) enveloping a single dark helix (black line).  The x- and y-axes are given in units of focal beam radius, and the z-axis in units of wavelength.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Rare astronomic event filmed at the Bayfordbury Observatory

Astronomers from around the world have been watching one of the world’s rarest predictable astronomical phenomena - the transit of Venus. The transit of Venus is when the planet passes between the Earth and Sun, and appears as a tiny black dot on the Sun’s surface – and the next one is not scheduled to take place until 2117! The UK transit was also filmed at the University’s Bayfordbury Observatory at around 4am this morning by BBC Breakfast and the BBC World Service.
Transit of Venus, photographed from Minneapolis on 5 June 2012 at 18:00:36 CDT, 23:00:36 UTC. Courtesy of Tom Ruen
According to Dr Mark Gallaway, who was interviewed yesterday by the BBC Radio Four PM programme, the Venus transit started at about 11 o’clock yesterday evening. But it was not visible in the UK until the Sun came up this morning at about 4.40am when it was towards the end of the transit.  However, colleagues based in Hawaii were able to witness the entire transit and take scientific readings and data to gain more information about the planet - like its size, its orbit and its atmosphere. The data is then used to help identify other earth-like planets.

Venus transits are of great scientific importance. Historically, they were used to calculate the first realistic estimates of the size of our Solar System. In 1769, Captain Cook used a Venus transit to get an estimate of the distance between the Earth and the Sun and gain an idea of the size of the Solar System and our place in it.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

DClinPsy course revalidated

We’re delighted that the University’s Doctorate of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) programme has been revalidated by both the Health Professions Council (HPC) and the British Psychological Society (BPS).

As a Professional Doctorate programme, it incorporates a licence to practice and it is a requirement that the programme is approved by the HPC, the statutory regulator for practitioner psychologists in the UK, and also accredited by the BPS.  Both review teams reported that they were particularly impressed by the quality of our trainees and our supervisors.

This programme prepares clinical psychology trainees to function effectively as clinical psychologists within the National Health Service (NHS) and is built around a core competency-based model of training, integrating clinical, academic and research skills.

For more information click here.

Abbas Kiarostami’s Filmmaking

Abbas Kiarostami at the 65th Venice
Film Festival courtesy of Mansour Nasiri
http://nasiriphotos.com
Abbas Kiarostami, one of Iran’s leading film directors, is the focus of a Master’s by Research project by Luke Buckle from the University’s Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute (SSAHRI).

In the paper published on the acclaimed Film International website, Buckle describes Kiarostami’s filmmaking methods and ideals as being very much reflective of the style of post-Second World War Italian Neorealism. Neorealism is a form of cinema used to portray the hardships of everyday people by exploring social, cultural and economic issues from their perspective. Kiarostami creates a distinctive form of filmmaking to get at the 'truths' of contemporary Iranian life and a strand of modern Neorealism emerges.

Click for the full paper: Contemporary Neorealist Principles in Abbas Kiarostami’s Filmmaking (1997 – 2005).

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Launch of new mentorship scheme for healthcare researchers

Developing world-class researchers across the healthcare professions in England is the aim of a new mentorship scheme.  The scheme provides high quality mentorship to healthcare researchers who have been awarded national research fellowships. It provides the opportunity for them to maximise their potential and have a positive impact on the lives of patients through the quality of their care.

The Mentorship for Health Research Training Fellows scheme is coordinated by Dr Geraldine Byrne from the University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work and is delivered in partnership with the Academy of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting Research (UK), the Allied Health Professionals Research Network, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Imperial College London and the University of Huddersfield. It supports researchers awarded with NIHR Clinical Academic Training (CAT) and Clinical Scientist Research Training and will foster an on-going community of mentorship across England.

For more information on the mentorship scheme, visit www.healthresearchmentor.org.uk

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

New brown dwarf discovery

I am working with an international team of astronomers and lead the European network called ‘Rocky Planets around Cool Stars’ (RoPACS). We make interesting discoveries in the field of brown dwarfs and extra-solar planets to provide a better understanding of their nature.

The artist’s impression shows the brown dwarf in the foreground, with its host star in the background. The banded nature of the brown dwarf atmosphere results from its hybrid nature – since brown dwarfs bridge the gap between stars and planets. Credit: J. Pinfield
By searching the most sensitive infrared views of the sky using the new WISE orbiting observatory combined with the UK Infrared and VISTA telescopes, I have identified a new and unusual brown dwarf made of 99% hydrogen and helium with a temperature of just 400 degrees centigrade. Its discovery is a key step in helping distinguish between brown dwarfs and giant planets.

Brown dwarfs form like stars but they are much less massive (they are less than approximately seven per cent of the Sun’s mass), and do not burn hydrogen like the Sun. They just cool and fade over time, reaching planetary-like temperatures after a few billion years.

With a planet-like temperature and a hydrogen-rich atmosphere the new brown dwarf helps us tell giant planets and brown dwarfs apart, since planets (like Jupiter) can display a much richer chemistry. The new brown dwarf is a companion to a Sun-like star and orbits it at a distance of about 2600 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

A link to the research paper can be found here.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Psychology Professor in top 50 list on Twitter

Professor Karen J Pine
Professor Karen Pine features in a “top 50” list of psychology professors to follow on Twitter. The list compiled by OnlineSchools.com identifies psychology professors who share some of their expertise with the Twitterverse!

Being prolific authors and brilliant researchers as well as expressing themselves through social media, this is a list of plugged-in professors who have really made an impact.

Check out Professor Pine on Twitter @Karenpine

Thursday, 10 May 2012

What body obsessive people see in famous faces

Jennifer Anniston image courtesy of Angela George at
http://flickr.com/photos/sharongraphics/
What do you see when you look at other people’s faces? Do you focus on a specific feature or do you look at their face as a whole?  Do you think you could recognise people’s faces when they are upside-down?

Individuals with BDD are more likely to identify upside-down images of famous faces as they focus on individual features rather than process them as a whole.

New research by Professor Keith Laws from the School of Psychology has shown that people who have an obsession relating to their body image, where they believe that they have a defect in their appearance, have an exceptional skill of recognising famous faces when they are upside-down.

Most people find it difficult to recognise upside-down faces because they normally process faces as a whole image the right way up.  But people with a mental health condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) process faces in a different way and overly-focus on the individual facial features rather than the whole face. This aids their ability to recognise inverted famous faces as they are more intimate with specific facial features such as David Beckham’s eyes or Angelina Jolie’s lips for example.

People with BDD are often attractive individuals who focus negatively on specific features of their own body, especially their face.  They engage with time-consuming compulsive behaviours such as mirror-checking, applying make-up to camouflage and seeking reassurance about their appearance - up to fifteen per cent of people who seek cosmetic surgery meet the criteria for a BDD diagnosis.

The paper will be published in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A good standard of GP prescribing – but improvement possible

With over 990 million prescriptions per year dispensed in England, errors in GP prescribing are not unknown.  But how many errors are made? And more importantly, how serious are these errors?

Dr Maisoon Ghaleb, together with Prof Soraya Dhillon and Dr Cinzia Pezzolesi, from the School of Pharmacy has collaborated in a major study into GP prescribing. While the vast majority of prescriptions written by family doctors are appropriate and effectively monitored, around one in twenty prescriptions contain an error.

In the study, a sample of fifteen GP practices across three areas in England found that where there were prescribing and monitoring errors, most were classed as mild or moderate. But around one in every 550 prescription items was judged to contain a serious error. The most common errors were missing information on dosage, prescribing an incorrect dosage, and failing to ensure that patients got necessary monitoring through blood tests.

The research, commissioned by the General Medical Council is the largest-scale study of its kind. It recommends a greater role for pharmacists in supporting GPs, better use of computer systems and extra emphasis on prescribing in GP training.

The report can be found at http://bit.ly/JRWTnq

Friday, 27 April 2012

Dracula, the king of the vampires, and Bram Stoker’s ashes

Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium at Keats House
On Friday 20th April 2012, members of the Stoker family joined scholars, novelists and critics to mark the centenary of the death of Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker. The Open Graves, Open Minds Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium led by Dr Sam George was held in Hampstead, London and included a visit to Golders Green crematorium to pay respects to Bram Stoker’s ashes. 

The romantic, period setting of Keats House, in Hampstead, was a fitting venue for the symposium. Keats himself explored forbidden pleasures in his poem “Lamia” (1819), becoming synonymous with the female vampire. Hampstead too has its links to Stoker and vampirism, featuring a number of times in the novel “Dracula”.

Dacre Stoker (great-grand-nephew)
with Bram Stoker's ashes
Through an exclusive programme of talks and discussions, the centenary symposium celebrated Dracula as the undisputed king of vampires.  The dark gothic legacy created by Stoker standing firm against the newer trend for the “sweetie” vampires of the Twilight series and American TV shows - a new, romantic type of vampire.

The weather added to the eeriness of the occasion. A sudden bolt of lightning flashed across the sky and a deep roll of thunder made the windows and curtains quiver before the skies opened with torrents of rain –an auspicious omen before setting out for the crematorium to view the urn containing ashes of Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker.

At the crematorium, the many tributes to Bram and his world-wide legacy of Dracula were led by Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great-grand-nephew, who wrote “Dracula the undead” (the sequel to the original novel).

More information can be found on the Open Graves, Open Minds website.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sun-worshipping robot puts Bayfordbury on the world map

A robot installed at the University's Bayfordbury Observatory has just joined the worldwide network AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET), which is coordinated by NASA. The robot is a sun photometer, an automatic instrument for measuring the properties of atmospheric aerosols, such as industrial pollution. During the day the photometer checks if the sun is shining, and if it does, carries out a sequence of automated scans of the sky to determine the amounts of aerosol that are present.

Until recently, the observatory has been used mainly for astronomy but it is now being equipped for atmospheric measurement by the Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research.

More information can be found on the Centre for Atmospheric & Instrumentation Research website.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Can interviews influence eyewitnesses non-verbally?

Influential gestures: touching a ring finger to suggest a ring
What do eyewitnesses recall? Can interviewers influence eyewitnesses?

Research to date has showed that eyewitnesses can be influenced by misleading questions, but what impact do gestures have? New research conducted by Dr Daniel Gurney shows that gestures made during interviews can also mislead, and sometimes without the eyewitnesses even realising. The research findings were presented at last week’s British Psychological Society Annual Conference.

In the research, Dr Gurney interviewed people about the contents of a video they had watched. During the interviews, he deliberately performed misleading hand gestures to suggest inaccurate information about the detail in the video. These hand gestures included such actions as chin stroking to suggest someone had a beard, although the man in the video did not have a beard. Interviewees were three times more likely to recall seeing a beard when one was gestured to them, than those interviewees who were not gestured to.

Other hand gestures used in the research included touching a ring finger (to suggest a ring), grasping a wrist (to suggest a watch) and pretending to pull on gloves. All of these gestures implied details that did not actually appear in the video and the results were similar to those with the misinformation about the beard.

For professionals in the police, legal and other sensitive areas of work where questioning and recall of detail is important, the impact of hand gestures during interview needs to be fully appreciated.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hertfordshire Dementia Champions form Community of Practice

Hertfordshire Dementia Champions
at inaugural symposium
Dementia is one of the biggest challenges of our time - it is a disease that steals lives and has a major impact on families and NHS resources.  Currently, there are about 750,000 people in the UK with dementia with an estimated cost to society of £23 bn; and this number is projected to rise to 940,000 by 2021

And it doesn’t just affect older people; people affected by this condition are getting younger.  So what is being done to support this and change the public perception of dementia? What is being done to improve the quality of diagnosis, treatment and care for those living with dementia?

At a recent one-day meeting, over 120 health-care professionals from across the county attended the inaugural Dementia Champions Symposium hosted by the University in partnership with the NHS in Hertfordshire and the Alzheimer’s Society. This event took place just days before the government announced extra funding for research into dementia to tackle the UK’s national crisis in care – doubling the dementia research budget to £66 m by 2015.

Hertfordshire Dementia Champions are forming a Community of Practice, hosted by the University’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, to create a high quality county-wide support network for clinicians. This network will provide on-going encouragement, support and, more importantly, a framework for the sharing of information about new dementia resources and national and local policy.