Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Rapeseed oil versus olive oil

Guest blog Dr Richard Hoffman, School of Life and Medical Sciences

Rapeseed oil is increasingly touted as being as healthy as olive oil. But is there good evidence for this? In an article published in the British Journal of Nutrition, Dr Richard Hoffman, School of Life and Medical Sciences, reviews the evidence for the health benefits of rapeseed oil. Although rapeseed oil is rich in "good" fats - mainly monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats - there is very limited evidence that this translates into a real reduction in disease risk. By contrast, the evidence for the health benefits of virgin olive oil are very strong, and this may be linked to the high levels of antioxidants in the oil; unfortunately these are lacking in rapeseed oil. So, based on current evidence, the conclusion from this study is that though it costs a little more, olive oil, especially virgin olive oil, is healthier and gives you more protection against disease.

Virgin olive oil is healthier and gives more protection against disease than rapeseed oil concludes a new study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Although rapeseed oil is rich in "good" fats there is very limited evidence that this translates into a real reduction in disease risk. By contrast, the evidence for the health benefits of virgin olive oil is very strong, and this may be linked to the high levels of antioxidants in the oil; unfortunately these are lacking in rapeseed oil. So the conclusion from this study is that though it costs a little more, virgin olive oil is healthier and gives you more protection against disease.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Love's Passion: Philosophical Perspectives on Love

With the revival of interest in love, the Philosophy department at the University of Hertfordshire successfully hosted a two-day international workshop with twenty participants from ten countries. This was the first time that three different international research networks* were brought together.

Entitled Love's Passion: Philosophical Perspectives on Love, the workshop aimed to move the focus of discussion within the philosophy of love to issues such as love’s intentionality, the link between love and desire and the connection between love, virtue and the good. Another objective was to lay down the groundwork for a larger companion event on Love and the Good, due to be held in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2015.

Tony Milligan
Organised by Tony Milligan from the University of Hertfordshire and Kamila Pacovská from the University of Pardubice, the participants of the workshop were drawn from various philosophical traditions, from analytic philosophers and Wittgensteinians through to phenomenology and continental philosophy.

Milligan, a lecturer at the University, revealed that a number of the papers discussed at the event have already been earmarked for publication in English-language publications (and, in one case, a French journal on political philosophy).

The prospect is that an edited volume and/or special edition of a journal will be produced once the larger picture of ongoing research Love and its Object by Christian Maurer, Tony Milligan and Kamila Pacovská which is due out with Palgrave Macmillan later this year.
emerges at next year’s conference in the Czech Republic. This will complement the edited, new directions, volume on

Read below for the full event summary:

Roberto Merrill
Day one opened with a Wittgensteinian-influenced paper by Niklas Forsberg, Uppsala University, on ‘Thinking About a Word – Love for Example’ and was followed by:
Julia’s paper began to bring in the work of Iris Murdoch into focus. Discussions highlighted the extent to which traditions outside of the recent analytic debates could supplement and be brought into discussion with the precision aimed at in the latter. Roberto’s paper also helped to highlight the potential for a discourse on love and political philosophy.

Day two included a postgraduate session with excellent short papers from Monica Roland, University of Oslo, tackling ‘Velleman on the Maximum Reasons for Love’ and from Robbie Kubala, Columbia University, dealing with ‘Proust on the Reasons for Love’. Roland drew out the point that a skewed understanding of one of the seminal papers on love may well have shaped the discourse. Kubala delivered an analytic presentation on the sorts of questions about love which emerge in one of the key, exemplary, literary texts which are familiarly drawn upon by philosophers of love.

Kamila Pacovská, delivered a fascinating full-length version of her paper on ‘Loving the Miserable’, with a focus on Simone Weil. Maria Silvia Vaccarezza, University of Genova, picked up on the connection between Murdoch and Weil in ‘Emotion or Virtue’, a paper which drew upon her important work as an Aquinas translator. Kate Larson, Södertörn University College, Stockholm, presented an amusing and very insightful paper on ‘Falling in and out of Love’ which drew connections between Murdoch and Plato’s concept of eros. The closing paper by Tony Milligan continued exploration of the themes opened up by Larson with a paper on ‘Abandonment and the Constancy of Love’, reworking an argument presented earlier in the summer at the Religion and Emotional Experience event at the University of Konstanz.

Philosophical thinking
*The three international research networks were Analytic Philosophy of Love, Continental Philosophy of Love and scholars with a particular interest in the work of Wittgenstein, Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

New entry route for BA(Hons) Business Administration (online)

Here at UH Online we understand that not all of our online students are from traditional study backgrounds, so now we are making entry onto our BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) course even more straightforward for you.

New entry route

If you are a mature student with GCSE English at C grade or equivalent, but don’t have the 300 UCAS points or equivalent required for traditional entry, we will offer you the chance to study three individual modules (one per semester) from the BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) course as a route to gain entry to the full programme.

Once you have completed and passed these modules, you would then progress onto the full degree course to complete it at the normal pace.

The three modules you study will be: 'Quantitative Methods for Business' and 'The Business Professional 1' and one further module selected by the Programme Tutor in liaison with you.

Even if you decide you don’t want to continue with the full degree course after completing the modules, you will still receive a notification of results to show your achievements and the University credits you have been awarded as a result.

A few terms and conditions

Normal module fees still apply

This entry route is only currently available for BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) currently, although if proven popular we will look into rolling it out for other courses.

Please note, progression is subject to approval from the Admissions Tutor.

If you’d like to study this programme using this new route, complete an application form and let us know you would like to be considered for this route. Send us your application in asap to be reviewed.

Helpful links

Get in touch if you have any questions about this new route, and our team will do their best to help.
    We look forward to seeing you online soon.

    Tuesday, 5 August 2014

    Master challenge: the UK food system

    The UK food system is increasingly globalised, which means it can often be prone to periodic scares and crises. UK consumers will be only too aware of the challenges of the food system, which they experience through rising food prices and scares about the provenance of meat products. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), under the Global Food Security programme are funding five grants under the ‘Understanding the Challenges of the Food System’ call.

    Dr Faith Ikioda and Dr Wendy Wills and other colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire have
    received funding as part of this programme, to investigate the views and experiences of people aged 60+ in terms of how they acquire food.

    Increasingly people are living longer in the UK and predictions say this is set to continue. A significant minority of older people have ongoing health conditions and for those aged over 85 up to two thirds has a disability or limiting long term illness. These older people might therefore become vulnerable through the food that they eat and this is therefore a research priority in terms of impact on the UK food system, quality of life for individuals, better public health outcomes, reducing the burden of disease and disability not to mention the resultant economic benefits for the UK.

    The research will be undertaken over a two year period and will involve households of older people living in Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. For further information contact Dr Faith Ikioda or Dr Wendy Wills or visit http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/press-releases/31583/master-challenge-the-uk-food-system.aspx.

    Friday, 25 July 2014

    The RoboCup 2014 Final!

    Guest blog Dr Daniel Polani, Adaptive Systems Research Group

    We had played seven matches against the likes of Hamburg, Brazil and Indonesia and it was now time to face Japan’s CIT Brains in the final.

    It was tough as the Japanese team took the lead scoring three goals and we thought it was going to be a walkover of the Germany vs. Brazil kind. However, our robots fought back and we managed to score twice before the whistle blew. It seemed that our robots were better on the long run and had the game gone on longer, we might have equalized. But it was an exciting game, with a final score of 2:3 to the new world champions.

    We are delighted to have got to the final, which follows on from our 2nd place at the RoboCup German Open (April 2014) and 3rd place at the RoboCup Iran Open (April 2014).  I’d like to thank everyone for their support and I am delighted to say that Bold Hearts is Vice World Champion in RoboCup Kidsize Football!

    Thursday, 24 July 2014

    Hot off the press! Bold Hearts through to the Final of RoboCup 2014!

    Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

    Bold Hearts just before the semi-final
    News just in - the University's Bold Hearts team has just won a place in the final of the RoboCup 2014 World Cup!

    Our semi-final at the start of Day 4 was against EROS, a strong team from Indonesia.

    After only 40 seconds, we scored the first goal, then a nicely placed second goal from the right flank. But EROS came back with their powerful kick, and scored a goal from a distance.

    The rest of the game looked more like wrestling than football, as our Bold Hearts robots became "tired".  We're not clear what the reason is yet, whether it's failing batteries, or loosened screws.

    Bold Hearts with EROS, their opponent
    in the semifinals at the end of the game
    But this is definitely a hardware league, and the wear-and-tear during a single game is incredible with larger robots falling on our cute tiny Darwin robots all the time.

    But the Bold Hearts stood up to EROS well enough, and managed to defend the score.

    The final score was 2 - 1 to Bold Hearts!

    And now we are in the FINALS of the RoboCup 2014 Kidsize Humanoid League!!

    Bold Hearts robots in Brazil - through to the semi-finals!

    Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

    Fantastic news from Brazil!  Bold Hearts, the University of Hertfordshire's robot football team, progressed through round 2 of the RoboCup World Cup, to the quarter finals, then winning that game to make it through to the semi-finals!

    Bold Hearts in Brazil
    The first two of 3 the games of the second round were played on Day 2 of the RoboCup competition.

    We won our first game 3 – 1 against RoboFEI-HT, from Brazil.  And then lost 0 - 4 against CIT, from Japan, who was placed 4th last year.  And, amazingly, we only scored one own goal!

    Perhaps we could have scored a goal for ourselves if the ball had not rolled away from our robot due to the uneven surface of the field - so the result is much less clear than it looks.

    This was an encouraging result for Bold Hearts, as it means that we are really edging towards being able to match the best opposition. In fact, we thought this game looked more like real football rather than glorified billiard with opponent obstacles.  CIT was a very strong team - but we still see potential for improvement for Bold Hearts.

    Our third and final deciding game of round 2, was played on Day 3 of the competition against Hanuman KMUTT, a team from Thailand.

    We needed to win this game to progress through to the quarterfinals – and we worked through the night on our robots before going out onto the field to meet the Hanuman KMUTT team.

    All the hard work overnight paid off as we beat Hanuman KMUTT 3:1  - and yes, yet again, we scored all the goals! So Bold Hearts were through to the quarterfinals, also played on Day 3.

    The quarterfinal match against MRL, from Iran, was a highly contested, tight game with lots of man-to-man (or in reality robot-to-robot!) fighting.

    But our opponent, MRL, was experiencing similar problems as us - with their robots sometimes turning to face in the direction of their own goal.

    We ruthlessly exploited the opportunity, but they came back with some dangerous attacks - one particular one was made easier for them because our goalie was taken out for being classified as an "incapable goalie".  The goalie must react when the ball is nearby, and our one didn't.  So MRL went on to score an easy goal! MRL robots are faster than ours but sometimes they overshoot...

    But the crowd cheered for Bold Hearts.  And the final result was 3 - 2 to Bold Hearts.

    We are delighted that Bold Hearts is through to tomorrow’s semi-finals, on Day 4 of the RoboCup competition!!

    Wish us luck in the semi-final and that we score plenty of goals – in the opponent’s goal of course!

    Wednesday, 23 July 2014

    Did Bold Hearts make it through the RoboCup knock-out stage on Day 2?

    Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

    Day 2 at the RoboCup 2014 World Cup in Brazil started with an intermediate knock-out match with our old friends the Hamburg Bit-Bots from Germany.  This game will decide if Bold Hearts will continue in the competition or not. We were looking forwards to this match, but had hoped it would be later in the competition. And as is tradition whenever we play, we expect to have a long and heated set of penalty shots!

    We know Bit-Bots well, and they fielded an interesting, self-built team.

    After a nerve-wrecking game, it was 2 - 2 at the end of full time.  Then in extra time, we scored twice, winning this game 4 – 2 and going through to round 2!  But Bit-Bots had some near misses!

    And yes – you know it already - every single goal in our game was scored by Bold Hearts. So it proves that we are a good goal scoring team!  Just not always in our opponent’s goal!

    Our goal-detection system proved to be a problem. It had worked well in the trials and preparations before travelling to Brazil. However, there were a lot of visitors in the RoboCup venue on Day 2 of the competition, which may have changed the lighting a lot during the games - many of them were using cameras with flash during the games.

    In addition, it did not help that one assistant referee was "streaking" – but not in the sense that we may know from other sports!

    The assistant referee was walking barefoot which is strictly forbidden during games, as feet and legs often look like balls in the robot’s colour detection.   Black trousers and covers were only put on after threats by the main referee.

    Anyway, great news that Bold Hearts is through to the next round-robin part of the competition  - round 2.  So Bold Hearts has more games to look forwards to.

    And we are further than ever before in at the RoboCup Kidsize World Championship!

    Day 1 results from our Bold Hearts robots at the World Cup in Brazil!

    Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

    Our first day of matches at the World Cup was filled with all the excitement that typically accompanies the Bold Hearts to the RoboCup!

    Bold Hearts in Brazil
    As our first match in Brazil loomed, with only two hours to go, and with around 200 wifi networks detectable at the field, our robots could not communicate with each another nor could they receive instructions from the referee's system.

    This was solved shortly before kick off when one of the network engineers increased the power output of our field's access point, but by this stage we no longer had enough time to run all the tests we needed to run before the start of the game. So our first game against TH-MOS started and semi-organised chaos ensued.  The halls were quite dark and the goals difficult to recognise for the robots – so we had problems in goal detection.

    At half time we were losing 2 - 0, but we did manage to score in the second half, losing 2 – 1 at the end of full time. Our problem of “Own Goalitis” struck again – as we had scored all three goals of the game – which was great for TH-MOS who didn’t manage to score goals for themselves and yet came out as the winners!

    Fields at the RoboCup World Cup in Brazil
    Four hours later we returned to the same field to try again, this time to compete with the NUbots, an Australian team that has been champions in previous years. Fortified from our recent experience and improved software, the Bold Hearts made a much stronger appearance and won 4 - 1. We again scored all five goals!

    Overall we're really happy with scoring eight goals in two matches, losing one game and winning one.  Although we would have liked all the goals to have been scored in the opposition’s goal!

    But Bold Hearts is through to the next stage – an intermediate knock-out match with our old friends the Hamburg Bit-Bots!

    Tuesday, 22 July 2014

    Perceptions of Pregnancy: From Medieval to Modern

    A guest blog by Dr Ciara Meehan, School of Humanities
    On 16 July, more than sixty delegates attended the three-day Perceptions of Pregnancy conference, organised by Dr Jennifer Evans and Dr Ciara Meehan of the School of Humanities.

    Ciara Meehan (left),
    Jennifer Evans (right) & Joanne Bailey
    The aim of the conference was to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to hold an international and interdisciplinary conversation on fertility, pregnancy and childbirth from the medieval to the modern. The broad timespan allowed for a careful consideration of continuities and changes throughout history.  Speakers came from institutions in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Canada and the United States.  From Anna Andreeva’s (University of Heidelberg) paper on medieval Japan to Julia Allison’s (University of Nottingham) on Rural East Anglia, the content of the papers also covered a broad geographical span.  We heard from historians, midwives, curators, political geographers, literary critics and scholars working on visual culture.

    The conference covered everything from conception to the birthing experience.  Particularly striking was the paper from Anija Dokter (University of Cambridge) that featured sound-recordings of childbirth. The darker side of pregnancy was also explored and day two, for example, featured a panel on seduction, violence and supernatural hazards.

    Conference delegates
    Sylvia Murphy Tighe (Trinity College Dublin) presented some of the findings from an on-going study with Irishwomen who have or are currently concealing their pregnancy.  Moreover, while pregnancy is associated with women in the popular mindset, speakers such as Jennifer Evans (University of Hertfordshire) and Justin Dolan Stover (Idaho State University) sought to locate the man in the narrative of pregnancy and childhood.

    There were a number of timely contributions.  Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University, Belfast) and Ciara Meehan (University of Hertfordshire) explored the stigma of being an unmarried mother.  Both made reference to the recent scandal in Ireland, which attracted international attention following revelations that the bodies of up to 800 babies had been uncovered at the site of a former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway.  With recent campaigns for gender equality in both the British and Irish parliaments, Claire McGing’s (NUI Maynooth) paper, which gave recommendations on facilitating parenting for politicians, was particularly relevant.

    Ciara Meehan (left),
    Jennifer Evans (right) & Elaine Farrell
    The conference was book-ended by two exhibitions. The first was curated by Liz Burns of the Burns Archive in New York and featured images of deceased children, sometimes posed with their parents. The practice of post-mortem photography was common in the Victorian era as an act of memorialisation.  The second exhibition gave a sneak-peak of Ellen duPont’s forthcoming gift-book for the ‘thinking mother’, which will contain a collection of forty historical images of pregnant women, accompanied by quotations, to coincide with each week of pregnancy.

    Conference outcomes will include an edited collection and a special edition of Women’s History Magazine.  Although the event is now over, the conference blog will remain active. Another aim of the conference was to build networks and facilitate further conversations, and we see the blog as an excellent forum for doing so.  We hope to develop it into a space for the community of researchers working on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences to engage, exchange ideas and highlight their work.

    The conference was generously supported by the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, the Social History Society and the Royal Historical Society.

    Tuesday, 1 July 2014

    University showcases research at the Royal Society Summer ScienceExhibition

    Dr Edwin Hirst and Dr Richard Greenaway 
    from the University’s Centre for Atmospheric 
    and Instrumentation Research building the 
    instrument that will go on NASA’s aircraft
    Imagine sitting in a jet air-liner looking out of the window and trying to count and measure individual particles as small as bacteria in the clouds as they fly by at hundreds of miles an hour…

    This is what Aerosol Ice Interface Transition Spectrometer (AIITS) does and it is on show this week (1-6 July) at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition  - which showcases the most exciting and cutting-edge UK science and technology.

    The AIITS mounted on the NASA aircraft
    In order to help understand the processes that are taking place in our climate system, scientists need to have detailed information about the sizes, shapes and abundance of the microscopic particles (ice crystals, droplets, dusts, etc.) that are present in the atmosphere. These particles are measured in situ by flying an instrument through the atmosphere and AIITS is one such instrument.

    As the particles enter the instrument, they pass through a beam of light - scattering the light into complex scatter patterns. The scatter pattern depends on the shape, size and orientation of the particles and is like a thumbprint which can be used to classify or even identify the particles.

    Light scatter patterns from various particles in the atmosphere
    Led by Professor Paul Kaye, Director of Research in the University’s Science and Technology Research Institute, researchers from the Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR) will be demonstrating some of their airborne particle analysis instruments as part of the ‘Tropical Storms' exhibit.

    Tropical storms in the West Pacific play a crucial role in the Earth's climate system. Starting above some of the warmest waters, they carry sufficient energy to punch through the boundary that separates the troposphere, the lowest layer in the atmosphere, from the stratosphere above. In doing so, they reach as high as 20km and carry air up from the Earth’s surface. Chemicals in the air reaching the stratosphere can lead to ozone depletion.

    The exhibit is based on an atmospheric research campaign headed up by the University of Cambridge and involving the University of Hertfordshire and also NASA, USA.

    The week-long Exhibition starts today (Tuesday 1 July) and is arguably the most prestigious of its type in the UK, attracting over 10,000 visitors; including secondary school students, policy makers, MPs, leaders of industry, and representatives from funding agencies.  For more information, visit the Royal Society’s Exhibition website.

    Monday, 16 June 2014

    Don’t wash raw chicken

    A guest blog by Dr Wendy Wills, Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care

    ‘Don’t wash raw chicken’
    is the central message of Food Safety Week 2014, which takes place 16-22 June this year.

    Washing raw chicken risks splashing potentially dangerous bacteria, called campylobacter, onto your clothes, dish cloths, items on the draining board and work surfaces.  Campylobacter can cause unpleasant abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea that can last up to five days or can lead to more serious illness and occasionally death.

    You can’t see, smell or taste this bacteria but to avoid it you need to cook poultry thoroughly (till it’s steaming hot all the way through) and prevent cross-contamination from raw poultry touching other items in the kitchen that are not then thoroughly cleaned – hence the message ‘don’t wash raw chicken’!

    Research we conducted on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which involved videoing people in 20 households and talking to them about what they do in the kitchen, suggested that some people wash raw chicken and other meat because they believe that blood, bone fragments and dirt are best washed away.

    Anxiety about other people touching the food before it’s purchased also led some people to wash meat and poultry. People in some households went out of their way to avoid touching raw chicken – tipping it from its packaging into a roasting tray, for example.

    Many people in our study were aware that chopping boards are a potential source of cross-contamination (e.g. if chopping boards are used to cut up chicken and then vegetables are chopped on the board and eaten raw) – some followed FSA guidance and used one board for raw meat and another for fruit/vegetables – others chopped chicken on a plate rather than a chopping board as they felt it was easy to wash a plate and get it thoroughly clean.

    See the FSA video on “What’s going on in your kitchen” on potential cross-contamination.

    What our research clearly highlighted was that kitchen life is a complex business. We all use ‘rules of thumb’ that we learn from a variety of sources, such as friends, family, television, the internet and more ‘expert’ sources like the FSA. ‘Facts’ from these various sources become mixed together and so it is no wonder that we do not always follow ‘best practice’ that keeps us safe.

    When you are trying to cook dinner, supervise children, feed the dog, empty the bin and stop the cat jumping on the work surface and pinching the chicken you are trying to prepare – do you always remember to wash your hands regularly, use a different chopping board for the meat and the veg, and ensure you don’t spread potentially harmful bacteria by remembering that you shouldn’t wash the chicken?

    Well done if you do! Our research suggested that it’s this messy entanglement of things going on at the same time that can prevent food safety messages being heard.

    So, during this Food Safety Week and beyond – try and pay attention to the things that could harm you or your family in the kitchen – but also remember to enjoy your Kitchen Life – whatever that entails.

    A report from the study mentioned here is available online

    Friday, 13 June 2014

    Eminent scientists join academics at Life and Medical Sciences ResearchConference

    Scientists, very well-known in their own fields of expertise, joined researchers from the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Life and Medical Sciences at the launch of their two day research conference.

    An exciting programme of seminar and posters that reflected the breadth of the research activities across the school was put together and complemented by plenary lectures delivered by the invited guest speakers who came from government and academic institutions across the UK.

    Professor Quintin McKellar CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire,  opened the  proceedings of the two day event by launching the University’s new undergraduate degree in agriculture – the BSc (Hons) in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security which was announced earlier this year. 

    This new degree, aimed at tackling concerns of food security and sustainability, has been designed around internationally recognised expertise and facilities at four partner institutions all located in central Hertfordshire: the University of Hertfordshire, the Royal Veterinary College, University of London (RVC),Rothamsted Research and Oaklands College.

    This initiative was supported by Professor Ian Crute CBE (Chief Scientist at The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) who gave the first plenary lecture entitled ‘How can UK science best contribute to delivering the sustainable intensification of agriculture?’

    Further plenary lectures were delivered by other eminent scientists who attended covered a diverse range of topics that complement the School’s key research areas and included:

    Postgraduate students from the School of Life and Medical Sciences actively participated across both days of the event by giving talks and presenting posters on their own work.

    With comments like “well done for hosting an excellent research conference”, “a really great event” and “the conference was a great experience”, it’s clear that students, academics and visitors all found the event very inspiring and enjoyable – so much so that this is planned to become an annual event!

    Sponsors of this two day research event included: MedPharm, The British Pharmacological Society, Thermo Fisher Scientific, High5 Sports Nutrition, Bounce, AM Sport and the Perry Foundation.

    Monday, 9 June 2014

    Professor Sally Kendall goes Walkabout in Western Australia

    A guest blog by Professor Sally Kendall, Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care
    Near Roebourne, Western Australia
    For the last three and a half weeks I have been working out in Perth, Western Australia as part of a research team based at Murdoch University. The team is led by Professor Rhonda Marriott, Professor of Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing at the Kulbardi Centre, Murdoch University. The visit is by invitation and has been funded by the Western Australia Health Department, Murdoch University and the Telethon Kids Institute, Perth.

    Professor Sally Kendall at a "welcome to the country" 
    smoking ceremony, a traditional Aboriginal 
    greeting ceremony to their land
    The purpose of my visit has been to engage in research that will contribute to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal women and children in Western Australia. 'Closing the Gap' is the policy of Australian government to make a difference to the wide health inequalities that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

    For example, babies born to Indigenous women in Western Australia were more than twice as likely to be of low birthweight (LBW) than were those born to all women in the region (13.6% compared with 6.1%, Australian Indigenous HealthInfonet).

    Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is reported to have a prevalence of 27.6 per 10,000 among Aboriginal communities in Western Australia compared with 1.8 per 10,000 in the general population (Bower et al, 2000). Among Indigenous people living in Western Australia, almost two-thirds (65%) reported having experienced low to moderate levels of psychological distress, and 33% reported high to very high levels of psychological distress in the previous 12 months [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2013]. Indigenous people in Western Australia experienced high to very high levels of psychological distress at almost three times the rate reported by non-Indigenous people.

    The research team consists of Professor Rhonda Marriott and a multi-disciplinary group of midwives, nurses, social scientists, epidemiologists, anthropologists, a paediatrician and community development workers. Rhonda is unique as an indigenous nurse and midwife with a Professorial university appointment. Some team members are themselves Aboriginal and/or have worked with Aboriginal communities for many years.

    My role in the team is as a UK Professor with a background in child public health and health visiting, and a research track record in parenting and community health nursing. Whilst here I have presented at numerous events and conferences and disseminated and discussed many aspects of my research and comparative health services.

    Original artwork that describes the journey of the Pijarra People
    Significantly for me, during the visit I was able to reach a better understanding of the Aboriginal health issues in the context of the Australian health care system and the budget that was being announced whilst I have been here. It is at first an overwhelming issue that can only be partially appreciated during a short stay. But by being with the research team and going out to the outback area of the Pilbara in Western Australia I feel I have reached a better understanding of what it means to be an Aboriginal person in Australia today.

    The town of Roebourne, Western Australia
    One of the areas I visited is Roebourne, a small community in the mining country of the Pilbara. Mining of iron ore is huge business in Western Australia - it has made Perth into the most expensive Australian city to live in and widened the gap between rich and poor. The mining companies have historically claimed Aboriginal land and people have been displaced and abused in the development of the industry. Roebourne itself was established in 1866 on the Harding River and  is characterised by surrounding red rock and bush, a river that was full when I visited due to exceptional rainfall, low-rise poor housing, a medical centre, one main shop, a post-office, a cafe and several smaller outlets. There are several local government (Shire) offices and community buildings and also a school. It has its own radio station. The population is almost 100% Aboriginal, apart from some non-indigenous community workers and a small minority of residents.

    The red rocks
    near Roebourne

    Original Aboriginal artwork
    on the red rocks

    A "Yarning Circle" - with Mary talking about TLC
    My time there was spent with the women in 'yarning circles' -  this is a way to discuss women's business through story telling or 'yarning'. It is not appropriate for men to be part of this and is often led by the female elders of the community.

    What is apparent throughout meetings with Aboriginal women is that whilst a 150 year history of displacement, abuse, genocide, removal of children and extreme marginalisation has left a deep intergenerational trauma, there is a strong sense of cultural identity, of family and community and of the need to pass on the stories, language and the culture to the next generation.

    Boys in Roebourne
    Many of the women of Roebourne are from the Yindjibarndi language group, descended from their ancestors who belonged to the country in the Fortescue River area and were reserved into Roebourne by the white sheep farm and mine owners in the 1930s. They keep their history and culture alive through art, song, stories and careful preservation of cultural knowledge from elders to the next generation. The women spoke of their concerns for their children and their 'grannies' (grandchildren) and extended families in relation to the problems of alcohol, early pregnancy and problems after childbirth.

    Lorraine with her 'grannie' (grand-daughter) in Roebourne
    There is a great strength within the older women of the community that they want to use productively to improve the health and wellbeing of their community. One elder spoke of the need for more TLC (tender, loving care) within the community, caring for each other more and role modelling this for their children. Another woman struggled to understand why she was able to do well but her sister is not, why me but not her?

    The research team was there to work with them, to identify issues that were of concern and to support strategies that could be evaluated. However, one of the challenges is that there are quite literally hundreds of programmes available to 'help' Aboriginal communities, from many different funding sources often with competing aims. The women are rightly frustrated with having so many programmes and meetings but not seeing direct effects or improvements. It is then a real challenge to researchers not to be just another programme, but to be able to achieve something that has meaning and impact.

    The Triple WRAP research project aims to support parenting and early motherhood through Participatory Action Research. One outcome of this will be a DVD that invites women to talk about what mothering means for them in Roebourne - what is the experience of being a Mum? The methodology is based on the history of yarning and will therefore be of value in passing the positive experiences of motherhood to the young women of the town but also to highlight the challenges they face and to consider local strategies to address these.

    Another project is concerned with how grandmothers can give greater support to young mums. With such projects comes a need for good evaluation and part of my contribution is to discuss how the team can use outcome measures such as the Tool to measure Parenting Self Efficacy (TOPSE, Kendall and Bloomfield, 2005 www.topse.org.uk). We will be looking at how this measure developed in the UK could be 'translated' into a style and format that would be acceptable to Aboriginal women. The approaches that necessarily need to be used among the communities do present a challenge to the typical white, educated UK researcher.

    Yarning circles do not feel like research in the traditional sense, or even like a focus group as there is little moderation or guidance. There is a sense of a lack of hard data to go back and analyse, and a feeling of underachievement or of having disappointed the women. This requires a change in oneself, to think differently about what research means for these women and what it could potentially lead to that might eventually make a difference to the health gap.

    Successful in major research grant

    Whilst I was there we were informed that we had been successful in a major research grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia, for just under $1m.

    I am excited to be an associate applicant on the grant, the purpose of which is to explore and promote cultural security for Aboriginal women during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood. There are 14 partners on the grant and I feel proud that University of Hertfordshire is one of them. It also means that I will be a 'Boomerang researcher' for the next four years, returning to Western Australia annually to develop the research tools and methods and to hopefully make my small contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal women and children.

    Traditional farewell with a didgeridoo

    Monday, 12 May 2014

    How much does it cost to study an online degree?

    Studying for a degree is a life changing decision, not to be taken lightly. The financial side is one area you need to consider, and hopefully this post will give you the insight on what you need to know.

    Online learning is a more affordable way to study for a degree

    Studying online tends to be less expensive then studying on campus. Prices start from £6,000 at the time of writing for a Master’s degree studied online.  An online undergraduate degree starts from £12,000 at time of writing, compared to a potential £27,000 for a degree studied on campus. There’s also no travel, accommodation or (if applicable) visa costs that might normally be associated with attending University traditionally.

    No need to pause your career

    You normally don’t need to log in online at set times, which means you can fit study around your day job without the need to reduce your working hours and consequently your income. Our courses are designed to enhance your career, not interfere with it.

    Pay as you study

    We operate a pay-per-module system, this means you only pay for the modules you’re currently studying, making it a little easier to manage financially. A single 15-credit module starts from £500. Payment is made in advance of each semester.

    Tuition fee loan eligibility

    We’ve had a growth in professionals taking up our undergraduate online degrees thanks to online UK//EU students now being eligible for tuition fee loans. A great help if you can’t quite fund the course in the first instance. The Student Finance England website can explain if you’re eligible for a tuition fee loan.

    To find out more about the costs visit the fees section of the UH Online website for a breakdown of costs and then apply today.

    Next application deadline at time of writing is 15th July 2014 for a September start.

    Tuesday, 29 April 2014

    Nodding off? Top tips to a better night’s sleep

    Professor Richard Wiseman. Photo credit Brian Fischbacher
    New research described in Professor Richard Wiseman’s latest book Night School suggests that 59% of adults in Britain – over 28 million people – are now sleep deprived, getting only seven hours or less sleep each night.

    This amount is below the recommended guidelines, and is associated with a range of problems, including an increased risk of weight gain, heart attacks, diabetes and cancer. Professor Wiseman’s research has revealed that one of the main causes of sleep deprivation is the use of a computer, smart phone or tablet in the two hours before going to bed.

    A 2013 survey* revealed that 78% of respondents used such devices during this period before bed. This percentage increased among 18-24 years old with a remarkable 91% using electronic devices in the two hours before bedtime. It is believed that the blue light emitted from these devices suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. In addition to this, the research also found that the vast majority of people’s dreams are far from sweet, with only 10% of respondents describing their dreams as pleasant.

    In response to his findings, Professor Wiseman has compiled ten science-based tips to a better night’s sleep:

    1) Banish the blues: Avoid using computers, smartphones or tablets in the two hours before you head to bed. The blue light stimulates your brain and prevents you feel sleepy.

    2) The list: Make a list of all of the things that you have to do the next day or that are playing on your mind. This helps prevent you lying in bed thinking about these issues.

    3) Tire your brain: If you are struggling to sleep, make your brain tired by thinking of an animal for each letter of the alphabet (‘A’ is for ‘Ant’, ‘B’ is for ‘Bear’).

    4) Move your bed: You have evolved to feel safe when you can spot danger early and have time to run away, and so will feel most relaxed when your bed faces the door and is furthest from it.

    5) Reach for a banana: Eat a banana before you head to bed. They're rich in carbohydrates, and these help relax your body and brain.

    6) Reverse psychology: Actively trying to stay awake actually makes you feel tired, so try keeping your eyes open and focus on not falling asleep.

    7) Wear socks:If you have bad circulation, your feet will get cold and cause sleeplessness. To avoid the problem, wear a pair of warm socks to bed.

    Professor Wiseman's Book: Night School
    8) Avoid the lure of the nightcap: Although a small amount of alcohol puts you to sleep quicker, it also gives you a more disturbed night and disrupts dreaming.

    9) The power of association: Ensure that the same piece of soporific music is quietly playing each time you fall asleep. Over time you'll come to associate the music with sleep, and so listening to it will help you to nod off.

    10) Do a jigsaw: If you lie awake for more than twenty minutes, get up and do something non-stimulating for a few minutes, such as working on a jigsaw.

    More information about Professor Wiseman’s research can be found in his book, Night School

    * All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,149 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th February 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

    Friday, 25 April 2014

    Calling all women working in STEMM!

    Women in Science Network launch event

    Are you a woman working in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths or Medicine (STEMM)?

    Perhaps you are looking for some support in your career development, to join discussions, to meet and network with other like-minded women in STEMM areas, or looking for suitable mentoring?   If so, the new Women in Science Network could be for you.  This new network will help all women in their STEMM career development.

    Launching on Tuesday 20 May, the inaugural conference will showcase a range of work through case study and presentation from women researchers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) at the University of Hertfordshire.  And TV presenter and University of Hertfordshire alumna Kate Bellingham will provide a keynote address.

    Presenters include Professor Fiona Brooks, Professor Soraya Dhillon MBE, Dr Louise Mackenzie, Professor Janet Drew, Dr Ute Gerhard, Dr Cinzia Pezzolesi and Dr Wendy Wills.

    The conference will be held in the Lindop Building, University of Hertfordshire College Lane campus, Hatfield, AL10 9AB.  Starting at 10am and finishing at 3pm, lunch and refreshments will be served during the day.

    Join us for this inaugural meeting of the Women in Science Network – we’d love to see you.

    To book your free place, please complete the booking form www.go.herts.ac.uk/events-booking or contact us directly on events@herts.ac.uk or 01707 284121

    Sweet Dreams Experiment

    Is it possible for people to create their perfect dream and wake up feeling especially happy and refreshed?

    Professor Richard Wiseman.
    Photo credit Brian Fischbacher
    Well it is according to psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman’s latest book Night School!

    The Dream:ON app developed with www.yuza.com
    In 2010, Professor Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, teamed-up with app developers YUZA to create ‘Dream:ON’ – an iPhone app that monitors a person during sleep and plays a carefully crafted ‘soundscape’ when they dream. Over 500,000 people downloaded the app and took part in the mass participation experiment.

    The study sought to determine whether or not a person’s dream could be influenced by listening to carefully designed soundscapes whilst they slept. Each soundscape was designed to evoke a pleasant scenario, such as a walk in the woods, or lying on a beach. Participants used the app to choose a soundscape to listen to whilst asleep, and afterwards the app would sound a gentle alarm to prompt the person to submit a description of their dream.

    Results showed that if someone chose the nature soundscape then they were more likely to have a dream about greenery and flowers. In contrast, if they selected the beach soundscape then they were more like to dream about the sun beating down on their skin. The study also indicated that certain soundscapes produced far more pleasant dreams. In addition, the researchers discovered that the results also showed that participants’ dreams became especially bizarre around the time of the full moon.
    Professor Wiseman's Book: Night School

    A sweet dream is thought to help people wake-up in a good mood, and as a result boost their productivity during the day. Professor Wiseman’s research may also form the basis of a new type of therapy to help those suffering from certain psychological problems, such as depression.

    The findings are described in Professor Wiseman’s book on sleep and dreaming, Night

    School.  The Dream:ON app and all of the soundscapes are currently available free of charge.

    What is your own experience of dreams?  Do you think you can create your perfect dream and wake up happy and refreshed?

    Thursday, 24 April 2014

    Designing Domesticity: Visual Techniques in Domestic Advice Books inBritain and the USA since 1945

    Guest blog by Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, Reader in Design History, School of Creative Arts

    As one of the successful applicants for the Arts & Humanities Research Council's (AHRC’s) Image Gallery, my online gallery for the AHRC website is composed of images from domestic advice books published after World War II.

    Dr Grace Lees-Maffei
    The AHRC’s Image Gallery was launched last summer to showcase the work and talents of the arts and humanities research community and to celebrate the role of the image in the arts and humanities, for which we source, select, caption and present digital images on the AHRC website.

    Domestic advice books are one of several channels through which we receive guidance about what we do in our homes, along with magazines, advertising, marketing, and television. This advice quickly dates, so a continual stream of new advice books is produced.

    Front cover of the
    Creda Housecraft manual
    Old advice books do not provide the historian with evidence of actual practice but they do offer insights into shared ideals of domesticity. Written largely by women, for women, these books are a valuable source in the feminist project of examining women’s writing and their little-seen experiences as home-makers.

    Dr Lees-Maffei's new book: 
    Design at Home: Domestic Advice 
    Books in Britain and the USA since 1945
    The page spreads and book covers showcased in the gallery illuminate the visual strategies employed by advisors in persuading their readers to adopt up-to-date home-making practices.

    Techniques include direct personal appeals, such as advice presented in the form of a signed letter; recycling and adaptation of images; images subverting text; before and after comparisons and novelties such as text and images which emulate stitch, in reference to home crafts. The housewife is shown happily engaged in domestic work, which teenage readers are depicted as design professionals.

    This gallery draws on an interdisciplinary research project supported by an AHRC

    Research Leave award which resulted in my recent book ‘Design at Home: Domestic Advice Books in Britain and the USA since 1945'.

    Tuesday, 22 April 2014

    Calling all sports professionals…

    male_track_runner Business and SportYour love for sport drives you, but having extra options for your career is never a bad move. We at the University of Hertfordshire have been working in consultation with the English Institute of Sport and former international sports professionals to bring you this new qualification exclusively for high performance athletes and sporting professionals: BSc Business and Sport Management (online).

    Starting in September 2014 this new, 100% online programme builds on your existing sporting knowledge and develops your business skills. Find out what you study on this course.

    Ideal for:

    • Athletes
    • Coaches
    • Development professionals
    • Managers
    • Support staff

    A BSc (Hons) Business and Sports Management degree in your back pocket you’ll widen your options – like developing a second career or continuing your studies.

    How is this course suitable for sports professionals?

    Not having to attend classes every Tuesday at 4pm.

    You’re not always near campus every Tuesday at 4pm for that business lecture. We understand your sporting career comes first. After all, it’s your dedication to sport that got you where you are today. Being 100% online, you access your learning materials when it suits your schedule.  Unless you want to come in and use the library or pop in for a cuppa, there’s no need to come on campus: our courses are designed to be learnt solely online.

    Complete your degree sooner

    Credit is available for professional sporting experience and existing education meaning you could fast track and complete the degree as quickly as two and a half years.

    Joining the right team

    This course is only for sports professionals, so you’ll be studying alongside like-minded people driven, like you, to succeed in the sporting arena. Your course will be linked to your professional career, plus you learn practical business skills.

    On your side

    Don’t worry if it’s been a while since you’ve studied. Your first module teaches you all the skills you’ll need to succeed in higher education. From critical thinking and writing academically, to using reference materials and submitting your work – and you’ll have full tutor support every step of the way.

    Excellence in the field

    Like with all our online courses, they follow the rigorous academic quality standards of the University. The variety of modules you can study, and the support and expertise of your tutors – all combine to provide the perfect environment to learn, strive for the best results and reach your goals.

    Try a module first

    If you're not sure if you would like to commit to a whole degree, you can sign up to study just one module first. Giving you a taste of distance learning and fitting study around your professional schedule.

    The final score

    If you’re a high performance athlete or sports professional looking to add another string to your bow, with a degree that’s not only challenging and exciting, but also practical, then the online BSc(Hons) Business and Sports Management could be the perfect compliment to your sporting career.

    To find out more about this course, including entry requirements, fees and how to apply visit: go.herts.ac.uk/ontopform