Perhaps one of the biggest positives to have come out of the last year of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a renewed trust in science. Only a couple of years ago prominent British politicians were stating that “people in this country have had enough of experts”, and yet under the spectre of a pandemic the same politicians are now very keen to rely on expert advice.

This is, of course, good news for academics, whether scientists or from other evidence based subject areas. Clearly those working in biomedical-related disciplines have been able to rapidly alter their research plans to address the immediate medical challenges of Covid-19, but increasingly those in more distantly related fields such as environmental science, psychology and the social sciences are finding new and relevant research questions due to the seismic shift that has altered all of our lives. This disruption has been accompanied by some of the largest amounts of public funding ever to be dedicated to a single issue, with a subsequent mushrooming of innovation and publication.

As a Senior Lecturer in Evidence Based Healthcare I have found myself busier than ever due to adapting to online teaching of healthcare professionals, and also my role chairing the Public Health England (PHE) Research Ethics and Governance Group. Since January 2020 this has involved dropping everything at a moment’s notice to rapidly review and approve research studies whose results have subsequently been widely cited as evidence for various national decisions. This has been managed by a part-time secondment from the University that will likely continue once the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) replaces PHE in April 2021 with a continued focus on ending this pandemic.
One of the main reasons why I enjoy this role in research ethics is because of the large range of studies that ethics committees have to grapple with. After a while, you become very good at evaluating research and working out what it is likely to discover (and what it probably will not discover). I was therefore very happy to be approached by The Conversation in May 2020 and asked to write an article predicting the path of Covid-19 vaccine research and development, talking a bit about the scientific and medical process that would be followed as vaccines were developed. A couple of weeks later The Conversation asked me for a second article addressing the topic of facemasks.

For those who may not be familiar with The Conversation, it is a news outlet with articles written exclusively by academics. Although there can sometimes be quite strong editorial direction, in general the factual, informed and open access content means that articles are re-published widely. This means that a single article in The Conversation can lead to a wide reader base and multiple other media opportunities.
This is indeed what happened following publication of my first facemask article due partly to being one of the first to raise the topic of social as well as medical benefits to mask wearing. Following a number of additional media quotes and interviews, The Conversation approached me again asking for an article on how to judge if facemasks work, which subsequently went semi-viral. This was picked up by a number of television channels especially due to the suggestion (although I certainly was not the first person to say this) of testing masks by trying to see if you can blow out a match or candle.

Writing for the media is very different to writing an academic article. The academic writing style can be pictured as a triangle, with the argument getting deeper as the paper progresses until the most important conclusions come at the end. When writing for a non-specialist audience the reverse structure is used. As there is a substantial drop-off in reader numbers following every sentence of a popular article, the main content needs to be in the very first paragraph, with the rest of the article expanding on that initial idea – much like an upside down triangle. However, while only twenty or so people read academic articles, as of March 2021 I have had over 1.3 million reads of articles in The Conversation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a worrying time for us all, especially as we often feel so powerless. However, as academics, some of us are in a privileged position thanks to opportunities for education and access to knowledge. During the pandemic this position has been increasingly useful, especially for those of us with a background in biomedical research and who perhaps feel a little bit more familiar with the mechanism of viral infection, along with the type of science that is needed to get us out of this mess. Sharing some of this knowledge with others, in a way that helps them understand and also make sense of this troubling situation, is satisfying especially as in normal times science can often be so difficult to explain. It also, perhaps in a small way, plays an important role in convincing politicians that expert commentary may well have a use after all.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

What do the dark night sky, COVID19 and Americanisation of International Economics have in common?

They are all topics of the recently inaugurated webinar series. The organiser, Professor Leïla Choukroune, is bringing together researchers from all disciplines, and inviting specialist and non-specialist audience to get involved with major topics facing society today.

Professor Choukroune’s idea was to design an all University Interdisciplinary Research Webinar Series to interact with colleagues during isolation, helping to support and promote projects across academia, and creating fruitful and meaningful conversations across a wide-range of subjects.

The subjects of the talks are down to the speakers to choose, but there is one rule: the topic must be interdisciplinary in nature. The aim is to create a webinar series which is therefore accessible to a larger audience.

The multifaceted nature of the webinars have so far resulted in some fascinating and broad-ranging topics, including:

  • Bodies and Citizens in Times of Pandemics: Longitudinal Perspectives
  • Heritage in times of Crisis: A Perspective on Conflicts and their Impact on Cultural Heritage and Values
  • Why is the Night Sky Dark?
  • The Americanisation of the International Economic Order and its Normative Boundaries
  • What Development Aid Policy post-Covid-19 Crisis?
  • COVID19: Has the UK Government got it right? What Public Health Policy for Sanity Emergencies?

The first webinar in the series was opened by Professor Leïla Choukroune alongside Professor David Andress, who examined the reaction of States and societies when bodies become dangerous in themselves, not as individual citizens who could be held to account, but as physical carriers of contagion. The talk also addressed the temptation to escalate emergency powers and the potential pressure from the general population to do so, and what that means for democracy.

Join as a listener

The Research Futures webinar series is free to join and takes place on Wednesdays (2pm-3pm). To access the event, please see event details on Eventbrite or email ris@port.ac.uk for details.

Join as a speaker

Email Professor Choukroune directly, or message us at ris@port.ac.uk if you are interested in presenting a seminar.

The SIGHT programme - Supporting Innovation and Growth in Healthcare Technologies - is at its half-way point, and despite the challenges brought onto the healthcare and business sectors by the pandemic, celebrates successfully engaging with 250 companies, including nearly 150 as official SIGHT members.

SIGHT is an ERDF-funded programme run by the University of Portsmouth in partnership with Portsmouth Technologies Trials Unit and Wessex CRN. The programme engages with start-ups and SMEs operating in the healthcare technology sector to support their growth through advice and guidance, events, grants and by fostering a dialogue between the entrepreneurs and clinicians and academics. Typically, SMEs find it difficult to navigate the NHS approval process and are unable to verify the usefulness and relevance of their products in a clinical setting after a long way into their development, which means the products may not meet the end users' needs. SIGHT offers the business support and introduces companies to potential users of their products, giving them earlier access to feedback.

The vast majority (90%) of SIGHT members are micro enterprises, with 9 or fewer members of staff, and just over a third are start-ups (less than 12 months old). To date, SIGHT has provided over 1,000 hours of direct business support, and gave away £110k in direct funding awards. According to a recent SIGHT member survey, the programme directly contributed to a creation of 17 new jobs, and safeguarding of 21 posts. As many as 48% of member companies were able to enter or continue a collaboration with a research institution as a result of their SIGHT membership.
The pandemic of 2020/21 has demonstrated the urgent need for innovation in healthcare. The SIGHT programme is enabling SMEs and start-ups to make a real impact on the future of healthcare by improving diagnostic techniques, introducing innovative products and developing new ways of gathering and analysing data.
If this has inspired you to find out more about the programme, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email at SIGHT@port.ac.uk and please do follow us on twitter @SIGHT_programme and visit our YouTube Channel for further information on the SIGHT programme and other initiatives.

SIGHT (Supporting Innovation and Growth in Healthcare Technologies) is an ERDF-funded business support project led by the University of Portsmouth in conjunction with the Wessex CRN and Portsmouth Hospitals Trust, designed to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the healthcare sector.

The programme provides SMEs with the insight and specific evidence required to ensure their products meet real, identified market needs along with the necessary guidance and support to enter and expand in new healthcare markets.

Following the programme’s launch in November 2019, the SIGHT team has been proactively engaging with a wide range of SMEs across England. Through a range of activities including face to face meetings, conference calls, open workshop sessions and referrals, the team has directly engaged with 149 SMEs, 66 of which have already completed the documentation in order to become full members of the programme.

Since the country went into lockdown in late March, the SIGHT programme has been well-placed to provide guidance and support to SMEs, helping them to navigate the demands and pressures of the ever-evolving climate that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced.

These engagements include signposting SIGHT members to numerous COVID-19-related funding calls from UKRI, Innovate UK, the Solent LEP and others. The team has also engaged with numerous SMEs and SIGHT members, providing knowledge and support for a wide variety of activities, such as:

  • Discussing local 3D printing support with medical device design companies such as XK Design Ltd, Innovative Group Organisation Ltd, NTL Biologica Ltd and GTR Composites (with a manufacturing taskforce set up to explore 3D printing and laser cutting manufacturing support for PPE creation).
  • Engaging with Midnight Consulting Ltd in order to support a new company they are co-forming with colleagues in the north of England in order to directly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic via technology development and parallel support services.
  • Supporting Exhalation Technologies Ltd in identifying CL4 lab space for rapid trial deployment opportunities of new COVID-19 related technologies.
  • Supporting Victor Higgs from Applied Nanodetectors Ltd with regards to the design of a COVID-19 related technology trial at PHT.
  • Working with Molli Baby Ltd to explore the pivoting of existing products to create a new oxygen delivery soother device for infants.
  • Exploring trial activity with Microlink PC Ltd with regards to a mental health headband and digital app which could support challenges around COVID-19 isolation.
  • Working with CareRooms Ltd to explore a SIGHT grant application for supporting home care for COVID-19 patients.
  • Discussing a grant application with Helicon Health Ltd for the support of their breath analysis technology which could be applied to COVID-19 testing.
  • Engaging with several companies (e.g. Piota Apps Ltd, Exhalation Health Ltd) to explore the accelerated trial of technologies at PTTU to help fight the pandemic.

SIGHT Grant scheme awards related to COVID-19

The SIGHT grant scheme has attracted a lot of interest from SME members of the programme, and the project selection panel has reviewed six full applications so far, with four awards being made, two of which have been COVID-19 related.

Airway Medical Ltd

An award of £1,587 has been made to Airway Medical Ltd for IP protection costs for a new respiratory device which has been rapidly designed and developed for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has invented a 3D printable airway suction device in response the Government’s Covid-19 Call. This new technology is 95% cheaper, 95% smaller and 99% lighter than the current technology. It can be rapidly scaled and manufactured at a rate of 2000 units to 1 of the current technology. It is just as effective and meets ISO 10079, the international standard for Laryngeal Suction.

NTL Biologica Ltd

NTL Biologica Ltd have been awarded £3,291.67 from the SIGHT programme grant scheme to support marketing costs for their new COVID-19 testing capability.
Due to their expertise in manufacturing kits, they have designed a process which allows them run antibody tests for between 500 & 1,000 people per day. The test is completed with a result obtained within 20 minutes.

The plan will be to target specific groups of people who require testing and drive the unit to the area required and test accordingly. The mobile element of the testing allows maximum flexibility and quick response to the needs as required.


If this has inspired you to find out more about the programme, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email at SIGHT@port.ac.uk and please do follow us on twitter @SIGHT_programme and visit our YouTube Channel for further information on the SIGHT programme and other initiatives.

On Thursday 12 March 2020, the University of Portsmouth hosted a workshop which focussed on knowledge exchange in the area of sustainable public lighting and the development of a tool for supporting decision and policymakers.

 

The workshop aimed to bring academics and other stakeholders together to discuss the potential and relevance of using decision support tools for smart and sustainable public lighting. 29 delegates from industry and academia in the UK and Europe attended the workshop at the Doubletree by Hilton, Southampton.

The event was chaired by Djamila Ouelhadj, Professor of Operational Research and Analytics at the University of Portsmouth, and featured talks from several keynote speakers with direct involvement in the SLIC project and expertise in smart and sustainable lighting solutions.

Dr Hassana Abdullahi, Research Fellow in Applied Operational Research for the SLIC project at the School of Mathematics and Physics, University of Portsmouth, presented the SLIC decision support tool. The tool has been developed by the University of Portsmouth and is designed to support policy and technology decision-makers, taking into account different locations as well as the evaluation of economic, environmental, and social sustainability impacts.

As one of the main aims of the workshop was to get feedback from the stakeholders on the design and outputs of the decision support tool, a live demonstration of the support tool was given.

After the presentations, Professor Djamila led a panel discussion which proved useful in collecting feedback on the design of the decision support tool.

The workshop concluded with a useful roundtable session where participants were divided into three groups according to their area of expertise. The aim of the roundtable discussions was to exchange knowledge and gain insights on the decision support tool, as well as to discuss the economic, environmental and social key performance indicators the use and implementation of smart public lighting.

The workshop was very successful in providing an understanding into smart lightning potentials and developments within the lighting industry in the UK and the EU. It was an excellent opportunity for academics and stakeholders alike to come together to share their ideas and find out more about the exciting innovations taking place within the industry. It also showcased the potential that decision support tools have in assisting the decision-making process when selecting public lighting technologies, and highlighting the collaborative efforts taking place in the sector.

The SLIC project

The Smart Lights Concept (SLIC) Project is funded by EU Interreg 2-Seas and aims to innovate techniques, methods and tools used for energy savings, energy efficiency and renewable energy use in public lighting. The SLIC Project decision support tool is designed to help decision-makers implement smart public lighting technologies.

The SLIC project involves nine partners from across the UK and Europe who are collaborating on four primary research themes (funding models and business cases, proven lighting technologies, stakeholder involvement, and safety and crime evaluation).

The University of Portsmouth is joined on the project with the Avans University of Applied Sciences, together with the Bruges, Mechelen and Veurne municipalities in Belgium, the Municipality of Amiens in France, Etten-Leur in the Netherlands, and Suffolk County Council, UK.

Kieran Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Family and Child Law, explores such issues in his newly-published book The Development of Child Protection Law and Policy – Children, Risk and Modernities, which provides an extensive analysis of the evolution of child protection law over the course of 130 years.

The book, part of Palgrave’s series Studies in Citizenship, Human Rights and the Law, examines how child protection law has been shaped by the transition to late modernity and how it navigates the ever-changing concept of risk.

Kieran’s interest in this topic began when there was debate in Ireland around introducing a “soft information vetting” system. Similar to the DBS scheme in the UK, a person looking to work in certain jobs needs to be background checked, and while many states check for convictions (“hard information” systems), soft information looks for indications that a person poses a certain level of risk (for example, referrals about a person to a child protection agency or police investigations that do not result in a conviction). The idea being that as it can be so difficult to convict for certain offences, if you want an effective vetting system, you need to look at a wider range of information.

From there, Kieran started to think about the role that risk plays in child protection, and how understandings of risk have changed over time, together with our understanding of childhood itself.
The Development of Child Protection Law and Policy specifically focuses on the Republic of Ireland, which has seen radical social changes over the last 30 years. Changes to the public’s perception of issues such as religion and gender equality have been momentous. Ireland is now a much less traditional, much more globalised society than it was 30 years ago.

Kieran said: “One of the things that I noticed was that many of the major developments in child protection tracked the wider social changes. Some people have linked the two, but what I started to see was that the shifts were so great that it was possible to describe this as a shift to what some sociologists term late modernity – a phrase which implies globalisation, the decline of tradition, the emergence of new political groups and strategies, and a new focus on individual choice. There was also a change in how risk was thought about; we stopped trying to eliminate risks, and instead focused on managing and minimising them.”

There remains much to be done. Although many countries have made significant improvements and changes to child protection from a legal point of view, laws will only be effective if they have the political, social, systematic and financial support behind them.

Child protection work has often been neglected on many levels, and there is routinely a lack of investment both financially and in the political and social systems and procedures, despite the fact that this short-sighted outlook may well prove to be more costly in the long term.
Kieran’s work is interdisciplinary, and he has been conscious to try to ensure that there is something of value in it for legal academics, as well as those involved in social work and even historians.

Kieran said: “I would hope that anyone involved in these areas will come away with a deeper appreciation of process behind legal change and how research in other fields can incorporate legal research.”

The Development of Child Protection Law and Policy - Children, Risk and Modernities was published by Routledge in April 2020.
The Intelligent Transport Cluster (ITC) was launched in 2019 to help deliver economic growth and create safe and sustainable transport solutions fit for the cities of the future.

This cross-faculty initiative consolidates capabilities and expertise across all areas of the Transport sector. By bringing together academics, innovators and users, the cluster tackles the challenges to business and society, while promoting long-term competitiveness in land, air and marine transport systems.

The ITC aims to develop world-leading innovative technologies and solutions to build smart, safe, sustainable and efficient transport systems fit for the cities of the future. This is driven by the multi-disciplinary expertise of the cluster. The ITC draws from expertise in the fields of logistics, sustainable transport, autonomous and connected systems, business modelling, behavioural safety, system infrastructure, cyber-security, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), operational research and communications.

Professor Djamila Ouelhadj, Director of the Intelligent Transport Cluster, said: “Transportation is evolving quickly and it is essential to invest and develop better solutions for the increasingly demanding challenge of providing safe, efficient, sustainable transportation for the future.

Driverless cars, drone deliveries, on-demand public transport, and new data-driven mobility services requiring high-fidelity communication networks and sustainable transport systems built using novel light-weight materials and renewable energy sources are some of the ways set to revolutionise the mobility of people and goods around the world.”

These innovative solutions will deliver on the mission of the Industrial Strategy and the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge to improve the mobility of people, goods and services around towns, cities and the countryside.

I am enormously honoured to receive this prestigious funding from the ESRC. I am aware of the responsibility it puts on me to make a difference to the experiences of students and staff who have been subjected to sexual harassment and violence within higher education. I believe we can make our institutions better - and I will be spending the next two years finding out in more detail what this looks like in practice and bringing my learning back to the University of Portsmouth to make change at home as well as nationally and internationally
Dr Anna Bull, School of Education and Sociology

We didn’t have a lot of DNA to go on, and ancient DNA is highly likely to be contaminated or to have become severely damaged, but even so our results are compelling.

Dr Sam Robson, Senior Research Fellow in Bioinformatics

Research is useless unless the results are clearly communicated.

Dr Simon Kolstoe, Senior Lecturer in Evidence Based Healthcare
Quote
Author Name, Author Position
The support from our research and innovation, administration and finance teams has been of paramount importance in producing these collaborations.  In particular, Dr Stephanie Lasalle and Ying-Ying Cheung have been extremely supportive and encouraging of our ideas - questioning us and challenging our assumptions at just the right moment.
Dr Jacqueline Priego, Senior Lecturer
The days of “one country two systems” – which is supposed to allow for Hong Kong’s specific legal status – appear to be long gone. This will inevitably have repercussions for the territory’s status as an important business and legal hub.
Leïla Choukroune, Professor of International Law
We greatly appreciate the passion for innovation and development of new medical technologies which the SIGHT member companies have displayed during the pandemic. This commitment has led to the trialling of a number of new products and services within Portsmouth University Hospitals NHS Trust which seek to respond to challenges issued by the pandemic. We look forward to providing continued support for these companies as they look to bring these products and services to market.'
Dr Phil Jewell, SIGHT Programme Manager
We greatly appreciate the passion for innovation and development of new medical technologies which the SIGHT member companies have displayed during the pandemic. This commitment has led to the trialling of a number of new products and services within Portsmouth University Hospitals NHS Trust which seek to respond to challenges issued by the pandemic. We look forward to providing continued support for these companies as they look to bring these products and services to market.'
Dr Phil Jewell, SIGHT Programme Manager
The workshop was a great opportunity for understanding, bringing together, quantification and monetisation of the sustainability indicators for public lighting. This will aid in taking further steps in the design and development of the decision support tool. The workshop also provided a great channel for sharing information on smart and sustainable public lighting and how managing authorities can make better decisions regarding the use of carbon-efficient public lighting without hefty investment costs and without harming its citizens and the environment.
Dr Hassana Abdullahi, Research Fellow in Applied Operational Research

Transportation is evolving quickly and it is essential to invest and develop better solutions for the increasingly demanding challenge of providing safe, efficient, sustainable transportation for the future. Driverless cars, drone deliveries, on-demand public transport, new data-driven mobility services requiring high-fidelity communication networks and sustainable transport systems built using novel light-weight materials and renewable energy sources are some of the ways set to revolutionise the mobility of people and goods around the world.

Professor Djamila Ouelhadj, Director of the Intelligent Transport Cluster
As time went on, I came to realise that if I wanted to understand the role of risk in child protection law, I had to understand how risk was thought about in policy making and sociological thought more generally. As a result, the book became a combination of historical research into children and risk, and an investigation into how the law tries to embody current approaches to risk.
Kieran Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Family and Child Law
As time went on, I came to realise that if I wanted to understand the role of risk in child protection law, I had to understand how risk was thought about in policy making and sociological thought more generally. As a result, the book became a combination of historical research into children and risk, and an investigation into how the law tries to embody current approaches to risk.
Kieran Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Family and Child Law

Transportation is evolving quickly and it is essential to invest and develop better solutions for the increasingly demanding challenge of providing safe, efficient, sustainable transportation for the future. Driverless cars, drone deliveries, on-demand public transport, new data-driven mobility services requiring high-fidelity communication networks and sustainable transport systems built using novel light-weight materials and renewable energy sources are some of the ways set to revolutionise the mobility of people and goods around the world.

Professor Djamila Ouelhadj, Director of the Intelligent Transport Cluster