Aug 16 2017

 

5th international research summer school is a success

Some of the student participants and tutors at OPTIMAX 2017

 

This year OPTIMAX, a 3 week residential summer school, was hosted by Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway, during July and August 2017. This was the 5th rendition of OPTIMAX and to date 189 students and 65 tutors from 12 countries have participated in it.

The purpose of OPTIMAX is to give radiography students a chance to participate in multinational team-based research. This is consistent with providing a near to real life experience, because quality research is often conducted in multinational teams. Each OPTIMAX team comprises students and tutors and they work together on an equal basis; tutor-student contact is extremely high and tutors spend around 40 hours per week working within their research team. This has significant benefit to the student learning experience as they receive constant feedback and support throughout the entire research process. OPTIMAX commences with the development of effective [research] teams; it then progresses rapidly to doing research about medical imaging. The latter includes formulating and testing methods, gathering and analysing data and finally producing outputs (draft journal paper, physical conference poster and also a PowerPoint presentation which is delivered on the final day in a formal conference). Beyond the conference a book is published in which the research articles become chapters; the abstracts are always submitted to the European Congress of Radiology (Vienna, Austria) and normally they are accepted for presentation. All student participants become authors, which is an important first step in establishing a professional CV. So far 3 books and 14 journal papers have been published and also 29 conference presentations have been delivered (see Appendix I). Another book and 4 conference presentations are planned to arise from this year’s summer school.

Participant countries this year included Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Brazil, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland and the UK (University of Salford). As always students gained immense benefit from the experience, not simply in terms of the research skills and knowledge they acquired but also through learning about other cultures. There is always a high emphasis on learning about the host country and this is achieved through formal and informal activities. Examples of formal activities include cultural trips on Saturdays; informal activities include student-led social events organised in the evenings. Each research team is multicultural which can comprise 7 or 8 nationalities and we have found that simply working in such a team allows for the development of intercultural awareness and understanding.

OPTIMAX is an intense target-driven experience. Each week day runs from 9-5 and often the students and tutors need to do additional work in the evenings and at the weekends. Production of the 3 outputs is essential as failure to do so would result in a fail; all students are awarded European Credit Transfer Scheme credits and a certificate but these can only be achieved if the 3 outputs are completed and reach the pass standard. Not surprisingly OPTIMAX is a tiring experience, but the approach is fully consistent with how researchers work to achieve their goals within strict deadlines. Nevertheless it is a very rewarding experience.

The funding model was originally based on a successful Erasmus grant. This paid for travel, accommodation and subsistence for tutors and students for the first two years. From then on it became self-sustaining with no need for external grant funding because good value for money was sought in various ways. For instance, the host organisation does not charge for the use of its teaching / research facilities. Accommodation costs are driven down through the use of student accommodation which has self-catering facilities. Student and tutor participants give approximately £100 each to pay for lunch on all working days, a welcome and farewell party and the Saturday socio-cultural events, this approach allows for better buying power / value for money.

OPTIMAX 2018 will be held in University College Dublin and planning will commence in September 2017 with monthly Skype meetings by members of the multinational steering committee.

 

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Jun 08 2017

On the anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who lost her life through injuries sustained falling under the King’s horse on Derby Day in June 1913, it is important to reflect on her role in the women’s campaign for the right to vote, and her daring approach in attempting to achieve this goal.

The anniversary of her death on 8 June 2017 has coincided with the general election and is a timely moment to reflect on Emily’s determination to obtain the franchise foEmily Wilding Davisonr women. 104 years later, two UK female Prime Ministers have attained the highest office in politics, yet it seems not so long ago that Emily and her other suffragette colleagues were fighting for something much simpler, merely for a democratic voice in a society which expected women to pay taxes but denied them even the most basic of political representation.

Emily, like other women of her time, faced discrimination from the outset where she attained a university education but was not allowed to formally graduate like her male counterparts. Emily joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906. She had worked as a teacher but gave this up in 1909 to become a full time and unpaid suffragette, never actually being remunerated for her efforts. Some have argued that this was because Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, the force behind the WSPU, held tight reigns on the strategy of the suffragette movement and Emily’s physical tactics were not universally welcome within the organisation.

It did not take Emily long to engage in direct action for the suffragettes, such as breaking windows, setting fire to post boxes and causing public disturbances. In 1909 shPurple Flowers, with Votes for Women labele faced one of her toughest stints in prison when she was incarcerated in Manchester’s Strangeways prison and endured a month’s hard labour for throwing rocks at the carriage of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George. Like other suffragettes who faced prison, she went on hunger strike and faced the horrors of force feeding. Emily’s misdemeanors in the name of the suffrage campaign caused increasing friction between her and the Pankhursts, who saw her as a loose cannon in an otherwise tightly run campaign. In Parliament a plaque was placed by Tony Benn MP in 1991 acknowledging the role of Emily in the fight for the women’s franchise, since on the evening of the 1911 census she hid in a broom cupboard so that she could record her address as the ‘House of Commons’ in a bid to symbolize the same political rights as men.

Despite tensions within the suffragette movement, Emily’s death ensured that she was brought back into the fold and her funeral was filled with symbolism associated with the organisation. It has been debated ever since whether her actions on Derby Day were deliberate or an unfortunate miscalculation. She was prone to actions that endangered her safety, such as throwing herself over railings twice whilst in Holloway Prison. Whilst these acts were dangerous they created attention and public awareness in a society that was so dismissive of women’s rights, and who regarded women as hysterical and irrational if they dared to challenge the status quo. In this respect she played into the hands of prejudice but also gained much needed attention for a cause that was so fundamental to the basis of a proper democracy. Emily has been described as ‘mad’, but by targeting the King’s horse on Derby Day she aimed directly at the State and pricked the conscious of a society facing deep inequality.

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Jun 05 2017

Salford Meadows

This project involves piloting innovative methods to understanding active travel inequalities. In collaboration with Colleen Donovan-Togo from St Clement’s Community Centre, Ordsall, Nick Davies organised a workshop in April which involved input from community members and practitioners from numerous organisations involved in the low-carbon travel agenda in Greater Manchester, including TGFM, Sustrans, Living Streets and Salford City Council.   The workshop drew out community-specific issues for the Ordsall area which are now being taken forward in a series of focus groups, community engagement events and interviews.

The project will also result in a short film which will be used to highlight the issues, barriers and enablers for walking and cycling in the area. Discussing the progress of the project, Nick suggests that: ‘So far the research has highlighted the role infrastructure plays. Construction, development and the roads in the area can be seen as sometimes discouraging active travel to, from and within the Ordsall area.  This can be remedied by a more joined up approach to highlighting safe routes, connectivity and intermodality; and in particular more attention to ensuring low-carbon options are more accessible in the whole of the area’.  It is intended that this will lead onto a longer-term project and research council bid.

Dr Nick Davies, Research Fellow, UPRISE

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Jun 05 2017

Dr John Thompson and Sinead Donnelly won a certificate of merit at this year’s British Nuclear Medicine Society’s annual conference. Sinead is an MSc dissertation student on our MSc Nuclear Medicine (Radiography) at the University of Salford and John is her supervisor. The poster focused on a quantitative assessment of simulated respiratory motion using a lung phantom. A bespoke piece of equipment known as the ‘skateboard’, on loan from The Christie, was used to simulate the speed and amplitude of respiratory motion. The aim was to determine whether this simulation of breathing motion had an impact on lung cancer detection performance; a comparison was made between breathing and breath hold. Detection performance was found to be statistically worse when motion was simulated, suggesting an advantage of a breath-hold technique for nodule detection in low-resolution CT images.

Sinead with the poster at this year’s BNMS conference in Birmingham

This work continues a 7 year stream of work from the Diagnostic Imaging Research Programme where the value of the x-ray computed tomography [coincidental] image has been evaluated for diagnostic value from heart imaging using SPECT/CT. SPECT/CT is a common technique used for assessing heart muscle viability in cases of ischemia and infarct.

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May 09 2017

The School of Arts and Media has played host over the last week and a half to Dr Wang Wei, Lecturer in International History, Faculty of History, Nankai University, Tianjin, PR China. Dr Wang delivered a paper at New Adelphi on Thursday afternoon, 4 May, on the subject of her current research: ‘Arnold J. Toynbee and British Planning for the Post-war World Order during the Second World War’. She has also been undertaking research at the People’s History Museum, as well as examining some of the collections held in the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford.

 

Alaric Searle, Professor of Modern European History, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Nankai University, said: ‘It has been a great pleasure to organise this visit to Salford by Dr Wang while she is spending time in the UK. This is not only because I am anxious to strengthen ties between Salford and Nankai, but also because her research interests fit very closely with those in Politics and Contemporary History, where we have considerable expertise in international history during the twentieth century. It has been very enjoyable for colleagues in Politics and Contemporary History to engage in a productive dialogue with Wei over the last week.’

 

Prof Alaric Searle, Dr Wang Wei (Nankai University) and Dr Moritz Pieper

 

Prof Alaric Searle, Dr Wang Wei (Nankai University)

and Dr Moritz Pieper

 

Dr Wang commented: ‘It is such a wonderful experience to visit Salford University. I immensely enjoyed meeting staff and students in Salford. In particular, I am very grateful to Professor Alaric Searle for inviting me, to Dr Moritz Pieper for chairing my lecture, and to Professor Allan Walker for supporting the visit. The conversations with scholars in Salford and the visits to the People’s History Museum and the Working-Class Movement Library have helped me to understand more about the significance of history from below, to view my current project from different angles, and to pose new research questions. I am hopeful that the ties between Nankai and Salford will be further strengthened with future research collaboration.’

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Apr 25 2017

Professor Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University

In December, Prof Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University and the man behind Fast Track Impact, tweeted some thoughts on how to write a 4* paper for the REF and wrote a blog about it. This post is published here with the author’s permission.

How do you write a 4* paper for the Research Excellence Framework (REF)? It is a question I’ve asked myself with some urgency since the Stern Review shredded my REF submission by not allowing me to bring my papers with me this year to my new position at Newcastle University.

Obviously the answer is going to differ depending on your discipline, but I think there are a few simple things that everyone can do to maximize their chances of getting a top graded research output.

I’m going to start with the assumption that you’ve actually done original, significant and rigorous work – if you haven’t then there is no point in reading any further. However, as I am increasingly asked to pre-review papers for colleagues across a range of disciplines, I am seeing examples of people who write up work as a 2* or 3* paper that has the potential to get a better score. I should point out that I believe that there is an important role for 1* and 2* papers, and that I regularly write these on purpose to address a problem of national significance and frame it for the specific, narrow audience that is likely to be able to benefit most from my work. However, whether I like it or not, as a Professor in a research-intensive University, there is an expectation that I will be submitted as a 4* researcher, which means I need a few 4* papers as well.

You can see some more detailed thoughts on what I think makes 4* for different types of paper in this Tweet:

https://twitter.com/profmarkreed/status/801348612345253888/photo/1

As you’ll see from the discussion under that tweet though, my more detailed thoughts probably only apply to Units of Assessment across panels A-C, and probably isn’t relevant to the arts and humanities.

Having said this, I think there are a number of things we can all do to maximize the chances of our work being viewed favourably by REF panelists.

  1. Write to the criteria:when I was learning to drive, my instructor told me that in the test I should make sure I moved my head when I was looking in the rear view mirror, to make sure the examiner noticed I was using my mirrors. We’re all used to writing to the criteria of funding calls, and in fact we are all perfectly used to writing papers to the criteria of our target journals. In the last REF, research outputs were judged against three criteria: originality, significance and rigour. Whatever the interpretation of these criteria in your discipline, have you made it explicit to REF panelists reading your work exactly what is original, and why it is so original? Have you explained and effectively justified the significance of your work? And have you included evidence that your methods, analysis and interpretation is rigorous, even if you have to use supplementary material to include extra detail about your methods and data to get around journal word limits?
  2. Get REF feedback before you submit your work for publication:find out who is going to be reviewing research outputs for REF internally within your Unit of Assessment at your institution and ask them to review your work before you submit it. They may be able to make recommendations about how you might improve the paper in light of the REF criteria. Sometimes a little bit of extra work on the framing of your research in relation to wider contexts and issues can help articulate the significance of your work, and with additional reading and thinking, you may be able to position your work more effectively in relation to previous work to demonstrate its originality more clearly. Adding a few extra details to your methods and results may re-assure readers and reviewers that your approach is indeed rigorous. This is not just about doing world-leading research; it is about demonstrating to the world that your work is indeed world-leading. For me, these criteria are nothing new and are worth paying attention to, whether or not we are interested in REF. Meeting these three criteria will increase the chances that you get through peer-review and will increase the likelihood that your work gets cited.
  3. Analyse and discuss good practice in your own area: the only way to really “get your eye in” for REF is to actually look at examples of good and poor practice in your own area. Below, I’ve described how you can design an exercise to do this with your colleagues. You can do it yourself and learn a lot, but from my own experience, you learn a lot more by doing this as a discussion exercise with colleagues who work in your area. If you can, take notes from your discussion and try and distill some of the key lessons, so you can learn collectively as a group and more effectively review and support each other’s work.

How to organize a discussion to work out what makes a 4* paper in your area:

  • Identify top scoring institutions for your Unit of Assessment (UOA): download the REF2014 results, filter for your UOA (columns E or F), then filter so it only shows you the outputs (column J), and then filter for 4* (column L), showing only the institutions from your UOA that had the highest percentage of 4* outputs. Now for those institutions, look across the table (columns L-P) to see which has the highest proportion of outputs at either 3* or 4*. For example, an institution may have 80% of its outputs graded at 4* and 15% graded at 3*, meaning that 95% of its outputs were graded at 3-4*
  • Download a selection of papers from the top scoring institutions: go to your UOA on the REF website, find and click on the institutions you’ve identified in step 1, under “view submission data”, click on “research outputs”, copy and paste output titles into Google Scholar (or your search engine of choice) and download the articles. You may want to select outputs randomly, or you may want to go through more selectively, identifying outputs that are close to the areas your group specialize in
  • Repeat for low scoring institutions so you can compare and contrast high and low scoring outputs
  • Discuss examples: print copies of the high and low scoring outputs, labeled clearly, and in your next UOA meeting, let everyone choose a high and a low-scoring example. Given them 10-15 minutes to quickly read the outputs (focusing on title, abstract, introduction, figures and conclusions so you’re not there all day) and then ask the group (or small groups if there are many of you) to discuss the key factors that they think distinguish between high and low scoring outputs. Get your group(s) to distill the key principles that they think are most useful and disseminate these more widely to the group, so that anyone who wasn’t present can benefit.

It would be great if I could tell you that these are my “three easy ways to get a 4* paper” but doing work that is genuinely original, significant and rigorous is far from easy. If you have done work that is of the highest quality though, I hope that the ideas I’ve suggested here will help you get the credit you deserve for the great research you’ve done.

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Apr 24 2017

THINKLabTHE University of Salford will lead the way in helping to create more energy efficient cities, after receiving a €425,000 grant from the EU.

Buildings waste huge amounts of energy but annually just 1-2% of the building stock of cities is upgraded for efficiency – a process known as retrofitting.

It is estimated that the majority of European building stock will need to retrofit at a rate of 2.9% a year to achieve the target, versus the current 1.2% rate, in order that EU achieve its emission reduction targets by 2050.

However, current retrofitting processes are expensive, and face many uncertainties and complexities. Experts in the School of the Built Environment are partners in a €8.7 million project, and will lead the development of a knowledge-based tool which will select the integrated solutions with highest impact.

The other nineteen industry and academic partners involved in the project are from the UK, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Estonia. The wider project will explore innovative components, processes and decision making methodologies to guide all value-chain actors in the building renovation process; including a specific knowledge based tool for Real Estate Industry.

Professor Fernando, Director of the School of the Built Environment’s THINKlab and an expert in digital visualisations and simulation, said: “This project offers us further funding to continue our work on designing energy efficient buildings and neighborhoods that we have been doing over the last three years as a part of the Design4Energy project.

“We plan to apply our knowledge in advanced visualisation and collaboration in creating an interactive platform for the stakeholders involved in the retrofit market to create innovative solutions that can not only enhance the energy efficiency of the building but also the value of the property.”

This new technology platform will be built on the THINKlab’s ongoing work on advance data visualisation and building simulation.

Find out more

Victoria Barker

0161 295 4779

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Apr 20 2017

Attendees at JMEE Engineering EventEarlier in April Professor Haifa Takruri MBE, Director of the JMEE (Joint MsC Electrical Engineering) programme, organised a special industry event which presented the project’s progress to date. The workshop entitled ‘JMEE: Enhancing the Participation of Industry in Research Projects in Telecommunications and Energy Sectors’ covered the processes involved in developing the JMEE programme, as well as knowledge sharing, academia-industry collaboration and EU and Palestine cultural exchange.

A fantastic example of industry collaboration in action, the event was attended by a number of high-profile engineering partners. Mr Nigel Platt, System Engineering Manager at Siemens Energy, presented about AC and HVDC interconnections for offshore wind farms, from the platform installation to the energy transfer to land. Nigel answered audience questions about wind farm designs, voltage transfer and average output yield on the farms.

Professor Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architecture at BT and a visiting Professor in CSE, presented state-of-the-art research and standards development in 5G telecommunications technology, demonstrating how future IMT technology development is shaping the strategies for 2020 and beyond.

Dr Sam Grogan, Pro-Vice Chancellor Students Experience, brought the discussion back to student experience by speaking about the work the University is doing both locally and internationally in developing the entrepreneurial skills of students.

The talks were followed by an intense and technical discussion showing the vast experience and understanding of the sector by the speakers and participants. After lunch the JMEE team visited Siemens Ardwick railway maintenance facilities. Delegates got to see the new electric train and diesel train maintenance methodology. The group gained an understanding into the capacity and operation required to ensure commuter services are sustained in the Manchester region.

Haifa, who recently received an outstanding achievement award for her work in engineering, said: “It was a great pleasure to host the JMEE workshop at our Media City campus. I am grateful to the speakers for sharing their industrial knowledge and experience with the consortium and for EU TEMPUS for funding the JMEE project.”

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Apr 10 2017
Prof Haifa Takruri-Rizk

Prof Haifa Takruri-Rizk collecting her award

Professor Haifa Takruri-Rizk from the School of Computer Science and Engineering has been recognised once again for her work to attract more females into engineering. Prof Takruri-Rizk was awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award at the recent North West Engineering Excellence Awards held in Manchester.

The joint award is from the Institute of Engineering & Technology (North West), the Institute of Mechanical Engineering and the Institute of Chemical Engineering (Manchester branches).

Earlier this year, she was the key speaker at an event organised by Barclay’s Academy to inspire hundreds more schoolgirls to follow careers in electronic engineering and computer science – the latest in a raft of ‘mentoring’ work she undertakes including the annual summer school for young women.

Through her expertise in electronics and mobile networking, and initiatives to address the participation of women and ethnic minorities, Haifa has worked with the BBC, Opportunity Now, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Skillset, Equal Opportunities Commission, Women’s Engineering Society, UK Resource Centre for Women in SET, Science, Engineering, Manufacturing and Technologies Alliance (SEMTA) and many others. Furthermore in 2009 she was awarded the MBE for services to women, black and minority ethnic people in science, engineering and technology education.

 

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Apr 06 2017
Profs Nigel Linge and Andy Sutton with their publication in gift shop

Nigel Linge (left) and Andy Sutton (right)

Professor of Telecommunications Nigel Linge and Visiting Professor Andy Sutton, both from the School of Computing, Science and Engineering, last week launched their second book ‘The British Phonebox’ at Avoncroft Museum in Bromsgrove.

The Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings hosts the National Telephone Kiosk Collection and as Nigel said, “when you have written a book about phone boxes, where else would you choose to launch it but at the museum that is the home of the kiosk”. Despite the fact that phone boxes have declined in number and are used less and less each year, the older red ones have become icons of Britain, recognised the world over. Nigel and Andy’s book not only traces the origins of the British phone box from its birth in 1884 but also includes details and photographs of all major versions that have appeared on our streets and proves that the phone box still has a future by showcasing new designs that are being introduced this year.

The British Phonebox is published by Amberley Publishing. Their first book, ’30 years of Mobile Phones in the UK’ was also published by Amberley in 2015. Profs Nigel Linge and Andy Sutton by phonebox

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