News and Events
University research helping people to invest in nature
Researchers from Birmingham City University have been examining Visitor Giving schemes, which take donations from people visiting the countryside to fund environmental and community projects that give something back to the local area.
The research team at Birmingham School of the Built Environment have been exploring whether such schemes might be able to quantify specific environmental benefits that visitors can sponsor, boosting visitor donations and creating better environmental outcomes.
Funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the research is one of ten pilot studies exploring how to apply the concept of payments for ecosystem services.
A key outcome of the research is the development of a set of smartphone apps for walkers and cyclists, which provide them with location-based information about the benefits provided to society from the landscapes they're travelling through.
Mark Reed, Professor in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research at Birmingham City University, said: “The theory behind the smartphone apps is that by learning about the environment whilst being immersed in it, visitors are more likely to appreciate the value of the natural environment, and be more willing to donate to support the continued provision of these benefits.”
The apps, which can be downloaded for free at the iTunes app store, have been developed in conjunction with the University collaborating on research with Nurture Lakeland, Project Maya Community Interest Company, URS consulting, Visit England, Campaign for National Parks and the English National Park Authorities Association.
For more information, contact Mark Reed.
Researchers calculate the perfect scrum
Researchers at Birmingham City University could hold the key to the future success for England's Six Nations Rugby team. Academic Stephen Wanless and colleagues at the Faculty of Health have developed a 'Vibrating Suit', designed to give wearers feedback about movement, correct posture, and calculate the optimum position for elite athletes in a variety of sports. The researchers believe it can aid rugby players who take part in the scrum – a crucial part of Rugby Union - after being recently tested on a group of university student rugby players.
Watch the video above to see the suit in action and find out more about research in the Faculty of Health.
Senior Researcher Stephen Wanless explains: "The device was originally designed for use in a healthcare setting but we soon realised the suit's potential in giving UK athletes a competitive advantage.
"The sensors include a vibrating motor, like that found on a mobile phone, and these can be set to vibrate to indicate when someone moves outside a desirable range, all designed to give feedback in real time that enables wearers to adjust their movements in performance.
"Biomechanical principles are very important when playing rugby. We can use the vibrating suit to track spinal cord position when a player is about to go into a scrum. If you move more than 30 degrees forward it lets you know you've gone over the optimum position and allows you to correct you position accordingly.
"When the scrum-half is putting the ball into a scrum and posture is incorrect it may lead to an illegal move which a player will receive a yellow card for. For a front row rugby player in a scrum posture is important for getting the momentum to be able to contest the scrum and be able to win back the ball.
"The vibrations of the suit will alert the player to change their posture and to adopt a much better position when playing".
Birmingham City University rugby player Georgia Shortland took part in the research, and can see the benefits to rugby players in using the Vibrating Suit in practice. She said: "When you are about to pass the ball into the scrum, rugby players tend to be more pre-occupied with the players around them, and the position of the ball, rather than their own posture. This suit really helps you focus on attention to detail to get the position right to pass the ball correctly. It also made me aware of my own posture which is very important in the game."
Stephen Wanless added: "We've utilised the vibrating suit in other sports including rhythmic gymnastics, dressage and volleyball so it clearly has the potential to help all our elite athletes to achieve more sporting success for Britain in the future."
Listen Imagine Compose report launched
Dr Martin Fautley of the School of Education has launched a report with findings from the Listen Imagine Compose project.
Birmingham City University was the lead academic partner in the project, which also involved Sound and Music and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG). Listen Imagine Compose ran between 2011-2013 and investigated how composing is taught and learned in schools.
Shadowy World of Britain’s Discount Hitmen Revealed in New Study
A team of leading criminologists from Birmingham City University has published the first ever study of British hitmen, which revealed that in some cases, victims were murdered for as little as £200.
Published in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice - Professor David Wilson, Dr Elizabeth Yardley, Donal MacIntyre and Liam Brolan, identified four main types of contract killer; the novice, the dilettante, the journeyman and the master.
“Hitmen are familiar figures in films and video games, carrying out ‘hits’ in underworld bars or from roof tops with expensive sniper rifles,” said Professor David Wilson. “The reality could not be more different, British hitmen are more likely to murder their victim while they walk the dog in suburban neighbourhoods.”
The team analysed newspaper articles from an electronic archive of national and local papers from across Britain, using the reports to piece together a list of cases which could be defined as contract killings. The final list comprised of 27 contract killings, committed by 36 hitmen, active on the British mainland from 1974 to 2013... For more information visit the news section of our website.
Researching life in Birmingham seminar
On Tuesday 14 January researchers from across the University gathered to share research they have done in, or about, Birmingham. The purpose of the small seminar was to discuss possible crossover between disciplines and begin to develop a shared knowledge base. This is the beginning of an ongoing project to raise visibility of such research, and open up further avenues for cross-disciplinary work.
The presentations illustrate the diversity of the research taking place; all are available to download below (in PDF).
Peter Larkham (Technology, Enginnering & Environment (TEE)) - The post-war rebuilding of Birmingham
Steve McCabe (Business School) - Exploring the traditions of immigrant workers in Birmingham
Beck Collins (TEE) - Renewable energy projects
Paula McGee (Health) - Irish mental health in Birmingham
Fatemeh Rabiee-Khan (Health) - Redressing health inequality
Richard Hatcher (Education, Law & Social Sciences) - The new Birmingham Education Partnership
Annette Naudin (Performance, Media & English) - Birmingham as a creative city: a milieu for learning
There was also a verbal presentation from Martin Glynn, who recently completed his doctorate with BCU. His presentation was titled 'Reflecting the city using urban ethnography'.
Look out for more news items and features as the project progresses.
On Tuesday 17 December we held our annual research conference, RESCON, at the Parkside Building, City Centre Campus.
The conference included presentations from research staff and students on a diverse range of topics from across the faculties. There was also a poster competition, and finally an evening reception with music provided by students from Birmingham Conservatoire.
Climate KIC funded Doctoral Studentship available
Birmingham City University and Climate-KIC are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded PhD studentship and stipend for a January 2014 start.
The studentship is called 'Making Transitions Happen: HS2 Landscape Vision' and concerns transforming the design process of the High Speed 2 rail link into an iconic city-to-city, low carbon landscape infrastructure planning demonstrator that will play a significant role in shaping the UK's response to major environmental and carbon reducing challenges.
The award provides support for three years of full-time study leading to a doctoral degree including tuition fees, maintenance grant and mobility payments. The maintenance grant will meet the National Minimum Doctoral Stipend level set by the UK Research Councils, for 2013/14 this is £13,726.
The application deadline for this studentship has now passed.
Can games have positive effects on young people's lives?
Researchers from Birmingham City University and Birmingham Children's Hospital are exploring how computer games and game based learning can be applied in the healthcare sector in a bid to boost young people's understandings of medical conditions that they may be living with and how to best to care for themselves.
Thanks to contemporary improvements in healthcare, children diagnosed with long term medical conditions are now more likely to live a longer and healthier life. The research between the two institutions is exploring how game based learning could be used to encourage young people to learn about and actively participate in acquiring necessary skills in order to maintain their care as they grow older and become increasingly more independent as adults.
Andrew Wilson, researcher and senior lecturer at Birmingham City University's Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment, said: "The research into game based learning looks at how the processes and mechanics used in games, such as feedback and rewards and measurement of progress and achievement, could be used to help encourage young people to get involved in understanding their condition and the effects it has on their body, as well as improving their understanding of how to better take care of themselves."
Andrew, along with Janet McDonagh, a consultant and advocate of adolescent centred care at Birmingham Children's Hospital, have acknowledged that there are many important factors to be taken into consideration when developing game based learning for young people who are dealing with long term health issues, particularly actively involving them in the decision processes that are associated with creating the games.
The team recently presented their work at the European Conference on Game Based Learning in Portugal. They hope that by raising awareness of their research into the use of games in the management of young people's healthcare, it will provide an insight to a wider audience of how games can be used for positive benefits on young people and their health rather than be seen to be a negative influence on their lives.
For more information on the research, contact Andrew Wilson.
Birmingham City University looks to revolutionise arts and humanities research
Birmingham City University will form part of a pioneering scheme for arts and humanities research in the Midlands.
The Midlands Three Cities consortium has scooped a £14.6 million award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - which, after match-funding from partner organisations, will offer hundreds of doctoral studentship opportunities across the region.
In this exciting partnership, Birmingham City University will work with five leading universities in Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester to provide doctoral training opportunities for students across the region, including fully-funded PhDs.
"The announcement of such a significant investment into postgraduate provision in our region is tremendous news," said Professor Cliff Allan, Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University.
Professor Mark Llewellyn, Director of Research for the AHRC, added: "This investment will not only support university researchers but also enrich the contexts in which arts and humanities skills and capabilities contribute to advancement and growth in sectors across the wider UK economy."
A key driver behind the scheme is to help postgraduate researchers find solutions to real world challenges and boost their employability.
"This partnership will revolutionise the way we teach our postgraduate students - it will open up so many doors to those who study as part of the scheme," said Professor Tim Wall, who represents Birmingham City University on the consortium's steering group.
"All six universities that form this consortium are equal partners; all sharing their resources, expertise and crucially, their partnership links, to help create a new generation of highly-skilled arts and humanities researchers. Each institution has its own academic strengths and links with cultural partners."
In support of the University's own ambitious research strategy, Professor Wall said Birmingham City University will be recruiting students to its strongest research areas, including:
- art and design
- English and linguistics
- media and cultural studies
- music and performing arts
The consortium brings together academic expertise led by the University of Nottingham and drawing upon academics in Birmingham City University, Birmingham University, the University of Leicester, De Montfort University and the Nottingham Trent University.
The Midlands group will form one of 11 new Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) announced by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) which, along with seven new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), will deliver postgraduate supervision, training and skills development from 2014.
The Midlands Three Cities DTP will have a strong emphasis on collaboration and will work closely with a number of partner organisations to offer exciting placement opportunities for postgraduate students.
All six universities will also provide additional match funding, which will increase the amount of available studentships to over 400 over three years and will include dedicated resources for placement opportunities and skills training.
The funding will cover the cost of fees and a stipend to cover living expenses while the student studies for a PhD. The project will also encourage the partner institutions to work closely together on development activities to support joint supervision of students, sharing of resources and further activities such as student events, conferences and the fostering of peer support network.
Central to the new DTP will be a focus on the development of broader skills for postgraduate students such as partnership working, language skills and experience of working outside academia to enhance their employability.
It will encourage students to consider the impact of their research and how it contributes to the wider world, right from the start of their postgraduate studies. The Midlands Three Cities DTP will also devote a portion of the funding to Masters training - aiming to effectively bridge the gap between BA and PhD.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for Birmingham City University to collaborate more widely with the Three Cities partners for the benefit of our research students and our staff," added Professor Keith Osman, Director of research at Birmingham City University.
"The successful consortium bid enables us to build on our demonstrable track record of research excellence in Art and Design, English, Media and Music as we grow both the quality our research and our research community over the next seven years."
For more information visit the website for Midlands Three Cities.
Staff and research students are invited to this year's annual research conference which will take place on Tuesday 17 December 2013.
The venue will be the impressive new Parkside Building at our City Centre Campus. Further details, including how to register to attend and/or present your research at the event, will be confirmed very shortly.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Faculty of Health Research Conference
The 9th Annual Faculty of Health Research Conference is taking place on Wednesday 20 November 2013, 9am - 4pm at City South Campus.
If you have any queries please contact the Health Research Office on 0121 331 6192/7111 or email HealthResearchOffice@bcu.ac.uk.
University experts spot early signs of Alzheimer's
Early signs of Alzheimer's disease can be detected years before diagnosis, according to researchers at Birmingham City University.
The study found that sufferers of a specific type of cognitive impairment have an increased loss of cells in certain parts of the brain, which can be vital in detecting which patients will progress to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
A team of researchers from Birmingham City University (UK), in association with colleagues from Lanzhou University (China) and the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, conducted a brain scan analysis over two years, of patients suffering from amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) – a condition involving the diminishing of cognitive abilities, from which 80 per cent of patients progress to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
Scans showed that the loss of grey matter in the left hemisphere of the brain was particularly widespread and degenerative for those patients at high risk of developing Alzheimer's, compared with those with no active neurological disorders.
This region of the brain has been associated with language, decision making, expressing personality, executing movement, planning complex cognitive behaviour and moderating social behaviour.
One of the researchers involved in the study, Professor Mike Jackson, from Birmingham City University, said: "Continuous loss of cells within the regions of the brain highlighted in this study should act as alarm bells for doctors, as they may indicate that the patient is on course to developing Alzheimer's."
The brain's parahippocampal gyrus, a region which is known to be related to memory encoding and retrieval, was highlighted as an area that should be looked at carefully when examining brain scans to detect early signs of the disease.
Treating Alzheimer's early is thought to be vital to prevent damage to memory and thinking. Although treatments are available to temporarily ease symptoms, there has been little in the way of success in slowing down the cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's, which has been partly put down to the late timing of the diagnosis.
Experts at Birmingham City University hope that this study will aid other researchers to find an effective clinical treatment to delay the conversion to Alzheimer's.
New book on town planning in Birmingham published
Routledge have published a new book focusing on the planning and rebuilding of Birmingham in the 1940s and 50s.
‘When We Build Again’ is a reprint of two classic books, with a new introduction written by Peter Larkham, Professor of Planning at Birmingham School of the Built Environment.
“The 1940s proved to be a crucial decade in British planning, with the destruction of wartime bombing providing an opportunity to deal with slums and overcrowding, inadequate roads, and provide better developments for hospitals, schools and employment,” said Professor Larkham.“Several hundred plans were produced for towns, cities and whole regions. Birmingham was influential in this movement and one of the earliest planning studies, affecting many of the plans to follow, was a detailed social study by Bournville Village Trust.”
'When We Build Again’ outlines the Cadbury family’s long-standing involvement looking into housing conditions and quality in Birmingham, as well as looking specifically at the village of Bournville, set up and managed by the Trust. “The book will be of interest to those who are keen to know more about the study that the Trust were involved in, reviewing housing and living conditions across Birmingham,” said Professor Larkham.
“The study shows the contribution of private initiatives to understanding how people lived, how they wanted to live and how better places to live and work could be built. In many ways, modern planning has lost some of this ability to communicate both the clear factual basis for action and the excitement and anticipation of the future.”
Birmingham City University wins £1.2million from EU Climate-KIC
Birmingham City University has won European funding in excess of £1.1million to lead a consortium of eight large companies, universities and small businesses to create a suite of innovative climate-aware planning support products and services.
The KIC-Transitions project consortium is led by Birmingham City University and includes industry giants IBM and ESRI, the powerhouse university ETH Zurich and local company GreenHill Sustainability founded by Birmingham entrepreneur Siobhan Hill.
The 18-month project has been funded through the European Climate-KIC (Knowledge Innovation Community), which drives innovation in climate change through partnerships between business, universities and public bodies, hosted regionally at the Birmingham Science Park Aston (BPSA).
Katharine Fuller, European Funding Manager at Birmingham City University, said: “The results of this project will feed into many of the sustainability policies being developed by Birmingham City Council through the Smart City Commission and complement research in sustainability and smart-cities undertaken by the University.”
Professor Keith Osman, Director of Research at Birmingham City University, added: “This project represents a tremendous success for Katharine and for the University and builds on the excellent local and pan-European relationships we have with businesses universities and public bodies. The KIC-T project will be critical to advancing our research and knowledge exchange agenda in sustainability and smart-cities.”