Applied Volcanology @ GW4


Project period: July – October 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bristol: Dr Ryerson Christie, Dr Alison Rust, Professor Kathy Cashman
Cardiff University: Dr Wim Degruyter
University of Exeter: Dr James Hickey

Project overview

Reducing risks associated with volcanic hazards has been classified as an increasing international priority requiring urgent and interdisciplinary action in the recent United Nations Global Assessment
Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Three main strands of action were specified to combat this in an accompanying summary paper (Loughlin et al., 2015): (i) identifying risk areas and quantifying the hazard, (ii) strengthening local to national
coping capacity and improving mitigation measures, and (iii) strengthening national to international capacity and cooperation.

Across the GW4, we have the expertise and experience to tackle all three, and thus promote the welfare of people in DAC countries by improving their resilience to volcanic eruptions.

Volcanoes are also an important source of renewable energy and mineral resources. Magmasourced geothermal energy, in particular, has the potential to provide a 10-fold improvement on conventional geothermal energy in volcanically-active countries (Elders et al., 2014), and the industry is growing by 4-5% each year (Geothermal Energy Association).

Research, including scientists from the UoB, is currently underway in Ethiopia, and the results could be rolled out to numerous other DAC countries with volcanic regions to promote their economic development.
The interdisciplinary research opportunities we will address are two-fold, an exploration of: (i) risk reduction and societal resilience to environment change, and (ii) the provision of renewable energy
– both underpinned by applied and physical volcanology. We therefore reach two of the specified Grand Challenge areas. This challenge-led approach can not be solved by a single institution: we will
share resources, current work and expertise to explore and develop future projects where collaborative funding can be sought in response to upcoming calls, focusing on UN sustainable development goals and GCRF priorities. We will adopt an interdisciplinary approach as natural
disasters are inherently political events, and these challenges are not solely natural science related.

Transformative history education in conflict-affected contexts


Project period: September – November 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dr Lizzi Milligan, Dr Peter Manning
University of Bristol: Dr Julia Paulson
Cardiff University: Dr Kate Moles
University of Exeter: Dr Catriona Pennell

We address the GW4 grand challenge ‘social justice and inequality’ and the associated GCRF challenges ‘human rights, good governance and social justice’ and ‘equitable access to sustainable development’ by bringing together GW4 expertise in education, history and memory studies to develop new, interdisciplinary answers to pressing questions about how history education can contribute to meeting these challenges.

From a social justice perspective (Fraser, 2003; Tikly and Barrett, 2011), quality education can be conceptualised as transformative for individuals, communities and societies. However, in conflictaffected
contexts, education is often a generator of conflict and something that itself needs to be transformed (Davies, 2004; Novelli et al, 2015).

Sustainable peacebuilding requires not just the cessation of direct violence, but also the transformation of conflict dynamics by addressing
structural and cultural violence (Galtung, 1969), including the ways in which they are perpetuated in and through education. History education is often a space where such violence is perpetrated, for instance when it promotes exclusive group identities, silences particular groups, cultures and experiences, or legitimises conflict and injustice. For these reasons, curriculum revision is a regular part of post-conflict peacebuilding.

However, the evidence is mixed on the contributions this makes
to peace and social justice at individual and societal levels (Paulson, 2015). In part, this is due to a limited understanding of what a transformative history education might consist of.

Transformative history education would entail learning about past conflict in order to transform its legacies in the present and build peace into the future. To develop such an approach, we need to
understand how history education interacts with, informs and is informed by wider social processes of memory and reconciliation. This is an interdisciplinary challenge that cannot be addressed by educational researchers and policymakers alone, though most research to date comes from these perspectives. Our network brings together GW4 educationalists, historians and social scientists with expertise in conflict and social memory to develop conceptual thinking around transformative history education. The network also brings together international partners from four conflict affected contexts to share perspectives and lay the groundwork for future proposals to the GCRF.

Health inequalities in older people: a plan for action


Project period: August – October 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dr Nikki Coghill and Dr Jessica Francombe-Webb
University of Bristol: Dr Demi Patsios
Cardiff University: Professor Shantini Paranjothy
University of Exeter: Professor Katrina Wyatt

Project overview

The focus of this project is to identify new approaches and ways of addressing inequalities in health among older people living in low income / economically disadvantaged communities. We propose to create a network of expertise (academic, professional, local) ready to respond to this grand challenge using innovative ‘bottom up’ participatory approaches including visual methodologies.

In England, those living in the poorest communities, on average, die seven years earlier. Determinants of deprivation include: accessibility to primary, secondary, community and preventative care and food. With an increasingly ageing population, older people living in deprived communities have reduced access to these services, compromising their health and social-care, often exacerbated in areas of conflict, political and social unrest.

Public Health and Primary Care often adopt top-down approaches, identifying behaviours or individuals as ‘problems’ and developing programmes to target the behaviours or individuals. This can result in programmes that widen rather than reduce inequalities. Our proposed sandpit supports an evidence-based, bottom-up, community engagement approach, supporting communities to identify barriers to their health and wellbeing.

Our expertise, the urban-rural disparity across GW4 and our global partners uniquely places us to address the ‘Health, demographic change and wellbeing’ grand challenge and contribute to the GW4 priority areas ‘Inclusive innovative and reflective societies, and ‘Social Justice, Inequality, local and global.’ We will work with research partners in Colombia and Namibia to develop transferable adaptive processes and approaches for these developing countries and the welfare of their older populations.

The funding, and resulting partnerships, will enable the development of participatory community-driven projects, well-placed to leverage future funding from e.g.: Leverhulme trust (Research Projects Grants), Nuffield foundation (Grants for Research and Innovation Projects) or NIHR (Public Research Programme) enabling the generation of evidence-based practice.


Data Intensive Research


Project period: January 2017 – June 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Professor Jonathan Dawes, Professor Mike Tipping
University of Bristol: Professor William Browne, Professor Dave Cliff
Cardiff University: Professor Stephen Fairhurst, Dr Jonathan Gillard
University of Exeter: Professor Susan Banducci, Professor Richard Everson

Project overview

Developing capacity for research and development in data science is a major national priority. The clearest evidence for this was the announcement in the March 2014 UK Budget speech of £42M funding for the establishment of the national Alan Turing Institute (ATI). Despite none of GW4 universities becoming part of ATI, each has well-established research strengths in many aspects of data science and is in the process of establishing their own research institute in data science and related topics:

Bristol has recently set up the Jean Golding Institute for Data Intensive Research (led by Browne); Cardiff has set up the Data Innovation Research Institute (led by Fairhurst), Exeter is developing the Data Science Institute (led by Everson) and Bath has a slightly more established institute, the Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation (led by Dawes with Tipping hired as a chair in data science).

Data intensive research underpins many aspects of digital innovation and the recent South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) highlighted the strengths both within GW4 and the wider community in this area. With the SIA as a springboard we would like to build on this to increase region wide coordination, communication, and cooperation of data science researchers and practitioners.

Developing STEM education for marginalised groups in low-income communities


Project period: January 2017 – May 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Professor Catherine Montgomery
University of Bristol: Professor Justin Dillon
Cardiff University: Dr Jamie Lewis
University of Exeter: Dr Nasser Mansour

Project overview

The aim of this project is to build a research community that will share knowledge, expertise and resources in research and engagement with STEM education in low income countries, particularly for girls and women and indigenous or rural populations in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas.

STEM education is seen as an opportunity to develop industrialising economies with improved access to employment for young people and graduates (Roberts, 2012). Advanced industrial countries have engaged in strong curriculum reform, adapting school practices to engage with problem solving, mathematics, and scientific thinking (Marginson et al, 2013).

However, issues of unequal access, approaches to pedagogy, limitations in resources and infrastructure mean that engagement with STEM education is a challenge in low income countries and ironically, this is where effective STEM education is most needed (Freeman et al, 2015).

Providing equal access to quality education is a global challenge. UNESCO has named improving quality education and reducing inequalities as two of its 17 sustainable development goals (UNESCO, 2016). In sub-Saharan Africa, secondary education is expanding rapidly and many disadvantaged rural communities have their first secondary school (e.g. Tanzania, Malawi).

These are often poor quality though with very few students progressing from lower to upper secondary. Sciences in particular are challenged for shortage of qualified teachers and lab equipment for upper secondary. Hence, secondary education is a bottle neck for science specialists who face challenges in moving into health professions and teaching.

The grant calls for GCRF have identified “inclusive and equitable quality education” as a priority theme. STEM education can enable science knowledge for the other 7 priority themes and this project addresses an intersection with the Sustainable Cities and Communities theme, presenting a community-focused approach to STEM education that develops capacity for scientifically informed responses to local development challenges (e.g. related to health, clean water supply, energy efficient cooking, small scale agriculture).

Antimicrobial resistance


Project period: January 2017 – May 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dr Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern
Cardiff University: Professor Timothy Walsh
University of Exeter: Dr William Gaze

Project overview

Antimicrobial  resistance  (AMR)  has  been  identified  as  a  global  problem  requiring  urgent  and concerted multidisciplinary action (WHO AMR strategy and the O’Neill AMR Review commissioned by the UK government).

The problem of increasing antimicrobial resistance is primarily of concern within Global Challenges Research Framework 2. Sustainable health and well-being, however there are also challenges relating to 1. Secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable agriculture and 4. Clean air, water and sanitation.

We are particularly interested in drawing on research strengths in GW4 partner universities in the area of antimicrobial resistance in environmental systems. We wish to explore  and  develop projects  for future collaborative  funding opportunities focused on using systems approaches to understand and tackle the problem of AMR in different environments and communities. We have identified potential synergies between genomic characterisation, environmental detection, novel sensors and transmission dynamic modelling between and within ecosystems of AMR determinants as areas of strength across the GW4 group, but which are not currently collaborating. Understanding the aspects of AMR transmission in different  environments is an  emerging  area  of research and is currently poorly understood. Research in this area will be crucial to identify interventions to prevent the global transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacterial strains (and also resistant fungal pathogens) which impact on global heath, food security, and economic and social wellbeing.

There is  significant  scope  to  bring  together  this  expertise  across  the  GW4  to  use  systems  approaches  to understanding  and  tackling  AMR  in  different  environments  and  communities  to  benefit both ODA countries and the UK.

Remediating the Archive


Project period: July – November 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dr Nina Parish
University of Bristol: Dr Leah Tether, Dr James Freeman
Cardiff University: Professor Anthony Mandal, Dr Jenny Kidd
University of Exeter: Professor Gabriella Giannachi, Gary Stringer

Project overview

‘Remediating the Network’ proposes to build a research community based in the intersection of two key areas of strength within GW4: archives/special collections and the digital humanities. GW4 Treasures identifies numerous collections of significant cultural and academic value spanning a range of fields, which this bid seeks to utilise and promote.

Critically, the proposed network approaches these holdings by way of the growing interdisciplinary work currently undertaken by digital humanists within GW4. There is clear evidence of both shared and complementary interests in archival research and digital humanities across the GW4 institutions, with around a hundred researchers already working on exciting and innovative projects.

We intend to create a platform to stimulate dissemination and collaboration across our four institutions, as well as drawing on existing links with other stakeholders, such a museums, libraries and the creative industries, in order to explore innovative ways in which the ‘remediated archive’ might be used for the greatest benefit.

A biosocial approach to trauma research


Project period: July – November 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Sarah Halligan
University of Bristol: Dr Abigail Fraser, Professor Stan Zammit
Cardiff University: Professor Stephanie Van Goozen
University of Exeter: Dr Anke Karl

Project overview

Individuals exposed to trauma, particularly childhood trauma, are among the most vulnerable members of our society and are disproportionately likely to experience educational failure, severe social difficulties, or to be in the criminal justice system.

Research has highlighted links between trauma exposure and numerous negative psychological outcomes, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychotic symptoms, conduct problems, depression and substance use; as well as adverse physical health outcomes such as increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Biological dysregulation, particularly in stress response systems, has been implicated in each of these adverse outcomes. However, research that takes a biosocial approach (i.e., studying the interaction of biological and social factors) to understanding the spectrum of trauma related negative health outcomes is limited.

The GW4 group includes researchers from different disciplines and methodologies, but each with an interest in trauma related adverse outcomes. Exploration of the synergy in terms of unifying underlying processes, including through engagement of a broader set of GW4 academics, is a major goal of the proposed collaboration.

The main objective of the award activity is to expand existing links to include further GW4 members, in order to generate a sustained network of collaboration with associated research outputs. Consistent with this, we will aim to outline proposals for two to five collaborative projects by the end of the funding period.

The UK Biobank GW4 research collaborative


Project period: July – November 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dylan Thompson
University of Bristol: Cathy Williams
Cardiff University: Jonathan Hewitt, Jeremy Guggenheim
University of Exeter: Jess Tyrell

Project overview

The UK Biobank is a unique biomedical resource and contains detailed demographic, health, social, genomic and environmental information on half a million UK citizens. These data are linked to a range of health outcomes, such as GP and hospital records and a large proportion of participants have completed cognitive tests, and given blood/DNA samples for genetic studies. One hundred thousand of these people will have detailed MRI imaging undertaken in the next few years.

This resource is an ideal vehicle to address the effects of demographic, genetic and lifestyle variables on health and wellbeing. Additionally the large range of data it contains allows for innovative environment and societal factors to be studied in relation to heath. We propose to inform researchers from the four universities about the potential of this biomedical resource and to facilitate collaboration between teams with different areas of expertise in exploring the opportunities this provides.

The UK Biobank is an on-going and expanding research platform that is likely to provide scientific information for the next forty years and most likely beyond. That degree of longevity provides a sustainable infrastructure on which our UK Biobank GW4 research collaborative can flourish and grow. By combining our research strengths and expertise across the four host Universities of GW4 we anticipate identifying novel research areas within UK Biobank, which will provide our institutes unique opportunities that could be missed without the GW4 collaboration.

Our objectives are

  1. To create a diverse, interdisciplinary community of UK Biobank researchers across the GW4 Universities
  2. To develop a culture of UK Biobank usage within GW4
  3. To leverage internal and external funding and sustained research output.
  4. To identify and promote research themes within UK Biobanks that will form ongoing self-sufficient research entities across the 4 Universities


Release the Hypotheses!: Tools & Techniques for Experimental Studies ‘in the Wild’


Project period: July – November 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Professor Danaë Stanton Fraser, Professor Tim Ibell
University of Bristol: Dr Andy Skinner
Cardiff University: Professor Roger Whitaker, Professor David Linden
University of Exeter: Professor Mark Levine

Project overview

Psychology and allied behavioural science disciplines increasingly want to explore the human world beyond the laboratory in order to improve the resolution, significance, validity and robustness of studies.

As research ‘in the wild’1 becomes more commonplace, we are seeing increasing reliance on an array of technologies and techniques to record, analyse and assign structure and meaning to data captured to study real-world human behaviour.

While mobile devices, sensors and networks – the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) – are providing increased access to data collection, the ability to control or influence the human setting in which the data collection occurs remains underexplored.

Furthermore, traditional approaches to pattern matching and intelligent algorithms are often designed in ways which ignore scientific hypotheses or experimental methods, with concerns arising around the validity and reliability of findings generated in processes that are often described as ‘dredging’ for statistical significances in massive datasets3.

Research in the Wild is therefore often characterised by qualitative or mixed-methods techniques which can better cope with the subjectivity of real-world settings, making them highly sensitive to context in comparison with traditional laboratory experiments.

 Our key outcome will be a GW4 consortium which is prepared for a large grant in the area. While we will be strongly focused on producing this specific grant proposal, there may also be secondary outcomes, including greater levels of collaboration on publications and further collaborative projects.