Image above: Screenshot of the video game developed to help farmers recognise lameness in sheep (Jones et al. 2023)
Three GW4 seed-funded research papers from a range of our GW4 Crucible programmes have recently been published. The GW4 Alliance runs GW4 Crucible each year, bringing together 30 future research leaders across the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to enhance their careers via collaboration, training and coaching and increase the impact of their research.
Each GW4 Crucible programme aims to tackle a global challenge, emphasising new, interdisciplinary approaches to research and its impact. Each year the most promising research projects can apply for seed-funding to kick start their interdisciplinary research project.
The GW4 Crucible 2021 theme was “Transitions to net-zero in the time of COVID-19”. Dr Liz Marks, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bath, lead a pilot study using the principles of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) to explore how young people could share their thoughts and feelings about climate change with their peers. The project, “Stories of Hope: Eco-Emotions in Transitions to Net Zero”, created a workshop for school pupils to explore their eco-emotions, using storytelling practices to address feelings of isolation and generate a sense of realistic, active hope. The study found that creating a facilitated space for young people to share their eco-emotions was extremely valuable, as it allowed them to acknowledge the challenges facing the climate in a productive and mindful way. Dr Liz Marks praised the GW4 Crucible programme, saying: “GW4 Crucible helped us to build a new, multidisciplinary research team to use innovative techniques to tackle the important and growing issue of eco-distress in young people. Our collaboration continues and we plan to build on this pilot work in future projects.”
GW4 Crucible in 2020 focused on “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Antimicrobial Resistance” (AMR). Some members of this cohort focused on “Exploring antibiotic use practices in livestock production through a novel, game-based approach.” Dr Matt Jones, Associate Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, said: “we developed and evaluated a video game as a tool for researching and training lameness recognition skills in UK sheep farmers, given that lameness is a key antibiotic stewardship burden in the UK and also has wide implications for animal welfare and farm productivity.” Lameness in sheep has multiple different causes including bacterial infections, and effective treatment typically involves spraying topical antibiotics, and in severe cases may involve high-strength antibiotic injections. Despite many vaccination programs in place to control lameness, it remains a widespread problem in Britain. If farmers are able to recognise lameness early, antibiotic use may be curbed by implementing treatment early and avoiding antibiotics.
In 2019, GW4 Crucible’s theme was “Digital Innovation”. Due to the rising costs of healthcare, the Department of Health released a strategy in 2011 that emphasised the benefits of technological innovation in healthcare. Dr Gemma Lasseter, a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol and Dr Sarah Sauchelli Toran, formerly a Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, led the project “Perception and Attitudes of Technologies for Healthcare”, aiming to evaluate public attitudes towards a range of novel healthcare technologies by designing a survey to discern the breadth of diversity in these attitudes. Tim Pickles, NIHR Doctoral Fellow of Cardiff University and member of the Crucible project commented: “our team thoroughly enjoyed the GW4 Crucible programme, and being able to get public opinion via the survey that we designed was invaluable.” The study found that people are generally open to innovation, but a comprehensive evaluation of future beneficiaries’ responses to a technological solution could maximise health and societal impacts.
As part of GW4 Crucible in-person workshops and online masterclasses are held, offering opportunities for networking and collaborative research. This allows participants across all GW4 institutions to enhance their leadership potential, research skills, and visibility in the field, therefore contributing to the researcher’s overall career development.
Dr Matt Jones’ Crucible project reflected this, stating: “our truly interdisciplinary study shows how the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities can be combined to begin to address ‘wicked problems’ like antimicrobial resistance. With its honest appraisal of the opportunities and challenges of this approach, we hope it will become a foundational work in the use of games in livestock husbandry research and education. What’s more, the paper is fully open-access, as are its data and code, meaning the findings can be reproduced and reused by others.”
He added: “the GW4 Crucible Seed Funding grant we won to pursue this project was integral to its success, with the project developing our networks within the GW4 partnership and beyond.”
Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, praised these projects for “exemplifying the objectives of the GW4 Crucible programme, proving that research is more effective when we are open, collaborative and resourceful”.
This year’s GW4 Crucible is underway, and focuses on “Our Data and Digital World – Opportunities for Transformative Interdisciplinarity”. You can find out more about GW4 Crucible on the GW4 website.
Congratulations to all the academics on their papers below:
- Stories of hope created together: A pilot, school-based workshop for sharing eco-emotions and creating an actively hopeful vision of the future (Marks et al. 2023)