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Sainfoin is a plant that’s been grown by farmers for centuries to feed livestock, but its use has declined in recent decades. Research led by Professor Irene Mueller-Harvey and others has investigated the plant’s bioactive components – tannins. And it’s sparking a revival in its use. Reading’s Dr Sokratis Stergiadis tells us about a recent open day to explain the benefits of growing Sainfoin to farmers.

Sainfoin is a drought-resistant forage crop that fixes nitrogen and helps prevent parasitic worm infections in cattle. It also improves meat quality, helps to reduce methane production in cattle and encourages pollinating insects.

To encourage more farmers to grow Sainfoin and to share the science behind its beneficial effects, researchers from the University of Reading teamed up with staff from Cotswolds Seeds Ltd, Sainfoin’s main supplier in the UK, to host an Experience Day for 50 farmers at Honeydale Farm in Gloucestershire.

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Reading social sciences projects to integrate hospital data and to improve language learning in the classroom have been recognised in this year’s O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards.

Dr Weizi Li (Henley Business School) has won an Excellence in Impact Award and the research of Professor Suzanne Graham (Institute of Education) was highly commended.

The awards, which celebrate innovative social sciences projects that have made a social or economic difference to individuals, communities, and societies were presented at a ceremony attended by several Reading researchers, at St Anne’s College, Oxford on 19th April.

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Professor Roger Matthews’ research focuses on the origins of the earliest farmers in the Eastern Fertile Crescent of Iran and Iraq. This work puts him at the heart of discussions about how best to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage, which has long been threatened by conflicts in the region. Here he tells us more about his work and his invitation to speak at a UN Human Rights Council event earlier this month.

Jerwan Aqueduct, Inscribed Ashlar (© Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project)

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Glastonbury Abbey has played an important part in British history for hundreds of years. Legend says that it is the burial place of King Arthur and it was regarded to be the site of the earliest church in Britain. Now, thanks to a unique archaeological research collaboration and digital reconstruction, we can see parts of the abbey as they appeared at its zenith in the Middle Ages. Here, Dr Gemma Watson, from the Department of Archaeology at Reading, reveals all.

The Anglo-Saxon Church in its modern setting: phase 3 c.1100 AD, © The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Culture, University of York

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On 6th February 2018, the UK celebrated 100 years since some women and all men were given the vote.  In the preceding months, Dr Jacqui Turner, Lecturer in Modern History and an expert on Nancy Astor, advised on a range of projects to mark the centenary in creative and unusual ways, both in Parliament and locally in Reading. Celebrations took place around the country, and in Reading, audiences experienced a public dance and debate, created  and performed by Reside Dance, that brought the story of #Vote100 to life. Here, Dr Turner tells us how her involvement in this collaborative project was one of the most challenging and inspirational experiences of her research career.

 

 

 

 
Images courtesy of Brenda Sandilands

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Despite numerous initiatives to tackle educational inequalities and encourage social mobility, little has changed in the past 50 years. Here, Dr Carol Fuller, Associate Professor at Reading’s Institute of Education invites you to join her at a symposium in Westminster on 27 February which she hopes will help change the way policy-makers think about education.

Turning education policy on its head

Our research shows that activities that build confidence, resilience and self-efficacy outside the classroom can make a real difference in the classroom. But despite a wealth of evidence and research, activities like these are not part of the formal curriculum. And education policy-makers remain transfixed with attainment figures and grades.

On the 27 February, I will be joined by education experts and practitioners at a symposium in Westminster to figure out why the educational attainment gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” shows no change.

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By Dr Alison Black, Research Professor, Centre for Information Design Research.

As January gives way to February, many UK tax payers sigh with relief as they submit their tax returns, often uncertain that they have provided the information HMRC require or have filled out their forms correctly. Filling out forms is just one of many everyday interactions with information, as is using signs to reach a destination, or following written instructions or diagrams. 

Good information design ensures that people find such things easy to use.

At the University of Reading, the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication has pioneered research and teaching in information design – a discipline that brings together graphic design, psychology, and linguistics to work together with specialists, for example in health, meteorology and law, who need to communicate information to non-specialist decision makers and the public.

Design research and practiceThis evening Reading’s Centre for Information Design Research (CIDR) is joining parliamentarians and researchers and practitioners in information design to celebrate its recent, edited book Information Design Research and Practice (Routledge 2017). In an event hosted by University of Reading’s Chancellor, the Rt Hon. the Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, and organised with the All Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group, guests will discuss how information design can be used to support people when contexts are complex and decisions are important for their safety, well-being and opportunity.

CIDR’s research projects touch just these kinds of areas, from current AHRC-funded research on public communication about anti-microbial resistance, and projects with Reading’s meteorologists, funded by NERC and DfID, on the best way to communicate weather forecasts, to work with the National Offender Management Service on tools to reduce violence by improving communication between prisoners and officers.

The UK leads the way in many aspects of public information provision, including its award-winning gov.uk website, but there is still a long way to go in communicating effectively in many aspects of people’s lives.

 

Thirty international experts met at the University of Reading recently, to help the United Nations develop better policies and practices to safeguard the world’s pollinators.

The meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was convened to identify the greatest threats facing pollinators in different parts of the world and was hosted by Professor Simon Potts, Director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental research.

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Oli Wilson, a PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences, is exploring Brazil’s unique and endangered Araucaria forests – how they were shaped in the past by humans and climate change, and how likely they are to survive in the future.

Recently, Oli won an online competition, ‘I’m A Scientist: Get Me Out Of Here!’. Here, Oli explains how this outreach activity is helping to inspire a new generation of scientists, and why he’ll be spending his winnings on an innovative resource for public engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Professor Keith Shine, Regius Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science

The United Nations Climate Conference

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the principal negotiating forum where countries agree ambitions for limiting greenhouse gas emissions; the aim is to avoid “dangerous human interference with the climate system”.

The UNFCCC meets annually at its “Conference of the Parties” (COPs). Sometimes COPs culminate in headline-grabbing agreements. COP3 led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997; COP21 resulted in the Paris Agreement in 2015. More often, COPs focus on issues of implementation and preparing the way for future agreements. This year, COP23 (https://cop23.unfccc.int/) is being held in Bonn, Germany (6 – 17 November) and is focusing on implementing the Paris Agreement.

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