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We’re Open – but should we be more open?

By Dr Phil Newton, Research Dean 

The University wants to open up all elements of research at Reading.

But open research is controversial, and there are many different views on it. To some, open research is the future and leads to better studies, more collaboration, and greater impact. To others, it risks giving away your best ideas without clear benefits.

That’s why we need your views now on Reading’s draft Vision for Open Research. You can have your say by completing a short online survey.

Find out more about our consultation or complete the survey now.

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The effect of clouds on global warming, a ‘light switch molecule’ to diagnose disease and the entanglement of malaria with colonialism were among the research topics that have won University of Reading academics prizes.

Left to right: Dr Ariane Kehlbacher (Food theme winner), Lord William Waldegrave of North Hill (Chancellor), Dr James Hall (Health theme winner), Dr Tim Vlandas (Prosperity and Resilience theme winner), Sir David Bell (Vice-Chancellor), Dr Paulo Ceppi (Environment theme winner), Professor Steve Mithen (Deputy Vice-Chancellor), and Dr Rohan Deb Roy (Heritage and Creativity theme winner).

The five academics, one from each research theme, were honoured with a Research Output Prize for Early Career Researchers at University Court, the showcase annual event for the University community, on 19 March.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “This year’s winners were drawn from a very strong field. All have made significant academic achievements at an early stage in their careers and I warmly congratulate them. Their achievements are testament not only to their talent and hard work, but also to the University of Reading as a place where research excellence is nurtured and supported.”

The winners from each theme were:

Food theme

Dr Ariane Kehlbacher, from Agri-Food Economics and Social Science, whose research showed that taxing foods based on the greenhouse gas emissions they produce would hit poorest households the hardest. That is because lower income households spend a larger share of their food budget on emission-intensive foods – such as meat – than their wealthier counterparts. Less well-off households also tend to buy cheaper products which means they would see a greater price hike on their weekly shop if emissions-based food taxes were to be introduced.

The judges described the paper as “a rigorous and methodologically novel analysis on a very topical subject relating to ‘polluter pays’ taxation policy” and “a very policy-relevant output”.

Full paper: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1673-6


Prosperity & Resilience theme

Dr Tim Vlandas, from Politics and International Relations, for an article exploring the idea that ageing leads to lower inflation. When societies age, the political power of ‘grey voters’ increases which puts pressure on political parties to pursue policies that lead to lower inflation. Countries with a larger share of elderly people therefore end to have lower inflation than those with younger populations, his paper argues. Judges were impressed by the “originality and significance” of the research question and praised the “impressive scope of the empirical research.”

Full paper:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0010414017710261


Environment theme

Dr Paulo Ceppi, from Meteorology, for a paper which explains why global warming is accelerating as time passes. Paulo’s research has shown that as rising CO2 levels warm the atmosphere, changes to the surface temperature of the sea are having a knock-on effect on the cloud cover over a large area of the Pacific Ocean, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed. The relationship between sea surface temperature and cloudiness is similar in both real-life observations and in models of climate change. This lends further confidence to models whose projections are used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Warming. Judges described the findings as “world leading” and “of international significance in climate science.”

Full paper: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1714308114


Health theme

Pharmacy researcher Dr James Hall has discovered how a light-emitting molecule can bind to DNA in five different ways, each with a different brightness, like a ‘dimmer switch’. This is a critical step towards developing molecules that can detect different DNA structures – such as those linked to different diseases. Deemed to offer “significant applications for future diagnostics” the judging panel also noted that the article had already been cited 10 times, despite only having been published recently, and was therefore already making an impact in the field.

Full paper: https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkw753


Heritage & Creativity theme

Dr Rohan Deb Roy, from History, for ‘Malarial Subjects’ – a book exploring malaria within the context of British imperial rule of India and the entanglement of colonialism with mosquitoes, quinine and cinchona plants. Judged by the panel as “a work of exceptional originality and significance” the book explores connections between humans and non-humans, and science, medicine and empire.

Further detail: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/malarial-subjects/00BEE3F5FAD80653C99B6674E2685D4D


More details on each of the research projects, including video of each of the winners will be published over the next few weeks on this blog.

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Sarah von Billerbeck, Fiona Ross, Teresa Tavassoli, Kim Watson, Clare Watt

The University of Reading secured nearly £10m of research awards in the second quarter of 2017/18, latest figures show.

Projects worth £9.8 million were given the go-ahead, with funding from UK research councils, government, industry and charities adding to the total.

The following are among those winning awards between November 2017 and January 2018:

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By Stephen Burt, Department of Meteorology

Snow on the ground in Reading’s Atmospheric Observatory site

Weather records began at Reading University College (as it was then) back in 1901, but in all the years since we’ve never had a March day as cold as yesterday, Thursday 1 March 2018.

At noon yesterday, the temperature stood at just -3.5 °C, and with a strong north-easterly wind the windchill value made it feel more like -10 to -12 °C – approaching frostbite thresholds. Snow fell and drifted throughout the day, although fortunately Reading didn’t see as much snow as in other parts of the country, and the temperature rose very slowly throughout the day and into the night as less cold air associated with storm ‘Emma’ began to push in from the south.

The temperature finally reached a balmy (or it is barmy? This is the first month of Spring, after all!) -0.9 °C at 2am, according to our automatic weather station within the campus’s Atmospheric Observatory. In over a century of weather records, this was only the third March day to remain below freezing throughout, and easily surpassed the previous coldest March day – 6 March 1942, when the day’s highest temperature was only -0.6 °C.

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Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing humanity. While we will all feel its impact, it hits hardest the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. To mark the UN World Day of Social Justice 2018, we highlight our new Reading Centre for Climate and Justice which was launched last month by Mrs Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Image by Asian Development Bank licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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The visual, performing and literary arts play an important and evolving role in shaping experiences and appreciations of landscapes as well as providing critical and cultural understanding of them.

In recent years, the significance of the arts in landscape and environmental research has been increasingly emphasised, with arts and humanities components now a common, if not required, element in research proposals, such as activities delivered through the Valuing Nature research programme. Similarly, many and diverse landscape management projects with arts-based elements are funded by public money.

Event details >

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Reading was fifth in the UK for funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Researchers at the University of Reading won a record amount of research funding from the UK Research Councils in 2016/17, a new analysis has shown.

Funding for Reading-led research projects from the six main research councils increased to £14.5 million in 2016/17, up by more than 40% from 2015/16.

The success was highlighted by an analysis of Research Council success rates by Times Higher Education (THE).

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The government’s pledge to reduce plastic waste is a step in the right direction – but it’s equally vital to protect our natural resources such as bees, says Professor Simon Potts, co-chair of a UN group working to  safeguard the world’s pollinators, in a new post for The Conversation.

Bee on a flower.

Image by madprime licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Reading’s research on bees and pollinators is among the highest profile in the world – Picture (c) Dara Stanley

Ecology, climate and food science have helped to put the University of Reading in a group of the world’s elite research institutions in a new analysis of the most cited scientific papers.

The Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers table lists more than 3,300 most cited scientists in the world – those who have published a high number of papers ranking in the top 1% most-cited in their respective fields over the last 11 years.

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