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It’s 65 years since Watson and Crick published their world-changing paper on the structure of DNA – a discovery they and Rosalind Franklin made using a technique called X-ray diffraction. To mark the anniversary we spoke to Dr James Hall, who uses the same technique today to study molecules which light up when they detect damaged DNA. This could pave the way for future diagnostic tests for diseases such as cancer.

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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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Of all I’ve read in my life, and all that’s yet to come, what’s going to count? How much of it has changed me? How much has even marked me? How much has done both but I don’t know it yet? Readers get to make these discoveries in the privacy of their own heads. Writers must make them in public and then wear them in their back catalogues for as long as they have a readership who cares.

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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.

 

In recent years, a number of specialist fonts have been developed which claim to help people with dyslexia to read more easily and fluently. The main idea is that by increasing space between letters and designing letters that are distinctive in terms of their height and shape, letters will be less confusable (for example letters such as b and d which are identical when reversed) and therefore reading can progress more easily. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it?

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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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The majority of the world population now lives in cities. ‘Smart cities’ could help solve a range of problems faced by UK city dwellers – from air pollution to economic deprivation. Professor Tim Dixon, whose research helped shape the thinking behind a recent Top Tips for City Mayors booklet, explains what ‘smart cities’ are and how they could change policy to benefit us all.

 

The concept of ‘smart cities’ is seen by many as offering technology-led solutions to the important socio-economic and environmental problems facing our urban areas. They can be defined as cities that offer effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens.

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By Dr Marina Della Giusta, Associate Professor of Economics

Brexit continues to dominate public discourses, the news and our lives, and yet the majority of us, regardless of how we voted in the referendum, still struggle with the complexity of the issues involved in leaving the EU, and do not have a clear understanding of the consequences.

Is it because government, the press and the experts have not done a good job informing us? Or is it that we do not trust them, and prefer to base our decisions on other sources of information?

The year 2016 has been declared the year of post-truth politics, in which appeals to emotions (pathos) superseded the significance of factual evidence-based information (logos) largely affecting people’s constructions and interpretations of events.

Social text-based media sites such as Twitter play the key tools in the dissemination of this new rhetoric, and analysing the networks and the language used in social media can help understand the impact and credibility of information from different sources and the role of trust and emotions in social media discourses and the forming of public opinion, even though of course they are not a representative sample of the whole population (for example they are typically younger and wealthier than a representative sample).

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By Dr Craig Steel, Deputy Director of the Charlie Waller Institute for Evidence Based Psychological Treatments

Last weekend (17-21 November 2017), Dr Dirk Corstens (a psychiatrist from the Netherlands and chair of intervoice www.intervoiceonline.org) and I hosted the first meeting of ‘Talking with Voices’ at the University of Reading which included invited colleagues from the U.K, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Norway, Serbia and Australia. We gathered with the aim to share ideas on clinical practice and future research in the area of hearing voices.

Hearing voices, or auditory hallucinations, are often associated with severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia.However, recent decades have seen an increased awareness of the fact that voice hearing occurs within a significant percentage of the public, many of whom are not distressed by this experience, and do not seek psychiatric help. Those who do suffer distress associated with hearing voices are usually offered medication and encouraged to think of their voices as a symptom of a disease, e.g. schizophrenia.

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Researchers from the University of Reading’s Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition are looking for volunteers aged between 18 and 65 to take part in a study assessing diet and health risk. They will provide a £20 Love-to-Shop voucher to all volunteers who complete the study.

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