Two Reading archaeologists have edited a new book compiling dozens of influential research papers on European medieval archaeology.

Medieval Archaeology, edited by Professor Roberta Gilchrist (Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity) and Dr Gemma Watson from the Department of Archaeology, is a new publication in Routledge’s Critical Concepts in Archaeology series.

The four-volume, 1,930-page publication reprints 77 influential papers carefully selected to highlight the key issues and debates in the development and contemporary practice of later medieval archaeology in Europe (c. 1000–1550 AD).

The four volumes are designed thematically: ‘Defining Medieval Archaeology’, ‘the Medieval Landscape’, ‘Medieval Life’ and ‘Medieval Social Archaeology’.

The publication includes papers by Reading archaeologists Roberta Gilchrist, Grenville Astill, Mary Lewis, Gundula Mueldner and Aleks Pluskowski.

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By Dr Robert Darby, research data manager 

One of the pillars of all empirical research is that the findings of experiments should not just be one-offs. Anyone with the ability to do so should be able to pick up a research paper, follow the same methods, and come up with the same result.

Yet a recent survey by Nature found that more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments. Not only that, but more than half have failed to reproduce even their own experiments. Analyses have reported reproducibility rates for published studies of just 10% and 40%.

News of the so-called ‘reproducibility crisis’ has even reached the BBC, so something must be going on.

So is there really a reproducibility crisis? And if so, what can you do about it?

Open Science may provide answers – and the University of Reading is hosting a free conference on the topic of Open Research this March.

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Food businesses and the public were given an insight into the research capabilities of the University of Reading in agriculture, nutrition and health at the Food Matters Live 2016 exhibition.

The exhibition took place at ExCel, London, from 22 to 24 November last year.

The event showed Reading’s world-class food science facilities and research capability, while the University asked visitors to their stand to share their future food challenges.

The University of Reading stand showcased real-world examples of its interaction with food businesses, highlighting how its research is helping to make food:

  • Healthier – by applying the latest nutritional science to real food and diets
  • Safer – by reducing risks to consumers
  • More economical – by streamlining processes and increasing revenues
  • Better for the environment – by understanding the impacts of the whole food chain, from farm to fork and beyond.

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By Katie Barfoot – Nutritional Psychology Lab, University of Reading

We all know that fruit and veg is good for us. But some new research from the University of Reading has revealed there is more than meets the eye with the little blue super fruits we call blueberries.

These berries, which are full of a type of nutrient called flavonoids, were shown in two separate studies to improve the positive mood of children and young adults just two hours after consumption.

The two studies, which were conducted by the University’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science’s Nutritional Psychology Lab, were run in two populations – healthy young adults aged 18-21, and healthy schoolchildren aged 7-10.

After consumption of a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink, both groups rated their positive mood as being significantly higher than before the blueberry drink consumption.

What’s more, we know it was the flavonoids present in the blueberry drink that made the difference, because no such finding was observed in a group of study participants who consumed a placebo control drink, which was matched for sugars, vitamins and taste.

So how are these flavonoids working?

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By Professor Gavin Parker, Professor of Planning Studies

Housing has been a key political issue for longer than I can remember, but that may not be saying that much.

The much anticipated English housing White Paper released on Tuesday reflects a clear shift in policy orientation but still reflects much of the same lever pulling and button pressing as seen over the past six years and more.

There are some changes that will alarm some people in the professions and out in the country but it also falls short of the decisive action that many had hoped for, despite the claims in the paper about it reflecting a radical agenda.

Greenbelt – the sacred cow of the planning system is pretty much left with its only “in exceptional circumstances” protection but some adjustments are included i.e. around existing settlements and where infrastructure is present.

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Researchers at the University of Reading secured more than £3.9 million in research awards in December.

A total of 21 research projects were given the go-ahead in the last month of 2016, with funders from a variety of sources including government, research councils, charities and business.

Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for research, said: “Congratulations to everyone whose research grants were confirmed during December. I am particularly pleased that Reading has continued to collaborate with a wide range of funders, including the European Horizon 2020 programme.

“I have no doubt that these awards represent an excellent investment in knowledge and will reap great rewards for society in the near future.”

Among those winning funding in December were…

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By Phil Newton, Research Dean for the Environment Theme, University of Reading

‘Impact sometimes needs to be nurtured over long timescales… there is more to impact than developing case-studies for the next REF exercise’

The University of Reading is known across the world for the quality of its research in the environmental sciences. As Research Dean for the Environment Theme, I’m lucky enough to have the best seat in the house to see, up close, not just that quality, but also what a huge impact some of that research has on people’s lives.

So it’s gratifying when others celebrate the influence of Reading’s research, as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has done this week with the publication of its new annual report about the impact of NERC-funded research.

The NERC Impact Report 2016 shows how sustained NERC investment in environmental researchers working in partnership with the likes of governments, businesses and charities generates large, long-term economic and societal benefits – contributing to building a safer, healthier and more secure and sustainable world. It is great to see highlighted two areas of Reading research that are having substantial impact.

Reducing the tragedy of flooding

One is about the work of hydrologist Professor Hannah Cloke, and how the modelling and engagement work by Hannah and her colleagues over many years has improved the quality of flood forecasting, and changed the policy and practice of flood prevention, in the UK. These changes have been a major contribution to dramatic reductions in household flooding incidence over the past decade.

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By Dr Mark Dallas, Lecturer in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, University of ReadingMark Dallas

Our hope as dementia scientists is that these cells could unlock a new avenue of treatments that alters the course of Alzheimer’s disease

The human brain is a complex structure made up of different types of cells. You have probably heard scientists talk about nerve cells or brain cells. These are the cells that are lost in Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there are a similar number of other cell types within the brain, called glial cells. ‘Glial’ comes from the Greek word for glue, as these cells were originally believed to hold the nerve cells together. It is now clear that these cells are highly specialised and vital for brain function.

So what are these cells, and how could they help us find treatments for Alzheimer’s?

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What happens to the Earth when the Sun’s activity hits a 300-year low, as is predicted in the next few decades?

Research published this morning in Scientific Reports by Dr Mathew Owens and Professor Mike Lockwood has the answer. And if you enjoy the occasional visit of the beautiful Northern Lights to latitudes as low as Britain, then sorry – it’s bad news.

Matt Owens talked about the research in this 1-minute video:

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By Paul Williams, University of Reading Department of Meteorology

‘As important as political leadership is, individual people and companies will have to make key decisions to deal with the impacts of climate change’

Climate change is never far from the news headlines – but often it’s not because of the science.

As much as I think that complicated mathematical calculations about the circulation of air and water around the globe should make people stop in wonder, I fear my beliefs are not widely shared by most other people.

And they would have a point. Most people don’t talk maths over the water cooler or when down the pub, beyond adding up the cost of their drinks.

So if it’s not the science, what makes climate change so appealing to journalists? Often, it’s the politics.

News media love to observe a good old-fashioned fight, and politics is the arena where disagreements get aired every day. Not only that, but politics tends to have a bearing on how we live our lives, too.

So while the basic facts of human-caused climate change are agreed by just about all scientists working in the field, a handful of doubting politicians often hog the headlines.

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