Today Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court is hearing an opposition petition seeking to overturn the presidential election result. In a post for The Conversation published yesterday, Professor Heike Schmidt looked at the state of Zimbabwe ahead of the ruling – and concludes that it is under too little pressure to change.
User not found: an immersive performance that is changing the face of theatre
Theatre audiences are used to being told to put their phones away when they arrive for a show, but a new performance led by the University of Reading encourages precisely the opposite. User Not Found embraces technology to create an interactive experience to explore the future of social media – and it’s currently taking Edinburgh by storm. Professor Lib Taylor, Principal Investigator of the project, reveals more.
What happens to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, our email, our music, photos and videos when we die? In a digital age, who is responsible for our internet legacy?
One of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Festival is User Not Found, a performance by the theatre company Dante or Die and involving the University of Reading, which addresses exactly this issue.
Could ‘grey power’ affect world economies?
The world’s elderly population is growing. By 2050 it’s expected that one third of the population of Europe will be over 65 – and this gives older people more political clout. Could this ‘grey power’ be having an effect on the world’s economies? Tim Vlandas explains his prize-winning research.
Tim Vlandas is Associate Professor in the University of Reading’s Division of Politics and International Relations. His paper ‘Grey power and the Economy: Ageing and inflation across advanced economies‘ won the 2018 Research Outputs Prize for the Prosperity and Resilience theme.
Digital archive of ‘Punk in the East’ puts the pogo back into punk
A new website that catalogues punk memorabilia from the 70s and 80s is set to become the UKs largest digital archive of punk ephemera. It’s the latest development from Professor Matt Worley’s research exploring the relationship between youth cultures, politics and social change. Find out how you can contribute to the online archive.
Punk in the East is a digital collection of original punk photographs, gig ticket, posters, clothing and ephemera from Norwich, Norfolk and across East Anglia. As content continues to come in it is fast becoming the largest digital UK punk archive.
Development agencies need to improve their language
How can aid agencies effectively support communities and ‘listen to their needs’ if their staff don’t speak the local language? In an article written for The Conversation, Professor Hilary Footitt and Dr Wine Tesseur tell us about their research which sheds light on the issues and identifies ways to address them.
Reproduced under Creative Commons licence
After the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal in Haiti hit the headlines earlier this year, 22 aid agencies published an open letter declaring that they would “take every step to right our wrongs and eradicate abuse in our industry”. They made a commitment to “listen and take action”.
There is nothing new about NGOs claiming that they “listen” to communities and act on their feedback. A cursory glance at NGO publicity materials reveals that they typically claim that they empower communities by listening and involving them in decisions about aid projects.
It is therefore reasonable to assume that aid workers share the same language as local communities (or at least that they use good interpreters). Otherwise, how could aid providers and aid recipients communicate with one another effectively? You might also assume that it is relatively easy to translate basic development terms into local languages. Development NGOs promote common goals, such as gender equality and human rights. Surely organisations must use common interpretations of these words when interacting with the people that they aim to help?
But our research suggests that this is typically not the case. We conducted a three-year project to explore the role of languages in international development, in conjunction with UK-based NGO INTRAC. We interviewed dozens of NGOs, officials from the UK’s Department of International Development (DfID), and conducted field research in developing countries. Our data led us to arrive at three startling conclusions.
How will the 2018 drought affect our wildlife?
This summer’s heatwave has us all wondering how to stay cool, but animals are facing the same issues as humans with fewer means of coping. Professor Tom Oliver is Professor of Applied Ecology at the University of Reading UK, and his research focuses on understanding the causes of changes to biodiversity to support environmental decision-making. Here he looks at the potentially worrying impact the drought conditions could have on wildlife in the UK.
With widespread reports of intense heatwaves and drought across the Northern hemisphere this summer, combined with our own personal observations of how everything is starting to look very parched, it is natural to wonder how drought is affecting our wildlife.
When the temperature heats up, we humans can take measures to reduce our exposure, such as heading down the shops to buy a fan, or even installing air conditioning. Yet, our wildlife has much less opportunity for such ‘learned’ adaptation to climate change.
That said, there are innate behaviours that can help wildlife to cope; for example many insects regulate their body temperatures by moving to cooler, moister habitats (e.g deep woodland or shady streams and ponds) when things get too hot. The food sources of these insects are also more likely to persist in such areas. So the existence of such ‘refuge’ habitats can be crucial in allowing species to persist under intense heat and drought events.
How a moral philosopher justifies his carbon footprint
We all know that flying leaves a huge carbon footprint – but is that OK if we pay for carbon-offsetting each time we get on a plane? Philosophy Lecturer Luke Elson grapples with the morality of air travel in a new post for The Conversation.
I recently flew to Florida to visit family. My round-trip economy seat emitted roughly two tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to one carbon offsetting website. By contrast, the average person in Britain is responsible for roughly seven tonnes for the entire year, already quite high by global standards.
This makes me a climate change villain. Dumping such huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere seems clearly morally wrong, because of the harm this will cause others. But carbon offsets let me fly with a clear conscience – for now.
Sight loss research in focus as national campaign launches
A Fight for Sight campaign is to launch this weekend, to raise awareness of eye health and the need for vital eye research. Former House of Commons Speaker the Rt Hon Baroness Boothroyd will kick off the campaign with an interview on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday (5 August). Sight loss affects more than two million people in the UK, a figure that is set to double by 2050. Despite this, eye disease is a desperately under-funded area of research in the UK. Professor Anna Horwood, in the Department of Psychology and Clinical Language Studies, explains how Reading research aims to tackle these issues.
Research into sight loss is a neglected area of research funding, but imagine what it is like to lose your sight? What would you be able to do? Read? Drive? Watch TV?
We are all familiar with research into diseases like cancer and dementia, but funding for sight loss is a fraction of that set aside for those conditions. With an ageing population, more and more people are having their lives affected by not being able to see. What might be an active old age can be devastated by not being able to do things most people take for granted.
Forecasting Football (scores)
Excitement is building ahead of the new football season, and, as ever, the wait for the real action to start is being filled with excited debate about how teams will do and what scores the opening weekend will produce. To fill the void, football economists Dr James Reade and Carl Singleton at the University of Reading have developed a computer model that is able to predict results and even scores of games before they happen. Here’s how it works.
Forecasting is a mug’s game, everyone knows this. Nonetheless, we like doing it, especially when it comes to football. How will Reading do this weekend? This season?
Given the sheer volume of information football generates in a timely fashion, it is readily collected and analysed. Statistical models are created and used to understand more about the game (e.g. when is a short corner better than a ball whipped in under the keeper’s nose?). Such models can also be used to forecast individual match results, scorelines, and even the final league table come next May.
We have created a model which estimates how many goals each team scores in a given match as a function of their own historical attacking and defending abilities, the historical abilities of their opponents, recent form, home advantage, the disruption of international breaks and European matches, and whether the match takes place on a weekend in August or a midweek evening in November.
Minister’s quest for ‘simple solutions’ to social mobility misses the point
“It is a persistent scandal that we have children starting school not able to communicate in full sentences, not able to read simple words,” said Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds in his first keynote speech today. Policy to improve this situation should look to some of the great teaching practice that’s happening already rather than being based on assumptions made about the home environment, say Dr Naomi Flynn and Dr Holly Joseph.
Damian Hinds’ comments in his talk to The Resolution Foundation today on the ‘scandalous’ lack of speaking and reading skills in young children mixes up several agenda that need unpicking if he is to get to the root of the issues he wants to tackle.
Reports (from the BBC and The Independent), have also cherry-picked some of things he said and conflated poor language and literacy skills, and commented on screen time, in ways that the minister did not necessarily intend.