University of Reading Research Blog

Climate Change Archaeology: Building resilience in the world’s coastal wetlands

I was very pleased to be invited by Wessex Archaeology to be the keynote speaker in their #ClimateTakeoverDay activities for the 2021 Festival of Archaeology, writes Vice Chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort. And the fact that this coincided with the week when northern Europe and China experienced extreme flooding events and wild fires raged in north America, makes it even more pressing that academics share knowledge, skills and information to help people understand climate change and tackle its causes and effects.

Island Neuwerk near Hamburg in the German Wadden Sea. Credit: Ralf Roletschek from Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.


The future of auditing: why plans to sharpen up the industry could actually make it worse

Following the collapses of Patisserie Valerie, Carillion and BHS, the auditors were heavily criticised in the media for signing off on the financial accounts published by each of these companies ahead of their demise.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was fined a record £10 million by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) over BHS, and accepted there had been “serious shortcomings with this audit work”. KPMG is reportedly heading for a considerably bigger fine over Carillion, and is being sued by the receivers for a reported £250 million over alleged auditing failures. Meanwhile Grant Thornton is being sued for £225 million by the liquidators of Patisserie Valerie for alleged auditing negligence, though it will “continue to rigorously defend the claim” on the basis that they contend in court documents that the auditors were deceived by allegedly fraudulent directors.


Tokyo Olympics without crowds: will the home nation’s medal chances suffer?

The Tokyo 2021 Olympics will be the first Games to take place with no spectators. The sight of sparsely populated stadiums and arenas has, of course, become common during the pandemic – and sports economists have studied the impact this has had on athletic performance.

But the Olympics are different. For so many athletes, reaching the four-yearly Games is the crowning achievement of their careers. So there was bitter disappointment when at first international and then domestic visitors were banned from events.


Extreme heat warning: what first-ever Met Office alert means

Summer 2021 will mark a turning point in how heat is seen by the public and communicated by experts. For the first time in its 167-year history, the UK’s Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat for much of Wales and parts of southern, central and western England, where temperatures are expected to reach 33°C in places.

It’s an exciting time to be a researcher specialising in heat. I’ve spent a lot of my time so far explaining to people that heat is an invisible killer that can affect every aspect of our lives. The Met Office’s new heat warning service, if communicated well, could change the public’s often risky relationship with heat for the better and save lives.


Report from Europe’s flood zone: researcher calls out early warning system gridlock amid shocking loss of life

It was close to midnight when I received a phone call from my sister telling me that our parent’s house was under water. Neither she nor they really knew what to do next. They were in a state of shock amid an ongoing emergency.

I drove from my house in Luxembourg City to my hometown on the only road that was still passable – and even that didn’t stay that way for long. The streets were empty and I passed no one. My parents had already called the fire service for help, but they were advised that they could not come in the next few hours.

I arrived to find the lower level of my childhood home submerged. There we were, together as a family, holding torches, knee deep in the water, trying to get as much of it out, one bucket at a time.

The author’s parent’s house. Jeff Da Costa, Author provided


Surgery and Selfhood: lessons from open humanities publishing

On 7 June, I participated in the University’s first Open Research Awards, and was lucky enough to win with my case study examining the costs and benefits of open research for humanities scholars. This was a cause close to my heart, since it often feels that the humanities are an afterthought in the development of open access policy. The opportunities for publishing open access in this field remain limited, especially because scholarly journals tend to specialise closely in small areas of study. This means that engagement with open access publishing routes remains less developed in many areas of the humanities than in the sciences. Nonetheless, my case study also showed how open access publishing offers unique opportunities to communicate more freely with both academic and non-academic audiences. Non-academic writing such as blogs and magazine articles helps to drive readers to open access academic work, and thus to a deeper engagement with research.


Improving and future proofing our food: EIT Food 2021 projects

“We are all responsible for, and connected to, the food that we eat so we all need to work together to improve it.” This is the message at the heart of EIT Food, with activities focusing on innovation, education, entrepreneurship and public engagement as a means to making the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted. Through a wide range of EIT Food projects, new technologies, products and services are launched that embrace innovation to deliver healthier and more sustainable food; talents and leaders are developed to transform the food system; agri-food start-ups are created and scaled-up to deliver new food innovations and businesses and; the public are engaged to become the agents of change in the food system.


How to predict the summer weather – magic, miracle and meteorology

On July 15 971, the bones of St Swithin were removed from their resting place on the order of Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, and placed in a shrine inside the cathedral. The saint, it seemed, did not approve. A violent storm followed, and rain fell for 40 days. And from that story came the belief that the weather on July 15 predicted a summer of sun or rain.

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain’

For forty days it will remain;

St Swithin’s day if thou be fair,

For forty days will rain na mair.


The Perks of Open data

I am a Post-Doctoral research scientist working in the energy-meteorology group at the University of Reading. A recent application to the Reading Open Research Data award lead to some extended reflection on how useful open data has been to me from PhD student to research scientist. Below I’ll give the highlights of how open data has really helped on this journey.



Cross-disciplinary Conversations on Caring in a Crisis

In this post Amie Bolissian considers how the ‘Old Age Care in Times of Crisis’ Symposium in April 2021, highlighted the polysemic nature of old age care, the different ways researchers approach the bio-psycho-social health of older people, and the cross-disciplinary nature of the field.

Being a pre-modern historian of ageing health can be a little lonely. There are not very many of us, and we tend to be spread out across the globe. Perhaps this is what gave me the courage to submit an abstract to an event on older adult care this year that looked very exciting, but was intimidatingly cross-disciplinary.