University of Reading Research Blog

Creating space for engagement alongside research

Deepa Senapathi, a researcher in the University’s ‘bee team’ reflects on her experience working in a large integrated team with a wide range of stakeholders, and suggests reasons why their engagement work has been so successful in different contexts.

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Research into action: learning from REF2021

Our annual Research Engagement and Impact Awards were postponed this year because lockdown disrupted so much activity. Instead, we held an event to reflect both on our submission to REF2021, and what engagement and impact means in our community. Here Professor Dominik Zaum, PVC for Research and Innovation, reflects on our research culture and environment. His blog will be followed by further contributions from five colleagues about best practice in research engagement and communications.

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Electricity prices have reached record highs – and the time-poor could suffer most

The soaring cost of natural gas and a warm, dry and windless start to autumn 2021 have conspired to create one almighty headache for energy consumers in the UK and the rest of Europe.

Renewable sources of power, such as wind, are generating less energy than expected and networks are burning more fossil fuels which are rapidly rising in price. Combined with the fact that some generators are mothballed over summer and have yet to restart, the result is wholesale electricity prices surpassing their highest ever level.

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Climate change adaptation in East Africa: reflections on systemic change

In the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021, UKRI is holding a series of online events to showcase locally led research on adaptation and resilience. Grady Walker was invited to speak at the East Africa themed event about HyCRISTAL—a large project focusing on improving knowledge of East African climate change and its impacts. Here he reflects on what he learned.

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9/11 twenty years on: al-Qaida is defeated – but jihadism is here to stay

Twenty years ago, the terrorist group al-Qaida carried out the deadliest attack on US soil the world had ever seen. Overnight, al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden became the most notorious terrorist to date.

Inspired by pan-Islamist ambitions and outraged by US foreign presence and intervention in the Middle East, this was the highlight of al-Qaida’s campaign to shatter the notion of US hegemony and invincibility. Their ultimate aim was to bring back the umma, the community of all Muslims once united by a political authority.

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YES! Unleashing postgraduate and postdoctoral ingenuity at Reading

From the depths of research it can sometimes be hard to see the opportunities of the world outside academia or how research can make a real-world difference. The Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) gives early career researchers (ECRs) the opportunity to see their worlds a little differently, explore the entrepreneurial mindset and unleash their ingenuity.

Reading has a long association with YES. Last year – despite the lockdown – we attracted a record number of participants to this innovative and ever-evolving competition. YES aims to raise awareness of how ideas can be commercialised among postgraduates and ECRs (including postdocs, new lecturers and technicians). Now in its 26th year, it has provided entrepreneurial training for over 6,000 ECRs across numerous academic institutions. Teams come together to develop a business plan for a start-up company based on a hypothetical but plausible idea that attempts to deploy novel science and engineering to address societal challenges such as the ageing population, sustainable food production and global warming. Winning ideas from last year’s YES20 competition included a home finger-prick blood test device to detect and monitor drug resistance mutations in cancer patients, a green and efficient solution powered by cyanobacteria to get the best out of wastewater, an innovative 3D printed enzymatic biofuel cell that can convert organic material in fluids into electricity, and an alternative way of storing electricity in surplus from renewable energy sources using a green solution.

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Brazil’s Atlantic Forest will change more in the next 50 years than at any time since the last ice age

Brazil’s Atlantic Forest is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Roughly one in every 50 species of plant and vertebrate land animal lives there and nowhere else.

Stretching for 3,000km along much of Brazil’s coast and inland as far as Argentina and Paraguay, its incredible diversity comes from a mosaic of different ecosystems, including natural grasslands, tropical rainforests, ancient forests adapted to wintry chills, misty mountainous “cloud forests” and more.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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