Swansea University :: Bringing People Together

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Science

Abstract

From the effects of climate change to the needs and aspirations of an ageing population, the world faces many challenges and opportunities. Addressing them requires new paradigms in debate and action, which cross the boundaries between the scientific and technical and the political and social. Preparing for and delivering these new paradigms requires fresh thinking, modes of connection and communication. At its most fundamental, this is what this Swansea University Bridging the Gaps (BTG) programme is setting out to attack. By short-circuiting the boundaries between disciplines, we will engage researchers in an exciting, innovative, grass-roots driven, cross-disciplinary initiative to begin the process of facing up to the profound physical, economic and social challenges that lie ahead. Activities will span from an appreciation of our scientific heritage, to the participation of citizens in the culture and economy of the future, driven by emerging scientific and technological advances. The Swansea BTG programme, by combining strengths in Science and Engineering with those across Social Studies, Law and the Humanities, anticipates the interplay between these agendas within a framework extending from the physics of quantum dots to the legal implications of nano-engineered medicines, from the physics of glacier melting to the implications of climate change for society, and from advanced mobile technology to using it to spread stories.Our BTG programme will be achieved within a clear developmental framework in which research mentoring and coaching of staff and students eligible for BTG funding will be proactively encouraged. Our approach, which will contain support elements at individual, team and cohort level, will in particular ensure that Early Career Researchers, and researchers unfamiliar with collaborative working, can be effectively engaged. Swansea University has a vibrant campus environment capable of fostering strong and enduring cross-disciplinary links, and has already done so with great success across the Science and Engineering boundary. This BTG programme will significantly extend and broaden the progress across other frontiers. It is exciting that it will take place in the context of a University-wide transformational change, with the building of a new campus in Swansea. The new campus, and the associated reconfiguration of the physical and institutional architecture, is also being designed to promote a profound change in research culture that will put collaboration and cross-disciplinarity at the very heart of all University research and aspirations. Thus, the timeliness of our BTG proposal could not be better. The University has already seedcorn-funded cross-campus BTG activity with a 15k starter award, and it is committed to sustaining it, throughout, and beyond, the lifetime of the BTG programme. The recent call for cross-disciplinary proposals against the seedcorn fund produced a plethora of worthwhile, innovative ideas, demonstrating the willingness of colleagues to participate.Our BTG programme recognises the critical nature of high quality, tangible dissemination within, and beyond, the University and it is fully committed to achieve this. We will, for example, organise public poster displays, exhibitions and public lectures, some of which will take place in our unique Taliesin Arts Centre. Resident artists will further make our outputs visible, challenging and inspiring, to both diverse academics across disciplines and to the general public. We will organise events within the University to celebrate our BTG successes.

Planned Impact

All of the BTG programme investigator team already undertake outreach, and between us we write articles, build web sites, give talks to the public and to schools, and we work with hands-on exhibits, print, broadcast and online media. We intend to continue and greatly expand these activities, drawing in many more people. We have significant track records in public engagement and have regularly exhibited at events such as the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, National Eisteddfod and Urdd Eisteddfod, which each attract 5000+ visitors. We will ensure the BTG programme reaches the widest possible audience within the University, city, region and more extensively by continuing and building on the strong existing PI/CoI record, and by propagating this commitment more widely across campus. We will ensure that the general public in Wales and beyond benefit from this research, which will raise awareness of EPS subjects and engage in new and innovative ways through public exhibitions and outreach events, such as Science Caf/Caf Scientifique and public debates. We will hold major BTG public exhibitions and events throughout the programme designed to create an attractive BTG pull, engaging the public, researchers and industry both regionally and nationally. Swansea University campus is itself a public area, containing Swansea's only arts centre, and we have engaged its Director in support of our BTG programme and as a member of our Advisory Panel. We will use the Arts Centre as well as other public parts of the university as our primary outreach venues as they reach both public and university audiences in casual spaces. We envisage that changing displays of tangible outputs will be present continually on campus throughout the project. While learners of all ages will benefit from the research, we recognise the particular importance of inspiring and engaging the next generation of researchers; we will encourage activities aimed at school children that bridge the gaps between EPS and other disciplines at the appropriate level. Note that the investigators have a strong track record in communicating science at this level. Swansea University is in an EU-Convergence region, which allows us to apply for ERDF and ESF targeted funds; the former are specifically targeted at developing research linkages with businesses and companies within Wales. Together with Swansea University's existing strong linkages, more widely with business, these provide natural routes and support for the BTG programme to reach further out to industry. The research conducted in the Social Science and Arts and Humanities Research Institutes at Swansea University already makes significant contributions to the knowledge economy of Wales and to policy making at national level. For example, the University has a regular Welsh Assembly Government Policy Forum which is a natural route to disseminate and discuss the BTG collaborative projects. Furthermore, the Institute of Welsh Affairs (which has provided a letter of support) is dedicated to promoting new thinking, civic debate and policy development and is a natural partner for this BTG programme, and which assures a high-profile platform for policy outreach.

Publications

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Thimbleby H (2013) Technology and the future of healthcare in Journal of Public Health Research

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Thimbleby H (2014) Processing storage and display of physiological measurements in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine

 
Description BTG set out to transform how Swansea University approached and undertook interdisciplinary and collaborative research. Our programme created opportunities and structures to encourage the unexpected and to create a culture where new research - and new research networks - would grow.

We've learnt that working together to build bridges between researchers has a phenomenal effect. It allowed a small University to demonstrate its agility and responsiveness to the needs of society. It showed that investing in the BTG vision not only helps address the profound physical, economic and social challenges that lie ahead, but also creates and affirms a powerful community of effective researchers.

The university now has a regular research festival, 'research as art' competition, mentoring and other cross-disciplinary research activities.
Exploitation Route BTG's legacy continues through seedcorn funding for pilot projects, engagement activities and strategic travel with international collaborators.

We initiated and supported a number of structures - festival of research, 'Escalator' Fund, Research as Art - developed several case studies and created support materials to shape our research environment, details of which are all available publically via our website.

We'd also be happy to speak to those wishing to establish or evaluate an enabling programme such as BTG.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmace

URL http://www.swansea.ac.uk/research/activity/interdisciplinary/btg/
 
Description BTG supported 73 interdisciplinary projects. Through these projects 196 new collaborations were initiated; 41 with national partners and 18 with international partners. The Festival of Research gave a new platform to researchers to engage with the public to discuss and explore their research. Reached 1,400 people. BTG collaborated with BGER to support Impact has included shaping policy, cultural and historical understanding Examples of project impact includes: communicative profiling of online sex predators (Lorenzo Dus & Izura), being developed with the UK Council For Child Internet Safety and national Police-forces to influence and develop policy; discoveries about the 'Mary Rose' archers delivered at the Big Bang Festival of Science (Owen) attended by 65,000 people; engagement with NATO and the US Office for Naval Research (Macdonald) over advances in understanding Cyberterrorism.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic