Other news

More from our February issue, by Ella Rhodes.

For the benefit of the poor

John Oates, BPS member and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education & Language Studies at The Open University, has been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary for his tireless efforts for the benefit of poor and disadvantaged children, particularly in Roma communities.

John’s efforts on his main project, Sure Start (Biztos Kezdet), were recognised by the President of Hungary, who wrote: ‘The President of Hungary awards John Oates with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary for playing a central role in developing the programme in Hungary, as well as for his efforts to further improve the educational programme for children living in the Roma community.’

Through his connections with Sure Start and early years policy in England, John facilitated the adoption, translation and adaptation of the English materials, methods and structures for the Biztos Kezdet gyerekhaz, the children’s centres, of which there are now more than 100 across the poorest parts of Hungary. He continued to play a key role in developing the programme, organising study visits to England for practitioners and planners of Biztos Kezdet, to meet with experts in early intervention and to spend time in English Sure Start Children’s Centres, and leading study workshops and training in Hungary for mentors, trainers and practitioners. His documentary films have been shown widely in Hungary and England, influencing the public and policy makers to think more deeply about the difficulties faced by those in poverty.

Professor Oates told us: ‘My research and scholarship in child development has shown me how important it is to make use of our new knowledge about the effects of poverty and other risk factors and how they can be overcome. I am glad I have had the opportunities to put this knowledge into practice to help children in England and in Hungary.’

 

After Winterbourne

A clinical psychologist has supported recommendations made by a report into the treatment of people with learning disabilities and autism, released in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal. The NHS England report suggests using £30 million in fines from banks to help move people with such difficulties into the community.

Following the revelation of abuse at the Winterbourne House unit, a pledge was made to enable people with learning disabilities and/or autism who were inappropriately placed in hospital to move to community-based support. This was not met by the target date of June 2014, so a report was commissioned, written by a team led by the chief executive of the charity leaders’ organisation ACEVO Sir Stephen Bubb. Among many other recommendations the report suggests drawing up a charter of rights for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

Dr Julian Morris, a consultant clinical psychologist speaking on behalf of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, said their Faculty for People with Intellectual Disabilities supported the recommendations of the report and continued to stress the importance of the provision of evidence-based psychological therapies for all people with a learning disability and/or autism. He added: ‘This is a key component in ensuring that there are appropriate community-based services to both support the timely discharge of people currently in inpatient settings and prevent the need for admission in the first place. For people who engage in behaviours that challenge services, this means the provision of approaches that reduce the need for restrictive interventions, such as Positive Behavioural Support, which are outlined in the Department of Health’s “Positive and Safe” initiative.’ er

To read the full report by NHS England visit tinyurl.com/n63rgvs

 

Research quality on the up

The results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework were published in December (see www.ref.ac.uk), showing that the quality of submitted research outputs has improved significantly since the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. Thirty per cent of all submissions were ‘world leading’ (4*), and 46 per cent ‘internationally excellent’ (3*).

Research in all units of assessment (UoAs) has led to a range of social, economic and cultural impacts. These include diverse impacts on the economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life both within the UK and internationally.

The research ratings will determine the allocation of the £2bn public funding made available to universities each year. Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, told BBC News that the exercise showed that ‘UK universities are in the top rank of an internationally competitive research community’.

A substantially higher proportion of early career researchers and staff with individual circumstances (such as maternity leave or part time working) were submitted than in the 2008.
Provisional analysis of average quality profiles for the UoAs to which psychology submissions have been returned reveals the percentage of research in each that is ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’:
UoA 4 (Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience) – 38 per cent 4* and 40 per cent 3*
UoA 3 (Allied Health Professions) – 31 per cent 4* and 50 per cent 3*
UoA 19 (Business and Management Studies) – 26 per cent 4* and 43 per cent 3*
UoA 22 (Social Work and Social Policy) – 27 per cent 4* and 42 per cent 3*
UoA 23 (Sociology) – 27 per cent 4* and 45 per cent 3*
UoA 25 (Education) – 30 per cent 4* and 36 per cent 3*
UoA 28 (Modern Language and Linguistics) – 30 per cent 4* and 42 per cent 3*
UoA 36 (Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management) – 29 per cent 4* and 38 per cent 3*
The UoA reports, which will allow further assessment of the submissions from Psychology, were due to be released in January

 

Top journal articles by alternative metrics

A controversial study by social networking site Facebook, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the most shared academic research last year. Statistics, released by Altmetric, revealed it ranked first out of 24,752 articles from 2014.

In 2012 the site manipulated more than 600,000 users’ news feeds over a week to assess whether being shown fewer positive or negative stories from friends would affect the emotions of individuals (see tinyurl.com/l8e48ye). The research caused a massive stir upon its release with many users saying they felt their privacy had been invaded. Interestingly, the article was most shared on Twitter, with more than 3700 tweets mentioning the research and only 371 mentions on Facebook itself, although the statistics were limited to public mentions of the research – private wall posts were not counted.

Second place on the Altmetric Top 100 list went to a paper in the Journal of Ethology titled ‘Variation in melanism and female preference in proximate but ecologically distinct environments’. This seemingly unassuming paper became infamous due to an author’s comment that had been left in the text, which read: ‘Should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?’ This perhaps calls into question the utility of this form of ranking: what we are looking at here is not quality or influence, but a raw measure of notoriety.

Third place went to a study published in Nature suggesting that artificial sweeteners could induce glucose intolerance, and fourth was a breakthrough in stem-cell research also published in Nature. In fifth place was an Ig Nobel Prize award winner published in Frontiers in Zoology, which revealed that defecating dogs were sensitive to variations in the Earth’s magnetic field.

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