Research Excellence Framework 2021
Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) has performed well in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF). Reflecting several years of university-wide activity, BNU’s REF2021 results reveal that 44% of BNU research was judged to be of world-leading or internationally excellent quality, based on the six subject-based units of assessment (UOA) we submitted.
At least half of our research in the following areas was considered to be of world-leading or internationally excellent quality: Art and Design, History, Practice and Theory (60%); Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism (58%); and Social Work and Social Policy (50%).
Social Work and Social Policy was one of three new promising UOAs we submitted, in addition to Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (49%), and Education (17%). Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (49%) also performed well.
REF judgements are based on three factors: the quality of the research outputs; the impact of the research; and the research environment of the university.
For BNU, our research output quality at 3* or 4* (internationally excellent or world-leading) was the highest in UOAs in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism (75%) and Social Work and Social Policy (67%). For impact, our UOAs in Art and Design, History, Practice and Theory (100%) and Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (75%) UOAs excelled.
Impact case studies
All REF impact case studies are now available on the REF2021 database. A brief summary of our REF2021 impact cases is given below, with links to the full case study.
Professor Colin Martin described impacts achieved from his development of the 10-item Birth-Satisfaction-Scale-Revised (BSS-R), a psychometrically valid and reliable birth satisfaction measure. It has become the ‘gold standard’ measure of birth experience, evidenced by expert consensus selection of the measure as the key index of birth experience in the International Consortium for Health Outcome Measures (ICHOM) Pregnancy and Childbirth Standard Set. Widely translated and in use in over 30 countries, the BSS-R has been utilised by both researchers and clinicians alike. Currently, over 100 investigations are underway using the BSS-R with 18 studies thus far reporting findings.
Professor David Brodie described continued impacts arising from research completed at BNU between 2000 and 2012, with emerging impacts submitted in a case study to REF2014. The research team from BNU led by Professor Brodie validated novel non-invasive technologies for cardiac output and cardiac power output measurements and applied them to a group of patients with end-stage heart failure. The continuing benefits since 2014 have shown how the original outcomes were adopted for clinical applications both in the UK and abroad. Cardiac power output continues to be an important measure for people using left ventricular assist devices. The benefits of cardiac function testing are now being recognised in primary care.
Professor Florin Ioras reported impacts arising from research into effective management of natural resources. The research influenced decarbonisation, environmental and government policy and has led to improved management of natural resources. The research enabled the establishment of decarbonisation and climate mitigation schemes and facilitated private sector access to funds. It also led to changes in the EU, Ghanaian, Zambian and Malaysian Governments’ decarbonisation policies. The research demonstrated that decarbonisation approaches in the wood related sector, combined with effective measures of biomass, leads to mitigation of impacts on climate change. Consequently, the Malaysian Government, Ghanaian Government, European Islands Authorities and Romanian Government amended their national policies to motivate landowners and wood-based resource users to include mandatory Monitoring Reporting and Verification criteria.
BNU researchers with a number of businesses in European Islands, Ghana, Romania and Malaysia co-established support for carbon mitigating plans, resulting in the total investment of £2.5 million towards the decarbonisation of rubberwood sawmilling in Malaysia, decarbonisation of coastal Tourism in European Islands, and the protection of forest in Romania (200,000 hectares) and Ghana (400,000 hectares). The research underpinned a natural resources-based climate mitigation scheme resulting in the investment of an additional £1.4 million in decarbonisation initiatives.
WATERSPOUTT – design, development, testing and evaluation of transparent plastic SoDis solar disinfection jerrycans and buckets in Malawi and Ethiopia
Professor Lyndon Buck reported impacts arising from developing solar water disinfection (SoDis) technology in Africa. The €3.6m EU H2020 funded WATERSPOUTT project (2016-2020) aimed to provide safe drinking water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa who rely on unsafe sources. The consortium carried out a technological development programme to advance three applications based on Solar Disinfection (SoDis), with the following outputs:
- Producing products which make water safe to drink after it has been collected and demonstrating the health and related social benefits of clean water to end users.
- In parallel, instigating a social science programme structured to ensure that technologies are adopted by the target communities in rural Africa, with the support of local authorities, in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.
- Proof of the suitability of polypropylene as a material for manufacturing large transparent SoDis containers such as buckets and jerrycans.
- Establishing that cloth filters can have greater efficacy than ceramic filters for SoDis applications, and can increase the efficiency of the SoDis process for turbid water.
The products resulting from this work include a 20 litre transparent polypropylene SoDis bucket designed at BNU which has direct commercial and research exploitation potential. These findings fed into a second EU Horizion-2020 project, PANIWATER, where work continues (2019-2023) on SoDis transparent polypropylene containers in peri-urban India.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Health and Wellbeing – leveraging good practice and policy engagement to enhance social inclusion
Professor Margaret Greenfields and Dr Carol Rogers reported impacts arising from research into Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Health. Greenfield’s and Rogers’ work underpins and supports development of policy and practice at Government, local and health authority levels as well as influencing professional best practice guidance on service user engagement. Their research is regularly cited in Government publications and policy briefings and formed the basis of a Parliamentary debate on the impacts of poor quality site provision on physical and mental health, with particular impacts on women. Recent work on mental health, suicide and hate crime has led to a series of meetings with officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department of Health and Social Care and the Minister with responsibility for suicide to consider how these findings can be utilised to underpin and support policy development and practice guidance.
Greenfields’ work on health, wellbeing, accommodation, engagement with social care and Roma migration experiences underpinned her submission to the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry call for evidence on Inequalities impacting Gypsies and Travellers. International activities include convening a Council of Europe funded health and social care seminar on Roma/Migrant Health bringing together high level policy specialists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other Government level public health representatives with civil society stakeholders, and provision of expertise to the WHO in devising Europe-wide policy and protocol to support “Healthy Ageing for Roma”
In a second case study, Professor Greenfields reported impacts from research into LGBT+ faith and identity. The work focuses on the interplay between faith, LGBT+ identity and ritual practice, with an emphasis on enhancing learning, social welfare (including mental health/wellbeing) and developing inclusive and ethical practice in religious contexts. Outputs (research findings, artefacts, dialogue in public engagement forums and policy/practice recommendations) are co-produced with LGBT+ community members/civil society agencies/religious leaders and academic partners. Key impacts are increasing awareness of the complexities, contestations (and at times dangers) experienced by LGBT+ people of faith; public engagement activities (UK and internationally) to enhance awareness and dialogue, and the development of practice recommendations aimed at schools, synagogues and communal life.
Creating authentic education experiences with work-related simulation in collaboration and interdisciplinary partnerships
Professor Richard Mather and Dr Nic Fryer reported impacts arising from creating authentic education experiences through the use of work-related simulation in interdisciplinary partnerships. This impact case study concerns application of a novel pedagogical approach that combines elements of collaboration, simulation and interdisciplinarity in academic and stakeholder partnerships. These provide immersive workplace experiences for nursing, performing arts, computing and art-and-design students. The primary impact has been to build educator and student confidence by replacing knowledge-centric teaching with scenarios that replicate communication and cross-disciplinary challenges associated with employment. Evidence and testimonies indicate that academic performance and workplace preparedness of graduates is enhanced when this approach is adopted. The reach and transformative nature of impacts are testified by professional bodies, employers, students and local stakeholder organisations.
Dr Dorin Festeu reported impacts arising from capacity building in Higher Education-entrepreneurial education (EE). Research conducted at BNU has resulted in the delivery of innovative education services and enhanced student learning and participation in Eastern Europe. Specifically, this research has led to the development of Entrepreneurship Education programmes tailored to particular needs in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, to creating an organisational framework for the involvement of students in EE programmes, and to the validation and implementation of the EE programmes in five Eastern European universities.
Professor David Warnock-Smith reported impacts arising from research into air transport developments in the Caribbean/Latin America region. The research led to an air transport liberalisation framework and set of recommendations for the Caribbean region. These have been adopted by CARICOM, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and supported by the Caribbean Development Bank and the European Commission (in relation to the Latin America and Caribbean region) for the benefit of consumers (passengers and shippers), suppliers (airlines, airports etc..) and island state economies (e.g. Caribbean countries). Impact consists of a partial opening of markets, with incoming tourism and socio-economic benefits being greatest in those states where additional freedoms have been granted in a more cohesive way.
Dr Ben Clayton reported impacts arising from engaging people with disabilities in sport in Buckinghamshire. The research identified new approaches to engaging disabled people in order to increase and sustain sport and physical activity participation. Some of the recommendations made are unique and are now being adopted by a number of disability organisations. Through the research and dissemination processes, new connections have been established among the local authority, sport providers, and disability support charities and organisations, who are now working together to create sustainable sport and physical activity for disabled people in Buckinghamshire. Further, national dissemination of ideas has prompted pledges to improve opportunities for and experiences of sport and physical activity for people with disabilities.
Professor Neil Brownsword reported impacts arising from research completed over the past two decades into the legacy of deindustrialisation in North Staffordshire’s ceramic manufacturing sector which has reactivated associated post-industrial spaces and endangered industrial crafts. Exhibitions seen by over 3,000,000 visitors have generated new insights into the impact of globalisation, widening curatorial and public understanding of the value of industrial craft. The research has shaped his co-collaborators practice and helped to attract over GBP1, 000,000 for artistic projects, exhibitions and efforts to safeguard cultural heritage. Cross-cultural exchange between the UK and East Asia and trans-disciplinary working across Europe have extended the international reach of these impacts.
Altered perceptions of social landscapes for health and wellbeing in the corporate environment and in positioning the history of social landscapes within cultural heritage projects.
Professor Helena Chance reported impacts arising from her research examining the history of workplace gardens and recreation grounds from the 19th to the 21st centuries, focussing on the impact of green space on corporate productivity and identity, and on health, wellbeing and sense of place. The research activated four impact streams: understanding the significance of recording corporate landscapes for national landscape heritage collections; continuing professional development for architects, urban designers, planners and conservationists looking for advice on corporate planning; appreciating the value of historical research in understanding the interrelationships between people, place and identity; and improving volunteers’ wellbeing, motivation and skills during the Covid-19 pandemic.