Loughborough University

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    SuperSolar I&I awards: Call 6

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    SuperSolar I&I Awards Call 6: Applications & reports</p

    Accountability in pan-European borrowing: mind the gap

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    The European Union (EU) is now borrowing on the scale of a large state to address challenges ranging from COVID-19 to the war in Ukraine. However, there has been limited comparative research on how pan-European borrowers can and should be held to account. This article offers a normative justification for why such borrowing should be accountable before showing how accountability practices diverge from a set of accountability expectations derived from three baseline theories: liberal intergovernmentalism, sociological institutionalism and historical institutionalism. Through elite interviews and online archival analysis, we show that the vertical accountability of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank and the European Stability Mechanism to national parliaments in six EU member states varies. Our findings also show that horizonal accountability has been constrained by the European Parliament's limited involvement in borrowing decisions until recently and that patchy interest from national auditors has undermined diagonal accountability. As EU borrowing increases in importance, these accountability gaps urgently need to be filled.</p

    Maximizing the public relations agency—client relationship in the sports industry

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    Despite the undoubted importance of Public Relations (PR) in the sport industry and the increasing reliance on external PR agencies, the study of the PR agency – client relationship within this context remains in its infancy. In this study, we focus on the question, how can PR agencies develop and maintain strong relationships with their sport clients for the benefit to both parties? Qualitative data generated through semi-structured interviews with twenty “business elite informants” comprising senior PR agency executives reveal a new multi-layered conceptualization of the PR agency – client organization relationship. The findings uncover a “surface” layer to the relationship captured by a client satisfaction – dissatisfaction continuum, a core layer of relationship management and trust, to the deepest layer characterized by power (im)balance between the two parties. Uncovering the complex, nuanced and multi-layered dynamics of the relationship highlights effective PR outsourcing practices to be utilized for future value maximization.</p

    Valorization of acid leaching post-consumer gypsum purification wastewater

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    Industries are required to utilize treatment technologies to reduce contaminants in wastewater prior to discharge and to valorize by-products to increase sustainability and competitiveness. Most acid leaching gypsum purification studies have obviated the treatment of the highly acidic wastewater produced. In this work, acidic wastewater from acid leaching purification of post-consumer gypsum was treated to recover a valuable solid product and reusable water. The main aims of this work were to determine the impact of recirculating acidic and treated wastewaters on the efficiency of the acid leaching purification process and to valorize the impurities in the wastewater. Samples were characterized through X-ray fluorescence and X-ray diffraction. SimaPro 9.5 and the ReCiPe 2016 midpoint method were used for the life cycle assessment of three sustainable wastewater management approaches. The reuse of the acidic wastewater did not improve the chemical purity of gypsum. Soluble impurities were precipitated at pH 10.5 as a magnesium-rich gypsum that could be commercialized as fertilizer or soil ameliorant. The alkaline-treated water was reused for six acid leaching purification cycles without impacting the efficiency of the purification process. An acid leaching–neutralization–filtration–precipitation approach demonstrated superior overall environmental performance. Barriers and enabling measures for the implementation of an in-house wastewater treatment were identified.</p

    Reframing Pain in the Brain: A Pilot Sensory-Cognitive Toolkit for Pain Management.

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    Reframing Pain in the Brain is a pilot sensory-cognitive toolkit for the self-management of persistent pain. This version of the toolkit is designed to be used in small-group workshops for people with persistent or chronic pain and their support networks (friends, family members, colleagues, clinicians). The toolkit involves the novel approach of using experiential body illusions, including the Anne Boleyn illusion, as a way to understand how perception is formed in the brain. Cognitive reframing is introduced as the idea of actively changing how we think about something, for example actively changing interpretations of ambiguous sensory information. Following this, pain is discussed as a protective perception, susceptible to the same perceptual inferences and distortions as other forms of awareness. The 'pain buffer' is used describe the concept that pain is the brain alerting us to perceived threat, rather than tissue damage itself. Understanding this, and other fundamental facts about contemporary pain science, can provide the basis for reframing painful sensations and contribute to reducing the nervous system's overprotective nature.</p

    Influencing alertness through remote coaching for professional drivers

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    This paper presents a focused look at findings related to driver fatigue from Use Case A (UCA) of EU project PANACEA (grant agreement number 953426). UCA considers safety drivers of autonomous shuttles. For safety and regulation reasons all shuttles have a driver present ready to intervene if needed. In practice, this means that the safety driver is responsible for ensuring the safety of both passengers and surrounding road users. 8 shuttle safety drivers (100% of those available) participated. Subjective driver sleepiness was reported daily at the start and end of each shift using the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale. Potential risk for driver sleepiness was calculated using the Bordeaux Sleepiness Scale (BOSS). Overall, sleepiness was a rare experience (mean KSS start shift = 3, mean KSS end shift = 3.1). However, those identified as potentially at-risk using BOSS had some experiences of sleepiness (KSS=7) on some shifts. The PANACEA system uses input from sensors in the vehicle, workplace depot and on the driver, creating a holistic monitoring and assessment system. This detects professional drivers who are not fit to drive and supports them and their employers to manage the situation and adopt preventive measures.</p

    Synoptic conditions conducive for compound wind-flood events in Great Britain in present and future climates

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    Extreme wind is the main driver of loss in North-West Europe, with flooding being the second-highest driver. These hazards are currently modelled independently, and it is unclear what the contribution of their co-occurrence is to loss. They are often associated with extra-tropical cyclones, with studies focusing on co-occurrence of extreme meteorological variables. However, there has not been a systematic assessment of the meteorological drivers of the co-occurring impacts of compound wind-flood events. This study quantifies this using an established storm severity index (SSI) and recently developed flood severity index (FSI), applied to the UKCP18 12km regional climate simulations, and a Great Britain (GB) focused hydrological model. The meteorological drivers are assessed using 30 weather types, which are designed to capture a broad spectrum of GB weather. Daily extreme compound events (exceeding 99th percentile of both SSI and FSI) are generally associated with cyclonic weather patterns, often from the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO+) and Northwesterly classifications. Extreme compound events happen in a larger variety of weather patterns in a future climate. The location of extreme precipitation events shifts southward towards regions of increased exposure. The risk of extreme compound events increases almost four-fold in the UKCP18 simulations (from 14 events in the historical period, to 55 events in the future period). It is also more likely for there to be multi-day compound events. At seasonal timescales years tend to be either flood-prone or wind-damage-prone. In a future climate there is a larger proportion of years experiencing extreme seasonal SSI and FSI totals. This could lead to increases in reinsurance losses if not factored into current modelling.</p

    CrossBind: Collaborative cross-modal identification of protein nucleic-acid-binding residues

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    Accurate identification of protein nucleic-acid-binding residues poses a significant challenge with important implications for various biological processes and drug design. Many typical computational methods for protein analysis rely on a single model that could ignore either the semantic context of the protein or the global 3D geometric information. Consequently, these approaches may result in incomplete or inaccurate protein analysis. To address the above issue, in this paper, we present CrossBind, a novel collaborative cross-modal approach for identifying binding residues by exploiting both protein geometric structure and its sequence prior knowledge extracted from a large-scale protein language model. Specifically, our multi-modal approach leverages a contrastive learning technique and atom-wise attention to capture the positional relationships between atoms and residues, thereby incorporating fine-grained local geometric knowledge, for better binding residue prediction. Extensive experimental results demonstrate that our approach outperforms the next best state-of-the-art methods, GraphSite and GraphBind, on DNA and RNA datasets by 10.8/17.3% in terms of the harmonic mean of precision and recall (F1-Score) and 11.9/24.8% in Matthews correlation coefficient (MCC), respectively.We release the code at https://github.com/BEAM-Labs/CrossBind.</p

    “I’m not white”: counter-stories from “mixed race” women navigating PhDs

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    Purpose: This paper critiques institutional whiteness and racial categorisation in UK higher education. This is done through the representation of the complex narratives of “mixed race” women navigating their PhD experiences in predominantly white institutions, when their identities have proximity to whiteness. Design/methodology/approach: This study introduces five vignettes of “mixed race” women, gathered from a wider study of 27 PhDs and early career researchers in UK higher education. The paper employs Yuval-Davis’ framework of belonging and bell hooks' approach to chosen versus forced marginality to create a conceptual framework based on fluid agency and empowerment, recognising belonging as an ongoing process.  Findings: The findings reveal how “mixed race” women can occupy a liminal space between belonging to and rejecting racial categorisation, as they attempted to situate their self-identifications within the boundaries of institutional whiteness.  Research limitations/implications: The study only utilises a small sample size of five counter-stories from a larger study on PhD career trajectories, limiting its empirical claims. It also only engages with “mixed race” women who have proximity to whiteness, encouraging research on different “mixed race” intersections.  Practical implications: This paper encourages more discussion around “mixed race” experiences of UK higher education and critical engagement with higher education’s reliance on statistical data to understand racialised communities.  Originality/value: This paper contributes new empirical insights into how whiteness is experienced when “mixed race” women negotiate their relation to it in UK higher education. It also provides theoretical advancements into understanding of institutional whiteness and critically engages with racial categorisation.</p

    Towards a co-creative immersive digital storytelling methodology to explore experiences of homelessness in Loughborough

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    Despite the potential use of digital storytelling with marginalised groups, there are few examples of its application in homelessness or examinations of co-creative relationships in this context. Along with digital storytelling, this research used immersive media (virtual reality and 360 degree video) to explore place-based social exclusion. In the feasibility study, with four doctoral researchers at Loughborough University as participants, immersive digital stories were co-created. The aim of this study was to understand how to create place-based immersive digital stories, through adapting existing digital storytelling methods and the co-creation of virtual reality, to inform best practices for future studies involving participants who have experienced homelessness. Participants created maps and empathy timelines, shared stories, recorded voiceovers and edited footage. The researcher facilitated this and recorded the 360-degree filmed footage. The final stories proved to explore place-based social exclusion. Co-creative relationships were found to be more significant between the researcher and individual participant than amongst the participants as a group. With immersive media, the researcher’s experience formed an active part of the finished pieces. Despite this, participants described their role as director, being ultimately in control. These findings will influence the methods that will be used in the future with those who have experienced homelessness in Loughborough. They also show how immersive media in digital storytelling can strengthen co-creation and acknowledge the researcher in the story.</p

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