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Grand Challenges progress report

2012-2013 UCL Grand Challenges Small Grants awards

Up to £5,000 per project was awarded to over 20 proposals through the 2012-2013 UCL Grand Challenges Small Grants Scheme.

The scheme funds projects that lead to, or support, cross-disciplinary collaboration under the broad headings of Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

The successful applicants are:

UCL Grand Challenge of Global Health

A life history approach to diabetes in rural India

Lead applicant: Professor Jonathan Wells (Institute of Child Health)
Main collaborator: Dr Andrea Migliano (Anthropology)

Late-onset diabetes affects millions of people in India, with numbers expected to increase in coming decades. Diabetes occurs at lower levels of body weight and younger ages in Indians compared to European populations, but these differences are poorly understood.

This project will use life history theory to consider the wide range of factors which affect healthy development. We will use data from the Pune Maternal Nutrition Study to provide insight into how parental health influences the health of their children, and the factors that influence the development of late-onset diabetes in adolescents and adults.

Examining the feasibility and ethical acceptability of providing cause of death information to families of the deceased in rural Nepal

Lead applicant: Dr Joanna Morrison (Institute for Global Health)
Main collaborator: Dr James Wilson (Centre for Philosophy, Justice & Health)

The births and deaths of two-thirds of the world’s population go unrecorded. This project examines the feasibility and ethical acceptability of Mobile InterVA (MIVA), a new low-cost mobile system for recording probable cause of death.

MIVA uses a simple computer programme to determine probable causes of death, which means that families can be informed much more quickly than with traditional forms of verbal autopsy. However, it also raises significant ethical questions. This project will use interviews with professionals and families we will explore the issues which affect how people respond to the death of a family member, and how MIVA can be used most effectively and appropriately in rural Nepali settings.

Adaptation to milk drinking in Chilean goat herders; the role of genetics and selection.

Lead applicant: Professor Dallas Swallow (Faculty of Life Sciences)
Main collaborator: Professor Ruth Mace (Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences)

The ability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, is a genetically linked trait, which demonstrates natural selection in humans. This genetic trait also provides insight into the way communities grow and migrate, and the cultural changes that affect diet and way of life.

This project will focus on goat herders living in the Chilean Andes, who have a relatively recent history of dairy farming and milk consumption. Building on work already conducted in the community, we will explore the cultural and biological evolution of milk drinking, exploring evolutionary advantages of carrying lactase persistence alleles and their effect on fertility, child morality, height, and milk consumption.

A Smartphone App for Neonatal Jaundice

Lead applicant: Dr Terence Leung (Medical Physics & Bioengineering)
Main collaborator: Dr Judith Meek (UCLH)

Neonatal jaundice is a common condition in newborn infants, caused by increased bilirubin level and characterised by a yellow colouration of the skin. While it is usually not serious, it may affect the child’s health and can even cause brain damage or death.

This project aims to develop a smartphone app to help midwives and parents to easily identify jaundice. We hope that this simple, low-cost solution will enable health workers in the UK and in developing countries The project will measure bilirubin levels in newborn babies at UCL Hospitals to develop an accurate and reliable evidence base. A workshop will be organised in UCLH to report the results towards the end of the research and also gather new healthcare app ideas for future projects.

An integrated approach to HIV and AIDS and informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa

Lead applicant: Dr Colin Marx (Bartlett Development Planning Unit)
Main collaborator: Dr Sarah Hawkes (Institute for Global Health)

Research indicates that people living in informal settlements are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. This project will analyse 'integrated interventions' that respond to the confluence of HIV and informal settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa amongst established networks of HIV and urban planning activists. Workshops and a working paper will provide opportunities for researchers and practitioners to share their experiences and ideas on new strategies to address inequalities and diseases.

UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing

Medical (in)humanities

Lead applicant: Dr Stephanie Bird (School of European Languages, Culture and Society)
Main collaborator: Dr Peter Zusi (School of Slavonic and East European Studies)

The project is an exploration of how medicine undermines or consolidates notions of humane behaviour.

Modern medical science helps us understand how our bodies function, but the role of empathy in healing must not be underestimated. This project will explore the diverse factors which underpin therapeutic relationships, and how medicine undermines or consolidates notions of humane behavior. The project will result in a series of workshops and the publication of the project’s findings.

How to get on (with) a bus: A pilot study of wheelchair users’ engagement with research on bus accessibility

Lead applicant: Dr Brian Balmer (Science & Technology Studies)

Main collaborator: Dr Catherine Holloway (Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering)

People with disabilities are 20% more likely than non-disabled people to travel by bus, making around 130,000 journeys a day in London. The PAMELA facility has recently acquired a standard-issue London bus which will enable us to simulate real-life transport experiences in a controlled setting.

This pilot study will involve monitoring wheelchair users as they board a bus, recording how different conditions, such as passenger numbers and varying ramp gradients affect their experience, while measuring the biomechanical effects of doing so. Users will be interviewed to explore their experiences, how buses can be made more user-friendly and how they feel about taking part in research.

Socio-cognitive skills in children with visual impairment

Lead applicant: Dr. Michelle de Haan (Institute of Child Health)
Main collaborator: Dr. Naomi Dale (Institute of Child Health)

About 4 in every 10,000 children born each year in the UK are diagnosed with severe visual impairment or blindness by their first birthday. While this incidence is low, the life-long effects of disability and its economic costs are high. Children with visual impairment may be affected a range of developmental issues, which limit their academic achievement and impact on their wellbeing.

The risk of poor outcomes in certain areas of development persists even in children with high general cognitive function.

We will examine the developmental impact of visual impairment in school-aged children with mild to moderate, severe and profound visual impairment and a matched control group with 20 sighted, typically developing children. Through this we hope to better understand how visual impairment affects development.

Sporting Chance: testing the evolutionary determinants of health in inner city schools

Lead applicant: Gustav Milne (Institute of Archaeology)

Main collaborator: Dr Benjamin Gardener Sood (Epidemiology and Public Health)

Obesity among school-age children is rising, with 21% of children officially classified as obese. Promoting healthy eating and physical activity are key to improving children’s health and wellbeing and reducing obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes.

This project explores the perspective described in the Evolutionary Determinants of Health study to consider the physiological differences between modern-day man and our Palaeolithic ancestors, and the impact of increasing urbanisation and sedentary lifestyles on our brains and bodies. This project will involve working in partnership with the Institute of Archaeology, the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and the Arsenal in the Community team, to enhance the wellbeing of children in some of London's most socioeconomically disadvantaged estates.

The Social Web: a community technology for healthy ageing

Lead applicant: Dr Rodney Reynolds (Institute for Global Health)

Main collaborator: Dr Dylan Kneale (Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering)

Building on the findings of a recently completed project, Webwise, this small grant proposal seeks to demonstrate the value of social web technologies in healthy aging. Webwise identified barriers to public health education and training and how those could be overcome using online social technologies.

With our partner organisations we propose to run a workshop for community and third sector groups to demonstrate the role of social media in caring for people with dementia. We seek to address three common problems in healthy aging: social isolation, care monitoring and training/education of staff and family/community carers.

Distress in elderly renal patients

Lead applicant: Dr David Wheeler (Centre for Nephrology)
Main collaborator: Dr Joseph Low (Mental Health Sciences)

Elderly patients with advanced chronic kidney disease and other illnesses have been shown to have rates of depression in cross-sectional studies. However, little is known about how treatments including dialysis affect patients’ mental health. Through the use of self-assessment tools, like the distress thermometer, and interviews with patients, we hope to increase our understanding of the emotional impact of prolonged illness, and effective interventions for promoting the health and wellbeing of patients with chronic illnesses.

UCL Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction

Transnational Slade: mapping the diaspora of an art school

Lead applicant: Dr Amna Malik (Slade School of Fine Art)
Main collaborator: Dr Melissa Terras(Information Studies)

Ibrahim El Salahi and Khalid Iqbal studied at the Slade during the 1950s and subsequently became pioneers in the development of art and art education in Sudan and Pakistan.

This project will explore their study at the Slade, and the influence of academics including Professor William Coldstream on their work, through research, digitization and publication of archive material, and the solicitation of new information and accounts.

Ideas of African sculpture in archaeology and art in modern Britain: Jacob Epstein, Flinders Petrie, Ronald Moody and Edna Manley

Lead applicant: Dr Gemma Romain (Geography)
Main collaborator: Dr Debbie Challis (Petrie Museum)

This project explores responses to and representations of African and Asian visual culture in British society from 1907 to 1939, a period when depictions of African and Asian cultures and people in British art was influenced by concepts of imperialism, racial identity and concepts of cultural difference.

The project will consider the work of Flinders Petrie, Jacob Epstein, Ronald Moody and Edna Manley, exploring their artistic responses to Egyptian material culture and responses to ancient and modern African sculpture.

John Donne's Conversions, 1613-2013

Lead applicant: Daniel Smith (English)
Main collaborator: Dr Jason Peacey (History)

This seminar series will build on 2012’s Negotiating Religion series to stimulate debate about the complex relationship between religion and society through the work of John Donne, one of the seventeenth century’s most influential literary and religious figures.

This year marks 400 years since the composition of one of Donne’s most important poems, Goodfriday, 1613. Riding Westwards, which explores the author’s religious meditations at a crucial period in his life. UCL’s Centre for Early Modern Exchanges will celebrate the occasion with three seminars on Donne’s life and writing around 1613.

Coordination and Collaboration

Lead applicant: William Steptoe (Computer Science)
Main collaborator: Dr Daniel Richardson (Cognitive, Perceptual & Brain Sciences)

When two people collaborate, their body language and expressions become more alike, a process termed this ‘behavioural coordination’. There is no clear understanding of why it happens or its effects. This project aims to use technology to investigate participants of European, Asian and African origin to capture the nuances of face-to-face interaction, the facial expressions of people from different cultures, and how this affects communication and the impressions we form of each other.

We will use virtual reality environments to test different scenarios, such as an avatar representing a Chinese person, which is animated to move in in a more 'western' manner. In this way, we can develop tools to foster intercultural communication.

Trust and Distrust in the Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union, 1956-1991

Lead applicant: Dr Alexey Tikhomirov (School of Slavonic & East European Studies)
Main collaborator: Professor Mary Fulbrook (School of European Languages, Culture & Society)

This international and interdisciplinary conference will apply the concept of trust and distrust to the history of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, which, it is generally agreed, were a markedly low-trust societies. We treat trust and distrust as hugely influential factors in explaining how dictatorships operate and how closed societies work. Our starting point is that post-war socialist societies in Europe had their own “habitus of trust” and developed their own “culture of trust” which affected their stability, success and failure.

Increasing awareness of organ donation in Black and Minority Ethnic groups

Lead applicant: Dr Cecil Thompson (UCLH)

Main collaborator: Bimbi Fernando(UCLH)

The prevalence of chronic health conditions including diabetes and hepatitis among black and minority ethnic groups mean they are significantly more likely to need a transplant, but they are much less likely to become a donor or give consent for organ collection from their deceased relatives. Barriers to organ donation include a lack of awareness of the need for organs for transplants, faith and cultural stances toward organ donation, and a perceived lack of trust in doctors and the healthcare profession.

We propose to address these problems with an educational campaign targeted at key stakeholders including patients, medical practitioners, community groups, researchers and students. The campaign will consist of a main one-day conference for key stakeholders, with workshops before, during and after. Some of the workshop findings will be discussed at the conference.

UCL Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities

Blackout prevention and solutions through multi-disciplinary techniques

Lead applicant: Dr Catalina Spataru (UCL Energy Institute)
Main collaborator: Dr Hervé Borrion (Department of Security & Crime Studies)

This project aims to develop new techniques for managing the risk of power blackouts in emerging energy grids. Healthcare, security and financial systems across the world depend on reliable power supplies, which are vulnerable to disturbance from natural hazards and technological failure.

This project aims to understand how complex systems react to disturbances, to support improved forecasting and contingency planning by drawing on power engineering, energy, mathematics, medicine, operational research and security, to develop new approaches to modelling power blackouts.

Two workshops with experts from a range of different disciplines will enable us to understand why systems fail and what we can learn from different systems. Collaborators will co-author a research paper aimed at wider academic dissemination.

Behaviour change: reducing waste

Lead applicant: Professor Susan Michie (Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology)
Main collaborator: Richard Jackson (Estates)

Our study will bring together environmental expertise and behavioural science to investigate how people can be encouraged to reduce the amount of waste they produce, choose reusable rather than disposable products, and recycle their rubbish.

The study will investigate current waste trends and a survey to understand the factors that affect our likelihood to recycle or throw away our rubbish. This will be the basis of co-designing a prototype intervention with a building users group established for this purpose. This study will produce a prototype intervention, outcome measures and a building users group that is planned to lead to a subsequent pilot of implementing the intervention and evaluating its impact in a controlled trial to pilot the methods and feasibility of a controlled trial and methods for measuring the impact of the intervention.

Assessment of alternative transport models for Havana

Lead applicant: Dr Emily Morris (Institute of the Americas)
Main collaborator: Dr Julio Davila (Development Planning Unit)

The aim of the project is to design and assess alternative transport strategies for Havana. The project will consider the most efficient modes of transport for people and goods, and the role of transport in promoting public health, reducing CO2 emissions, reducing import dependency and creating a safer and more liveable city.

The project will highlight Havana’s need for a climate-friendly transport strategy by strengthening collaboration between UCL-based researchers with the aim of influencing changes in urban transport policy in Havana. The participation of a researcher from Havana University’s Centro de Estudios del Medio Ambiente (Centre for Environmental Studies) and confirmed interest of the Cuban Ministry of Transport means not only that UCL research collaborators will have unique access to the information on Havana’s transport challenge, objectives and constraints required to refine the research question, but also that the work can feed directly into policy-making in Cuba.

The suburban food basket: the role of spatial setting and social context in providing access to healthy food

Lead applicant: Dr Shaun Scholes (Epidemiology & Public Health)
Main collaborator: Professor Laura Vaughan (Bartlett School of Graduate Studies)

Food-related ill-health in the UK is responsible for about 10% of deaths and illnesses and costs the NHS an estimated £6 billion annually. Money, transport, the availability of healthy food, cooking facilities and knowledge and skills all affect people’s ability to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

This study aims to involve secondary school pupils in understanding and evaluating the issues which influence our diet, and define a ‘healthy food basket’ which is appropriate for different social and cultural groups. The project will also survey students to identify how often healthy food items are bought and how easy it is to buy healthy food in their local communities.

A paper describing the pilot study, the main findings, and methodological lessons learned will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. The project team will also present the findings at a year 10/11 (GCSE cohort) assembly (or support pupils in doing so) to inform students of academic research as a potential career option.

Cities for human locomotion

Lead applicant: Dr Stephen Marshall (Bartlett School of Planning)
Main collaborator: Professor Nick Tyler (Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering)

The ‘City for Human Locomotion’ is the vision of an urban environment designed to increase travel on foot, by bicycle, wheelchair and other human-powered modes (rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, etc.). Environmentally sustainable modes of travel have several advantages: they encourage healthy activity, they are affordable and accessible to people who cannot walk, drive or afford public transport, and they are often the fastest way to get around a city. However, existing policies for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users are not always coordinated, and a lack of knowledge and effective provision means that the full potential for human-powered transport is not realised. This lack of knowledge and apparent lack of demand often means there is little political will to improve provision, which in turn further suppresses growth.

This project aims to scope out the potential of the topic to assemble baseline knowledge about the different human-powered modes, particularly those about which less is known (e.g. wheelchair use, rollerblades, skateboards, etc.) and their potential roles in a sustainable ‘city for human locomotion’. The project will include a literature review, pilot exploration and mapping, and a workshop to identify issues and priorities for further investigation.

Page last modified on 18 oct 13 14:32