London research centre celebrates 10 years of 'ground-breaking' work
12 November 2015, 9:00 am
Amongst the many research centres in University College London's eleven faculties, there is one that has become an award-winning beacon for Deaf research. As the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, its director looks backs over a decade of achievement which she believes has placed the Centre as a global leader in its field.
The Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), has brought together leading Deaf and hearing researchers in the fields of sign linguistics, psychology and neuroscience, to explore language and thought based on Deaf people's communication. Its research over the last ten years has covered a wide range of topics, from exploration of the Deaf brain to BSL linguistics; from the analysis of language development in deaf children, through to the psychology of deafness. It is the largest research centre in its field in Europe, with around 30 research students, research staff and associates, about one third of whom are Deaf.
The Director of the Centre is Professor Bencie Woll, a Fellow of the British Academy, the first researcher in the field of sign language linguistics to receive this honour. She believes the Centre's success has been due to three key elements - the unwavering support of the ESRC and UCL; the dedication and talent of its staff and students and the fact that DCAL has placed Deaf people at the very centre of its research goals, which are to improve the lives and well-being of Deaf people not just in the UK but across the globe.
Commenting on the milestone, Prof. Woll, said:
"DCAL places sign languages and Deaf people in the centre of our general understanding of language and communication within linguistics, psychology and child development. Deafness is an important model for exploring questions in the cognitive sciences and in neuroscience and this is now much more widely recognised, thanks in large part to DCAL's research efforts over the last ten years.
"DCAL's 10th anniversary has provided us with an opportunity to look back at our research and see what we have achieved: ground-breaking research publications, the development of language and cognitive assessments for deaf children and adults, a monthly national NHS clinic for deaf adults with memory problems, BSL Signbank, and an array of award-winning public engagement and widening participation activities. We have delivered internationally recognised research outcomes and I'm extremely proud of that.
"However these celebrations are not just about looking back; we are also looking forward to the future with new research and teaching programmes, maintaining our commitment to building capacity in the field and to the continuing collaboration of deaf and hearing researchers and teachers.
"This is a wonderful milestone for DCAL to reach and I would like to sincerely thank ESRC, UCL and all the staff and students that have played a part in the Centre's extraordinary success."
To mark its 10th anniversary, the staff and students at DCAL are holding a day of celebration on Friday 13th November at UCL, with a number of free events, talks and exhibits, including an exhibition showcasing DCAL's achievements over the 10-year period since its inception.
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Notes to editors
10 Achievements in 10 Years (10 in 10)
10. Centre of Research Excellence - DCAL's primary source of funding has been from the ESRC - the UK's largest organisation for funding research on social issues. Having received funding in 2006 and renewed funding in 2010, it is clear that the Centre has been delivering demonstrably high-quality research. This was underlined in 2008 when the national assessment of university research recognised DCAL as a centre of research excellence and again in 2014 when DCAL provided one of UCL's key case studies on Impact.
9. BSL Corpus Project - launched in 2008 and funded by the ESRC, this project aimed to record the BSL used by hundreds of Deaf people across Britain and to store this information in a collection ('corpus'), which is publically accessible on-line. The corpus has also been used to carry out research into BSL grammar and vocabulary, variation in BSL across the country and how BSL is changing.
8. Award Winning Programming - DCAL's appearance on BBC See Hear about research on the Deaf Brain won the 2009 Deaf Fest award for best factual programme.
7. Specialist Clinic Established - DCAL established a specialist Cognitive Disorders Clinic at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in 2011, providing services to Deaf BSL users. This was a significant step towards reducing wider healthcare inequalities for Deaf people in the UK.
6. Director Recognised - in 2012, DCAL's Director, Prof Bencie Woll, was amongst 38 new academics elected to Fellowships of the British Academy. Woll's election was a significant achievement, being the first researcher in the field of sign language linguistics to receive this honour.
5. BSL Exhibition - in 2013, DCAL held a History of BSL exhibition, raising awareness of BSL's history and including unique deafness and sign language-related material, never previously exhibited together. The online version of the exhibition has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world.
4. Mandela 'Fake Signer' Exposed - DCAL responded proactively to the 'fake signer' episode at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in 2013: an event of global significance. As a result of DCAL's research into interpreting, and schizophrenia and signing, DCAL academics were able to comment as experts in the field.
3. Deaf Summer School - the 'Discover UCL Summer School' was organised by DCAL and UCL's Widening Participation team, launched in 2014 and now an annual event. The innovative 3-day residential summer school, exclusively for D/deaf and hard of hearing students from across the UK, is the first of its kind and gives 20 Year 11 and 12 pupils a taste of student life in London.
2. BSL Signbank Online Dictionary - created by DCAL researchers in 2014 based on signs from the BSL Corpus, this is the first online, usage-based dictionary of British Sign Language based on linguistic principles.
1.Eurovision 2015 - DCAL played a key role, providing expert advice to ORF (the Austrian national public service broadcaster) on providing International Sign translation. Eurovision 2015 was the most accessible contest to date, reaching a TV audience of hundreds of millions right across Europe.
A. Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre is based at University College London. DCAL is a world-renowned centre of excellence for research on BSL. The centre brings together leading Deaf and hearing researchers in the fields of sign linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience. DCAL is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). http://www.dcal.ucl.ac.uk
B. Professor Bencie Woll, is a Fellow of the British Academy and is the Director of DCAL. She is an international expert in the field of sign linguistics and her research and teaching interests embrace a wide range of topics related to sign language and neuro-cognition.
C. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
D. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funds research into the big social and economic questions facing us today. It also develops and trains the UK's future social scientists. Its research informs public policies and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. Most importantly, it makes a real difference to all our lives. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 the ESRC celebrates its 50th anniversary. www.esrc.ac.uk