School of Social Sciences and Humanities

School news

LCEDN host 90 international delegates in Nairobi

Geography colleagues from the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network, Ed Brown, Jon Cloke, Long Seng To and Joni Cook were recently in Nakuru, Nairobi to organise and chair the annual USES workshop; USES is their EPSRC/DFID funded research programme bringing together 13 projects working on Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions which the LCEDN manages. They welcomed around 90 delegates from a wide range of countries for three days of discussions, debates and community project visits, participants included the Kenyan Secretary of the Environment Ministry. In addition, they held meetings with the two solar nano-grid communities and local partners SCODE over plans to grow the systems in both communities and reach out into further communities via a joint venture between Loughborough and SCODE.

TOAD - NERC Standard Grant Success for Dr Matt Baddock

Many congratulations to Matt Baddock who is Co-I on a NERC Standard Grant project – The Origin of Aeolian Dunes (TOAD) – which will last for three years. The project was also successful in the NERC-NSF (with US NSF) collaborative programme, which involves partners at Universities of Notre Dame and Illinois-Champaign Urbana. The total value of the project is £793k, with the Loughborough component receiving £101k. The project is being led by Dr Joanna Nield (Southampton) and also involves Professor Giles Wiggs (Oxford). The NSF participants are Professor Kenneth Christensen (Notre Dame) and Professor Jim Best (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), plus there are a number of non-academic project partners (a UN World Heritage Site, Shell, NASA and the RGS).

NERC grant success investigating financial planning for natural disasters

Congratulations to Louise Slater and John Hillier who are both involved in a successful NERC Standard Grant Proposal led by Alistair Milne (SBE) on “Financial planning for natural disasters: the case of flooding risk in Central Java”. The project was awarded £328k and will see a PDRA based in Geography for 21 months. An excellent example of a valuable cross-School initiative, in this case partnering SPGS with Business and Economics, Science and Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering.

Annual Music Scholarship Award Winner

Social Sciences student Daniel Moss has recently been confirmed as one of the winners of LU Art’s Annual Music Scholarship Award. Daniel became a member of the Stage Society as soon as he joined us here at Loughborough University and has appeared in every musical production from then until now, take leads roles such as Link Larkin in Hairspray and Jack in Into the Woods.

Daniels involvement with LU arts began this academic year when he started singing lessons to further his talents and was subsequently put forward to enter the competition on the recommendation of his tutor. Daniel made comment on all of this saying “I figured why not and went for it, and to my surprise I’ve ended up successful!”.

We would like to say a huge congratulations from everyone here in the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences and we wish you all the success in the future.

Cristian Vaccari named as next Editor-in-Chief of international journal

Social Sciences academic and acclaimed expert in political communication research, Cristian Vaccari has been announced as the next Editor-in-Chief of a leading international journal.

Dr Cristian Vaccari joined the University in January as an Excellence100 appointment, a campaign launched in 2017 to recruit up to 100 outstanding academics across a wide range of disciplines.

He will take over the role of Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics (IJPP), a top interdisciplinary journal focusing on the intersection between journalism and politics, in January 2019.

Dr Vaccari is a Reader in Political Communication within our School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences and a member of its Centre for Research in Communication and Culture.

Before joining Loughborough he taught at Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Bologna.

His research investigates how political parties, campaign organisations and citizens engage with one another on digital media, and how in the process they negotiate meanings, identities, resources, and, ultimately, power.

For two consecutive years Dr Vaccari has won American Political Science Association prizes for the best article published in the fields of Political Communication and Information Technology and Politics.

He published his first book – Digital Politics in Western Democracies: A Comparative Study – in 2013, and his second, provisionally titled Outside the Bubble: Social Media and Political Participation in Western Democracies, is due to be published in 2020.

Speaking about his new role as Editor-in-Chief, Dr Vaccari said: “The intersection between media and politics is central to the health and functioning of democratic societies. The International Journal of Press/Politics has always published path-breaking research on these topics, based on a plurality of approaches, a variety of methods, and a distinctive international and comparative outlook. Editing the journal will be a fantastic opportunity to strengthen its distinctive profile, serve the outstanding research communities that contribute to it, and tackle important debates in our societies.”

The outgoing IJPP editor, Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen from the University of Oxford, added: “Cristian Vaccari is an ideal new editor for the journal. His research is of outstanding quality and internationally recognized. He has long proven his commitment to comparative and globally-oriented work. And he has consistently demonstrated his interest in and respect for the wide range of different theories and methods that inform all the best kinds of research in our area.”

IJPP is a SAGE Publishing journal. SAGE is a leading provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 1,000 journals and over 800 new books each year across the globe, spanning a wide range of subject areas.

“Dr Vaccari’s work addressing critical issues in digital media and comparative politics make him the ideal candidate for Editor-in-Chief of IJPP,” commented Bob Howard, Senior Vice President of Global Journals at SAGE Publishing. “We are confident that the journal will flourish under his editorial leadership and look forward to supporting him in his efforts.” 

Anarchist Studies Network: Decolonise!

The Anarchist Studies Network welcomed over 100 delegates from academic and activist communities to ASN5: Decolonise!. Hosted at Loughborough University, the conference attracted participants from across the UK and Europe, the Americas, Australia and India.

The rich and diverse programme included sessions on transnational histories, art and decolonisation, libertarian and naturist ideas in Brazil, anarcha-feminism, anarchy and religion, anarchism in Venezuela, coloniality and race, anarchism and the intellectuals and animal liberation.

The theme Decolonise! was chosen by the conference convenors to widen the reach of the conference and particularly to encourage researchers located in poorer regions and/or areas with direct experience of colonialism to share their knowledge and experiences. PSA support (‘Pushing the Boundaries’ Competition), together with a successful crowd-funding campaign initiated by Elizabeth Vasileva (Loughborough), enabled the convenors to offer practical support and meet the travel costs of low-wage/unwaged participants.

An open and critical reflection on the achievements and shortcomings of the conference at the final plenary reached consensus that decolonising was a process not an event, applicable to all fields of study. ASN6 will continue the good work that ASN4: anarcha-feminism and ASN5 have kick-started.

If you’re interested in joining us, further information is available here and the PSA site.

Two successful research conferences hosted by Loughborough Geographers

Two large international conferences were hosted by Geography and Environment at Loughborough University this month.

First, the 3rd International Conference on Geographies of Education, led by Dr Heike Jöns, took place between Monday 3rd – Wednesday 5th September 2018. The first two international conferences were held in Loughborough in 2010 and 2012 with the aim of enhancing understanding of the performances, practices, and processes that shape education and learning from distinctively geographical research perspectives. In large part fuelled by these conferences, new geographies of education and learning have become a vibrant intra- and inter-disciplinary as well as international field of research. This is reflected in over 60 delegates attending the recent three-day event – including many return visitors as well as people attending for the first time.

Second, we hosted a very successful two-day postgraduate conference on “Nations and Nationalism”, organised by Dr Marco AntonsichPeny Sotiropoulou, Leila Wilmers and Cuomu Zhaxi (in Social Sciences). The event had a strong interdisciplinary focus and garnered support from across campus via LUNN – the Loughborough University Nationalism Network.

Professor Ed Brown to lead new 5-year DFID research programme on Modern Energy Cooking Services

Loughborough University academics are leading a Department for International Development-funded research programme that aims to transform the way people cook in low income countries by focusing on the use of electricity and other modern fuels.

According to the World Health Organisation, household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices is responsible for almost 4 million deaths a year – mainly of women and young children – yet around three billion people in low income countries continue to cook with traditional fuels such as wood and charcoal.

Professor Ed Brown, of the School of Social Sciences, will oversee a five-year programme of work which has the potential to prevent deaths, reduce climate change and enhance people’s quality of life.  Dr Richard Blanchard, of CREST, is a co-investigator on the technical side of the programme.

The programme is led by Loughborough and the University who will oversee a partnership of other UK universities and innovators together with the World Bank multi-donor trust fund ESMAP.

For the last 25 years, a large part of international development funding has been dedicated to changing the way people cook.   However previous investment has focused largely on increasing the efficiency of biomass use in domestic stoves and introducing chimneys that take smoke away from the cooking area.

The technologies developed in response to this approach have not achieved the hoped for adoption levels.  They also barely mitigate biomass cooking’s contribution to climate change, deforestation and losses of economic opportunity.

The ‘Modern Energy Cooking Services’ (MECS) research programme draws on ground-breaking research and innovation being conducted by Professor Brown and members of the LCEDN (Low Carbon For Development Network) team at Loughborough University - including Dr Jon Cloke and Dr Long Seng To  - and builds on work led by Visiting Fellow in Energy and International Development Dr Simon Batchelor, Director of Gamos.

The five-year project aims to break out of the ‘business-as-usual’ cycle by investigating how to rapidly accelerate a transition from polluting biomass to ‘clean’ cooking using electricity and other ‘modern’ fuels.  It will work with a range of communities in countries across Africa and South Asia.

When asked why electricity is at the heart of the project, Professor Brown said: “For the last three to four years, we’ve been asking ‘is it possible to encourage communities in Africa and Asia to cook with electricity?’

“People presume that electric cooking is too expensive or demanding in terms of its energy requirements.

“However, with the price of biomass going up and the cost of solar and batteries coming down, we have identified that there are new opportunities that are economically viable for communities that are already paying for their cooking fuel.”

The MECS programme will look at what is currently stopping people cooking with electricity and gas, and academics will design new technologies and business approaches that will make them more accessible to poor communities.

Professor Brown says the project will also focus on how people cook and the social and cultural factors that will ultimately affect whether or not they will adopt the new possibilities.

Another key feature of the project is that it makes an important connection between two of the major energy challenges facing the international community: reducing the use of biomass for cooking and providing access to electricity - which up until now have been treated quite separately.

For instance, mini-grids – isolated small-scale distribution networks that supply a small amount of electricity to a localised group of customers – are increasingly being seen as the solution to providing electricity to off-grid communities in low income countries.

However, despite a lot of international interest, mini-grid developers face many challenges in making their business models sustainable. Chief amongst these is the low levels of supply purchased by the majority of their customers.

If customers that currently pay for biomass fuels embraced electric cooking, it will result in a move from purchasing polluting fuels to increased electricity consumption, which would benefit the bottom-line of the mini-grid company.

The programme also incorporates running a series of competitions that will encourage designers and entrepreneurs to apply for funding to develop new ideas for elements such as: energy storage for modern energy cooking services, grid and infrastructure adaptability; alternative fuels; and questions of business models, gender, accessibility and inclusion in MECS.

Professor Brown commented: “We are delighted to receive funding from DFID and we are looking forward immensely to working with them and our partners in ensuring that MECS will spark a much-needed revolution in the clean cooking sector.

“We believe that we have a massive opportunity to significantly enhance the UK contribution to Sustainable Development Goal Seven, which is all about energy, and more importantly improve the lives of people across the globe through this programme.”

Professor Donald Hirsch’s research on the Living Wage named one of UK's most important academic accomplishments

Loughborough work to establish the UK Living Wage – based on the minimum income needed to support a basic lifestyle – has been named as one of the country’s most important academic accomplishments.

Universities UK has compiled a list of discoveries, innovations and social initiatives made by researchers at institutions across Britain and Northern Ireland that have had a positive impact on people’s lives.

The MadeAtUni campaign highlighted Professor Donald Hirsch’s research on the Living Wage, carried out at Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), among breakthroughs which also include penicillin, television and ultrasound scans which check the health of unborn babies.

The voluntary living wage is adopted by thousands of employers throughout the UK and is calculated using CRSP’s Minimum Income Standard, an ongoing research programme funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

Prof Hirsch, the CRSP director, said: “Our centre's research on what people need for a decent life is grounded in the real world, both in the way we collect our data and in the impact it is now having on people's lives.

“We talk in depth to groups of members of the public about what you need in order to meet your material needs and to participate in society.

“This produces the Minimum Income Standard, which has been taken up as a means of calculating the Living Wage, now paid by almost 5,000 employers throughout the UK.”

Over 100 universities submitted a nomination to the Breakthrough list and the entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community and culture and sport.

Prof Hirsch said: "We are delighted that this has been recognised as an example of a key 'breakthrough' made by UK universities.

“It's a breakthrough because there was previously no well-evidenced method for calculating how much you need to live on, regularly updated to be useful in policy and practice.

“We are certainly pleased to be put alongside the invention of TV as a 'breakthrough'."