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4 October 2011 | PR 11/119

Loughborough to lead international identity management study



Professor Liesbet van Zoonen of Loughborough University and a team of colleagues from Dundee, Essex and Northumbria universities have received a £1.36m grant to examine taboos and desires around future technologies of ‘identity management’.

The three-year IMPRINTS project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). An additional grant has been awarded by the Department of Homeland Security in America to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to simultaneously conduct the study in the US.

IMPRINTS (Identity Management: Public Responses to Identity Technologies and Services) aims to assess how and why UK and US publics will engage with particular future practices, services and technologies of identity management, while resisting others. 

Iris and full body scans, and face or voice recognition have already become well-known practice, but innovations like implantable chips, odour scans, online ‘object’-passwords and mobile identity sharing are on the horizon. It is unclear whether and why members of the public will embrace these innovations or reject them.

Professor Liesbet Van Zoonen, who holds the chair in Media and Communications at Loughborough University, explains:

“There is a peculiar paradox between the eager sharing of personal details on social network sites, and the deep anxieties about, for instance, biometric identification or a national identity card.

“In this project we aim to gain a better understanding of such anxieties and appetites, and understand the way citizens will respond to new identity management technologies, services and practices in order to promote trustworthy and pleasurable processes of identity verification.”

To achieve this understanding, researchers will work with stakeholders from civil society and government, security and commercial sectors in both countries.

Because of the rapid advance in identity management technologies, services and practices (IM-TSP), the research team will draw upon future scenarios as presented in film, literature, consumer trend reports, policy reports, research, and security exploration to first map out the expected landscape of identity management.  

A range of interview stimuli including online avatars and art installations will be used to probe taboos and desires among the public. The research will then produce bespoke instruments for interactive policy, prototype and design development.

The project brings together experts in design, computer science, political science, media, psychology, sociology, and risk management, and findings will inform future government and security policy on identity management and its implementation, as well as provide resources for further research.

The project commenced on 1 September 2011 and was included in the recent report Big Ideas for the Future which was published by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Universities UK.

The report explores the excellent research currently taking place in UK higher education and what it will mean for us in 20 years’ time. It also demonstrates the value of public investment in higher education and research and the positive impact this has on economic growth and the social wellbeing of the UK.


For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

1. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

2. The Engineering and Physical Sciences research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via research Councils UK.

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