2017 ESRC Manchester Festival of Social Science

MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Dear colleagues,

We are delighted to announce that Manchester Metropolitan University is once again partnering with the Economic and Social Research Council, the University of Salford and Manchester University on the 2017 ESRC Manchester Festival of Social Science.

The aim of the Festival is to showcase the best of Manchester’s social science research to a broad non-academic audience. Last year we hosted an eclectic blend of activities designed to celebrate the social sciences, including discussions and debates, exhibitions, film screenings, walkabouts, family fun days, schools visits, workshops, and lots more.

Over the past 2 years the Manchester strand of the Festival has attracted almost 10,000 people to over 60 events. The Festival has gathered national media attention, reaching an estimated 3 million people through features in The Guardian and The Sun. This year we are aiming to improve the impact of the Festival, drawing in new audiences and partners…

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Animals should not be kept in captivity

Born to Live Wild – A PLEDGE for wildlife

Blood Lions has brought the horrors of predator breeding, canned hunting and a variety of other exploitative activities using lions and other species to the world’s attention in a way that has not been achieved before. While so many others have been involved in different ways over the last decade and more , and their contributions have been and will continue to be meaningful and significant, the films powerful visual narrative as well as the global campaign have provided a compelling call to action to have these practices stopped.

With support from the wider conservation community and the global tourism industry as well as millions of concerned citizens, the Blood Lions campaign is now owned by everyone that supports an end to the breeding, canned hunting and commercial exploitation.

For those not yet committed, we ask that you consider doing so. By committing to the pledge you will also be making a clear statement that:

a) lions and other predators are wild species and we wish to continue promoting Africa as an authentic, wild and rewarding tourism destination and,

b) we wish to continue our support and promotion of the formal conservation community in their endeavors to secure the survival of Africa’s predators in the wild.

This pledge has become a central part of what we are all trying to achieve, and this page recognizes those safari and tourism operators that have committed to actively becoming involved in being part of the solution.

Blood Lions and those that have already signed up ask that you join in good faith. The industry will be its own watchdog.

We invite all tourism operators to join us in committing to these pledges. To do so, please click on link below.

Tories aim to block full EU ban on bee-harming pesticides

Move to block EU ban comes despite environment secretary Michael Gove saying, ‘I don’t want to water down’ EU protections

Michael Gove
Michael Gove told BBC Farming Today he wanted to enhance both environmental and animal welfare standards. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Conservative politicians are trying to stop a complete EU ban on bee-harming pesticides, despite the new environment secretary Michael Gove’s statement earlier this week, in which he said “I absolutely don’t want to water down” EU environmental protections.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides but have been banned on flowering crops in the EU since 2013. However, the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) found in 2016 that use of the pesticides on all crops poses a high risk to bees. As a result, the European commission has proposed a ban on all uses outside greenhouses, first revealed by the Guardian in March.

On Thursday, an attempt by the Conservative MEP Julie Girling to block the full ban will be voted on by the European parliament’s environment committee. Most of the UK’s environmental protections derive from the EU and since the Brexit result many green groups have been concerned that these could be weakened after Britain leaves the EU.

Gove gave reassurances on Monday, telling BBC Farming Today: “We need to maintain, and where possible enhance, environmental and animal welfare standards. We have a strong position and good track record in both of those areas and I do not for a moment want to see either of them diluted or eroded.”

The Guardian asked the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if Gove backed Girling’s attempt to block the pesticide ban. A spokeswoman did not answer directly but said: “The government has fully applied restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids introduced by the EU. We make all decisions on pesticides based on the science.”

Honey bees on lavendar
Bee campaigners criticised MEP Julie Girling, saying her arguments against a full ban were no different to those raised by pesticide manufacturers. Photograph: Alamy

Matt Shardlow, at the conservation charity Buglife, said: “Conservative politicians have repeatedly led the charge to face down measures to restrict harmful pesticides. Buglife would like to see a clear commitment from the Conservativesthat after Brexit our environment and health will be in safe hands. It is time to start listening to the people and respecting the experts.”

Martin Dermine, from Pesticide Action Network Europe, said Girling’s arguments against the full ban were no different to those put forward by the pesticide manufacturers: “Such a similarity between an MEP’s work and the industry’s arguments is shocking. Bee-killing neonicotinoids should never have been authorised and it is more than time to ban them.”

Girling said there was no link between her and the pesticide industry: “I just happen to agree with them on this issue. I believe that the sustainable use of pesticides is a vital part of providing safe and affordable food production.”

The MEP said she agreed with Gove’s reassurances: “His statements do not support policy which seeks to ban all pesticides indiscriminately.”

Graeme Taylor, from the European Crop Protection Association, said: “The size of the toolbox available to farmers to allow them to produce is being constantly depleted by decisions that are based on fear and misinformation rather than fact, and without consideration of the consequences for European agriculture.”

In a debate in the European parliament environment committee on Wednesday, Girling was challenged by a commission official Klaus Berend. He said arguments over whether widespread harm to bees had been proven or not missed the point of the EU regulations: “The principle of the regulation is that safe use must be demonstrated, not the other way around.” With Efsa finding high risks to bees, Berend said: “There is no other choice for the commission than to act.”

The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population was declared a “myth” in March, in a report by UN food and pollution experts. It severely criticised the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

In April, a major study found virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, and that chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on more than three-quarters of farms.

Update 11.20am BST: MEP Girling’s attempt to block the full ban on neonicotinoids was rejected by the European Parliament’s environment committee on Thursday. In the vote, 43 MEPs voted against Girling’s objections, eight voted in favour and seven abstained.

World’s largest sleep study launches from Western University, Canada

Renowned Western University neuroscientist Adrian Owen has launched the world’s largest sleep-and-cognition study to help researchers learn the effects on our brains of sleep and sleep deprivation.

“Many of us are working more erratic hours and sleeping less, while the pace of our lives seems to be accelerating,” said Owen, who is the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at The Brain and Mind Institute at Western and Chief Scientific Officer at Cambridge Brain Sciences. “We know that this sleep disruption affects us in some ways, and that some people feel the impact more than others, but there’s surprisingly little research into exactly how our brains deal with these sleep deficits.”

Sleep loss is a global problem that saps billions of dollars of productivity from the world economy and endangers lives. Lack of sleep is linked to physical ailments such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes and can impair driving abilities at least as significantly as alcohol intoxication. Yet the ability to function on just a few hours of sleep — to work around the clock on an assignment or drive all night to a vacation destination — remains a socially acceptable point of pride for many people.

Brain researchers are still exploring some of the most basic, and essential, questions about sleep, Owen said: “What specifically happens in different regions of our brains when we sleep or don’t sleep? How much sleep is ‘enough’? Is there a long-term effect on brain health as well as a short-term effect? We all know you shouldn’t drive if you’re too tired — but should you decide to get married, buy a car or design a bridge if you’ve been up half the night? And if there is an impact, is it the same across all ages and jobs or is it different for seniors, young moms, students, shift-workers, equipment operators?

“We have the opportunity in this study to learn far more about the brain’s response to sleep than we have ever had before. And what we learn ultimately has the potential to change how millions of people go about their daily lives.”

The testing will be conducted entirely online at http://www.worldslargestsleepstudy.com, which is designed by neuroscientists through Cambridge Brain Sciences, to test different types of thinking. Study participants will be asked to track their sleep over a 3-day period, while playing a set of scientifically valid tests of brain function. Participants will be able to check in after their three days to see how their sleep values and performance compare with the other volunteers’. Researchers will then analyze sleep and cognition data with the intention of sharing the results of the study six months after launch.

Based on responses to a previous, ground-breaking study on the efficacy of brain-game training, Owen expects this will draw hundreds of thousands of participants from around the world. While other sleep studies have boasted of being the “largest” none have been subject to the scientific rigor of this study, nor have they examined links between cognition and sleep.

Some preliminary participants have performed brain-game tests and been monitored with functional MRI (fMRI) scans when fully rested and after a sleepless night. But that’s impossible to do with thousands of people, and this study is intended to draw out equivalent information on an exponentially larger scale. The study is powered by Cambridge Brain Sciences — a leading online brain health platform, with more than seven million tests completed by people in 75+ countries.

“The Internet has provided us with this unprecedented opportunity to involve the public in scientific research — research that can draw out a gold-mine of sleep and brain data we’ve never before had access to,” said Owen, who is also scientific director of Western University’s BrainsCAN initiative, which has received a substantial $66-million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).

Research conducted by the Owen Lab has helped change how the world understands brain function. Its ground-breaking work has included showing that some brain-injured patients previously thought to be non-responsive can be aware of their condition and be able to communicate. The lab is also creating significant new understandings of the causes and consequences of memory, perception and reasoning in healthy people and in people with neurodegenerative diseases.


NOTE: Downloadable files — photo images, an infographic and graphics — are available at this link: http://mediarelations.uwo.ca/2017/06/26/worlds-largest-sleep-study-launches-westerns-brain-mind-institute/

World’s largest sleep study launches from Western’s Brain and Mind Institute – Media Relations mediarelations.uwo.ca

Renowned Western University neuroscientist Adrian Owen has launched the world’s largest sleep-and-cognition study to help researchers learn the effects on our brains of sleep and sleep deprivation. “Many of us…

A video describing the research can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/S11C_Y3t3tU Media may also use the infographic attached to this email.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debora Van Brenk, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85165, or on mobile at 519-318-0657 and deb.vanbrenk@uwo.ca

ABOUT WESTERN UNIVERSITY and the BRAIN AND MIND INSTITUTE: Western University in London, Canada, delivers an academic experience second to none, with research excellence that expands knowledge and drives discovery with real-world application. Western’s Brain and Mind Institute provides a centralized, interdisciplinary and visible presence for cognitive neuroscience – a place to promote research, facilitate the training of highly qualified personnel and to foster national and international collaborations in cognitive neuroscience.

About Cambridge Brain Sciences

Cambridge Brain Sciences is a leading online brain health assessment platform based on the pioneering work of our Chief Scientific Officer, renowned neuroscientist and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, Dr. Adrian Owen (owenlab.org). Our assessments of brain function and brain health have been taken millions of times and used in over 300 studies published in leading academic journals over the last 25 years. Cambridge Brain Sciences is headquartered in Toronto, Canada and has helped hundreds of thousands of people from 75+ countries gain greater insight into their brain health every day. Visit http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com to learn more.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Meeting the twin challenges of planetary limits + accelerating resource scarcity.

Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 6, radical economic localisation

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. In this  installment we explore the idea of “Economic Localisation” something that certainly distinguishes our approach from that of others suggesting policies for the city region.  And there’s plenty more to come!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

5. Economic localisation

In the report that launched SSM we argued:

To meet the twin challenges of planetary limits and accelerating resource scarcity, we need to look at a strategy for re-localisation of the economy. This means arranging production, distribution, ownership of means of production/assets, trade and enterprise so that much more of the economy is localised within the city, and the surrounding bioregion.”p. 24.

Localise West Midlands defines localisation in terms of,

Local trading, using local businesses, materials and supply chains

  • Linking local needs to local resources

  • Development of community and local capacity

  • Decentralisation of appropriate democratic and economic power

  • Provision of services tailored to meet local needs.1

Localise WM’s extensive literature review2 found evidence that more localised economies had superior indices of return on investment, quality of life, jobs per capita, income equality, the local multiplier, job creation and unemployment reduction, and income growth.

Despite the evidence there seems little enthusiasm for a strategic localisation of the economy among orthodox economists and leaders. As we point out elsewhere,

The viable economy uses the concept of strategic localism which means that things that can be sourced locally should be. ……….This means not just playing to the strengths of local economies but actively building those strengths. It does not mean turning our back on the world, but playing a responsible part in the world while becoming locally more sufficient. Finally it means living in greater knowledge of our own bio-region, its strengths, its delights and its vulnerabilities. (p. 12)3

We therefore argue that a viable alternative economic strategy needs to include an explicit strategy for localisation4 as a way of stabilising and strengthening the local (viable) economy. There are already elements of localisation in existing strategies and the proffered alternatives: the need is to make localisation a cornerstone of the strategy which will also help in addressing the many other issues that challenge us.

  1. 5.1 Reduce reliance on long, vulnerable, global supply chains.

Policy 5.11: GMCA to adopt economic localisation as a policy aim and produce a localisation strategy.

The thinking behind it:

If re-localisation is a valid principle for a more resilient Greater Manchester that shares its wealth with its people and that treads lightly on the planet, then it is worth adopting as a strategic principle and aim together with the detailed strategic and implementation planning that will be necessary across all sectors. We suggest that a start is made on those sectors where imports could most easily be substituted locally and whose ecological footprint is the greatest. This therefore requires a combination of sound business economics together with ecological literacy.

Policy 5.12: Measure and monitor the scale of imports to the region.

The thinking behind it:

This follows from the previous point: we need to understand where we are now. What do we import, from where, with what consequences and with what risks?

Policy 5.13: Discourage wasteful trade contraflows (e.g. dairy products exported and imported).

The thinking behind it:

Product contraflows (our term) take at least two forms.

  1. Products (e.g. non-speciality cheese) are produced in area A and sold in area B while identical or equivalent products are produced in area B and sold in area A.

  2. A product (e.g. milk) is produced in area A, processed in area B and then taken back to area A for sale and consumption5.

Orthodox economic measures such as GDP and GVA are blind to this absurdly wasteful situation. Indeed cash value of (say) potatoes exported plus that for potatoes imported are both added to those measures, incentivising this unsustainability, something akin to pointlessly digging holes and filling them in in the name of economic activity. Policy incentives therefore need to be devised to make this situation less likely.

  1. 5.2 Work near home.

Our roads are clogged with traffic. People spend a significant part of their working day travelling. Moving people and vehicles around generates carbon emissions and air pollution. It is a pressure on incomes too.

Policy 5.2: For each institution, devise incentives for employees to live locally.

The thinking behind it:

This is an example of how a policy initiative can bring together several desirable things, in this case, of anchor and other institutions supporting their local economy (since more of the salaries they pay will go into the local area), the improvement of work-life balance as less time is spent away from home travelling6, and carbon reduction. Such incentives have been deployed before. Back in the 1970s, Manchester City Council would make a contribution to the legal costs of buying a house for staff living within a certain radius, and paid for rent if a purchase was made in the first six months of employment. More recently it ring fenced its lower paid jobs for city residents. Each of these has its flaws but indicates that employers can incentivise local residence. It is up to the participating institutions to devise schemes that enhance social and economic equity while reducing resource use.

5.3 Just Trade

Policy 5.3: Establish co-operative arrangements with producers of selected products elsewhere.

The thinking behind it:

Localisation does not mean forgetting our responsibilities to people in other parts of the world. Establishing such co-operative arrangements (for tea, sugar for example) can help ensuring just terms of trade while reducing transaction costs otherwise paid to “middlemen”. This would build on but go beyond Fair Trade so that the key institutions and industries of the region all pursue “Just Trade” in their procurement and trading relations – an approach adopted by the Ethical Trade movement7. A “Just Trade” mark could be developed to aid in this.

…..to be continued, or if you want it now, download here:  https://steadystatemanchester.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/policies-for-the-city-region-the-longer-version-v3-final.pdf

You can also see our policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.


4Further resources: Local Futures. (n.d.). Going Local: the Solution-Multiplier: short introduction to economic localization. http://bit.ly/2jVdoEo Norberg-Hodge, H. and Read, R. (2016). Post-growth Localisation. Greenhouse think tank. https://t.co/SqPoMaXgE4

6Lobel, B. (2016). National Work Life Week: Working near to where you live pays off. Vitesse Media. http://smallbusiness.co.uk/national-work-life-week-working-near-live-2534427/

7Ethical Trading Network (n.d.). Ethical trade and fairtrade. http://www.ethicaltrade.org/issues/ethical-trade-and-fairtrade