Research to action: Open Access Week 2016

How can research address the issues that affect all our daily lives? We’ve worked with some of the learned societies Taylor & Francis publish journals with, handpicking a selection of Open Access research that has the potential to inform vital issues and be actioned by people beyond academia.

Whether policy makers, practitioners, NGOs, the media, educators or clinicians (or anyone else), this article collection brings together research on planning, transport, defence, crime, education, migration, the environment, energy, government and politics, healthcare, international relations, housing and employment. 

With introductions from the authors of many of these articles, browse our ‘research to action’ collection for international research on vital issues.  

Biotechnology

Modelling of biohydrogen generation in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) using a committee of artificial neuralnetworks (ANNs)
Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment
Yeshona Sewsynker, Evariste Bosco Gueguim Kana & Agbaje Lateef

What is this research article about?
The rapid depletion of fossil fuel reserves has prompted research towards alternative energy methods. One such method includes Microbial Electrolysis Cells for the production of hydrogen. This process uses bacteria to break down organic substances for the production of hydrogen which may be used for energy generation. Several studies have addressed the improvement of the production process, storage and uses of this fuel. A common strategy that has been employed for the optimization of energy yields are mathematical models. These models assist during the enhancement of energy production, thus making the process economically feasible. This study reports on the development of a database that has pooled together the various studies that have previously been conducted on hydrogen generation using Microbial Electrolysis Cells. The development of this model was performed in order to enable the inter-laboratory reproducibility within the research fraternity. This will enhance hydrogen process development towards commercialization.

Defence & International Relations

Syria: Laying the Foundations for a Credible and Sustainable Transition
The RUSI Journal
Scott Lucas, Christalla Yakinthou & Stefan Wolff

What is this research article about?
After more than five years of devastating civil war, a rapid, permanent, and sustainable solution for the Syrian crisis remains unattainable for the time being. That being the case, our article does not set out the lines of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict. Rather, our concern is about how to consolidate and expand existing and future local arrangements establishing stability and security on the ground —- it is these that will provide the necessary conditions for an eventual credible and sustainable transition from the current civil war. Arrangements put in place now for governance, reconstruction, provision of services, justice, and civic engagement will lay the foundation for, and shape the direction of, the political, legal, economic, and social constructions that will be necessary if there is ever again to be a meaningful “Syria”. 

Policy makers should accept that these arrangements must be made now, rather than waiting for a terminal moment in the conflict. They must be based on recognition of the necessity of a “bottom-up” approach, establishing connections with local groups rather than imposing a pre-conceived international model of the proper “moderate” procedures and actors. By considering the challenges of peace and state building, and of transitional justice in war-to-peace transitions, we identify risks and mitigating actions. This risk mitigation should begin now with a sober analysis of the realities on the ground, rather than with the types of wishful, evasive, and/or hyperbolic thinking that has characterised so much of Western intervention for more than a decade.

Trident Replacement and UK Nuclear Deterrence: Requirements in an Uncertain Future
The RUSI Journal 
Andrew Futter

What is this research article about?
Earlier this year, the United Kingdom committed to building the next generation of nuclear-armed submarines that will see this country remain in the nuclear business well into the second half of this century. But it is far from clear that this system will remain viable, effective and even credible in what seems likely to be a much changed future nuclear deterrence environment. It is essential that policymakers take into consideration now what might be needed for deterrence in the world of 2030 and beyond, who will need deterring, and how. The answer might not necessarily be a single submarine armed with just a few nuclear-armed missiles.

The UK Armed Forces and the Value of the University Armed Service Units
The RUSI Journal
Rachel Woodward, K Neil Jenkings & Alison J Williams

What is this research article about?
The University Armed Service Units – the Officer Training Corps (OTC), University Air Squadrons (UAS) and University Royal Naval Units (URNU) are training units providing UK university students with an introduction to armed forces life.  Although not obliged to continue to a career in the armed forces after graduation, many USU members do so and the units are an increasingly important recruitment pathway for the armed forces.  However, our research found that the units also have a significant value to the armed forces even when recruitment to the Regulars or Reserves does not follow on graduation.  Drawing on their military experience in the units, graduates argue that the units help them develop a range of graduate-level skills (leadership and personal management, for example) which are advantageous in the workplace.  Graduates also provide very nuanced explanations of the ways that their attitudes towards the armed forces, developed through unit experience, might or might not be communicated once they enter the labour market.  This article will be of interest to graduate employers, members of the defence community, and to current and former members of OTC, UAS and URNU.

Education

Employment

Plant closures and taskforce responses: an analysis of the impact of and policy response to MG Rover in Birmingham
Regional Studies, Regional Science
David Bailey, Gill Bentley, Alex de Ruyter & Stephen Hall

What is this research article about?
How should policy makers anticipate and react to large manufacturing plant closures? This paper analyses the impact of, and policy response to, the MG Rover closure in 2005, and recognises significant policy successes in the regional response in anticipating and responding to the crisis. Critically, however, the paper moves beyond a standard ‘taskforce narrative’ and takes a wider perspective. It highlights the precarious situation faced by workers post-closure and the need for policies to create and sustain ‘good quality’ jobs. It also highlights that policy responses should be: multidimensional in transcending sector-based concerns and addressing broader spatial impacts; inclusive in that they build on a broad coalition of economic and social stakeholders; and long-term in that they acknowledge that adaptation can take years. The work has been widely used by policy makers, taskforces, unions, governments at various levels, practitioners and international organisations in anticipating and dealing with plant closures.

Entrepreneurship and employment growth across European regions
Regional Studies, Regional Science
Justin Doran, Noirin McCarthy & Marie O’Connor

What is this research article about?
This paper analyses the impact of entrepreneurial activity on employment growth across European regions. Given the severe economic crisis of 2008, there is increasing emphasis being placed on job creation. Our analysis looks at a broad European perspective, considering whether higher levels of new firm formation, which we use to measure entrepreneurial activity, results in greater job creation. We find strong evidence that employment growth can be stimulated by new firm formation. This suggests that government policies, targeted at increasing the rate of new firm formation, can help stimulate employment across European regions. This has important societal implications as the creation and support of new firms may help offset the significant job losses which occurred across Europe, which still persist in areas, following the 2008 economic crisis.

Energy

Greening regional development: employment in low-carbon and renewable energy activities
Regional Studies
Grant Allan, Peter McGregor & Kim Swales

What is this research article about?
Across the world, regions are encouraging – and spending considerable resources on developing – low carbon and renewable energy, partly for their anticipated positive impact on regional employment. Our paper critiques how useful some measures of these employment impacts are, often referred to as “green jobs”. Drawing on examples from Scotland, we find that measures of green jobs are confused and confusing, unlikely to avoid double-counting – particularly around the treatment of activities in the “supply chain” for low carbon and renewable energy activities . Such measures therefore are not appropriate for evaluating policy. Our proposal is that low carbon and renewable energy activities should be identified within a set of economic accounts such as Input-Output. This would allow for robust and time-consistent identification of green and renewable activities, clear characterisation of the supply-chain and a transparent way to understand the drivers of these economic activities.

Environment

A review of recent studies on extreme heat in China
Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters
Ri-Yu Lu & Rui-Dan Chen

What is this research article about?
The death toll caused by heat waves during the decade ending in 2010 is estimated to have increased by 2,300% compared to the previous decade. The destructive impact of heat waves, especially against the background of global warming, provokes numerous relevant investigations. Recently, Lu and Chen (2016) reviewed the research progress on heat waves in China and suggested the potential research topics in the future. Possibly due to the fact that China has traditionally been an agricultural country, far less attention has been paid to heat waves than precipitation extremes in China. However, the aging of population and expanding of urbanization will push China into greater challenges in the coming decades. Therefore, this review paper can help meteorological professionals, environmental officers and policy makers understand potentially increasing crises of heat waves and thus the necessity of well-informed heat warning systems in China and other countries and regions alike.

Urbanization-related warming in local temperature records: a review
Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters
Jun Wang & Zhong-Wei Yan

What is this research article about?
Urbanization usually induces additional warming in local temperature observation series, which is influential for the study of detection and attribution of large-scale climate change. Many authors suggested that such local warming could be about 0.1°C/decade or even larger in China during the past decades. This review highlights the problems in the data and techniques used to estimate the effect of urbanization. It is noted that the estimated urban warming based on well homogenized temperature records is smaller. It is also noted that the widely applied ‘observation minus reanalysis’ method in this field tends to overestimate the urban signal, partly due to systematic bias in multi-decadal variability of the reanalyzed surface air temperature data. These points are critical for the detection and attribution of regional climate change over rapidly developing regions.

Analysis of the extremely cold and heavy snowfall in North America in January 2015
Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters
Hong-Yan Cui & Fang-Li Qiao

What is this research article about?
Anomalous cold snaps have attacked the Northern Hemisphere in recent winters. Among them, North America suffered extremely cold and heavy snowfall events in January 2015. The atmospheric circulation around Arctic area was analyzed based on National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis data. It is noticed that the circulation was favored of cold air blowing to North American continent from polar region. The joint effects of the global change due to anthropogenic greenhouse emission and polar amplification decrease the westerly jet stream in north hemisphere which has served as a barrier for exchange between high and mid latitudes. The weakened westerly jet made the anomalous north wind with cold and moist air to penetrate this strong current barrier easily and then attacked the North American continent. This should be the main reason for extremely cold and heavy-snow winter of 2015 in North America.

Drought in Southwest China: A Review
Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters
Wang Lin, Chen Wen, Zhou Wen and Huang Gang

What is this research article about?
Pray for rain: save our future, our food security and our society from more frequent catastrophic droughts. In recent decade, devastating droughts are still fresh in the memories of many people over different parts of the world, including Europe in 2003, Southwest China in 2006, 2009-2010 and 2011, Amazon in 2005 and 2010, the Texas and north Mexico in 2010–2011, and Russia in 2010, etc. Under the rising threat of drier climate, there is growing concern that how we plan for a future of water scarcity and extremes. Instead of praying for rain, there is much we can do to address the drought risks. However, the mitigation strategy totally depends on the scientific knowledge. To learn more, dive into “Drought in Southwest China: A Review”. Although this review is region specific, the idea and methodology can be readily applied to other parts of the world.

Response of fine particulate matter to reductions in anthropogenic emissions in Beijing during the 2014 Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation summit
Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters
Yi-Xuan GU and Hong LIAO

What is this research article about?
This work uses a global chemical transport model to identify the sensitivities of fine particulate matter concentration to the changes in emissions of different species in different regions during the 2014 Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. Results from sensitivity studies provide useful information on emission reduction strategies in Beijing. In general, cooperating with surrounding provinces and cities can significantly improve the effectiveness of emission control measures, compared to conducting control measures in Beijing alone. For short-term emission control during wintertime, reducing local emissions of carbonaceous aerosols and regional emissions of nitrogen oxides and organic carbon is the most efficient approach to reduce fine particulate matter concentrations in Beijing. For long-term emission control strategies, reducing ammonia emissions from agricultural sources is an effective way to improve the air quality in Beijing. This work provides useful information for the environmental officers and people concerning the environmental protection issues.

Government & Policy

Democratic metropolitan governance: experiences in five German metropolitan regions
Urban Research & Practice
Karsten Zimmermann

What is this research article about?
Newly established metropolitan governance arrangements have had profound political and economic implications for the ways in which our cities are governed and services delivered. Most of our cities are part of wider metropolitan agglomerations and in many European states some form of metropolitan governance for public transport, waste management or business development emerged in recent decades. In fact, metropolitan regions are an increasingly relevant scale for political decision-making but mechanisms for legitimacy and accountability have failed to keep pace. Public actors (from local government to agencies of upper-level government) are interlinked in these arrangements in complex formal and informal networks with private companies, business associations, trade unions, universities and a multitude of civil society organizations. The danger is that fragmentation, selectivity and instability of governance networks reduces the accountability and transparency of metropolitan politics as a whole and threatens to undermine their legitimacy.

The impact of place on policy outcomes
Regional Studies, Regional Science
Martin Quinn

What is this research article about?
The future of regional policy in England is once again unclear following George Osborne’s departure from Government. The continuation of initiatives such as elected City mayors and the very concept of the Northern Powerhouse is up for debate in the new May led administration. This, however, is nothing new. English regional policy has seldom been stable, often an after thought once devolution settlements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been agreed. This article highlights the dangers of the ever-changing boundaries used by policy makers in England (regions, counties, City Regions, the ‘North’) by exploring the impact that place can have on the success of policy initiatives. In particular it argues economic development policies have a greater chance of having a positive impact when the Public and the Business Community have a real connection to the place being used.

Powerhouse of cards? Understanding the ‘Northern Powerhouse’
Regional Studies
Neil Lee

What is this research article about?
The Northern Powerhouse is the UK government’s big idea to address the North-South divide. It is based on economic theory which suggests that larger cities are more productive, and so by joining up the cities of the North of England could create a city large enough to counterbalance London. This article investigates the strengths and weaknesses of this idea. It argues that this is a good idea in principle. However  there are some practical difficulties with the Northern Powerhouse agenda: the government hasn’t invested as much money as they claim, and it is unclear whether this money will be focused in one place or spread out more widely. The result is that the Northern Powerhouse seems to be more a political brand than a genuine economic development strategy.

Healthcare

The impact of introducing drug labelling at Grey’s Hospital Theatre over a six-month period
Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia
Reitze Rodseth & Zane Farina

What is this research article about?
A patient having surgery can receive as many as 15 drugs during their anaesthetic. When this is multiplied across thousands of surgeries every day the risk of an anaesthetist making a drug error at some stage is very high. To reduce these errors multiple anaesthetic societies have recommended the use of colour coded drug labels. This recommendation was implemented at Grey’s Hospital in 2015 and, over a 6 month period, resulted in a significant decrease in the number of errors. This study shows how a simple and cheap intervention can dramatically improve patient safety.

A review of paediatric anaesthetic-related mortality, serious adverse events and critical incidents
Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia
Larissa Cronje

What is this research article about?
75% of anaesthetic-related causes of death are preventable through basic interventions and investment in surgical and anaesthetic services in the developing world. This is not happening as developing countries continue to prioritise other primary health care interventions over surgical care. This is perpetuated by lack of large prospective data sets and appropriate governance. The current state of affairs fails to make explicit the crucial health system issues to all involved, from the child-parent system, to governmental policy makers. What is therefore urgently required is a pragmatic research agenda using simple data collection tools. The information gathered must then direct effective interventions and resource allocation. External support and intervention by non-governmental and volunteer organisations has shown that it is feasible to improve outcomes even in resource poor areas. Effective programmes provide simple sustainable changes and ongoing support. Cost effective strategies include provision of basic equipment, staff skills training especially in airway management and CPR, and introduction of checklists and protocol driven care.

The prevalence of chronic postmastectomy pain syndrome in female breast cancer survivors
Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia
Muhammed Luqmaan Variawa, Juan Scribante, Helen Perrie & Sean Chetty

What is this research article about?
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer diagnoses in women. Postmastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) is a chronic debilitating neuropathic pain syndrome that develops after breast surgery, which can have wide-ranging effects on health, functioning, quality of life, and poses a considerable economic and health-care burden. As a result of progress in the development of diagnostic and treatment strategies, the population at risk for late post-surgical complications such as chronic pain can be expected to increase in future. The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of PMPS, which was found to be 38,04%. The study included 92 patients. Even though surgical procedures are becoming less invasive, PMPS remains a clinically significant problem. This necessitates the development of more effective prevention and treatment strategies to improve patients` quality of life. A multi-modal approach is most likely to influence the development of PMPS, with referral to a pain clinic being an important consideration.

Antimicrobial resistance—a threat to the world’s sustainable development
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences
Dušan Jasovský, Jasper Littmann, Anna Zorzet & Otto Cars

What is this research article about?
Antimicrobial resistance has the potential to disarm cornerstones of basic and modern medicine - the effective antibiotics. Being one of the greatest global challenges mankind faces today, the negative impacts of antimicrobial resistance extend well beyond both human health and health care and undermine global environmental, social and economic progress. As such antimicrobial resistance  poses a real threat to the world's sustainable development efforts formulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In our commentary we demonstrate scientific and political links between antimicrobial resistance and SDGs. Goal-by-goal, we examine how implementation of specific SDGs is being affected by antimicrobial resistance and suggest how the issue can be better integrated into current policy landscape. By using burden data and scientific literature we create a science-policy interface urging policy-makers to act on antimicrobial resistance.

Multidisciplinary treatment of patients with rectal cancer: Development during the past decades and plans for the future
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences
Bengt Glimelius

What is this research article about?
The treatments for rectal cancers have changed markedly during the past decades and the results have correspondingly improved. A most devastating local recurrence has more or less disappeared at specialized centers. They were earlier seen in one third of the patients. Better possibilities to investigate the patients with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before any treatment, discussion in multidisciplinary team conferences, use of preoperative radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy and better surgery are responsible for the improvements. The effects of chemotherapy after surgery are minimal. Many studies have now tested the value of giving the chemotherapy before the surgery instead. Some tumors respond well to radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy, and if they disappear completely, surgery is no longer always needed. This strategy, called organ preservation, has become widely popular but its role in the management is not yet defined. If surgery can be avoided, the well-being after the treatments will be improved.

Reflections on having children in the future—interviews with highly educated women and men without children
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences
Carola Eriksson, Margareta Larsson & Tanja Tydén

What is this research article about?
We found that women and men in their 30s try to balance their wish to have children in the future with their professional career while avoiding being too old. Parenthood was perceived as a challenge and a sacrifice but also as enriching life. Men and women reflected in much the same way, but the women often voiced sacrifice. Our findings reflect the present situation in many high-income countries and postponing parenthood is not optimal for the individual or the society. Age related fertility problems increase after 35 and dramatically after 40. It is consequently riskier to become and stay pregnant leading to an overall poorer outcome for the mother and child. There is a need to grasp this threat to public health and support women to achieve biologically optimal childbearing. Despite changes in the society the most optimal age for childbearing remains 20-35.

The type I interferon system in the etiopathogenesis of autoimmune diseases
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences
Lars Rönnblom

What is this research article about?
Proteins normally produced during viral infections can cause an autoimmune disease.   One of the most severe autoimmune diseases is systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, which can cause damage to any part of the body and mainly affect young women. These patients have low quality of life and a reduced life span. Patients with lupus, but also a number of other autoimmune diseases, have an ongoing production of antiviral proteins, or interferons. The interferons stimulate the immune system and sustain the disease process. The mechanisms behind the continuous production of interferons in several autoimmune diseases have during the last years been clarified. The mechanisms include existence of self derived inducers of interferon production resembling viral particles. Furthermore, gene variants within the interferon signaling pathway is connected to increased risk for development of autoimmune disease.  This knowledge is now translated into new therapeutic agents and several of these are now in clinical trials.

Housing

Mixed tenure communities as a policy instrument for educational outcomes in a deprived urban context?
Urban Research & Practice
Oonagh Robison, Ade Kearns, Linsay Gray, Lyndal Bond, Marion Henderson

What is this research article about?
Children from poorer families tend to do less well at school than more affluent children. In Glasgow, where secondary school intake is based on catchment areas, there has been a large amount of housing regeneration in some of the less affluent areas. This article looks at whether housing and planning policy, specifically that of tenure mixing, or introducing a greater mix of housing tenures into catchment areas, can have a positive impact on the educational outcomes of poorer pupils in Glasgow. The article found a positive association between the proportion of owner occupiers in a catchment area with both exam results and pupils going on to positive post-school destinations. This article is the first in a forthcoming programme of work that aims to explore this subject in more detail by using census data and pupil level data over  time to examine changes in both in pupil attainment and school catchments. 

Water trajectories through non-networked infrastructure: insights from peri-urban Dar es Salaam, Cochabamba and Kolkata
Urban Research & Practice
Adriana Allen, Pascale Hofmann, Jenia Mukherjee, Anna Walnycki

What is this research article about?
This article investigates the transformative potential of water supply and sanitation services provision co-produced between ordinary citizens and the state in three contrasting scenarios. We focus on peri-urbanising areas, a context where unmet needs are growing fastest, and where conventional centralised networks are unlikely to become the norm any time soon. While these areas continue to be marked by high levels of inequality in service provision, they are also sites of the active experimentation in new ways to fill in provision gaps. The research provides insights into how far these practices not only represent efforts to obtain access to basic needs, but can also act as a process to activate citizens’ rights and entitlements.

Migration

Decoding borders. Appreciating border impacts on space and people
Planning Theory & Practice
Beatrix Haselsberger

What is this research article about?
What is a border? Most people think of a border as a dividing line separating two countries. But borders are much more complex. At a border several different geopolitical, sociocultural, economic and landscape aspects are confirmed or disrupted. This comprehensive view explains two things. First, every border and every part of the border is unique (depending on which and how many aspects are at play). Second, the more aspects are coming together at a border the “thicker” and more oppressive it is and consequently the more difficult it is to cross, both physically and mentally. What I am interested in is, how “thick borders” can be transformed into “thin borders” and in particular what role spatial planners, politicians and practitioners, have to take within this process. In this article I am introducing a dynamic border interpretation framework, which helps to uncover – and consequently to solve – border-related challenges. Several examples are offered to accompany the arguments made. In this context let me conclude by reminding the interested reader that a fence or a wall bears even more potential for bitter conflicts and real border problems, as history has shown.

Planning

The challenges of the “material turn” for planning studies
Planning Theory & Practice
Yvonne Rydin

What is this research article about?
What can the latest thinking in the social sciences offer to planning studies? There are two trends that are increasingly influencing planning research today. The first is relational thinking, which puts the emphasis on connections between actors rather than the actors themselves. The second is the “material turn”. This involves paying attention to the material dimensions of planners at work – their offices, their site visits, etc. – as well as the materiality of artefacts such as plans, files and other documentation. It also focuses attention on how knowledge of the world is brought into planning deliberations. But these conceptual directions are also challenging.  They suggest that the planner is at best an enabler, a fixer or a generator of connections. Furthermore plans have to be rethought to recognise the importance of linkages across scales. The hard lesson is that the impact of planning activities remains radically uncertain.