Have You Booked Your Place on the Research Roadshow?

The University’s first Research Roadshow will be held next week on Wednesday 7th March. The Research Roadshow is a dedicated university-wide mini conference on research activity, and a great way to hear about the latest developments for research at Lincoln, hints and tips for successful research funding proposals and an opportunity to network with staff from across the university.

The event will feature briefings on the University’s Research Strategy along with keynote talks by:

  • Professor Andrew Atherton – The Future of Research atLincoln
  • Professor Paul Stewart – Simple Secrets to Research Funding and More!
  • Lisa Mooney-Smith – Mentorship and Planning in the Development of a Healthy Research Culture.

Three workshops will then take place on the following areas:

  • Professor Nigel Allinson – One Sold, One Lost, One Dying and Two Running – Tales from a Serial Academic Entrepreneur
  • Melanie Bullock – Impact and the REF
  • Research and Enterprise Development and Dr Martin Pickard – How to write a successful Research Funding Proposal.

A networking session with drinks and a buffet will finish the first in a series of activities to enable staff to help shape  the future research landscape of the university. This is your chance to get involved and to build on our strengths to create a sustainable and vibrant research culture for years to come so we would love to see you there!

To book a place please email events@lincoln.ac.uk.  Places are limited to please book now to avoid disappointment!

Potato Industry Reaps Benefits of New Computer Vision Technology

Computer Scientists from the University of Lincoln Centre for Vision and Robotics Research will be presenting a prototype  computer vision system which can identify sub-standard potatoes:

A prototype computer vision system to identify sub-standard potatoes will be presented by computer scientists from the University of Lincoln at the triennial conference ‘Crop Protection in Northern Britain’, taking place in Dundee this week.

The new machine vision system uses off-the-shelf hardware to enable affordable detection, identification and quantification of common defects affecting potatoes.

The British potato industry is worth around £3.5billion a year and potatoes account for 40% of the carbohydrate consumed in the UK.

The main factor affecting consumer preference is physical appearance, with clear unblemished skin a significant selling point. Potatoes with defects, diseases and blemishes are generally avoided. Most potatoes are sorted into different grades by hand, often resulting in mistakes and losses.

The University of Lincoln team from the Centre for Vision and Robotics Research worked with the Potato Council to produce a low-cost system which can assist quality control (QC) staff and improve consistency, speed and accuracy of defect identification and quantification.

Director of the Centre for Vision and Robotics Research, Dr. Tom Duckett, said: “The system relies on initial input by an expert, identifying blemishes, diseases, as well as good specimens, from sample batches of potatoes. The graphical user interface was developed to allow the software to be used by quality control experts from the industry. The system can be trained to recognise different defect types and will analyse potatoes in near-real-time – a significant improvement on previous research in this area.”

The system developed uses off-the-shelf hardware, including a low-cost vision sensor and a standard desktop computer with a graphics processing unit, together with software algorithms to enable detection, identification and quantification of common defects affecting potatoes. The system uses state-of-the-art image processing and machine learning techniques to automatically learn the appearance of different defect types. It also incorporates an intuitive graphical user interface to enable easy set-up of the system by quality control staff working in the industry.

Post-graduate students from the Centre for Vision and Robotics Research played a major role in the project with Michael Barnes (PhD student) undertaking underpinning theoretic research, while Jamie Hutton (MSc student) was responsible for researching and developing the real-time prototype for industry testing. The team worked with Glyn Harper from Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research – the leading post-harvest applied research facility for agricultural storage in the UK. It is owned by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board and operated by its Potato Council division.

Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2012 takes place on 28 and 29 February. It will bring together farmers, agricultural and horticultural advisers to discuss environmental management, crop protection and associated topics which are prevalent in northern environments (Scotland, Northern England, Northern Ireland, and Northern Europe.)

Visit the article page for the full story.

Fear Factor Checks Temptation to Act Selfishly

The University Press Office has published a story highlighting the work of Timothy Hodgson from Lincoln’s School of Psychology:

Humans appear to have a primitive fear which reins in the temptation to gain selfish advantage over others, even when presented with strong incentives to do so, according to new brain scanning research.

The findings, published in the latest issue of the American Psychological Association’s ‘Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics’, show that the temptation to break pre-established norms triggers activity in an area of the brain called the amygdala, part of the primitive limbic system linked to basic emotions, especially fear.

The international research team, which included neuroscientists and philosophers from the universities of Lincoln, Milan and Exeter, used fMRI brain scanning to analyse how people respond to the opportunity to act selfishly in a ‘Coordination Game’, which theorists have proposed as a laboratory model of the evolution of cooperative behaviour in human societies.

Previous neuro-imaging studies which have examined selfish decision-making have used the classic ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ game, a scenario central to early Game Theory. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, players are faced with the decision to cooperate or ‘defect’ with a second player on every round. However the authors of the current study reasoned that a more realistic scenario would be to embed such decisions within sequences of mutually rewarding cooperative interactions, as is the case in a coordination game.

Volunteers were grouped into pairs for the study with one player placed in the brain scanner whilst their fellow player sat in another room. Both players were presented with a simple decision – press either a left or right response key over a series of rounds. If both players made the same choice, each would receive a prize of 50 pence. The volunteers could not communicate directly but were shown the other’s response on a computer screen once they had made their own choice.

Most pairs quickly developed tactics to ensure they both pressed the same key. However, later in the game, the researchers introduced a ‘special’ round. On these rounds the player in the brain scanner was told they could receive a bigger reward of £2 if they pressed the opposite key to their teammate. If they did, the other player would win nothing.

The researchers found that tempted players only opted to take the extra payment on about 50 per cent of the ‘special’ rounds. The brain scan data also enabled the researchers to view which areas of the brain were activated as subjects weighed up whether or not to ‘cheat’ the other player.

Professor Timothy Hodgson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, said: “As well as expected activity in the brain’s ‘reward centres’, a response was also seen in the amygdala, an area of the brain long associated with emotion responses, especially fear.

“Interestingly, the extent to which participant pairs had successfully cooperated prior to the first ‘special’ round made a difference to activity in the amygdala. Most of the activity was seen in players who had managed only two or three successful co-operations before the first temptation to defect.
“Rather than a fear of future retribution, the results may therefore reflect players’ reluctance to endure the potential cost of breaking a hard won cooperative strategy.”

The study was led by cognitive neuroscientist Timothy Hodgson, of the University of Lincoln, with colleagues Francesco Guala (University of Milan), Tim Miller and Ian Summers (both University of Exeter) and the research was funded by a project grant from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

For the full story, including editorial notes, please visit the news page.

Ministers Defend Social Sciences and Humanities in Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 LogoResearch Europe have reported that EU research ministers want humanities and social sciences to play a “central” role in Horizon 2020

EU research ministers want humanities and social sciences to play a “central” role in the next research-funding programme Horizon 2020.

Ministers made a stand for social sciences and humanities during the Competitiveness Council, which took place on 20-21 February. “Many member states highlighted the advantages of embedding social sciences and humanities into research projects in order to better address the societal challenges,” the Council of Ministers said in a statement after the meeting.

“The solutions to complex societal challenges require interdisciplinarity,” said Danish science minister Morten Østergaard, who chaired the meeting. “The Council has had a longer discussion on this very issue and I am pleased that there is generally broad support for focusing on social sciences and humanities as transversal elements in the coming research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.”

In its proposal for Horizon 2020, presented in November last year, the European Commission proposed that social sciences and humanities research should be made available under a funding pillar called “Inclusive, innovative and secure societies” as well as across the other challenge headings.

However some ministers favoured a separate social sciences pillar in Horizon 2020 proposed structure under which social sciences and humanities research would be funded.

For all the latest news on Horizon 2020 please visit the dedicated Horizon 2020 webpages.

Last month, pan-European science academy Academia Europaea urged EU leaders to maintain and grow high-quality research in the humanities and social sciences, and to beware of focussing research evaluation on short-term economic benefit.


Lincoln Artists Heading to New York

On Friday I posted a story from the Press Office on Paul Stewart’s EPSRC feasibility study, and here is another great story from our Press Office regarding two academics, Angela Bartram   and Mary O’Neil from the Lincoln School of Art and Design who have been selected to be resident artists at the Grace Exhibition space in New York. Congratulations Angela and Mary!

Two University of Lincoln academics have been selected to be resident artists at the Grace Exhibition space in New York to develop their new work Oral/Response which they will perform at this year’s Bristol Live Open Platform (BLOP) festival later this month at Arnolfini.

Senior Lecturers at the Lincoln School of Art and Design, Angela Bartram and Mary O’Neill – a collaborative partnership whose work centres on the documentation of performance through situated writing – will head to New York in April to develop their work Oral/Response, which incorporates the simultaneous textual documentation of performed actions.

Oral/Response is as live as the performance itself, developing in each performance incorporating elements that emerge in response to each site.

The text acts as a mirror that tells the story as it unfold, and the sounds generated during the work’s duration help formulate a memory of its process.

The works reflexivity relies on the observation of each other’s movements and decisions throughout. With no time to reflect, to square up a shot or rephrase a sentence after the event, the integral nature of the work’s document is exposed to complication and chance; it becomes as influential as the action it is intended to record.

Visually the work involves Bartram crushing a stick of white chalk with a pestle and mortar, pinching the ground dust into a pile on the floor, inhaling, exhaling and blowing the dust across the floor. The process is then repeated through a grading spectrum of black to white charcoal. O’Neill kneels facing Bartram writes in matching tones on the floor a record of what is taking place before her. They work in synch and in rhythm: one creates a physical action that the other interprets in words scrawled on the floor.

Head of the School of Art and Design at the University of Lincoln, Dr Alec Shepley, said the school was delighted that Dr Angela Bartram and Dr Mary O’Neill have been selected to perform this work at Arnolfini for Bristol Live Open Platform (BLOP).

“The festival presents new work by live and interdisciplinary artists focussing on experiments and unpredictability – it is a great opportunity to share new ideas with an audience, and for audiences to experience something new and clearly demonstrates the quality of creative practice in the School,” he said.

For more information about the work of Angela Bartram and Mary O’Neil please go to:http://www.bartramoneill.com/