UWE Bristol Professor in Emergency Care Jonathan Benger awarded CBE

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UWE Bristol Professor in Emergency Care Jonathan Benger has been awarded a CBE for services to the NHS.

Professor Benger, who is also a consultant at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), and Chief Medical Officer for NHS Digital, was recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

Graduating from University of Bristol Medical School in 1990, Jonathan initially trained as a surgeon, then in anaesthesia, intensive care and paediatrics, before specialising in emergency medicine.

He has previously led several reforms of emergency care as the National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care at NHS England.  He also leads the Emergency and Critical Care Research Theme in the Centre for Health and Clinical Research at UWE Bristol.

Jonathan has a lifelong interest in research and was appointed to a Professorial Chair at UWE Bristol in 2008 and leads a team of 15 people carrying out a wide range of emergency care research, particularly around the management of critically ill and injured patients, service delivery and workforce.  

Most recently, he has been leading on digital and data provision for the health and care system, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes NHS111 online, the NHS.UK website and the NHS app, all of which have been central to the pandemic response – 16 million people now use the NHS app.

Jonathan, who has worked at UHBW as a consultant in emergency medicine since 2003, said: “It’s a proud moment for me, however it’s also an opportunity to acknowledge the many excellent teams that I have had the opportunity of working with. My academic training, and the Emergency Care Research Programme based at UWE Bristol, have been central to informing and developing my work for the NHS both locally and nationally.

“Emergency care is a ‘team discipline’; it’s only possible to push things forward and improve care by working as part of a coordinated and effective multi-disciplinary team.

“I think it’s vital to remain clinically grounded, and I work in the Trust every week. It is so important that clinicians with a national leadership role also work on the front line to ensure we are clinically credible, and close to the practical delivery of patient care and the challenges that staff face every day. I am proud to work for UHBW.”

Professor Marc Griffiths, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, said: “Professor Benger’s appointment as CBE is testament to his hard work and collaboration shown over the last several years. Jonathan’s work within the field of Emergency Medicine and NHS Digital has ensured safer patient outcomes and his experience is invaluable across a range of our health and social care programmes and research themes. 

“I am incredibly proud of Jonathan’s achievements and is a real world example of collaboration across different disciplines and organisations.”

Applications open for Partnership PhD scheme

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UWE Bristol has recently announced another application round of its successful Partnership PhD programme.

A Partnership PhD bridges the gap between external organisations and university. It enables an organisation to gain access to cutting-edge real-world research that can help transform it.

The Partnership establishes a relationship between an organisation and UWE Bristol, based on a specific project that is mutually beneficial.

Organisations have the opportunity to choose a relevant research area and gain access to cutting-edge research. The researcher will work extensively with the organisation to provide a tailored piece of research.

In turn, the researcher will gain an opportunity to pursue their research in a real-world setting, developing transferable and interdisciplinary skills whilst gaining cross-sector experience.

Over the past two years, the Graduate School, part of the Research, Business and Innovation team at UWE Bristol, has been developing the Partnership PhD scheme. Through it, UWE’s investment in Post Graduate Research has been matched by over £1.5m from 40+ partner organisations.

Application deadline 1 April 2022 for Partnership PhD’s starting in 1 October 2022.

Apply for a Partnership PhD.

Email uwebusiness@uwe.ac.uk to find out more.

Please find below full Partnership PhD guidance, costings, useful information and the flyer for businesses:


See below for our slides for businesses:

Email uwebusiness@uwe.ac.uk to find out more.

Continence care app developed by UWE Bristol academics wins national Nursing award

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An app developed by a national team including UWE Bristol academics has recently won the Nursing Times Award for Continence Promotion and Care.

The free CONfidence app was developed by the Bladder and Bowel CONfidence Health Integration Team (BABCON HIT) as part of Bristol Health Partner’s Academic Health Science Centre.  Development included a national team of clinical experts and patient and public partners, supported by a local self-care app developer, Expert Self Care, to develop a unique app to enable people with bladder and bowel leakage (incontinence) to access self-help advice and information.

The BABCON HIT and app project is led by Dr. Nikki Cotterill, Professor in Continence Care at UWE. The CONfidence app was launched in June during World Continence Week and has just achieved over 1000 downloads. It has been termed a ‘gamechanger’ as it bridges the gap between the millions of people with symptoms who feel they are alone and nothing can be done, and the evidence-based guidance that can really make a difference.

The CONfidence App

The award winning app has already proven to be hugely successful and has been covered regionally, nationally and widespread on social media.

Nikki commented “We are thrilled with the reception of the app so far. Nationally, we’ve seen services adopting it into their service pathways as it aligns with the NHS Long Term plan to promote self-care. It’s also been included in the Orcha app library and is currently undergoing an NHS DTAC review. At its core though, the app can help people to take control of their life where bladder and bowel symptoms are taking the lead, avoiding the physical and mental health declines that can ensue.”

To learn more visit Bristol Health Partners.

Introducing our research strength focus: Digital Futures

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At UWE Bristol we are proud of our active and collaborative research community of bold and innovative thinkers that are breaking research boundaries. 

Our four key research strengths are:   

  • Creative industries and technologies 
  • Digital Futures 
  • Health & Wellbeing 
  • Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience

Over the past three months we have been sharing content around our research strength, Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience. We are now moving onto our next focus: Digital Futures.

 Our research strengths in this area include: 

  • robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced engineering 
  • industrial digitalisation, high-value design and next generation services 
  • future mobile communications, ubiquitous computing, data science and cybersecurity. 

To introduce this research strength, we are going to share with you two of our Digital Futures research case studies: 

Cyber crime: Helping authorities worldwide to tackle financial crime 

Being as vast and intangible as it is, the internet has proved one big loophole for cyber criminals – until now. Turning the tables on fraudsters is the raison d’etre of experts in cyber security and financial crime, who are helping police forces across the world to close in. 

“We know that the rapid exchange of information between cyber criminals, and the lack of information sharing across police forces and countries is a major barrier to success in tackling the issue,” says Professor Phil Legg, Associate Professor of Cyber Security. “Our goal is to work with police forces to understand what tools they currently lack and how we can help by using our research intel to come up with a solution.” 

Phil is working alongside Professor Nic Ryder, Professor of Financial Crime, on a multidisciplinary project to address the evolving nature of crime online, and to develop technological solutions for facilitating law enforcement in this globally connected space. 

Much of Nic’s work has already helped shape improvements in how law enforcement agencies across the world tackle terrorism financing and money laundering. As well as training police authorities in Rome, the Netherlands and the UK, he has worked with NATO, the UK Home Office and the Centre of Research Evidence and Security Threats (CREST). 

A seminal piece of work is the development of a fraud typology that enables agencies to identify where financial crime is being used to fund terrorist activity. The typology is a robust toolkit based on evidence from convicted terrorism cases, which revealed how terrorism is often connected to fraudulent activity in areas including immigration, identity theft, credit cards, tax, student loans and insurance. 

View the full case study  

Digital ethics: Balancing creativity with ethics on and off screen 

What happens when you give people the power to raise the dead? Aside from the creative potential for screen directors to shock audiences into paying attention, the deep fake phenomenon which does precisely that, raises a host of ethical and legal challenges. Who better to test the balance of such powers than Maggie Thatcher…? 

Digital face replacements are commonplace in the high budget film industry, with the widespread use of CGI and digital effects by Disney and the Star Wars franchise, among others. Since 2017 the open source, lower resolution alternative of deep fakes has become widespread, providing an affordable means of translating existing images into a simulated context. 

For television and film directors like UWE Bristol’s Dr Dominic Lees, Associate Head of Department, Filmmaking, this is interesting territory that poses both creative and ethical questions when it comes to examining a director’s intentions and the potential for shifting perceptions. 

“We have a moment in technological development that is really exciting,” says Dominic. “It’s the democratisation of what has been an extremely elite part of the studio and film process for some years. Philosophically, it raises questions around why we would want to do this, how we do it, and whether we even ought to.” 

These are the questions that Dominic is exploring in collaboration with colleagues from Law, and Engineering and Technology, via the Virtual Maggie project, digitally resurrecting the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for a contemporary short film set in the 1980s. 

Having filmed several scenes with a real actor, they are now testing out open source (artificial intelligence) AI technology to recreate the actor’s scenes with a simulated version of Thatcher’s face. 

Dominic says: “It’s both interesting and rattling to consider whether I want people to completely believe that this is Margaret Thatcher, which I could never do because the audience knows she wasn’t alive when I was shooting this film? Or whether I want it to be slightly unbelievable so that viewers are aware of the artifice of what I’m doing, and appreciate the fakeness?” 

View the full case study

Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience Round Up

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For the past three months, we have been focusing on sharing content with you around Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience, one of our four research strengths.

The challenges of global warming, finite resources and shrinking biodiversity could not be clearer – the future of the planet and our world is at stake and we won’t get a second chance. Net-zero carbon buildings, sustainable mobility, green agriculture, emissions and air quality are just some of the critical issues we are tackling.

Our research strengths include:

  • transforming construction, infrastructure and design
  • food security, water management and air quality
  • future mobility, connectivity and place.

We have shared with you a guide to COP26, discussed the importance of sustainable fashion, shared sustainable businesses in our University Enterprise Zone and highlighted our Research Centres and Groups within this area, to name a few.

The below blog shares some of our favourite blogs from the past few months.

Our next focus is our research strength Digital Futures. We look forward to sharing more of our amazing research with you.

For UWE Staff: Women Researchers’ Mentoring Scheme

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The Women Researchers’ Mentoring Scheme (WRMS) aims to promote and facilitate professional development for women researchers working at UWE Bristol, helping them reach senior research roles.  This scheme provides support to female staff to develop and strengthen their research portfolio, making them more able to compete for senior research roles alongside their male counterparts.

This scheme offers a specified number of mentoring opportunities, which aim to provide mentees with encouragement, support and advice from experienced colleagues in order to help the mentee realise their potential and fulfil their research career aspirations. 

The new application cycle for the Women Researchers Mentoring Scheme (WRMS) is now open. The scheme is open to all women in academic and research roles, employed by UWE, who wish to develop their careers.

The benefits of being involved in the scheme by becoming a mentor or mentee could assist your development and progression. The scheme will entail a nominated woman researcher being matched to a mentor, who can be a woman or man. Training will be provided to all new participants. The application deadline is Wednesday 12 January 2022.

Further details of the scheme including how to apply is available on the Women Researchers’ Mentoring Scheme staff intranet pages.

UWE Bristol academic wins ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize 2021

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Dr Rebecca Windemer, Lecturer in Environmental Planning and Design, last week won the Outstanding Early Career Impact award as part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize 2021 for her research on “Influencing policy and debate on end-of-life considerations for onshore renewables”.

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize, now in its ninth year, is an annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from excellent research.

Rebecca’s research into the 25-year planning consents that regulate the UK’s onshore wind and solar farms has led to policy change in Wales, greater guidance for local authorities and the wind industry on end-of-life considerations for onshore renewable energy infrastructure, and increased community awareness of the potential to influence the future of local wind and solar sites.

In the context of a global transition to decarbonise the energy system and meet NetZero targets, expanding energy output from renewables is increasingly important. However, space for renewable energy infrastructure is limited and existing wind farms are beginning to reach the end of their operational or consent life. Given tightening planning and land restrictions, keeping consented infrastructure in place is likely to form a key part of ensuring that renewable energy targets are met. There is also potential to significantly increase the energy generated from existing sites through repowering (replacing existing infrastructure with new). However, the context of existing sites and the opinions of local communities may have changed over time. There is thus a need to consider how we make decisions about the future of our existing onshore renewable energy sites, including how local communities are involved in such decisions.

Rebecca commented: “I am delighted to have won this award for my work on planning for the future of onshore renewable energy sites. As our existing wind farms are reaching the end of their planning consent there is an urgent need to consider how we make decisions about their future. These decisions are not straightforward as both the sites and the opinions of communities living close to wind farms may have changed over time.

Directly responding to this challenge, I have used my research findings to help develop planning policy in this area. I have also shared my research findings with the renewable energy industry, emphasising the importance of considering communities over the life of energy developments, rather than only during planning applications. The funding that I have received from this award will be used to further generate such policy and behavioural change, both locally and internationally.”

Find out more about Rebecca’s research. Find out more about the other winners from the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize.

Research Centre Spotlight: Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments

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The Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments (SPE) aims to develop understanding of how to achieve sustainable, healthy places that are resilient and responsive to future challenges. We are a multidisciplinary centre of academics researching different aspects of planning theory and practice, urban governance, green infrastructure, urban design and climate change adaptation. This blog gives a flavour of some of the ways we are doing this.

The world has changed since the emergence of COVID-19. The pandemic has given many of us the opportunity to think about what we want from our neighbourhoods, be it access to local amenities, or reducing our reliance on cars and inequalities. Planning for this deeply uncertain future recognises that the pandemic has propelled cities through a decade of digital transition overnight, promoting new ways of living and working more locally, with potential for major environmental benefits, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality. SPE’s CURE and SUNEX projects, led by David Ludlow, are providing targeted policy solutions that recognise the opportunities to rethink urban connectivity and re-energise the economy, whilst delivering carbon neutral cities.

Moving towards sustainable urban futures also requires a consideration of our national infrastructure. Infrastructure for transport, energy, resource extraction, and water and waste management is critical to our wellbeing, but much of our current infrastructure is old and unsustainable. For example, one proposal to address our resource insecurity is to extract the metals needed for smart technology from old metal mines. Our research, led by Danni Sinnett, found that many of these mines are protected for their heritage, geological and biodiversity value, but that those living in former mining communities may be open to remining the wastes if this was combined with sensitive restoration and improvements in water quality. New research is exploring the stakeholder response to new sustainable waste management facilities which will allow resources to be recovered in the future.

Our new colleague, Rebecca Windemer, brings her expertise on the planning of energy infrastructure. Her research has examined the future of our oldest wind and solar farms as they reach the end of their 25-year planning consents. This includes how decisions are made regarding repowering, life-extension and decommissioning and how communities have experienced living with the infrastructure. This is important as if sites are not repowered then overall renewable energy generation could decrease, but decision-making is not simple, particularly where communities were promised removal after 25 years. The findings revealed the range of opportunities and challenges facing our oldest sites and have provided recommendations for policymakers, developers, and communities. This research won the EnergySHIFTS ECR award for innovative research findings and has been shortlisted Economic and Social Research Council’s Celebrating Impact Prize 2021.

Effective planning is absolutely crucial to the delivery of infrastructure and our research, led by Hannah Hickman, for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) identified five principles of good infrastructure planning: A shared vision of place, with clear objectives; Specific infrastructure priorities identified to achieve that vision, aligned to funding sources; Effective and early engagement to align planning and delivery; Capacity, knowledge and resources and Continuous learning and dissemination. Despite finding pockets of innovation where these principles were being applied, the team found that often this was not common practice, leading the RTPI to warn “that a failure to adopt a more joined-up approach to planning the UK’s towns and cities will make it impossible to meet the challenges of climate change, population growth and environmental risks over the coming decades”.

Green infrastructure, which includes parks and other greenspaces, street trees, river corridors and green roofs, is essential for sustainable, healthy cities. For example, research supported by the West of England Combined Authority and led by Danni Sinnett, on greenspace use under lockdown highlighted the importance of providing green spaces within walking distances of people’s homes. There is increased focus on the role of street trees in improving the quality of the public realm, reducing urban temperatures and pollution, and providing habitats for wildlife. As a result, new planning guidance prioritises the creation of tree-lined streets in new development and many places around the world have set targets for tree planting. We recently worked with one of our MSc students, Max Walters, to publish the findings from his dissertation examining the feasibility of Bristol’s target to double tree canopy cover by 2045. This found that the current planting of 10,000 trees per year would need to be increased to at least 18,000 ‘heavy standard’ trees every year. However, using mortality rates more typical of urban areas increased this to 44,000 trees per year. This highlights the importance of good tree establishment and stewardship practices. However, it is often challenging to establish trees in urban environments, and traditional planting techniques are often unsuitable in adverse growing conditions, resulting in high mortality rates among street tree populations. This reduces the benefits that trees provide and hampers achievement of these planting targets. To address this, Dean Bell is assessing alternative tree pit solutions for their impact on tree establishment, growth and survival in hard landscapes in partnership with GreenBlue Urban and Forest Research.

As the climate changes, we need to balance the different priorities for the design of our green infrastructure. Focusing on the cultural acceptability of climate-adapted green infrastructure research by Helen Hoyle has demonstrated broad support for non-native, climate-adapted plantings, with appreciation of unusual aesthetics and an awareness of climate-adaptation, such as reduced need for labour-intensive watering. Recent research focusing on public perceptions, values and socio-cultural drivers in designed garden settings revealed that climate-adapted settings were viewed as more attractive, but traditional settings more restorative. The restorative benefits of green infrastructure for physical and mental health are well known. We have recently contributed to a review for the Wellcome Trust led by Issy Bray from the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing which examined these benefits for young people with anxiety and depression. This found strong evidence that walking or being in a green space like a forest or park improves mood and reduces feelings of anxiety for young people aged 14 to 24 years, and that even short 15-minute walks in a green space are beneficial.

Our research emphasises the importance of providing high-quality, well-designed places for people to live. However, research funded by the West of England Combined Authority, revealed there can be a significant drop in the quality of new development between planning permission being granted and delivery on the ground. This drop can particularly affect the aspects of the developments relevant to climate change mitigation and adaptation, such as green infrastructure. This research won the 2021 RTPI Sir Peter Hall Award for Research Excellence, and provides recommendations to improve local authority practice including reducing the potential for a decline in quality in the post-consent process; resourcing planning authorities and empowering planning officers; and building trust between local planning authorities and developers. Our research has been influential in improving the quality of green infrastructure, through our collaborative with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust in the development of Building with Nature. This benchmark focusing on providing green infrastructure that delivers climate-adapted, healthy places that are good for nature.

Finally, SPE is inspiring the next generation of planners through our planning and built environment programmes. This is informed by our research, supported by the RTPI, into the motivations and expectations of planning students. Now in its third year, the study has involved participation from over 20 planning schools across the UK and Ireland, and over 400 students. Particularly revealing has been the student’s overwhelming desire to affect positive environmental change in their future practice as planners, with ‘climate change and energy’ rated as the subject students are most interested in learning about. These findings are a significant contribution to furthering our understanding of young planners and are of relevance not just to educators (both in schools and universities) but to the RTPI, employers and politicians alike. SPE’s research is contributing to our understanding of how we can plan and deliver sustainable places and achieve our ambitious targets for climate change and sustainable development.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership Case Study: Craven Dunnill Jackfield

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The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. A recent graduate is placed within an organisation to help solve a business problem, with access to our academic expertise.

The below case study is from our KTP with Craven Dunnill Jackfield:

About Craven Dunnill Jackfield

Craven Dunnill & Co Ltd is a historic business, founded in 1872. It has been producing ceramic wall and floor tiles for 150 years and is the oldest surviving purpose-built tile factory in the world. It is part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site at the heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution

The challenge the KTP was set up to address

Each individual project requires the application of ceramic modelling skills to create new working models and moulds for the restoration of architectural features and to interpret the complex three-dimensional shape of the item beneath the glaze layers of an original sample.

This is a highly skilled art, and ceramic modellers with this ability are few in number and expensive to employ. Across the industry modellers with the necessary hand skills are reaching retirement age and are difficult to replace which will significantly impact the future sustainability of the sector. The situation is a major bottleneck in the production process and limits the ability of the company to expand this part of the business.

The application of 3D technologies, specifically 3D scanning to derive the surface shape of the original ceramic pieces and 3D CAD to recreate the aesthetic of the original work, combined the CNC milling can be used to produce master models and moulds for the reproductions.

Why was a KTP the right mechanism to achieve this?

The KTP allowed us to test machinery and processes at the University in a way that would have been time consuming and expensive to achieve without the partnership. The CFPR’s knowledge of both ceramics and digital manufacturing technology were a perfect fit for Craven Dunnill’s needs. There are limited organisations with the knowledge of both subjects. Years of research from university staff fed into the project and allowed us to address the problems which arose when combining the traditional hand craft process with digital technology.

How did the KTP meet the need (the activities / solution)?

By utilising the expertise offered from the University, new technology was brought in to improve lead times and open new areas of business, specifically in 3D scanning. The development budget provided opportunities for learning new skills which were applied to the project.

Outcome – Impacts & Benefits

What changed as a result of the KTP?

Craven Dunnill invested in a CNC milling machine and a 3D scanner, both of which were required to embed digital design into their traditional mould making process. Moulds, tiles and artworks can be 3D scanned and manipu- lated to produce new block moulds, the block can be directly plaster cast from, saving time and cost.

As well as being utilised for mould making, CAD now plays a role in the initial contact with customers. Vector drawings and 3D models are used to visualise end products, before we commit to producing physical models.

Layouts for wall and floor tile are designed within Rhinoceros3D. This allows for tiles to be automatically counted and layout issues to be resolved before committing resources to a project.

Broad benefits and impacts for all partners, (including economic, environ- mental and/or social perspective)

For CDJ:

Having the 3D capabilities in house has opened up the possibilities of additional revenue streams. Many projects can now be completed in house.

For UWE Bristol:

The Centre for Fine Print Research has a strategic objective and a long history of collab- orating with industry that constitutes around a third of its research.

The success of the KTP with Craven Dunnill Jackfield will add to the Centre’s reputation for combining traditional methods with modern digital technologies both in academia and commercially.

The project validates this research and highlights the value of this method.

The initial concept used was based on an Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) project conducted in the early 2000’s and the development of these ideas into a successful industrial outcome is likely to generate further research questions for investigation.

It demonstrates how embedding digital technologies into traditional processes can generate benefits for both of the partners.

For the KTP associate

As the KTP associate, I am very pleased with how the project concluded. KTP has opened doors for me and given me the opportunity to develop as a project manager. I have attended multiple courses and conferences over the project, developing both my key skillset (CAD/3D Design) and other elements which will improve my efficiency at work such as Finance/ management/business.

Quantifiable benefits (the numbers bit!)

  • Improved product development time by 72% (From 2 weeks of model making, down to 4 days)
  • Reduced development costs on specific projects by up to 79% (Based on price of model board compared to traditional block and casing)

What the partners are saying?

“Through a challenging time for businesses, the KTP programme has been a true shining light, surpassing our expectations as a Company. It is critical for a 150yr old Company like ours to stay dynamic and explore ways in which new technologies can support and compliment traditional craftmanship. The KTP has brilliantly highlighted the way in which business and academia can come together to develop new capabilities and embed them into our operations. ”

Simon Howells, Managing Director, Craven Dunnill Group

“The Craven Dunnill Jackfield, CFPR/UWE KTP project shows that a committed Company and Academic team combined with an excellent, dedicated Associate can overcome the difficulties and adversities of operating during a pandemic to drive through to success. The project has been very successful and has exceeded the expectations of both partners.“

David Huson Senior Research Fellow, UWE Bristol

“The KTP program has been the most exciting part of my working life to date. It has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and interests within 3D design and technology, whilst allowing me the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge developed during my degree. “

Jed Leonard-Hammerman, 3D Technologies Specialist Craven Dunnill Jackfield

“This project could not have been done without the unusually wide skill set of the Associate who was equally at home in the application of complex digital technology and the practical traditional skills required to manufacture three dimensional tiles together with the support of his academic and company supervisors”

Russ Bromley Knowledge Transfer Adviser

Social Sciences – The lynchpin for conducting real-world research?

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Guest blog post by Professor Kieran McCartan, Professor of Criminology, UWE Bristol

All research, even theoretical research, has a real-world basis. Research helps us understand the world and our role in it better. Therefore, at the core of all research conducted at UWE Bristol should be people and social life. The social sciences, therefore, are central in developing and adapting a range of different research ideas, methodologies, and products so that they have real world validity and can be used more effectively in practice. The social sciences are the study of social beings, social lives, and social interaction; they are the disciplines that connect our psychological, social, and cultural worlds. The social sciences provide context, and understanding, to our behaviours and actions. This means that all research has a social component to it – whether it be Engineering or Art, Food Technology or Fine Print, AI or Architecture – because humans, and the human experience, are at the heart of all these.

This increased recognition of the importance of the social science perspective is reflected in the external funding landscape. More and more funding calls with ‘hard science’ remits require that academic teams include those from the humanities and social sciences to bring this much-needed perspective to addressing the challenge at hand.

At UWE Bristol, we research a range of social sciences and in doing so add nuance to policy and practice, which means that we can add to ongoing and novel research across a number of disciplines. Our research strengthens external research bids, adds new dimensions to research and publications, and expands the parameters of UWE Bristol’s role as a civic, community based, practice-based university. Social scientists are spread and integrated throughout the UWE Bristol academic diaspora – you find them in every faculty and department.

However, the largest congregation is gathered in the Department of Social Sciences, in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, where the Social Science Research Group (SSRG) is based. The SSRG has over 91 members drawn from disciplines as wide as Philosophy, Sociology, Criminology, Social Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Psycho-social studies, Politics, International Relations, Policing, and Social Work. The SSRG is split into five themes with cross cutting, qualitative research methods expertise:

  • The World, Meaning and Human Action research theme investigates and employs the interaction between philosophical thought and cultural, political and critical practices, with a particular emphasis on the collective project of human flourishing.
  • The Global Security and Human Rights research theme draws on work on global security, human security, human development and human rights. Key cross-cutting dimensions are around gender, health, governance, security, human rights, exclusion, vulnerability and resilience, and migration.
  • The Crime Risk and Society research theme gives voice to the experiences of victims, offenders and professionals within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and critically engage, challenge and inform criminal justice policy and practice.
  • The Psycho-social Studies and Therapeutic Practices research theme studies the way in which psychic experiences and social life are fundamentally entangled with each other.
  • The Identities, Subjectivities, and Inequalities research theme is a collective of researchers who focus on exploring the ways in which identities, subjectivities, and inequalities are produced by exploring how individuals make sense of their selves and the worlds they inhabit as well as on wider social practices and discourses.

How can the SSRG, and social sciences more broadly, add to your research moving forward?

  • Maybe you need to conduct social research (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods) to preface, support or evaluate the impact of your research or product?
  • Maybe you need access to and representation from diverse populations to test your product or innovation?
  • Maybe you need advice about how to approach and work with frontline professions so that your research can be implemented in the community?
  • Maybe you need support in working with policy makers so that your research and innovations get used in practice?
  • Maybe you need a social, cultural, or psychological lens to add nuance to a new or ongoing project?
  • Maybe you need to understand why different communities, cultures, or populations react differently to the product or innovation that you are developing?

We live in a social world where people are the core users of much of the research and innovation developed at UWE Bristol, therefore the social sciences provide a lynch pin for bringing in expertise to make sure that all the research done at UWE is applied and fit for purpose.

If you are a social scientist interested in joining the SSRG or a colleague at UWE Bristol interested in collaborating with SSRG members please reach out.

Prof Kieran McCartan, UWE Bristol