You are in: Submissions > Select unit of assessment > UOA 12 Allied Health Professions and Studies > Aston University > RA5a

UOA 12 - Allied Health Professions and Studies

Aston University

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT

 

SUMMARY OVERVIEW

The School of Life and Health Sciences (LHS) pursues topical, integrated research in the Biomedical Sciences (molecular and cellular), Neurosciences (systems to individual), and Health Sciences (restoration of health and study of the individual within health care and societal settings). The School has adopted a research-led priority in planning and resourcing of both academic appointments and infrastructure that supports our mission “to advance significantly the understanding of the processes of health and disease at the molecular, cell and whole body level, within the personal and social context in which they occur”. Our success is evident by the following key achievements over the past five years; 

Staffing 

58 academic staff are returned in RAE 2008 compared with 50 in RAE 2001 illustrating increased research activity.  Many new appointments have been made - 6 Professors (one as Executive Dean), 1 Reader and 18 early career researchers.

Staff have been retained and have progressed - 7 internal promotions to Professor and 5 promotions to Reader. 

Studentships 

Maintained a mean graduation rate of ~2 research students/research-active staff member over the RAE period with ~1 current FTE/research-active staff member.

Research outputs 

Over 960 ISI ranked primary research articles have been published by research-active staff since 2001. >80% of submitted outputs have ISI impact factors in the upper quartile for subject. 

Increased research income from diverse sources 

In 2007, LHS won grants/contracts in excess of £3.75m; research expenditure has more than doubled from £1.26m in 2001/02 to £3.04m in 2006/07. 

An infrastructure that supports high quality research 

The University has supported LHS in gaining investment of more than £12m for research infrastructure over the past four years, principally from HEFCE through SRIF, the BBSRC Research Equipment Initiative and the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM) to create a unique range of combined resources for interdisciplinary research. 

An organisation with vision to promote translational research

Strategic research developments build on successful activities of the former Neurosciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Institutes.  Developments in staffing and infrastructure have enabled further enhancement of LHS’s research reputation under the guidance of experienced research leaders.  Research integration across LHS has provided the opportunity to initiate original cross-disciplinary research; research is described by five themes which illustrate how our research spans the range from molecules through systems to individuals.  The strategy is directly relevant to UK and international research funding priorities and societal needs.

 

 

1. RESEARCH STRUCTURE

 

1.1 RESEARCH THEMES.

Five research themes in LHS bring together researchers from different disciplines to address specific human health and disease problems (Table 1). Each research theme comprises a balanced portfolio of research leadership and capacity development supporting our strategy for research sustainability.  

  

 Table 1; Research themes in LHS cross interdisciplinary boundaries

  DISCIPLINES
  NEUROSCIENCES BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES HEALTH SCIENCES
Theme A Cognitive and Perceptual Systems        
Theme B   Cellular and Clinical Neurophysiology      
Theme C       Communicable Diseases
 
Theme D       Chronic Diseases  
Theme E         Clinical Vision Sciences

 

The following sections (A-E) summarise the thematic objectives, main activities and main achievements of research-active staff with international collaborators identified in parentheses.

 

A. COGNITIVE AND PERCEPTUAL SYSTEMS  

Professorial Leadership: Anderson; Georgeson; Roberts. 

Constituency: Boutsen (Lecturer, early career); Holliday (Reader); Meese (Senior Lecturer); Morse (Lecturer, early career); Rippon (Senior Lecturer); Romani (Senior Lecturer); Senior (Lecturer, early career); Shapiro (Lecturer, early career); Talcott (Reader); Witton (Senior Lecturer).

OBJECTIVES: To advance the understanding of human perceptual and cognitive systems through behavioural studies, functional imaging (EEG, MEG, fMRI), theoretical development and computational modelling; and to apply this knowledge in the development of improved clinical methods in optometry, audiology, and neuropsychology.

MAIN ACTIVITIES

Fundamental studies on: binocular vision and feature detection (Georgeson, Meese); the effects of attention on visuo-motor behaviour and cortical activity in sensori-motor brain areas (Anderson); visual attention and neural correlates of visual word recognition (Holliday); behavioural and neuroimaging studies of mechanisms of visual object and face perception (Boutsen); the role of visual and auditory processing skills in normal and impaired literacy and cognitive development (Talcott, Witton); measurement of auditory nerve and brain responses to sound (Morse); the acoustic cues and neural mechanisms of perceptual grouping and auditory scene analysis (Roberts); auditory perception of dynamic aspects of sound and binaural auditory processing (Witton); how information in the auditory system is represented at the cochlear nerve level (Morse); the behavioural genetics of cognitive functions (Talcott); cognitive neuroscientific and neuropsychiatric investigations of social influences (Senior); longitudinal and experimental research into categorisation in children and adults (Shapiro). 

Applied studies on: binocular vision in amblyopia (Meese); optimisation of displays for visually impaired persons (Anderson); neuropsychology of speech and language (Romani); application of advanced analysis techniques to EEG measures in developmental disorders (Rippon); the design of speech coding strategies for cochlear implants (Morse).

Funding sources. Wellcome Trust, MRC, BBSRC, EPSRC and ESRC.

MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS:  

Vision – developed a comprehensive account of binocular summation and gain control, showing how visual signals are combined between the eyes, and a detailed computational theory for feature detection and blur coding in human vision (Georgeson with Webster, University of Nevada, Meese); showed the importance of attentional processes in linking vision and action, and the effects of visuo-spatial attention on oscillatory activity within primary visual areas (Anderson with Yamagishi, ATR Institute International, Kyoto); demonstrated the effects of cortical spreading depression in migraine visual aura and detailed the neural correlates of visual word recognition (Holliday with Pammer, Australian National University).  

Hearing – elucidated the roles of asynchrony and harmonic relations as the main grouping cues for separating sound mixtures, demonstrated the operation of wideband inhibition in the central auditory system, and showed that substantial stream segregation of sound sequences can occur without differences between sounds in their power spectrum (Roberts); devised speech coding strategies for cochlear implants, and demonstrated that adding noise deliberately to cochlear implant signals can enhance the coding of essential speech cues (Morse with Longtin, University of Ottawa); showed evidence for an interaction between basic auditory processing and phonological skills in dyslexia, and demonstrated that the ability to perceive accurately global patterns in sequences of tones is related to reading skills (Witton).  

Cognition – demonstrated abnormalities in cortical gamma activity during perception of illusory figures in autism (Rippon); showed that contextual information in faces adversely influences the processing of local part-based information in prosopagnosia (Boutsen); identified brain areas mediating facial attractiveness and the modulation of these areas across the menstrual cycle (Senior); identified a specific lexical deficit affecting the ability to learn both spoken and written new words (Romani); showed that language influences the development of colour categorisation and adult memory for colours (Shapiro); first report of a quantitative-trait loci-based genome-wide scan for dyslexia (Talcott).

 

B. CELLULAR AND CLINICAL NEUROPHYSIOLOGY

Professorial leadership: Furlong; Harding (category C); Martin; Seri

Constituency: Armstrong (Lecturer); Barnes (Senior Lecturer); Bill (Reader); Hall (RCUK fellow, early career); Hillebrand (Lecturer); Hine (Senior Lecturer, 0.7FTE); Parri (Lecturer, early career); Poyner (Reader); Stanford (Reader); Woodhall (Lecturer, early career). 

OBJECTIVES:To develop pharmacological, surgical and non-invasive investigations/interventions in neurological and neurodegenerative disease using molecular, cellular and system neurophysiological techniques. To provide a framework for the development of translational research methodologies, for example, characterising neuronal oscillatory activity in health and disease for differential diagnosis and treatment. 

MAIN ACTIVITIES:  

Molecular Studies focus on homology modelling (Poyner), mutagenesis (Hine) and novel expression systems (Bill) to study recognition and functional activity of selected G-protein coupled receptors (Poyner), ligand-gated ion channels (Martin) and other membrane protein channels (Bill). 

Cellular Studies use in vitro electrophysiology, calcium imaging and immunocytochemistry to study pathological oscillatory activity in entorhinal cortex (epilepsy, Woodhall), basal ganglia (Parkinson’s disease, Stanford), vCJD (Armstrong with Cairns, Washington University School of Medicine) and neuronal-glial cell interactions (Parri). 

Clinical neuroimaging studies combine theoretical with computational approaches to epilepsy (Seri, Harding)  and pain syndromes using MEG, fMRI, EEG and TMS (Furlong) and the development of neuroimaging analysis methods and models (Barnes, Hillebrand) for investigating drug interactions (Hall).  

Funding Sources. BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, BHF, EPSRC, Alzheimer’s Research Trust, Parkinson’s Disease Society, Wellcome Trust, RCUK, European Commission, Lord Dowding Fund, Hadwen Trust, Birmingham Children’s Hospital Research Foundation and the pharmaceutical industry.    

MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS: 

Cellular and molecular neurosciences: awarded a 10m € EU FP6 contract for collaborative research into membrane protein structural biology with leading UK and European partner Universities including two Nobel laureates which has established a new systems-based approach to engineering microbes to produce cell membrane proteins (Bill) exploited Aston-patented expertise in encoding any mixture of amino acids at a given location, regardless of codon sequence to generate novel therapeutics (Hine, PCTGB2003/002573; PCT/GB2006/002672); launched a spin-out company, ProtaMAX based on patented technology; and developed novel, rapid methods for affinity purification of plasmid DNA for gene therapy (Hine); determined the transmembrane amino acid residues in the CGRP receptor responsible for signalling (Poyner with Hay, now at University of Auckland); determined the subunit stoichiometry and arrangement of the heteromeric 5HT3A/B receptor by atomic force microscopy; the first demonstration that GABAA receptor subunit expression varies dynamically throughout the stages of the oestrous cycle (Martin with Dunn, University of Alberta); the first identification of presynaptic I channels in the globus pallidus and control of GABA release in this nucleus (Stanford); the first demonstration of re-expression of juvenile type presynaptic NMDA receptors following epilepsy (Woodhall); and the first description that astrocytes can independently generate neuronal excitation (Parri)

Clinical neuroscience: characterised visual disturbances from vigabatrin which has led to re-evaluation of the effects of anticonvulsants on the visual system and changes in drug prescribing worldwide (Harding); new interpretations of paediatric epilepsy syndromes and relationship between anatomical lesions and behavioural outcomes (Seri),  have supported improvements in diagnosis and patient care.  Functional neuroimaging  in patients has provided the first spatio-temporal reconstructions of pathological oscillatory activity providing the basis for future novel Pharmaco-MEG methodologies (Furlong, Hall); brain imaging algorithms (beamformers) have been developed for use in MEG studies which provide functional localisation of oscillatory neuronal activity which is temporally superior to functional MRI (Barnes, Hall). These methodological and clinical advances have been adopted worldwide.   

 

C. COMMUNICABLE DISEASE. 

Professorial Leadership: Lambert; Perrie; Wilson.  

Constituency: Batchelor (Lecturer); Marshall (Lecturer, early career); Rathbone (Senior Lecturer); Seville (Lecturer); Worthington (Lecturer, early career). 

OBJECTIVES: To improve understanding of the host response to transmissible agents in health and disease; to develop innovative approaches for early, sensitive and specific diagnosis, control and treatment of infectious diseases; to design new drug treatments which are effective against resistant organisms; to develop improved medicines through formulation or delivery; to evaluate their efficacy in vivo; to improve practitioner understanding to ensure appropriate and effective use of anti-infectives within the healthcare environment. 

MAIN ACTIVITIES: 

Mechanisms - communicable diseases are studied at the cellular and molecular level to gain further insight into molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity and to identify markers of disease (Lambert, Marshall, Worthington). 

Diagnostics - the evaluation of novel diagnostics and therapeutics is undertaken in vitro and in clinical trials (Lambert, Worthington).  

Therapeutics - molecular modelling and molecular biological approaches are adopted in the development of therapeutics (Rathbone). The biopharmaceutics of anti-infective drug delivery are studied using chemical, physicochemical, formulation and carrier methods for the design of optimised and novel drug delivery systems (Batchelor, Perrie, Seville).  Analysis of the evidence base for antibiotic usage is undertaken to inform practice guidelines (Wilson).  

Funding Sources. EPSRC, BBSRC, BHF, Wellcome Trust, AWM, European Commission, FP6, NHS, DoH and the pharmaceutical industry. 

MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS

Mechanisms – demonstrated that secretory component has an abnormal glycosylation phenotype in cystic fibrosis which contributes to abnormal neutrophil recruitment in disease (Marshall); shown that Porphyromonas gingivalis can manipulate host defences via processing IL-8 isoforms (Lambert, Marshall); and provided evidence for an association between sciatica and Propionibacterium acnes which is now the subject of a major clinical trial in Denmark (Lambert, Worthington)

Diagnostics - applied innate immune markers as diagnostic and prognostic indicators of infection to produce a commercial diagnostic array test (Worthington, Lambert); developed a rapid, sensitive and specific detection method for bacterial infection by proton transfer mass spectrometry (Worthington); and developed and applied techniques, including ELISA to detect antibodies against bacterial antigens, for the rapid identification of coagulase-negative staphylococci (implicated in catheter-related bloodstream infection) (Lambert, Worthington) currently in clinical trials in collaboration with University Hospital Birmingham. 

Therapeutics – demonstrated that aphenolic carboxamidrazone is potent and selective against gram-positive bacteria (Rathbone, Lambert); successfully designed and synthesised (Rathbone) novel lead compounds against tuberculosis which are being screened by the US funded Tuberculosis Antimicrobial Acquisition and Coordinating Facility. Developed and evaluated novel potent liposome formulations which support strong cell-mediated immune and antibody responses against novel genome-based tuberculosis (TB) vaccines (funded through FP6) (Perrie with Andersen, SSI Copenhagen); developed a novel, spray drying technology which improves dispersion and deposition of pulmonary gene therapy (Seville); developed novel formulations to improve the biopharmaceutic properties of drugs which will be used in clinical trials starting December 2007 (Batchelor); developed oxapenems, as a novel series of compounds with potent antibiotic and beta-lactamase inhibitory activity; and investigated the in vivo performance of oxpanems against antibiotic-resistant organisms (Lambert).  Systematically analysed antibiotic prescribing control within the UK in association with the ESGAP – The European Study Group on Antibiotic Policies; poor compliance with antibiotic usage guidelines has been highlighted in the NHS and recommendations for improved processes have been implemented (Wilson). 

 

D. CHRONIC DISEASES. 

Professorial Leadership: Bailey; Griffin; Griffiths; Tisdale. 

Constituency: Adams (Lecturer); Collighan (Research Fellow, early career); Conway (Senior Lecturer); Cooke (Lecturer, early career); Devitt (Lecturer, early career); Green (Senior Lecturer); Pattison (Reader); Peel (Lecturer, early career); Shaw (Lecturer, early career).

OBJECTIVES: To improve understanding of the biological processes that control chronic diseases including inflammation, fibrosis and cellular nutrition; to develop improved methods of disease prevention, management and therapy through nutritional, medicinal and behavioural intervention; to advance understanding of behavioural processes that influence the development, management and self-management of chronic disease. 

MAIN ACTIVITIES: 

Mechanisms - principal interests lie in mechanistic studies of cancer, inflammation and fibrosis, diabetes and obesity including the study of carbohydrate/fat utilisation in diabetes and protein utilisation in cachexia through to effects of dietary manipulation on disease activity (Tisdale, Bailey) with the application of new knowledge of disease mechanisms to improve therapy (Conway). Experimental approaches combine cellular and analytical techniques such as confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, and proteomics, in chronic disease models and patient groups (Griffin, Collighan, Griffiths, Devitt)

Management and Prevention – behavioural research into the prevention and management of disease using innovative qualitative approaches such as longitudinal interviewing and integration of qualitative data into systematic reviews (Peel, Shaw, Cooke). Other elements of the group’s research interface with the community and include field-based research in clinical facilities outside the University (Pattison)

Funding Sources. British Academy, UK Chief Scientist’s office, BBSRC, EPSRC, FSA, Wellcome Trust, NHS trusts, pharmaceutical and food industries, European Commission (FP5, FP6 and FP7) and US Dept of Agriculture. Members of the group are lead investigators in multi-centre, multi-disciplinary grants awarded by the PPP Health Care Trust, the NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme, CRUK, the West Midlands SHA and Diabetes UK.

MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS:  

Mechanism: identified zinc-alpha2-glycoprotein and proteolysis-inducing factor (PIF), as up-regulated lipid and protein mobilizing factors that are responsible for increased wasting in cancer cachexia (Tisdale with Manieri and Cinti, University of Ancona); identified reactive oxygen species as cellular signalling mediators in muscle atrophy and in the cytotoxic effects of the chemotherapeutic drug, methotrexate (Tisdale, Griffiths); demonstrated that insulin signals to promote endothelial relaxation in a calcium independent manner (Bailey); that  transglutaminase (TG) is a major factor in  matrix remodelling leading  to fibrosis and scarring in the kidney (Griffin); that effective clearance of apoptotic cells during tissue remodelling is due to CD14 in vivo (Devitt).  

Management: targeted zinc-alpha2-glycoprotein to inhibit the wasting process in cancer cachexia using eicosapentaenoic acid (now used clinically as ProSure, Ross Nutrition, Tisdale) and targeted zinc-alpha2-glycoprotein for the treatment of obesity (Tisdale GB624687.0). Successfully applied proteomics to investigate the effects of dietary vitamin E in vivo and identified an increase HDL-associated protein apolipoprotein A1 (Griffiths); developed a novel, long-term anti-diabetic N-terminal protected, fatty acid-derivatised analog of glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide N-AcGIP(LysPAL(37)) which reduces diabetic complications in obese diabetic (ob/ob) mice (Bailey); developed and patented specific novel inhibitors of TG2 (PCT/GB2004/002569) for use in chronic diseases (Griffin, Collighan); used TG2 to reduce colonic tumour growth in mice (Griffin with Melino, University of Rome, PCT/GB01/03574). Developed and applied biomaterials for treatment of burns (Adams with Dai, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei), for invertebral discs and treatment of dermal wounds (Collighan and Griffin with Pandit, National University of Ireland, PCT/GB2005/003520). Characterised activity of fast-acting paracetamol formulations which has led to the development of new medicinal products by the pharmaceutical industry (Conway). Identified psychological factors which underlie successful management of chronic disease, particularly diabetes (Pattison, Peel) and which have significantly impacted on policy for patient self-management. 

Prevention: behavioural research has: identified psychological factors in key preventative health behaviours (Cooke with Schüz, Free University Berlin, Green, Shaw); delineated the effects of nutritional status on neuropsychological function, mood (Green with Kretsch, Human Nutrition Research, US Dept of Agriculture), and endocrine disorders (Pattison), with implications for future screening and treatment interventions.  

 

E. CLINICAL VISION SCIENCES

Professorial Leadership: Gibson (0.5); Gilmartin; Hosking employed throughout period until October 2006, then 0.2FTE from 2007; Wolffsohn. 

Constituency: Bartlett (Lecturer, early career); Cubbidge (Lecturer); Davies (Lecturer, early career); Dunne (Senior Lecturer); Gherghel (Lecturer, early career); Logan (Lecturer, early career); Naroo (Lecturer).

OBJECTIVES: To advance significantly our understanding of the development, use, preservation and restoration of ocular function by research on clinical and applied aspects of optometry and ophthalmology.                                                    

MAIN ACTIVITIES: 

All members are practicing clinicians and work within an integrated investigative framework that links the bidirectional transfer of research between structure, function and clinical application. This arrangement provides the flexibility to address a wide-range of issues fundamental to contemporary optometry and ophthalmology as evidenced by our current work on the development and management of refractive error (e.g. myopia and presbyopia); the diagnosis and management of major ocular pathology (e.g. glaucoma, cataract and diabetes); the management of ocular dysfunction and pathology in the ageing eye (e.g. age-related maculopathy and visual impairment).

Funding sources. Research Councils, Charities, Regional Authorities, the NHS and ophthalmic industry reflecting the translational nature of the research undertaken.

MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS: 

Structure: used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for in vivo 3-D representation of the human myopic eye (Logan, Gilmartin, PCT/GB2005/004577); demonstrated ethnic differences in asymmetric posterior retinal stretch in human anisomyopia using computer modelling (Logan, Gilmartin and Dunne with Wildsoet, University of California); applied non-invasive methods to quantify precisely human ocular surface misalignment (Dunne, Davies and Wolffsohn with Kirschkamp, RWTH Aachen); correlated visual performance with changes in optical surface quality induced by excimer laser photorefractive surgery (Naroo).

Function: established a UK laboratory dedicated to autoregulation of systemic and ocular blood flow and its role in ocular disease (Gherghel, Hosking); established a UK research centre for the investigation of autonomic nervous system (ANS) and circadian rhythms in primary open-angle glaucoma (Gherghel); quantified the influence of cognition and ocular accommodation on systemic cardiovascular function in ametropia (Davies, Wolffsohn, Gilmartin); measured dynamic accommodation with in situ ‘accommodating’ implanted intra-ocular lenses (IOLs) (Wolffsohn, Naroo, Gilmartin); demonstrated that pupil responses to colour can quantify non-invasively the patency of magno-parvo cerebral information processing (Wolffsohn and Gilmartin with Tsujimura, Kagoshima University); identified ANS corollaries for accommodative and oculomotor dysfunction in myopic adolescents and young adults (Gilmartin, Wolffsohn).

Clinical application: development and validation of objective digital image analysis for the assessment of anterior eye pathology (Wolffsohn); development of a novel chronotherapeutic drug delivery system for glaucoma (Gherghel, PCT/GB2006/003366); comprehensive statistical modelling of normal and abnormal short-wavelength function across the macular visual field (Cubbidge); reported the dose-dependency of central visual function loss in patients treated with vigabatrin (Cubbidge); quantified the association of high myopia in children with ocular and systemic disease in a community-based study (Logan, Gilmartin); evaluated systematically the benefits of current electronic vision enhancement systems for the visually impaired (Wolffsohn); conducted a randomised controlled trial on nutrition and vision (Bartlett);  formulated a new grading system, and established a programme, for diabetic retinopathy screening in the community, now adopted as a model by other health authorities in England and Wales  (Gibson); established a rapid public-access clinic for macular degeneration (Gibson).

 

1.2 MECHANISMS AND PRACTICES FOR PROMOTING, SUSTAINING AND DEVELOPING RESEARCH, AND BUILDING CAPACITY

1.2.1 University support for promoting research 

The University's policies support initiation and management of research activity in line with its health mission, to advance significantly the health and wellbeing of the individual. 

The University’s Strategic Research Investment Fund (2007) has committed >£3.4m to support clinical infrastructure developments in LHS between 2008-2010.

The University Research and Commercialisation Office comprises of two units; the Research Support Unit (RSU) and the Business Partnership Unit (BPU). The RSU provides a single interface between researchers and the central administrative support, and ensures that the financial, legal, ethical and research governance elements of any research proposal meet University requirements. 

The LHS School Research Office offers local support in identifying funding opportunities, collating student numbers and completion rates required for RCUK grant submissions and supporting the University submission for RAE 2008. 

1.2.2 LHS research management 

The Associate Dean (Research, Griffiths), a member of LHS Senior Management team, reports directly to the Executive Dean (Griffin). 

The Associate Dean oversees three research areas (Biomedical Sciences, Neurosciences and Health Sciences - Table 1) each founded on established research disciplines, to which all academic staff members belong. 

Discipline-based Directors of Research (DR; Stanford, Anderson, Pattison respectively) oversee mentoring and training of early career researchers (ECRs) and the management of discipline-specific specialised resources. Research seminar programs, which feature internal and external speakers, are organised within each research discipline and disseminated by the School Research Office.

DRs meet monthly with the Associate Dean to establish research goals and review research progress against School targets. Together, the DRs and Associate Dean work to encourage a pro-active research environment, contribute to strategic planning within the School, ensure an appropriate balance between research and other academic activities, and contribute to planning appointments of academic staff. 

DRs monitor the appointment and progression of research students, monitor grant submissions from each area and ensure internal grant review. Research outputs, for administrative and communication purposes, are collated by the Associate Dean; these are used inform internal and external stakeholders of LHS research activity.

DRs hold a budget (~£20k) for contingency or seed corn funding. A central University fund provides support (~£8.5kpa) for international research conference presentation and is allocated on a competitive basis. 

A recently established society for postdoctoral fellows (PDFs, n=27.8), which is financed by the Executive Dean, supports career development and cross-disciplinary communication. Mentoring for grant writing through this society has resulted in grant awards to four research PDFs. PDFs have several office areas for study across LHS and social space is provided.

1.2.3 Research students and studentships

Studentships are from varied sources to support sustainability e.g. Research Councils, industrial partnerships, CASE, KTP, links with overseas Universities, charitable bodies and School scholarship/bursary schemes funded partly from Temozolomide IP revenue. 

The number of postgraduate researchers has been maintained (72 FTE in 2001 and 2007; RA3a) despite a national trend of declining postgraduate student numbers. 

The School has a strong record of postgraduate (PG) student success with an average annual completion rate of 18.1 PhD students and 3.5 MPhil/MRes students since 2003, rising from 9 and 12 PhD student graduations in 2001 and 2002 respectively. In the first seven months of 2007, 9 students graduated from an entry cohort of 18 students in 2003; completion over the year is profiled to match the mean annual completion rate.  Of the 125 degrees awarded (2001-2007), examiners for 5 students (MRes) were not appointed on a student by student basis. The MRes programme in Psychological Research methods (established 2004), has achieved ESRC recognition as a 1+3 outlet to extend the School’s +3 recognition.  The neuroimaging component of the course has been awarded Advanced Course Studentships by the MRC to support PG training (2005-2009). This MRes programme provides highly trained students for our PhD programme (of 5 MRes graduates in 2006, 2 are retained as PhD students).

 

1.3 NATURE AND QUALITY OF RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE

1.3.1 Physical environment. 

LHS research is undertaken in three separate buildings and has undergone significant investment (>£12m) since 2001.

Development in the Main University Building, which accommodates Biomedical research laboratories, was initiated immediately post-RAE 2001 with University investment in a £1.1m state-of-the-art Biomedical Facility. This signalled commitment to Biomedical Sciences as a core research discipline; it has proved to be a critical platform for the recruitment of staff and for attracting significant grant awards from research councils and charities. 

University investment in 2004/05 supported the redevelopment of a suite of research laboratories for psychophysical studies, neuroimaging analysis and statistics.

£1.8m was awarded from SRIF 2006 to extend previous investments in physical infrastructure for research. 

The Aston Academy of Life Sciences (AALS), completed in July 2004, is an £8m flagship clinical research facility and independent day hospital specialising in clinical research, with facilities for clinical investigations in Optometry, Ophthalmology, Neurosciences and Audiology. It highlights our commitment to the integration of clinical services and research activity.  Funded through AWM (competitive award based on quality and capacity to meet regional need), and HEFCE (SRIF 1 and 2), it draws on the School’s research expertise to generate high quality clinical data through an independent revenue stream. It is a unique facility for research and treatment of eye disease, hearing loss and neurological dysfunction.

The Vision Sciences Building (VSB) provides complementary facilities for clinical services in Optometry via an open clinic, and for research in Optometry, Neuroscience and Audiology.

Research students are provided with laboratory accommodation and also with work-stations outside of the laboratories for private study. In addition to extensive shelf copies held within the library, students have access to electronic journal databases and for specialist clinical journals a reciprocal access agreement is shared with other regional universities.

1.3.2 Specialist resources  

Infrastructure management operates at discipline-specific levels (Neurosciences, Biomedical Sciences, Health Sciences; Table 1) under the leadership of DRs.

Neurosciences:  the first site in Europe to have both MEG (275 channel, whole-head system) and fMRI (3-Tesla MRI scanner) research facilities. Neurosciences has extensive facilities for basic and clinical brain research using EEG (128 channel dense-array EGI system), Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) establishing Aston as an international leader in the development and application of non-invasive techniques for the study of human brain function and structure. The Wellcome Trust Laboratory for MEG Studies and the Clinical Neurophysiology Unit are housed in the VSB and the Aston MRI Centre is contained within the AALS. Specialised laboratories within Neurosciences include: an evoked response laboratory with facilities for producing auditory, visual and somatosensory stimuli; a dyslexia research and assessment unit, which includes a laboratory for CCTV recording of child behaviour and equipment for computerised assessment of language and cognitive development; a gastrointestinal (GI) physiological laboratory, with dedicated equipment to investigate the autonomic control of GI function and gastro-oesophageal pain; auditory research laboratories, with sound-attenuating and sound-treated booths for psychophysical testing, equipment and software for speech perception studies with acoustic and electrical stimulation, electrically or acoustically evoked auditory response systems, and specialist vestibular assessment equipment; and vision research laboratories, which include 14-bit graphics display systems, computer-controlled measurement of light and colour; specialised CRT monitors and stereo goggles for binocular research, Matlab image-processing software, Lightwave 3-D modelling and rendering, and video eye-tracking equipment.

Biomedical Sciences have invested in scale-up facilities for protein expression and purification with SRIF funding; this is supported by chromatographic separation equipment (GC-MS, HPLCs, FPLCs, amino acid analyser) used for small molecule, DNA, protein and carbohydrate analysis. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis and real-time PCR are available for separation of macrorestriction chromosomal digests and for quantitation of specific gene expression. A proteomics facility includes peptide sequence analysis by LC-MS/MS. An independent functional electrophysiological suite houses 6 rigs for patch–clamp studies. Cell analysis facilities include flow cytometry, confocal, epifluorescence and atomic force microscopy (the latter shared with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) and an immunohistochemistry facility. In vivo investigations of disease process, progression and management are undertaken within the newly refurbished (£1.1m) Biomedical Facility. Small molecule chemical synthesis and analysis facilities include high-field NMR. Type 2 biological hazard containment activity is housed in 600m2 of fully equipped laboratory space for mammalian and microbial cell culture and genetic manipulation. Recent laboratory refurbishments (£0.6m) have concentrated biomedical research facilities and infrastructure in contiguous spaces in order to maximize scientific interchange and equipment utilisation.

Health Sciences research is supported by a number of individual testing cubicles and a newly built social observation and focus group facility. The Nutrition and Behaviour laboratory was launched in 2007 and houses six individual test areas, each equipped with a range of equipment for assessing psychological status and feeding behaviour. Analytical laboratories are furnished with a large range of state-of-the-art analytical equipment (e.g. pharmacopeial apparatus, particle sizing equipment; Differential Scanning Calorimetry; Thermogravimetric Analysis) with a further 16 individual laboratories designed for clinical investigations. Further laboratories are housed in two adjacent buildings: the VSB and the AALS. The former incorporates an open-clinic that offers >3000 appointments per year for members of the general public; the latter houses specialised surgical procedures in refractive and cataract surgery and advanced procedures for research on ophthalmic imaging, anterior segment physiology, ocular aberrations and intra-ocular blood flow. The AALS provides an interface, unique in Europe, for the amalgamation of leading edge clinical research in optometry and ophthalmology.

 

1.4 RESEARCH GOVERNANCE 

The constitutionally designated LHS Research Committee (meets six times pa) is chaired by the Associate Dean to consider strategy and monitor issues of research governance. One academic staff member from each research theme, the Research Directors, three postgraduate students and one PDF sit on the Committee which reports both to the School Board and to the University Research Strategy Forum (URSF). The latter is chaired by the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and includes; Associate Deans (all Schools of study); one representative Executive Dean; the Financial Director and the Director of the University Research and Commercialisation Office.

1.4.1 Postgraduate research programme

LHS is committed to the provision of excellence in PG training opportunities as defined by a University Code of Practice for research degrees based on HEFCE/Research Council precepts. The administrative processes for student recruitment, admission, training support and monitoring are supported by the LHS research office. Projects are reviewed internally for quality prior to advertisement. Applicants are interviewed by two staff to assess their capability and motivation for research. 

Each student is appointed to a supervisory team comprising the supervisor, the Postgraduate tutor (Georgeson, for pastoral support) and the DR. Associate supervisors are appointed if a project is interdisciplinary. For academics new to research student supervision, training is provided and an advisor is appointed. The supervisory team is identified to the student in the offer letter and students are formally introduced to the team in their first week. 

A learning agreement is drawn up within two months of registration to establish the roles and responsibilities of students and supervisor(s), identify the training requirements and outline the specific project goals for the first year of study.  Each PG is invited to complete an annual questionnaire to report on research and supervisory facilities and the collective responses are considered by the Research Committee. A subgroup comprising the Postgraduate tutor, Director for Postgraduate training, the Associate Dean and the Secretary to the committee considers the concerns raised, and acts either directly or through liaison with other University Services to resolve issues which affect the student training environment.  

At the end of their first year (or second year for part-time students), full-time research students produce a written report on their research including a consideration of research ethics and risks, and a Health and Safety risk analysis. Each student has a viva voce examination with an independent examiner to determine whether progression is satisfactory and if so, to make recommendation for transition to a Higher Degree. Annual reports detailing the formally agreed notes of at least three supervisory meetings, the level of progression and the future goals are completed by the Supervisor(s) in discussion with the student at the end of each of the following two years for a full-time PhD student (or a further four years for part-time students). 

A Director for PG training (Talcott) is responsible for the academic quality of training and for monitoring student progression to ensure that all internally registered graduates develop the skills to become professional researchers.  All students participate in a training programme to develop: communication skills (e.g. abstract/report writing, presentation in local research seminars, attendance/presentation at external conferences); personal effectiveness and promotion (e.g. planning and time management, writing a CV, networking and career planning); use of IT (e.g. data retrieval and analysis); teaching and assessment skills; and sciences in a commercial environment (e.g. IP, licensing and industry). Skills acquisition is assessed and monitored in various ways including the quality of the first year report; the quality of poster and oral presentations at an annual postgraduate research day; preparation of manuscripts; evidence of efficiency in research planning; and through business plan competitions. Students are actively encouraged to present and publish original data both within and outside the University and are supported by input from tutors and supervisors.

PG students are represented on School Board and Research Committee where they actively contribute to research management within the School.  

 

1.5 UPTAKE OF RESEARCH, RELATIONSHIPS WITH RESEARCH USERS AND IMPACT ON POLICY

We have expanded our links with the health service sector and industry over the past four years through a combination of research grants and contracts including CASE studentships, EU programmes and equipment development grants with industrial partners. Impacts include; re-drafting national guidelines for management of high myopia in children (Logan, Gilmartin); evidence-based strategy for changing antenatal services in the West Midlands (Pattison); new medicinal products on sale (Conway), or in trial (Batchelor), by the pharmaceutical industry; implementation of recommendations (Wilson) for improved antibiotic usage; and clinical use of eicosapentaenoic acid to manage cachexia (Tisdale).

Academic staff have served on advisory committees informing national/international policy over this assessment period (see Esteem Indicators, #2) and have links with, and make presentations to, patient groups in the locality. Aston University web pages are used to disseminate research project findings (e.g. Aston Eye Study, see 3.13E). The Marketing and Communications department conveys research findings to the general public, through links with news programmes and newspapers. Staff work with Birmingham’s “Think Tank” to introduce the public to Science and Technology, supporting both child-centred and adult education. 

 

1.6 ARRANGEMENTS FOR SUPPORTING INTERDISCIPLINARY/COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

The URSF strongly encourages and provides mechanisms to support inter-disciplinary research collaboration between Schools providing a platform for identification of opportunities for shared resources such as infrastructure and research training methodology (Roberts’ funding). The latter includes training in manuscript and grant writing, research supervision, commercialisation and ethical evaluation. The University has launched a virtual Health Research and Development Centre involving all Schools which serves as a portal for communication with the external user community and for promoting intra-university research collaborations. LHS actively engages in a joint seminar programme with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) to encourage research at the interface between life sciences, mathematics, engineering and physical sciences. The success of this initiative is highlighted in the collaborative outputs and grants awarded to Hine and Sutherland (respectively of LHS and SEAS, Aston) in collaboration with Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh which are currently valued at >£1.6m. The success of thematic interdisciplinary research seminars within LHS is illustrated by the recent award of £223k by the Wellcome Trust to Rathbone, Griffin, Collighan, Lambert and Perrie (PCT/GB2006/002587) to develop novel catheter coatings to prevent MRSA infection in deep vein catheters. This brings together expertise in molecular modelling, biochemistry, drug delivery and microbial infection. 

 

1.7 RESEARCH-BASED TECHNOLOGY, KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER AND INNOVATION

The BPU handles commercial issues through patenting, licensing and creating spin-out companies based on selected research innovations. The HEIF-funded Medici programme, managed by BPU, has further supported commercialisation of research via a Midlands-based training programme resulting in 14 patent filings in this RAE period (an increase from 5 patents in RAE 2001).

In this RAE period, LHS has launched 2 spin-out companies, both of which have successfully gained independent funding.

 

1.8    NATURE, SOURCE AND SUSTAINABILITY OF RESEARCH INCOME

LHS secures commercial funding from a broad portfolio of sectors (food, pharmaceutical, optical) both nationally (~£1.5m, 2001-2007) and internationally (~£1.5m, 2001-2007) affording financial security against sector- or nation-specific economic downturn. 

New staff appointments have supported increased industrial funding from various partners, whilst long-standing partnerships e.g. with Hoya and GSK, have continued throughout the RAE period. Similarly, expenditure has increased from peer-reviewed competitive sources such as Research Councils (increased 6-fold) and Research Charities (increased by 50%). The BPU actively facilitates commercial funding (see 1.9). 

Some multidisciplinary projects held in partnership with clinical partners are not reported in RA4, but have had significant impacts on health policy and research outputs  (e.g. Pattison).

 

1.9    GOVERNMENT POLICY AND INITIATIVES 

Funding to support our strategy for research growth has been obtained from UK Research Councils, UK/EU government, charities and industry. Our income streams have diversified to take advantage of, and to influence, national and international priorities and initiatives. 

Examples of responsiveness at a national level include awards from the DTI programme (Bill), KTP (Griffiths) and CASE, secured with BPU support, which address national priorities for research integration and application for industry.

Responding to the initiative to reduce animal testing, we have secured funding from charities supporting replacement models (e.g. Furlong) and from NC3R for reductionist approaches (Woodhall).  

Responding to international government priorities, LHS has secured and leads the; €10m E-MeP project  (Bill, 2004-2009); TRACKS Marie Curie Research Training Network (Griffin, 2006-2010); and OptiCryst project (Bill, 2006-2009).   

 

 

2. STAFFING POLICY

 

The School aims to attract and support excellent scholars to integrate with and build upon existing areas of expertise. LHS supports retention and development of research-active staff through annual review, workload model, performance-related pay (PRP) and promotion; explicit promotion pathways recognize research success. In this RAE period, 7 internal promotions to Professor and 5 promotions to Reader have been made.

2.1 Staffing for current and future research

The principal staffing policy over the past four years has been to implement succession planning to prepare for retirements and to focus on staff recruitment within areas of excellence. This approach incorporates mentoring of early career researchers (ECRs) to promote research independence and thereby create continuity of research activity. Our plans to strengthen translational research across the core disciplines of Biomedical Sciences, Neurosciences and Health Sciences have been supported by appointments at Professorial level (Gibson, Seri in respectively Clinical Ophthalmology and Paediatric Neurology). Gibson and Seri maintain joint appointments with the NHS to underpin their practice-based research. 

2.2 Arrangements for developing and supporting staff in their research

The balance between research and non-research academic duties is addressed through a workload model which enables the most productive allocation of research, teaching and administrative duties within the School. Research activity is encouraged through effective procedures for monitoring and evaluation of research activity; targets are established for each academic staff member (e.g. published outputs, research income and/or influence on practice or policy). A new appraisal system provides feedback for established staff and staff are monitored through annual reports. 

Income from individual consultancies is available for postgraduate studentships or as pump-priming funds for research projects. 

LHS has taken specialist, non-research roles into account when developing selection criteria for RAE according to equal opportunities guidelines. Staff who have not been submitted in RAE 2008 have presented plans to the Executive Dean and mechanisms to support these staff are in place.

2.3 Developing research activities of new staff

All new appointees benefit from an induction programme. An informal interview with the Associate Dean is arranged to outline LHS’s research aims and objectives and its research management processes. The DR assigns a mentor for the ECR over the first five years, until they attain research independence. Before January 2007, Aston University appointed ECRs on probationary, 5-year contracts; the success of the thirteen probationary ECRs returned here will support their transfer to continuing appointments within the next year. The mentor works with the appointee to develop independence in research through acquisition of grant funding and production of original, high-quality research outputs. A minimum annual target for research output pa is the submission of a substantial grant application and an ISI-indexed publication as principal/corresponding author in a highly-ranked, international journal. Progress is reviewed through completion of the annual report and the operation of the mentoring process is evaluated annually. The appointee joins research meetings and seminars which provide opportunities for learning and feedback from colleagues. A reduced teaching load is allocated in the first years of appointment following discussion with the subject group leader and DR. ECRs are usually provided with a graduate student within their first three years of appointment and seed corn funding which varies according to discipline to allow them to establish their research operations rapidly. The Vice Chancellor provides a start-up fund of up to £10k for each newly appointed academic staff member. 

With this provision, recently appointed ECRs have carried out proof-of-principle research that has supported successful grant applications to research councils, charities, industry and AWM (Section 3.3).

2.4 Sustainability

Academic staff appointments (including early career) are predicated on demonstration of existing experience of, or potential for, international research activity. Appointments are normally made to achieve succession in research areas which have attained a critical mass and have existing leadership. This strategy ensures that a sustainable staffing base is maintained and developed in all research themes, with a balanced profile of leadership, experience and vitality from ECRs. Our strategy to encourage PDFs to apply for funding is another important approach to address sustainability.

2.5 Staff Changes since RAE 2001

The significant staff increase since RAE 2001 has provided an opportunity to focus on specific themes; we have appointed 6 Professors (one as Executive Dean), 1 Reader and 18 ECRs. We have recruited a cohort of new, vibrant researchers who have brought a greater strength and coherence to our research culture. In addition, 5/7 category B staff been promoted to Chairs elsewhere enabling us to develop collaborative links with other Institutions (e.g. Singh, Cardiff University).

 

 

3. RESEARCH STRATEGY

 

3.1 MAIN OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES IN RESEARCH OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

Our future goal is to increase our translational research activities, i.e. the two-way transfer between basic research and its application, to inform practice in health outcomes and generate industrial application through dissemination of knowledge to the research and user communities. The outcome will be research which is timely, original and apposite to the allied health professions and studies. 

A further infrastructure development currently at detailed planning stage, is the construction of a state-of-the-art two-storey Aston Brain Centre (approx cost £6.8m), due to be completed in 2009. With part funding from AWM (£3.4m) and matched funding from the University Strategic Research Investment Fund, this facility will develop the world’s first paediatric MEG. It will house interdisciplinary research across the boundaries of engineering, biomedicine and the physical sciences to develop relevant models of disease and will focus on prevention and therapy of brain diseases.

Future goals are described for each of the five research themes:

A. COGNITIVE AND PERCEPTUAL SYSTEMS

Vision – to unify the scale-space model of feature detection and the mechanisms of contrast gain control; to investigate the relationship between blur perception and accommodation control; to apply knowledge of attentional processes in vision to the design of cockpit and communication display systems.  

Hearing – to elucidate the contributions of general and speech-specific factors to the perceptual organisation of speech; to explore the role of onset transients in identifying new auditory streams; to investigate using neuroimaging the development of auditory processing in the normal brain and its relevance to paediatric clinical populations; to determine how nerves respond to artificial electrical stimulation and exploit this information to design better cochlear implants. 

Cognition – to study the neural substrate of attentive processes and short-term memory; investigate the sensory bases of social cognition, working with clinical populations; study, with improved methodologies, the cognitive and genetic bases of dyslexia; to determine how early perceptual stages in object recognition influence later semantic processing; to examine the relative effects of instruction and cognitive skills on reading development; to use genetic paradigms to explore theoretical and applied aspects of brain-behaviour relationships, and identify neuro-endophenotypes that mediate both typical and atypical developmental profiles. 

General – to establish a clinical audiology research centre to facilitate an expanded research programme in auditory science; to establish a psychophysical laboratory for paediatric visual assessment, integrated with the development of paediatric neuroimaging in the Aston Brain Centre.

B. CELLULAR AND CLINICAL NEUROPHYSIOLOGY

Molecular Studies - to use modelling and biophysical methods to study the dynamics of G-protein coupled receptors and channels, building on our unique ability to produce recombinant wild-type and mutant proteins in large quantities; to use improved biological insight of protein structure to inform drug design hence capitalising on current European funding for structural biology (Aston holds 3/6 awards made in FP6, with a further programme granted under FP7). 

Cellular and Clinical - School-funded cross-disciplinary studentships and the appointment of a capacity building RCUK Fellow are supporting the integration of cellular and clinical neurosciences; recently secured grants will build on the use of in vivo techniques and the development of animal models of temporal lobe epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Cellular and clinical neurophysiology will be co-located within The Aston Brain Centre in order to create a national training centre for translational research; a unique paediatric compliant MEG system; and a human experimental epilepsy laboratory, which will combine synaptic, cellular and network studies on brain tissue obtained from epileptic patients with EEG and behavioural studies

C. COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

Mechanisms - to improve understanding of the host response to infection; in particular, to address the domain-specific enhancement of secretion after challenge and the aberrant control of innate responsiveness in diseased airways. 

Diagnostics - to improve serodiagnostics and PCR-based diagnostics and to increase the use of molecular biological approaches to rapidly and accurately identify particularly virulent, or antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA; over the next 3 to 5 years, the time required for strain identification in carriers will be reduced from days to two hours. Efficient and viable operational process can be instituted early to isolate and manage these carriers and significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality of antibiotic-resistant hospital acquired infections.  

Therapeutics - to build on existing developments in novel formulations for vaccines against infectious diseases and to re-examine the delivery of existing medicines using novel approaches.  To develop aphenolic carboxamidrazones for commercial exploitation against gram-positive infection. Infrastructure re-developments in LHS will support formulation work through the completion of a thermostatically and humidity controlled facility for nano- and micro-particle preparation. 

D. CHRONIC DISEASES

Mechanisms - to elucidate anti-inflammatory mechanisms associated with clearance of dead cells during inflammation and failure of effective apoptosis in cancer and chronic inflammatory conditions. 

Management - to undertake clinical trials to evaluate the effects of nutrients and micronutrients on chronic disease; to validate biomarkers for evaluating efficacy of treatment; to prevent scarring post-implantation of tissue substrates and after inflammatory events using TG inhibitors (exploiting the University’s intellectual property in this area). Future planned translational research initiatives include research into the psychological factors in the progress and management of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, and the acceptability of new diagnostic and treatment regimes.  

Prevention - to extend our activities in the psychology of ingestive behaviour particular in obesity and diabetes using our reconfigured Nutritional Behaviour laboratory and in the use of innovative health technologies in the maintenance of public health.  These activities link with the study of medicines usage policy and practice in the community and will be further developed by the appointment of an RCUK fellow in December 2007.

E. CLINICAL VISION SCIENCES

Structure - to compare structure and function in myopia by mapping 3-D MRI images to estimates of retinal receptor density using multifocal electroretinography (mfERG) and psychophysics; to quantify refractive and physiological changes in the anterior eye pre-and post-corneal and lenticular ocular surgery using novel digital image techniques. 

Function - to define the impact of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on visual function, ocular structures and ocular blood flow; to use ocular coherence tomography, analyses of higher order aberrations and accommodative performance to inform design criteria for a new generation of intraocular lenses for post-cataract and presbyopic correction; to develop a unique non-invasive measurement of corneal oxygen consumption; to evaluate the nature of visual deficit in autism.

Clinical application - to identify common vascular risk factors in Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma; to examine ethnic differences in retinal vascular autoregulation and endothelial function in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes; to apply expertise in statistical modelling of visual field function to explain age-related and diabetic maculopathies; to develop the first prototype computer-based clinical system for the objective, non-invasive assessment of neurodegenerative diseases using pupil responses; to complete in 2009 (started 2004) The Aston Eye Study, the first comprehensive study (N=~3,500) on the epidemiology of refractive error in the UK child population; to generate, using apparent motion photometry, a profile of macular pigment optical density that can be used as a novel outcome measure in studies of age-related macular degeneration and retinal protection; to develop new methods of automated fundus image interpretation, particularly for age-related maculopathy; to design a novel drug delivery system for a newly available anti-VEGF drug for age-related maculopathy; to develop and test clinically a novel method for automated macular function.

 

3.2 BRIEF EVALUATION OF RAE 2001 PLANS

The main achievements outlined for each research theme (1A-E) demonstrate the successful completion of ‘Future Work’ detailed in RAE 2001 and have been expanded upon to develop a School research mission that ranges from basic research through to clinical outputs relevant to healthcare outcomes and related industrial application.

 

3.3 SELF ASSESSMENT

In all HEIs a balance has to be achieved between teaching quality and the desire to demonstrate research excellence. The recognition by Government that research excellence requires directed resource has led the University to optimise the load between teaching and research.  This, in turn, has provided an opportunity, within the Schools, to re-organize staff responsibilities and formulate means by which research is encouraged. In general, our decision to focus LHS research efforts on three related operational disciplines has served to guide new appointments and to direct expenditure on infrastructure resulting in effective succession planning and economy of scale. 

Our research strategy has secured a strong, internationally-collaborative, research base which demonstrates vibrancy in staffing; a third of research-active staff are early career researchers, 95% of whom have secured significant external income; Career Development Fellowship from the MRC (>£0.5m; Stanford); Wellcome funding (Woodhall, Parri, Collighan), Research Council funding (Shapiro, Marshall, Boutsen, Davies, Devitt, Morse), funds from other Charities (Gherghel, Bartlett, Peel, Senior, Shaw), Industry (Hall), and AWM funds (Worthington) highlighting the international competitiveness of their research. Policies for promotion have contributed towards retaining 12 senior researchers. 

Our access to funding for and re-development of infrastructure has provided state-of-the-art laboratories and clinical facilities (existing spend-£12m and planned spend-£6.8m) that have invigorated an environment where research can flourish

These factors have combined to increase significantly our research income and the trajectory continues upwards; in three months since July 31st 2007, significant grants (>£0.3m each) have been made to Bill, Griffiths and Roberts.

LHS is now well placed to pursue its goal to increase its translational research activities.

 


ESTEEM INDICATORS

Staff regularly receive requests from international journals and funding bodies to review papers and grant applications, but space precludes their inclusion here. Selected examples of peer esteem are listed below.

 

1 Keynote research papers or invited addresses at major international conferences 

Established category A staff (n=40) have given 174 invited/plenary lectures since 2001. Attention is drawn to the number of presentations by Bailey (30), Tisdale (25) and Griffin (14).

Early career researchers who have received plenary invitations to international meetings are as follows; 

Boutsen, 2007, Detection of part boundaries requires attention: Evidence from visual search. European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP), Arezzo, Italy. 

Devitt, 2003, Requirements for engulfment of human apoptotic leukocytes by macrophages. Gordon Research Conference-Apoptotic Cell Recognition and Clearance, Connecticut, USA. 

Gherghel, 2007, Glaucoma and systemic diseases, World Glaucoma Congress Singapore. 

Logan, 2006, Peripheral refraction and eye shape, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), Florida, USA. 

Marshall, 2001, Basic fibroblast growth factor in normal and cystic fibrosis airways, 15th North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference, Florida, USA. 

Parri, 2005, Astrocyte-Neuron signalling in the thalamus, VIIth European meeting on Glia in Health and Disease, Amsterdam, Holland. 

Peel, 2006, Perspectives of the individual with diabetes: self-blood glucose monitoring in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients, Institute of Health Economics Consensus Conference for Self-Monitoring in Diabetes, Edmonton, Canada. 

Morse, 2005, Enhanced cochlear implant coding using multiplicative noise, Fluctuations and Noise, Austin, USA. 

Senior, 2001, What is the fMRI Experience? 4th fMRI Experience Conference. NIH, Bethesda. 

Worthington, 2006, A randomised, prospective clinical evaluation of the microbial contamination of a needleless connector. 6th International Conference of the Hospital Infection Society, Amsterdam.

 

2 Impact of research on government policy, or national/international practice development (ongoing unless otherwise stated): 

Bailey, Expert assessor of the international (ADA-EASD) algorithm for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. 

Bill, New Challenges in the Life Sciences: Prioritizing European Research in Molecular Systems Biology, 2007.

Furlong, House of Commons debating establishment of National Centre for Humane Research, 2003. 

Gilmartin, Logan, Re-drafted national guidelines for management of high myopia in children. 

Gilmartin, European Consortium of Research Excellence in Myopia (ECREM), 2002. 

Naroo, All Party Parliamentary Select Committee on Safety in Laser Surgery in the UK, House of Commons, Westminster, 2004.

Pattison, Produced evidence-based strategy for changing antenatal services in the West Midlands, and part of Reducing Perinatal Mortality Project Team which is overseeing its implementation.

Peel, Produced longitudinal qualitative evaluation of blood glucose monitoring information leaflets, Diabetes Monitoring Forum. 

Rippon, British Psychological Society Government Advisory Group. 

Talcott, Steering Committee, British Dyslexia Association.

Wilson, Produced national guidelines for medicines supply and delivery.

Wolffsohn, Endorsement and translation of Low Vision Questionnaire. 

 

3 Honours or awards:

Anderson, R&D Prize, ATR International, Kyoto, Japan, 2002.

Bailey, FRCP; FRCPath. 

Furlong, Outstanding Scientific Contribution to Animal Replacements (OSCAR), Dr Hadwen Trust (Humane Research), 2007.  

Griffiths, Catherine Pasquier Prize, Free Radical Research, 2004.

Harding, Royal Television Society Awards for Technical Innovation, 2001.

Lambert, DSc; Liebig Medal, 2003. 

Naroo, Fellowship of American Academy of Optometry, research route, 2006. 

 Peel, American Psychological Association Best Book, 2007

Perrie, British Pharmaceutical Society Science Award, 2007.

Romani, Visiting Professorship, University of Rome 'La Sapienza', 2007

Stanford, MRC Career Establishment Fellowship, 2004-2010.

Talcott, Visiting Professor, Sor-Trondelag University College, Trondheim.

 

4 Chairing or membership of distinguished committees: 

Bill, Executive Committee, Chemistry-Biology Interface Forum, Royal Society of Chemistry 2005-2007. 

Dunne, Member of Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Driving and Visual Disorders, 2001-2003.

Georgeson, Chair, UK Applied Vision Association, 2004-present.

Georgeson (2003-8), Griffin (2006-), Hine (2005-), Perrie (2001-2010), Roberts (2006-9), EPSRC Peer Review College and (Georgeson) panel member for research grant funding. 

Gilmartin and Griffin, C12 RAE panel, 2008. 

Griffiths, Theme Panel III Biochemical Society, 2007-2010; European Society for Free Radical Research, 2007-9.   

Lambert, European Expert Group on the Management of Intravenous Devices, 2002-05.

Meese, Vice Chair, Applied Vision Association, 2000-. 

Peel, British Psychological Society, Publications and Communications, 2004-2006. 

Perrie, Chair, UK and Ireland Controlled Release Society, 2006-date. 

Poyner, IUPHAR nomenclature sub-committee, CGRP and related receptors, 2000-.

Worthington, Department of Health, Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB), West Midlands Research Grant Funding Committee, 2006-2008.  

 

5 Service on International Advisory Boards Relevant to Research: 

Bailey, European diabetes representative to EMEA (European Medicines Evaluation Agency). 

Green, Griffiths, Stanford, Tisdale, Assessment/Advisory Board for EU Framework FP6/7, 2005-. 

Griffin, Advisory Board, MRC, 2003-5. 

Griffiths, Research Advisory Council, Research into Ageing, 2007-. 

Lambert, International Collaboration on Endocarditis, 2001-.

Peel, International Working Group on SMBG in Diabetes, 2007-. 

Perrie, European Adjuvant Advisory Committee, 2005-.

Rippon, British Psychological Society Government Advisory Group, 2003-2004. 

Roberts, Psychological and Physiological Acoustics Technical Committee of the Acoustical Society of America, 2007-.

Seri, Management Committee of COST, Action BM0601: Advanced Methods For The Estimation Of Human Brain Activity And Connectivity (NEUROMATH).

Tisdale, Canadian Institute of Health Research; NIH, 2001-.

Wolffsohn, President British Contact Lens Association. 

 

6 Editorial boards (ongoing unless otherwise stated): 

Anderson, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. 

Bailey, British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease.

Georgeson, Journal of Vision; Vision Research; Perception; Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. 

Gilmartin, Clinical and Experimental Optometry (2003-2006). 

Meese, Perception. 

Naroo, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye (Editor). 

Perrie, Journal of Drug Targeting; Journal of Liposome Research; Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

Rippon, International Journal of Psychophysiology; Journal of Psychophysiology. 

Romani, Cognitive Neuropyschology. 

Senior, International Journal of Psychophysiology.

Seri, Journal of Child Neurology.

Talcott, Executive Editor Dyslexia

Tisdale, International Journal Gastrointestinal Cancer; Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care (2007). 

Wolffsohn, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye; Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. 

 

7 Evidence of Esteem with Research Users: 

Barnes, Aston MEG methods are being applied to brain surgery candidates from Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Kings College Hospital, London.

Batchelor, Contemporary understanding and management of reflux, Bayer Healthcare, Gstaad Switzerland, 2006.

Batchelor, Davies, Naroo, Wolffsohn, Honorary appointments with Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Furlong, Analytical development of research based technology, knowledge transfer to the partner-company and innovation through software development in partnership with VSM MedTech which is recognised worldwide; Honorary Research Fellow, Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Georgeson, Consultant to Discovery Channel Programme on human sight, 2007.

Griffiths, Honorary Professorship with Birmingham Dental School.

Lambert, Honorary appointment with University Hospital Birmingham Trust; Design and application of novel oxapenem compounds (AM-112) with broad-spectrum ß-lactamase inhibitory activity and intrinsic anti-bacterial activity against resistant organisms, currently under development by Amura Ltd, Cambridge.

Morse, Advanced Bionics Ltd 4th European Investigators Meeting, 2006.

Naroo, Focus Group Panel Member, Ciba Vision.  

Wolffsohn, Programming of objective image analysis grading with improved sensitivity and reliability used by industry (e.g. Johnson and Johnson and CibaVision) in clinical trials and being developed for ophthalmological and optometric clinical practice. 

 

8 International Collaborations

Evidence of outputs from 15 successful international collaborations are described in research achievements for each research theme (1A-E). 

Bill and Griffin lead EU programmes (E-MeP, OptiCryst and TRACKS respectively).

Further examples of international research collaborations are summarised in Table 2 and evidenced by successful grant awards.

 

Table 2; Grant awards to LHS academics and international collaborators

 

Collaborators

Funding agency

Barnes, Hillebrand

Hirata, Osaka University Hospital 

Japanese Society for Promotion of Science

Conway

Chan, Glaxo-Smith Kline (USA)

EPSRC-CASE

Conway, Lambert, Worthington

Cindi Crosby, Mediflex (Kansas)

Mediflex 

Bartlett, Davies, Wolffsohn, Gilmartin

Lam, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

and

Tsujimura, Kagoshima University

Hoya

Hillebrand

Stam, VU Medical Centre Amsterdam

Royal Society

Martin

Dunn, University of Alberta

CIHR

Morse

Chatterjee, University of Maryland

EPSRC

Wolffsohn

McBrien, Vingrys, Melbourne University

(1) BAe Systems

(2) DERA

Wolffsohn, Gilmartin

Ukai, Waseda University

Waseda University

Worthington

Browne, Baxter HealthCare (USA)

Becton Dickinson

 

 Bailey, Bill, Griffin, Griffiths and Perrie have more than 100 European partners from membership of FP5, FP6 and FP7 consortia.