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Roehampton University

UOA 46 - Sports-Related Studies

RA5a: Research environment and esteem


Sports-related staff and research students at Roehampton University are all members of the Centre for Scientific and Cultural Research in Sport (CSCRS - Director, Kennedy). Our research is structured around three specialisms: 

Biomechanics of movement

  • Biomechanical research in the Centre has a distinct focus on the sport and exercise needs of special populations (in particular, amputees and the elderly) and the biomechanics of footwear

Cultural and qualitative research in sport and leisure 

  • Our long tradition of research in the area of sport, leisure and culture is centred on sport and social identities, the cultural history and politics of sport and leisure, the sporting body and the sport media. 

Applied exercise physiology and nutrition 

  • Physiological research is concentrated on application to performance. All staff in this area work directly with user communities, with projects resulting in the simultaneous production of peer-reviewed outputs.

Capability funding from RAE 2001 has enabled us to develop these core areas along with innovative multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary projects. A strong research strategy has underpinned our work during this RAE period, enabling the group to develop from early career researchers into experienced scholars with established profiles. Funding and support for research students and substantial investments in buildings and facilities have facilitated our growth. Regular conferences hosted by the Centre have helped shape the national and international research culture. An engagement with research users has been sustained through our sport science support service, Sport Performance Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre (SPARC), and our integrated research and consultancy environment ensures effective use of our resources. Our strategy for the next five years will consolidate these activities, enable emergent projects to come to fruition and enhance our reputation for distinctive sports-related research. 



The number of research students within sports-related studies at Roehampton University has grown during this period, forming an integral part of our research culture. Currently we have 9 students registered for MPhil/PhD in sports-related studies, or collaboratively supervised in conjunction with CSCRS staff. (Few of our studentships appear in RA3b because the University’s home tuition fee has been slightly below the Research Councils’ level.) These students are all conducting projects closely allied to our research foci (for example, amputees and exercise; discourses of deviance in the sport media; nutrition and sport performance). We have had a sharp rise in numbers of completed PhDs since 2001: 8 PhDs have been awarded across our specialisms: 2 in biomechanics, 3 in cultural research and 3 in physiology. 

All of our completed PhD students have begun careers in lecturing, research and practice (destinations include Leeds Metropolitan University, University of Wolverhampton, Royal Holloway, University of London, British Olympic Association). Recently, two of our completed students (Oh and Taylor) have joined us as lecturing staff at Roehampton University, and are entered here as early career researchers.

The University has supported research in sports-related studies through generous research student funding. During this period, 4 students have received research studentships (comprising stipend plus fees). In addition, our expertise and experience in supervising student projects has attracted self-funding students. All our students are eligible to apply for internal funds for conference attendance (£600) and, via their supervisors, for assistance with project costs (up to a normal maximum of £3000).



In RAE 2001, the University was awarded capability funding for research in sports-related studies. These funds have been used to support research projects and research studentships. Over £65,000 has been allocated as small research grants in sports-related studies, enabling sport researchers to travel, purchase equipment and employ research assistants for projects and collaborations. 

Sports-related research at Roehampton has also been funded by a number of external bodies. H.M. Prison Service funded research by Dabinett which contributed to the retention of fitness testing in the service (£2,800). Dabinett was also funded by Immogenics PLC to assess the reliability of a process the company were using to quantify the body’s immune response to foodstuffs as part of a weight management programme (£10,430). Whilst at Roehampton Turner received a grant from the Royal Society of £1,130.

In addition to income mentioned in RA4, research in the Centre has attracted funding from a number of sources, including:                                                                                                                                   

  • Merkel's research into the "Politics of sport in South Korea" (February to July 2007) was jointly funded by the Korea Foundation and Sookmyung Women’s University Seoul. Total support paid to Merkel prior to taking up his post at Roehampton University, comprised a research grant and travel (Korea Foundation, equivalent to £17,148); accommodation and research assistants (Sookmyung Women’s University, equivalent to £12,851). This research has resulted in the submission of 2 journal articles on the politics of sport in divided Korea (forthcoming).
  • Strike was awarded 2 x £3000 (Owen Shaw Award, The Circulation Society) to conduct 2 projects involving biomechanical analysis of transtibial amputees to predict and prevent falling while turning, one in collaboration with N. Vanicek, Department of Sport, Health & Exercise Science, University of Hull. In addition, Strike's research (with Taylor and PhD students) has been sponsored by her industrial partner, Chas A. Blatchford & Sons who have employed a prosthetist to work 200 hours on the project and donated prosthetic components to a value of £20,000. Subsequent research findings have been published in refereed journals and disseminated via practitioner conferences (see RA2 for details). Strike also received a personal £500 travel grant from the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (UK NMS) to present her research at their World Congress in Vancouver 2007.



The Centre for Scientific and Cultural Research in Sport (CSCRS) forms part of a clear and supportive research structure within the University. The Centre is part of the School of Human and Life Sciences, one of four schools in the University. The CSCRS is represented on the School Research Sub-Committee, which provides strategic oversight and allocation of resources, including internal research funds, chaired by the Assistant Dean (Research). The Dean and Assistant Dean (Research) of the School are both members of the University Research Strategy Committee, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, which fosters new developments, allocates strategic investment and monitors the quality of research. Under the University's strategy to focus on areas of core strength, sports-related research has been supported to make distinctive contributions in the following areas:

CSCRS Main Achievements

  • Application of sport and exercise sciences to aid performance across the range of recreational to elite athletes through the establishment of the Sport Performance Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre (SPARC) (involving Dabinett, Diss, Head, Strike and research students: 4 papers)
  • Major contribution to the emergence of Dance Science to apply exercise science to the training of contemporary dancers  (Head: 4 papers; research in this area has informed curriculum developments e.g. BSc Dance and Exercise Science launched 2007)
  • Cross cultural, critical and comparative examination of the consumption of sport spectacles and mega-events (Wimbledon, FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games) in UK, Germany and Korea to further understanding of the international politics of sport (Kennedy, Merkel, Oh, Pussard, Thornton: 8 papers)
  • Application of biomechanics to the development of devices to benefit amputees and Masters athletes (Diss, Strike, Taylor: 5 papers)                                                          
  • Research exploring the audio-visual culture of sport and leisure, synthesizing and applying research in film & media studies, sonic culture and historical geography to sporting contexts (Kennedy, Pussard, Oh, Thornton: 12 papers, Leisure and Visual Culture conference, 2003) 
  • Rigorous historicisation of national sport and leisure cultures to investigate the cultural politics of the development of sport and leisure in the UK and Germany informing contemporary debates (Merkel, Pussard: 7 papers)

Multidisciplinary, Cross-disciplinary and Collaborative Projects

The research environment fostered by the CSCRS has enabled staff and research students to engage in innovative multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary projects involving internal collaborations for example:

  • Investigating amputees’ mobility and rehabilitation from sociological, physiological and biomechanical perspectives (Dabinett, Diss, Head, Strike, Taylor, Thornton)
  • The application of kinesiology to the accurate representation of the body in fine art (Head + visual artist)
  • Psycho-physiological evaluation of commercial exercise programmes (Head + psychologist + research student)
  • Cultural factors affecting professional footballers' nutritional intake (Kennedy + nutritionist + research student)
  • The experience of being a subject in the biomechanics laboratory (Kennedy, Pussard, Strike);

Centre members also have active external collaborations involving staff at institutions both nationally  and internationally, for example: Dabinett with Reid (English Institute of Sport); Diss with Kerwin (UWIC); Head with Breaker (University of the Arts); Kennedy with Markula (Alberta, Canada), Casey (Kingston), Hills (Brunel), Durrant (UEL) and Martìn (Vic, Spain); Pussard with Casey (Kingston), Snape (Bolton) and Aitchison (UWE); Strike with Dabnichki (Queen Mary) Vanicek (Hull) and the US Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering (Washington, USA). 

Interdisciplinary and collaborative research is supported by successful bids (up to a normal maximum of £3000) for internal research funds.  Examples of this include: an award of £1905 for Strike and Kennedy their project on the representation of the body in biomechanics, resulting in an application for funding to the ESRC Science and Society programme, deemed "intrinsically interesting" by the council (under further development); funding totalling £1218 to enable Kennedy to collaborate with Hills on the analysis of media sport, which has led to conference papers, publications and a book contract; an award of £2538 for enable data collection by Ono for a PhD project spanning culture and nutrition in professional football (supervisor, Kennedy); £2213 for Strike et al.'s multidisciplinary collaborative project on factors impacting reduced daily functioning of amputees, which will enable data collection and dissemination through a CSCRS hosted conference.

School Research Days are held each year during which there are opportunities to present ongoing work, consider future collaborations and learn about available equipment and facilities across the subject areas within the School. Such initiatives have resulted in cross-school collaborations (for example CSCRS biomechanists are working on mirror neuron and movement with the Centre for Research in Cognition, Emotion and Interaction). In addition, sport-related research seminars and meetings are attended by all Centre members and provide a forum for initiating multidisciplinary and collaborative projects. 

Conferences and Seminars

The Centre hosts conferences and symposia to explore current and emerging issues in sport and leisure research. Conferences organised at Roehampton University since 2001:

  • Sport and the All-Consuming Cultures of [P]leisure conference, July 2002
  • Leisure and Visual Culture, Leisure Studies Association annual conference, July 2003
  • Theorising Leisure: The Consumer Experience, British Sociological Association Leisure and Recreation Study Group conference, May 2006

The CSCRS runs an annual programme of research seminars combining prestigious external speakers (for example, Professor Pirkko Markula (University of Alberta); Professor John Sugden (University of Brighton); Marzena Bogdanowicz (British Olympic Association); Dr Saeed Zahedi (Chas A. Blatchford & Sons Ltd - Prosthetics and Orthotics); internal speakers and research students.

The Centre receives regular visits from national and international colleagues and collaborators. For example, 20 staff and postgraduate students from the Institute of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Copenhagen, visited us as part of a study tour to learn more about our research on the “Leap for London” campaign to host the 2012 Olympic Games (9/10/06). Our laboratories have attracted a number of key figures in the world of sport and dance interested in using and recommending our services and facilities: Nick Fellows, Manager of the Olympic Medical Institute, Dr Mike Turner, Medical Officer at the Lawn Tennis Association, Hugh Brasher, Mananging Director of Sweatshop, Asako Soga from Nagoya University Japan, Prof. Michael Hillery, Dean of Mechanical and Production Engineering, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Honorary Research Fellows, Montserrat Martín and Steve Nance, enrich the research culture of the Centre through active collaborations with Centre members and contributions to the CSCRS seminar series. Martín is an expert in feminist sociological perspectives on sport, with a specific focus on women’s rugby. Martín (University of Vic, Barcelona) is collaborating with Kennedy on an international project “Qualitative analysis of media representations of Olympic women in Athens 2004” led by Bruce (Waikato), Hovden (Finnmark) and Markula (Alberta). Nance is an international expert in strength and conditioning and is currently the Performance Director at Fulham Football Club. Nance is collaborating with members of the CSCRS (including Head) on the validation of new football specific performance tests. 

Centre members have close connections with academic associations. Dabinett, Diss, Head and Strike are all British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) accredited. Diss was the Biomechanics secretary for BASES (2001 - 2004). Kennedy and Pussard are members of the Leisure Studies Association (LSA) executive committee. The CSCRS has hosted conferences for the LSA and both the British Sociological Association (BSA) Sport Study Group and Leisure and Recreation Study Group.

Centre Director Kennedy is leading an international network of researchers interested in feminist perspectives on women and exercise with Prof. Markula (Alberta) which includes members from Canada and Finland. The group met for the first time at Roehampton in November 2006. Following this meeting, dedicated sessions on women and exercise were organised at the International Sport Sociology Association  conference in Copenhagen (31st July - 5th August, 2007). As part of the development of a media strategy to raise the profile of women and exercise research, a website will be launched in early 2008, and further seminars are planned.

Specialist Research Facilities, Equipment and Support

In January 2005, the School moved to a new site with completely refitted accommodation and a combination of newly built and newly developed high specification laboratories comprising a total investment of more than £54 million, including some SRIF2 funds. The lower ground floor and parts of the ground floor of the building's laboratory wing were specifically designed to accommodate research in sports-related studies and Roehampton University has invested SRIF 1-3 funds totalling £133,250 for the purchase of substantial high-grade equipment for research in sports-related studies. Resources for this area comprise:

  • Biomechanics  23m x 6.5m laboratory with 8-place mounting pit for Kistler force platforms for kinetic data collection and analysis; 12m x 6m x 4m fixed camera rig with 9 visible red cameras for Vicon 3D motion analysis system (fully integrated with the force platforms and an MIE electromyography unit for synchronised kinetic and kinematic analyses); Peak Motus 3D motion analysis system for kinematic sport related field work, used with digital visible light cameras; computing stations associated with the hardware in the laboratory offering different systems; Silicon Coach for qualitative analyses; a Cybex Norm isokinetic dynamometer for strength testing and muscle imbalances used in rehabilitation and training studies;  Biometrics electromyography (EMG) and electrogoniometry units for assessing muscle and joint activity; stand alone equipment (non-computing): timing gates, radar gun, digital and analogue cameras, and a range of exercise ergometers.
  • Physiology  3 physiology laboratories; top-specification Woodway running treadmill recessed to ground level; specialised SRM cycling ergometer; Concept II rowing ergometer; Oxycon Pro metabolic cart (with spirometry module for various measurements of the lung), gold-standard Servomex and Douglas bag system for gas analysis and various blood analysis equipment – Reflotron, YSI, Analox, haematocrit centrifuge, refrigerated centrifuge for spinning blood; acclimatisation chamber capable of temperature range from 0 to 40 oC and alterable humidity levels; Cuba Clinical for bone mineral density analysis, anthropometric measurement tools and electrophysiology equipment.; dedicated psychophysiology laboratory with eye tracker system for sports-related perception studies; Observer software package for behavioural analysis.

The use of research laboratories is overseen by BASES accredited laboratory director (Dabinett) including space and time allocation. All research facilities and equipment are available across the School, enabling sport researchers access to a very wide range of resources (for example bio-medical, food science and psychophysiology laboratories).

Technical support for staff practical work is provided by a team of 12 (10.6FTE) technicians available for teaching and research support in specialist areas of expertise. Research in sports-related studies is supported by highly qualified technical staff: Tom Reeve, MSc, (Physiology and Osteology Technician) and Alison Carlisle, MSc (Technical officer and BASES accredited physiologist). Carlisle also holds an ACSM qualification in Health and Fitness Instruction, a NEBOSH general certificate in Health and Safety at Work, and certificates in First Aid at Work and Automatic External Defibrillation. 

2.0 FTE staff provide financial administration for research, administration for research students, organisation of seminars and conferences, and support for external grant application.

Research Users

The Centre's engagement with the needs of user communities has been facilitated by the establishment of a dedicated, BASES accredited, sport science support centre, SPARC (Sport Performance Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre - Director, Dabinett) in 1998. This highly successful unit, operating under the auspices of the CSCRS, has provided research-informed sport science support to athletes, including Sydney Olympic medalists, the England and Great Britain hockey teams, the Lawn Tennis Association, the British men’s Paralympic Goalball Squad, the All England Netball Association, England Cricket, Hampshire County Cricket Club and the London Broncos. Centre members have travelled with athletes to major championships, including the Olympic Games, while others provide a consultancy service to athletes at national training camps and clubs. In addition, we have been commissioned to work with the Fire and Prison Services, as well as for Sport England in the development of their network of support services for elite athletes within the English Institute of Sport. Centre members also contribute to national initiatives such as UK Sport's 'Elite Coach' programme.

The Centre's research resources and expertise inform services provided by SPARC, including physiotherapy, podiatry and gait analysis, sports specific fitness testing, biomechanical assessment, psychological skills training, sports nutrition advice, courses and workshops. In 2006 SPARC received Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) full status, based on the quality and extent of services that we offer (athletes receive £3000 worth of funding for TASS services/training and competition expenses). SPARC currently provides a service to tennis players and fencers through this scheme. 

Strike's biomechanical research aiming to enhance the functional and exercise mobility of amputees is conducted in collaboration with industrial partner, Chas A. Blatchford & Sons. Prosthetic design modification will be suggested to the manufacturer as a result of our research on the biomechanics of the user, the user interface and the prosthesis. Strike's collaboration with O'Brien (Limerick) on the biomechanics of breast bounce and body image has led to commercial research for on the development of sports bras. Diss has applied her research on walking and running gait to elderly populations (60+) to improve their walking. Diss works with a local osteopath and two physiotherapists and runs workshops on the biomechanics of footwear for the sport & exercise retail company, Sweatshop, and for Adidas. Diss works with athletes sponsored by Asics, Adidas, Nike and Fila and she has been consulted on running gait by the media (BBC, Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Telegraph, The Evening Standard).



Research experience or potential are requirements in the appointment of all academic staff, and care is taken that specialist facilities and an appropriate research environment will be available. A workload analysis ensures 30% of staff workload is allocated to research. Staff are afforded flexibility in arranging teaching so that blocks of research time are made available during the teaching year.

Research Centre Directors meet with individual staff annually to discuss research progress and requirements, and agree the research element of their work plan. Centre Directors as well as peer mentors are responsible for supporting new staff in developing their research programme. Currently, staff are eligible to apply for one semester’s sabbatical leave every 5 years. Since 2001, 6 sabbaticals have been taken by staff for research in sports-related studies.



In the next five years, our strategy is to consolidate our existing research specialisms (biomechanics, cultural and qualitative research and applied physiology) and continue to stimulate and develop cross-disciplinary collaborations.  Our plans are:

  • To continue our focus on the exercise needs of special populations and social groups, extending current research to include women, sport and exercise; sport and disability; exercise and the elderly; children, sport and exercise;
  • To focus research in sport, leisure and culture on the embodied experience of consuming, participating and performing in sport to inform debates on sport and in/exclusion in the run-up to the London Olympic Games in 2012;
  • To continue to hold national and international conferences in these areas (see below);
  • To continue to increase research student recruitment whilst maintaining a good completion rate;
  • To increase the frequency of sabbatical leave to one semester every 3 years (as agreed by School Board in May 2007);
  • To maintain to the highest standards the excellent laboratory resources created for sports-related studies;
  • To increase strategic external funding applications in the areas of our specialisms

The sustainability of the research environment over the next five years is indicated by the following factors:

  • Investment by the University in the Institute of Child and Wellbeing, which has inter-disciplinary sport research at the heart of its remit;
  • Successful recruitment of 2 new PhD students in the areas of women and exercise and the embodied experience of sport to commence in 2007 and 2008;
  • University strategic objective of 25% increase in external research income by 2011;
  • A planned programme of conferences, including: 
  1. November 2007: Moving On: Expanding Amputees' Potential for Exercise
  2. June 2009: 3rd International Qualitative Research in Sport Conference, Communicating Experience




Dabinett, Jacqueline

  • Peer reviewer of manuscripts, including Journal of Sport Sciences and British Journal of Sports Medicine
  • Seconded as Sport England sport science support adviser to athletes and National Governing Bodies during the development of the English Institute of Sport (2001-2002)
  • Participant in development of H.M. Prison Service fitness testing policy and standards (validation study of the 15-meter job related fitness test, 2003)
  • BASES accredited laboratory director 

Diss, Ceri  

  • Peer reviewer of manuscripts including, Journal of Sports Sciences & British Journal of Sports Medicine
  • British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) Biomechanics Section Secretary (2001-2004)
  • Media coverage of research on BBC TV “Should I worry about . . . Exercise” (2005)

Head, Andrew

  • Invited expert to the 'Meeting of Experts' for the Fitness and Functional Physical Capacities in the Health Survey for England, chaired by Professor Jerry Morris (June 2002)
  • Participant in development of H.M. Prison Service fitness testing policy and standards (validation study of the 15-metre job related fitness test, 2003)
  • Consultant on research contract for the Novo Immogenics (Holland) pharmaceutical group (2004)
  • Member, LB Wandsworth Olympic Strategy Network Group (2006)

Kennedy, Eileen

  • Invited conference presentations: “Looking Inside the Sporting Icon: the Spectacle of Celebrity and the Embodiment of Masculinity”, Sporting Icons: Media, Celebrity and Popular Culture conference, University of Leicester (February 2003); "Emerging agendas in leisure studies: research topics and issues", Leisure Studies @ 25, Loughborough University (September 2006)
  • Chair, Leisure and Visual Culture, LSA Annual Conference, Roehampton University (July 2003) 
  • Leisure Studies Association (LSA) Executive Committee Publications Officer; Leader, Research and Knowledge Transfer Sub-Committee (2001 – 2007)
  • Peer reviewer for manuscripts, including Sociology of Sport Journal, book proposal/manuscripts for Routledge & Sage and grant applications for ESRC

Merkel, Udo 

  • Keynote lecture, “Racism and Intolerance in European Sport” at the Council of Europe Meeting of 43 Sport Ministers (“3rd Round Table on Sport, Tolerance and Fair Play”) in Nikosia, Cyprus (April 2001)
  • Invited public lectures prior to 2006 FIFA World Cup:): ”Football Cultures in Europe – torn between fashion and passion”, University of Münster, FRG (January 2003); Goethe Institute/Korean Cultural Centre, “Soccer, Nation-Building and Class Struggles in Germany”, Seoul, South Korea (March 2006)
  • Peer reviewer for manuscripts and book proposals, including International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Journal for Comparative Physical Education and Sport, Routledge
  • National and international media coverage of research: regular contributions to BBC Radio 4 as expert on sport and politics

Pussard, Helen

  • Peer reviewer of manuscripts and grant applications, including Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism, Wellcome Trust, ESRC
  • Leisure Studies Association (LSA) Executive Committee Member (2004 – current)
  • Co-organiser, Leisure and Visual Culture, LSA Annual Conference, Roehampton University (July 2003)
  • Co-organiser, Theorising Leisure: The Consumer Experience, British Sociological Association Leisure and Recreation Study Group conference, Roehampton University (May 2006)

Oh, Miyoung

  • Invited research presentation at "Gender and Sport" symposium, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Calgary, Canada (September 2005)

Strike, Siobhan

  • Invited presentations to British Paralympic Association Conference, Loughborough (2006 & 2007)
  • Invited presentation, US Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering, Washington, USA (July 2007)
  • Peer reviewer of manuscripts, including British Journal of Sports Medicine, and Journal of Sports 
  • Development of products with leading industrial partner (Chas A. Blatchford & Sons)

Taylor, Matthew

  • Research consultant to Mid-Essex Hospital Trust/Anglia Ruskin University for the design and testing of a wearable intermittent pneumatic compression boot for the treatment of patients with venous ulcers

Thornton, Andrew

  • International Associate of the Centre for Culture, Identity and Education, University of British Columbia (2007)
  • Co-organiser, Leisure and Visual Culture, LSA Annual Conference, Roehampton University (July 2003)
  • Co-organiser, Sport and the All-Consuming Cultures of [P]leisure, 1 day conference, Roehampton University  (July 2002)
  • Peer reviewer of manuscripts and book proposals, including Ethnography and Palgrave.