Our research

From agriculture to art, clinical medicine to mathematics, and earth sciences to education, last year’s research excellence framework underlined our position yet again as a research-rich university

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), a substantial proportion of Plymouth University’s research was graded as world-leading or of international quality, with more than 63 per cent of our research graded at three or four-stars. 

The University’s highest-rated submission was for Earth systems and environmental sciences, which includes marine science, environmental chemistry and geology, with 85 per cent of its research graded as worldleading or of international quality. 

The University returned four-star rated, world-leading research in all 18 categories that were submitted and was ranked number one for research output in clinical medicine, which measures the quality of research publication and the number of citations.

Over the coming pages you will find just a few examples of the many significant research projects that have been carried out at Plymouth University over the past 12 months.

University institutes
In order to further build on our areas of world-leading research and to provide an institutional focus for cross-disciplinary research excellence, this year has seen the formation of three new institutes: the Sustainable Earth Institute; the Institute for Social, Policy and Enterprise Research (iSPER); and the Creative Arts and Humanities Institute.

These new institutes sit alongside the existing Marine Institute, Cognition Institute, Institute of Health and Community, and Institute for Stratified Translational Medicine.

The University also continues to push forward the boundaries in pedagogic research in higher education through PedRIO.

Faculty of Science and Engineering

  • WAVE STRUCK - scientists have found that the storms that pummel our coastlines are even more destructive than was previously thought.
  • HEALTHY INTERACTION - a look at how an EU-funded robotics project placed Plymouth University at the centre of a pan-European ethics issue.
  • BEE-FREE ZONES? - study by Plymouth University suggests pesticides and fertilisers used on crops are dramatically reducing bees’ potential habitats.
  • DEBRIS IN THE OCEAN - endangered species affected by plastics.


Faculty of Arts and Humanities

  • SAVING ENERGY AND MONEY - linking smartphones with smart meters could lead to big savings.
  • MIND MUSIC - Plymouth University works with patients at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability on a world first and potentially life-changing musical performance.
  • BUILDING RESILIENCE THROUGH MUSIC - new research study set to be released by Plymouth Institute of Education.


Faculty of Business

  • SHRINKFLATION IS NOT THE WAY
  • KENYAN FARMERS REAPING THE REWARDS - to coincide with Comic Relief's Red Nose Day academics reflect on the first six months of an enterprising project funded by the charity.
  • KEEPING THE 24-HOUR ECONOMY GOING
  • THE ART OF PERSUASION 
  • OUTWITTING THE OPINION POLLSTERS

Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry

July 2015: Shrinkflation is not the way!

Shrinking pack sizes, unless the selling price is also proportionally reduced, has become one of the most popular ways for manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods to deal with cost increases. For example, in the UK, in 2013/14, Alpen muesli pack content fell from 1.5kg to 1.3kg (Which?, 2015). Consumers tend to not notice this at the time of purchase.

An international research team led by Dr Stephen Wilkins set out to investigate how consumers might react after realising they have been deceived. It was concluded that although firms may initially achieve increased sales, these practices risk damaging a brand's reputation and consumer loyalty to the brand, thus firms need to strike a balance between packaging size and content. 

The research will be presented as a paper in the 'European Journal of Marketing', later in 2015.

Keeping the 24-hour economy going

With funding from the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust, Dr Chris Pac-Soo and Dr Oliver Smith from the School of Law are examining the experiences of foreign nationals working in Plymouth within the night-time economy (NTE). Plymouth is an official migrant dispersal centre, but new arrivals, often working either as taxi drivers or staff in fast-food outlets, have experienced a well documented level of racist victimisation. Working with a researcher who has experience of fast-food outlets at night, the study will utilise participant observation as well as semi-structured interviews to catalogue the perceived rise of victimisation amongst immigrants working in the NTE.

The art of persuasion

Dr Nigel Jackson and Professor Sheela Agarwal from the School of Tourism and Hospitality are undertaking research to investigate people’s perception of the nature of persuasion, how they persuade others and how they are persuaded. 

This investigation has been prompted by the recognition that the majority of studies use observation to assess the impact of persuasion on behaviour. This project aims to determine the extent to which the head (rational decision-making), the heart (emotional responses), or a mixture of both, guide individual persuasive behaviour within a set of identifiable circumstances through a quantitative survey. Such knowledge will inform the development of a persuasive index for how best to apply persuasive communications.

Professor Colin Rallings (left) and Professor Michael Thrasher

Outwitting the opinion pollsters

Professor Colin Rallings and Professor Michael Thrasher, from Plymouth University’s Elections Centre, were two of the ‘exit poll eight’, the team that planned, designed, executed and analysed the BBC/ITV/Sky News exit poll that took the nation by surprise at 10pm on 7 May 2015.

The centre’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact case study confirmed the importance of Plymouth University’s mix of academic and applied research for bodies as diverse as the BBC and the House of Commons Library. For the sixth general election in succession, the School of Government’s Professors Rallings and Thrasher had significant on-screen roles in overnight and next-day election results programmes.

The exit poll took the nation by surprise at 10pm on 7 May 2015.