Research projects

A sociological study of patients’ use of digital media

Funding body: Australian Research Council

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Alison Anderson

Professor Alison Anderson is a member of an international team of researchers who have gained $366,000 in funding for a Discovery Award project from the Australian Research Council. The two-year project (2017–2019) is led by Professor Alan Petersen at Monash University, Australia, and also involves Professor Tim Caulfied at University of Alberta, Canada and Dr Allegra Schermuly at Monash University. The goal of the project is to gain a deeper understanding of how different patients use digital media in a bid to influence clinical research, to collect and assess evidence and to access treatments that have yet to be proven as safe and effective, and how this digital media use is shaped by sociocultural factors. Insights from this study will inform the response by policy makers, healthcare professionals and activists themselves to this growing phenomenon.

PCT Commissioning Practice and Health System Governance 

Funding body: National Institute for Health Research

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Rod Sheaff

Professor Sheaff led a team involving academics from the Universities of Birmingham, Manchester and Royal Holloway, London, which undertook a three-year project (2012–15), worth £472,496, evaluating NHS commissioning practice. 

The research found that in certain areas the NHS commissioning system was not yet working as policy documents assumed. 

Commissioning work was often laborious and uncertain, doctors played little part in financial negotiations and there was little competition between hospitals.

Comparing the English, German and Italian health systems, Professor Sheaff also found that when hospitals had the right to be paid a fixed tariff for every patient they treated, more patients were treated but healthcare costs also rose.

Poverty Alleviation and Women Refugees in the Middle East: Empowerment through Grassroots Micro-Entrepreneurship? 

Funding body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DfID)

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Dr Haya Al-Dajani

This £394,841 project aims to explore the experiences of refugee Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian women displaced to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, who are engaging in home-based micro-entrepreneurship activity. This involves a mixed methods strategy which engages stakeholders in the development and design of the methodology. Central to this approach is the direct participation of refugee women in each of the project’s three locations through the use of oral history interviews. Grounded in these rich testimonies, the findings from the project will subsequently be used to guide future policy and practice for newly arriving groups in these volatile regions.

Read more about the project

Hybrid Freight Sailing: Sustainable Approaches and Innovative Liaisons (SAIL)

Funding body: EU Interreg Programme

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Jingjing Xu

This project, involving 17 partners, aimed to develop and test hybrid sailing concepts that lead to new business opportunities and a more sustainable future. Professor Xu received €98,626 for research which focused on the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel. 

LNG produces virtually no sulphur dioxide emissions, and when compared with conventional marine bunker fuels, has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10%, nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90%, and particulate matter emission by up to 100%. 

However, the international legal framework governing LNG's use needs further development. Professor Xu examined the legal regimes relating to the use of LNG, identified gaps and made recommendations for how these could be addressed.

Enhancing and implementing Knowledge based ICT solutions within high Risk and Uncertain Conditions for Agriculture Production Systems (RUC-APS)

Funding body: European Commission (Horizon 2020 - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange scheme)

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Shaofeng Liu

This four-year research project (2016–2020) aims to provide advancement in knowledge-based decision making for sustainable agri-food supply chains through state-of-the-art technologies. The project involves 19 partners from seven countries led by the University of Liverpool. 

The University of Plymouth was awarded over €140,000 to lead the work-package on knowledge management for food supply chain decision support. Led by Professor Liu, the project also involves Professor Phil Megicks, Associate Professor Lynne Butel, Dr Lucas Monzani and Dr Carmen Lopez. 

‘Commensality’ as a Tool for Health, Well-being, Social Inclusion and Community Resilience, at an Offender Resettlement Scheme (RS) 

Funding body: Sociology of Health and Illness (SHI) Mildred Blaxter Post-doctoral Research Fellowship

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator:
Dr Julie Parsons

This fellowship firstly led Dr Parsons to rework and republish her PhD thesis as Gender, Class and Food: Families, Bodies and Health – shortlisted for the SHI Book Prize 2016. Secondly it enabled her to conduct an exploratory study of the community lunches held at an RS involving trainees, on temporary licence from the local prison or community licences. Through over nine months of fieldwork, including 23 interviews and a photo-dialogue focus group she found that commensality (eating together) is particularly beneficial for trainees’ human, social and cultural capital.

Displaced Syrian Artisans in Jordan

Funding body: Global Challenges Research Fund contract from the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council 

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Dr Haya Al-Dajani

This project will examine the impact of forced displacement on Syria’s traditional crafts and cultural heritage. 

The research team will study the industries that have survived among refugee communities forcibly displaced to Jordan. 

They will assess the ways in which male artisans have been forced to adapt in exile and will also develop training and advice programmes with the aim of enabling the development of sustainable social enterprises.

Read the press release

Find out more about the project.

Offshore Wind Farm Operations and Maintenance Project

Funding body: EU Interreg Programme

University of Plymouth Principal Investigators: Professor Kerry E Howell and Professor Dongping Song

This was a €1.8 million collaborative project between the Universities of Plymouth, Portsmouth and Le Havre and the Centre Regional d’ Innovation et de Transfer de (CRITT) and Dossier Ecole National Supérieure Maritime (ENSM). It investigated options for configuring the logistics and supply chains of offshore wind farms (OWFs) and designed a Decision Support System (DSS) to develop reliability, availability and cost reduction for OWFs. A small team in the University of Plymouth, initially led by Professor Song and later by Professor Howell was awarded €244,000 to assist in the development of the DSS model. This involved identifying requirements regarding logistics, labour and vessels for operations and maintenance of OWFs.

Diverse Healthcare Providers: Behaviour in Response to Commissioners, Patients and Innovations

Funding body: Department of Health, Policy Research Programme

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Rod Sheaff

The variety of organisations which provide NHS-funded services is getting wider including private firms, social enterprises and voluntary organisations, alongside NHS hospitals and GPs. This three-year project worth £482,758 aims to explore the differences that exist between these different kinds of organisations in the ways they manage and provide these services, and what differences result in terms of service quality, innovation and patient experience. The research team will examine  hospital, community health, and out-of-hours GP services and will focus especially on services which are heavily used by older people at high risk of hospital admission or re-admission.

Developing social and cultural capital through Photographic e-Narratives (PeN) at an offender/ex-offender resettlement scheme (RS)

Funding body: Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) Mid-Career Fellowship

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Dr Julie Parsons

Support and involvement from the community is vital for the success of any resettlement scheme (RS). The PeN project aims to broaden and provide positive reinforcement to existing work by an RS in this area by enabling supporters to feel more involved. In order to foster a sense of social inclusion trainees will take photographs and develop narratives around these in order to engage with the wider community of supporters via a closed blog. 

Click here to view the PeN (Photographic e-Narrative) Project blog

Developing Online Tools to Foster Entrepreneurship in the Retail Sector (LET IT BE)

Funding body: European Commission (Erasmus Plus Scheme)

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Shaofeng Liu

LET IT BE is a two year (Nov 2014–Oct 2016) project which has developed a game-based learning platform to help young people to develop their knowledge, skills and competence in entrepreneurship. 

The game-based learning platform has been tested in four countries (Spain, UK, Italy and Romania) and the project is co-ordinated by PYMEV from Spain. Professor Liu, working alongside Dr Festus Oderanti, leads the work on developing learning content for the entrepreneurship training. 

Managing Conflict in the Contemporary British Workplace

Funding body: Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas)

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Richard Saundry

Professor Saundry led a consortia of academics from the Universities of Warwick, Leeds and Central Lancashire. Based on focus groups and interviews involving over 150 managers, HR practitioners, union representatives and employment lawyers, the research argues that tensions over the management of performance have become the main focus of workplace conflict. In addition, while conflict can have damaging effects on employee well-being and productivity, the research questioned whether front-line managers have the skills and confidence to resolve difficult HR issues effectively and at an early stage. The research pointed to the need to adopt more strategic and systematic approaches to the management of workplace conflict.

The Patient Safety Collaborative Evaluation Study (The PiSCES Study)

Funding body: Department of Health, Policy Research Programme

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Rod Sheaff

The events in Mid Staffordshire hospitals demonstrated failures to deliver safe health care reliably. The Government's response included implementing 15 Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSC) across England. This £420,615 worth research project aims to evaluate the progress of the PSCs in the first two years of their operation to determine what difference they are making and how their impact can be maximised in the remainder of the programme. This project comprises: an implementation study of how PSCs have been run, a longitudinal analysis of existing hospital data (including patient and staff surveys)and an evaluation of hospital safety culture at both the start and end of the project. 

Modernisation of Vessels for Inland waterway freight Transport (MoVe IT)

Funding body: European Commission

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Professor Jingjing Xu

Inland waterway transport is the most environmentally friendly mode of transport; however, it is challenged by an over-ageing fleet, climate change and stronger environmental and safety objectives. 

MoVe IT was a collaborative project, involving 23 members, that developed a suite of options for the cost-effective modernisation of inland ships. Professor Xu received €104,155 to undertake research focused on the implication of modernisation on the logistics operations of inland fleets. 

Evaluation of the LandWorks project

Funding body: The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund (2015-2018)

University of Plymouth Principal Investigator: Dr Joyce Halliday

A team at the University of Plymouth led by Dr Halliday and involving Dr Julie Parsons and Tina Wilkinson are currently undertaking an evaluation of LandWorks - an independent charity located on the Dartington Hall Estate. It uses land-based skills training (landscaping, horticulture and food production) to help offenders and ex-offenders readjust to life outside prison. This evaluation offers a critical understanding of how the project is evolving, together with an assessment of the outcomes for participants, their families and the local community. The evaluation will help identify not only how LandWorks ‘works’ and how it can be improved and developed but also what generic lessons can be learned for resettlement projects elsewhere.