Research is a fundamental part of our identity as an academic institution and the work we do has a real impact. 2017/18 has seen us enter an exciting era for research at the University of Derby, as we continue our drive towards becoming a research-focused institution.
Highlights over the past year include the establishment of a University Research and Knowledge Exchange Office, which supports and develops research activity across Colleges and departments to ensure a joined-up process and effective working. A new University Professorial Council will help us move towards providing more effective strategic research support. We also established an early career researcher forum to support those in the early stages of their career, by stimulating collaboration and acting as a catalyst for shared learning.
We are working towards the Research Excellence Framework 2021, a national exercise to celebrate research excellence. In 2014 we celebrated our best-ever REF results, with three quarters of our output judged to be at least ‘internationally significant’. Our research strategy seeks to build on this success in the next REF assessment in 2021 and the University has allocated over £2 million investment to support our Colleges with this.
Making a difference to policy and practice
Our Centre for Social, Cultural and Legal Research launched in July. Headed up by Professor Alex Nunn, the Centre focuses on applied social research which aims to make a progressive difference to society, policy and practice. Research projects underway so far include the experience of young people from Roma communities in Derby, support services for female military veterans and arts-based crime diversion activities with young people.
Major breakthrough in artificial intelligence
Our team of data science professors, led by Professor Antonio Liotta, made international headlines when they joined scientists from the Netherlands and Texas to develop a revolutionary system that accelerates artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. Their work represents a major breakthrough in fundamental AI, enabling supercomputers to master artificial neural networks as complex as the human brain. The proposed method, called Sparse Evolutionary Training, also gives full AI capability to inexpensive computers, meaning it will be possible to turn any internet device into an intelligent Internet of Things object which can send and receive data.
Department of Education publishes our research
Special Educational Needs researchers from our Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) had their fourth output on the theme of Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans published by the Department for Education. Researchers in CERI are using this work to develop and deliver training programmes for SEND officers at Derby City Council, providing impact in supporting high-quality EHC plans and planning processes.
Influencing the national debate on coral reef health
Dr Adam Hill was brought in to contribute to a project for the BBC’s Blue Planet II series, looking into ways to judge the health of coral reefs. Dr Hill used part of an algorithm, which he developed for a previous research project looking into virtual bass synthesis (a method of tricking the brain into perceiving low frequency content in musical signals where little to none is actually present), to analyse the sounds from various creatures living in and around the reef to give an estimate of the reef’s health. Simply put, the more sharp clicks and pops coming from the reef, the healthier the reef must be. It is thought that these cues are what attract creatures to healthy reefs, and what keep them from the unhealthy ones.