Swansea University
  • Swansea, Wales, UK, United Kingdom

We are improving healthcare for Autistic people

22nd Dec, 2022
Autistic people have worse physical and mental health than their allistic (non-Autistic) peers. This includes dying between 16 and 30 years early. Deficit narratives of Autism, discrimination towards Autistic people and significant healthcare inaccessibility all contribute to this. It is important to understand Autistic people’s lived experiences and healthcare needs to reduce and reverse health inequalities.

Dr Aimee Grant, an Autistic academic, in collaboration with researchers at the Centre for Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translational Research, Autistic UK and Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales has been working with Autistic people to understand the differences in Autistic experiences of healthcare, including in relation to pregnancy, pregnancy loss and breastfeeding. Her Wellcome Trust fellowship, Autism from menstruation to menopause will work with Autistic people to understand their everyday lives and reproductive health needs for eight years.

  • Dr Grant is a founding member of the Maternity and Autism Research Group, a collaboration of academics and clinicians from the UK with the aim of improving maternity care for Autistic people.
  • Directly informed NHS practice in relation to Autistic people, including the “About me” health passport within the forthcoming NHS Wales Digital App and NHS England training on Autism and Learning Disabilities.
  • Dr Grant and Professor Amy Brown, within the LIFT Research Centre have been awarded over £2.4m of funding from the Wellcome Trust to gain an in-depth understanding of reproductive health needs of Autistic women and other Autistic people who menstruate throughout the life course, in order to improve healthcare.
  • Dr Grant is the co-founder and co-chair of the international Autistic Health Research Network, a collaboration of Autistic clinicians and researchers who aim to improve Autistic health and healthcare through undertaking neurodiversity-affirming research.

Posted 22nd Dec, 2022
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23rd Dec, 2022

Semiconductors – the Beating Heart of Net Zero Technologies

Semiconductors have enabled our modern world and are the key materials underpinning virtually all the technologies needed to achieve Net Zero.
The challenge is to create advanced semiconductor materials and platforms to enable the Net Zero Revolution; and develop manufacturing processes and supply chains to decarbonize the semiconductor industry.
Led by Professor Paul Meredith, Swansea University, through its new Interdisciplinary Research Institute the Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) is helping the South Wales Semiconductor Industry address the challenges and opportunities of the Net Zero vision.
The CISM facility is a state-of-the-art, industrially inspired ‘wafer-fab’ capable of processing a large range of current and futuristic semiconductor materials and devices. CISM will provide critical services such as early-stage device prototyping, but also crucially, the ability for industry partners and academic innovators to ‘scale’ device designs and platforms to the batch-stage as proof of manufacturing principle.
Another unique feature of CISM will be the trailblazing of ‘integrative’ concepts – combining different semiconductor materials to deliver unrealised functionality. A particular focus of the CISM program will be power electronics for transport electrification and clean energy (CISM will have the UK’s only pilot line for creating advanced Silicon Carbide (SiC) power electronic components).
Furthermore, to help the sector deliver on Net Zero ambitions the Semiconductor Innovation for Net Zero (SIN_0) project will trial innovative emission reduction strategies in energy generation and storage, and resource and waste stream management. SIN_0 will not only trailblaze the decarbonisation of advanced research infrastructure like CISM, but will also de-risk the interventions that the semiconductor manufacturing industry will need to employ to reduce the carbon footprint of this critical sector rapidly and dramatically.
CISM provides a range of critical underpinning Research & Innovation services alongside bespoke Research & Development i.e., incubation for SMEs, advanced analytical and characterization, modelling and device design, process development, scaling to batch and proof-of-principle.
Along with its Csconnected partners, CISM will deliver the next generation of advanced semiconductor technology, not just for NetZero, but allied areas such as healthcare and optoelectronics.
CISM will trailblaze solutions for the decarbonization of semiconductor manufacturing and for reducing the emissions of advanced research infrastructure.
CISM will help train the scientists and engineers to fuel the growth of the South Wales (and UK) semiconductor industry. The South Wales semiconductor industry already provides around 2400 high paid jobs in the region, contributing £277M per annum (GVA). This is set to grow to 6500 jobs by 2030 with substantial inward investment already underway.
22nd Dec, 2022

We are developing a sustainable National Health Service

A portfolio of Swansea University based research is focused on operations management, organisational innovation and supply chain research within the context of health and care provision in the Welsh NHS. The ambition is to create an economic and environmentally sustainable health and care service for the community by harnessing the talents of NHS staff with the support of robust research of high impact.
Focused on driving process improvement, sustainability and innovation, recent projects have included:
Repurposing farming estate to grow fresh sustainable produce, and provide patient therapies, exercises, social interaction and improved mental health.
Rethinking waste streams and changing old mindsets.
Capturing and cleaning the steam and heat from hospital processes to use to support crop growing.
Using waste land for solar farming to offset energy bills and to assure a low-cost sustainable NHS service.
Recycling equipment and materials that benefit society including the repurposing of beds from temporary Covid hospitals to local children to alleviate sleep poverty.
Rethinking the role of the central pharmacy in reducing medicine wastes and packaging.
Recycling hospital consumable items to convert into new products of value to non-health supply chains.
Questioning the design of future hospitals and how efficiencies can be generated through better operating theatre designs and waste free flows.
Studies have been contextual and participative with preferred methodologies including those aimed at solving problems - case study analysis, participative action research and experiment cycles that unite academics and professionals.
The research is delivering significant impact for stakeholders (NHS staff, the Welsh Government, key clinical professions, the patient, local community and local environment) and academics across a range of fields of study (operations management, environmental management, supply chain management, innovation management and change management). Immediately, this is in the form of resource efficiency for the organisation and in total cost of ownership reductions. New impact has also been generated through the establishment of new community impact companies that are capable of generating profits and revenues that make the service provided ‘free’.
In the health and care context where governance is key, there have been many tangible and intangible benefits of the research including improvements in staff and patient morale, patient and process safety, the delivery of care (in terms of access, location and form), and in operational costs (actual savings, reduced avoidable costs, less waste, less effort and such like).
Swansea University’s Professor Nick Rich, Professor Gareth Davies and Dr Gary Walpole are collaborating on an ambitious portfolio of operations management, organisational innovation, and supply chain research to create an economic and environmentally sustainable health and care service for the community.
22nd Dec, 2022

We are using fungus to control crop pests

Globally, invertebrate pests cause hundreds of billions of pounds worth of damage to arable crops and forests every year, impacting on global food security. With increased restrictions on chemical pesticides, biopesticides have emerged as a viable alternative but need testing and registration with regulatory authorities.
Research conducted by Professor Tariq Butt and his team discovered that the fungus Metarhizium brunneum is an effective biocontrol agent against major plant pests such as thrips and weevils. Through extensive laboratory toxicity testing and fieldwork with industrial and academic partners they found that Metarhizium and its metabolites do not persist in the soil. Furthermore, the metabolites are produced in extremely low amounts and are unlikely to enter the food chain, making the fungus safe to use on crops. Professor Butt and his team discovered that volatile metabolites of M. brunneum conferred benefits to the plant such as repelling or killing soil invertebrate pests such plant parasitic nematode and molluscs. Together with industry these volatiles are being developed as new plant protection products.
Products in development include entomopathogenic fungi such as Metarhizium brunneum, botanicals and semiochemicals. Botanicals with attractant, repellent or insecticidal properties are used in conjunction with the fungi to create innovative pest control strategies which will "lure and kill", “stress and kill” or "confuse and kill" the targeted insect.
Prof Butt’s research has informed the regulatory authorities on the safety of Metarhizium fungal metabolites and paved the way for the registration of M. brunneum.
Intellectual Property has been licensed to industry and knowledge has been exchanged between a wide range of organisations including Rentokil Initial plc, Russell IPM Ltd, Agrifutur srl, Certis-Belchim, BioBest Group NV and Lallemand Inc. Products such as Met52 and GranMet have been commercially formulated from M. brunnuem and sold in Europe. In addition, Prof Butt’s research is being used by international companies such as Certis BV to formulate new next-generation biorational fumigants based on natural products. These will replace current chemical pesticides which have been or are being withdrawn from the market. He continues to work with European partners on reducing the regulatory burden around metabolites, and with industrial partners to discover and test new biocontrol agents and develop innovative pest control strategies.
Recognised as a world leader in Biocontrol and Natural Products, Professor Tariq Butt and the team have gone on to secure funding through the Community Renewal Fund in partnership with Swansea Council for the Natural Products BioHub, a unique multi-use BioHUB supporting researchers and businesses specialising in Biocontrol and Natural products.
22nd Dec, 2022

We are combatting online harm

The internet offers many enriching experiences and opportunities for children and adults alike to develop healthy relationships and to satisfy our natural curiosity about the world. However, it can also be exploited for ill. This is exemplified by the increasing volume and sophistication of harmful content online - ranging from extreme ideology groups’ hateful and violence-inciting messaging through to crypto-markets’ trafficking of illegal products and online child sexual abuse. Our challenge is to combat these manifestations of online harm, where communication is strategically deployed for nefarious purposes that can impact a lifetime.
Working alongside a committed team of linguists, criminologists, psychologists and computer scientists, Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus conducts quantitative and qualitative analyses of the communicative (language / images) tactics used for cyber-crime manipulation.
Professor Lorenzo-Dus specialises in tactics used for online jihadi radicalisation; for recruitment and community-building across extreme right groups’ social media channels; for deceptive trust-building to advance narcotics trafficking in crypto-drug markets; and for the sexual grooming of children online.
Supported by funding from the End Violence Partnership, CHERISH-DE and The Leverhulme Trust, her work is designed to detect harmful content (and its authors) and to develop resilience-building measures. Consequent research-evidenced interventions are co-created and co-tested with key stakeholder groups (law enforcement, educators, social workers and policy makers) in Wales, the UK and internationally.
Of particular note within Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus’ work on digital manipulation is her 2021-2022 project DRAGON-S (Developing Resistance Against Grooming Online – Spot and Shield. Swansea University gratefully acknowledges financial support provided for this Programme by the End Violence Fund.
This project will offer tools based on integrating Artificial Intelligence/Linguistics to keep children safe online. Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus and her team have an unwavering commitment to putting ethical, innovative and implementable research at the service of collective efforts to develop individual and social resistance against the major challenge of keeping our children safe from sexual abuse online.
29th Mar, 2022

SAIL Databank is making population-scaled data research possible

The Challenge
Historically, healthcare and administrative data have existed in disparate siloes without the necessary linkage infrastructure to generate population level intelligence. A lack of uniformity and consistency of data standards across this landscape has only added to the inherent complexities.
The challenge for our SAIL Databank was how do you safely acquire vast amounts of data, in a safe and secure way, that robustly preserves the privacy of those individuals represented in the data?
The other major challenge was how do you then restrict access to only legitimate researchers and provide an advanced technology platform that allows authorised, remote users to make the most of the data for society’s benefit?
The final test was how do you achieve all that whilst maintaining stakeholder confidence and, crucially, public trust?
The Method
Since its inception, the SAIL Databank has benefitted greatly from a partnership with the NHS Wales’ Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) with core funding from Health and Care Research Wales. DHCW provides essential support with data transfer, and expertise to develop a separation principle for data anonymisation.
The SAIL Databank has developed a sophisticated suite of information security measures incorporating physical, technical and procedural controls. These features contribute to Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2017 accreditation from the UK Statistics Authority and ISO27001 certification. This means that SAIL Databank meets the strictest international standards.
An independent Information Governance Review Panel (IGRP) was established to review proposals to work with the data. The panel includes representatives of professional and regulatory bodies and the public. If research is approved by the IGRP, users are granted access to the high-powered Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP). SeRP allows data owners and researchers to store, access, share, analyse and link data, at scale, in a governed environment whilst always maintaining full control of the data.
Finally, to build public trust in our management of public data we established the Consumer Panel – an active panel comprising members of the public with a variety of interest areas who advise and steer all our data-intensive research projects.
The Impact
The SAIL Databank’s development over the last 15 years has led to a vast range of potential and achieved impacts. As one of the best characterised population databanks found anywhere in the world, the SAIL Databank were also well positioned to rapidly support COVID-19 research and response efforts. A short selection of our impact is listed below…
• University helping to improve medicine safety in early motherhood ( https://www.swansea.ac.uk/press-office/news-events/news/2022/02/university-helping-to-improve-medicine-safety-in-early-motherhood.php)
• SAIL Databank reveals no cases of rare form of clotting in COVID19 vaccinated population of Wales (https://www.swansea.ac.uk/press-office/news-events/news/2021/03/sail-databank-reveals-no-cases-of-rare-form-of-clotting-in-covid19-vaccinated-population-of-wales.php )
• Welsh super database and technology platform play major role in new international Covid-19 research collaboration (https://www.swansea.ac.uk/press-office/news-events/news/2020/07/welsh-super-database-and-technology-platform-play-major-role-in-new-international-covid-19-research-collaboration.php )
• SAIL Databank to support UK-REACH: a new UK study launched to investigate COVID-19 risks for BAME healthcare staff (https://popdatasci.swan.ac.uk/sail-databank-to-support-uk-reach-a-new-uk-study-launched-to-investigate-covid-19-risks-for-bame-healthcare-staff/ )
• SAIL Databank reveals link between household mental ill-health and developmental disorders in children (https://popdatasci.swan.ac.uk/sail-databank-reveals-link-between-household-mental-ill-health-and-developmental-disorders-in-children/ )
23rd Mar, 2022

Responding to Victimisation in a Digital World

The Challenge
Digital technology is embedded into daily life and cannot be meaningfully separated from ‘real’ world experiences, including those of crime victims. Official statistics show the volume and impact of computer crimes and online fraud. Additionally, tech now plays an increasing role in gender-based violence and hate crime. As such, crimes are increasingly ‘hybrid’, taking place both online and offline. However, the victim response to online harms has been shown to be inconsistent, particularly with respect to identifying vulnerable victims and addressing repeat victimisation. In parallel, victim support services vary widely across geographical areas and the extent to which they are equipped to respond to the role of digital tech is ill understood.
The Method
We have worked with large datasets of police recorded crime and used a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to identify patterns of repeat victimisation and better understand victim vulnerability. With funded support from the Morgan Advanced Studies Institute (MASI) researchers at the Cyber Threats Research Centre (CYTREC) and Swansea University’s Computational Foundry are currently working in partnership with South Wales Police (SWP) and the Swansea Council for Voluntary Service (SCVS) to (1) explore the extent to which victim services are adequate in a digital world, and (2) develop a ‘Cyber Clinic’ prototype, offering a blend of face-to-face and digital support, to both increase and research individuals’ resilience to and post-victimisation.
The Impact
CYTREC’s previous work on victimisation has been used:
To inform law enforcement fraud threat assessments in the Southern Wales region;
For awareness-raising and training sessions for law enforcement and wider stakeholders including within the cybersecurity industry and the charity sector;
To develop learning materials for practitioners and researchers to develop their knowledge of the legal and ethical implications of cybercrime research; and
To inform the development of new legislation and law reform.
Find out more at our Terrorism and Social Media Conference on 28-29 June 2022 and stay up-to-date by following Dr Sara Correia on ResearchGate
23rd Mar, 2022

Tackling Terrorists' Online Activities

The Challenge
Terrorist groups use the internet for a variety of purposes, from disseminating propaganda and recruitment to fund-raising and psychological warfare. Developing responses that are effective and maintain respect for human rights and basic values is one of today’s most pressing challenges.
The Method
Researchers from the Cyber Threats Research Centre (CYTREC) work across disciplinary divides to advance understanding of terrorists’ online activities, assess the threat they pose and develop proposals for policy and practice.
The Impact
CYTREC emphasises the importance of collaboration with front-line practitioners, policymakers and industry. Its work has been used by social media companies to understand how terrorists exploit their platforms, in the training of law enforcement and to inform national and international law and policy.
Find out more at our Terrorism and Social Media Conference on 28-29 June 2022 and stay up-to-date by following Professor Stuart Macdonald on ResearchGate.
15th Mar, 2022

Using cutting edge technology to track animal movement

The Challenge
Anyone who has travelled on a plane will realise how important the weather is for flight: Wind and turbulence affect the routes that planes take, the total flight time and the amount of fuel needed. What the air is doing is every bit as important for birds in flight, whether they are on their daily commute, their annual migration or choosing where to nest. But it can be challenging to unravel these relationships as air is both invisible and almost always on the move.
The Method
We use a range of techniques to quantify animal movement, second by second, to understand how much it costs, and how animals respond to our changing world.
New 20T, tilting wind tunnel to study bird flight
We attach miniature, high-frequency data-loggers to birds to record the details of their wingbeats in the wind tunnel and relate that to the energy that their flight requires. We use the same loggers on birds flying in the wild to quantify how the wind and turbulence affects their flight costs and decisions.
The wind tunnel is a new facility designed to enable collaborative research on animal flight between biologists and engineers. It has a large test area where birds fly (1.8 m wide by 1.5 m high by 2.2 m long). Accelerating air through such a large volume requires a big structure to house the fans, reduce fan noise and minimise the turbulence of the airflow. The tunnel itself also tilts, enabling the study of climbing and gliding flight. The end result is a tunnel > 17 m long and weighing > 20T. All this to improve our understanding of birds that weigh about the same as a can of beans.
Visualising the Invisible
Our team used computational fluid dynamics models, borrowed from engineering, to visualise and map what the air is doing over fine scales and estimate the wind and turbulence experienced by seabirds close to their nesting cliffs.
When it comes to choosing where to nest, it turns out that not all cliffs are equal. The exposure to the prevailing wind can predict where common guillemots breed. This type of modelling could be important for management decisions, particularly where colonies have been lost, potentially allowing people to predict which areas species may return to/ should be encouraged back to. This is pertinent for the many seabirds that have experienced dramatic population declines in the last century.
Tag development in the Swansea Lab for Animal Movement
The Swansea Laboratory for Animal Movement, SLAM, uses individual-based approaches to examine how, why, and where animals move. We specialise in novel animal tagging techniques, and continue to develop the sensors deployed on animals, the best methods of attaching them, as well as metrics to inform ecologists about animal motion and its energetic costs (notably through Dynamic Body Acceleration).
This gives us new eyes on animals, whether they be condors soaring hundreds of metres above the Andes, lions tracking the borders of a reserve, or penguins twisting and turning in pursuit of prey underwater.
The Impact
The teams findings on Andean condors, which were reported in a recent paper (https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1907360117) showed just how adept these birds are at finding rising air, spending just 1% of their flight time flapping. They recorded a flight from one bird that travelled over 100 miles without a single wingbeat.
Further collaborative work on how gulls soar above buildings could help when it comes to planning flight paths for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones in urban landscapes. In a similar way to birds, these are affected by gusts and turbulence, far more than larger aircraft. Flying at low altitudes in close proximity to terrain and buildings is challenging, as flight control systems have not been developed to cope with complex urban environments: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2015.0394
Understanding where seabirds nest could also be important for management decisions, allowing people to predict which areas species may return to. This is pertinent for the many species that have experienced dramatic population declines in the last century: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecog.05733?af=R
10th Nov, 2021

Understanding and Responding to Cyber Threats

The Challenge
Cyberspace is a source of many benefits and opportunities. But its affordances are also exploited by malevolent actors. In this changing environment, it is essential to improve our understanding of emerging threats and of how cyberspace has caused other types of threat to evolve. It is also vital that responses to these threats are not only effective, but also proportionate and respect human rights and fundamental values.
The Method
The Cyber Threats Research Centre (CYTREC) explores a range of online threats, from terrorism, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage to cybercrime, online child sexual exploitation and abuse and other online harms. CYTREC is an interdisciplinary centre, with experts from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including law, criminology, political science, anthropology, linguistics and computer science. Its members work across disciplinary divides to advance understanding of a diversity of cyber threats, assess the threat they pose and develop proposals for policy and practice.
CYTREC is also collaborative, engaging with key stakeholders at all stages of the research process: from co-creating projects to ask the research questions that matter, to sharing findings and producing policy recommendations. CYTREC’s partners include: RUSI, Tech Against Terrorism and the Marie Collins Foundation. Its work has been presented around the world – including to the UK Home Office, US State Department, Europol, at NATO Advanced Training Courses and the British and Edinburgh International Science Festivals – and it regularly hosts multi-stakeholder events, including the biennial Terrorism and Social Media (TASM) Conference.
Examples of CYTREC’s work include:
Studying the tactics used by Islamic State to disseminate its online magazines via Twitter;
Analysing the strategic mobilisation of topical news events in far-right groups’ online propaganda and their systematic denigration of immigrants and Muslims;
Examining the extent to which personalization algorithms place further extremist content in front of consumers of such material;
Analysing mis/dis and mal-information into the body politic and social discourse;
Analysing the extent and impact of cybercrime victimisation on individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable and/or repeat victims;
Communicative profiling of online child sexual offenders, specifically those who groom children for sex online; and,
Conducting digital forensic investigations of computer and cybercrime, including the acquisition, preservation and analysis of digital evidence in a forensically sound manner.
The Impact
CYTREC’s work has been used:
For awareness-raising and training sessions for law enforcement;
By the tech industry to identify platforms being exploited by terrorists and to remove terrorist content;
To create resources for teachers and parents to increase resilience against online radicalisation;
To develop online grooming detection software and digital resources for upskilling professionals in child safeguarding roles about how online grooming works and can be prevented; and,
To inform the development of new legislation and law reform.
Stay up-to-date with CYTREC's research by following its director, Prof. Stuart Macdonald, on ResearchGate.
Find out more at our Terrorism and Social Media Conference on 28-29 June 2022 (https://www.tasmconf.com/) and stay up-to-date with CYTREC's research by following its director, Prof. Stuart Macdonald, on ResearchGate