News at Stirling The University of Stirling's Communications and Media team aims to work positively and closely with the media, providing a service that will help media professionals to cover news, personalities and events at the University in an informed manner. News at Stirling Why are children from poor neighbourhoods more likely to be subject to a child protection intervention than those living in better off areas?

A leading Scottish social work academic is contributing to a comprehensive study of inequalities in child welfare systems to address this question.

The University of Stirling’s Professor Brigid Daniel will work with academic colleagues from universities in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, where child welfare systems and intervention rates differ, to establish what is driving child welfare inequalities across the UK.

The project, led by Coventry University and funded by the Nuffield Foundation will compare disparities in child safeguarding throughout the country.  It will also explore potential reasons for the inequalities in child welfare within and between the four UK countries.

In Scotland,  the total number of children looked after has fallen for the first time since 2001, but the number of children being looked after by foster carers and prospective adopters or in other community placements remains at the highest level on record.

Since 2001 there has been a steady 34 per cent increase in the number of children on the child protection register.

Professor Brigid Daniel, Professor of Social Work in Stirling’s School of Applied Social Science, said: “Scotland aspires to be the best place for children to grow up and this has to include all children, including those whose start in life is difficult.

“Too many children’s lives in Scotland are blighted by the effects of poverty and deprivation and, in particular, the corrosive effects of inequality of opportunity.

“The findings from this study will provide crucial evidence to help public services tackle and reduce inequalities in child wellbeing.”

The project will be led by Professor of Social Work, Prof Paul Bywaters, from Coventry University. He said: “Almost 5 children in a 1000 in Wales and Northern Ireland are on a child protection plan or register, but fewer than 4 in 1000 children in England and fewer than 3 in Scotland.

“Is this a postcode lottery or the result of deprivation, demography, policy or practice? How do we judge which country’s safeguarding system is working best? This is what this project is aiming to find out. Our findings could lead to fundamental changes in policy and practice for children’s services across UK and internationally.”

Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer, Sir Henry Burns, will lead the project’s Advisory Board. He is now a professor of global public health at Strathclyde University, specialising in health inequalities. He said: "Much of my career has been spent in trying to understand the causes and consequences of health inequalities.

“It is very clear that the way in which families are supported is an important predictor of good outcome for children and this project can make an important contribution to understand how we can build healthy and successful young people.”

Karen McIntosh

Public Relations Officer or 01786 46 7058

University of Stirling child welfare expert supports study of UK’s child safeguarding systems Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:17:00 +0000 Once adored by Abraham Lincoln and quoted by Dr Martin Luther King; still televised in Russia and performed by Bob Dylan amongst others, the work of Scotland’s national Bard is celebrated at home and around the globe.

There are more than 250 Burns Societies worldwide, but no known celebrations in China . . . until now.

A leading Professor of English Literature from China’s Hebei Normal University has based himself at the University of Stirling as he continues his life-long passion to translate 100 Burns poems into contemporary Chinese.

Self-professed Burns’ fan, Professor Li Zhengshuan said: “I shared Burns’ labouring experiences and I liked his style so when I was young, I learned many of his poems by heart.

“Dozens of Burns’ poems have been translated into Chinese, some by poets who used them as an inspiration to write their own poems.

“In some versions, Burns became a Chinese poet speaking the words only the ancient Chinese could understand. I thought Burns’ English was modern so I tried my hand at translating a few of his poems. It’s far from easy and the main problem is the understanding of the dialects.”

Undeterred, Professor Li is based for six months at the University of Stirling’s new Centre for Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies where he will oversee a partnership translation programme between Stirling and Hebei.

“It is important to have translators of literature and culture as well as interpreters and teachers,” added Professor Li, who is also chair of the Hebei Shakespeare Society. “Only with enough practice can we teach well and only with enough theoretical knowledge can we translate better.

“Burns is not as well-known as Shakespeare in China, but he is popular where English literature is studied. Poetry is taught less and less in China now, but it will always be well-known in my university.”

As well as a joint undergraduate degree with China, Stirling’s Centre for Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies has taught postgraduate and research degrees in Translation Studies in six different languages. It is also exploring potential opportunities in Specialised Translation and in Business Interpreting as it continues to form new partnerships.

To mark this, the Centre is holding an International Translation Conference on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 January 2015, including guests from China, Denmark, Russia and Spain.

Professor Kirstie Blair is Chair of English Studies at Stirling and organised the conference along with Dr Saihong Li and Dr Anne Stokes.

Professor Blair said: “The interest in Robert Burns from around the world never ceases to amaze and as well as the interest from Professor Li, we will also be welcoming ten Russian academics representing seven different universities, all experts in the fields of literature, linguistics and translation studies.

“They tell us that Robert Burns is also very popular in Russia, but they have never attended a traditional Burns’ Supper so we are delighted to invite them to ours at the Stirling Court Hotel on Burns’ Night. With the traditional toasts given by Professor Li and two of our Russian colleagues, it will be a truly international celebration of Scotland’s Bard.”

Stirling recently moved into the top 50 research intensive universities in the UK and as well as a vibrant School of Arts & Humanities, produces world-leading research in psychology, health sciences and aquaculture amongst others.



David Christie

Public Relations Officer

01786 466653 or email

Scotland’s national bard hitting the bookshelves in China Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:26:00 +0000 Social workers and health visitors are among the professionals starting a new course at the University of Stirling today, to help them give the very best support to children and families at risk of abuse.

The postgraduate course in advanced practice skills in child welfare and protection has been developed by the University of Stirling and NSPCC Scotland to allow professionals to develop a high level of skills while continuing to work directly with children and families.

Brigid Daniel, Professor of Social Work in the University of Stirling's School of Applied Social Science, said: "We are delighted to be collaborating with the NSPCC to give this opportunity to practitioners to enhance their skills in working with children and families. Support from skilled and empathic practitioners is fundamental to improving the lives of children and families who are struggling. We also know that children and their parents really appreciate it when the practitioners they meet spend meaningful time with them."

With more than 2,600 young people placed on child protection registers in Scotland last year and the NSPCC estimating that nearly one in five secondary school children in the country have been abused or neglected, the charity says the course will fill a very real need. 

Lucy Morton, manager of NSPCC Scotland’s Glasgow service centre said: "More and more evidence is emerging about how we can help children thrive, even where families are going through the most difficult of circumstances. But high case loads and organisational pressures make it very hard for experienced professionals to keep up-to-date and learn new skills and practices which have been shown to make a difference to children’s lives."

"It’s the ability of a frontline worker to support families struggling with drugs, violence, alcohol or mental health problems and to recognise and build on the families’ strengths that will change a child’s life for the better. So there is an urgent need for professionals to continue to develop practical skills in working with families with complex needs throughout the whole of their career.

"Our course with the University of Stirling is the first in the UK to fill this gap between theory and practice. We know that child protection isn’t about one individual or one organisation, so the course is open to anyone who comes into contact with children and families at risk."

Vulnerable children to benefit from the UK’s first postgraduate child welfare course Tue, 20 Jan 2015 09:26:00 +0000 A ground-breaking resolution developed by University of Stirling academics on the elevated breast cancer risk faced by women in certain occupations has been adopted by the influential American Public Health Association (APHA), the largest public health organization in the world.

Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith of the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHRG) were involved as initiators and co-authors of the resolution, entitled Breast Cancer and Occupation: A Need for Action.

The adoption of the resolution by APHA is a significant step in public health policy, highlighting the importance of primary prevention and renewed commitment to occupational health research in the United Kingdom and North America, where breast cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

Dr Brophy said: “Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women across the globe but the majority of women do not have the known or suspected risk factors, therefore more attention to the exposures and hazards faced by women at work is required.”

Many research and funding agencies still ignore or downplay the role of occupational studies despite their relevance to prevention efforts.

Previous international studies have found several occupational sectors in which there was elevated breast cancer risk, including metalworking, bars and gambling workplaces and the manufacture of tinned food, rubber and plastics.

Dr Brophy said: “Until recently, women’s occupational health hazards continued to be mostly invisible, studied inadequately and infrequently despite women’s long-time participation in the workforce. This lack of gender perspective, and hence gender bias comes at a price: working women’s health.”

APHA supports the use of the precautionary principle, including taking action in the face of scientific uncertainty on cancers such work-related breast cancer. However Stirling academics believe that but UK agencies all too often ignore such an approach.

Previous research has identified commonly used chemicals that induce breast tumours in test animals. Animal studies link chemicals that mimic hormones – called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) - to elevated breast cancer rates.

The World Health Organization, the European Union and the Endocrine Society have all issued major reports on the potential harm caused by EDCs. According to the Endocrine Society, the significant increase in the incidence of breast cancer in the industrialized world over the past 50 years may be due to “hormonally active chemicals”.

Professor Andrew Watterson, also of Stirling’s OEHRG, said: "UK industries, professional bodies and regulators have often been slow to act in dealing with hazards and risks linked to occupational breast cancer and other cancers.

"Reputable researchers have recently estimated that there are around 2000 new registrations of breast cancer in women every year and around 550 deaths in Great Britain due primarily to work-related breast cancer linked to night shift working alone.

"The APHA report identifies many other substances and processes linked to breast cancer that would indicate the Great Britain morbidity and mortality rate will be far higher from this preventable cause of disease.

"It is hoped that within the UK, public health bodies will follow the initiative taken by APHA on occupational cancer prevention generally and occupational breast cancer in particular.”

Helen Lynn, Co-ordinator of the Alliance for Cancer Prevention which campaigns on workplace and environmental cancer prevention, said: "We welcome the APHA policy and want to see bodies such as Public Health England follow suit. Organisations like Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) do women a gross disservice by not acknowledging that EDCs can harm at extremely low doses in the workplace and beyond and therefore cannot be regulated and must be banned.

"We now know that the safest exposure to EDCs is no exposure. The HSE must follow suit with urgent action on shift work. We want to see a commitment to valuing women’s lives and to following the ground-breaking example set by the APHA."

Along with Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling’s OEHRG, Dr Brophy and Dr Keith were a part of an international team of researchers who conducted a major award-winning 2012 study that investigated the link between breast cancer rates and occupation among women.

David Tripp
Public Relations Officer
01786 466 687

Stirling breast cancer research shapes prevention policy with leading US health body Thu, 15 Jan 2015 16:20:00 +0000 A new collaborative course between the University of Stirling and NHS Health Boards in Scotland is improving support to young children across the country.

More than 50 nurses and midwives formed the first cohort to start the Health Visiting Programme this week in centres across Stirling, Inverness and Dundee.

Health visitors support and educate families from birth through to a child’s fifth birthday, carrying out physical and developmental checks for the children as well as offering support and advice.

The course – highly commended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council - has been developed in support of the Scottish Government’s commitment to train more than 500 new health visitors in Scotland over the next three years.

Joanna Smith, Programme Director, School of Health Sciences, said: “This opportunity to deliver a contemporary and innovative Health Visiting Programme in our partner boards will provide new Health Visiting students with the skills and knowledge to deliver the highest standard of care to children, young people and their families.

“The Health Visiting programme will use a range of innovative teaching and learning methods which are designed to support all our students from island, rural and urban communities. We are delighted that we are contributing to the capacity and capability of the children’s service workforce in Scotland.”

Students receive a combination of academic teaching and practical experience throughout the one-year programme which focuses on how to assess and analyse children’s needs and how their own individual experiences impact upon their wellbeing.

It is delivered by the University's School of Health Sciences in collaboration with the School of Applied Social Science and NHS Health Board partners in NHS Western Isles, Highland, Tayside and Forth Valley.

Professor Angela Wallace, Director of Nursing for NHS Forth Valley, said: “We welcome the launch of this new training programme which will develop a new generation of health visitors for the future. This is vital as health visitors are a key member of our community teams and play an increasingly important role in looking after the health and wellbeing of children and families across Forth Valley.”

Stirling is leading the way in Health Sciences and its research was recently ranked first in Scotland and 12th in the UK. Its Stirling campus is also home to WithScotland, a key educational centre for child and adult protection.

Professor Jayne Donaldson, Head of the School of Health Sciences added: “The University of Stirling continues to be at the forefront of teaching and research in child welfare and protection. We offer a broad suite of child welfare and protection programmes and world-class research.  We are delighted to announce this new programme and look forward to working with our NHS and local authority partners.”

Find out more about the course offered by the School of Health Sciences.

David Christie
Public Relations Officer
01786 466653

Scottish nurses and midwives benefitting from children’s health visitor programme Tue, 13 Jan 2015 13:10:00 +0000 The University of Stirling has contributed to a major international research project to investigate the dangerous pressure China’s aquaculture industry is putting on world fish supplies.

In a new paper in the journal Science, the researchers offer the clearest picture to date of the enormous impact China is having on wild fisheries and present a more sustainable alternative to the current practice of using wild-caught fish to feed farm-raised fish.

China is the world's leading producer, consumer and processor of fish, contributing one-third of the global supply. Its booming aquaculture industry relies increasingly on fishmeal made from wild-caught fish, a practice which depletes wild fish stocks and strains fragile ocean ecosystems.

One of the researchers - the University of Stirling’s Wenbo Zhang, who conducted the research whilst completing his PhD at the University’s internationally renowned Institute of Aquaculture, said: “Our research shows that so significant is China’s impact on the world’s seafood supply chain – the future availability of global seafood will be dependent on how China develops its aquaculture and aqua feeds sector.”                                                                                                              

Fishing in the coastal waters of China is poorly-regulated and often indiscriminant. The result is that large volumes of assorted “trash fish” – species that are undesirable for human consumption – end up in animal feeds, including in fishmeal that is fed to farm-raised fish. Many of the species of wild fish used for feeds have been fully exploited or overexploited, and reducing this demand will help protect fragile ocean ecosystems.

One promising solution is to recycle the waste by-products from seafood processing plants across China. This waste, which can be 30-70% of the incoming volume of fish, is often discarded or discharged into nearby waters.

The team’s analysis shows that these processing wastes could satisfy between half and two-thirds of the current volume of fishmeal used by Chinese fish farmers, replacing much of the wild fish currently used in feeds.

Zhang added: “Issues of quality and food safety are two possible obstacles to implementing this fish processing waste alternative because the waste is lower in protein than wild-caught fish and its use also raises concerns about contamination and disease transmission.

“However, these concerns could be addressed by adding alternative plant-based protein sources to the fish feed, and through conducting further research on the safety risks and introducing more efficient regulating of using fish processing waste.”

Lead author, Ling Cao, a postdoctoral scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University said: "This is a critical juncture for China.  If the country makes proactive reforms to its aquaculture sector, like using fish processing wastes instead of wild fish, and generally reducing the amount of fishmeal in aqua feeds, it can greatly improve the sustainability of the industry. If not, the consequences for the entire global seafood supply chain are going to be really serious."

Led by Stanford University, USA, the research brought together a consortium of scientists from around the world. Zhang worked with colleagues from Leiden University, the Netherlands; the University of Wollongong, Australia; Stockholm University, Sweden; The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden; and Shanghai Ocean University, China.

The University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture is the leading international centre in its field and the largest of its kind in the world. It brings together cross-disciplinary, world class researchers to meet the wide range of challenges faced as aquaculture grows to meet global demands.  Stirling’s Aquaculture research performed outstandingly in REF2014 in the Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science category, with Stirling ranked 4th in the UK and 88% of research being rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent.  



Further information from Karen McIntosh, Public Relations Officer or phone 01786 467058

International research puts the dangers of Chinese aquaculture sector under expert gaze Fri, 09 Jan 2015 10:16:00 +0000 Nearly 600,000 cancer cases in the UK could have been avoided in the last five years if people had healthier lifestyles, according to new figures announced today.

More than four in 10 cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle, according to Cancer Research UK experts including Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and the charity’s cancer prevention expert.

Smoking remains by far the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, accounting for more than 314,000 cases in the past five years - nearly a fifth of all cancers. According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Integrated Household Survey, around one in five adults in Scotland smoke cigarettes, so giving up would be the best New Year resolution smokers could make.

The figures also show a further 145,000 cases in the UK could have been prevented if people had eaten a healthy balanced diet, low in red and processed meat and salt and high in vegetables, fruit and fibre. Keeping a healthy weight could have prevented around 88,000 cases in the UK. In Scotland, more than six in 10 adults are overweight or obese, according to the Scottish Government’s 2013 Health Survey.

Cutting down on alcohol, protecting skin in the sun and taking more exercise could also have helped prevent tens of thousands of people in the UK developing cancer in the past five years. Rates of alcohol consumption remain high in Scotland and around one in 10 adults report drinking on at least five days in the past week, according to the ONS’s ‘Drinking Habits Amongst Adults’ survey.

Professor Bauld, who is also Director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, said: "There are more than 200 types of cancer each caused by a complex set of factors - involving both our genes and our lifestyles. There are proven ways to minimise our risk of cancer – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. We must make sure the public and the policy-makers know the evidence behind the benefits of these lifestyle changes is solid."

Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK statistician based at Queen Mary University of London, whose study formed the basis of the figures, said: "There’s now little doubt that certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on cancer risk, with research around the world all pointing to the same key risk factors.

"Of course everyone enjoys some extra treats during the Christmas holidays so we don’t want to ban mince pies and wine but it’s a good time to think about taking up some healthy habits for 2015. Leading a healthy lifestyle can’t guarantee someone won’t get cancer but we can stack the odds in our favour by taking positive steps now that will help decrease our cancer risk in future."

Lifestyle behind more than half a million cancers in five years Fri, 26 Dec 2014 09:00:00 +0000 New mothers’ taste in men changes after giving birth, according to research from the University of Stirling.

Psychologist Dr Kelly Cobey discovered women experience a short-term change in their taste in men during the weeks following giving birth, known as the post-partum period, with their preference shifting towards less masculine-looking men.

Dr Cobey, from Stirling’s School of Natural Sciences said: “Previous research has already shown that natural hormonal variation subtly alters women’s social perception and preferences.

“Our findings show that pregnancy and the post-partum period – stages of natural yet relatively extreme hormonal variation – are also linked to these altered preferences with women experiencing a reduction in their preference for masculine male faces.

“We know from previous studies that low levels of masculinity in men are associated with greater paternal qualities and better infant care.  It may therefore be new mums are more attracted to men who show physical cues they could offer the best infant care, rather than those who are most physically attractive.”

Dr Cobey and her colleagues Dr Tony Little and Dr Craig Roberts sampled more than 100 women, studying their evaluation of masculinity and femininity in men’s and women’s faces during pregnancy and in the six weeks after.

Whilst women moved away from masculine male faces, their preference for femininity in women’s faces remained unchanged.

Dr Cobey added: “Interest in attractive men and sex are obviously impacted by social and physical factors in the post-partum period, but our research provides evidence that some of the variance in sexual desire at this time could be explained by changes in social perception.

“This may help to provide an explanation for changes in women’s attraction to their partner, or general shifts in sexual desire, across reproductive life events like pregnancy.”

The Behaviour and Evolution Research Group within Stirling’s Division of Psychology is renowned for its research on the influences of facial attractiveness on human mate choice and the role of hormonal changes on social perception and preferences.

In the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, Stirling’s Psychology Division was ranked 3rd in Scotland, with 100% of research Impact being rated as world-leading.

The full findings of this study are published in the journal Biological Psychology.

David Christie
Public Relations Officer
01786 466653

New mums experience a change in their taste in men Mon, 22 Dec 2014 10:00:00 +0000

The University of Stirling has been ranked among the top 50 research-intensive universities in the UK, in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Stirling’s results, which position it as 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK, demonstrate it has more than doubled its levels of world-leading research since 2008, with almost three quarters of research activity being rated as either internationally excellent or world-leading.

This included an outstanding performance in the Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science category, with Stirling ranked 4th in the UK for its research.

Stirling was also placed 1st in Scotland and 12th in the UK for Health Sciences.

There was success for the University’s Psychology research which was ranked 3rd in Scotland and 18th in the UK, while a strong performance in Social Work and Social Policy moved Stirling to 17th place in the UK.

Stirling also secured a coveted place among the UK’s top 25 institutions for Business and Management, out of 101 business schools in the UK.

Professor Gerry McCormac, University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: “The results of the University’s performance in the REF2014 are outstanding, with Stirling enhancing its position as one of the top research-led universities.

“Comparing our 2008 profile with the REF2014 results charts our remarkable progress: we’ve moved up the rankings 11 places and the volume of our research classified as world-leading has more than doubled.  

“Our success in the REF2014 is tied to our strategic plan.  This strategy, which included substantial investment in outstanding early career researchers, has led to a step change in our academic community - enhancing our scholarly environment and enabling our academics to produce the highest-quality research.”

He added: “Our performance can also be attributed to the huge amount of effort and commitment from staff across all Schools and Directorates.  In celebrating these excellent results, we can look with pride at what we have achieved and with a keen sense of momentum for the future.”

A new component of the REF2014 assessment process, ‘Impact’, was introduced to evaluate the impact of universities’ research outside academia – including change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy, services, health, the environment or quality of life. 

Stirling’s score for Impact was particularly strong in Psychology, in which 100% of Impact case studies were classed as world-leading. In both the History and Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science categories, 100% of research Impact was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Professor Edmund Burke, Senior Deputy Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “Our Impact performance demonstrates how Stirling researchers are making a major contribution to society and addressing key global challenges.

“Our Impact success covers a wide breadth of disciplines.  This exemplifies how important our research is to society across a multitude of contexts and its relevance to communities all over the world.

Alan Simpson, Chairman of the University Court said: “I am delighted the world class research at Stirling has been so highly recognised in the REF2014.

“With almost three quarters of our research graded as world leading or internationally excellent, these results reflect the enormous progress the University has made and are testament to the dedicated efforts of staff across the institution.  Our success will ensure our research continues to make a positive difference in the world.”

He added: “Stirling has moved up significantly in the rankings, to 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK - confirming our position as a premier university.”

A selection of the University’s Impact case studies can be viewed on the University REF2014 website

Learn more about our REF2104 success

Karen McIntosh
Public Relations Officer
01786 46 7058 

Success for Stirling as it moves into top 50 universities in the UK Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:02:00 +0000 The guilt of tucking into a calorific Christmas dinner may be lessened by adding fish to the menu, according to new research from the University of Stirling.

Stirling health and exercise scientists studied the body’s capacity to cope with a bout of high-fat binge eating and found that fish oil provided some important protective qualities at the muscle level.

In the study, healthy young men swallowed a six-day, high fat diet, consuming around 4000 calories each day – almost double the recommended intake for men. Half of the volunteers had a percentage of their fat intake replaced by salmon, mackerel and fish oils.

“The fish oil resulted in an increase of a protein which helps to break down fats within the muscle,” said Postgraduate Research student Sophie Wardle, who led the study. “This suggests there may be some benefits to consuming more oily fish in place of other fats during periods of excess fat intake.

“Those who only had the high fat diet and no fish oil gained weight mainly around their stomach whereas those taking the fish oils gained weight in different areas. This finding could be relevant for long term risk as fat accumulation in the central stomach area is strongly associated with obesity and diabetes.”

Wardle gathered data from full body composition scans, blood samples and muscle biopsies before presenting the findings to the American Diabetes Association.

Insulin sensitivity – the term given to the body’s ability to handle a sugar load – is greatly reduced in obesity and diabetes. Following the short period of high fat overeating, many people displayed reduced insulin sensitivity, whereas others were more effective in their abilities to deal with the diets.

Wardle added: “The fact that many of us are flexible enough to deal with such a high fat load is quite impressive, but the findings do come with a health warning, especially at Christmas.

“Everyone enjoys eating more than usual at this time, but this diet over a longer period of time is not the way to go. We were starting to see complications at the muscle level which are early warning signs this kind of diet isn’t good for you and you can’t get away from the fact you will gain weight.”

Wardle conducted the research in collaboration with colleagues in Stirling’s School of Sport and Institute of Aquaculture as well as with colleagues based at the University of Highlands and Islands and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

David Christie
Public Relations Officer
01786 466653

Try salmon with all the trimmings on your festive menu Mon, 15 Dec 2014 10:51:00 +0000 Sports scientists at the University of Stirling have created a blueprint to help piece together the puzzle of human muscle growth.

Health and Exercise Science researchers from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence have developed a quantitative method to better understand the signals which control muscle growth following exercise.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, are being used in a number of new projects which could lead to benefits for athletes and elderly people.

Loss of muscle mass and function is an inevitable part of the aging process and increases the risk of trips and falls: half of women over the age of 65 who fall and break a hip become completely immobile. Muscle wasting also leads to impairments in carrying out everyday tasks, from crossing the road safely to rising unaided from a chair.

“There is still a relatively poor understanding of how muscle grows or is lost and what’s involved,” explained Dr Lee Hamilton, a Molecular Physiologist in the School of Sport at the University of Stirling and Principal Investigator of the study.

“We know a lot about some of the pieces of the puzzle, but we do not yet have the whole jigsaw picture. What’s more, our ability to measure the responses of the bits we do know about has been reliant on subjective measures. Our research is intended to develop a cost effective way to accurately measure the activity of these key components of muscle growth.

“Our body has an estimated quarter of a million proteins and each one performs a different role. We focused on the protein p70S6K1 which, in muscle terms, acts like a foreman on a building site, so it can be thought of as a key to controlling the process of muscle building.”

During the study, six athletes who play team sports performed a series of leg press and leg extensions before consuming 20g of egg protein – a standard muscle building product. Muscle biopsies were taken at three stages, one before the exercise and two after consuming the protein to determine the measurement.

Dr Hamilton added: “We found the combination of the exercise and consuming the protein solution produced a two-fold increase in the activity of the protein, p-70S6K1. Developing this accurate understanding of its response to nutrition and exercise is vital because if the protein is impaired then muscle can’t grow.

“The next stage is to focus on the response as a result of factors such as age, inactivity and disease as this would identify its receptiveness to drug treatments for muscle wasting conditions.”

Stirling scientists developed this standardised measurement in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California; Paris Descartes University; Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Birmingham.

Professor Kevin Tipton, who leads Stirling’s Health and Exercise Science Research Group in the School of Sport, said: “This research shows our capability to perform state-of-the-art molecular and metabolic techniques to investigate factors that will influence changes in muscle mass and strength. Our research group is now poised to continue this exciting work that will provide important information that will help athletes, as well as others vulnerable to muscle loss.”

David Christie
Public Relations Officer
01786 466653

Sports scientists piecing together jigsaw puzzle of muscle growth Mon, 08 Dec 2014 09:00:00 +0000 Careful planning measures must be put into place to ensure small wind turbine developments do not cause bat and bird population decline, according to new University of Stirling research.

Small domestic wind turbines or ‘microturbines’, which can kill bats and birds, are becoming an increasingly popular means to generate clean energy for home owners.

The Stirling team, whose research was published recently in the online journal Biodiversity and Conservation, found that the careful positioning of these turbines – and the avoidance of installing them in areas where bird or bat activity is likely to be high – is vital to ensure rare species of wildlife are not forced to abandon their homes in search of safer habitats.

Although previous research has shown that birds and bats may be killed in significant numbers by colliding with turbines in large wind farms, the Stirling research – carried out in collaboration with the British Trust for Ornithology and funded by the Leverhulme Trust – is the first study to examine whether small wind turbines could have a similar impact on wildlife.

The study looked at data, questionnaires from turbine owners and computer modelling, to assess the likely levels of bird and bat deaths caused by all small wind turbines across the UK. Results showed that between 1,567–5,510 birds and 161–3,363 bats may be killed per year by small wind turbines in the UK.

Dr Jeroen Minderman from the University’s School of Natural Sciences said: “Bird and bat deaths are a reality at small wind turbine sites.

“Whilst our findings show the relative extent of this problem is much smaller than other causes of wildlife deaths, such as cats or road collisions, our previous work has shown that bats avoid microturbine development areas - which may explain the relatively lower number of bat deaths estimated.”

Dr Kirsty Park, who led the Stirling research team said: “While our estimates of bird and bat deaths may seem high, it is important to realise that this is across a range of species and across more than 19,000 small wind turbines currently installed in the UK.  Moreover, such estimates are several orders of magnitude lower than estimated numbers of deaths due to other human-related causes.

“However, this avoidance of microturbine sites by wildlife might have an adverse impact on rare or sensitive species if it causes bats to abandon what would otherwise be suitable feeding areas.”

She stressed: “Appropriate siting decisions that avoid such effects are therefore very important, and our work can help inform this.”

Microturbines are much smaller than their large wind farm counterparts and used mainly in domestic and farmland settings. Normally they are installed individually and can make a substantial contribution to household energy needs.

The increase in installation of such turbines is due to rapid technological developments and the introduction of financial incentives in the form of feed-in tariffs: schemes which pay people for creating their own ‘green’ electricity and offer additional bonuses for exporting electricity into the grid.


Karen McIntosh

Public Relations Officer

Email: or tel: 01786 46 7058


Wind turbine warning for wildlife Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:05:00 +0000 The coach to Commonwealth Champion Ross Murdoch has been appointed to lead a new swimming programme at the University of Stirling which can be “the best in the world”.

Ben Higson has taken up the reins full-time as the University’s High Performance Swimming Coach following a successful secondment before the Commonwealth Games. Ten swimmers under Higson’s watch made the Glasgow Games, with Murdoch winning Gold and Bronze medals whilst Cameron Brodie and Jak Scott took Relay Silver for Scotland.

Higson is joined by assistant Steven Tigg, former Head Coach of Falkirk Integrated Regional Swim Team (FIRST) and the duo are delivering a new-look programme devised in partnership with Scottish Swimming and supported by the sportscotland institute of sport.

“The target of the swimming programme at the University of Stirling has never changed – to achieve results at the highest level, said Higson, a Stirling graduate who retired from elite swimming in 2010, having represented Scotland at the Celtic Tri Nations and US Open Championships.

“We aim to continue that success, but also to improve on it which means for our swimmers not just to qualify for tournaments, but to come home with medals. Our ultimate goal is to make the programme at Stirling not just the best in Britain, but in the world.

“The relationships between the University, Scottish Swimming, the sportscotland institute of sport and British Swimming are crucial in providing us with the support staff who all play a huge collective part in putting our swimmers onto podiums.”

“Bringing in Steve, with all his coaching insight and knowledge, has allowed us to expand the numbers in the squad and we have a nice blend of youth and experience. We have a strong recruitment policy and this is paramount to the success of the programme. It’s not just about finding the best of the best; it’s about recruiting developing athletes who have the right high performance mindset to reach the highest levels.”

The programme brings together student swimmers, graduates and full-time swimmers, all competing domestically for the University of Stirling Swimming Club.

Four-time Olympic finalist Robbie Renwick and Olympian Craig Benson are two new recruits to the Stirling squad whilst up-and-coming talents include Commonwealth Relay Silver medallist Duncan Scott and British Swimming Podium Potential squad swimmer Jordan Hughes. The programme also supports open-water swimmer Danielle Huskisson and has integrated support for talented disability swimmers.

Their rigorous weekly schedule comprises 32 hours training, split between the gym and the pool, each swimming enough lengths to travel from Stirling to Glasgow.

Stirling was the first Scottish university to offer swimming scholarships and many swimmers now also receive support from national sports scholarships Winning Students, enabling them to combine their training with study for an academic degree.

Swimmers at Stirling train on campus at the National Swimming Academy, which has a six-lane 50m pool which can split into two 25m pools and has an adjustable floor depth. Alongside the pool is a land conditioning area and state-of-the-art fitness and sports science facilities.

Raleigh Gowrie, Sports Performance Manager at the University of Stirling, said: “I am delighted to welcome Ben Higson and Steven Tigg to the University of Stirling as they lead an exciting new performance swimming programme at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

“Stirling has a proud track record in supporting swimmers in their development towards Commonwealth, Olympic, Paralympic and World Championship goals. We will continue to work together with Scottish Swimming and the sportscotland institute of sport to deliver a bright sporting future for talented swimmers.”

Scottish Swimming Chief Executive Officer Forbes Dunlop, said: “Scottish Swimming is very happy to continue the partnership with the University of Stirling. The campus offers a great environment to train with excellent facilities and access to support services from the sportscotland institute of sport. With Ben Higson and Steven Tigg now in place as coaches, we’re looking forward to the continued success of the programme on the national and international stage.”

The National Swimming Academy opened in 2002 funded by sportscotland, the University of Stirling, the Robertson Trust and the Gannochy Trust.

David Christie
Public Relations Officer
01786 466653

Stirling swimming programme can be the “best in the world” Tue, 02 Dec 2014 09:37:00 +0000 The number of empty shops on Scotland’s high streets has fallen over the last year, according to a report on Scotland’s top 100 cities and towns published today by the University of Stirling’s Institute for Retail Studies and The Local Data Company (LDC).

The report, which reveals significant and new data on the health of Scotland’s high streets, shows that the average retail vacancy rate fell from 14.5% to 13.7% during the past year, with town vacancy rates improving at twice the rate of the cities.

However, 40% of empty shops in Scotland’s towns have remained vacant for more than three years.

East Kilbride has the highest vacancy rate of all Scottish towns at 33%, with Inverurie continuing to have the lowest rate at 1%. Dundee has the highest proportion of persistent vacancy at 11%.

Five towns have maintained vacancy rates at less than 6% for the last three years – Inverurie, Ellon, North Berwick, Dunbar and Biggar. At the other end of the spectrum, vacancy rates in Banff, Dumbarton, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Ardrossan have remained above 22% over the last three years.

The report highlights the importance of independent retailing to Scotland’s towns, making up with 56% of the total units, while leisure is an increasingly significant presence in cities and towns.

Professor Leigh Sparks, Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling said: "Understanding the changing retail component of towns remains fundamental to our comprehension of the place and functioning of Scotland’s urban centres. The Local Data Company’s consistent and extensive coverage of retail premises across Scotland forms the platform for our research into changing retailing in Scotland’s Towns.

"This updated research provides new measures, understanding and explanations for the level and extent of retailing, retail vacancy and the changing nature of Scotland’s high streets and town centres.

"The data provide a substantive platform and opportunity for our (University of Stirling/Local Data Company/ESRC) further analysis of Scotland’s places and the development of policy initiatives to support the Government’s ambitions for Scotland’s Towns."

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company said: "Once again LDC is delighted to partner with the University of Stirling in independently analysing the state of Scotland’s towns.

"The report identifies important trends as well as quashes common perceptions that deprived towns can’t succeed. Of particular significance is that in many Scottish towns almost 40% of the vacant units have been vacant for more than three years. Such a stark figure implies obsolescence and a major barrier to healthy and sustainable places and communities."

The report’s key findings will be presented by Professor Leigh Sparks and Matthew Hopkinson at KPMG’s offices in Edinburgh at lunchtime today.

Following the presentation the research findings will be discussed by an expert panel chaired by Jane Bradley (The Scotsman) with Malcolm Fraser (Chair of the Scottish Government’s National Review of Town Centres), John Lee (Scottish Grocers Federation) and Chic Brodie MSP. 

David Tripp
Public Relations Officer
01786 466 687

Number of empty shops in Scotland falls Tue, 02 Dec 2014 09:08:00 +0000 Children who experience emotional problems are at high risk of unemployment in early adulthood, according to a University of Stirling study.

The study also found this risk is even higher – and even more disproportionate to the rest of the population – during times of recession.

The researchers studied data from the 1980 UK recession, finding that the adverse impact of childhood mental health problems on employment prospects grew by 50% during this period.

They suggest that young people with a history of poor emotional health may also have fared particularly badly as youth unemployment soared in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

Their study calls for the extension of childhood mental health care provision to address the problem.

Lead researcher Mark Egan, from the University of Stirling’s Behavioural Science Centre, said: "Our findings point to childhood mental health as a key factor which shapes whether a young person will find a job. We now know that early life emotional problems have a substantial influence on productivity and employment prospects in adulthood. The economic benefit of extending childhood mental health services to address these problems early in life is likely to be substantial."

The need for improved childhood mental health services may be particularly timely if those with poor mental health were also disproportionately more likely to become unemployed during the recent recession.

"Our findings suggest that young people with mental health problems may be at particularly high risk of unemployment when an economy is doing poorly. We found this to be true in the aftermath of the 1980 recession and are now examining new data to test whether this was true after the 2008 recession", says Egan.

The study, conducted by Mark Egan, Dr Michael Daly and Professor Liam Delaney of the University of Stirling’s Behavioural Science Centre, used data from almost 20,000 British children, drawn from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England and the National Child Development Study.

The data was used to assess the mental health of British children and monitor them as they entered the labour force in the mid-1980s and 1970s respectively.

Children were categorized as being ‘highly distressed’ if they reported frequent feelings of worthlessness or depression at age 14 in the first study, or if they scored highly on teacher-rated measures of distress at age 7 and 11 in the second study. In both studies, children were monitored into young adulthood and their initial success in the labour market was examined.

Across the two studies, those rated as being highly distressed as children were 40% more likely to experience youth unemployment, compared to those who did not experience significant distress as children.

David Tripp
Public Relations Officer
01786 466 687

Children's mental health key to future employment prospects Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:12:00 +0000