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 Two new reports launched at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on 22 June 2017, involving the University of Stirling, highlight the important role that GPs have in raising the issue of alcohol use in GP consultations.

The reports, ‘Practice and attitudes of General Practitioners in the delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions in Scotland’ and ‘Financial incentives for Alcohol Brief Interventions in Primary Care in Scotland’ discuss challenges relating to the central role that GPs can play in raising the sensitive issue of alcohol use with patients to prevent and reduce harms, and the role that incentives such as financial payments and sufficient support for training for primary care staff can play in ensuring effective interventions.

The reports precede the imminent publication of the Scottish Government’s ‘refresh’ of its 2009 strategy, Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action.

Scotland continues to have the highest level of alcohol consumption and harm in the UK. One million Scots drink above the recommended guidelines, and 22 Scots die because of alcohol every single week – twice the rate of the 1980s.

Benefit patients

Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling said: “Whilst Scotland’s national programme of Alcohol Brief Interventions is amongst the most extensive of any country, it has contributed little in terms of research on how best to incentivise practitioners to talk to patients about alcohol. As Scotland rolls out its new national strategy, there is also an opportunity for Scotland to lead not only in terms of practice, but in developing globally innovative research on how to optimise such conversations to benefit patients.”

Professor Aisha Holloway, University of Edinburgh, said: “Delivering Alcohol Brief Interventions (ABIs) is not just about the operational mechanisms associated with the national ABI programme i.e. funding, training and IT systems. It is also about GPs having the time to provide person-centred care to understand the complexities of external social and personal issues that people are facing that can trigger harmful/hazardous consumption.”

Dr Peter Rice, Chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), who funded both investigations, said: “SHAAP has advocated for Alcohol Brief Interventions (ABIs) since our foundation in 2006 and Scotland has been a world leader in the implementation of ABIs. ABIs are strongly supported by the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) as a key tool in reducing alcohol related harm. It is vital that, as it refreshes its Alcohol Strategy, the Scottish Government draws on important sources of data, such as these two new reports, to understand how to enhance and develop the national ABI programme, for the benefit of patients.”

Dr Richard Watson, who represents the Royal College of General Practitioners on SHAAP’s Steering Group, and who works in a busy GP practice in Cambuslang, said: “GPs in Scotland see patients with hazardous drinking not just every working day but every working hour. Both reports show in different ways that brief interventions can and should be delivered in primary care. I hope that when the new GP contract is finalised, it finds a place for them.”

Important role of GPs in reducing alcohol-related harms Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:24:00 +0000 Leaders from the worlds of golf, sports psychology, the arts and education, will receive honorary degrees at the University of Stirling’s summer graduation ceremonies this month.

Professor Steve Peters, Bernard Gallacher OBE, Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain and Emeritus Professor Angela Smith will join more than 1600 Stirling graduands receiving awards at ceremonies on Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 June.

Sports psychologist and founder of the ‘Chimp Paradox’ mind management model, Professor Steve Peters will receive the award of Doctor of the University, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Psychology, Health Sciences and Sport. A Stirling alumnus, Professor Peters has worked with some of the world’s biggest sporting stars, including Sir Chris Hoy and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Ryder Cup hero Bernard Gallacher will be recognised for his outstanding contribution to sport in respect of his achievements and accolades in professional golf. He was the youngest man to represent Great Britain in the Ryder Cup and famously won the competition as Team Europe’s non-playing Captain in 1995, having racked up 22 professional wins over his career.

Humanitarian and internationally-acclaimed poet Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain will also become a Doctor of the University in recognition of his philanthropy, creative writing and poetry, and for his activism in driving an agenda for peace.

Stirling Emeritus Professor Angela Smith will return to campus to be honoured for her outstanding contribution to the University. Professor Smith established the Stirling University Retired Staff Association and has chaired the active group since its foundation in 2007.

Special celebration

Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “I am pleased to honour four outstanding individuals at our summer graduation ceremonies. They are role models to our graduands and embody the University’s values of excellence, ambition and openness.

“With a reputation for excellence in sports performance and science, it is only right that we are able to celebrate the achievements of Bernard Gallacher – a legend in Scottish golf – and Professor Steve Peters, one of the world’s leading minds in sport psychology.

“We will celebrate Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain’s standing as an internationally-acclaimed poet and his record in promoting better intercultural relations and understanding around the world.

“Our own Emeritus Professor Angela Smith continues to work actively for the University to sustain an active and engaged community of retired staff. I am delighted we are able to recognise her efforts with an Honorary Degree.

"Graduation is a time of special celebration and I extend my congratulations to all of our graduands and honorary graduands on their hard-earned achievements."

The ceremonies will celebrate the achievements of graduating students from the Faculties of Natural Sciences, Health Sciences and Sport and the Stirling Management School on Wednesday, 28 June and the Faculties of Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences on Thursday, 29 June.

Ryder Cup hero and leading sports psychologist among those to be honoured at Stirling graduation Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:40:00 +0000 Reforming the Scottish Parliament may help to ‘improve’ devolution, according to a University of Stirling academic.

Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy at Stirling, spoke as the Commission on Parliamentary Reform published more than 70 recommendations, designed to improve how the Scottish Parliament operates.

Professor Cairney, who was an adviser to the Commission, said: “For years, I have been teaching students about 'new Scottish politics' as if it were something that happened in the distant past.


“From the late 90s, key architects of devolution had high hopes for a Scottish Parliament at the heart of the political system, helping to improve policy, represent the social background of Scotland, and become a hub for popular participation. The Commission's report should help reinvigorate those hopes.”

The Commission’s recommendations include the introduction of Parliamentary-elected committee conveners, measures to strengthen committees and the scrutiny of legislation, as well as other changes aimed at increasing ministerial accountability.

Commission Chair, John McCormick, said: “The Scottish people have been at the heart of the Parliament but more could be done to involve them in its work. That’s why we have made a series of recommendations to allow people throughout the country to engage with the Parliament how they want and where they want.”

Recommendations within the report include:

  • Smaller, stronger committees with Conveners elected by Parliament.
  • Creating more Parliamentary time by allowing committees to meet at the same time as the debating chamber.
  • Parliament working with political parties and others to agree benchmarks in terms of diversity in candidates for Scottish Parliamentary elections
  • Scrapping the requirement for party leaders’ and MSP selected questions to be published in advance of FMQs.
  • Expanding the legislative process to allow more time for pre and post-legislative scrutiny.
  • The establishment of a national Legislative Standards Body to improve the quality legislation of legislation brought to Parliament.
  • A stronger role for the Presiding Officer in ruling on conduct in the chamber.
  • Changing the way the business of in the debating chamber is decided.
  • Establishing a Committee Engagement Unit to support committees to become more innovative and risk taking in their engagement activities.

Professor Cairney said: “It now seems unlikely that there will be a second referendum any time soon. So, we have a window of opportunity to take a step back, understand the Scottish Government’s new powers, and consider how the Scottish Parliament can best hold it to account, encourage new voices in politics, and represent the views of the public.”


The Scottish Parliament enjoys strong public support and should build on its successes to make it even more effective, Professor Cairney insisted.

He added: “A big part of this shift of thinking should be about the ways in which we describe and appreciate MSPs. If elected politics should not be the part-time occupation of people with independent wealth and a larger income from other jobs, we should make sure it provides the kinds of pay and conditions that we’d take for granted in other parts of the public sector.”

Further information on the Commission and its membership can be found on its website.

Parliamentary reform could ‘maximise’ benefits of Scottish devolution Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:22:00 +0000 University of Stirling expertise will contribute to a major inquiry into Scotland’s energy future.

Gavin Little, Professor of Environmental and Public Law at the University of Stirling, is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s (RSE) newly launched Energy Inquiry Committee.

The RSE's Energy Inquiry will contribute to the important debate around Scotland’s energy supply, demand and use. It will also look to inform the policy and decision-making at a Scottish, UK and international level that will ultimately decide whether the path Scotland chooses to follow provides the resources needed at acceptable financial, moral, ethical and environmental costs.

Professor Little’s research addresses environmental and energy law and public law regulation; and developing new, interdisciplinary approaches to legal scholarship. A key theme in his work is integrating legal and regulatory analysis with politics, public administration, history and culture.

The committee, which is expected to sit for around eighteen months, will consider how Scotland can meet future energy demand and how to ensure that the energy used is secure, affordable and environmentally justifiable.

Energy needs

It will also examine all areas of the debate around Scotland’s energy future in the context of its commitment to combat global climate change and the environmental imperative to reduce carbon emissions.  

Chair of the RSE’s Energy Inquiry Committee, Sir Muir Russell KCB DL FRSE, said, “The Royal Society of Edinburgh has decided to initiate this Inquiry, “Scotland’s Energy Future”, at a time when Scotland’s energy landscape is constantly changing.  As the ways in which we heat our homes, fuel our cars, and power our places of work continue to evolve, important questions arise of what Scotland’s energy needs will be in the coming decades, and how this demand is to be met.

"This Inquiry aims to contribute to the debate about Scotland’s energy supply, demand and use, recognising our moral and environmental responsibilities. It is intended to provide a forum in which difficult and contentious issues can be debated, enabling a synthesis of objective advice to policy makers in Scotland and beyond.”

Professor Little of the University of Stirling, said: “I am looking forward to serving on the Energy Inquiry Committee, which is taking place as renewable energy is gaining real momentum and we are now embarking on the challenging process of de-carbonising heating and transport.

“Much has been achieved in Scotland in recent years, and, looking to the future, it is important that we conduct a rigorous and objective analysis of our energy supply, demand and use, and the responsibilities we have as a nation for the energy we consume.”

More information on Scotland’s Energy Future can be found on the Inquiry section of the RSE website or contact Professor Gavin Little email:

Stirling expertise to inform inquiry into Scotland’s energy future Mon, 19 Jun 2017 16:10:00 +0000 Flying a plane should come with a health warning, according to research led by the University of Stirling.

A new study, published in the World Health Organisation journal Public Health Panorama, is the first of its kind to look in-depth at the health of aircrew who are suspected to have been exposed to contaminated air during their careers.

Health impacts

It shows a clear link between being exposed to air supplies contaminated by engine oil and other aircraft fluids, and a variety of health problems.

Adverse effects in flight are shown to degrade flight safety, with the impact on health ranging from short to long-term.

The scientists confirmed a cohort of more than 200 aircrew had been exposed to a number of substances through aircrafts’ contaminated air and reveal a clear pattern of acute and chronic symptoms, ranging from headaches and dizziness to breathing and vision problems.

Dr Susan Michaelis, of the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research group, said: “This research provides very significant findings relevant to all aircraft workers and passengers globally.

“There is a clear cause-and-effect relationship linking health effects to a design feature that allows the aircraft air supply to become contaminated by engine oils and other fluids in normal flight. This is a clear occupational and public health issue with direct flight-safety consequences."

The experts conducted two independent surveys to review the circumstances and symptoms of aircrew working in the pressurised air environment of aircraft. The symptoms were confirmed using medical diagnoses.

One test looked at pilots’ health and showed 88% were aware of exposure to aircraft contaminated air. Almost 65% reported specific health effects, while 13% had died or experienced chronic ill health.

Repeated exposure

The other test looked at specific oil leak incidents: 80% involved fumes only and all of the events took place when the aircraft was preparing for, or in, flight.

Two-thirds of the incidents involved further reports of fumes both before and after the incident. 93% of the incidents involved symptoms ranging from in-flight impairment to incapacitation and almost 75% included adverse symptoms in more than one crew member, with anywhere between 10 and 23 different symptoms reported in relation to 47% of events.

87% of the incidents confirmed oil leakage from the engines during subsequent maintenance investigations.

Professor Vyvyan Howard, Professor of Pathology and Toxicology at the University of Ulster, added: "What we are seeing here is aircraft crew being repeatedly exposed to low levels of hazardous contaminants from the engine oils in bleed air, and to a lesser extent this also applies to frequent fliers.

“We know from a large body of toxicological scientific evidence that such an exposure pattern can cause harm and, in my opinion, explains why aircrew are more susceptible than average to associated illness. However, exposure to this complex mixture should be avoided also for passengers, susceptible individuals and the unborn."

More than 3.5 billion passengers and 500,000 aircrew were exposed to low levels of engine oils in 2015. Unfiltered breathing air is supplied to aeroplane cabins via the engine compressor.

Flights can make aircrew sick, Stirling study suggests Sat, 17 Jun 2017 15:43:00 +0000 The University of Stirling has welcomed international researchers, policymakers and practitioners to a major European conference on curriculum studies.

Education systems across the world are developing new forms of national curriculum, with an increasing focus on the centrality of the learner, the development of core competencies and the importance of teachers as school-based curriculum developers. 

The 3rd European Conference on Curriculum Studies brings to the University of Stirling senior policymakers and policy developers, and international curriculum scholars to discuss and to influence curriculum development.

Professor Mark Priestley, Director of the Stirling Network for Curriculum Studies, said: “We are delighted to welcome so many curriculum scholars from around the world to Stirling.  They bring a range of rich perspectives, which will enhance conversations about curriculum in Scotland at this key point in the development of Curriculum for Excellence.”

Keynote speakers include Professor Lyn Yates, Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Ng-A-Fook, Director of the Teacher Education Program at the University of Ottawa.


Opening the conference, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney said: “As well as providing great opportunities for undergraduate learning, our universities also undertake world-leading research using some of the most advanced facilities in Europe. They attract incredibly talented individuals from across the EU and beyond and enable them to take part in ground breaking innovative research and productive collaborations across Europe.

“This is why we continue to invest in research, innovation and technology so that Scotland remains a productive and competitive country.

“The discussion at this University of Stirling conference on the role of government in the curriculum is particularly timely given my announcement of the next steps in our review of education governance.

“I look forward to seeing the positive impact which these deliberations have on the understanding of curriculum development and practice – in Scotland and beyond.”

International focus on curriculum development Sat, 17 Jun 2017 12:02:00 +0000 Shops should be transformed to drive customers towards buying healthy food and drink, according to a report by University of Stirling academics.

The recommendation emerged in a Food Standards Scotland-commissioned study, co-authored by the University’s Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Studies, and Steve Burt, Professor of Retail Marketing.

The report set out to examine how the retail food sector can be transformed to encourage shoppers to consume healthier products. It follows a recent call from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, for Scotland to take a lead in clamping down on sugary drinks and enhancing food education for children.


Professor Sparks said: “The environment confronting consumers is not a neutral one, allowing ‘free choice’. Promotions and product information, especially, shape consumers’ choices and behaviours. Retailing is both part of the problem, but could be a major part of the solution.

“Voluntary initiatives and ‘simple’ healthy promotion have failed: the time to consider a range of actions to alter the architecture of in-store choice may now be upon us.”

The report highlighted the challenge faced by shoppers, who are ‘bombarded’ with presentations, prices and promotions that favour unhealthy products over healthy ones.

Professor Sparks added: “Consumers are attracted to, and purchase, these products above others, often on promotion, and often in bulk sizes far beyond immediate consumption needs.

“There is a need to understand and adjust the retail environment presented to customers in-store, as this drives choice decisions.”

The report recommended:

  • Regulation of product pack displays, pricing and promotions – to make it simpler for consumers to make healthier choices
  • Levies on salt, fat and sugar – similar to the ‘Soft Drinks Industry Levy’ – to encourage reformulation and resizing of food products
  • Funding for trials to establish which interventions work best
  • Introduction of a ‘Food Retail Standard’ – similar to the ‘Healthcare Retail Standard’ – to regulate product promotions
  • Measures to be required by all food consumption and purchasing outlets – not just by food retailers

Professor Sparks said: “This is a controversial issue. The reactions to restrictions on tobacco and alcohol sales by retailers, the ‘sugar tax’ and minimum pricing for alcohol – as well as limiting junk food advertising to children – point to a fierce protection of the rights of people and businesses to sell and buy whatever they want, whenever, at whatever price.

“This is often enshrined as the rights of individual freedom – that people should be free to choose, even when the choices are damaging.”


However, Professor Sparks insisted action is needed to tackle a growing health issue. He said: “The Scottish diet has become a short-hand for unhealthy living. All the evidence points to its stubborn lack of change, despite information, exhortation, campaigns and even small measures of legislation.

“Scots remain addicted to a diet high in sugar, salt and saturated fats, to the detriment of individuals and communities.”

Dr Gillian Purdon, FSS Senior Dietary Advisor, added: “Food Standards Scotland welcomes this report as it reinforces our view that urgent action needs to be taken to encourage and influence healthier food and drink purchases in Scotland. 

“We recognise the good progress made by some retailers, however a level playing field is needed to allow both retailers and out of home businesses to redress the imbalance of promotions and provision of less healthy foods.”

Retailers and manufacturers should promote healthy choices, Stirling-led study finds Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:01:00 +0000 It was almost a clean sweep for Stirling at the Scottish Student Sport Awards this week as athletes and coaches claimed the titles of Team, Male Athlete and Coach of the Year at the co-ordinating body’s flagship annual event.

The Golf 1st Team led the way, winning the Team of the Year Award for the second year in a row. That comes on the back of dominating the Scottish Student Sport Team Championships as well as a number of individual events throughout the season.

Olympic medallist, Duncan Scott, was a deserved recipient of the Male Athlete of the Year title following an extraordinary 12 months which has seen him secure double silver in Rio, Scottish and British titles and records at domestic championships, as well as selection for the upcoming FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Rounding-off the accolades were Stirling’s High Performance Swimming coaches Steve Tigg and Ben Higson, who have led the programme to unprecedented levels of success since taking charge, who were named Coach of the Year.

As one of the highlights of Scottish Student Sport’s annual conference, the Awards celebrate the success of student sport in Scotland both on and off the field, recognising volunteers, athletes and coaches as well as the institutions themselves.

Commenting on the Stirling success at the event, Cathy Gallagher, Director of Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “The suite of awards is testament to the dedication, talent and commitment of our students, coaches and clubs.  As well as succeeding on the field of play, all the winners brilliantly represent the principles and philosophies of Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

“The Golf Team has been leading the way at university level in Scotland, Britain and Europe for some time now and the mentoring, guidance and tutelage provided by High Performance Coach, Dean Robertson, is integral to the continued success and development of the students.

“Duncan’s achievements over the past year have been unrivalled in Scottish student sport and beyond. The role played by High Performance Swim Coaches, Ben Higson and Steven Tigg, has been widely lauded and they have proven themselves a formidable team.  These latest accolades reflect another fantastic year for our world-class swimming programme.

“We are delighted to receive this recognition from Scottish Student Sport and congratulations to all the winners on the night.”

Visit the University’s Performance Sport pages for more information about Stirling’s world-renowned, International Sport Scholarship Programme.

Top Marks for Stirling at Scottish Student Sport Awards Thu, 15 Jun 2017 12:23:00 +0000 University of Stirling Olympian Ross Murdoch, put his tennis skills to the test this week as he helped launch the University Sports Centre’s summer membership campaign.

Currently preparing for the FINA World Championships in Budapest in July, Murdoch took time out of his busy schedule to practice some serve and volley with a group of budding players and enjoyed the short break from his intense training regime.

The current Commonwealth and British champion said: “It was nice to do something a little bit different and great to see the kids have fun because, ultimately, that’s what sport should be all about. The health benefits of sport and exercise are well known but it’s important that anyone taking part likes what they’re doing because that’s what will keep them motivated.

“Summer is always a good time to get into positive lifestyle habits and the University is ideal for anyone looking to enjoy physical activity. Whether it’s swimming, tennis, golf or general exercise, it offers such a variety of activities so can cater for a range of users from someone just starting out through to elite athletes performing at an international level. Whatever your experience or goals it’s a fantastic place to get involved and try something new.”

Following encouraging performances in the first half of the season, including a gold at the British Championships in Sheffield, Murdoch is confident ahead of his trip to Hungary where he will revisit a number of rivalries that have developed over the past months.

“Training has been really good and I feel like I’m in a position to have an impact in Budapest. I did okay when we were in Japan last month, against some really tough opposition, so I’m well aware of the challenge that lies ahead but I’m excited about meeting it head-on and pushing for a World Championships medal.”

A University of Stirling summer membership offers unlimited access to the Sports Centre’s world-class fitness suite, strength and conditioning areas, swimming pool and exercise classes and this year’s campaign, which runs between June and September, is also offering unlimited use of the facility’s indoor tennis courts and campus 9-hole golf course to encourage members to widen their sporting experience.

One, two and three month memberships are available from £40 with existing member bolt-ons costing only £30. Child memberships and bolt-ons can be purchased from £20. All memberships and bolt-ons expire on 14 September 2017. Normal terms and conditions apply.

For more information visit the Sports Centre website or contact the Sports Centre reception on 01786 466900 or

Murdoch swaps trunks for tie-breaks to promote summer of sport at Stirling Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:58:00 +0000 As part of the Channel 4 food and science series, Food Unwrapped, an aquaculture expert from the University of Stirling has shown how nature has a solution to a major salmon production problem.

Dr Andrew Davie of the world-leading Institute of Aquaculture gave presenter Jimmy Doherty a tour around a commercial marine hatchery at Otter Ferry on Loch Fyne, where scientists are working with industry to sustainably farm cleaner fish that will help reduce sea lice among salmon.

The experts advise the use of two species of fish – the ballan wrasse and the lumpsucker – to monitor the salmon and remove sea lice, boosting salmon production.

This natural technique is being offered as an alternative to other methods, such as flushing the fish through warm water to dislodge the lice or using medicinal treatments.

Innate behaviour

Dr Andrew Davie said: “We’re going back to nature to offer a solution to the sea lice problem in salmon farming. These native species of wrasse and lumpsucker clean fish parasites in the wild so we’re taking advantage of this innate behaviour to clean lice from salmon.

“The wrasse works better in milder climates, while the lumpsucker performs best in colder temperatures so together they represent an effective year-round solution for this international industry.

“Sustainability is key to this work: our research aims to assure a reliable supply of healthy farmed cleaner fish to meet the salmon industries demands. It is through assuring this supply that the salmon industry will have the confidence to expand its production and it’s great we have been able to share our findings with the Food Unwrapped audience.”

The multi-million pound cleaner-fish projects co-funded by Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, brings researchers together with commercial sector partners including Marine Harvest (Scotland), Scottish Sea Farms, Scottish Salmon Company, Otterferry Seafish Ltd, BioMar and Pharmaq.

You can watch the episode of Food Unwrapped online.

Stirling cleaner fish projects unwrapped on Channel 4 show Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:21:00 +0000 An analysis of the Twittersphere conducted by University of Stirling researchers over the past week has uncovered people’s feelings towards the two main UK political parties.

The data shows the average sentiment over the past week towards the Labour Party has been negative overall by approximately around 4%, while sentiment towards the Conservative Party has been positive overall by around 18%.

On average across the week, more than 52% of the sentiment expressed about Labour on Twitter was negative. This figure was almost unchanged based on Tweets sent today (Wednesday, 7 June).

Over the same time period, 59% of feeling expressed on Twitter about the Conservatives was positive. This figure fell by around 6% today (Wednesday, 7 June).

Political views

Professor Amir Hussain, Director of the Cognitive Big Data Informatics Research Lab at the University of Stirling, said: “We have employed a unique big data analytics approach devised here at Stirling, in order to analyse the sentiment of voters who choose to express their political views on social media. Our technology, called sentic computing, extracts natural language 'concepts' to analyse Twitter sentiments, as opposed to other conventional techniques which pull out 'keywords' and 'bag of words'.

“The sentiment trends we have uncovered in relation to the 2017 UK General Election appear to reflect average national opinion polls which show positive sentiment towards the Conservative Party reducing, and that for the Labour Party increasing, over the past month. Our analysis further shows a temporary surge in negative sentiment towards both parties, coinciding with the tragic terrorist attack in London on Saturday, 3 June.

“It will be interesting to see how these social media interactions translate to actual votes cast. If we do indeed see a correlation, social media sentiment analysis could be another useful indicator for predicting future election outcomes.”

The researchers examined nearly one million Tweets between 1 June and 7 June, 2017.

The analysis can be viewed here.

Tweeters’ feelings towards main UK political parties revealed ahead of #GE2017 Wed, 07 Jun 2017 15:26:00 +0000 One of the world’s leading sports surgeons, Professor Gordon Mackay, has signed a three year sponsorship deal with the University of Stirling football teams.

Supporting both the men’s and women’s squads, the deal will help fund the University’s renowned football scholarship programme which provides players with high performance training, competition and financial aid, alongside their studies.

Having risen through the leagues, the University men’s 1st XI play in the Scottish Lowland Football League, finishing fourth in this year’s competition and securing entry into the Irn Bru Challenge Cup. Meanwhile the women’s 1st XI currently sit fifth in the Scottish Women’s Premier League and have enjoyed great success this season, winning the BUCS Scottish Championship, promotion to the top British Universities league, the British Universities Trophy as well as the Scottish Student Sport Cup.

Just what the doctor ordered

Having been on the books at Rangers FC, Professor Mackay’s passion for football is well-known and he is keen to see the University of Stirling’s football programme fulfil its potential. He said: “I’ve worked very closely with the University over the years and have always been impressed with their ability to combine high performance sport with education. Having taken time out of my studies as a young doctor to pursue a sporting career, there are a lot of parallels between the two parties and I believe a balance between sport and studying is something that should be encouraged.

“Stirling has always taken a lead in promoting this approach and I like the way it thinks differently, whether that’s around scholarships, establishing partnerships with the likes of the Institute of Sport, or appointing British senior football’s first ever female head coach. All these things, along with the University’s vision, both for football and other sports, makes it all the easier to give my backing.”

Cathy Gallagher, Director of Sport at the University of Stirling, added: “The sponsorship provided by Professor Mackay is hugely significant to the continued development of our football programmes.  We deliver excellence in both men’s and women’s sport, where the education of students on and off the field of play is central to our philosophy, the essence of which is shared by our sponsor.

“Gordon has been a tremendous supporter of the University for many years and the sponsorship reflects his belief in the unrivalled value of sport to the student experience.  As Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, we are delighted to be backed by a world renowned sports surgeon, helping us enshrine standards for our talented student athletes.”

Known for working with some of Scotland’s most prominent sportspeople, Professor Mackay has revolutionised the treatment of serious knee and ankle injuries using his innovative Internal Brace technology which enables athletes to safely return to competitive sport significantly earlier than through conventional surgery.

Based at the Kings Park Hospital in Stirling, Mackay also operates at The Space Clinic in Edinburgh and Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow. He has worked extensively with the Scottish Rugby Union, Rangers and Celtic football clubs and Scotland’s Olympians via his tie-up with Scottish Institute of Sport. He was also the official doctor for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Mackay Clinic backs Stirling footballers Fri, 02 Jun 2017 12:08:00 +0000 International experts in the design of environments for people with dementia have gathered at the University of Stirling to attend a masterclass hosted by the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC).

A range of leaders in the fields of design and ageing presented on the latest developments in the sector, exchanging knowledge on how to help the world’s growing ageing population live independently for longer.

This expertise feeds into DSDC’s ongoing research, including investigations into how to improve experiences for people with dementia admitted to a general hospital, the role that neighbourhoods play in the lives of people with dementia, and what constitutes a ‘good life’ in later years.

Practical experience

Participants shared practical experience on how design for dementia and ageing can dramatically improve people’s quality of life.

Professor Emma Reynish, Chair in Dementia Research at the University of Stirling’s DSDC, said: “This masterclass brings together internationally-recognised experts in designing for people with dementia and the ageing population. There are currently around 50 million people estimated to be living with dementia around the world, and this figure is expected to double in 20 years. It’s essential that we collaborate to improve quality of life throughout the later years.

“This masterclass reinforces our commitment to improving the lives of people with dementia through innovative, multidisciplinary research, continued cutting edge development and the promotion of best practice in design for dementia. Today’s event has reinforced our awareness of the international appetite to continue developing our leading work in this area.”

Speakers included Anna Buchanan, Director of Life Changes Trust's People Affected by Dementia Programme and Kanoko Oishi, CEO of Mediva Inc. in Japan. DSDC is set to award an accreditation for excellence in design for dementia care, to a nursing home designed and built by Mediva Inc. and the Tokyu Land Corporation, in Japan later this summer.

As part of a trip funded by the Dementia Services Development Trust, Adhilakshmi Kannan, head nurse of the Schizophrenia Research Foundation in Chennai also presented on developments in dementia care in India.

DSDC Chief Architect Lesley Palmer and Director Stephen Brooks of Space Architects used the masterclass as an opportunity to announce the launch of a new dementia design app – the first of its kind in the world – which will allow people to input information about their environment.

The app will provide recommendations, backed up by the University of Stirling’s research, on how to make simple improvements to enhance the room for the needs of an ageing person, and in particular for a person living with dementia. It will also link to construction industry design software, guiding architects and designers on best practice dementia design principles.

Dementia experts host international masterclass Fri, 02 Jun 2017 11:20:42 +0000 The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has announced the development of a ground-breaking new app to help improve workplaces, public buildings and homes for people living with dementia.

Working in collaboration with construction experts Space Group, the team is creating the first app of its kind in the world to digitally assess how suitable a residence, care facility or other environment is for older people and those living with dementia.

Simple improvements

The dementia database, called IRIDIS, will make a simple assessment of a person’s home and recommend changes that can be made to the building.

The free homeowner app, available to download from autumn 2017, will address physical aspects of design which impact upon older people’s quality of life and their ability to live more independently. This includes lighting, colour contrast and noise.

People living with dementia, family members, healthcare professionals, construction experts or designers using the app, will be asked questions about their surroundings, and asked to take photographs.

It will take around just 20 minutes to assess the suitability of a two-bedroom home for an older person.

Improvements the app may recommend will be as simple as changing a light bulb, to more complex improvements such as reconfiguring bathrooms.

The IRIDIS app is an updated, digital version of the DSDC’s existing paperback Dementia Design Audit Toolkit, currently available at the Centre in Stirling.

Lesley Palmer, Chief Architect at DSDC, said: “This is a unique opportunity to revolutionise how we improve day-to-day life for older people and people living with dementia around the world. We are creating a simple way for anyone to assess how dementia-friendly their environment is, and find out how to improve their surroundings.

“With around 50 million people estimated to be living with dementia worldwide, there is an immediate need to invest in our aging population and provide improved services and facilities.

“This industry-leading, intelligent suite of software offers new methods of assessing our built environment. All of the guidance within the IRIDIS app will be underpinned by the research the University has carried out in this area.

“Typically, people living with dementia have greater demands on the health care services and providing guidance on how to adapt living conditions allows people to stay independent for longer and future proofs housing for autonomous living.”

Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, ahead of cancer, and bed-blocking costs NHS Scotland an estimated £114 million a year.

Stephen Brooks, Director at Space Architects, said: “We acknowledge that there are variations of ‘apps’ for guidance on dementia design principles and auditing the built environment, but none which have such a level of detail and have a direct and real-time results link to the construction and product industry.

“Previous dementia design application platforms have focussed entirely on the dissemination of information, as opposed to harnessing the opportunity to collect data and strike a two-way channels of communication between the researcher, designer and the end user.”

Inclusive environments

Design modification data collected from the app will allow IRIDIS to continually update the app and improve results for future users.

The data within the IRIDIS app will also make recommendations on property design and refurbishment for construction professionals. It will be aligned to digital construction methodology, with links to the Building Information Modelling (BIM) provider bimstore. This allows designers to search and download BIM objects from construction product manufacturers that are specifically designed and kite-marked to meet dementia care design standards.

Stephen added: “Creating fully inclusive built environments is a considerable undertaking and highlights a new area under consideration for our ageing population. This software will offer designers and contractors new intelligence needed to facilitate and future-proof dementia care design. What we are offering is truly ground-breaking and the software within the IRIDIS app will be one of the greatest advances to date in dementia care design principles.”

The IRIDIS app will launch at the University of Stirling’s International Dementia Design Masterclass on Thursday 1 June, where the DSDC and Space Architects teams will unveil the new service.

Later versions of IRIDIS will include a more detailed, paid-for service aimed at industry professionals in dementia care design and construction and healthcare professionals and providers. These apps will be able to assess illuminance and noise levels, including other more sophisticated features.

The app will be available to download from Thursday 21 September, on International Alzheimer’s Day.

New app to help improve environments for people living with dementia Thu, 01 Jun 2017 09:08:00 +0000 An initiative from the University of Stirling will benefit people living with dementia with the introduction of Scotland’s first prison-based assistance dog training programme.

Paws for Progress – developed from a postgraduate research project at the University – is collaborating with the Scottish Prison Service on a new scheme to train assistance dogs to help people living with dementia.

Based at HMP Castle Huntly, the innovative Dementia Dog project enables men in custody to complete an introductory dog training and care course, before training dogs to help people living with dementia in the community.

Rebecca Leonardi, Development Manager and Founder of Paws for Progress, based at the University, said: “This inspiring project represents a true win-win-win situation. Students at HMP Castle Huntly are given opportunities to develop their education and skills whilst also helping others. This unleashes the potential of returning citizens to contribute positively to society, and strengthens links with local communities.”

Boosting independence

The programme aims to develop participants’ employability skills and improve their wellbeing, while enhancing dog welfare more widely. The first group of five students began their introductory dog course in February – giving them the opportunity to achieve SQA qualifications.

Dogs are trained to remind people to take their medication, help wake someone up and get them dressed or undressed. The dogs help increase the amount of physical exercise the owners do, boosting their self-confidence and independence.

Paws for Progress – now a Community Interest Company – specialises in developing human animal interaction programmes in custodial settings, and this user-led approach has been proven successful in improving outcomes for both the young men and dogs involved. The pioneering service began at HMP and YOI, where young offenders train rescue dogs.

The Dementia Dog Project is a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good.

Positive social outcomes

Peter Gorbing, CEO at Dogs for Good, said: “This innovative collaboration demonstrates really positive social outcomes, both for the students at HMP Castle Huntly and people in the community who will benefit from dementia assistance dogs.”

Donna Rice, Family Contact Officer at HMP Castle Huntly, said: “When observing the interaction between the prisoners, the dogs and our partners in the dog training project it is clear to see the benefits. This project is an exciting opportunity for all involved which provides numerous paybacks not only to the prisoners but also the staff and the wider community.”

Dementia Dog Project Manager, Fiona Corner added: “We’re delighted to collaborate with the Scottish Prison Service and Paws for Progress, to enable men in custody to help train dementia assistance dogs that in turn will go on to transform lives in the community.”

A student involved in the project, is confident that taking part has had a positive effect: “From start to finish, it’s been perfect for me. It’s been amazing, it’s given me a sense of direction for what I want to do when I get out. I’ve got a plan. My skills have definitely developed a lot more especially patience. I’ve not got any patience at all; it just kinda clicked when I started doing this. I’m dealing with things a lot better.”

The University of Stirling will continue to work in partnership with Paws for Progress to monitor the impact of the project as it develops.

Paws for Progress unveils new dementia dog training project Wed, 31 May 2017 10:58:00 +0000