Investigating New Types of Engagement, Response  And Contact Technology  in Policing 

Caption: The public is increasingly likely to encounter police in ways that are ‘technologically-mediated’.

 A major new research project will examine how police-public engagement is being changed by the use of new technologies. 

Over recent years, the ways in which members of the public can contact the police have undergone significant changes. As a result, the public is increasingly likely to encounter police in ways that are ‘technologically-mediated’  by new communication technologies; such as online reporting of crimes and answering of queries, body worn video cameras, mobile data terminals, and the use of social media accounts.  

Now, Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh Napier University and Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), is to be the Principal Investigator leading an £862,000 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded programme to explore experiences and understanding of such technologicallymediated ‘ contact.  

Over the next three years, INTERACT – Investigating New Types of Engagement, Response And Contact Technology – will consider the perspectives of both police and publicThe study will consider ways in which the police can and should design their systems to better reflect people’s needs and expectations.  

 We aim to shape policy and practice, with a view to improving service provision,” says Dr Aston. She will be working with Dr Helen Wells from Keele University, Dr Megan O’Neill of Dundee University, and Prof Ben Bradford at University College London (UCL); as well as new Researchers, funded by the ESRC, who will be based at Edinburgh Napier, Keele and UCL We will be working closely with three police forces, and with various communities in each, as well as with national policing organisations.” 

 INTERACT represents a significant opportunity to impact the landscape of policing policy and practice nationally and internationally 

Our findings should directly and positively influence what the police do, and what the public are able to do to access police services,” adds Dr Aston. 

In the UK, the National Police Chiefs’ Council believes the public expects policing to join other services ‘online’, but while attention is being paid to what technology can do, for the police in particular, the public side of this encounter has barely been considered.  

 “Online reporting may appeal to some people, or be particularly useful for some crime types,” the team explains, but we do not know enough about how people experience these types of interactions to be confident that they will be of benefit to everyone, in all circumstances.  

 We also do not know if and how these developments might affect the way people feel about the police and what they do. We know that when people interact with officers they come to conclusions about the trustworthiness and legitimacy of police. But this knowledge is based on research which assumes that most or all contact between the public and police happens face-to-face, as it has done for decades. Given that this situation is changing, it is important that we reconsider our theories of public trust and police legitimacy, and if they are both fit for purpose in the current environment and are future-proof against new developments. 

 Research will also consider what it means for the police to be ‘visible’ and ‘accessible’ in a digital age and assess how the public feel about the different ways the police can be seen and contacted.  

 Using a variety of methods our research will develop understandings of police legitimacy in changing times and allow us to recommend ways for the police to stay legitimate in the eyes of the public in the 21st century. 

 For further information please contact: 

l.aston@napier.ac.uk 

Dr Liz Aston
Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor, Criminology

Community Guidance on Running a Seagrass Conservation Project

Professor of Teaching and Research in Environmental Biology at Edinburgh Napier University, Mark Huxham, recently published a signposting guide with insights on how best to run a community-based seagrass conservation project, using methods such as a Payments for Ecosystems Services (PES) project.

In his report, Prof Huxham focuses on a carbon-based PES as a means to protect seagrass ecosystems and prevent their degradation.

Seagrass meadows appear in 159 different countries and can be found on every continent except from Antarctica. In fact, all-in-all, seagrass covers 30 million hectares worldwide, that’s 10-and-a-half times the size of Hawaii.

These aquatic ecosystems provide an irreplaceable service to our planet. Seagrasses afford valuable nursery habitat to one fifth of the world’s largest fisheries, which helps boost fish population numbers and, in turn, this supports local communities that rely on fish for income and food.

Seagrass also stores up to 18% of the world’s oceanic carbon, helping to mitigate climate change.

These ecosystems therefore play a key role in reducing the impact on climate change, improve water quality, and provide coastal protection against floods and storms.

Now though, like the coral reefs and rainforests, these habitats are being compromised by human activity.

The rapid decline in our global coastal ecosystems is a worldwide problem and the rate of loss of seagrass meadows is alarmingly fast. The most recent census estimates that we are losing 7% of this key marine habitat per year, which is equivalent to a football field of seagrass lost every 30 minutes. Nearly a third of seagrass cover has been lost in the last 100 years-or-so.

The four main culprits behind the destruction of these water-based habitats are overharvesting (humans harvest seagrass for fertiliser, insulation, furniture and more); agricultural and industrial run-off; coastal development; and climate change.

It is a global problem that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is keen to tackle. In a separate report that Mark Huxham contributes to, detailing the importance of seagrass and how to protect it, UNEP lays out 13 recommended actions on how to protect this natural resource. The recommendations include:

  • developing a comprehensive map of global seagrass distribution and health;
  • raising awareness of seagrass and communicating its importance to communities;
  • and stimulating seagrass conservation and protection through financial initiatives and incentives.

This is the download for the global UNEP report.

This is the download for Mark Huxam’s report on how to help conserve seagrass locally.

Cover of Guide
The Community Guide

Creating a culture in growth

Maths teachers graduating from Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) this summer had a unique selling point when they came to enter the workforce; following a successful pilot programme undertaken by the first cohort to graduate from Scotland’s newest PgDE provider, pictured above on day 1 – back in 2019.

The nine graduates, all now in their probationary year in secondary schools across Scotland, had experience in developing a growth mindset in their students. That’s vital; because for generations a cohort of Scots have been almost proud to announce ‘I’m no good with numbers.’ That negative mindset was all too often embedded in children at an early age, and reinforced from parent to child. Experience taught us that once established, this attitude was a major obstacle to any improvement in numeracy throughout a student’s school career.

The concept of a growth mindset seeks to dismantle this mental barrier. Based on research by Stanford University’s Dr Carol Dweck, it creates a methodology to help young people develop a love of learning, to thrive on challenges, and to build resilience.

The approach is being promoted to professional teachers by Winning Scotland, an independent charity chaired by Sir Bill Gammell, which works to create a culture where all young people in Scotland have the opportunity to develop themselves and learn important life skills. Once established in an individual, a growth mindset means they will believe their level of success in any subject is determined by factors such as effort, application and skills development. This can make a huge difference to their ultimate academic progress.

Adults in a child’s life, including teachers, have a key role to play in ensuring they nurture a growth mindset environment, and ‘Mindset in the curriculum’ is a key focus of activity for Winning Scotland. Since 2011, it has aimed to build engagement and confidence in targeted areas, including maths. The approach has now been adopted by 273 practitioners in Scotland, and is being adopted by most local authorities.

In 2020, it expanded its focus to include literacy, science and secondary school maths, with the newly qualified graduate maths teachers from Edinburgh Napier primed to act as champions of the growth culture as they enter their new schools.

“Understanding growth mindset from the start means that we can incorporate it into our practice straight away,” says ENU graduate Peter Early. “It’ll just be part of who I am, so I can inspire pupils to have a more positive mindset about maths.”

Fellow graduate Hilary Brown agrees: “Pupils are able to engage and it makes you more approachable – less of a ‘Maths teacher’. My school are really pleased I got the opportunity to participate [in the pilot PgDE module] so I think it’ll help our future recruitment chances too.”

Having achieved a success with the pilot for student teachers, both Winning Scotland and Edinburgh Napier are keen to progress. “This session we are continuing our work,” says Assistant Professor Andrew Gallacher, Head of Teaching Education. “The new cohort in September 2020 are trialling a bespoke version of the mindset course, again aimed specifically at maths teachers. I think we can help change the culture and improve the quality of teaching and working in secondary maths education.”

He’s picking up good vibrations

A mountain bike handlebar, released for sale this September, is the first to offer a viscoelastic frame designed to absorb more of the impacts that are an inevitable result when enthusiasts and professional riders alike hurtle down trails.

The innovation has been driven by research conducted by Lewis Kirkwood as part of his PhD at Edinburgh Napier University: commercial endorsement for its long term health implications. “Vibration stimulates muscle and it makes the muscle tense, which is why you get arm pump because your muscle doesn’t relax and it cuts off the blood flow,” explains Lewis.

Initial data gathered by Lewis (alongside Dr Lesley Ingram, Dr Eva Malone, Dr Mark Taylor, and Prof Geraint Florida-James) suggested that mountain bikers can actually experience vibration levels that would exceed levels regarded as safe under ISO standards. These are applied in 164 countries, with the goal of ensuring products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For example, ISO 5349 – 1:2001 monitors human exposure to hand-transmitted vibration in construction, and caps vibrations at 5.0 ms^-2. But Lewis found mean values of 5.84ms^-2 on the riders he studied over a day of elite enduro racing.

It was important to investigate further, with exposure to vibration in the workplace linked to musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, vascular and other types of pathologies such as hand-arm vibration syndrome.

“We believe there will be ways of optimising the design of components such as handlebars, grips or even gloves, tyres and spokes, and if we could look at ways to minimize vibration while still keeping or improving the performance then that has to be a good thing,” said Lewis, who is a keen mountain biker himself and also a team mechanic with Norco Factory Team.

Since 2016 he has evolved his PhD research at the Innovation Centre run by Edinburgh Napier University and the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, at Glentress in the Scottish Borders. Now, kreuz+quer – the company behind bike brand ARC8 and bicycle.engineering – have launched the Rockstock carbon handlebar using input from the research by Lewis. It is the first commercially available handlebar to integrate a viscoelastic damping layer, which means it is designed with the intention of reducing vibration exposure for riders.

For Lewis, the commercial response to his research has been inspirational. “At Napier, we have a big physiology department where, for example, we can take blood from people, so we can link up vibration doses and changes in the blood to see if there is a relationship with things like osteo-arthritis. We can also test many different products at the Innovation Centre. So if a component manufacturer with different layups of seatposts or frame materials wanted to know which was better in the field then we can reliably measure it.

“That’s what I want to do more of.”

Scottish Government appoints Dr Liz Aston to chair new IAG on policing

The Justice Secretary, Hamza Yousef, has invited Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh Napier, to chair a new Independent Advisory Group on New and Emerging Technologies in Policing.

The IAG is being established to report on whether current legal or ethical frameworks need to be updated in order to ensure Police Scotland’s use of emerging technologies in relation to operational policing is compatible with human rights legislation and best practice.

Dr Aston has an outstanding record of collaborative research on policing both in Scotland and in Europe, including involvement in major international projects on community policing and stop and search.

Since 2018 she has been Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, a strategic collaboration between the Police Service of Scotland and 14 of Scotland’s universities. It offers a range of opportunities for relevant, applicable research to help the police meet the challenges of the 21st century, several of which are outlined in its latest annual report.

Dr Aston’s latest appointment follows her recent role as chair of the Police Scotland External Reference Group on Cyber Kiosks (digital triage devices), which ended in December 2019. She also participated in Unity – an Horizon 2020 EC-funded project on community policing. It explored the use of technology to enhance communication with the public, with Dr Aston acting as co-lead for the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications work package.

In 2019, Dr Aston delivered the keynote address at the Centre for Policing and Security’s 30th Anniversary Conference on Technology and Legitimacy in Policing, speaking on Street Policing in Smart Societies.

Last year she also directed the Scottish International Policing Conference on Digital Policing and Technology.

Her latest appointment will see the delivery, by early 2022, of a report to the Justice Secretary including specific recommendations or concrete products (such as a code of practice) to address any identified issues with new and emerging technologies.

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funds research

Associate Professor Dr Sonja Rueckert (School of Applied Sciences) recently received funding (US$ 381,688) from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, to lead one of the 42 teams of scientists that are to be supported over the next three years as part of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative (US$ 140 million).

The initiative aims to develop and advance model systems to gain better understanding of how these symbiotic associations evolved and function.

Dr Rueckert says: “The international team I am leading will work on culturing techniques for gregarine apicomplexans infecting marine and freshwater invertebrates (Fig. 1). The team includes  researchers from the UK, USA, Czech Republic and France.

“This is very exciting, as we can now develop our culturing approach, which will enable scientists to advance fundamental research on the evolutionary steps of symbiosis in the Apicomplexa (important parasites for humans and livestock, e.g. causing Malaria).

“Having a culture system will make it easier to identify key cellular and molecular transitions in the evolution from free-living relatives to intracellular parasites.

“My research organisms of interest, the gregarines, cover the whole range of symbiotic relationships with their hosts from mutualistic to parasitic, and therefore play a crucial role in the understanding of the evolution of this symbiotic association.

“The unique, collaborative set up of this program will foster the exchange of techniques and ideas of about 200 scientists from different disciplines with the common goal to advance the field of aquatic symbiosis.’

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit Moore.org and follow @MooreFound.

Carnegie Trust Scholarship Award for PhD student

School of Applied Sciences student Abigail Cunningham (pictured) is the University’s first recipient of a Carnegie Trust PhD Scholarship Award.

Drawing on a Foucauldian theoretical framework and using narrative discourse analysis, her project will explore Scottish-Pakistanis’ experiences of ‘policing’ in everyday life, including institutional, community, and self-policing.

UK policy responses to terrorist threats have contributed to relationships of mistrust between British-Asian communities and police and to increasing incidents of hate crime against them. There is a lack of in-depth, qualitative research exploring the reasons for underreporting of hate crime, and few studies include the perspectives of Scottish ethnic minority citizens.

Abigail’s PhD aims to examine the idea of Scotland as an inclusive community from the perspective of Scottish-Pakistanis, and problematize the way ethnic minority groups participate in, respond to, and internalise policing on multiple levels. The study will conduct 30 in-depth face-to-face interviews with Scottish-Pakistanis from urban and semi-rural areas in Scotland.

In providing an understanding of the experiences of Scottish Pakistanis, findings will be of significant benefit to policy makers and practitioners, and will assist policing organisations in Scotland to improve their engagement with minorities.

Abigail’s supervisory team consists of Liz Aston as Director of Studies, with Grant Jeffrey and Taulant Guma as co-supervisors, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the PhD and expertise of the supervisory team across criminology and policing, human geography and migration, and critical community psychology.

Liz said, “The University has a supportive and well-resourced research environment for postgraduates, networked to external training opportunities. With Edinburgh Napier being a member of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and host university of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, Abigail will have access to a range of training courses, summer schools, postgraduate conferences and a supportive community of PhD students and academics.

“Abigail’s intellectual capacity and passion for exploring migration were evident in her academic record, reference and personal statement. She is one of our Social Sciences graduates, with great work and life experience and contacts. She has also been doing some teaching with us over the past year.

“Her Carnegie PhD Scholarship Award is a wonderful achievement and testament to her excellence. Grant, Taulant and I have enjoyed working with Abigail to develop her proposal and we are excited to get started!”

Meeting the demands of a changing world

Dr Janis MacCallum and Dr Graham Wright, Programme Leaders for the School’s Biomolecular MSc suite, outline why this is a good time to become an applied biologist.

Whilst it’s clear the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are numerous, we’ve been spending some time trying to understand what the ongoing response by the industry and academia will mean for our graduates. And the answer is resounding, it’s a good time to be an applied biologist. The need for scientists has been brought into sharp focus. Every day we are reading in the popular press about immunology, in the shape of vaccines and antibody tests; molecular biology in shape of diagnostic tests run from nose swabs; pharmacology in the shape of repurposing old drugs and designing new ones… I could go on.

In reviewing our MSc programmes to ensure they were training graduates able to contribute to the global response to COVID-19, we found that without exception our programmes were already doing this. Our suite of programmes already have a strong practical element with a focus on employability skills and all are supported by research academics, with strong links across the bio-medical and pharmaceutical industries and research institutes as well as within the NHS. This, combined with module and lecture topics that are designed to react to emerging research and demands to reflect the field, means that our programmes are already aligned to challenges created by COVID-19 and will be ready for whatever comes after it.

Our Biomedical Science programme, covers fundamental and emerging topics in immunology, toxicology, pharmacology and disease biology and how these disciplines are applied in biomedical science, allowing our students to gain unique insights into the challenges currently facing biomedical science (pandemic anyone?). One example of how COVID-19 will be reflected in our BMS programme comes from Prof. Peter Barlow, Professor of Infection and Immunology, module leader on our MSc programmes and Head of Research:

“I’ve given lectures and tutorials on the potential of host defence peptides for treating viral infections and related topics and covered emerging vaccination technologies that can be rapidly deployed that I’ve published on previously. I’ve also run tutorials where I’ve had MSc students critically review prior funding applications and could incorporate these into my modules now that we are starting to apply for SARS-CoV-2 related funding.”

Dr Peter Barlow

Or there is Drug Design and Biomedical Science, a unique programme which combines biomedicine and pharmaceutical science, focussing on the development and creation of effective drugs, from concept to clinic, including the theories and practical applications of chemical drug design and immunology, pharmacology and molecular biology. Our Head of Synthetic Chemistry, Dr David Mincher highlighted just one of the many areas these programmes that will reflect important aspects in the pharmaceutical response to COVID-19:

“A major topic taught in the Drug Design and Chemotherapy module is the design of drugs to treat viral infections, focussed on clinically successful drugs, exemplified by oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat influenza, and SARS. Parallel mechanism-based analysis, using our molecular modelling and computational biology facilities are extendable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, causing the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Chemotherapeutic approaches are critically important to the treatment of viral disease in the scenario that vaccines are of no use to persons already infected with the virus.”

We also offer programmes in Medical Biotechnology (January 2020 intake) and a 2 year MSc programme in Pharmaceutical and Analytical Science (January intake only). All are designed to support you in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to take on exciting employment opportunities in the pharmaceutical, biomedical and biotechnology fields. Perhaps now is the time for you to explore these opportunities further…

If you are interested in learning more, sign up for our next Postgraduate Open evening being held online on the 21st May via this link: https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/events/online-pg-open-evening-may-2020#Form .

Covid-19 Implications for Policing

This blog is reproduced with permission and was originally published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) www.sccjr.ac.uk

Dramatic changes to people’s lives globally, resulting from COVID-19, are having an impact on crime and the criminal justice system (CJS). As the police are the gatekeepers to the CJS it is important to consider the implications for policing. These sweeping societal changes shed light on a number of key aspects of policing, and provide an opportunity for police to enhance public confidence and legitimacy – or indeed to erode it.

Maintaining and protecting the ‘thin blue line’

Given that one of the central functions of the police is to maintain public order, a key issue is how to resource the ‘thin blue line’. Sickness absence during a pandemic presents a challenge, particularly given a backdrop of austerity where officer numbers have been dramatically reduced (especially in England). One of the key concerns for police unions has been protecting the safety of the workforce e.g. through appropriate PPE. Union action is important, particularly given police don’t have a right to strike, and securing workers’ rights is not just the right thing to do for the police workforce, it’s also important in order to protect the public.

A key concern for Police unions has been protecting officers through appropriate use of PPE

New emergency public health legislation

A fundamental issue with introducing new legislation in a rushed manner is the potential for governments to take advantage of the situation. It’s important to ensure that these powers are for as short a time span as possible, so restrictive emergency powers can’t be used once the crisis has passed. However, it’s important to note that new police practices have been introduced in order to enforce public health measures brought in by government. A public health approach is not unfamiliar territory for policing, and indeed in Scotland enhancing the safety and wellbeing of communities is enshrined in legislation as a core purpose of policing

A tricky aspect for police practice has been the difference between government guidance around social distancing, and the legislation and what can be enforced. Also, public understanding of government guidance may be confused, particularly given variations at a local, national and UK level, so this is a challenge for police in Scotland. Clarity in communication is central to compliance, and to reducing calls to the police seeking clarification.

Police powers and human rights

A fundamental concern with police powers is always the balance with human rights and, as with stop and search, between securing public safety and individual rights and freedoms. This comes into renewed focus when new legislation opens up the likelihood of a wider spectrum of society to being policed in this way. People tend to be more bothered when it’s something they might experience, rather than the policing of ‘the other’. Given the implications of lockdown will vary depending on people’s situations, and will be layered with inequality, this will impact on the likelihood of being policed. Various debates have emerged regarding differential enforcement, the use of ‘spit hoods’, and Fixed Penalty Notices.

That said compliance has generally been high. It’s important to acknowledge that the intended approach taken by the police has been to engage, and only enforce as a last resort. This is a good thing given that engagement approaches are connected with public confidence.

Public confidence and governance

Why is public confidence in policing important? The CJS relies on people coming forward as a victim or witness, and we know that people are unlikely to share information if they do not have confidence in the police. We also know from the extensive procedural justice literature that how people feel they have been treated in an encounter with the police has an impact on cooperation and compliance. Increasingly, the ways in which people are making contact with the police are becoming technologically-mediated (e.g. via online reporting or social media) but we don’t know what impact this has on legitimacy.

Given the concerns raised above, the governance of these new police powers is important. Mechanisms could include internal governance, making police data publically available, external oversight bodies, civil society organisations, and judicial remedies. In Scotland a new Independent Advisory Group has been set up to review the police use of temporary powers.

Future trends?

Changing crime patterns will have an impact on policing demand and require strong communication from police to increase public awareness (e.g. cyber security) and encourage victims to come forward (eg. domestic abuse). Whilst it is unclear how things will unfold over the coming months it is likely that policing will need to respond to variations in social distancing guidance and compliance. Trust in government decisions, as well as in the police, will be important in encouraging compliance. Indeed it may be that action will be taken to hold governments to account for failures to deal appropriately with the pandemic. There is also potential for social unrest and protests associated with an economic downturn. Policing organisations will need to take very seriously their commitment to the well-being of their workers, who are policing in a stressful context. It’s also important for police organisations to engage and listen to frontline views.

In these extraordinary times governments and police in some jurisdictions will take the opportunity to introduce coercive powers and surveillance measures. Indeed it would be a shame to let a good crisis go to waste -but this should involve taking brave and progressive action. For example, with a pandemic layered on top of a drug related death epidemic, it would be worth introducing safe prescribing and diversion for drug possession. There is also an opportunity for the police to take action which enhances public confidence.

Dr. Liz Aston is Director of Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) and Associate Professor of Criminology, Edinburgh Napier University, l.aston@napier.ac.uk, @AstonLiz

Images are copyright of PoliceScotland

A degree designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes

My name is Eoin Flemming and I am a full time international Judo player, fighting for Ireland, and I plan on competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2024 Olympic Games.

I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier University as it was the only university that offered a course that was designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes.

The degree course is online and is very flexible when it comes to sitting our modules. This is essential for me, as Judo is a full-on sport with no off season like other sports. I mostly train two or three times a day for six days a week, so knowing this degree is there and understands these demands is great. I was able to complete one recent assignment for university whilst I was on a five-week training camp in Japan. Having the flexibility to study and complete assignments from anywhere in the world is very helpful, especially as my sport requires me to travel a lot.

Edinburgh Napier University has supported me tremendously. They are one of very few universities that truly understand the needs and demands placed on professional athletes. The creation of the course is huge for people like me who want to get a degree without the normal time constraints of normal degrees. I understand the importance of having a degree and furthering my knowledge in today’s society. I have to be prepared for what I am going to do after judo and this degree will give me greater opportunities for when that time comes. It is such a highlight to be given the opportunity to achieve this without it affecting my sports performance.

I have already recommended the BA Business and Enterprise Sport to some of my training partners as I feel this is the perfect course for athletes. The modules are specific to elite sport so I find them really interesting. I’d absolutely encourage other athletes to do the course and enjoy the unique experience of studying whilst being an athletes. You will be opening new opportunities for yourself for life after sport. The university has plenty of support systems in place for us if you ever were to need any help.