Research marketing

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction plus a social media overreaction.

Topic: Research news

Strengthening our marketing ties with Stellenbosch

📥  International, Research news

Over the past year we've done more to tell the stories behind some of the many research collaborations that have come about as a result of the University's focus on internationalisation. 

Joining us on Skype to discuss collaborative research promotion, Huba Boshoff from the Centre for Partnerships & Internationalisation at Stellenbosch University.

Joining us on Skype to discuss collaborative research promotion, Huba Boshoff from the Centre for Partnerships & Internationalisation at Stellenbosch University.

In 2016, via the new 'Worldwide' section of our website, we promoted a range of stories tied to our collaborations in South Africa and Brazil timed to coincide with important events.

Our South Africa section launched to coincide with the Going Global Conference in Cape Town in May, but was an opportunity to talk about a range of ongoing research with international partners from water irrigation systems (through the Water Innovation Research Centre) to responses to child trauma (through the Department of Psychology).

Launched in August and using the hook of the Olympics, our Brazil section drove online traffic to varied projects from recycling polymers (led by the Centre for Sustainable Technologies) to examining data behind Brazil's reforms to corporate governance (led by the School of Management).

Some of this new content has also been used by our international marketing counterparts, including those at Stellenbosch University (South Africa) who adapted features written for the South Africa section for their alumni and stakeholder newsletter, 'Matieland' (see pp 16-17).

With the International Office we'll continue to build this relationship - starting with regular catch ups on Skype - so that we can better coordinate marketing and communications when it comes to international visits and research announcements.

Watch this space for more.

Marketing Saiful Islam's Ri Christmas Lectures

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📥  Event, Research news, social

Hopefully in between mince pies and merriment you caught this year's Royal Institution (Ri) CHRISTMAS LECTURES broadcast on BBC FOUR over three nights during the festive period and delivered by our very own Professor Saiful Islam.

Professor Saiful Islam - this year's Ri Christmas Lecturer.

Professor Saiful Islam - this year's Ri Christmas Lecturer. (Photo Credit - Paul Wilkinson).

In the time between Saiful being announced as the Ri's Christmas Lecturer for its 80th Anniversary year last August, through to broadcast over Christmas, we worked closely with him and the team at the Ri to ensure we made the most of the event from a marketing perspective - both in terms of Saiful's own research and expertise, as well as for the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, the Department of Chemistry and the University more generally.

'Supercharged: Fuelling the future'

From our end this included a range of marketing outputs: a new online feature on Saiful's journey; an extensive social media campaign across all channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) which included video teasers for the lectures and competition to win tickets for filming; new printed materials to promote the lectures to our students; mail-shots out to our alumni; and of course use of the Digital screens around campus to highlight his involvement.


In addition to all the preparations for filming, at the Ri our colleagues created a dedicated CHRISTMAS LECTURE section of the website; arranged photoshoots; created new printed collateral; and mailed their many thousands of subscribers about Saiful's involvement.

We also worked very closely with the Ri on media exposure too. Of the 150 pieces of national and international coverage across print and broadcast media particular highlights included features in the Observer 'You need more than one electric eel to light a Christmas tree'; an interview for Radio 4's Start The Week with Andrew Marr; as well as coverage across other national print media and, crucially, in the Christmas Radio Times!

All combined, with online traffic to the various marketing initiatives and press coverage, this helped capture an audience in the 100,000s in advance of broadcast. Viewing figures for the CHRISTMAS LECTURES - now available to watch again via the Ri Channel – suggest these were watched by over 1.7 million.

Follow on engagements

Fresh from his Christmas appearances, once back on campus in early January my colleague Chris arranged for Saiful to take part in Reddit AMA looking back at the lectures and focusing in on Saiful's own research. This has had an online reach of 7.5 million (for more on our AMAs see this other blog post).

In late January we then publicised new research from Saiful on developing faster, recharging lithium batteries which has already received significant national and international coverage.

The Ri held a Family Fun Day in early February in which Saiful gave mini-lectures (with bangs) and PhD students from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies presented a hands-on exhibit on green energy.

We're now eagerly awaiting Bath Taps into Science, where Saiful's family talk on Wednesday night has already sold out, and looking further ahead to Saiful's involvement in our 6 May University of Bath Festival.


Each year tickets to watch filming of the Ri's CHRISTMAS LECTURES are allocated by a ballot in September. This is open to Ri Members and UK schools; you can find out more about supporting the charity by becoming a member here


Glistening research stories decorate campus

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📥  50th anniversary, Research news

You may have spotted our brand new series of research posters springing up around campus over the past few weeks to coincide with the start of the new academic year.

Recently installed across 13 locations from the East Building to the entrance of 10W, these new window vinyls reflect some of the latest research successes across each of the Faculties, the School of Management and our Institutes.

Glistening in gold in the autumn sun they’ve been designed as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations and its ‘look further’ campaign.

Over the course of the academic year, we’ll be telling the individual stories behind each of them in a number of different ways. But, for the time being, here’s an overview of the research behind the posters:



Flexing our research muscle for the BBC

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📥  Research news

We had the pleasure of welcoming Michael Mosley and crew to campus a few months back to film the latest episode of ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ which aired last night and asked whether or not stretching was important before doing exercise.

Putting Michael through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite and around campus was Dr Polly McGuigan whose research interests within the Department for Health focus on muscle and tendon mechanics.

And stretch

For a whole day, Polly had Michael squatting, jumping and flexing before exercise in an effort to see what effect (if any) stretching had on his flexibility, performance and power.

Michael’s results revealed to him by Polly over coffee in The Edge CAFE showed that he was more flexible after the stretching routine due to reduced stiffness of his muscle-tendon units, but that this had a detrimental effect on performance: reducing his jump height and the amount of power produced by his muscles.

Powerful activities like jumping require muscles to develop a lot of force and to transmit that force to the skeleton very quickly. Stretching reduces the stiffness of muscle which means they transit their force a little more slowly, reducing the power of their contraction.

You'll find out more about Michael's results here.

Polly and Michael discuss results from his stretching tests outside The Edge

Polly and Michael discuss results from his stretching tests outside The Edge

Behind the scenes, what ends up as a 5 minute segment may have taken a whole day’s filming and also involved extra organising too – you may have spotted some familiar faces stretching and running around the lake during the introduction!

But when there’s an opportunity to reach an audience of around three million on primetime TV it’s an excellent opportunity to take and one that really helps to get our research and expertise out to the masses.

Lights, camera, action as Michael Mosely is put through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite.

Lights, camera, action as Michael Mosley is put through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite.



Amplifying messages

So how does an opportunity like this come up? Back at the beginning of 2015, we’d put Polly in touch with the editor on NHS Choices who was writing an article about pre-exercise stretching in light of new research casting doubt about its effectiveness.

Last night’s ‘Trust Me’ shows how one thing can lead to another, helping to amplify messages about research and expertise. As the BBC producer explained to me: ‘When we were trying to find an expert to talk to us about muscles and stretching, the NHS Choices article with Polly’s name were the first to come up.’

Watch last night's episode again via iPlayer - (starts - 44m35s)


Making sense of Stern

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📥  Research news, Sector news

The long-awaited Stern Review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) was published last week which outlines a number of recommendations in advance of the next assessment submission.

This autumn we expect to see a consultation on the detailed guidance with the results published next summer 2017. REF submissions are still set to be collected in 2020 with the assessment and results earmarked in 2021. Read more about Stern here via the THE.

To help us make sense of Stern and its implications for Bath, Katy McKen (Head of Research Information and Intelligence) has helpfully put together this list of the 12 main recommendations covered by Stern:

  1. All research active staff should be returned in the REF;
  2. Outputs should be submitted at UoA level with a  set average number per FTE but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average;
  3. Outputs should not be portable;
  4. Panels should continue to assess on the basis of peer review.  However, metrics should be provided to support panel members in their assessment and panels should be transparent about their use;
  5. Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies, part of a new institutional level assessment;
  6. Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality.  However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs;
  7. Guidance on the REF should make it very clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socio-economic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, on public engagement and understanding, on cultural life, on academic impacts outside the field, and impacts on teaching;
  8. A new institutional level Environment assessment should include an account of the institution’s future research environment strategy, a statement of how it supports high quality research and research-related activities, including its support for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional initiatives and impact. It should form part of the institutional assessment and should be assessed by a specialist, cross-disciplinary panel;
  9. The individual UoA environment statements are condensed, made complementary to the institutional level environment statements and include those key metrics on research intensity specific to the UoA;
  10. Where possible REF data and metrics should be open, standardised and combinable with other research funders’ data collection processes in order to streamline data collection requirements and reduce the cost of compiling and submitting data;
  11. That Government and UKRI could make more strategic and imaginative use of REF, to better understand the health of the UK research base, our research resources and areas of high potential for future development, and to build the case for strong investment in research in the UK;
  12. Government should ensure that there is no increased administrative burden to HEIs from interactions between the TEF and REF, and that they together strengthen the vital relationship between teaching and research in  HEIs.

To find out more about our last REF submission and research performance see here. If you have comments or questions about the process from here, please contact Katy.

Don't miss also Dr Richard Watermeyer's (Department of Education) article on Stern for The Conversation.


A bumper month in The Conversation

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📥  Materials, Research news

From Brexit to (Gareth) Bale, dinosaurs to social death, June was our busiest month ever for The Conversation both in terms of published articles and readership.

In the one month alone, nearly three quarters of a million people around the world read content authored by our academics and 14 new articles – roughly one every other day – were published.

Dinosaur spike

June’s spike in traffic was driven to a large extent by one article, published towards the end of the month, by Dr Nick Longrich (Milner Centre for Evolution, Department of Biology & Biochemistry) which has already become our most read article ever, having been seen by 383,410 people.

How and where Conversation articles are republished is the key factor in determining their readership stats. Among many other sites to have picked up on Nick’s article, ‘The top six dinosaur myths and how we busted them’, IFL Science ran it which engaged a huge US audience. Over half its readership came from the US.

June saw our highest readership and the most number of articles published on The Conversation.

June saw our highest readership and the most number of articles published on The Conversation.

Bend it like Bale or bail it like Boris

Dinosaurs aside, June also saw a new article from Dr Ken Bray (Senior Visiting Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering) on the aerodynamics of the perfect free kick – published to coincide with the knock-out stages in the Euros and the progress of the Welsh national squad. Ken’s article has already been read by close to 20,000 and has been republished in India, Russia as well as closer to home for MailOnline.

Professor Charlie Lees (Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies) became one of our most prolific authors, providing quick turnaround responses to the EU referendum and its impact on the Conservative and Labour parties as well as the botched leadership bid from Boris Johnson.

Charlie’s three articles in June were read by a worldwide audience of nearly 30,000 and republished on prominent new websites, such as Newsweek. His latest article ‘Boris bails – or are we falling for another trick from magic Johnson?’ – was used in full in this Saturday’s i newspaper.

Charlie Lees' article on the decision of Boris Johnson not to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party was republished by the i newspaper.

Charlie Lees' article on the decision of Boris Johnson not to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party was republished by the i newspaper.

Other popular Conversation articles concerning the referendum included Dr Richard Fairchild’s (School of Management) ‘Game theory offers a better way forward in Britain’s EU drama’ and comments from Professor Bill Durodie (POLIS) in response to the vote to leave on the morning of Friday 24 June. Bill was also the first Bath academic to take part in The Conversation’s new podcast series The Anthill: ‘Brexit special’.

If you’re feeling referendumed-out, by the way, don’t miss Luke Cahill (PhD, POLIS) contribution to ‘Beyond Brexit, the world’s still turning: global stories you might have missed’.

Lightbulb moments, tackling cancer and social death

In among everything else, three other significant articles were published in June including Dr Momna Hejmadi’s (Cancer Research at Bath, Department of Biology & Biochemistry) ‘Why do some cancers suddenly disappear?’, Professor Alison Walker’s (Department of Physics) ‘Why you should get ready to say goodbye to the humble lightbulb’ and Jana Králová’s (PhD, Centre for Death & Society, Department of Social & Policy Sciences) ‘Why we need to find a cure for ‘social death’.

Momna’s article was republished across the world, including in the New Zealand Herald and has so far reached over 160,000 people. Alison’s article – timed to coincide with the announcement of new Horizon 2020 funding - has seen wide coverage with 33,310 reads and also been republished on the influential World Economic Forum – Agenda. Jana’s article complements her recent entry for our Images of Research competition ‘In loving memory…’.

Start writing for The Conversation

If you’re interested in joining the 182 academics and PhDs from around the University who have already written for The Conversation please do get in touch with me via .


Encouraging shift in how our students rate our research reputation

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📥  Research news, Sector news

Data is back from the latest Higher Expectations Survey 2015 and there’s an encouraging sign when it comes to how our students rate the University’s reputation for research excellence.

When asked the question - ‘Thinking back to when you were choosing universities, do you agree or disagree that your university had good research reputation?’ – more of our first year undergraduates than ever before tended to ‘strongly agree’.

Highest ever jump

In fact, for this latest reporting period, we recorded our highest ever jump, by around 10%, which is an important shift in perceptions after nearly 10 years of flat-lining on this figure.

Of course there are caveats with data like this, and of course there is clearly much more we can still do, but it’s a positive sign that things appear to be moving in the right direction and it's useful insight as we look towards the next academic year.

Come September when the next cohort of undergraduates arrive, we’ll use these results as a springboard to further improve the connections we make between our research and our efforts in student recruitment and delivering all-round student experience.

Finding innovative ways to link them all together presents a powerful message about the kind of unique offering here at Bath.

There's been an important shift in how our students rate our research.

New data from the Higher Expectations Survey shows there's been an important shift in how our students rate research here at Bath.


Getting the message out

Over the past few years our media team, with colleagues around the University, has done lots to increase the profile of our research externally, but it’s important this is reflected back here on campus too.

New research displays, aligned to the 50th Anniversary, and finding more opportunities to get our research reported through student media are just two of the projects I’m currently working on to strengthen this.

There’s a clear opportunity to involve our own students more directly in getting messages out about Bath research too, be that through Impact or URB or even by writing commissioned articles for sector press, arranged through the press office.

Not only does this kind of activity help us share our success stories, but it gives our students a chance to become more involved in projects and use their knowledge to translate messages about our research to different audiences. All useful CV-beating tips.

If you have other thoughts or ideas about involving our students more in research marketing and communications please drop me a line.


Name-checked on Netflix

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📥  Research news

It’s often hard to know in advance of its release just how far and wide a news story about our research will travel.

In December, when my colleague Rob sat down with Chris Chuck (Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies and Department of Chemical Engineering) to discuss this story about news of significant new funding to develop a yeast-based alternative to palm oil, neither – I imagine – would have predicted that six months on this work would be referenced on a hit, prime-time US TV show.

But that’s just what’s happened.

Via a tweet from former CSCT PhD Rhod Jenkins, we were alerted this week to a recent episode of Grace and Frankie - the America comedy drama starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin currently streaming on Netflix – and a specific scene where the character Frankie, the hippy art teacher played by Tomlin, quite incredibly, talks directly about Chris’ work.

Frankie tells Grace:

“The word is yeast. I’ve done some research and I’ve found that scientists at the University of Bath believe yeast will duplicate palm oil’s key properties almost exactly.”

We think this must be a first for our research, so please do catch it (Season 2, Episode 10) if you’re on Netflix! Thanks very much to Rhod too, who is currently working as a Post-Doc researching sustainable biofuels at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Extensive media coverage

In truth Netflix's Grace and Frankie is just the latest in a long list of media around the world to have picked up on this research. What started out as a news item for regional print, radio and TV, soon became a national story featured by UK broadsheets, before spreading around the world, most significantly perhaps thanks to coverage by Reuters US.

This has helped generate a huge buzz around Chris’ work, including in the sector in influential trade publications. This extensive coverage has helped Chris reach future collaborators and industry partners – proving just why media engagement can be an important pathway to impact.

And if all that media coverage wasn’t enough, Upworthy have also drawn on the work for a campaigning video shared widely on Facebook. This has already been seen by nearly 100,000 people.

Finally, if you missed it at the time, here's the initial video we created that started the ball rolling in the first place!