From the welfare of working animals and supporting gender equality in India, to forecasting space weather and levitating water on Mars, it has been an amazing 12 months for research at the OU. Here are five that will knock your Christmas socks off.
1. Improving the welfare of working animals
The OU Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) Lab, which is dedicated to researching and developing interactive technology to support animals, improve their welfare and foster positive human-animal relationships, is developing a portable toolkit for Mobility Assistance Dogs and their assisted humans through its Dog-Smart Homes project. The technology, which can be fitted around the home, will be tailored to the sensory, cognitive and physical characteristics of dogs enabling them to easily operate doors, lights and other domestic appliances.
Head of the OU Animal-Computer Interaction Lab, Dr Clara Mancini, said:
We are concerned about the challenges faced on a day-to-day basis by working dogs, who are required to interact with environments that are designed to be accessible to humans, but that are hardly accessible to dogs.
2. Boom in number of women in IT in India
IT has become the flagship industry and the bedrock of India’s recent presence on the global stage. The sector has relatively high, and increasing, numbers of women in IT in India in comparison to the small and falling numbers of women in this sector in the Western world.
Academics from the OU contributed to the spring Scorecard-India, Gender, Skilled Migration and IT. It focuses on why the IT sector in India manages to employ and retain women in highly-skilled roles, comparing the experiences of women in the IT sector in India and the UK. The research also aims to gain insights from migrant women and men who move between the two countries to understand both the gender norms and the best practice in each country.
3. Mental health and wellbeing in LGBQ youth
Chair of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University, Professor Jacqui Gabb, is collaborating with academics at the University of Lancaster to understand the impact of family relationships on the mental health of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ). Her research will focus on how the family environment influences mental health, and this evidence will be used to develop family-based interventions to improve LGBQ youth mental health and wellbeing.
4. Understanding the dangers of space weather
A team of international scientists, including academics from the OU, were awarded £3 million from the UK Space Agency to develop an instrument to research how the Earth’s atmosphere responds to powerful solar winds. SMILE (the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer), will address our gaps in knowledge about the relationship between the Earth and our Sun by generating, for the first time ever, global imaging of the Earth’s magnetosphere and its dynamic response to solar wind (i.e. charged particles emitted from the Sun).
5. What formed the recent Martian landscape?
Scientists from the OU discovered a new phenomenon that could explain the long-debated mystery of how recent land features on Mars are formed in the absence of significant amounts of water. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at The Open University, Dr Jan Raack, explains more:
For more about research at the OU, visit our Research website.