It’s been a busy year here at Research Outreach. We’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with researchers working on projects that span some of 2021’s most talked-about topics, including the impact of social media on public discourse, the effectiveness of face masks, and innovations in financial technology. Read on to explore our top ten most popular articles of 2021 – as always, our articles are free to access!
In at number 10: Investigating the healing arts of Ancient Mesopotamia
Barbara Boeck, of the Institute for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, CSIC Madrid, has studied the cuneiform records of Ancient Mesopotamia to explore their healing methods. With a particular focus on medicinal plants and the practice of divination, she set out to discover how Babylonian practitioners treated their patients, what medicinal plants they recommended for which illnesses, and how they explained pain and illness.
Communication technologies lie at the heart of every society, and their structural biases contribute to many of our social biases. The use of social media, and especially Twitter, by former US president Trump offers a case study in how the rise of social media is driving populism, divisive rhetoric, and harm to our socio-political landscape. Dr Brian Ott at Missouri State University and Dr Greg Dickinson at Colorado State University have identified three fundamental biases of Twitter – simplicity, impulsivity, and incivility – each of which were leveraged by @realDonaldTrump.
Prof James Walker of the Department of Languages and Linguistics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, is a sociolinguistic expert who has conducted extensive research on the English language in various parts of the world, including North America and the Caribbean. Together with Prof Miriam Meyerhoff at the University of Oxford, UK, their research focuses on different vowel pronunciations and how they pivot, shift and merge to form the different accents of people from different parts of the world. In this article, we look at their research on the eastern Caribbean island of Bequia regarding low-back vowel pronunciations in English.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses, and social isolation can be a major source of contributing stress. Medications to treat these disorders, such as benzodiazepines, are available; however, they come with a range of downsides. In a recent study in mice, Prof Jing Liang’s team at the USC School of Pharmacy in the US discovered that a chemical called dihydromyricetin could have potential as a new treatment for anxiety disorders.
FinTech, within the broader context of financial innovation, is disrupting the financial services industry in every aspect. However, its ability to thrive and scale, especially across borders, faces numerous challenges. Professor Anne-Laure Mention, Director of the Global Business Innovation Enabling Capability Platform at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, has made a significant contribution to our understanding of FinTech and Open Innovation, through the trajectory of her work in the last decade, and most recently in her paper “The Age of FinTech”. In this paper, she identifies the building blocks required for a successful future of the FinTech industry.
Binge eating is an important feature of two serious mental health conditions: bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. While medication can be helpful in treating patients with these illnesses, currently just two drugs are approved for this purpose. Professor Susan McElroy of the Lindner Center of HOPE, Ohio, USA, leads research into potential new medications for binge eating conditions. Professor McElroy and her colleagues recently assessed the potential of existing medications in treating these challenging illnesses.
Nearly two decades ago, a genetically modified type of cotton, known as Bt cotton, was introduced to India to reduce farmers’ insecticide use. Today, researchers want to understand the effects that the introduction of this new cotton crop has had on Indian farmers. Using advanced statistical methods, Professor Ian Plewis from the University of Manchester investigates the effect of Bt cotton on farmers’ expenditure on insecticides, cotton yield, and profits, across Indian states.
Diabetes is a global health problem expected to affect nearly seven percent of the world’s population by 2035. Treatment broadly focuses on regulating glucose levels, and an increase in the range of pharmacological options means that it is usually possible to manage the condition. However, diabetes cannot be cured. Professor Yoshifumi Saisho from Keio University, Japan, advocates moving the focus away from glucose levels and towards protecting pancreatic beta cell mass – the cells which produce insulin – to prevent patients from developing type 2 diabetes and to promote a healthy lifestyle.
One of the defining issues of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to prevent its spread is inter-household transmission. Among the many policies and guidelines implemented, masks have been one of the most important and are now required wearing in the public spaces of many countries. But what if the masks we currently wear aren’t good enough? Researcher Devabhaktuni Srikrishna models the use of masks in different indoor scenarios. His MedRxiv preprint explores how N95 masks (FFP2 in Europe) or masks with high-fit/filtration (hi-fi) could be significantly more effective at preventing the inter-household spread of COVID-19. These masks could save lives, and if used consistently by a sufficiently large majority of people (in conjunction with sensible hygiene) could help to control the pandemic within several weeks.
And our most popular article published in 2021 is…
Ultra-high dose rate (FLASH) radiotherapy is a new way of treating tumours caused by cancer. Higher doses of radiotherapy are associated with trauma to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumour, whereas FLASH radiotherapy demonstrates a sparing effect of the healthy tissues without compromising the anti-tumour action. Dr Kristoffer Petersson at the Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology, University of Oxford, along with collaborators Joseph D. Wilson, Ester M. Hammond and Geoff S. Higgins, review the available data on FLASH radiotherapy and its clinical potential in the treatment of cancer.
Thank you for reading – we look forward to keeping you up to date with new research in 2022!