“I’ve never been in a gym before!” – How many people can say at the age of 24 years they’ve never been in a gym before?

barbell on rack

Exercising in community gyms is one way of increasing physical activity levels in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. This helps to improve our physical and mental health. It also reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions in the future. However, research tells us there are limited opportunities for adults with childhood onset physical disabilities to participate in exercise in their communities. New research from the Centre for Health and Rehabilitation Technologies, Ulster University has been exploring the practicalities of …

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Queen’s and Ulster University come together once again for the annual Festival of Social Science.

This year, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science in Northern Ireland will run from 31 October to 13 November and will feature 22 free events organised by social science academics from both universities. The UK-wide Festival aims to open up social science research to new audiences by showing how such research influences our everyday lives. Now in its landmark 20th year, the Festival has returned to mainly in-person talks, workshops, walking tours and even a bit of …

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The trouble with teaching ‘the Troubles’…

teacher, learning, school

The final episode of Derry Girls (spoiler alert) covered the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (GFA) with wit and plenty of pathos. After its broadcast, social media was full of older viewers reporting that they had quite forgotten the challenges that many people across the island of Ireland faced when deciding to support unpalatable aspects of the agreement, such as the release of prisoners. The younger adults were open about being entirely unaware of the context of this peace settlement which ended …

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A game changer for religion and education?

Young women with eyes focused on the soccer ball while controlling it during a girl football match.

There’s a world of difference between the jumpers-for-goalposts kickabout in the school playground and the type of free-flowing, high-quality football being played currently at the Euros in England. Most notable is the way in which skilful players read the game and move to occupy empty space rather than engage in a chaotic free-for-all where everyone runs to cluster around the ball. Sadly, the media often bear a greater resemblance to a primary school soccer scrummage than the beautiful game being …

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Citizenship – have we failed to prepare young people to exercise their vote on May 5th, and does this suit politicians just fine?

Polling Station sign in the UK

As we approach an election in Northern Ireland, the signs are that more young people than ever are registered on the electoral roll. The Chief Electoral Officer further encouraged participation in the election by writing to schools asking for their help in encouraging those aged 18 and over to exercise their right to vote. In the UK, the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1970 but, back in 2015, the BBC ran a story entitled “Much of …

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Branagh’s Belfast and our divided education system…

Belfast, the film, has just landed Kenneth Branagh an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It is a cracking film, if you have not yet seen it, and it is recommended. But, not to dissuade anyone from going to view it, the film does take a few historical liberties. Those of us who lived in Belfast at the time when the film is set might raise an eyebrow or two at the sight of vigilantes with burning torches held aloft as …

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The Witches Are Coming: Witchcraft, Misogyny, Politics, Gurnin’ & NI…

wall, art, mural

By Dr Victoria McCollum, Researcher & Educator: Cinematic Arts, Ulster University, Magee (Derry)  Widespread social interest in the supernatural, mystical, and magical is alive and well today. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a booster for supernatural belief, especially witchcraft and magic. A challenging and uncertain present, coupled to an unknown, scary future has sent us in droves to seek the divinatory prowess of mediums and fortune-tellers. And easier than ever before, one can book a fall-equinox ritual …

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Who’s afraid of the Integrated Education Bill… and why?

teacher, learning, school

Polls consistently show that around 70% of parents want to send their children to a mixed school. There are many familiar celebrity advocates for cross-community schooling – Liam Neeson, Paddy Kielty, Adrian Dunbar and Carl Frampton have all been vociferous in their support for Integrated education. This throng has recently been swollen by controversial contributions from President Michael D Higgins and the NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. In the face of considerable hullabaloo in the media, the established, segregated …

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Two education systems divided by a common century…

notebook, hand, pen

The unification of Ireland, or is it the reunification, seems to be all over the media at the moment. While seemingly irreconcilable differences on what to call the day after Christmas Day seem to be intractable, in some quarters a United Ireland seems to be viewed as inevitable and impending. However, a recent poll in the south suggested that, while the people there wanted it, they were not happy about changing anything to accommodate their northern neighbours, even relatively simple …

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The fourth ‘R’ – the role of religion in the segregation of schools…

teacher, learning, school

Standing shoulder to shoulder at a recent ecumenical event to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland, men of the cloth from the Catholic Church and three Protestant denominations declared that: “the churches could have done more to deepen our understanding of each other and to bring healing and peace to our divided and wounded communities.” Few of those who live on this troubled and contested island would argue with that brave and bold confession, but, in this age of the …

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Research findings from Ulster University on supporting families when mum or dad is at end of life from cancer highlights ‘don’t forget the children’…

children, road, supportive

When a parent with young children is diagnosed with incurable cancer, this has an immediate and devastating impact not only for the person hearing the diagnosis, but for the whole family. New research findings from the ‘Family-centred Cancer Care’ programme of work led by a team of researchers at the Institute of Nursing and Health Research, Ulster University has been addressing how parents often need advice and support to navigate these unchartered waters. Health and social care professionals are well …

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Data, Air Pollution and Health in Northern Ireland…

industry, sunrise, fog

Air pollution has become much more widely recognised as a public health issue in recent years. In 2020 a London coroner ruled that air pollution was a contributing factor in the 2013 death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, citing a failure to reduce air pollution to legal limits. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on health has been called further into question. As researchers we were keen to understand how exposure to air pollution might impact health …

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ESRC Festival: Exploring Belfast’s Medical Past…

aircraft carrier infirmary, hospital, navy

The 2020 COVID pandemic turned Belfast into a desolate city. Shops, schools, pubs, restaurants, churches all closed. The city’s usually bustling streets took on an eerie atmosphere. The lack of cars, planes and taxis created an ominous silence. Part of COVID’s defining experience was how unique it felt to us. We hadn’t experienced a pandemic for an entire century since the 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed 50,000,000 people worldwide. However, historically, disease outbreaks were a day-to-day occurrence and part of life. …

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A ‘single system of education’: the beginning of the end for segregated schools?

Many years ago anyone with half-a-titter-of-wit realised that the configuration of education in Northern Ireland was restricting the possibility of restoring fractured community relations. With the exception of the wilfully ignorant, no one has seriously argued that those children who attend separated schools in a segregated system are being adequately prepared for future engagement in an inclusive, egalitarian, peaceful society. Finally, these simple truths seem also to be dawning on our politicians. The New Decade New Approach agreement that brought …

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ESRC Virtual Festival – Beyond the Touchline: Grassroots football and radical politics…

Football has always been political. Its widespread global following and the deep dedication of fans make it a platform through which socio-political issues play out. As philosopher – and avid football fan – Jacques Derrida once claimed: “Beyond the touchline, there is nothing.” In other words, the social, economic, political and cultural events of the wider world manifest in the stadium and through the game, its players and fans. Recent times have seen high profile examples of this, including Marcus …

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ESRC Virtual Festival – Music Creators’ Earnings in the Streaming Age…

Music makes a significant contribution to the UK economy and to the perception of the UK globally. As of 2019, UK music contributes £5.2 billion to the UK economy and is the world’s second biggest market. But what is the music business without creators? Music creators are vital to the future of our cultural experience and the cultural economy, and so it is important to understand how they are financially rewarded, and the extent to which it is possible to …

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ESRC Virtual Festival – The social power of language: mansplaining…

The neologism “mansplaining” generally describes a sexist behaviour whereby a man explains something to a woman in a patronising way, something which she already knows. The term was coined over a decade ago and since then it has sparked numerous debates about what is and what isn’t mansplaining. Some forms of sexist behaviour are relatively clear to spot and call out, like gendered adverts featuring women using cleaning products or cooking for their families, or institutionalised forms of sexism whereby …

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ESRC Virtual Festival – Difficult conversations: when complaint communication falls short of patient expectations…

Catrin S Rhys (Ulster University), Bethan Benwell (Stirling University) & Jack B. Joyce (Ulster University) Real Complaints: www.realcomplaints.org In 2019/20, HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland received a total of 4,370 complaints, relating to 6,105 complaint issues. This equates to 84 complaints per week or approximately 12 complaints per day. Complaints about healthcare can be a positive; they can resolve problems for patients in the short term and in the longer term, they can help to improve services for other patients. …

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What does behavioural science have to do with safe water interventions?

Over half of the world’s population lack safely managed sanitation services, while at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces (WHO, 2017). This causes diarrhoeal disease which is responsible for the death of around half a million children under the age of 5 each year (WHO, 2017). Without the adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions in place, risks of contamination are everywhere, and practices that pose a risk to health become highly prevalent. Examples …

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Book your free tickets for a 2020 ESRC Virtual Festival of Social Science…

This year, the Festival will be completely virtual so you can join in wherever you are. Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University have come together to produce an exciting virtual programme of talks, screenings and workshops that showcase the range and quality of social science-based research carried out by our academics – everything from fake news to streaming and Brexit to the Covid lockdown. The annual Festival of Social Science offers a fascinating insight into our social science research and …

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