Research highlights in 2012
Professor Alan Simpson
Professor of Collaborative Mental Health Nursing, School of Health Sciences
As is clear from his title, Professor Alan Simpson regards collaboration and user involvement in mental health practice and education as crucial for both improving treatment and the research process.
Professor Simpson joined City in 2001 and has helped place the University in the vanguard of research into the power of collaboration. As part of his examination of the therapeutic potential of collaboration, Professor Simpson recently completed a randomised controlled trial, designed to study whether peer support provided by service users will help patients cope better following discharge from psychiatric hospital. The project yielded good qualitative evidence suggesting that people who received peer support found it very helpful. Meanwhile, the peer support workers themselves reported higher levels of confidence, self-esteem and understanding of their own recovery.
The Mental Health Research team also conducted research into the physical health needs of people with severe mental illness, leading to the development of interventions aimed at improving the wellbeing of this especially vulnerable group. Professor Simpson's own research extends to the student experience and tracks the relationship between emotional intelligence and the progress of mental health nursing students over several years. The collaborative theme is also reflected in an initiative developed in partnership with the East London Foundation NHS Trust, which has funded several of its senior clinicians to undertake the MSc in Health Services Research at City. Attending the team's fortnightly research meeting and contributing their own experiences and insight to the discussion, these 'clinical academics' embody the spirit that informs Professor Simpson's work.
Professor Jo Wood
Professor of Visual Analytics, School of Informatics
In January, Professor Jo Wood won City's 2012 University Research Competition. As his work demonstrates, the purpose of visual analytics is to help make sense of information generated in an increasingly digitised world.
Incredibly, humanity now produces as much raw data in 48 hours as it managed to accumulate in its entire history to 2003. But, as Professor Wood is keen to point out, not all of this outpouring of information may be especially useful.
Describing visual analytics as valuable to anybody who wants to make pictures out of complex data sets, Professor Wood leads modules on data visualisation for students in the School of Informatics and across the University. His recent research project with Transport for London considered the behaviour of users of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, turning data from some 18,000,000 journeys into a fascinating snapshot of travel patterns in the capital. The resulting computer animation is both a feat of number crunching and a beautiful, fluid work of art. More important than aesthetics, however, is the potential to use this deeper understanding to inform the placement of new bicycle docking stations and help match supply and demand across the network.
Professor Wood's background in cartography can be seen throughout his research. His spatial tree maps, which simplify geographical aspects to create space for the presentation of demographic data, have enabled Leicestershire County Council to evaluate better the need for public transport in the region, while analysis of London's 2010 local elections offered a provocative glimpse of the factors influencing voter behaviour.