Bridging the Gaps Rotating Header Image

Climate Knowledge Exchange Network

This interactive workshop on the communication of climate change and maximisation of impact considered how Exeter might build a sustained approach towards impact generation through establishment of a new Climate Knowledge Exchange Network and how such a network would function and benefit stakeholders.

The University’s Science Strategy has enabled Exeter to become a World leading centre for Climate Change research in the natural and social sciences, spearheaded by the Climate Change and Sustainable Futures theme. In light of the forthcoming REF 2014 and the increasing emphasis on generating meaningful social and economic impacts from scientific research, this workshop brought together climate researchers and key policy makers to explore the ways in which academic research on climate change can achieve maximum impact, alongside enabling the scientific community to better understand how its research is used by, and communicated to, policy makers, practitioners and publics.

For more information visit the Bridging the Gaps website.

Stephen Hodge on Second Life

2nd Live



This is another Exeter Academics project on Second life. This performance space is the home to academic group 2nd Live, who explore Secondlife with mind to how space is used and ideas of performance.

Dr Hodge has spent five years in secondlife both personally and for his research into how virtual performance works,

The methodology for introduction into secondlife performance space. Stephen implemented a demonstration to the virtual environment via a 1 to 1 instruction session to improve participants adoption of the software.  This then fed into  a 20 minutes workshop with the secondlife artist Niki McCretton (aka Pipsi Bracken in SL) who had a set up of a 2 computers to facilitate for his interactive dance performance experience, Viral Duets.

Peter Ashwin interview

As the deputy chair for the Bridging the Gaps project, Professor Peter Ashwin has been working on the project since its inception. We spoke recently about his involvement in the project and what he hopes other academics will get out of the experience.

How did you get involved?

“I was involved with the Swindon interview with EPSRC, where the application was formally reviewed and refined. We acquired the funding for Helen’s time and a pot for pump priming a multitude of projects with additional funding for flexible support for other projects.”

What’s your particle motivation for being involved?

“I have always had an interested in cross-disciplinary research, you see mathematics (his subject area) is about developing a language that is abstract and universal. In my time at Exeter I have worked with people from all manner of disciplines, biologists, engineers and a range of other disciplines. I want to widen the interest other academics have in cross-disciplinary research. I think the challenge to academics and institutions in the coming years, especially with the cuts to funds, is to find new areas of research to explores. New avenues. The first step is to break down the boundaries between disciplines to open up new research opportunities. To remove silo thinking.”

Silo thinking?

“There’s certainly a tendency across all disciplines to embrace one’s specialist area to the exclusion of other potential collaborative opportunities.”

Do you anticipate some resistance to the remit of Bridging the Gaps? What challenges are you expecting?

“I think the biggest challenge or the misunderstanding some will have is that this somehow signifies the end of discipline based research. Which simply isn’ t true, there will always be a need for subject specific research it is an ingrained part of the academic structure. The message we want people to take away from Bridging the Gaps is that there are a range of activities, come have a look even if it is just a passing interest, give it a go and you may be surprised by what you learn or discover.”

Imperial College London: Postgraduate Medical School

Imperial College London Medical School_001


This is a medical simulation for clinical nurses to practice without endangering any patients. By conducting this in SL, the training sessions can also be recorded to derive best practice and trainee staff can observe and comment on their own performance. It is a very detailed simulation, providing the entire hospital experience for medical students to grow accustomed to their future surroundings and allowing a sense of detachment from patients. A variety of features demonstrate the possible future of medical education and technology.

One Climate Sim

one climate_001


Description: displays and events with a focus on climate change and related topics.

The Carbon Calculator, the eco spiral and friendly layout on a small island. This demonstrates some creative ways of displaying information, although some elements feel unnecessary and overdone. What are the potential research applications for this place? It’s an educational resource with only a meeting or collaborative function space. Although it is frequently updated with new features there is little room to actually work and with the large amount of prim heavy displays and animations.

Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics (MICA) Sim

one climate_002



This informative astrophysics discussion location is a useful meeting place for educators/ researchers in the field; some clever displays and exhibitions demonstrating the potential for a great deal more; also a swell beach hut. Only a handful of displays more build for the academic event, the lecture or seminar to be conduct in one of the many excellent discussion areas. Which is fine but for the odd explorer wanting to learning something new when nothing is on it can be a quite discouraging. Also there are too many trees, so that the island doesn’t ‘rez’ (i.e. appear) properly on arrival, which can be quite jarring. Especially troublesome if your computer is not a high end gaming machine. This kind of decadence with a virtual environment just can’t be afforded by the actually economy of graphic processing ability.



The visual feel of this site really highlights the innovative and imaginative ways in which virtual spaces can surpass the real educational environment.

It may be a great demonstration of what can be built in SL, but there is little signage or information.

The Particle Laboratory

Particle Lab_001


Learn how to script particle physics! Every facet of particle creation for SL is covered in this in-depth tutorial. Particles function as prims on microscopic scale whereby you can add a significant number of particles to your prim to create a variety of visual effects. Just as with prims particles can be added scripts to give the particles behaviours and actions however these are somewhat limited compared to regular scripts. You have to tour each section in set order or else what you are learning is liable to be confusing.

Now this is a particular point I want to focus on. If imagine for a moment that the information about creating particles was distilled into book form and you were reading this text book With a textbook in the real world you start at the front read left to right to the bottom of the page and turn the page when you have finished each page. When the information is dispersed across a virtual landscape such as this, the designer needs to construct an environment that clearly guides the user and their avatar through the information in relevant order.  With the particle laboratory this has been largely well realised, each “chapter” is clearly marked with sub headings and the relevant information is sequential arranged so that you can clearly see the logical connection between one “page” and the next. There is even a sandbox in the middle of the location for testing out your new techniques.

IBM’s Almaden Sim

IBM almaden_001


For the computer enthusiast, this site makes excellent use of sign posting and layout; the sky pod in particular highlights some interesting features. It focus on some of the sponsored research projects being led by IBM’s investment in new computer and biosciences research. There are a few displays listing some PowerPoint slides detailing IBM research projects globally, one helpfully depicting a world map.

Tox Town Virtual NLM

"The entire town from a birds eye view"

"The entire town from a birds eye view"


A virtual slice of small town America, providing examinations for environmental health students, which highlights one of the main advantages of SL: that it can provide a 3D immersive environment where a real environment would be too dangerous, impractical or expensive for students to use.

This is an excellent use of a virtual environment, but beyond teaching students, this type of simulation doesn’t appear to have much research potential. One possibility might be to use it as an information-gathering tool responding to how people interact with virtual threats as opposed to real ones, since it includes dangers that are often overlooked by members of the public. Primarily however this is a teaching tool, there is a significant level of detail as to enable students to observe a number of different potential hazards.

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