Friday, October 16, 2015

New group to tackle hate crime

Summit announces Independent Advisory Group to be created
The next steps in preventing and eradicating hate crime in Scotland have been discussed at a Scottish Government summit today.
Hosted by the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, the event was held in Edinburgh and included a range of attendees representing minority communities, key stakeholders and public authorities from across Scotland.
The summit reflected on progress made to date in tackling hate crime and, crucially, outlined the next steps that will be taken, including the creation of a new Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, that will be led by Dr Duncan Morrow*.
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse said:
“There is absolutely no place for bigotry and prejudice in Scotland and this Government is clear that any form of hate crime is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in 21st century Scotland.
“We have already invested more than £80 million since 2012 to advance equality and tackle discrimination and I am confident that progress is being made.
“The overall number of hate crimes reported in Scotland have fallen compared to last year’s statistics, but we know that certain communities are less likely to report crimes of this nature. For our part, we remain absolutely committed to doing all we can as a Government to tackle inequality and create and support safer and stronger communities for all.
“That is why I am pleased to announce that we are establishing an Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion and I am delighted that this group will be chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow, who I greatly respect.
“Today’s event will allow us to consult with Dr Morrow, and other relevant stakeholders, on the full remit and membership of the group before its work gets underway. Of course the main purpose of the group is to provide evidenced findings and recommendations which the Scottish Government can take forward in partnership with communities to help eliminate hate crime for good.
“Scotland is becoming a more inclusive country and this is very much to be welcomed. We want everyone in our communities to live safely and without fear and today’s summit takes us one step closer to making this vision a reality.”
The summit also discussed the research report “What Works to Reduce Prejudice? A Review of the Evidence” which was published this morning.
The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government to review the evidence on activities and interventions that have been used to reduce prejudice previously.
Main findings include:

  • There are two main theories of prejudice reduction - ‘Contact’ where exposure to others reduces prejudice itself and ‘education’ where information about other groups provides a challenge to negative attitudes;
  • Sustained activities have more impact than short-term interventions; and
  • Overly dramatic and factually incorrect interpretations of prejudice for the purpose of ‘hard hitting’ messages could risk alienating sections of the audience

The Minister added:
“This research published today is yet another tool in our armory in the fight against prejudice in Scotland. We will examine the findings closely and ensure any key lessons are incorporated into our approach going forward.
“We want Scotland to be a modern, inclusive country where diversity is celebrated. If we are going to achieve this we have to eliminate all forms of hate crime once and for all.”
Dr Duncan Morrow, Chair of the newly created Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion said:
“Hate crime and prejudice, regardless of whether this is violent or expressed through verbal comments and passive behaviours, has a corrosive and damaging effect on individuals and communities. It undermines community cohesion, isolates and alienates individuals and generates fear and mistrust of those who appear to be different from ourselves.
“My previous work with the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland highlighted an enormous desire for change among communities and agencies across Scotland which will allow us to tackle insidious social issues like hate crime in respectful ways.
“I am delighted to have been invited to chair this new Independent Advisory Group and look forward to working with the many committed individuals and organisations who recognise that being truly inclusive is central to all modern and forward looking countries.”
*Dr Duncan Morrow is the director of community engagement at the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at the University of Ulster. He previously chaired the Independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism which published its final report back to Ministers in May 2015.
The publication “What works to reduce prejudice? – a review of the evidence” is available here:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The architecture of impact: Obtaining reparations for indigenous survivors of 'Indian' residential schools

In the first of the occasional seminars series 'Conversations with leaders in impact' hosted by IRISS, researchers were treated to a master-class by Professor Kathleen Mahoney.

Professor Mahoney is one of Canada's most respected socio-legal scholars who has been at the forefront of efforts to obtain redress for survivors of 'Indian' residential schools.

In her presentation Professor Mahoney looked at the complex social architecture that translates robust research into meaningful impact that helps delivers social justice.

At the heart of her approach were a number of core pillars:

  1. Rigorous, interdisciplinary research that provides a solid evidence base for action.
  2. Coalitions of academics who can stand behind the research and defend it in the face of official resistance.
  3. Carefully constructed civil society coalitions who can collaborate in research design, and can mobilise behind the recommendations.
  4. Organising conferences and workshops that build bridges and bonds between diverse social networks.
  5. Strategic interventions that apply pressure to state-actors, using a range of formal and informal levers, such as litigation.
  6. Expectation management - ensuring all stakeholders are aware of what is achievable in the circumstances. 
Professor Mahoney's intimate portrait of a profoundly successful indigenous struggle for redress, brought home the important role collective action plays in mobilising forms of social capital that can successfully shift the political terrain, bringing about sea changes in state policy. It also demonstrated that strong social relationships and civic duty are the glue that keep these networks together in the face of official resistance.

IRISS' next seminar from this series will feature Professor Jill Manthorpe (King's College, London). 
In this session Prof Jill Manthorpe will draw on lessons for Social Work and related research from Research Exercise Frameworks and similar systems to consider how research can evidence it is useful, usable and used. Jill will provide examples of 'building blocks' to impact and illustrate the value of looking in retrospect to what made differences to policy and practice.

It will take place on  27 October, Room 3A02a, (video conf room MC114 Magee & room H215 Coleraine) 10.15-11:45.

Colleagues can RSVP for this event by emailing Deborah Coey:  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Australia’s aid policy and Papua New Guinea: Tackling cultures of corruption

Introductory Statement to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, 22 September 2015
Dr Kristian Lasslett

Ulster's Dr Kristian Lasslett offers policy advice to the Australian government drawing on his research into corruption with the International State Crime Initiative. 
The concern that my colleagues and I have with respect to Australia’s aid policy in Papua New Guinea, is that it is strongly driven by ideology and lacks a firm grounding in the empirical reality of PNG. In short, Australia’s current strategy appears to accept that aid should be directed towards creating policies and infrastructure that would make PNG a more attractive environment for business, which in turn will create the levels of growth and income essential to the country’s human development goals.
However, this aspiration needs to be tempered with a much greater acknowledgement of the market distorting factors currently operating in Papua New Guinea, which the private sector is deeply enmeshed within, rather than a remedy to.
The reality is regardless of the sector you want to name, many businesses have no intention on providing goods and services at a price that would be dictated by a healthy functioning market economy. Rather, businesses are supplying goods and services in order to charge exorbitant prices that in effect defraud the Papua New Guinea government and Papua New Guinea citizens of their finite revenues. These contracts, projects, services and goods frequently contravene the Public Finance (Management) Act, the Criminal Code, the Land Act, the Investment Promotion Authority Act and various other laws, with impunity.
For example, we have seen numerous Commissions of Inquiry launched in Papua New Guinea, led by esteemed members of the judiciary, which have reached damning conclusions about the cultures of corruption currently pervading the private and public sector.
Most recently, the Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural and Business Leases concluded, and I quote: ‘With corrupt government officials from implementing agencies riding shotgun for them, opportunistic loggers masquerading as agro-forestry developers are prowling our countryside, scoping opportunities to take advantage of gullible landowners and desperate for cash clan leaders’.
Of similar concern, a Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance found that the legal industry in Papua New Guinea was working hand in glove with state officials to settle out of court vexatious claims, for many of millions of dollars, with the proceeds being shared among the criminal conspirators.
And before that inquiry, we had the well-known Commission of Inquiry into the National Provident Fund, which in this case uncovered criminal conspiracies to defraud workers of their superannuation. Corporate managers, private sector consultants and government officials were all involved, a number of whom have been found guilty of misappropriation under the Criminal Code and sentenced to prison.
If we turn our attention to the often judicious reporting provided by the Public Accounts Committee and Auditor General’s Office we find similarly damning conclusions. For example, following an inquiry into the Department of Lands and Physical Planning, the Public Accounts Committee concluded in 2007, and I quote again: ‘The Department of Lands and Physical Planning has become an arm of private enterprise [who is] responsible for allocating Leases regardless of the Law and to the very considerable cost of the State and the citizens of Papua New Guinea’.
So it might be said, in contrast to the thrust of Australia’s aid policy, Papua New Guinea does not suffer from a lack of private sector involvement, it suffers from a surplus of private sector involvement, which has led to a breakdown of functioning markets, massive price distortion, misallocation of resources, misappropriation on a grand scale and grave human rights abuses, particularly in the extractive industries. And I should emphasise here, Australian businesses are heavily involved in the graft and abuse.
So at present Australia’s aid policy places the cart before the horse. Serious attention needs to be devoted to the delivery of aid in ways that can build capacity and environments that rid both the private and public sector of these pervasive cultures of corruption and lawlessness, that lead to misappropriation, price distortion and human rights abuse. This will require a significant investment in civil society, a sector which can legitimately claim to be desperately underfunded and weak. It is our experience that a strong civil society helps keep the public and private sector to account, in a way that can support both human development goals and markets that are more responsive to consumer needs and human rights.
This agenda will demand significant aid investment in education and capacity building at all levels, it will also require the development of new and meaningful connections with different elements of civil society, ranging from NGOs through to higher education institutions and the media. And of course, there is a deep reservoir of experience within the Auditor General’s Office, the Public Accounts Committee and the Ombudsman Commission that could be drawn on. All in all, it will require an extensive process of consultation, which is sensitive to the genuine efforts being made within the PNG government to address these issues.
In our submission to the committee, the International State Crime Initiative has attempted to the sketch some ideas for constructive paths forward that can create the type of context and environment which will ensure future investment and private sector involvement aids human development, good governance and human rights objectives, rather than hinders them. And I should emphasise these suggestions and reflections are built off over a decade of trenchant research into the criminal forms of misappropriation and human rights abuses, which I noted earlier.  Thank you.
* The International State Crime Initiative’s submission to the Senate Committee can be downloaded via this link

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Research Graduate School Events Committee holds first event 'ask an academic'

Ulster PhD student Danielle Roberts discusses the exciting menu of events being organised by post-graduate researchers in social sciences at UU, beginning with a rich account of their first event for 2015/16, 'Ask an Academic'.

Recently the Research Graduate School (RGS) PhD events committee held the first of a programme of events which will aim to facilitate the development of necessary skills to complete a PhD in a collaborative peer to peer setting. We hope to attract a diverse range of post-graduate students from the disciplines related to the RGS, across all Ulster University campuses to forge a supportive post graduate network.

Our first event was entitled ‘Ask an Academic’. We were lucky enough to have three academics volunteer to take the hotseat, Jackie Reilly; Head of the Research Graduate School in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Dr Markus Ketola; Lecturer, School of Criminology Politics & Social Policy, and  Dr Anne Moorhead; Lecturer in Health and Interpersonal Communication. Each academic gave us an overview of their route into academia. Their experiences were all different and demonstrated how every post-graduate will have an individual story to tell as we progress in our chosen field.  The floor was then open for questions.

Key points coming out of the Q and A session were the importance of time management, the benefits of publishing and encouragement to take up opportunities that are provided during the course of PhD study. The importance of managing competing demands on one’s time was discussed. The benefits of using lists and diaries were extolled, however the need to remain flexible is also important. All of us will have demands outside of our PhD and it is important that we can work in a way that lets us have a work/life balance. Quantifiable goals can be a useful way to keep motivation up and work progressing – for example set a target of a number of words to write or articles to read in a day, and tick off your list when you have completed the tasks! Publications are important as a way of getting your name out there, and demonstrating that you are capable to potential employers. What is appropriate in terms of publishing is different for everyone, so PhD candidates should speak to their supervisors for guidance. Opportunities should be seized! Conferences can be used to develop public speaking skills and meet research collaborators, make the most of them.

There was also some discussion of ‘what next?’, when the PhD is over. It was suggested that while working towards completion, you should check out advertisements for jobs you may be interested in and work towards developing the skills to meet the requirements of the post. It was also noted that we should think outside the box, all the academics had moved between subject areas by applying transferable skills such as teaching experience or methodological approach. There are also jobs outside of academia to consider. Just because you are doing a PhD doesn’t mean that you are pigeon holed into one discipline or career path.

The ‘Ask an Academic’ gave us a chance to hear some practical tips about completing a PhD, as well chance to catch up with other PhD students over lunch which was kindly provided by the RGS. Our next event will be in October. Entitled #PhDChat we will be outlining key milestones in each year of the PhD process. We will have people who have just completed first and second year, as well as someone who has just graduated, for you to pick their brains. In November we will have a ‘Digital Swap Meet’ where we will discuss how to efficiently use online resources, for example organisational tools and social media. Alongside these skills sharing sessions we also have a monthly Critical Neoliberalism Reading Group (contact for more information) and plans for an interdisciplinary post graduate conference are underway.

The aim of the RGS PhD events is to provide an informal setting where PhD students and academics from across the faculties and campus can meet up to share skills and best practice, as well as a bit of social time. In future we will hopefully have video links set up so people at other campuses can easily take participate; we will also have events at the Coleraine and Belfast Campuses.

If you are interested in joining the RGS PhD events committee please get in touch with us. 

The current committee members are Ciara Fitzpatrick (; Alexandra Chapman ( and Danielle Roberts ( We would love to hear from you!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Congratulations to Dr. Una Foye on her award of PhD (Summer 2015)

Dr Una Foye has successfully completed her PhD and will graduate Summer 2015. Here Una outlines her doctorate research. 

Dr Foye's PhD was supervised by Prof Diane Hazlett and Dr Pauline Irving

Understanding Eating Disorder: exploring the impact of self-esteem, emotional intelligence and health literacy on disordered eating attitudes and behaviours.

Affecting over 1.6 million people in the UK, eating disorders remain a constant concern for those working in healthcare due to the high comorbidity, debilitating physical symptomology and mortality rates that occur with these illnesses (Herzog, Greenwood, Dorer, Flores, Ekeblad, Richards, Blais & Keller, 2000). Worryingly, treatment efficacy for these disorders remains modest at best, with insufficient evidence existing for the effective treatment of Anorexia Nervosa (NICE, 2004). Successful outcomes are blighted by the high levels of ambivalence, treatment dropouts and relapse rates that are observed within this patient population (Williams & Reid, 2010). As a result these disorders observe high rates of chronicity and become incredibly difficult to treat as they are so deeply engrained (Geller, Williams & Srikameswaran, 2001).

This research study aimed to explore the application of self-esteem, emotional intelligence and health literacy to understand how and why eating disorder might develop while providing insight into how interventions can be developed to enhance outcomes.

Based on a mixed methods design which engaged professionals working with eating disorders, support staff in the community sector and individuals with personal experience, as well a general population sample, the results of the study provided insights into the nature of disordered eating onset and development as well as understanding the barriers that delay and impact on help-seeking processes and treatment engagement for those living with an eating disorder. The result showed that, while numerous factors are related to the development of disordered eating attitudes and behaviours, self-esteem and emotional intelligence interact to provide a significant explanation for how and why individuals may develop and maintain an eating disorder. Furthermore, it was found that these factors along with health literacy may provide considerable insight into the barriers and delays that impact on individual’s help-seeking processes when they are in serious medical and psychological risk.

On her time at Ulster University, Una reflects: 

'Having worked on the frontline with eating disorders in a number of regional charities I understand the impact that research like this has on everyday practice. The opportunity to carry out this project was a fantastic experience that allowed me to work closely with the fantastic staff at Ulster as well as having the opportunity to do something innovative that was born out of my personal interests. While it was difficult and challenging work it was worth the effort to see an idea develop and take flight, and if I had the change I would do it all over again! Having the chance to do something you love is a once in the lifetime opportunity and without the support and chance that Ulster took on allowing me to do this I would never have been able to go this far.'

Friday, June 26, 2015

IRiSS is delighted to congratulate Dr. Anthony McKeown on award of his PhD. 

His doctorate will be conferred in Summer Graduations 2015. 

In his thesis, Anthony established a theoretical framework which demonstrates how information poverty can be conceptualised and targeted at three levels: macro (strategic), meso (community) and micro (individual).  

A framework of information poverty indicators were developed to demonstrate how it can be addressed at societal, community and individual levels. 

The study is innovative, valuable and significant, in that, it is the first time a macro, meso and micro model of information poverty indicators has been developed and applied to illustrate the impact of public libraries at strategic, community and personal levels.  Furthermore, the research is topical given the emphasis from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) to address poverty and social exclusion.  The study provides recommendations to Libraries NI to improve their capacity to address information poverty.  While the study looks specifically at public libraries, it has wider implications and the three-level framework of information poverty indicators can be used within other contexts. 

The study revealed that an integrated approach is needed to address information poverty.  By developing strategic and community partnerships, libraries can have an impact at addressing information poverty.  Community engagement and targeted interventions to specific groups were key to addressing it.  Raising awareness of library services was fundamental to reducing information poverty. 

Anthony reflects on his time at Ulster University: 'I had a great experience taking a career break and studying at the Ulster University.  When I graduate with a PhD I will have a sense of pride and achievement, although being a PhD researcher all feels like a distant memory now that I returned to my previous role within Libraries NI.' 

Monday, June 1, 2015

IRiSS's Duncan Morrow on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland

IRiSS's Dr Duncan Morrow, Chairman for the Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland, recently launched findings and recommendations of their recent study. 

Almost three years ago, the Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism set out to answer two questions:  ‘What is sectarianism in Scotland now?’ and ‘How should we deal with its consequences?’  

Dr Morrow maintains that: 'What happened was one of the most wide-ranging and challenging civic explorations of any equalities issue to have taken place in Scotland.  That this was possible during a period that included the independence referendum in 2014 is a testament to the health of civic society in Scotland.'

The Advisory Group points out:

Sectarianism matters in three specific contexts:  where it is used to discriminate or exclude (establishing Glass Ceilings), where it is used to justify violence or intimidation (signified by Glass Bottles) and where it has left persistent relationships of suspicion fostering prejudice and resentment (represented by Glass Curtains). 

Dr Morrow emphasises: 

'Sectarianism still has the power to impact negatively on people’s lives.  But we have also seen a strong hunger for change across Scotland and a real desire to make sectarianism a thing of the past beyond either avoidance or blame.  With goodwill, we have a chance to build a Scotland where the ending of sectarianism is a cause for celebration not shame.'

The full report can be found here: 

Duncan's contribution has featured in the following media: