REF 2021

Find out about our inclusive approach to REF assessment.

The most significant external research assessment for UK higher education institutions is the Research Excellence Framework (REF). REF is carried out periodically and considers the quality of research outputs, the impact of research beyond academia and the environment within which research takes place.  REF is conducted jointly by the four UK higher education funding bodies representing Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

REF2021 results

The most recent REF exercise took place in 2021 (REF2021) and the results for Abertay were extremely positive, signifying an overall picture of strength and improvement. Abertay recorded a 23% increase in research that is judged as 'internationally excellent' or 'world-leading' since the last REF in 2014 (REF2014) – the biggest climb of any Scottish university, according to our analysis.

We achieved an average GPA (weighted to take account of the relative size of each submission) of 2.66, an increase of 0.5 from the equivalent figure for REF2014. Our overall score rates our research, impact and environment as 'quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour'.

With regards to the individual elements which make up the overall assessment, excellent progress was made on impact, with an increase of 0.94 on our GPA compared to REF2014. This represents a significant step-change and recognition of the 'reach and significance' of impacts on the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, that were underpinned by excellent research conducted at Abertay. 

A Modern Scottish University conducting internationally excellent and world-leading research 

We showed particularly strong performances ​and had the highest GPAs for any Scottish Modern University submitted in Art & Design (UoA 32) which covers our work in digital games; Engineering (UoA 12) which includes our work in cybersecurity, computing, forensics and environmental engineering; Food Science (UoA 6); and Psychology (UoA 4), which respectively had 83%, 73%, 65% and 60% of research rated as 'internationally excellent' or 'world-leading'.


of Abertay's eligible academic staff submitted to REF2021


average GPA (weighted to take account of the relative size of each submission)


of research judged as internationally excellent or world leading (23% increase)

Inclusive approach to the REF process

Abertay took an inclusive approach to the REF process - every staff member submitted is also involved in teaching our students. In total, we submitted 80% of our eligible academic staff to REF2021, compared to 36% in REF2014. This inclusive approach is central to our long-term plan to embed a research-led culture right across Abertay, underpinning everything we do in research, knowledge-exchange, innovation and teaching; our students have access to research-active tutors and our staff are supported to develop the experience required to advance within their professional fields. Across the UK we are ranked 101 for GPA by the THE, and 115th out of 157 institutions in terms of Power (i.e. the total contribution our research makes as a proportion of the total research generated by UK universities). This places us in the second quantile, a very good result for an institution of our size. 

See the video below, which outlines Abertay's approach to research, knowledge exchange and innovation. 


Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Liz Bacon said:

For a university focusing on working with businesses, practitioners and other end users, the recognition our research has received in REF2021 underlines the genuine impact the University has had in producing practical solutions to real-world problems and shows the benefits of our inclusive approach to developing our researchers and supporting our students. Abertay continues to perform well above what might be expected for our small size and this positive outcome is testament to the dedication and hard work of our academic community.

The following information shows our REF2021 outcomes in each unit of assessment to which we submitted.

Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 3 (first submission) 2.55 10 70% 10 47 44 0.02


UoA 3 (first submission) – Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy    

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. Our research centres around three interacting research groups:

Biology of Health and Disease

We focus on reproductive health and cancer systems biology. Drawing on our expertise in electrophysiology, we focus on IVF failure in particular. We have elucidated one of the causes of IVF failure, which has resulted in a spin-out company (Fertility Genomics) developing routine standardised screening tests that can inform clinical decisions, fast track patients to alternative treatments and reduce IVF treatment failure. Our cancer systems biology combines experimental data streams and theoretical modelling to characterise cell signalling network responses to therapeutic interventions and oxidative stress, and we have developed a statistical model of patient survival based on the spatial distribution of cells in patient tissue. We collaborate with our UoA 6 colleagues focussed on molecular and comparative physiology and nutritional health, and on antibiotic resistance gene spread in wild animal populations, including links to environmental and public health.

Mental Health

Our research in mental health focuses on the development and delivery of effective interventions and support for people experiencing challenges, and the interplay between physical and mental health. Our research is community- and practice-based, undertaken via our on-site Tayside Centre for Counselling (TCC) that provides a venue for large-scale data collection as it provides counselling to the local community and accepts referrals from NHS services and clinics. The TCC hosts projects examining the role of emotional and psychological support for long-term health conditions, and the evaluation of Pluralistic Counselling. The clinic is part of a UK-wide BACP-supported Research and Training Consortium. This work involves strong alliances with external partners, including NHS Health Boards, further enabling development of research into interventions used in mental health support.

Practice Engagement

Our unifying focus is to inform the development and refinement of practice engagement through the allied health research we conduct. As well as the health and disease focus described above, we explore the engagement with, and experiences of, healthcare practice. We recognise the value of person-centred care, where we have shown that contextualising care in a person’s situation is of particular importance, and interpersonal and complex trauma, relational and person-centred approaches are key. Our approach is typically based on detailed assessment of individual experiences. In population-based research on healthcare communication, we have assessed patient communication with practitioners in relation to symptoms indicative of cancer as a pathway to improve healthcare messaging and devised a taxonomy of explanations to aid healthcare practitioners in their care of patients with persistent physical symptoms. We have also explored broader perspectives in practice engagement, including the profiling of patient demand on the healthcare system and ethical aspects of healthcare. We have extended our collaborative approach (with UoA4), combining our expertise in communication-based interventions and behavioural analyses, to examine the role of quantitative methods to characterise behaviour and enhance the quality of practitioner interventions.

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 4 2.68 14.55 100% 8 60 47 0.02


UoA 4 – Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. Our research centres around three interacting research groups:

Policing, security and forensic science

Security has formed its own research group, with a more focused remit facilitating collaboration between forensic psychology and forensic science colleagues. An example of our forensic psychology and missing persons research includes interdisciplinary research on missing people which is aimed at understanding the varied circumstances and outcomes involved. This is to enable different agencies e.g. law-enforcement practitioners, health care services, voluntary sector organisations and other academics throughout the UK and internationally, to prevent, protect and support those affected by missing and to strengthen global academic understanding of missing.

Cognition and vision science

Vision Science has merged with Cognition and Language to form a research group that takes advantage of common methodologies and theoretical approaches. Work on visual perception examines how different types of colouration in nature can help to optimise camouflage and warning colouration in real-world contexts, while simultaneously improving understanding of visual systems. Other work tackles the problems that occur in computer interfaces by using animation techniques to effectively guide user attention in complex visual arrays. This research has developed novel interactive experiences to support special user groups such as older or disabled users. Our neuroscience research examines the neural basis of a variety of abilities such as aesthetic experience of dance, body structure representation, mathematical cognition and visuospatial attention. Other research evaluates cognitive change in dementia and Parkinsons.

Development, learning, and evolution

Evolutionary psychology has combined with cultural evolution and developmental psychology within this research group which integrates ontogenetic and phylogenetic approaches. Research on self processing considers that humans are biased not to miss important information about the self because it captures attention, evokes certain physiological responses and is linked to rich memories. It examines how these biases develop in children, how they are affected by developmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and how they can be harnessed to improve learning in academic settings. Research on language learning and processing investigates how children and adults represent linguistic structure, how they learn and use different linguistic variants, such as dialects or speech registers, and how this may impact lexical representation and literacy acquisition. Some of our research on this work has featured on the BBC Timeline series. Research on the evolution of social and cognitive abilities compares specific abilities like object use, problem solving, social learning strategies, and prosocial, cooperative behaviours in non-human primates (such as gibbons, chimpanzees and bonobos) with human children and adults. Research on evolutionary origins of individual differences examines influences on romantic and social attraction and the origins and consequences of laterality differences by exploring factors such as masculinity, femininity, dominance, competition and rivalry as well as the relationship between laterality, emotion, behavioural inhibition and task performance.

Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences

Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 6 (first submission) 2.81 11.72 100% 16 65 52 0.05


UoA 6 (first submission) - Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. Our research centres around five interacting research groups and and our commercial arm:

Food chemistry and process optimisation

We investigate the formation of contaminates during food processing and develop strategies to mitigate its occurrence in food. Our product development and reformulation studies focus on improving the nutritional value of food and developing novel mild processing technologies for food preservation and quality. We evaluate novel yeast strains for industrial fermentations, investigate grain alternatives in brewing and distilling, and assess the role of wood compounds in the sensory acceptability of whisky. We collaborate closely with industry and organisations such as the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and the Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI), together with partners in brewing and distilling.

Applied food technologies

We focus on developing novel, environmentally friendly extraction and processing methods of food by-products and food industry waste, and by-product valorisation, aiming to contribute to a more sustainable, circular economy. We actively collaborate with external academic and industrial partners and seek to develop applications with meaningful industrial benefits for food producers.

Consumer science and diet

We explore links between eating habits and health, and the promotion of health of consumers through diet and life-style intervention. We examine in depth the factors that affect consumer perception and acceptability of food and drink products. Our trained sensory panels are in demand by the food industry to gauge consumer acceptability of potential products prior to market release.

Comparative physiology and nutritional health

We investigate the underlying molecular biology and physiology of fat deposition in common and grey seals, which can also serve as a model for human obesity and diabetes, as well as the impacts of environmental stressors, such as pollution on wild animals which can inform likely impacts on human metabolic health through dietary exposure and change. We are also interested in antioxidants and understanding the mechanisms through which food components interact and affect metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Applied and environmental microbiology

We use soil and plant-associated communities and model bacterial species to investigate the evolutionary ecology of biofilm-formation in experimental microcosms to better understand adaptation to natural and managed environments. We are also interested in the spread of antibiotic resistance genes in wild seal populations and the links this has with environmental and public health. Our zymology focusses on yeast physiology and biotechnology and evaluates yeast strain biodiversity for their potential in brewing and other bio-conversion processes.

Food Innovation @ Abertay (FIA)

Our commercial arm provides a practical innovation support service to food and drink businesses and allows our staff to work collaboratively with industrial partners. We offer creative solutions to business challenges using specialist staff, equipment, and facilities. These are tailored to specifically meet business needs and are delivered on schedule and in a cost-effective manner.


Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 12 2.74 26 75% 8 73 50 0.03


UoA 12 – Engineering

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. Our research centres around four interacting research groups:


Our research is focussed on sustainable technologies, sustainable urban drainage systems and decision making for sustainable systems. Our research explores technology use at the water-waste-energy nexus, particularly treatment and resource recovery technologies for water, wastes and wastewaters and green infrastructure (including Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, SUDS). Research includes development of innovative technical solutions that improve sustainable management of natural resources and bioenergy production including development of new bioenergy technologies. Our Sustainable Assessment and Enhancement research develops and applies methods for the assessment, visualisation and enhancement of sustainability policies and technologies, and to address institutional and societal barriers to their uptake. Our approach to decision making for sustainable systems recognises that engineered environmental systems are complex and management requires trade-offs among multiple competing factors. We use multi-criteria decision analysis tools, co-designed with stakeholders, and computational models linked to games technologies for interactive visualisation of sustainability criteria. Research focuses on understanding the decision-making process, knowledge requirements and development of indicators to enhance governance, decision support and public participation in decision making.  Projects support sustainable service provision for water service providers, national and local government, health services, the agricultural sector, city development and companies across the built and natural environment.

Our geo-environmental, geotechnical and structural engineering research is focused on modelling the performance and environmental impacts of structural and geotechnical engineering systems. This includes research into the analysis of the behaviour of thin-walled structures, analysis of structures under extreme loads (blast and impact), pedogenic carbon sequestration process and engineering soils (e.g. the use of recycled construction material) to improve soil properties and to maximise the sequestration of atmospheric carbon, and investigating critical on/near-shore soft sediments, as well as the study of offshore oil and gas asset decommissioning and dynamic event behaviours such as earthquakes.


Our research involves collaboration with industry, government agencies and supra-institutional organisations to develop underpinning scientific evidence to improve forensic science and its practice. We align to UK/Scottish Governments’ strategic priorities in evidence-based policing and quality assured forensic science (including ISO17025). In addition to detecting fingermarks on complex surfaces, we develop methods for the extraction of intelligence from crime scenes. This includes holistic interpretation of examination of evidence (e.g., effects of human factors on micro dynamics of fingermarks; chemometrics and Bayesian network analysis).


We have developed strong links with government, Police and industry to deploy socio-technical solutions to enhance cybersecurity through collaboration on a range of research projects including improving the security of SMEs, training in cybercrime response using games technologies, and cybersecurity into the Software Development Lifecycle. Our research is structured into four overlapping areas: responding to prevailing challenges of system security; vulnerability detection and the threats introduced by Internet-connected devices; the usability of security prevention measures; and using visualisation techniques to improve security.

Our business engagement and innovation activity is focussed through the new Abertay cyberQuarter, an £18.2M (£11.7M Tay Cities Deal, £6.5M Abertay investment) on-campus Centre which brings together academia and industry to: create new products, markets and services; catalyse the growth of a Cybersecurity cluster that will retain and attract talent and investment, and make businesses and citizens more cyber-resilient. Central to our research will be usable security, i.e., security measures that are technically robust and realistic in their expectations of users.

Modelling & Simulation

Systems Modelling explores complex phenomena over multiple scales and interactive visualisation in computer games, environmental science, physics, and health. Our overarching agenda is the construction of interactive, real-time and playable simulations in both entertainment and non-entertainment contexts that bring to life systems models through simulation, i.e., digital twins. This playability allows domain experts to investigate complex systems in an intuitive way and supports discovery of new insights. We combine game engines and physics research, focusing on high-precision simulation of multi-scale dynamical systems: for example, we exploit games engine efficiencies for molecular dynamics simulations for plasma processing, have procedurally generated clouds and lightning in games, and our lightning model is being used in planetary Global Circulation Models. We have used our expertise in complex systems modelling and interactive visualisation and simulation to help stakeholders determine the impact of different sustainability initiatives and policies across water, energy and food, that might interact to deliver solutions that will work for the system as a whole.

For health, we have worked with psychologists to develop an app (Tapology, on the App Store) to introduce tablets and smartphones to individuals who find touch screens intimidating in a playful way to help people build confidence and share good practice in internet use. Our collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach with life scientists and health practitioners has enabled us to characterise tumour tissue and cell signalling dynamics in response to therapeutic interventions and oncological mutations. Our games technologies enable life scientists to conduct virtual experiments exploring the impact of anti-cancer drugs on cell behaviour, and cancer-causing mutations can be added, allowing for exploration of the dynamics of cell signalling pathways in a way that has not been possible before.

A growing area of research is the combination of systems modelling, data analytics and artificial intelligence. For example, in a partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and the Digital Health and Social Care Innovation Centre we are using a combination of artificial intelligence and interactive visualisation to improve cancer support provision across the UK. We are using generative adversarial networks to automatically generate user interfaces and how models of game play and data analytics can improve the player experience, including game balancing. Finally, we are working with AgriEpi Innovation Centre and Pocket Sized Hands to develop an AI-powered Augmented Reality tool underpinned by machine learning to improve animal health and productivity.

Our research involving emerging technologies (machine learning, high-performance simulation, dynamical systems models, etc.) linked to interactive experiences (games, games engine technologies and both entertainment and applied games contexts (e.g., manufacturing) is focussed within our Emergent Technology Centre which with a 5G network core, part of a £4M 5G R&D Testbed partnership with Dundee City Council and Scottish Futures Trust. The 5G network will be a testbed located on the city’s £1B waterfront development adjacent to the V&A Museum for Design in Dundee. Modelling & simulation are also working with Cybersecurity and UoA 32 to undertake research in machine learning for network management, dynamical systems modelling, the Internet of Things and 5G-backed interactive experiences.


Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 18 1.83 7 95% 0 20 24 0.02


UoA 18 – Law

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. Our research centres around two interacting research groups:

Transnational/International Criminal law

Focus is on transnational law enforcement generally, and trafficking in human beings in particular. Post-Brexit, the focus has shifted to the changing legal relationship of the UK/Scotland with the EU in the policy area, and the responses of the UK/Scotland to this changing situation. A particular focus is on trafficking in human beings from a transnational, EU and UK perspective. These are concerns shared not just in the UK but elsewhere in the developed world, and international agreements and co-operation is required to minimise the potential for criminality in this area. Research has resulted in publications, external engagement, knowledge exchange and consultancy. Research outputs include for example, ‘Constructivism, constitutionalism and the EU's area of freedom security and justice post-Lisbon’

Law and Society

Focus is on in intellectual property (IP) law and its impact on access rights for people with disabilities, medical law, bioethics and reproductive rights, which has led to nascent synergies in the area of ethical reproductive rights and employment law research.


Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 21 2.33 10 70% 7 33 37 0.07


UoA 21 – Sociology

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. Our research profile takes a broadly social relational and social constructionist approach, placing specific emphasis on advancing theoretical developments. Research centres around three interacting research groups:

Applied Social Theory

Our research contributes to advancing the theorical base of sociology. We explore: the history of sociological theory; relational sociological theory; the sociology of literature; social movements; nationalism; Critical Theory; radical social and political theory in political and historical contexts; social interactional theory; global citizenship; political rhetoric and European (dis)integration; green politics; the construction of Immigration in the press; and moral panic theory. Our research into culture and identity includes studies of: Scottish exceptionalism; sectarianism; women’s rights in Bolivia; smoking; consumer credit; sexual consent; policy-evaluation of young people’s attitudes to smoking; sex education; peer-led recovery from addiction; the experience of lesbian and gay male couples in the adoption process; social reproduction in modernity: the emergence of the creative class; and male prisoners experience of healthcare.

Crime and Society

Research includes: how to gather reliable evidence from victims of and witnesses to crimes; investigating crime and antisocial behaviour; policing and violence reduction; the policing of domestic violence; community experiences of serious organised crime in Scotland; the criminalisation of Scottish football supporters; the Named Person scheme; transgression and Breaking Bad; and surveillance, cheating and punishment in digital worlds.

Sociology of Information and Communication Technologies

Our research in the digital and media area explores: social network dynamics; e-participatory platforms (including the provision of social welfare, young people engaging in environmental decision-making, and researching corporate impacts); the sociology of technology; qualitative research paradigms in virtual networks; social media bots; gaming as an educational tool; political culture and the media; myth and propaganda in the online press.

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 24 2.51 11.60 80% 10 49 43 0.07


UoA 24 – Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. This research explores: Women’s sport equity; sedentary lifestyle risk factors; exercise and health training interventions; high-intensity exercise; elite sports performance; and healthy ageing. Much of our research has a special emphasis on populations with protected characteristics (e.g. age, gender, and disability) in order to contribute to the duty of care in sport agenda, which has growing salience as an issue in contemporary society. Our research centres around two interacting research groups:

Biomechanics and Physiology

Our work in this area explores the physiology and biomechanics of sports and exercise, particularly in relation to performance and injury.  Research includes: the use of Omega-3 supplementation to improve joint stability and promote recovery from exercise; performance analysis of speed, flexibility and endurance capacity in elite footballers; the effect of high intensity interval training on physical health and mood in women; the effect of rapid weight loss on physical performance measures; the development of high intensity training exercise protocols to determine the minimum frequency of exercise required to promote meaningful adaptations in the body for health and performance; the use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation in a home-based setting for elderly populations; the impact of fatigue on lower limb kinetics; quantifying how different biomechanical factors influence sports performance; and exploring neurophysiology including motor control and disorders of movement.

Social Science of Sport

Our work in this area focuses on exploring the significance of sport to society and examines the psychology and sociology of sport.  Research includes: the duty of care in sport agenda; improving health and physical functioning and promoting engagement in physical activity among older adults; body image and social physique anxiety on adolescents’ psychosocial health; exercise adherence and mental health; cognitive and emotional processes in sport; how individual differences influence behaviour in sport, health, mental health and wellbeing; inequity, inequality and discrimination in sport and exercise subcultures; gender equity for sports coaches; interpersonal perceptions and factors that influence sports coaching and coach education;  youth sport; exploring how athletes narratively construct their identities.

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Unit of Assessment GPA Staff FTE Proportion of staff submitted % 4* % 4*/3* QI Power
UoA 32 (first submission) 3.08 19.90 75% 30 83 63 0.10


UoA 32 (first submission) - Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory  

Our overall Unit strategy is to deliver research with impact, combining academic excellence with stakeholder collaboration. We are recognised nationally and internationally for innovative, distinctive, impactful and collaborative interdisciplinary research that follows both theoretical and practice-led inquiry in Art and Design. Our research centres around three interacting thematic areas:

Applied Games

Our research integrates user experience and interaction design with development tools and techniques to design interactive works that raise awareness, facilitate learning, and foster behavioural change. We draw on academic and industrial expertise to engage a range of research methodologies – from play as interrogation and ideation in serious game jams to data driven design in full development projects – to explore the role and value of games in education, in training, and in science communication. Researchers seek to develop new game design frameworks following practice-based approaches, for instance by applying media archaeology to game design. Applied Games brings together expertise in computing, mathematics, design, and psychology to develop and evaluate both hardware and software. For example, recent work in agri-tech has brought Augmented Reality (AR) technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) together with animal husbandry to increase efficiency and animal health.

Performance and Play

Our research approaches video games as cultural objects investigating their socio-cultural functions in relation to both society and the economy. We explore communities of play and experimental practice-research utilising digital and traditional media, the incorporation of game development, screen technologies and extended reality (XR) applications into site-specific performance and art, and studies of performance audiences. Working closely with industrial partners (e.g., Microsoft, Sony) to explore the potentials of emerging technologies for immersive storytelling and new forms of creativity and play. Current international collaborations integrate storytelling and game development, with a focus on energy use, climate change and conflict. This includes a strong focus on immersive technologies, with research focused on novel applications of virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Recent work includes developing an app for street level play outside the V&A Dundee during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Game studies

Our research spans both areas to encompass game production studies, interactive narrative, immersive storytelling, and critical analysis of games culture. In games studies, Unit members have produced high impact research outputs and practice-based collaborations.

Our research environment includes (i) InGAME  (Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise) the UK Creative Cluster for Computer Games, which provides a R&D environment for new and experimental creative content, products, services and experiences; (ii) the Emergent Technology Centre which houses a 5G network core (part of a £4M 5G R&D Testbed partnership with Dundee City Council and Scottish Futures Trust) - the first Scottish innovation hub to support R&D on enabling technologies for applications where mobile plays a key role (e.g., service delivery, Internet of Things); and (iii) Abertay cyberQuarter (£18.2M Tay Cities Deal) which brings together academia and industry to: create new products, markets and services; catalyse the growth of a Cybersecurity cluster that will retain and attract talent and investment; and make businesses and citizens more cyber-resilient.

Impact Case Study: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

Counselling for sight loss: increasing the quality and availability of specialist counselling for people with sight loss in UK and Ireland

This user-led model of counselling for people with sight loss from Dr Mhairi Thurston has impacted on blind and partially sighted clients, practitioners, and service delivery. The work has raised the standard of counselling for people with sight loss through a training course based on her research which upskills counsellors to work with the specific accessibility requirements and psychological needs of clients. The course, delivered by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and accredited by Vision UK, won a highly commended award for ‘excellence in service, support and care’.

Male taking notes whilst female is talking

Impact Case Study: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

More than one pathway to change: innovating psychotherapeutic practice via Abertay’s pluralistic counselling model

Abertay’s pluralistic counselling model has had national and international impact on training and practice in the sector, primarily by restructuring the training of practitioners and more broadly in the delivery of therapy by adoption of the practice. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has testified to the benefits of this approach, which has allowed institutions to work more effectively with each other, and has facilitated greater client choice and interprofessional working in health and social care.

A lecturer sitting on a chair holding their hands up.

Impact Case Study: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Changing teachers’ training and practice to incorporate self-referencing techniques that enhance children’s learning

Led by Professor Sheila Cunningham (pictured), this work enhances teacher skills by establishing and disseminating the use of ‘self-referencing’ (linking materials with the self) in education. The research shows that using self-referencing enhances engagement and learning in classroom activities and work has established an evidence-base for this, in addition to influencing teachers’ practice through development workshops, changing teacher training activities and improving public awareness and understanding.

Impact Case Study: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Improving police practice in the investigation and search for missing people

Led by Dr Penny Woolnough, this research has made a substantial contribution to the practice of law enforcement investigating and searching for missing people, systematically examining missing person behaviour and leading to new knowledge that has impacted on operational practice and procedures in the UK, Australia, Canada, and Sweden. The work has significantly contributed to improving investigation and searches for vulnerable missing people, ensuring rapid location and protection from harm (including saving lives).

two police officers walking

Impact Case Study: Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences

Improving efficiency for alcohol producers: from raw materials to final product

Our research in fermentation-derived alcohol has enabled the beverage and biofuel sectors of industry to operate more efficiently, develop new products and define final alcohol specifications more accurately. Research findings have resulted in enhancement of industrial processes that convert carbohydrate and cellulosic substrates to bioethanol and have also led to the commercial development of novel yeast nutrient products that boost industrial fermentation efficiency. For beverage alcohol producers, yeast physiology research conducted at Abertay has led to the introduction of a new range of commercial wines produced using pre-conditioned yeast cultures. For the brewing industry, our research has revealed alarming inaccuracies of beer alcohol declarations that have resulted in our recommendations for final product analyses being adopted by brewers, professional bodies, and government agencies in the UK and internationally.

Small scale brewing machine

Impact Case Study: Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences

Novel uses of legumes for sustainable agri-food industrial applications

The world’s first ‘climate positive’ spirit made from peas, and a new range of beers made from faba beans are among the products to come out of Abertay’s research into novel uses of legumes. Carried out in collaboration with colleagues from research institutes, universities and industrial companies, this stream has provided tangible outcomes for legume-supported food and feed chains, with the agri-food sectors benefitting from the economic and environmental savings from cultivation of nitrogen-fixing legumes.

Impact Case Study: Engineering

Changing policy and practice to enhance societal and environmental benefits from sustainable urban drainage systems and green/blue infrastructure

Our research on Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) has had impact in the UK, Europe and South America. We have developed and supported a community of practice that has directly led to statutory legal change to policy and practice in Wales, requiring building developers to implement sustainable drainage solutions into new construction projects. We have also influenced practice in seven Mediterranean municipalities by co-developing Transition Manuals and Strategic Action Plans to stimulate adoption of sustainable drainage approaches, and informed strategic planning and funding allocation criteria in Malta. In addition, we have influenced the development of new laws in three municipalities in Belo Horizonte, Brazil that now require all new municipal developments to observe newly introduced criteria that restrict land use to promote environmental sustainability.

A retention pond with 2 swans in it

Impact Case Study: Engineering

Improving forensic practice and policy to maximise fingermark recovery and visualisation

Our research on improving forensic fingermark (latent fingerprint) recovery techniques has informed policy documents and research strategies published by the UK Home Office, Interpol and the International Fingerprint Research Group. Work has also led to identification of more environmentally friendly formulations to recover fingermarks which are now part of The UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) guidance to UK police forces. Our development of new processes for fingermark detection on difficult surfaces has enabled our industry partners to use these findings to inform their recovery process, and to enhance product marketing and uptake of optimum techniques in the sector.

Helen McMorris looking at highlighted fingerprints on a feather at Abertay university

Impact Case Study: Engineering

Sustainability assessment and decision support for the Scottish Government and water industry

We have worked with Scottish Government through a portfolio of commissioned projects to implement a new decision-support framework to enable the Scottish Government to select appropriate drinking water treatment technologies for sustainable rural communities. We also provided interactive maps to enhance the way in which Scottish Government targets support for the Scottish Water Sector and implemented specific interventions for Scottish Government to support the sustainable development goals of the Government of Malawi.

Impact Case Study: Law

Changing the law on human trafficking in Scotland

Research led by Dr Maria O’Neill underpinned oral and written contributions to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee during the drafting of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015. O’Neill’s evidence was used in the drafting of the Committee’s final report into the Bill and their final recommendations. O’Neill’s main contributions were on ensuring a clear crime definition, ensuring that there were no transnational or inter-jurisdictional gaps in definition, and addressing the issue of child victims, which had been missing from the previous Scottish Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill. She was the only legal academic to contribute to the oral evidence session and was the only witness to focus predominantly on legal obligations under EU law.

Impact Case Study: Law

Enhancing the optimal application of the Marrakesh Treaty to increase access to literary works for the disabled community

Dr Jade Kouletakis’s research impacted on the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in South Africa, specifically the definition of ‘accessible format copy’ and the section pertaining to general exceptions regarding protection of copyright work for persons with a disability. She also submitted evidence on South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill to the South African Department of Trade and Industry. Her research into corresponding UK and EU provisions has informed her ongoing engagement with the South African legislative process, to include the threat of sanctions from the US Trade Representative arising from the South African legislation on the Marrakesh Treaty.

A photo of Jade Kouletakis smiling

Impact Case Study: Sociology

Changing the policing of serious and organised crime in Scotland through community engagement

Our research on the effect of organised crime on disadvantaged communities in Scotland has impacted criminal justice policy, inter-agency working and community engagement. Due to our research, agencies that deal with organised crime have introduced changes in their policies and practices. Our research has contributed to a shift from exclusively law enforcement operations toward wider community involvement and engagement with other agencies, (e.g., social housing, NHS).

A police officer using a smartphone

Impact Case Study: Sociology

Repealing the Named Person Policy and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act

This research delivered impact in the areas of the ‘policing’ and criminalisation of everyday life, with particular reference to the Scottish context. The work contributed significantly to the repeal of the Scottish Government’s Named Person initiative. The Supreme Court ruled against the Named Person initiative in July 2016. This research stream also contributed to the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act in Scotland, showing that football fans were being over-criminalised.

police vans

Impact Case Study: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Enhancing practice and improving outcomes of career transition support services in elite sport

Research led by Professor David Lavallee has challenged existing knowledge about helping elite athletes prepare for upcoming career transitions in sport. Working directly with elite sport wellbeing practitioners, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, we translated the findings into tools that have enabled effective changes in the practice of career transition support to improve outcomes for government-affiliated organisations, professional associations, and third sector organisations.

Impact Case Study: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Reversing sports participation drop-out from the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland

A programme of research led by Professor David Lavallee (pictured) led to the development of a programme called the Super Games Centre (SGC) aimed at reversing a participation decrease in GAA by young people. Through the establishment of a sustainable network of SGCs the participation drop-out trend was reversed with participation increasing by 28% by March 2019. The research led to changes in practice and policy, and beneficiaries include the GAA, 1,174 GAA clubs, the Ireland mainstream education system, 262 schools and 11,250 school pupils.

A photo of David Lavallee smiling

Impact Case Study: Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Abertay Game Lab: play, performance, and public engagement with games

This research investigated the creative processes of student, amateur, and professional game-makers. The work looked into creativity and the intersection of games and performance, extending into practice-based research. One output of this activity was the Inchcolm Project: a site-responsive, promenade performance set on Inchcolm island in the Firth of Forth (pictured). This original demonstration of hybrid game/performance production was underpinned by a rigorous practice-based methodology and had significant impact within the field. Further work went on to consider how audiences engage with games and related experiences in public spaces. In addition, a project called ‘Their Memory’ saw a virtual reality experience created in collaboration with Poppyscotland to enhance documentary and storytelling techniques in engaging hard to reach audiences with wartime memories.

Group of people watching an orchestra playing

Impact Case Study: Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Video games, tactical media and memory: challenging perceptions of violence and war

Research by Professor Joseph DeLappe used video games and media to explore international conflict and the themes of politics, war, and violence. This research focuses on utilisations of digital and analogue artworks to creatively expand the possibilities of art, video gaming and activism in the digital age. Presented in over 30 exhibitions with over one million visitors, his work has reached hundreds of thousands more through online views and playable downloads. Killbox, an unconventional video game about drone warfare, was created in collaboration with the Biome Collective (pictured) in Dundee with an additional grant from Creative Scotland. Funding from the Guggenheim Foundation award and an Arts and Humanities Research Council Immersive Practices grant facilitated the development of Elegy: GTA USA Gun Homicides - an online work that modified the popular game Grant Theft Auto V to function as an active, real-time, 24/7 data visualisation system and memorial to gun homicide victims in the US.

Tom deMajo and Malath Abbas of Biome Collective

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