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  • Nature has provided a great deal of inspiration for computer scientists developing search algorithms and ways to solve complicated problems with as little computing power as possible. Ant colonies, beehives, bat hunting, and now slime mould foraging can be used as models on which an algorithm can be constructed.

    Writing in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications, Anthony Brabazon and Sean McGarraghy of the University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, explain how 99.5% of the living things on earth lack neurones and yet are proven success stories despite what we, as neuronal creatures, might whimsically perceive as a deficiency. One group of organisms that have been rather successful for millions of years are the so-called slime moulds. The term is an informal name for several different groups of organisms that are actually unrelated. They are not moulds, rather they are organisms that can live freely as single cells, but under certain conditions will form communicating aggregates that work in concert as if they are a multicellular reproductive structure.

    The team explains that the plasmodial slime mould Physarum polycephalum, which forms from aggregates of individual amoebae, encases itself in a thin membrane and can act as a single organism. The researchers explain how "Inspiration has been drawn from some of its foraging behaviour to develop algorithms for graph optimisation." They report examples of the algorithms that can be developed and make suggestions as to how future research might proceed to utilise the benefits and minimise any limitations.

    Of course, the slime mould itself is, despites its lack of neurons, carrying out computations all the while, chemical computations, you might say. So, in a sense modelling its behaviour in an algorithm is an excellent foundation.

    "Of course," the team concedes, "it is also important to note that the developed algorithms are very simplified representations of (the imperfectly understood) real-world foraging behaviours of P. polycephalum and other slime moulds and doubtless future biological research concerning these organisms will open up new avenues of investigation."

    Brabazon, A. and McGarraghy, S. (2020) 'Slime mould foraging: an inspiration for algorithmic design', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.30–45.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJICA.2020.105316

  • Social media and online social networking are almost ubiquitous billions of people use the big four" services: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp; the latter three now all owned by Facebook. Many of these platforms have large financial turnover and employ thousands of staff. It's big business. But, asks a new paper in the International Journal of Procurement Management is advertising on social media effective?

    Mohammed Nuseir of the Department of Business Administration at Al Ain University of Science and Technology Abu Dhabi Campus, in the United Arab Emirates, points out how social media has over more than a decade created a new space in which business can sell their goods and services like never before. The big four applications link individuals through various formats – textual updates, graphics, and videos, for instance.

    Nuseir has found that there is indeed a reciprocal relationship between users/consumers and the companies that are marketing to them via social media. This is underpinned by the nature of social media where users feel that they have more agency than they ever had with conventional media such as newspapers and magazines, radio, television, and even the internet before web 2.0. Users perceive themselves as having their own personal space within the realm of social media and that they have control of what they share and what passes before them on the various apps that give them access to these sites.

    "This ownership and personalisation speak to the degree to which relationships are formed between corporate entities and individuals in contemporary society," explains Nuseir. As such, marketers must recognise the personalisation of the advertisements they present to potential clients and they need to understand and build on the very reasons why people use social media in the first place. This is the route to successful marketing in the age of "social".

    Nuseir, M.T. (2020) 'Is advertising on social media effective? An empirical study on the growth of advertisements on the Big Four (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp)', Int. J. Procurement Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.134–142
    DOI: 10.1504/IJPM.2020.105191

  • A new study from the USA published in the International Journal of Business and Emerging Markets, suggests that when people interact with non-domestic, i.e. foreign, e-commerce websites they prefer to use online "live chat" channels rather than the telephone.

    Daniel Brannon and Muhanad Manshad Monfort of the College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, have looked at the benefits of computer-mediated environments and how they function in the context of cross-cultural services. The team points out that growth among e-commerce sites outside the USA and the English-speaking world, particularly in emerging markets is seeing enormous growth. "Several of the world's fastest-growing e-commerce retailers are located in emerging economies," they point out. "For instance, Chinese retailers JD dot com and Alibaba."

    Despite this growth, the team reports that several non-domestic e-commerce sites have struggled to gain a foothold in the US markets. There may well be a perception that these companies are somehow culturally distant and many US consumers are therefore reluctant to encounter or deal with "foreign" customer service personnel. Of course, many non-domestic companies invest heavily in so-called cultural intelligence so that they can engage more authentically with non-native customers. This is thought to make any interaction between a US consumer and a foreign service agent smoother and more positive.

    However, there is evidence that the inverse of that effort might work better in many instances. De-personalising the transactions by switching to computer-mediated live chat instead of communication via a telephone call, can have many advantages. The business can control more easily the characteristics of the interaction, especially where automated responses are utilized. When an operative is required to interject, there will be scripted responses and their training will be useful in ensuring communication smooth and polite communication with a lower risk of miscommunication through spoken-word language barriers.

    "Given the recent global expansion of online retail, managers should be aware of how foreign (vs. domestic) consumers using their websites prefer to communicate and interact with them," the team explains. As training of service staff in matters of non-native cultural etiquette as well as language skills is inevitably costly. Live chat can preclude ambiguity in communication to some degree as well as circumventing the need for the comprehensive training that a telephone operative would need.

    Brannon, D.C. and Manshad, M. (2019) 'Bridging the divide with a chat window: why consumers prefer using live chat support on foreign e-commerce sites', Int. J. Business and Emerging Markets, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.335-347.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBEM.2019.105229

  • Computational methods have been used to design a new drug that might be used to target the defective protein present in familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (fCJD). The de novo pharmacophore-based drug design and virtual molecular docking work is described in detail in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design.

    To create their designer drug, the team starts with a data file that describes the complete structure of the target protein obtained from the Protein Data Bank (RCSB PDB). They use a computational model, the Yasara energy minimisation webserver to drill down on this structure to obtain its likely shape and form in the body. This minimized structure is then validated using the RAMPAGE webserver.

    The next step is to use yet more computational tools to home in on hollows or "pockets" in the protein structure into which putative small molecule drugs might fit, or dock. With those pockets in hand, they then use another tool to generate likely chemical structures that might fit, this ultimately gives them an optimal "pharmacophore", a plausible drug structure, which can be used as a template to search the PubChem database of known chemicals that have a very similar size and shape. The team then uses a docking program to see which of those chemicals in the database are most likely to fit the pockets in the target protein in this disease.

    They identified five small molecules that might be active in this context. Analysis of these chemicals' ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity) properties show that any of the five might ultimately be proven to be candidates for further investigation in the laboratory and ultimately in the clinic as drug development leads.

    The team says that their approach could be helpful in the design and development of many more potential anti-prion drugs. Optimising the method to incorporate more sophisticated modeling techniques could improve the drug leads obtained.

    Alam, R., Rahman, G.M.S., Hasan, N. and Chowdhury, A.S. (2020) 'A De-Novo drug design and ADMET study to design small molecule stabilisers targeting mutant (V210I) human prion protein against familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (fCJD)', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.21–35.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCBDD.2020.105103

  • How do call centre managers most effectively decide on staffing levels. New research published in the European Journal of Industrial Engineering offers a new approach.

    Rodrigo Barbosa-Correa, Alcides Santander-Mercado, and María Jubiz-Dia of the Universidad del Norte, in Colombia, and colleague Ricardo Rodríguez-Ramos of Bienestar IPS also in Colombia, explain that optimizing staffing levels in a telecommunications company call centre generally needs to be done at the same time as keeping costs down. They carried out an analysis of daily tasks to work out hourly workloads. They then applied an aggregate planning model to get an initial solution for requisite staffing levels based on workforce costs, service level, personnel hiring and migration, and work supplements.

    The output from that analysis was then fed into a discrete-event simulation model. This allowed the team to assess the system performance based on queuing characteristics, demand variability, and resources utilization. They could then look at different schedules and capacity levels to see which would perform best and match the demands of a call centre.

    The team suggests that their approach gave better results with lower waiting times and more balanced resource utilization than other analytical techniques previously used. "The approach is useful for planning capacity levels in projects and locating new centres," the team writes.

    Barbosa-Correa, R., Santander-Mercado, A., Jubiz-Diaz, M. and Rodríguez-Ramos, R. (2020) 'Establishing call-centre staffing levels using aggregate planning and simulation approach', European J. Industrial Engineering, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.1–33.
    DOI: 10.1504/EJIE.2020.105083

  • How can we detect fake profiles to preclude their disruptive and deleterious effects on social media and social networks? Writing in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security, Somya Ranjan Sahoo and B.B. Gupta of the National Institute of Technology at Kurukshetra in Haryana, India, discuss the issues and possible solutions.

    Recent research in fake profile detection, they explain has focused on machine learning in order to reveal the kind of suspicious account activity that might betray a fake account. The team is now taking machine learning to big data to find a better way to distinguish the fakers from the movers and shakers, on the well-known social networking system, Facebook.

    Facebook is an important part of life for many people, for organizations and other entities. There are some 2.5 billion monthly active users and approximately 1.7 billion people use a Facebook account every day. It is not known how many fake accounts lurk within those statistics. It is known that many malicious third parties hoping to gain access to personal, private, and other data with malicious intent will exploit loopholes in the Facebook system. That combined with social engineering confidence tricks and other exploits can provide them with sufficient data to access other people's accounts and from there to steal personal information and then even break into other systems such as email and banking systems.

    There have been many security exploits used to gain malicious access to information but the use of fake accounts can be the most successful especially when the person being attacked assumes the legitimacy or honesty of the fake account, accepts a friendship request or clicks on a malware phishing link, for instance.

    The team's tailored extension for the popular Google Chrome browser allows them to successfully spot fake accounts. This might be used by security experts as a third-party reporting tool to help Facebook cleanup its systems or ultimately perhaps by the company or users. The team is also now extending the approach to other popular networking sites such as Twitter and Google+.

    Sahoo, S.R. and Gupta, B.B. (2020) 'Fake profile detection in multimedia big data on online social networks', Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 12, Nos. 2/3, pp.303-331.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJICS.2020.105181

  • Extracts from the leaves of the African tree, the velvet bushwillow, Combretum molle, can be used as a bio template for the environmentally friendly synthesis of silver nanoparticles with antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant activity. Chemists Z. Nate, M.J. Moloto, P.K. Mubiayi, and F.M. Mtunzi of Vaal University of Technology, and N.P. Sibiya of the University of Kwazulu-Natal, and South Africa, explain details of their novel process this week in the International Journal of Nano and Biomaterials.

    Plant extracts have been used successfully in the synthesis of metal nanoparticles. Indeed, aqueous extracts of Combretum molle have been used previously. The presence of tannins, proteins, flavonoids, and phenols allows the extracts to reduce metal salts in solution to insoluble metal particles while the same biomolecules can also act as capping agents that control the growth of those very nanoparticles and act to "cap" the surfaces.

    In the present work, the team has successfully generated silver nanoparticles in a narrow range of sizes from 1 to 30 nanometres. They found that silver nanoparticles made in this way were more effective against a range of microbes than nanoparticles made using a standard non-biological procedure. Activity was demonstrated against important pathogenic species: Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

    "These results indicated that the synthesised silver nanoparticles can be used as growth inhibitors against the studied bacteria and fungi species as they showed better inhibition than the already available antibacterial and antifungal agents," the team writes. They add that the capped silver nanoparticles have antioxidant activity but it is not as great as the activity of the aqueous extract from the plant itself.

    Nate, Z., Moloto, M.J., Sibiya, N.P., Mubiayi, P.K. and Mtunzi, F.M. (2019) 'Green synthesis of silver nanoparticles using aqueous extract of Combretum molle leaves, their antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant activity', Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.189–203.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJNBM.2019.104931

  • On St Valentine's Day, 14th February, some people may have been lucky enough to receive fresh-cut roses. A new study published International Journal Postharvest Technology and Innovation has advice on how to make the blooms, if not the love, last.

    Esmaeil Chamani of the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, in Ardabil, Iran and Carol Wagstaff of the School of Food Biosciences at the University of Reading, Reading, UK, have evaluated the effect of different levels of relative humidity (60%, 75%, and 90%) and re-cutting of the stems at 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 centimetres re-cutting at the end of the stem on "vase life". The team carried out two parallel experiments using either a bucket or a vase. Conditions were randomised and eight replications in the bucket experiment and five replications in the vase experiment were carried out.

    The basic result was that re-cutting stems had little effect on how long the blooms retained their floral prowess. Increasing humidity from 60 to 90 percent was the optimal alteration for prolonging the display. The findings corroborate how shortened longevity of cut roses is primarily related to water loss from their large leaf area and the essentially unfavourable growth conditions for a cut flower. That said, the team also found that higher humidity would increase bacterial growth. This could be counteracted by cutting 5 centimetres from the end of the cut stem.

    The blooming bottom line for Valentine's lovers – trim your rose stems and make sure things are kept quite steamy around the vase.

    Chamani, E. and Wagstaff, C. (2019) 'Effects of postharvest relative humidity and various re-cutting on vase life of cut rose flowers', Int. J. Postharvest Technology and Innovation, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.70–82.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJPTI.2019.104207

  • Research published in the International Journal of Technology Policy and Law sets out to answer the question: Can artificial intelligence (AI) replace whistle-blowers in the business sector?

    Kafteranis Dimitrios in the Faculty of Law at the University of Luxembourg, suggests that major technological developments in recent years have changed significantly the way we business and at the same time they have created new ways for insiders to expose unethical behaviour in those businesses. Evidence of wrongdoing can be accrued digitally very quickly and modern communication tools allow for the almost instantaneous dissemination of such information to regulatory authorities, the media, and the public.

    The emergence of so-called artificial intelligence and machine learning also now means that the extraction of evidence of wrongdoing might be automated. This could remove the human whistleblower from the equation allowing problems to be flagged far more effectively and efficiently without making any one individual a target for remonstrations from those involved in the wrongdoing. This could apply equally to exposure to management within a company or beyond the company when it is the management or the company itself that is involved in the wrongdoing.

    The research as it stands suggests that artificial whistleblowing is not credible but could be used to assist a human whistleblower in reporting misdemeanours at various levels to the appropriate authority.

    Dimitrios, K. (2019) 'Can artificial intelligence replace whistle-blowers in the business sector?', Int. J. Technology Policy and Law, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.160–171.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJTPL.2019.104948

  • Easier access to information and better communication tools has empowered consumers and allows them to make informed and perhaps more socially responsible purchasing decisions. At the same time, corporate responsibility and sustainability are gaining momentum. One might imagine that such positive moves in the world of commerce are universal. However, the diamond industry remains opaque.

    Writing in the International Journal of Sustainable Society, Meike Schulte and Cody Morris Paris of Middlesex University Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, suggest that the Kimberley Process was set up to allow the rough diamond trade to monitored and to impede the flow of conflict, or blood, diamonds. Such products hewn from areas of conflict and where human rights abuses, child labour, and slavery, are manifest should not be on the market in a socially responsible world.

    The team reports that one in five diamonds in terms of volume and one in ten diamonds in terms of value may have been produced under conditions that cannot be regarded as sustainable or ethical. Human rights abuses in the industry are thus incredibly common across several African nations where diamonds are mined with Angola having the worst record for conflict diamonds where the ethics of human rights are taken into account.

    The team suggests that human rights violations are systematic and systemic in the rough diamond industry. Global rough diamond production amounts to around 150 million carats each year with a market value of around 16 billion US dollars. It is time, some of these vast revenues were turned to improving the lives of those working in the mines and to extracting child slaves from the often-horrendous working conditions they face. The team adds that related industries – gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum – have similar ethical problems that must also be addressed.

    Schulte, M. and Paris, C.M. (2020) 'Blood diamonds: an analysis of the state of affairs and the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process', Int. J. Sustainable Society, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.51–75.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSSOC.2020.105017


New Editor for International Journal of Ultra Wideband Communications and Systems

Associate Prof. Yunfei Chen from the University of Warwick in the UK has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Ultra Wideband Communications and Systems.

New Editor for International Journal of Systems, Control and Communications

Prof. Jianbo Su from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Systems, Control and Communications.

New Editor for Latin American Journal of Management for Sustainable Development

Associate Prof. Luciana Oranges Cezarino from the Federal University of Uberlandia in Brazil has been appointed to take over editorship of the Latin American Journal of Management for Sustainable Development. She will be joined by a new Executive Editor, Prof. Lara Bartocci Liboni of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

New Editor for International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising

Associate Prof. Jesús García-Madariaga from Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising.

New Editor for International Journal of Ocean Systems Management

Prof. José António Correia from the University of Porto in Portugal has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Ocean Systems Management.