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  • A team from Brazil has looked at the different stresses on the human body when walking, cycling, and driving. Their findings suggest that taking non-motorised trips is the best option in terms of health and wellbeing.

    Wesley Cândido de Melo, Augusto César de Mendonça Brasil, and Rita de Cássia Silva of the Transport Graduate Program at the University of Brasília-UnB, Campus Darcy Ribeiro in Brasília discuss details in the World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research. The team examined data from volunteers – blood pressure, galvanic skin response, pulse, and breathing rate while the volunteers walked, cycled, or drove from their homes to the University of Brasília in the early morning and late afternoon along six dedicated routes for walking, cycling, and driving.

    Motor transport is a growing problem in big cities in terms of congestion, pollution, and a reduction in the number of people experiencing the health benefits of self-propulsion, whether walking or cycling. Cities built to a plan based in a 1950s ethos are especially problematic in this sense as those cities were commonly designed for cars rather than pedestrians and cyclists. Rebooting and rerouting those cities will take time, money, and effort to open up the healthier route. Brasília has well over one motor vehicle for every two people in the city. However, the city also now has almost 300 miles of cycle paths. Walking and cycling offer health benefits and potentially lower stress levels than driving.

    "The results show that non-motorised trips are less stressful than motorised ones, proving that when walking and cycling the traveller is free to obtain the best body conditions to reduce effort and stress, a fact explained by the cost of the minimum specific energy used during the shift," the team writes.

    de Melo, W.C., de Mendonça Brasil, A.C. and de Cássia Silva, R. (2022) 'Assessment of human physiology as indicators of stress when driving, biking and walking', World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research, Vol. 11, No. 2.
    DOI: 10.1504/WRITR.2022.10049709

  • How does job satisfaction sit with the notion of work-life balance? Writing in the International Journal of Services and Operations Management, a research team from Portugal point out that a positive and stable work environment can improve an employee's sense of belonging in an organisation. In parallel with such a concept, they say that can enhance commitment. The counterpoint is that this commitment and belonging should perhaps be balanced by freedom to have an active and enjoyable personal life outside of work too. However, it was not known whether the various factors connect in a positive way.

    Álvaro Dias of the Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias/TRIE, Carolina Feixeira of ISG Business and Economics, Leandro Pereira, Renato Lopes da Costa, and Rui Gonçalves of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, all in Lisboa, Portugal, carried out a quantitative study of survey results from workers. They found that workplace environment positively affects job satisfaction. However, perhaps surprisingly, they found that organisational commitment did not correlate with the workers' balance between professional and personal life.

    For many workers, professional and personal life is entwined more than ever. Gone are the days of people physically and figuratively clocking in and clocking off. Work pressures spill over into our free time more and more and this issue is exacerbated by the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and the inevitable expectation to respond instantaneously to any notification whether professional or personal.

    Job satisfaction is only one component of a person's mental well-being, there has to be satisfaction outside the workplace and there has to be a sturdier dividing line between professional and personal activities if a worker is to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance. It was hypothesised that somehow improving the workplace environment, which does seem to improve job satisfaction would also improve well-being associated with work-life balance. However, the team's results suggest that this is not the case. They also add that for teleworkers and homeworkers, the issues that might exist are complicated still further where the borders between personal and professional life may well be more diffuse given that the daily commute might be just a few minutes from the living room to home office as opposed to a distinct journey from home to workplace.

    Dias, Á., Feixeira, C., Pereira, L., da Costa, R.L. and Gonçalves, R. (2022) 'The work-life balance and job satisfaction', Int. J. Services and Operations Management, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp.401–420.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSOM.2020.10036724

  • Is biodiesel truly a viable and sustainable alternative to diesel fuels derived from fossil fuels? Writing in the International Journal of Design Engineering, a team from India investigates and comes to the conclusion that the nature of biodiesel as renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic does indeed make it a good alternative to petrochemical fuels.

    Sanjay Patel and P.K. Brahmbhatt, both affiliated with Gujarat Technological University in Ahmedabad, point out that conventional diesel fuel remains one of the primary fuels for transport and many other applications. However, as with all fossil fuels, its use comes at a cost in terms of pollution, particulates, carbon emissions, and, of course, the fact that it is derived from a limited resource, oil.

    Biodiesel as an alternative to conventional diesel has come to the fore in recent years as a renewable, and perhaps sustainable choice for transport. Many buses and other vehicles worldwide are now powered with biodiesel derived from biomass, either generated from waste or from crops grown for the purpose of biodiesel production. There have been concerns over the years that biodiesel was somehow less efficient than conventional diesel. Moreover, there were also concerns regarding carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides formation from biodiesel.

    The team suggests that with modern biodiesel technology, these concerns are unfounded in terms of emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in the exhaust gases. The higher oxygen content of biodiesel allows for improved combustion despite the lower calorific value of fuels derived from vegetable matter. However, the presence of oxygen in the fuel itself, while improving combustion raises the cylinder temperature in a diesel engine and so there is a greater concentration of nitrogen oxides produced in the exhaust gases of a biodiesel-powered engine.

    This comprehensive review points to the many benefits and highlights how some of the issues surrounding biodiesel use can be circumvented by the use of blended fuels. These also have the advantage of not requiring any modification of the engine itself prior to use, something that has been an issue with standard biodiesel fuels.

    Patel, S. and Brahmbhatt, P.K. (2022) 'Comprehensive review of biodiesel as an alternative fuel for diesel engines', Int. J. Design Engineering, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.61–76.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJDE.2022.10051142

  • Antiviral coatings based on nanomaterials could help reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, according to new work in the International Journal of Surface Science and Engineering. The Indian team has reviewed the state-of-the-art in the context of COVID-19.

    We now know the causative agent in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, is most commonly transmitted through the air from coughs and sneezes, and even just the talking and breathing of one infected person to another. However, a secondary path for transmission involves, fomites, droplets containing viral particles that have impinged on a surface that another person may touch and so pick up the infection.

    Manoj Raula and Sucheta Sengupta of Amity University in Noida, India, have reviewed nanomaterials that might be used to coat surfaces that people commonly touch in the work environment, in public places, and even in the home. Nanocoatings have been developed to coat glass and plastic as well as cotton fabrics, for instance. The team's review covers metal and metal oxide nanomaterials and how they might be used as antiviral coatings. Examples of nanoparticles being studied include precious metal nanoparticles, gold, silver, and copper, as well as materials such as perovskites.

    While the world of antibacterial coatings has moved rapidly in recent years, it was the advent of COVID-19 that provided an initial motivation for the development of antiviral coatings. Such materials could have wide-ranging efficacy against other viruses, such as influenza viruses too. Events and circumstances have overtaken our concerns regarding COVID-19 transmission, however, innovation in antiviral coatings will not be wasted given the likelihood of as yet unimagined future emerging viruses exploiting fomites as a major route for their transmission.

    Raula, M. and Sengupta, S. (2022) 'Recent development of antiviral nano-coatings for COVID-19 management – a review', Int. J. Surface Science and Engineering, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.317–334.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSURFSE.2022.10048827

  • The COVID-19 pandemic led to a lot of people being forced to spend more time at home, often working from home, but also essentially isolated in their homes in order to reduce the risk of spreading or catching the disease. Computer games were perhaps a blessed relief from the potential boredom of enforced indoor life and no doubt many people enjoyed the experience. Gaming and reduce stress and anxiety. However, there is a flipside in that beyond a certain point the gaming itself can sometimes reverse that relief and induce stress and anxiety.

    Writing in the International Journal of Modelling, Identification and Control, a team from India investigated the emotional response to gaming to ascertain whether there is a positive or a negative net gain. They used a deep-learning algorithm to analyse and classify electroencephalographic signals from gamers while engaged in playing. The algorithm outperformed other approaches to accurately classifying the gamers' emotions. Indeed, the gaming scenario provides the stressors to allow them to train their algorithm to detect emotions and once trained it might in the future be used as a suppressed emotion detector in scenarious other than the computer gaming environment.

    Stress and anxiety are generally considered negative emotions by definition, although they do have their place in a balanced life experience, one might suggest. Anxiety can be perceived as excitement in many contexts, which is normally considered a positive emotion, while stress may well be associated with motivation and drive, again a positive. Too much stress and anxiety, however, over prolonged periods, such as a pandemic, are generally not thought of as desirable in the context of good mental and physical health. There is the potential for serious harm if chronic stress and anxiety are not addressed and, of course, concerns about the person exposed or suffering from them to pursue detrimental life choices.

    Ahona Ghosh and Sriparna Saha of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology in West Bengal, India, being well aware of the problems of chronic stress and anxiety hope their work will allow those studying stress an anxiety to non-invasive investigate these emotions in various circumstances and so perhaps develop guidance and interventions, perhaps associated with gaming, to help people in different walks of life, especially during a global crisis such as a pandemic.

    Ghosh, A. and Saha, S. (2022) 'Suppression of positive emotions during pandemic era: a deep learning framework for rehabilitation', Int. J. Modelling, Identification and Control, Vol. 41, Nos. 1/2, pp.143–154.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJMIC.2022.10052113

  • Machine learning can be used in the classification of health-drink preferences for older people, according to research published in the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

    The work undertaken in Thailand during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the complexities of preference and dietary requirements could be used to help health drinks manufacturers develop products that will be better received by the target market. Moreover, the same work could guide older people and carers and healthcare workers allowing them to stick more closely to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for such products in terms of nutritional and other benefits.

    Athakorn Kengpol and Jakkarin Klunngien of King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok explain that as the world population continues to "age", there is a pressing need to address the nutritional requirements of this growing demographic. With a larger number of older people, there is likely to be a greater incidence of chronic health complaints and nutritional problems. Advances in medicine can address some of the illnesses to varying degrees. However, nutrition plays an important role in staving off illness or helping in the maintanance of general health despite the common issues of multiple conditions.

    The emergence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the ensuing world pandemic it caused complicated this issue still further. The WHO offered guidance on how older people, who would likely be more vulnerable to the potentially devastating symptoms of the disease, might be protected. Part of the guidance was focused on improved nutrition.

    The team's work has led to a decision-support system based upon a machine learning model for classifying the beverages. A neural network trained using particle swarm optimisation could then be incorporated into a drinks vending machine to guide users to the most appropriate health beverage.

    Kengpol, A. and Klunngien, J. (2022) 'Design of a machine learning to classify health beverages preferences for elderly people: an empirical study during COVID-19 in Thailand', Int. J. Industrial and Systems Engineering, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp.319–337.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJISE.2021.10038478

  • There are numerous incentives for developing semi-autonomous vehicles. For instance, if cars can be coordinated into platoon formation for motorway driving there is the potential to increase road capacity, reduce traffic congestion, and lower the risk of collisions. There is also the possibility that formation driving in this way could also reduce aerodynamic drag and so improve total fuel economy for the vehicles in the platoon.

    Research in the International Journal of Vehicle Systems Modelling and Testing examines this concept and investigates how vehicle shape, separation distance, and the number of vehicles in a platoon affect aerodynamic drag. Wei Gao, Zhaowen Deng, and Ying Feng of the School of Automotive Engineering at Hubei University of Automotive Technology in Shiyan, China, and Yuping He of the Department of Automotive and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, carried out simulations and wind tunnel tests.

    The investigation shows that irrespective of the number of vehicles in a platoon, the average aerodynamic drag on each is less than the drag measured on a vehicle driving in isolation. The more vehicles in a platoon the more beneficial is the average drag reduction on total fuel economy. Cars with what is described as a "squareback" shape as opposed to notchback or fastback, have the most to gain in fuel economy when driving in platoon, with an average drag reduction of almost 20% being observed.

    The team suggests that the improved fuel economy of having semi-autonomous vehicles driving in a platoon formation on long motorway journery is worth investigating further in developing intelligent transportation systems that retain the freedom of a personal vehicle on which many people are still hooked.

    Gao, W., Deng, Z., Feng, Y. and He, Y. (2022) 'On aerodynamic drag reduction of road vehicles in platoon', Int. J. Vehicle Systems Modelling and Testing, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.1-24.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJVSMT.2022.10051896

  • New work in the International Journal of Business Information Systems looks at the human side of cybersecurity. We might think of cybersecurity as being mostly about firewalls, antivirus software, spam filters, and dDOS detection, but it is often social engineering and human failure that leads to breaches of computer systems and networks rather than sophisticated malware.

    Rajesh Kumar Upadhyay of the Graphic Era Hill University, Dehradun, and Anurag Singh and Brij Mohan Singh of the India and College of Engineering Roorkee surveyed professionals, non-professionals, and students working and studying in the educational sector of the Uttarakhand region. They hoped to explore the relationship between awareness of computer security issues and human behaviour. They focused on various personality traits to determine whether there were correlations between those and a person's understanding of cybersecurity. The team points out that while an organization or individual can put in place policies and tools to protect from intrusion that happens digitally it is almost impossible to protect against social engineering without ongoing education of users who might succumb to the dubious and persuasive skills of the confidence trickster.

    Cybersecurity is an enormous challenge worldwide, the team emphasizes. The team has now looked at extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness of personality and how this relates to an individual's perception and understanding of cybersecurity with a view to educating where there are gaps in knowledge or where a particular personality type might well be more susceptible to social engineering than another. Fundamentally, we all have different attitudes to cybersecurity and this can thus be an issue within an organization. However, the team did find that conscientious extroverts tended to be more aware of the issues and more likely to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity than others with different personality traits, and this was regardless of gender.

    The team suggests that organizations ought to improve their security awareness among their users as well as instigate practices to help thwart social engineering attacks.

    Upadhyay, R.K., Singh, A. and Singh, B.M. (2022) 'Human side of cybersecurity: an empirical study', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp.408–422.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBIS.2020.10030932

  • Don't eat the yellow snow, it's good parental advice to every child playing in their local winter wonderland, but there's a good reason not to eat any snow – it could be contaminated with high levels of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution a team from China has analysed snow in the Changping District for 16 priority PAHs. Their worrying analysis reveals that the total PAH content of their samples were all at the high-risk level in terms of environmental health.

    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon are organic compounds (compounds of carbon other than carbon dioxide and carbonates) that are composed of multiple aromatic rings. The term "aromatic" in this context refers to the way in which the carbon atoms are held together in those rings, although etymologically it does refer to the strong odour of the simpler aromatic compounds, such as benzene.

    The simplest PAH is naphthalene, which resembles two benzene rings joined, anthracene and phenanthrene contain three such rings, there are many more with more rings in various arrangements. Many of these molecules are volatile, inflammable, toxic and carcinogenic. They are commonly formed through partial combustion of fuels such as coal and biomass and are present in fossil fuels.

    The team's analysis revealed that the most common PAHs in the snow samples contained 4 or 5 rings. PAHs with 3 or 6 rings were next highest concentration, followed by naphthalene and its derivatives. The team suggests that it is rather worrying that the PAHs are present at risky concentrations in snow. Snow persists and is often ploughed to the side of roads. When it thaws the PAH content will be carried into the drainage system and beyond.

    "It is interesting and should be noted that fresh snow, which is a naturally occurring substance as one important way of water circulation, was proven to be able to absorb and dissolve PAHs especially for high molecular weight molecules and multiring molecules, and can be monitored to trace pollution sources from the air in a short duration in cities," the team writes.

    Wan, Y-Y., Fei, J-J., Zhang, Y., Shi, S-X., Dong, L. and Zhang, Z-H. (2021) 'Characteristics of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in fresh snow in the Changping district, Beijing', Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 69, Nos. 3/4, pp.277–304.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJEP.2021.10051957

  • The pretty and delicate Asiatic Dayflower, Commelina communis, the individual blooms of which last a mere 24 hours, hence the name, can quickly soak up toxic copper ions from contaminated soil. The plant, which is native to much of East Asia and the northern part of Southeast Asia, is known as yazhicao but is known as a noxious weed outside the region.

    A team at Wuhan University of Science and Technology writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution describes how they have grown potted specimens on the plant in soil contaminated with copper and zinc. These two metals are commonly found in the ground around industrial and brownfield sites and there are many efforts to find simple, effective, and often biological methods to efficiently remediate such sites. Plants that accumulate the metals directly from the soil might be grown on such a contaminated site and once they have matured, they can be harvested for processing. Such processing might simply involve safe disposal of the now-contaminated plant matter or else extraction of the absorbed metal ions depending on the economics.

    Zhiqiang Pan, Shuqin Zhang, Dajun Ren, Xiaoqing Zhang, and Shuang Liu found that C. communis was much more tolerant of copper than zinc. However, there was a synergistic effect of each metal on the absorption of its counterpart at low soil concentration. Conversely, at high-contamination levels of both metals, the plant's ability to assimilate copper was reduced.

    Such facile biological methods for the remediation of soils around industrial sites, mines, and other areas, contaminated with heavy metals could help reduce the environmental harmful effects of such contamination. Left untreated soluble heavy metal ions represent a long-term environmental hazard as well as affecting detrimentally local ecosystems, the associated food chains, and more widely through contamination of groundwater. The demonstration of hyperaccumulation of copper ions from contaminated soil by C. communis points to this species as being a potentially rather useful tool in the development of concerted efforts at phytoremediation of contaminated brownfield and other sites.

    Pan, Z., Zhang, S., Ren, D., Zhang, X. and Liu, S. (2021) 'Growth and accumulation of Cu and Zn by Commelina communis under Cu, Zn and their combined pollution', Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 69, Nos. 3/4, pp.197–211.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJEP.2021.10051955

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