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  • Rozita Jamili Oskouei of the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, at the Islamic Azad University, in Mahdishahr, Iran, is working on the concept of creating a web "signature" of student activity online. Writing in the International Journal of Web Science, she explains how her findings suggest that contrary to popular opinion from certain media pundits and even some academics, access to and use of the internet does not generally have an adverse effect on academic performance, quite the opposite, she suggests.

    Her development of a unique web signature for each student could be used by educators to better predict the demand on computing resources in an academic institution. It might also be used to group together users with common interests based on their online behaviour and be used to establish a social network between those users or open up such a social network to those who appear to be excluded or confined to cliques.

    This social networking benefit could be most useful during a student's early days in the academic environment, when they are still "freshers" as it could allow mentoring and guidance to be given by older fellow students or connect the new students to the requisite professional and expert advice to help them discuss problems and overcome any difficulties.

    Oskouei, R.J. (2019) 'Creating web signature for each individual user and its various applications', Int. J. Web Science, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.83–103.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJWS.2019.102206

  • Odours, scents, smells…whatever you call them, they are inextricably linked to our mood and memory. The delightful scent of a rose in bloom can evoke delicious emotions whereas a stench in the office can offend everyone and even disrupt work.

    Olga Trhlíková of the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry in Prague, Czech Republic, is using a powerful analytical technique that can home in on the source of a bad smell in the complex environment of a working office. She reports details of the technique, solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography, in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management.

    "Permanent or recurring malodours invading office rooms have not only detrimental effects on the staff productivity but also on their health directly or through the stress mechanisms," Trhlíková writes. Identifying the source of an offensive odour and removing or at least neutralizing it can be critical to office wellbeing. Solid-phase microextraction coupled with gas chromatography and mass spectrometric (SPME/GC-MS) can identify previously unknown, but smelly volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in an office whether the source is microbial spoilage and contamination, a chemical spill, or even fire.

    The data from tests in four rooms of an office building were able to identify the malodours by matching the spectra and chromatograms to a database of known chemical fingerprints. In the proof of principle work, malodours from the most likely source, the lavatory, were ruled out quickly and the actual source of the bad smells turned out to be the rotting carcasses of dead animals within the building, such as small rodents.

    Trhlíková, O. (2019) 'Identification of the malodour source in a complex office environment using solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography', Int. J. Environmental Technology and Management, Vol. 22, Nos. 2/3, pp.115–127.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJETM.2019.102199

  • Some things fade and deteriorate as they age, but not fine wine and cheese, many types of these products get better with maturity and their value goes up. In the world of logistics coping with products whose value changes with age is a conundrum for storage and transport.

    A team from Italy, writing in the International Journal of Logistics Systems and Management, has looked in detail at this problem and come to some important conclusions for those handling and marketing maturing products.

    Simone Zanoni, Lucio Enrico Zavanella, and Ivan Ferretti of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the Università degli Studi di Brescia, in Brescia, point out that particular cheeses, red wines, but also spirits, balsamic vinegar, and other consumable goods have a particular set of peculiarities associated with aging and maturing and their growing value on the market.

    Their work points to a new way to model product lifecycles, inventory and logistics in a way that was not considered in the original business models from the early part of the twentieth century where products were either seen as having an essentially "infinite" storage time or were perishable goods that had a limited shelf life.

    Zanoni, S., Zavanella, L.E. and Ferretti, I. (2019) 'Inventory models for maturing and ageing items: cheese and wine storage', Int. J. Logistics Systems and Management, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp.233-252.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJLSM.2019.102215

  • The overuse of packaging is a growing environmental problem in terms of resource use and waste production. Unfortunately, interesting and intriguing packaging is a crucial part of the modern approach to marketing and is perceived by many consumers, particularly those buying high-end goods, such as smartphones and other electronic gadgets as an essential part of the purchase experience.

    The notion of a "rich unboxing experience" as infantile as that might sound is discussed in detail in the Journal of Design Research. Jieun Bae Busan of the National Science Museum in Busan, and James Self and Chajoong Kim of the Department of Industrial Design, at UNIST, in Ulsan, also in South Korea explore the influence of complexity in packaging design, defined as complexity of action and transformation, upon product appraisal at an unboxing phase of product life cycle.

    Their surveillance of the market's response to packaging reveals as one might expect that the complexity of product packaging significantly influences how the consumer appraises the product they have purchased and what might be described as the product's "personality". The findings contribute to a greater understanding of the role of packaging in increased expectations and delight as opposed to dissatisfaction, buyer's remorse, one might say. The findings thus have implications for the use of complexity of action and transformation in product packaging design.

    Unfortunately, it seems that the rich unboxing experience is probably here to stay at least for certain types of product unless companies and consumers can negotiate a position where satisfaction with a product is based solely on the product itself rather than the layers of wrappers in which it comes to the possession of the buyer.

    Bae, J., Self, J.A. and Kim, C. (2019) 'Rich unboxing experiences: complexity in product packaging and its influence upon product expectations', J. Design Research, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.26-46.
    DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2019.102230

  • New work published in the International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments suggests how professional discourse might usefully be analysed on the micro-blogging platform known as Twitter.

    Fredrick Baker of the Department of Instructional Design and Technology at the University of West Florida Patrick Lowenthal of Boise State University in Idaho explain how both professionals and academics now commonly use social networking sites such as Twitter for scholarly discourse around resources and networking. They point out that the use of so-called hashtags – keywords that are assigned a special searchable place within the Twitter system by virtue of adding a "hash, #" character (often known as the pound sign in the US) can be very useful for finding connections between users and related content.

    In their work, they have looked at how education is discussed on Twitter by tracking and following the #openeducation hashtag. They used as a scalable mixed methods content analysis model to follow the discourse associated with this hashtag . They were able to analyse almost one thousand Twitter updates, or "tweets" and then group them according to themes. Thirty-two themes emerged from the analysis across eight main categories. They were than able to develop a questionnaire to survey users in a more informed manner and to reveal ties between users and connections within the information discussed that could might then be useful to those involved in open education in the broadest sense.

    "The study shows that the hashtag is an active platform for connecting with others and sharing ideas, that open education designs and open educational content are the primary theme areas discussed on the #openeducation hashtag, and that the most active hashtag contributors are active voices in open education in a variety of ways," the team concludes.

    Baker III, F.W. and Lowenthal, P.R. (2019) 'Analysing professional discourse on Twitter: a mixed methods analysis of the #openeducation hashtag', Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.107-121.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSMILE.2019.102144

  • Breast cancer is a common illness around the world. It is the most common invasive of cancers in women and affects around one in eight and represents about a quarter of all invasive cancers.

    A research team in India well aware of the issues, costs and discomfort surrounding screening and assessment of breast tumours with conventional mammography have developed a novel system for monitoring changes in such a tumour that uses a compact microstrip antenna. Such devices are relatively easy to fabricate and have a wide range of more conventional applications in the world of telecommunications as satellite television receivers and such.

    The team describes details in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology and explains how the devices comprise a radiating patch with a rectangular slot, three stubs, a feed-line and a partial ground plane. The devices operate at a frequency of between 2.4 and 4.76 gigahertz (microwave, or UH, ultrahigh frequencies) and measure the resonance of the tumour, as opposed to healthy breast, tissue, which have different dielectric properties.

    The team reports how resonant frequency in the antenna falls as the tumour grows and rises if it shrinks due to treatment. This offers a relatively simple, non-surgical, and less risky way for the oncologist to monitor a tumour of the breast that is also more comfortable for the patient than standard measurement techniques.

    Selvaraj, V., Srinivasan, P., Baskaran, D. and Krishnan, R. (2019) 'Characterisation of breast tissue using compact microstrip antenna', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp.161-175.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBET.2019.102121

  • Might popular culture, such as the Star Wars science fiction franchise be used to boost skills among those involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)? Writing in the International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Stephan Längle of the Danube University Krems in Austria discusses the possibility.

    His study is based on the period 2000-2018 and focuses on Star Wars as one of the more enduring and well known of the science fiction franchises, It began in the late 1970s and still persists with a huge fan-base across all kinds of media, not just the original cinematic format. He points out that an increasing number of scientists use pop-cultural elements to communicate scientific theories and methods to the public and Star Wars is one of those. Längle suggests that learning through social media is on the increase among STEM students and the pop culture of Star Wars is successfully engaging many students in those areas.

    The research suggests that there are two ways in which pop culture might be used in class: science principles might be communicated directly with reference to a fictional world, for instance, or the world might serve as a template for preparing teaching materials. Of course, some learners may not want to learn about the real science behind Star Wars and it may not be suitable for every class, some may be fans of Star Trek or another fictional world. Educators should, regardless, take into account the interests of their students and do so in a serious way so that those interests might be integrates into everyday school life in a positive way that improves learning.

    Längle, S. (2019) 'Star Wars science on social media! Using pop culture to improve STEM skills', Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.137-149.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSMILE.2019.10023643

  • While the world's media may well have moved on to new stories, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which was one of the most devastating in history continues to have a significant impact on the lives of those affected by it. Writing in the International Journal of Healthcare Policy, Mohamed Jalloh of the Economic Policy Analysis Unit (EPAU), Macroeconomic Policy Department, ECOWAS Commission, in Abuja, Nigeria, discusses the long-lasting economic impact.

    Ebola virus disease (EVD) causes a viral haemorrhagic fever that is lethal in up to 90 percent of those infected. The virus is highly contagious, spreading quickly through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Control of outbreaks requires coordinated medical services and community engagement. Where infrastructure and response are limited an outbreak can lead to many deaths within a short period of time.

    The worst Ebola outbreak we have seen in modern times started in Guinea when an infant died at the end of 2013. The disease quickly spread to neighbouring countries, specifically Liberia and Sierra Leone. This specific outbreak led to almost 30000 suspected cases and some 11,323 registered deaths.

    Jalloh's study shows that in addition to the adverse impact of the disease on the people, the consequent isolation of the countries affected simply worsened their economic conditions. This will ultimately reduce still further the ability of those nations to cope well with future health problems of this kind. He suggests that there is an urgent need to strengthen healthcare systems, enhance the training and skills of health workers, to put in place methods to allow people and goods to move more effectively and to improve the coordination of efforts to combat a future epidemic of this or any other emerging pathogen.

    One important and specific call to action from Jalloh if taken up would see the World Health Organization (WHO) strengthening its collaborations with international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the likes of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in coordinating responses for the combating of epidemic outbreaks

    Jalloh, M. (2019) 'Estimating the economic impact of the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa: an empirical approach', Int. J. Healthcare Policy, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.1–23.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJHP.2019.101684

  • Machine recognition of sign languages is on the cards thanks to work by a team in India who are using a Microsoft Kinect movement-identifying controller. Writing in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics, the team explains how their system uses just 11 of the 20 joints tracked by a Kinect and can extract novel features per frame, based on distances, angles, and velocity involving upper body joints. The team reports how the algorithm recognizes 35 gestures from Indian sign in real time with almost 90 percent accuracy.

    Jayesh Gangrade and Jyoti Bharti of the Maunala Azad National Institute of Technology, in Bhopal, India, explain how many people with a significant hearing deficit utilize gesture-based communication, hand movements, and orientation together with facial expression are used dynamically to convey meaning in as nuanced and expressive a way as any other language dialect. The development of technology that could also be competent in sign languages would give those who rely on this form of communication a new approach to interacting with machines and computers. Camera, digital gloves, and other gadgets have been investigated previously in this context. However, the potential of an inexpensive video game controller, such as the Kinect, that can track body movements could facilitate this rapidly.

    The team points out that their approach requires no markers nor special clothing with tracking objects as was necessary with some of the earlier efforts in this area. "We have experimented with a minimal set of features to distinguish between the given signs with practical accuracies," the team writes. They are now experimenting with the Kinect v2 sensor which is more accurate and could push the research closer to its ultimate goal.

    Gangrade, J. and Bharti, J. (2019) 'Real time sign language recognition using depth sensor', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.329–339.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCVR.2019.101527

  • Research published in the International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing discusses the potential for a smartphone application that can be used in conjunction with a microscope attachment that might allow a physician to assess a man's fertility much more quickly than is usually possible. The system might even be used by the man himself given sufficient information and guidance. The counting technique segregates live sperm from background noise on the basis of the constant movement, motility of active sperm in a sample.

    Hyun-Mo Yang, Dong-Woo Lim, Yong-Sik Choi, Jin-Gu Kang, In-Hwan Kim, Ailing Lin, and Jin-Woo Jung of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Dongguk University, in Seoul, South Korea, explain that experimental results have already demonstrated the effectiveness of their procedure.

    "Experimental results with grade A, B and C sperm images based on WHO [World Health Organization] criteria show that each grade sperm image could be effectively categorized by using the proposed sperm counting algorithm. This result could be directly used for the development of consumer device which can classify the health condition of user sperms based on WHO criteria," the team writes. They add that while the approach utilizes sperm motility further research will allow them to develop the algorithm to look at the degree of sperm motility, which will give the man additional information about his fertility as both sperm count and degree of sperm motility are both important factors.

    Yang, H-M., Lim, D-W., Choi, Y-S., Kang, J-G., Kim, I-H., Lin, A. and Jung, J-W. (2019) 'Image-based human sperm counting method', Int. J. Social and Humanistic Computing, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.148–157
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSHC.2019.101598

News

International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics increases issues

The International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to six from 2020 onwards.

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The International Journal of Power Electronics has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to eight from 2020 onwards.

International Journal of Management Practice increases issues

The International Journal of Management Practice has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to six from 2020 onwards.

International Journal of Management in Education increases issues

The International Journal of Management in Education has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to six from 2020 onwards.

International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy increases issues

The International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to six from 2020 onwards.