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- Nanotech offers a boost to agriculture
Copper oxide nanoparticles might be used to provide an essential mineral nutrient to growing maize seedlings, according to work published in the International Journal of Nanotechnology.
Nanoparticles are tiny particles, which can range from 1 to 100 nanometres in diameter, sometimes a little bigger. Metallic nanoparticles smaller than 1 nanometre are considered to be atomic clusters. Particles exceeding 500 nanometres are usually thought of as microparticles, unless they are nanotubes or fibres, which can be longer, but are nanoscopic in cross-section. Being nanoscopic gives a particle unique properties when compared with atomic clusters or bigger particles. As such they have been researched extensively across many different sectors, including materials science, engineering, medicine, and agriculture.
Given that copper is an essential nutrient for plant growth, the idea that copper, or more specifically copper oxide, nanoparticles (CuO NPs) might have useful properties to help plants assimilate the mineral readily and so to grow better has been discussed. Physicist Ali Raza of the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan, and colleagues have investigated the effects of dosing the growing medium of maize seedlings with Cuo NPS. The researchers wanted to see how well the CuO NPs could enter and move through the plants, and if they would affect the growth of maize seedlings. They also needed to know whether this type of nanoparticle would be toxic. Metallic copper nanoparticles, as opposed to CuO NPs can have a positive effect on seed germination but are phytotoxic to growing wheat, Triticum aestivum, seedlings.
The basic conclusion from their study is that CuO NPs are taken up by the seedling roots and lead to improved growth over the course of eighteen days. The seedlings produce longer roots and shoots when dosed with CuO NPs, even at the relatively high concentration of 800 milligrams per litre of CuO NPs the nanoparticles were not toxic to the seedlings.
However, chlorophyll content fell and catalase activity decreased, which would ultimately have a deleterious effect on photosynthesis above that concentration. Samples dosed at 550 milligrams per litre (mg/l) showed a proportionately lower enhanced growth rate when compared to the 800 mg/l samples and against undosed control, suggesting a dose-related uptake at these concentrations.
The team suggests that the nanoparticles have a beneficial regulatory effect on enzyme activity in the seedlings, given that copper is a component or co-factor in many plant enzymes.
Raza, A., Ahmad, S., Mateen, A., Arshad, A., Rehman, A. and Oliveira, H.A.L. (2022) 'Effect of copper nanoparticles on growth parameters of maize seedlings', Int. J. Nanotechnol., Vol. 19, No. 12, pp.1143–1157.
- Privacy in the cloud
Data privacy issues have come to the fore in the world of cloud computing and there has been something of a backlash against this burgeoning area in some quarters. However, there are many individuals and organisations that rely on it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the laws around data privacy in cloud computing have not kept apace with the technology and are often unclear and contradictory. This problem needs to be addressed urgently according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Cloud Computing.
Alaeldin Alkhasawneh of the Department of Private Law at Yarmouk University in Jordan and also the Department of Private Law at UAEU University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Fawaz A. Khasawneh of the Department of Software Engineering and IT at the University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada, have explored the laws surrounding data privacy in cloud computing and identified several gaps in the legislation. The team offers several proposals as to how the laws might be improved to create a better experience and service for cloud consumers as well as increased protection for personal, sensitive, and private data.
Cloud computing is an essential service provided by many companies and used by many more. It offers various benefits to users by providing storage and computing services through remote servers rather than the user having to have their own on-site systems. There are costs, but the benefits of often distributed systems means that users within a multinational organisation can access those services anywhere in the world rather than overburdening a single-site server. Users of cloud computing might be private individual, small and medium-sized enterprises, governments and non-governmental organisations, as well as large companies and international corporate entities.
The team suggests that fundamentally cloud computing service providers should be required by law to take greater responsibility for the protection of their users' data. The team also suggests that the various local and regional laws need to work in concert to avoid contradictions and to allow cloud computing thrive without compromising the protections the various laws offer users.
Alkhasawneh, A. and Khasawneh, F.A. (2023) 'Legal issues of consumer privacy protection in the cloud computing environment: analytic study in GDPR, and USA legislations', Int. J. Cloud Computing, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.40–62.
- A life-long educational lifeline
The concept of lifelong learning has been with humanity throughout history. There have always been those whose curiosity is forever piqued, who need new skills as they go through life, and those for whom change brings with it obstacles and opportunities that can be addressed with new knowledge. In the modern context, lifelong learning as a more formal concept and aspiration for society as a whole is probably newer, Indeed, we might see arguments for a new paradigm in learning beyond childhood and youth as emerging just 25 years ago or thereabouts. At that time, researchers began arguing for more innovative learning models that were personalized to those who wanted to learn and also giving these life students a chance to have a more active role in deciding what, when, and how to learn.
Writing in the International Journal of Grid and Utility Computing, a team from Spain discusses the current need for flexible, efficient, universal, and lifelong education especially given the rapid evolution of information and communications technologies.
Jordi Conesa, Montserrat Garcia-Alsina, Josep-Maria Batalla-Busquets, Beni Gómez-Zúñiga, María J. Martínez-Argüelles, Tona Monjo, and Enric Mor Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona and María Del Carmen Cruz Gil Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain, point out that lifelong learning needs to be integrated fully into society, but because it differs from regular learning in many ways, there are issues that must be addressed to allow this to happen, for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
It is worth noting, that lifelong learners are by definition older, and perhaps more mature, than those in conventional educational environments such as school and higher education. They may have much broader interests and have experience and skills that have not yet been achieved by younger learners. Lifelong learning may also work at many different levels and depths, not all lifelong learning will be aimed at passing exams or completing a dissertation to be presented to professors. Indeed, much lifelong learning may not be in any way vocational, it might not relate to work and could very well be more about family, leisure, sporting activities and other hobbies. Of course, for lifelong learners there is also the possibility of limited flexibility because of balancing commitments to home, work, and leisure, with that very learning.
As with many aspects of life, a personalised approach, tailored to fit the individual can be the most constructive way forward. Existing models of personalised learning have not yet been adapted to the needs of lifelong learners or society at large. The researchers have now examined the current state of lifelong learning, reviewed the relevant literature, and discussed the challenges we face in creating innovative electronic-learning models to promote self-determination life-students.
It is self-determination that is central to success for lifelong learners. It gives learners more control over how they are educated, and how they teach themselves, allowing them to make choices to fit their interests and goals better.
The team suggests that the development of innovative e-learning models that promote self-determination needs an interdisciplinary approach that brings expertise from education, psychology, technology, and other pertinent fields. Identifying the most effective ways to personalize learning and to develop appropriate tools and technologies is the way forward, for supporting self-directed learning, the team suggests. There is also a need to develop assessment frameworks to measure the efficacy of the personalized e-learning models being developed to ensure that they are working in the way the life-learners need and want them to work for them and for society.
Conesa, J., Garcia-Alsina, M., BatallaBusquets, J-M., Gómez-Zúñiga, B., Martínez-Argüelles, M.J., Monjo, T., Mor, E. and Cruz Gil, M.D.C. (2023) 'A vision about lifelong learning and its barriers', Int. J. Grid and Utility Computing, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.62–71.
- Emotional intelligence makes the virtual team work
Research from a team in India published in the International Journal of Public Sector Performance Management looks at the notion of "emotional intelligence" in the context of virtual teams. While it demonstrates an obvious relationship, the literature is still in the nascent stage and so precludes solid conclusions.
Anu Singh Lather of Ambedkar University in Delhi and Simran Kaur of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University are well aware that research into emotional intelligence and its effects in virtual teams is still in its infancy and so hoped to offer new insights through a systematic review of the research literature as it stands. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability of individuals to recognize and manage their own emotions, as well as to understand and effectively respond to the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into several key components, including self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
These components allow individuals to navigate complex social situations, build strong relationships with colleagues and stakeholders, and communicate effectively with others.
In the public sector, emotional intelligence is particularly important for managers and leaders, who need to be able to build trust and rapport with employees, collaborate effectively with other organizations, and respond to the needs and concerns of the public. By cultivating emotional intelligence, public sector employees can improve their ability to communicate, manage conflicts, and build strong, collaborative relationships with others, ultimately leading to more effective and efficient public services.
There is a wealth of information about how emotional intelligence affects our interactions in the "offline" world, but how it plays out in the virtual environments of online video conferencing, for instance, might well be different. Indeed, many virtual teams are built ad hoc and may exist only transiently unlike the more obvious teams present in the physical workplace. Even those virtual teams that are well-established and meet regularly will most likely have a very different dynamic to a team that meets face-to-face.
The team has reviewed a range of papers published during the first couple of decades of the 21st Century on the subject of emotional intelligence in virtual teams. They find that emotional intelligence is, of course, important. A relationship between virtual team performance and emotional intelligence of the team members was obvious from the research. However, there still remains a dearth of high-quality research published in this area and so we cannot yet extract a clear understanding of the factors that affect emotional intelligence in this online realm.
Given the pressures that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, there will likely be research from the period following the team's original review that will fill some of the gaps in this research field in the coming months and years and provide new insights into the emotional intelligence of virtual teams. If, as they say, teamwork makes the dream work, then emotional intelligence is the back-end code to make the virtual team work.
Lather, A.S. and Kaur, S. (2023) 'Systematic review of emotional intelligence in virtual teams', Int. J. Public Sector Performance Management, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp.149–164.
Branding and image are usually something that those with something to sell are obsessed with. If you're marketing a product or service or even just touting your celebrity to gain traction, new opportunities, and lucrative endorsement contracts it is a given, you have to create a brand. So, why are so many consumers also obsessed with this idea of branding, of creating a personal brand, even when they have nothing to sell. Indeed, it is usually the opposite, they are following the marketers and the salespeople with a view to buying.
Writing in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, a team from Germany has considered the notion of "My brand. My selfie"
Anne Mareike Flaswinkel, Markus Rump, and Reinhold Decker of the Department of Business Administration and Economics at Bielefeld University discuss how consumers often take brand-selfies. Photos of themselves with a brand for which they have a liking in close proximity, adorning their bodies, or otherwise prominently on display in the image. Given the modern wont for sharing anything and everything with all and sundry via the ubiquitous world of social media, brand-selfies and opinions can spread quickly. Indeed, it is this kind of activity that underpins something "going viral". Moreover, some consumers even position themselves as brand ambassadors and influencers with a view to gaining benefits associated with a given brand.
The team has carried out a cross-sectional study to identify brand identification as a strong predictor of consumer intention to portray themselves with a brand in a brand-selfie. They suggest that feelings of belonging and reward have a significant impact on such posts. The team has found a distinction between consumer motivations for posting brand-selfies and general selfies. They conclude that this kind of free marketing and advertising, for that is essentially what it is, has implications for marketers looking to incorporate selfie marketing into their marketing strategy.
"In an age when smartphones are an integral part of our daily lives, consumers are more reliant on information technology than ever before," the team writes. "Every day, an increasing number of people use social media and move around in the digital world. For many of us, the idea of life without technology is unfathomable." They add that their work could pave the way to a deeper understanding of the complexity of consumer motivations and offer suggestions on how marketers can benefit from brand-selfies and indeed encourage loyal consumers to increase their loyalty and activity in this context.
"Selfies [and brand-selfies] are a cultural phenomenon and a prevalent component of social media, and it remains relevant to understand why consumers display themselves with brands in such personal images," the team concludes.
Flaswinkel, A.M., Rump, M. and Decker, R. (2023) 'My brand, my self(ie) – why consumers portray themselves in brand-selfies', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 18, Nos. 2/3, pp.310–334.
- Will AI be sinister or singular?
What we might loosely refer to as artificial intelligence (AI) has become a part of our daily lives, from mobile phone voice assistants to self-driving cars. That said, many of the tools and technologies we refer to as AI, while seemingly intelligent are actually computer algorithms trained on large amounts of data to perform in a certain way. The chat bots and image generators that are frequently in the news are models that simulate neural networks to create apparently novel content from a prompt or question. We are certainly a long way from the sci-fi notion of artificial intelligence as meaning sentience in machines.
Nevertheless, researchers writing in the International Journal of Smart Technology and Learning have looked at how the concepts of artificial intelligence sit alongside what we perceive as human intelligence. We commonly think of the brain as being the most complicated object in the known universe. It is the result of billions of years of evolution, is self aware and capable of incredible creative and destructive thoughts all seemingly emerging from the interactions of billions of nerve cells within our so-called grey matter.
We know that human intelligence encompasses a wide range of abilities, including problem-solving, learning, creating new ideas, and remembering details…and critically being aware of all of this. In contrast, what we consider to be AI at this point in technological history is defined as systems that can perform tasks that are typically done by experienced humans or can be used to assist less experienced individuals perform certain tasks more efficiently. There is not yet any allusion to sentience in AI.
However, as AI becomes more and more sophisticated could it perhaps advance towards the notion of the singularity put forward by author Vernor Steffen Vinge and later discussed in depth by futurologist Ray Kurzweil? The singularity being the point at which technology does indeed become sentient and then perceives humanity itself as redundant to its wants and needs. As such, there are pressing ethical and moral questions to be answered in terms of whether AI will always be our helpful guide in so many tasks or whether it could eventually lead us to darker place from which humanity might not return.
Even experts in the field are uncertain about how to answer the questions. Of course, if history teaches us anything it is that regardless of whether we answer the moral questions, there will always be people willing to take us down the path that divides us morally and ethically.
In his paper, Jonathan Michael Spector of the Department of Learning Technologies at the College of Information at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, USA, points out that while the human brain may well be the product of millions of years of evolution and is highly adaptable to the "modern" problems we face and capable of finding solutions, physically it has changed very little in many millennia. We are born with the same physiology as our prehistoric ancestors, after all. By contrast, we are almost at the point where AI tools are beginning to improve other AI tools…which some observers see as the next step towards the technological singularity.
Spector hopes his article will trigger conversations about the future of AI and human intelligence. As we continue to develop and integrate AI into our lives, it is, he suggests, very important for us to consider the implications and impact it will have on us as individuals and as a society.
Spector, J.M. (2023) 'Human and artificial intelligence in education', Int. J. Smart Technology and Learning, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.163–167.
- Road traffic accidents and mobile phone addiction
Research in the International Journal of Vehicle Safety looks at the relationship between mobile phone addiction and road traffic accidents in two groups of drivers those who were involved in an accident and those who were not. The team surveyed 240 drivers about their mobile phone use, split between the two groups and found, perhaps obviously, that the drivers who revealed themselves to have an "addiction" to mobile phone use were more likely to have been injured in a road traffic accident than the ones who were not addicted.
Afarin Akhavan and Adel Ashrafi of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the Science and Arts University and Gholam Hossein Halvani, Moein Nemati, and Rohollah Fallah Madvari of the Department of Occupational Health Engineering at the Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences in Yazd, Iran, write that road traffic accidents are listed as the leading cause of death by the World Health Organisation with some 20 to 50 million people dying each year in such accidents.
The mortality rate in low-income countries is significantly higher than in richer nations. Iran suffers disproportionately from road traffic deaths, with an incidence of five times the global average. Increasing numbers of vehicles on our roads, changes in lifestyle and driving behaviour seem to be nudging those figures upwards each year. The team hoped to identify a relatively recent factor that may be contributing to the increasing number of deaths on the roads – mobile phone addiction – and focused on one of the regions in Iran, Khuzestan, where the accident rate is notably higher than elsewhere.
Given that earlier research suggests that 93 percent of accidents are caused by human behaviour rather than vehicle or road failure, with tiredness and distractions being responsible for many. Of course, the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited in many places and limited to hands-free use, there is inevitably a large number of drivers who continue to use their devices despite the obvious risks. The demonstration of a direct link between mobile phone addiction and road traffic accidents points to the need for more research into this phenomenon and perhaps ways to combat mobile phone addiction, as well as the need to educate drivers who are users in an effort to reduce the deaths on Iranian roads and elsewhere.
Akhavan, A., Ashrafi, A., Halvani, G.H., Nemati, M. and Madvari, R.F. (2022) 'Relationship between mobile phone addiction and driving accidents in two groups of drivers with and without accidents', Int. J. Vehicle Safety, Vol. 12, Nos. 3/4, pp.344–352.
- AI disentangles quantum patents
A new study in the International Journal of Intellectual Property Management, demonstrates how so-called artificial intelligence (AI) techniques can be used instead of conventional text analysis to disentangle information from a large body of work. Proof of principle was undertaken using a patents database and focusing on research and technologies utilising the field of quantum science. The specific case revealed interesting dynamics concerning global innovation and national organisational profiles pertaining to competition in this area between China and the USA.
Zeki Can Seskir of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Kelvin W. Willoughby of the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Germany, built an operating definition of quantum technology and then used AI to create a global patent database. The approach allowed them to extract pertinent information in this field that could be useful to policymakers and managers looking to understand international innovation in this field. The same approach might work just as well in other fields. The approach blended human analysis and AI processing of the body of work.
Billions of Euros and dollars are being ploughed into the burgeoning area of quantum technology with the aim of bringing discoveries and innovations "out of the lab and into the market".
Quantum technology (QT) refers to a broad range of emerging technologies that build on the principles of quantum mechanics to develop innovative and disruptive applications. Quantum mechanics is a field of physical science that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century as our understanding and experiments with atoms and their constituent parts as well as energy began to evolve. Many of the findings confound common sense and yet reveal themselves to represent a valid model of physical reality in many settings. Indeed, semiconductors, lasers, and transistors, and electronics in general rely on an understanding of quantum mechanics and as our understanding develops so too will the technology.
Quantum technology uses the often paradoxical properties of subatomic particles, such as superposition, entanglement, and wave-particle duality, to achieve things that cannot be done with classical systems based on earlier models of the subatomic realm. Examples of quantum technologies include quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum cryptography, quantum sensing, and quantum metrology, among others. Quantum technology could soon change the way in which finance, healthcare, energy, transportation, and security, are undertaken as well as leading to advances in science and engineering.
Seskir, Z.C. and Willoughby, K.W. (2023) 'Global innovation and competition in quantum technology, viewed through the lens of patents and artificial intelligence', Int. J. Intellectual Property Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.40–61.
- A slimline tonic for the pharmaceutical industry
Research in the International Journal of Services and Operations Management, has looked at the pharmaceutical industry in Jordan from the perspective of lean manufacturing practices and operations demonstrating that a lean approach can be beneficial to costs, speed, and reliability in the industry but does not apparently affect quality or innovation significantly.
The concept of lean operations is an approach to manufacturing that emphasizes the elimination of waste and the optimization of efficiency. It was first developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1950s and has since been adopted by many other manufacturers. The goal of lean operations is to create value for customers while minimizing waste, such as overproduction, defects, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, waiting, over-processing, and unused talent. A number of tools and techniques are used to facilitate lean operations, such as value stream mapping, continuous flow, pull systems, standard work, visual management, error-proofing, and continuous improvement.
Abdel-Aziz Ahmad Sharabati of the Business Faculty at the Middle East University in Amman, Jordan, surveyed 116 managers from 10 of 14 Jordanian pharmaceutical manufacturing organizations on how lean operations are used in their organisations. Alongside the above findings, the work also showed that lead-time, setup time, inspection time, and delivery time were significant factors in determining a company's competitive advantage, while inventory was not.
The work suggests that similar research might be usefully carried out in other industries across Jordan and in the pharmaceutical industry in other countries to see whether the findings are more widely applicable. In an increasingly globalised world, this research could help companies recognise what needs to be done to improve their competitive edge in the face of international competition. Of course, for the pharmaceutical industry itself, any such changes in practices and operations must also comply with regulations in the industry at the national and international level.
Sharabati, A-A.A. (2023) 'Lean operations and competitive advantage in the pharmaceutical industry', Int. J. Services and Operations Management, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp.293–316.
- Beyond the Bucks: supporter recognition is key to crowdfunding success
Crowdfunding is an approach to raising money to kickstart a project or business venture. It usually involves soliciting small contributions from a large number of people, often via the internet. The idea behind crowdfunding is that many people can pool their money together to support a project, which can make it possible for entrepreneurs, artists, and other creatives to get the funding they need to turn their ideas into reality. The supporters are often rewarded with early access to a product or service once it becomes available or exclusive rewards, such as special editions, signed versions, or attractive paraphernalia associated with the product or its creators.
The approach allows entrepreneurs and creatives to sidestep the traditional gatekeepers of funding, such as banks and venture capitalists. They can engage with potential investors who have an intrinsic interest in supporting innovative projects and ideas rather than simply looking for a return on a financial investment. Some supporters will even be keen to feel that they are part of a pioneering community around the venture. Another aspect of crowdfunding is that the supporters can give direct and invaluable feedback to the creatives and entrepreneurs about their offering.
Much of the research into crowdfunding that has been carried out over the years, focuses on how trust is established and maintained around the transactions and relationships. Writing in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, an international team considers that "recognition" rather than trust per se should be a focus of theoretical frameworks aimed at improving our understanding of the dynamics of crowdfunding.
Jack Wroldsen of the Orfalea College of Business at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, USA and Djamchid Assadi of the Burgundy School of Business, Campus Lyon, France, explain that recognition, or the sphere of solidarity, is what emphasises the mutual relationships and respect between entrepreneurs and supporters and how these translate into value for the former and meaning for the latter in the realm of crowdfunding. The team has undertaken several case studies to demonstrate where recognition is present or absent and how this impacts the outcomes of a given project. Overall, they suggest that the concept of recognition, rather than trust alone, provides a more accurate and holistic view of crowdfunding.
The team shows that recognition involves nurturing a reciprocal relationship of mutual respect, not simply maintaining trust. In the case study where the crowdfunding relationship was broken, they explain, it was not that erstwhile supporters lost trust in the venture it was that they were ultimately excluded from the community of collaborators, early-adopters, and developers that had built up around the product. They were no longer recognised.
Wroldsen, J. and Assadi, D. (2023) 'Trust is not recognition: an exploration of revolts in crowdfunding', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Vol. 27, Nos. 1/2, pp.1–18.
Associate Prof. Ping Wang appointed as new Editor in Chief of International Journal of Computers in Healthcare
Associate Prof. Ping Wang from James Madison University in the USA has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Computers in Healthcare.
Prof. Daphne Halkias appointed as new Editor in Chief of International Journal of Environment, Workplace and Employment
Prof. Daphne Halkias from École des Ponts ParisTech in France has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Environment, Workplace and Employment.
International Journal of Business and Globalisation is now an open access-only journal
We are pleased to announce that the International Journal of Business and Globalisation is now an Open Access-only journal. All accepted articles submitted from March 2023 onwards will be Open Access, and will require an article processing charge of US $1500.
Associate Prof. Chongying Wang appointed as new Editor in Chief of International Journal of Electronic Healthcare
Associate Prof. Chongying Wang from Nankai University in China has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Electronic Healthcare.
Prof. Omid Mahian appointed as new Editor in Chief of International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology
Prof. Omid Mahian from Xi'an Jiaotong University and Imperial College London has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology.