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  • Chemophobia is rife, often driven by ignorance and scientific illiteracy it fires an activist agenda that can often be very misguided and targeting the wrong issues entirely. An unfortunate lack of engagement in science education and a greater number of policymakers with a non-scientific than a scientific background also feed the problem.

    And yet we rely on thousands of different chemicals every day – natural and synthetic – and in order to maintain our lifestyles, the benefit-risk equations are generally well balanced. There are exceptions to that rule and the serious problems caused by the misuse or the overuse of certain chemicals ought to be addressed. Indeed, there are substances in everyday products that might best be replaced, but for market pressure, and a lack of consumer interest or the very activism that broadly follows the out-dated "all-chemicals-are-bad" trope.

    Rekha Joshi, Aditi Sahni, and Manjary Chaudhary Malik of the Indira Priyadarshini Government Girls P.G. College of Commerce in Uttarakhand, India, consider consumer awareness of harmful chemicals in everyday products. Writing in the International Journal of Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, the team points out that some substances present in everyday products, such as cleaning fluids, represent a serious risk to human and environmental health if misused or disposed of inappropriately.

    A detailed and structured survey of 100 consumers in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand revealed, not chemophobia, but an awareness of potentially harmful substances in a range of everyday products. Concern about those substances was high, although it must be added, perhaps not sufficiently high that the consumers would stop using said products. There is very much a pressing need to improve awareness and understanding of the myriad chemicals used in everyday consumer products. This awareness cuts both ways in that consumers need to understand the benefits versus the risks associated with the products they use. Moreover, it is the consumer that can nudge the market away from those products that use particularly harmful substances to alternatives.

    "The majority of those surveyed believe it is everyone's responsibility to decrease the usage of products that include compounds or chemicals that are hazardous to human health and the environment," the researchers report.

    The commercial world will, for the sake of profits, almost always move to sell alternatives if sales flatline. Given that social media and access to limitless information are available to most consumers, the opportunities for corporate greenwashing are much reduced and this can only benefit human health and the environment if it removes from the market problematic chemicals provided the consumer can maintain their lifestyle with the alternatives offered.

    Joshi, R., Sahni, A. and Malik, M.C. (2022) 'Consumer awareness regarding harmful chemicals in everyday products', Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.351–361.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBFMI.2022.10050479

  • Saffron is the world's most expensive spice. It is made from the "threads" or styles of saffron crocus flowers and it takes half a million or so to produce just one kilogram of saffron. It is a delicate spice with uses in perfumery for its scent, cosmetics for its colour, and, of course, in many different cuisines, such as Indian and Arab, where it can add both gentle seasoning and delicate colour to food. Its history stretches back thousands of years perhaps to Central Asia where wild forms of the saffron crocus would have been known to ancient people.

    Saffron remains a desirable culinary commodity and in modern-day India, almost 6000 hectares are dedicated to growing the crocus for its threads. Most of that land lies in Kashmir with Pompore at its heart and well known as the hub of the country's saffron industry, an industry that produces 5 tonnes of the spice annually. This represents a not insignificant proportion of the world production of 300 tonnes, although Iran dominates with 90 percent of world production.

    Writing in the Journal of International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, a team from India has explored how the saffron industry in Kashmir might be reinvigorated and perhaps take a larger share of the global market. Asifat Shafi and Parvez Ahmad Mir of the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Kashmir point out that saffron from their region is highly regarded.

    The researchers explain that the quality of the product depends on high concentrations of three chemical components – crocin, which is a pigment, safranal, an odorant, and piccrocrocin, which helps gives saffron its unique taste. High-quality saffron, they explain, has at least 190 milligrams per kilogram of crocin, 70 mg of picrocrocin, and 20-50 mg of safranal. They add that adulteration of the product is one of the many problems facing the saffron industry whereby quality is compromised by the addition of inferior ingredients or substitutes.

    In addition, those involved in the industry have seen decreased production year on year, there is a lack of entrepreneurial intention, a less than impressive ability to compete globally, and often a lack of awareness among all stakeholders in the industry regarding the uses of saffron, particularly in the area of traditional medicine.

    The team has surveyed stakeholders in the Kashmiri saffron industry and their findings suggest that the industry might well be revived by cultivating entrepreneurial intention, introducing public-private partnership, and creating awareness among all stakeholders of the potential for a wide variety of products containing saffron. With the governmental development of the Saffron Spices Park and improved distribution channels, the team says Kashmiri saffron has the potential to become a leading global brand. Ultimately, this will benefit the Indian economy as a whole.

    Shafi, A. and Mir, P.A. (2022) 'Revival of Kashmiri saffron industry: an exploratory study', J. International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.243–260.
    DOI: 10.1504/JIBED.2022.10050634

  • In a world where so much information is so readily available to students, educators and student assessors must constantly fight against plagiarism. The time and effort required by an examiner potentially faced with hundreds of essays to check for such problems however small is huge. Semi-automated tools exist for identifying plagiarism in a sample of text but these too take up computing resources and are often unwieldy and more suited to single documents.

    Writing in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications, a team from Australia and Sri Lanka has developed a new computational approach to plagiarism detection that uses vector space and exploits the architecture of graphics processing units and their compute unified device architecture (CUDA) rather than a conventional computer chip, a central processing unit, CPU.

    Jiffriya Mohamed Abdul Cader of the Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education Sammanthurai, Akmal Jahan Mohamed Abdul Cader of the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Hasindu Gamaarachchi of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Roshan G. Ragel Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka explain that conventional serial testing of 1000 documents can take half an hour.

    The prototype of their GPU approach improves on that significantly, taking just 36 seconds to process the same dataset and flag any plagiarized sections of text. However, the reserchers further optimized their prototype and were able to reduce processing time to just 4 seconds for one thousand documents. That's almost 400 times faster than conventional approaches. Such speed would be a boon to examiners faced with hundreds if not thousands of student-submitted documents to check for plagiarism.

    The next step will be to test the same approach on text found in other kinds of document rather than simply straight-text essays, including notebooks, assignments, reports, theses, and such.

    Mohamed Abdul Cader, J., Mohamed Abdul Cader, A.J., Gamaarachchi, H. and Ragel, R.G. (2022) 'Optimisation of plagiarism detection using vector space model on CUDA architecture', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.232–244.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJICA.2022.10042480

  • How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the so-called sharing economy? A bibliometric analysis published in the International Journal of Web Engineering and Technology finds the answer.

    There is a growing body of research literature that has investigated the impact of the pandemic on many different aspects of life. Jian Feng and Zhenfeng Liu of the Shanghai Maritime University in Shanghai, China, have focused on the literature published that reports on the sharing economy. They used data from the Web of Science covering the years before the pandemic (2008 to 2019) and the pandemic years (2020 to 2021) to reveal what they refer to as the research themes, scholarly communities, evolution paths, and research hotspots in this developing area of social science.

    Despite the idea of sharing being as old as humanity, the term "sharing economy" was most likely coined only in 2008 by Stanford Law School professor, Lawrence Lessig, although the term may well have been used prior to his work. The sharing economy is now generally understood to refer to those novel entrants into industry and various marketplaces that have disrupted the received wisdom about commerce and occasionally usurped the conventional business models. For instance, organisations such as Airbnb in hospitality, Uber and DiDi in transportation, Gridmates in energy, MediCast in health, WeWork in office work, and MakeSpace in logistics.

    The Shanghai study revealed that four new research themes were updated, perhaps not unexpectedly, including research into COVID-19 itself in the second tranche of research papers. The team explains that COVID-19 affected not only traditional sectors, such as accommodation, tourism, and transportation but also had an impact on luxury sharing, fashion rental, logistics, food delivery, and the festivals industry.

    The team points out that despite the misery, morbidity, and mortality associated with COVID-19 it also represents a transformational point in economics whereby sustainable development goals might be approached more rapidly than in the pre-pandemic era, at least in terms of those companies and organisations in the sharing economy. It remains that the ongoing pandemic is forever presenting new problems and challenges for digital technologies, risk management, supply chain, operation management, and technological innovation among the companies of the sharing economy and their stakeholders. Nevertheless, the inherently innovative nature of such companies means they are quick to rise to those challenges.

    Feng, J. and Liu, Z. (2022) 'A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19's impact on the sharing economy', Int. J. Web Engineering and Technology, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.170–202.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJWET.2022.10050640

  • One of the great ironies of lockdowns, border closures, and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic is that medical students, as with so many other people in education, were forced online for their ongoing studies. Medical education, as with many other vocational areas of learning, requires its students to be very hands-on, at least for a fairly large part of the time. Research in the International Journal of Innovation in Education, has looked at medical education in Italy as it was affected by the pandemic.

    Benedetta Agnelli, Silvia Oldani, Valeriano Vinci, Mattia Loppini, Ferdinando Cananzi, Damiano Chiari, and Licia Montagna of the Humanitas University in Milan, and Fabrizio Consorti of the Sapienza University of Rome, discuss how practical activities were relocated online so that students could continue to learn the requisite methodological and cognitive skills associated with medicine. Among those skills are understanding patient history (anamnesis), clinical reasoning, procedural skills, case discussion, and such. They discuss their experience of Professionalising Activities in the form of e-learning and reveal the advantages and limitations so that others in medical education might learn from this experience.

    Professionalising Activities are a vital part of the practical training at Humanitas University and so the pandemic presented many major challenges to the educators there hoping to train their undergraduate medical students to be good doctors. Thankfully, innovative technology at this point in history made it possible, despite pandemic lockdowns, for medical students to continue their training online albeit with some limitations.

    The team suggests that given the situation of the crisis in which humanity found itself e-learning allowed training to be undertaken in such a way that students could improve reflection and self-learning aspects of their education in a way that traditional training did not necessarily facilitate.

    Agnelli, B., Oldani, S., Vinci, V., Loppini, M., Cananzi, F., Chiari, D., Montagna, L. and Consorti, F. (2022) 'Medical education in Covid-19 pandemic: e-learning based professionalising activities', Int. J. Innovation in Education, Vol. 7, Nos. 3/4, pp.193–208.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJIIE.2022.10049290

  • A study in the International Journal of Mobile Communications has investigated what personality traits and demographic factors are associated with use of one of the most well-known apps in China, the instant messaging, social media, and mobile payment app WeChat.

    WeChat was developed by Chinese multinational conglomerate Tencent and first released in 2011. It has more than a billion active monthly users and is often described as China's "app for everything". It has a lot of functionality, which is not uncommon among social media apps, allowing users to swap text messages, make phone calls, carry out video conferencing, broadcast messages to groups, reveal location information to other users, play video games, and share photographs and videos. Apps like WeChat are essentially an always-on digital multi-tool for many people.

    Hua Pang of the School of New Media and Communication at Tianjin University in Tianjin, China, has looked at whether it is possible to predict who might use WeChat based on standard personality traits such as extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience as well as their demographic characteristics. Data from a web-based survey of adults in China was subject to correlation analysis and multiple hierarchical regression analysis.

    The findings suggest that extraversion is most commonly associated with the likelihood of WeChat use in men and women, as one might expect, and this was especially true among young users. Men with neuroticism were also inclined to be heavy users, Pang found. Pang also found that older people who self-reported as being open to new experiences were also likely to be WeChat users. The work reaffirms the findings of other studies in this area and points to new avenues that might be explored to look at the subtleties of social media use as it relates to personality and demographics.

    Pang H. (2022) 'Exploring the effects of personality characteristics and demographic factors on WeChat involvement among adults', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 20, No. 5, pp.590–608.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJMC.2022.10039642

  • Electronic waste is an enormous, and growing, problem around the world, with unimaginable numbers of broken and obsolete devices and gadgets being fed into a waste stream that threatens to become a deluge. Not only is the problem one of waste and loss of rare and costly materials, but many of the materials, the metals in particular, represent an environmental threat if they enter ecosystems.

    Regulations at the national and international level attempt to address the problem of electronic waste with different degrees of success. Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, has looked at the problem from the perspective of Vietnam where it is estimated that more than ten million units of electronic waste are generated each year.

    The study looks at how Vietnam manages its electronic waste under regulations introduced in 2015 on the retrieval and treatment of discarded products and extended producer responsibility. Moreover, it considers how these policies fit into the 2020 law on environmental protection and how the pros and cons of these local regulations and laws might help guide policymakers in other developing nations that are also facing the growing problems of e-waste.

    Nguyen Trung Thang and Duong Thi Phuong Anh of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE) in Ha Noi, Vietnam, and Sunil Herat of Griffith University, Nathan Campus in Queensland, Australia, point out that poor handling of electronic waste is a serious concern in terms of environmental health and human health.

    Many developing nations are yet to understand fully the implications and develop laws to allow them to cope. In Vietnam, e-waste has not yet been well defined and much of it still enters the general waste stream. Where it is more appropriately processed, recyclers often lack the understanding or the equipment to handle it properly and to safely extract and retrieve rare and toxic materials. Indeed, so-called craft villages set up to extract metals commonly burn old gadgets, generating huge amounts of toxic fumes and using the most rudimentary of methods to retrieve and recycle metals from those devices.

    The approach must change, policymakers and regulators need to take control of the electronic waste stream, educate those involved in disposal and recycling and encourage them to recognise the benefits and perhaps offer incentives so that safe and appropriate e-waste processing is more widely adopted. The team adds that the developed world needs both technical and financial assistance in this regard from the developed world to ensure its local electronic waste streams don't simply add to a global problem.

    Thang, N.T., Herat, S. and Anh, D.T.P. (2022) 'Current status of e-waste management in Vietnam', Int. J. Environmental Technology and Management, Vol. 25, No. 5, pp.388–405.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJETM.2022.10049448

  • Chaos theory can be used to encrypt, with computational efficiency, a colour image, according to work published in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing. The non-linear approach described performs far better than conventional encryption algorithms for such digital assets.

    Subhrajyoti Deb of the ICFAI University Tripura, Bubu Bhuyan of North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Nirmalya Kar of the National Institute of Technology in Agartala, K. Sudheer Reddy of Anurag University, in Hyderabad, India, explain how strong encryption is essential for a wide range of digital assets, not least colour images. Traditional encryption tools can treat a file that encodes for a colour image as if it were a text document but that approach is very inefficient given the different qualities of a displayed image when compared with a text document.

    As such, there is considerable waste in terms of time and computing resources when encrypting an image using encryption algorithms designed to encrypt text. Moreover, such an approach, not being optimized for an image also makes them susceptible to decryption by a third party because of the characteristics of the encrypted file, wherein it might contain excessive redundancy because of long strings with the same pixel values. Various researchers have suggested alternative approaches such as using chaos theory, cellular automata, or quantum theory, to make encryption of images more efficient and less prone to attack. Fundamentally, there is a need to randomize the pixels encoded by the image file in a reversible way that is efficient and next-to-impossible to breach without the encryption key.

    The team has used a modified version of the Grain-128 cipher to address the issues facing those who need to encrypt colour images. The result is an encrypted file that has a satisfactory key space, low correlation and high randomness. The encrypted image has the appearance of random, colour noise when displayed on a screen. Overall, the improvements over traditional text encryption approaches gives the team an efficient and essentially uncrackable encrypted file that cannot be breached using standard occlusion, rotation, and noise attacks.

    Deb, S., Bhuyan, B., Kar, N. and Reddy, K.S. (2022) 'Colour image encryption using an improved version of stream cipher and chaos', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp.118–133.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJAHUC.2022.10045645

  • Research in the International Journal of Bioinformatics Research and Applications has investigated the chemistry and behaviour of a useful natural product made by the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus Bunge). The work could expand the repertoire of a growing area of chemical science – biotransformation – wherein nature's molecular machinery is used to build and alter novel compounds in the laboratory.

    Many natural products, by definition chemical compounds made by living organisms, have physiological activity and have been isolated from their source and researched and developed into pharmaceutical products. Indeed, approximately two in every five prescription drugs have an origin in natural products. Commonly, however, the active chemical in a living organism is modified for a particular purpose or drug profile with different, more target activity in a disease, and fewer, or less harmful, side effects, for instance. In addition, modifying a natural product is often a prerequisite to making a new pharmaceutical sufficiently different that a successful patent application can be made and a drug brought to market profitably.

    In the last few decades, chemists have found ways to use enzymes to modify natural products and in turn, they have found ways to modify enzymes to make them work differently and allow them to process natural products and other molecules in different ways to generate unprecedented molecular diversity. Any one of these huge numbers of new molecules could have physiological activity that might be useful in treating particular diseases and disorders.

    Piotr Szymczyk; Grażyna Szymańska; Małgorzata Majewska; Izabela Weremczuk-Jeżyna; Michał Kołodziejczyk; Kamila Czarnecka; Paweł Szymański, and Ewa Kochan of the Medical University of Lódz, in Lódz, Poland, have investigated part of nature's molecular machinery, an enzyme known as C. roseus strictosidine ß-D-glucosidase. Enzymes are proteins that act on small molecules, their substrates, and convert that substrate into another molecule used by the living organism. The team reports the structure of this enzyme from the periwinkle with a focus on the pocket in its molecular structure that binds to the substrate, the enzyme's active site.

    The team built a computer model of the periwinkle enzyme using Discovery Studio 4.1 software and a template for the enzyme based on another known enzyme from a ß-glucosidase found in rice, which they modified to match the known details for the periwinkle enzyme. They could then use a second computer program – an algorithm called CDOCKER – to see how different chemical substrates would interact with the active site of the model periwinkle enzyme. They tested the natural substrate a molecule known as strictosidine and a second chemical D-glucono 1,5-lactone. This latter molecule is known to bind to the enzyme and inhibit its activity. The docking process in which substrate is put into the active site, like a key into a lock, then allowed the team to refine the structure of the periwinkle enzyme to make the fine details of the model closer to those seen in nature. To do this molecular dynamics software was used.

    Ultimately, the work extends what was previously known about the periwinkle enzyme and could allow scientists to modify it in such a way to act on other substrates. Before that though, given that the natural product strictosidine itself is a useful starting material for a wide range of different molecules, the work opens up new avenues for working with this natural product.

    Szymczyk, P., Szymanska, G., Majewska, M., Weremczuk-Jezyna, I., Kolodziejczyk, M., Czarnecka, K., Szymanski, P. and Kochan, E. (2022) 'Homology modelling and docking studies of strictosidine ß-D-glucosidase from Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus Bunge)', Int. J. Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp.234–269.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBRA.2022.10033607

  • Fear, driven partly by media misinformation, is an important emotion in the context of crises. It can lead to bad, or, at best, suboptimal, decisions, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, according to work published in the International Journal of Business and Systems Research.

    José Chavaglia Neto of the Beta L Consulting Group in São Paulo, António Bento Caleiro of the Universidade de Evora, in Evora, Brazil, José António Filipe of the Iscte – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Manuel Pacheco Coelho of the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Gholamreza Askari of Semnan University in Semnan, Iran, have looked at how fear emerged in Brazil during the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A pandemic that led to serious health problems and death and economic devastation irrespective of how fearful anyone felt when the virus emerged and in the ensuing months following the World Health Organisation's announcements regarding the pandemic.

    During the early stages of the crises many people were overwhelmed with information, much of it conflicting, by nature of the very novelty of the causative agent, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and its effects. As the days and weeks and months went by, disinformation was thrown into the mix and conspiracy theories emerged. A clear picture of how events were truly unfolding was difficult to unravel. This was especially true in terms of the information shared in totalitarian regimes and spreading from there and even more so once we had pharmaceutical interventions and different vaccine responses to COVID-19.

    The picture was even muddier given social isolation, lockdowns, quarantining and the closure of international borders all of which was done with the aim of reducing the rate of spread of the disease, the morbidity associated with it, and the mortality rates and so-called "excess" deaths. Nothing is yet particularly clear for many people even more than two years since the declaration of the pandemic, and many people lived in fear from the start and many still do.

    Neto, J.C., Caleiro, A.B., Filipe, J.A., Coelho, M.P. and Askari, G. (2022) 'How can fear impact economic decisions in pandemic contexts at the light of decision-making systems? An approach to the COVID-19 case', Int. J. Business and Systems Research, Vol. 16, Nos. 5/6, pp.759–782.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBSR.2022.10047150

News

New Editor for The Botulinum Journal

Dr. Fabrizio Anniballi from Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Italy has been appointed to take over editorship of the The Botulinum Journal.

New Editor for International Journal of Services, Economics and Management

Prof. Natalia Kryvinska from Comenius University in Bratislava has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Services, Economics and Management.

International Journal of Manufacturing Research indexed by Clarivate Analytics' Emerging Sources Citation Index

Inderscience is pleased to announce that the International Journal of Manufacturing Research has been indexed by Clarivate Analytics' Emerging Sources Citation Index.

Prof. Lihui Wang, Editor in Chief of the journal, says, "The International Journal of Manufacturing Research, launched in 2006, is dedicated to disseminating the latest advances in manufacturing research at the levels of devices, machines, processes and systems. The journal is sponsored by the Swedish Production Academy, and after more than sixteen years of valuable contributions from authors, the editorial board, the publisher and the research community, IJMR has established itself as a high-quality publishing venue for researchers worldwide. As Editor in Chief, I am delighted that the journal is now indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Emerging Sources Citation Index, as part of the Web of Science Core Collection. Going forward, IJMR aims to further advance the state of the art in manufacturing research, in order to contribute to a sustainable and resilient environment for all."

New Editors for International Journal of Information and Operations Management Education

Dr. Luna Leoni from the University of Rome "Tor Vergata" in Italy has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Information and Operations Management Education. She will be joined by Dr. Matteo Cristofaro, who will take on the role of Executive Editor.

New Editor for International Journal of Computational Intelligence Studies

Prof. Paolo Crippa from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Computational Intelligence Studies.