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  • Chemists Kaushik Sarkar and Rajesh Kumar of the University of North Bengal in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India, have investigated the potential of various natural products of plant origin that might be developed into novel pharmaceuticals for treating Covid-19, the pandemic disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. The team details their molecular docking experiments, absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME), and toxicity studies.

    Since the emergence of the potentially lethal pathogen that causes Covid-19 parallel research to understand its behaviour, to find effective treatments, and to develop vaccines have been underway. Our understanding of the virus and the disease have grown enormously within the year or so since the pandemic was declared. Novel treatments and patient protocols have been developed and old pharmaceuticals repurporsed to treat the worst of the symptoms. Teams are working on dozens, if not hundreds of vaccines, and several of these are already being used clinically.

    However, in the absence of vaccine "security" and global access to such a prophylactic approach to the virus, there remains an urgent need for therapeutic agents. Given the natural product origins of some 40 percent of prescription drugs, the natural world is always a source of inspiration for drug development. The team has investigated known drugs that have been used to treat lung cancer and bronchitis, and as blood-thinning agents. They have also homed in on a range of plant-derived compounds. All were screened against one of the primary viral protein targets, the covid-19 main protease enzyme (PDB: 6LU7).

    Docking studies in which a computer model of a molecule of interest is used to see how well it fits into the active site of the main protease revealed a good fit for the following compounds: disulfiram, tideglusib, and shikonin. Any molecule that fits and binds to the active site of a protein can potentially block or even just slow the normal activity of that enzyme and so inhibit the activity of the virus. The team also carried out ADME prediction studies on those lead compounds. Their success suggests a need to move to laboratory testing and ultimately clinical trials in humans to help in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

    The team found that capmatinib, dabrafenib, alectinib, afatinib, trametinib, crizotinib, lorlatinib, osimertinib and tetracycline also revealed themselves to be effective inhibitors of the main protease based on overall docking, ADME, and toxicity parameters. Of the natural products investigated paradol, gingerol, and vasicine were seen as most promising.

    Sarkar, K. and Das, R.K. (2021) 'Molecular docking, ADME and toxicity study of some chemical and natural plant based drugs against COVID-19 main protease', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.43–63.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCBDD.2021.114099

  • Augmented reality can be used to support children with dyslexia, according to a team from Saudi Arabia writing in the International Journal of Cloud Computing.

    Dyslexia is a well-known and well-studied condition in which people of normal intelligence have difficulty reading. It affects between 3 and 7 people in every one hundred, although up to 20 percent of the population may have some problems.

    Dyslexia is a spectrum condition with the least affected perhaps having issues with spelling or reading quickly while those at the other end of the spectrum may have problems not only with simple reading and writing tasks but also with basic comprehension of the written word. There is no well-defined cause and a combination of genetic and environmental factors may underlie dyslexia.

    Numerous teaching techniques and even equipment such as visual filters have been used to overcome the problem although novel approaches to teaching are the most successful at ameliorating the worst of the problems to some degree for many people.

    Majed Aborokbah of the Faculty of Computers and Information Technology at the University of Tabuk in Tabuk City, Saudi Arabia, is working on different learning scenarios for the Arabic language that are based on human computer interaction principles. In this novel approach meaningful virtual information – audio, video, and 3D environments – can be presented to dyslexic children in an interactive and compelling way with a view to improving reading skills and comprehension. This could circumvent some of the particular issues and complexities facing children with dyslexia when reading and writing Arabic.

    Aborokbah, M. (2021) 'Using augmented reality to support children with dyslexia', Int. J. Cloud Computing, Vol. 10, Nos. 1/2, pp.17–25.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCC.2021.113972

  • Just-in-time practices could help industry and the economy be rebuilt as countries emerge from pandemic lockdown, according to research published in the International Journal of Services Operations and Informatics.

    As the potentially devastating effects of the rapid spread of Covid-19 early in 2020 and the subsequent pandemic became obvious, governments were forced to implement rules and regulations in an attempt to hinder the spread of the virus that causes the disease, SARS-CoV-2. These so-called lockdown measures involved shutting down parts of many industries, the hospitality sector, non-essential shopping, and limiting interpersonal contact through curfews and rules on social distancing. Unfortunately, various industries have been affected badly having been forced to halt the manufacture of countless products as demand plummeted and moreover people were limited in what they needed and could purchase.

    Surbhi Singhal of the Department of Statistics at Vardhaman College in Bijnor, India, and colleagues have looked at how many suppliers will have remaining inventory to fulfill the renewed consumer demand for products after the lockdown as the world economy resurfaces. They explain how a just-in-time approach to supply could be the most effective way for industries to recover from the pandemic. Just-in-time has been an ephemeral concept for as long as companies have manufactured goods, if not longer.

    The just-in-time idea was implemented widely after the Second World War to allow industry to rebuild more efficiently by only buying inventory, storing and transporting that inventory as it needed it. Moreover, it would manufacture and supply only what was needed when it was needed. The strategy was formalized and used to great effect in the 1960s and 1970s by Toyota. Singhal and colleagues now suggest that the time is right for JIT to be employed widely for the post-pandemic world. They have developed a new mathematical model of JIT that could reduce supply and demand problems with resources, make production more efficient, cut storage and transportation needs, and perhaps even shift the notion of quality inspection to the customer.

    As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the conventional approaches to many aspects of life must change, at least for the time being. This could offer us a great opportunity if we can recover efficiently and not revert to old, wasteful approaches in industry. Having JIT models in place ahead of the next pandemic might also serve us well and make industry, and society, as a whole more resilient.

    Singh, S.R., Rastogi, A. and Singhal, S. (2021) 'JIT: the best approach after lockdown in country', Int. J. Services Operations and Informatics, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.75–86.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSOI.2021.114110

  • The use of small processing modules can significantly reduce overheads on computing systems with limited resources available to them when large amounts of data must nevertheless be processed. Research by a team in Greece described in the International Journal of Web Engineering and Technology shows how that approach can be used for content aggregation, information extraction, sentiment tagging, and visualisation tasks.

    Iraklis Varlamis and Dimitrios Michail of the Department of Informatics and Telematics at Harokopio University of Athens and Pavlos Polydoras and Panagiotis Tsantilas of Palo Ltd in Kokkoni, Greece, have demonstrated how this modular approach might function well on the social media and news analytics platform, PaloAnalytics. The team shows how their proposed architecture can easily withstand the pressures of increased content load when an issue goes viral on social media, such as when a major event takes place. The micro-modules that replace the monolithic architecture of conventional data-processing systems can quickly release unused resources when the content load reaches its normal flow.

    The researchers point out that even from the early days of primitive web crawlers that became the foundation of search engines and other related tools, it was recognized that distributed processing is the only viable way to taming the vast quantities of textual data being generated even way back then. Today, the scale is almost unimaginable with many petabytes of data to be assimilated, aggregated, processed, indexed, and annotated with meaning. The vast realms of the web and social media systems offer us a rich seam to be tapped for information and knowledge if the tools can be built to cope with the bits and bytes.

    The team's tests so far were based on analysis of 1500 websites, 10000 blogs, forums, hundreds of thousands of public Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube updates, across six European nations and in six different languages. Their work shows where improvement might be made to build a powerful analytical tool that would be scalable and allow us to soon mine those enormous knowledge seams efficiently and in an effective way.

    Varlamis, I., Michail, D., Polydoras, P. and Tsantilas, P. (2020) 'A distributed architecture for large scale news and social media processing', Int. J. Web Engineering and Technology, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp.383–406.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJWET.2020.114029

  • Glenda Garelli of the School of Geography, University of Leeds and Martina Tazzioli of the Department of Politics at Goldsmiths University, UK, have investigated migration "containment" in the Mediterranean. They provide details of their findings in the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies.

    The lot of the asylum seeker, the political migrant, is not a happy one. There is an ongoing migrant crisis around the world. The current work focuses on the European perspective where hundreds of thousands of people have over many years fled the country of their birth in the wake of political upheaval and the activities of dictatorial regimes, following serious economic strife, and to escape natural disaster. Unfortunately, the nations within Europe to which the migrants flee in the hope of claiming asylum and a new life are not handling the crisis well.

    Many asylum seekers find themselves trapped at sea on rescue boats that scoop them up from makeshift and unsafe vessels, others find themselves turned back to their homeland where they might face serious repercussions, such as imprisonment, torture, and worse. Garelli and Tazzioli explain that "borderwork" in this region has increasingly focused on smuggling activities to achieve migration containment goals.

    They suggest that there has been a triple-stranded evolution of the politics surrounding containment of migrants in the central Mediterranean, specifically the sea corridor that connects Libya and Italy. The first strand, is the practice of blocking migrants at sea upon rescue, the team refers to this as the politics of migrant kidnapping. The second strand is the statecraft of civil society whereby those who rescue migrants whose boats are in distress become entwined in smuggling organisation by policy so that rescuers find their activities criminalised. The final strand is the way in which smuggling networks are made part of border enforcement practices.

    Fundamentally, these three strands are woven together to the detriment of the migrant. Often rescued migrants criminialised by the smugglerisation of their rescuers are returned home by the Libyan Coast Guard with European support. This means that the nations that would otherwise provide a new home for the migrants need not accept these desperate people nor expel them in "push-back operations". Rescue and capture must be separated to allow those in need a chance of a new life.

    Garelli, G. and Tazzioli, M. (2020) 'Rescuing, kidnapping, and criminalising. Migration containment in the Mediterranean', Int. J. Migration and Border Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.280–297.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJMBS.2020.113959

  • Could corruption in the nuclear industry lead to a radiological emergency in Korea should it face a major natural disaster, such as the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that rocked Japan in 2011? New research published in the International Journal Business Continuity and Risk Management looks at the worst-case scenarios in the context of apparent corporate corruption that has led to the use of defective components. The current nuclear power inventory is capable of surviving a magnitude 6.5 earthquake and only three plants built since 2013 could withstand damage from up to a magnitude 6.9. Given that it was a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in the region that led to the tsunami that devastated Japan, the research suggests that Korea is not free of danger when it comes to earthquakes affecting its nuclear plants.

    Kyoo-Man Ha of the Department of Public Policy and Management at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, has looked at self-interest and all-interest management practices across the nuclear power industry. The local "stakeholders" might be seen as the nuclear power plant operating company, local government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and residents. But, there is, of course, an international perspective too as a major incident at a nuclear power station can affect the neighbouring countries and even the rest of the world if there is a sufficient large disaster that leads to the release of radioactive material into the environment, the oceans, and the atmosphere.

    The research suggests that despite there having been an increased awareness of the potential for radiological emergencies in the context of natural and other disasters, emergency management in Korea sees each stakeholder close to a nuclear power plant insisting on addressing problems and dealing with such emergencies at the individual, local level. This completely ignores the fact that a nuclear incidence is a much bigger problem than an isolated issue to be addressed locally and must be seen as a societal and international issue.

    Ha suggests a new, more encompassing model of emergency management. The new model provides a framework for a broader strategy that can be implemented in a time of crisis where all stakeholders play a part and the detrimental impact on the wider community and internationally might be minimized should the worst-case scenario arise. Greater stakeholder involvement might also mitigate some of the ongoing problems associated with corruption.

    Ha, K-M. (2021) 'Management of nuclear power plant emergency: a case of Korea', Int. J. Business Continuity and Risk Management, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.52–65.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBCRM.2021.113948

  • Crowdfunding has become a useful way to obtain financial backing for small and medium-sized projects. Given sufficient attention, particularly via the internet, an entrepreneur or creative, might reach out to a virtual crowd and offer them some kind of future return on their early investment in a product. It has worked well for authors, musicians, filmmakers, and game writers among others. Commonly, a person backing the crowdfunding initiative will be rewarded with a copy of the finished product, such as a book, perhaps with additional incentives such as a mention in the book's acknowledgement or a copy signed by the author or unique in some other way.

    UK research published in the International Journal of Technoentrepreneurship, has investigated what factors lead to a successful crowdfunding initiative and what limitations there might be for an independent, indie, video game developer.

    Tahira Islam and Robert Phillips of the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester, explain how they have looked at the key success factors, which they suggest can be segregated into campaign factors, product factors, and human factors. They have found that a good campaign requires a lot of careful preparation ahead of the actual launch of the call to crowdfunding. It also has to present the goals of the launch well, have an achievable funding model and a realistic target given the timescale over which the crowdfunding initiative will run. It must also have a solid marketing strategy backed by realistic activities to promote the launch and to sustain the campaign.

    In the area of product factors, the most important for an indie games developer is to have a playable demo ready for the launch. It should be unique but also have features that will be familiar to the putative investor.

    As to human factors, there is an urgent need to have something of a pre-established audience reach. That is not necessarily a readymade audience but the potential to recruit donors from the company's networks, fans, social media, and the ever-important "friends of friends" and "word of mouth" connections. It is perhaps also critical in terms of the people factors that the games developers have a relevant background and that the development team is neither too big nor too small, but just right.

    Taking all of this into account, it seems that the primary constraining aspect of crowdfunding is the associated time cost and the stress of running the campaign with all of its marketing and social media updating and response. There is also the ubiquitous worry of achieving the fundraising target as this will determine fundamentally whether or not development continues to place a finished product on the video gaming market. The team adds that, perhaps surprisingly, they did not find intellectual property issues to be particularly relevant to the successful running of a crowdfunding campaign.

    The model devised by the team in their examination of the realm crowdfunding for independent video games development works well for this niche but they suggest that it might also be extended to other industrial niches.

    Islam, T. and Phillips, R.A. (2020) 'Strategies for reward based crowdfunding campaigns in video games: a context of indie game developers in the UK', Int. J. Technoentrepreneurship, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp.105–121.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJTE.2020.113926

  • Telemedicine is slowly maturing allowing greater connectivity between patient and healthcare providers using information and communications technology (ICT). One issue that is yet to be addressed fully, however, is security and thence privacy. Researchers writing in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, have turned to cloud computing to help them develop a new and strong authentication protocol for electronic healthcare systems.

    Prerna Mohit of the Indian Institute of Information Technology Senapati in Manipur, Ruhul Amin of the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee International Institute of Information Technology, in Naya Raipur, and G.P. Biswas of the Indian Institute of Technology (ISM) Dhanbad, in Jharkhand, India, point out how medical information is personal and sensitive and so it is important that it remains private and confidential.

    The team's approach uses the flexibility of a mobile device to authenticate so that a user can securely retrieve pertinent information without a third party having the opportunity to access that information at any point. In a proof of principle, the team has carried out a security analysis and demonstrated that the system can resist attacks where a malicious third party attempts to breach the security protocol. They add that the costs in terms of additional computation and communication resources are lower than those offered by other security systems reported in the existing research literature.

    Mohit, P., Amin, R. and Biswas, G.P. (2021) 'An e-healthcare authentication protocol employing cloud computing', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp.155–168.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJAHUC.2021.113873

  • A small-branched shrub found in India known locally as Moddu Soppu (Justicia wynaadensis) is used to make a sweet dish during the monsoon season by the inhabitants of Kodagu district in Karanataka exclusively during the monsoons. Research published in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design has looked at phytochemicals present in extracts from the plant that may have putative anticancer agent properties.

    C.D. Vandana and K.N. Shanti of PES University in Bangalore, Karnataka and Vivek Chandramohan of the Siddaganga Institute of Technology also in Tumkur, Karnataka, investigated several phytochemicals that had been reported in the scientific literature as having anticancer activity. They used a computer model to look at how well twelve different compounds "docked" with the relevant enzyme thymidylate synthase and compared this activity with a reference drug, capecitabine, which targets this enzyme.

    Thymidylate synthase is involved in making DNA for cell replication. In cancer, uncontrolled cell replication is the underlying problem. If this enzyme can be blocked it will lead to DNA damage in the cancer cells and potentially halt the cancer growth.

    Two compounds had comparable activity and greater binding to the enzyme than capecitabine. The first, campesterol, is a well-known plant chemical with a structure similar to cholesterol, the second stigmasterol is another well-known phytochemical involved in the structural integrity of plant cells. The former proved itself to be more stable than the latter and represents a possible lead for further investigation and testing as an anticancer drug, the team reports.

    Vandana, C.D., Shanti, K.N., Karunakar, P. and Chandramohan, V. (2020) 'In silico studies of bioactive phytocompounds with anticancer activity from in vivo and in vitro extracts of Justicia wynaadensis (Nees) T. Anderson', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 13, Nos. 5/6, pp.582–601.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCBDD.2020.113836

  • Timber harvest and agriculture have had an enormous impact on biodiversity in many parts of the world over the last two hundred years of the industrial era. One such region is 20 to 50 kilometre belt of tropical dry evergreen forest that lies inland from the southeastern coast of India. Efforts to regenerate the biodiversity has been more successful when native tropical dry evergreen forest has been reinstated rather than where non-native Acacia planting has been carried out in regeneration efforts, according to research published in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Review.

    Christopher Frignoca and John McCarthy of the Department of Atmospheric Science and Chemistry at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, USA, Aviram Rozin of Sadhana Forest in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India, and Leonard Reitsma of the Department of Biological Sciences at Plymouth explain how reforestation can be used to rebuild the ecosystem and increases population sizes and diversity of flora and fauna. The team has looked at efforts to rebuild the ecosystem of Sadhana Forest. An area of 28 hectares had its water table replenished through intensive soil moisture conservation. The team has observed rapid growth of planted native species and germination of two species of dormant Acacia seeds.

    The team's standard biological inventory of this area revealed 75 bird, 8 mammal, 12 reptile, 5 amphibian, 55 invertebrate species, and 22 invertebrate orders present in the area. When they looked closely at the data obtained from bird abundance at point count stations, invertebrate sweep net captures and leaf count detections, as well as Odonate and Lepidopteran visual observations along fixed-paced transects they saw far greater diversity in those areas where native plants thrived rather than the non-native Acacia.

    "Sadhana Forest's reforestation demonstrates the potential to restore ecosystems and replenish water tables, vital components to reversing ecosystem degradation, and corroborates reforestation efforts in other regions of the world," the team writes. "Sadhana Forest serves as a model for effective reforestation and ecosystem restoration," the researchers conclude.

    Frignoca, C., McCarthy, J., Rozin, A. and Reitsma, L. (2021) 'Greater biodiversity in regenerated native tropical dry evergreen forest compared to non-native Acacia regeneration in Southeastern India', Interdisciplinary Environmental Review, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.1–18.
    DOI: 10.1504/IER.2021.113781

News

Fighting Covid with plant products and repurposed pharmaceuticals

Writing in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design, Chemists Kaushik Sarkar and Rajesh Kumar of the University of North Bengal in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India, have investigated the potential of various natural products of plant origin that might be developed into novel pharmaceuticals for treating Covid-19, the pandemic disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. The team details their molecular docking experiments, absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME), and toxicity studies [...]

Augmented reality for dyslexia

Augmented reality can be used to support children with dyslexia, according to a team from Saudi Arabia writing in the International Journal of Cloud Computing. Dyslexia is a well-known and well-studied condition in which people of normal intelligence have difficulty reading. It affects between 3 and 7 people in every one hundred, although up to 20 percent of the population may have some problems [...]

Post-pandemic industry, just in time

Just-in-time practices could help industry and the economy be rebuilt as countries emerge from pandemic lockdown, according to research published in the International Journal of Services Operations and Informatics. As the potentially devastating effects of the rapid spread of Covid-19 early in 2020 and the subsequent pandemic became obvious, governments were forced to implement rules and regulations in an attempt to hinder the spread of the virus that causes the disease, SARS-CoV-2. These so-called lockdown measures involved shutting down parts of many industries, the hospitality sector, non-essential shopping, and limiting interpersonal contact through curfews and rules on social distancing [...]

Modular news gathering

The use of small processing modules can significantly reduce overheads on computing systems with limited resources available to them when large amounts of data must nevertheless be processed. Research by a team in Greece described in the International Journal of Web Engineering and Technology shows how that approach can be used for content aggregation, information extraction, sentiment tagging, and visualisation tasks [...]

New Editor for International Journal of Applied Nonlinear Science

Prof. Wen-Feng Wang from the Interscience Institute of Management and Technology in India and Shanghai Institute of Technology in China has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Applied Nonlinear Science.