2021 Journal news

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

Researchers in India are developing a disinfection chamber that integrates a system that can deactivate coronavirus particles. The team reports details in the International Journal of Design Engineering.

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are signs that the causative virus SARS-CoV-2 and its variants may be with us for many years to come despite the unprecedented speed with vaccines against the disease have been developed, tested, and for some parts of the world rolled out. Sangam Sahu, Shivam Krishna Pandey, and Atul Mishra of the BML Munjal University suggest that we could adapt screening technology commonly used in security for checking whether a person is entering an area, such as airports, hospitals, or government buildings, for instance, carrying a weapon, explosives, or contraband goods.

Such a system might be augmented with a body temperature check for spotting a person with a fever that might be a symptom of COVID-19 or another contagious viral infection. They add that the screening system might also incorporate technology that can kill viruses on surfaces with a quick flash of ultraviolet light or a spray of chemical disinfectant.

Airborne microbial diseases represent a significant ongoing challenge to public health around the world. While COVID-19 is top of the agenda at the moment, seasonal and pandemic influenza are of perennial concern as is the emergence of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. Moreover, we are likely to see other emergent pathogens as we have many times in the past any one of which could lead to an even greater pandemic catastrophe than COVID-19.

Screening and disinfecting systems as described by Sahu could become commonplace and perhaps act as an obligatory frontline defense against the spread of such emergent pathogens even before they are identified. Such an approach to unknown viruses is well known in the computer industry where novel malware emerges, so-called 0-day viruses, before the antivirus software is updated to recognize it and so blanket screening and disinfection software is often used.

Sahu, S., Pandey, S.K. and Mishra, A. (2021) 'Disinfectant chamber for killing body germs with integrated FAR-UVC chamber (for COVID-19)', Int. J. Design Engineering, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.1–9.
DOI: 10.1504/IJDE.2021.113247

A computer hard drive can be a rich source of evidence in a forensic investigation... but only if the device is intact and undamaged otherwise many additional steps to retrieve incriminating data from within are needed and not always successful even in the most expert hands. Research published in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics considers the data retrieval problems for investigators faced with a hard drive that has been submerged in water.

Alicia Francois and Alastair Nisbet of the Cybersecurity Research Laboratory at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, point out that under pressure suspects in an investigation may attempt to destroy digital evidence prior to a seizure by the authorities. A common approach is simply to put a hard drive in water in the hope that damage to the circuitry and the storage media within will render the data inaccessible.

The team has looked at the impact of water ingress on solid-state and conventional spinning magnetic disc hard drives and the timescale over which irreparable damage occurs and how this relates to the likelihood of significant data loss from the device. Circuitry and other components begin to corrode rather quickly following water ingress. However, if a device can be retrieved and dried within seven days, there is a reasonable chance of it still working and the data being accessible.

"Ultimately, water submersion can damage a drive quickly but with the necessary haste and skills, data may still be recoverable from a water-damaged hard drive," the team writes.

However, if the device has been submerged in saltwater, then irreparable damage can occur within 30 minutes. The situation is worse for a solid-state drive which will essentially be destroyed within a minute of saltwater ingress. The research provides a useful guide for forensic investigators retrieving hard drives that have been submerged in water.

Francois, A. and Nisbet, A. (2021) 'Forensic analysis and data recovery from water-submerged hard drives', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.219–231.
DOI: 10.1504/IJESDF.2021.113374

There is no consensus across medical science as to whether or not there is a safe lower limit on alcohol consumption nor whether a small amount of alcohol is beneficial. The picture is complicated by the various congeners, such as polyphenols and other substances that are present in different concentrations in different types of alcoholic beverage, such as red and white wine, beers and ales, ciders, and spirits. Moreover, while, there has been a decisive classification of alcohol consumption as a cause of cancer, there is strong evidence that small quantities have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.

Now, writing in the International Journal of Web and Grid Services, a team from China, Japan, Taiwan, and the USA, has looked at how a feature of our genetic material, DNA, relates to ageing and cancer and investigated a possible connection with alcohol consumption. The ends of our linear chromosomes are capped by repeated sequences of DNA base units that act as protective ends almost analogous to the stiff aglets on each end of a bootlace.

These protective sections are known as telomeres. Which each cell replication the length of the telomeres on the ends of our chromosomes get shorter. This limits the number of times a cell can replicate before there is insufficient protection for the DNA between the ends that encodes the proteins that make up the cell. Once the telomeres are damaged beyond repair or gone the cell will die. This degradative process has been linked to the limited lifespan of the cells in our bodies and the aging process itself.

Yan Pei of The University of Aizu in Aizuwakamatsu, Japan, and colleagues Jianqiang Li, Yu Guan, and Xi Xu of Beijing University of Technology, China, Jason Hung of the National Taichung University of Science and Technology, Taichung, Taiwan, and Weiliang Qiu of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, USA, have carried out a meta-analysis of the scientific literature. Their analysis suggests that telomere length is associated with alcohol consumption. Given that shorter telomeres, before they reach the critical length, can nevertheless lead to genomic instability, this alcohol-associated shortening could offer insight into how cancerous tumour growth might be triggered.

Telomere shortening is a natural part of the ageing process. However, it is influenced by various factors that are beyond our control such as paternal age at birth, ethnicity, gender, age, telomere maintenance genes, genetic mutations of the telomeres. However, telomere length is also affected by inflammation and oxidative stress, environmental, psychosocial, behavioural exposures, and for some of those factors we may have limited control. For others, such as chronic exposure to large quantities of alcohol we have greater control.

Li, J., Guan, Y., Xu, X., Pei, Y., Hung, J.C. and Qiu, W. (2021) 'Association between alcohol consumption and telomere length', Int. J. Web and Grid Services, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.36–59.
DOI: 10.1504/IJWGS.2021.113686

Adedeji Badiru of the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio, USA, discusses the notion of quality insight in the International Journal of Quality Engineering and Technology and how this relates to motivating researchers and developers working on quality certification programs after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the realm of product quality, we depend on certification based on generally accepted standards to ensure high quality. Badiru writes that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious disruption to production facilities and led to the upending of normal quality engineering and technology programs. In the aftermath of the pandemic, there will be a pressing need to redress this problem and its impact on quality management processes may, as with many other areas of normal life, continue to be felt for a long time.

Badiru suggests that now is the time to develop new approaches to ensure that we retrieve the pre-COVID quality levels. He suggests that in the area of quality certification, we must look at other methods in this field, perhaps borrowing from other areas of quality oversight. One mature area from which the new-normal of certification might borrow is academic accreditation.

The work environment has changed beyond recognition through the pandemic and we are unlikely to revert to old approaches entirely. Indeed, the pandemic has already necessitated the urgent application of existing quantitative and qualitative tools and techniques to other areas, such as work design, workforce development, and the form of the curriculum in education. Action now, from the systems perspective in engineering and technology, "will get a company properly prepared for the quality certification of the future, post-COVID-19 pandemic," he writes. This will allow research and development of new products to satisfy the triage of cost, time, and quality requirements as we ultimately emerge from the pandemic.

Badiru, A. (2021) 'Quality insight: product quality certification post COVID-19 using systems framework from academic program accreditation', Int. J. Quality Engineering and Technology, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.218–227.
DOI: 10.1504/IJQET.2021.113728

Social media has brought huge benefits to many of those around the world with the resources to access its apps and websites. Indeed, there are billions of people using the popular platforms every month in almost, if not, every country of the world. Researchers writing in the International Journal of High Performance Systems Architecture, point out that as with much in life there are downsides that counter the positives of social media. One might refer to one such negative facet of social media as "cyber violence".

Randa Zarnoufi of the FSR Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, and colleagues suggest that the number of victims of this new form of hostility is growing day by day and is having a strongly detrimental effect on the psychological wellbeing of too many people. A perspective that has been little investigated in this area with regard to reducing the level of cyber violence in the world is to consider the psychological status and the emotional dimension of the perpetrators themselves. New understanding of what drives those people to commit heinous acts against others in the online world may improve our response to it and open up new ways to address the problem at its source rather than attempting to simply filter, censor, or protect victims directly.

The team has analysed social media updates using Ensemble Machine Learning and the Plutchik wheel of basic emotions to extract the character of those updates in the context of cyber violence, bullying and trolling behaviour. The analysis draws the perhaps obvious, but nevertheless highly meaningful, conclusion that there is a significant association between an individual's emotional state and the personal propensity to harmful intent in the realm of social media. Importantly, the work shows how this emotional state can be detected and perhaps the perpetrator of cyber violence be approached with a view to improving their emotional state and reducing the negative impact their emotions would otherwise have on the people with whom they engage online.

This is very much the first step in this approach to addressing the serious and growing problem of cyber violence. The team adds that they will train their system to detect specific issues in socoal media updates that are associated with harassment with respect to sexuality, appearance, intellectual capacity, and political persuasion.

Zarnoufi, R., Boutbi, M. and Abik, M. (2020) 'AI to prevent cyber-violence: harmful behaviour detection in social media', Int. J. High Performance Systems Architecture, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.182–191
DOI: 10.1504/IJHPSA.2020.113679

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious problem. To address it, we need a systematic, multistage preventive approach, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion. One international response to sexual harassment problems across a range of industries but initially emerging from the entertainment industry was the "#metoo" movement. Within this movement victims of harassment and abuse told their stories through social media and other outlets to raise awareness of this widespread problem and to advocate for new legal protections and societal change.

Anna Michalkiewicz and Marzena Syper-Jedrzejak of the University of Lodz, Poland, describe how they have explored perception of the #metoo movement with regards to in reducing the incidence of sexual harassment. "Our findings show that #metoo may have had such preventive potential but it got 'diluted' due to various factors, for example, cultural determinants and lack of systemic solutions," the team writes. They suggest that because of these limitations the #metoo movement is yet to reach its full potential.

The team's study considered 122 students finishing their master's degrees in management studies and readying themselves to enter the job market. They were surveyed about the categorisation of psychosocial hazards – such as sexual harassment – in the workplace that cause stress and other personal problems as opposed to the more familiar physical hazards.

"Effective prevention of [sexual harassment] requires awareness but also motivation and competence to choose and implement in the organisations adequate measures that would effectively change the organisational culture and work conditions," the team writes. The #metoo movement brought prominence to the issues, but the team suggests that it did not lead to the requisite knowledge and practical competence that would facilitate prevention. They point out that the much-needed social changes cannot come about within a timescale of a few months of campaigning. Cultural changes need more time and a willing media to keep attention focused on the problem and how it might be addressed. There is also a pressing need for changes in the law to be considered to help eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace.

Michałkiewicz, A. and Syper-Jędrzejak, M. (2020) 'Significance of the #metoo movement for the prevention of sexual harassment as perceived by people entering the job market', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.343–361.
DOI: 10.1504/IJWOE.2020.113699

While the term "big data" has become something of a buzz phrase in recent years it has a solid foundation in computer science in many contexts and as such has emerged into the public consciousness via the media and even government initiatives in many parts of the world. A North American team has looked at the media and undertaken a mining operation to unearth nuggets of news regarding this term.

Murtaza Haider of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and Amir Gandomi of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, USA, explain how big data-driven analytics emerged as one of the most sought-after business strategies of the decade. They have now used natural language processing and text mining algorithms to find the focus and tenor of news coverage surrounding big data. They mined a five million-word body of news coverage for references to the novelty of big data, showcasing the usual suspects in big data geographies and industries.

"The insights gained from the text analysis show that big data news coverage indeed evolved where the initial focus on the promise of big data moderated over time," the team found. There work also demonstrates how text mining and NLP algorithms are potent tools for news content analysis.

The team points out that academic journals have been the main source of trusted and unbiased advice regarding computing technologies, large databases, and scalable analytics, it is the popular and trade press that are the information source for over-stretched executives. It was the popular media that became what the team describes as "the primary channel for spreading awareness about 'big data' as a marketing concept". They add that the news media certainly helped popularise innovative ideas being discussed in the academic literature.

Moreover, the latter has had to play catchup during the last decade on sharing the news. That said, much of the news coverage during this time has been about the novelty and the promise of big data rather than the proof of principles that are needed for it to proceed and mature as a discipline. Indeed, there are many big data clichés propagated in an often uncritical popular media suggesting that big data analytics is some kind of information panacea. In contrast, the more reserved nature of academic publication knows only too well that big data does not represent a cure-all for socio-economic ills nor does it have unlimited potential.

Haider, M. and Gandomi, A. (2021) 'When big data made the headlines: mining the text of big data coverage in the news media', Int. J. Services Technology and Management, Vol. 27, Nos. 1/2, pp.23–50.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSTM.2021.113574

Human understanding of animal behaviour is important not only from a purely scientific perspective but also from the perspective of disease prevention and control. This is especially poignant when considering those animals of vectors of disease that can be transmitted to humans and perhaps even underpin the emergence of novel pathogens such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus which has led to the current global Covid-19 pandemic.

Writing in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology, a team from Thailand has looked at canine behaviour and how improved understanding might help in rabies control through better animal vaccination programs. Better understanding might also be useful in understanding behaviour when there is a major outbreak. The team has modelled the behaviour of individual dogs and packs (canine communities) and the way in which individual animals may explore new territory. They look closely at the "tie-strength" between any two dogs. They have validated their model on a region of the island of Saibai in northwestern Torres Strait islands, Australia. Saibai lies off the south-eastern coast of New Guinea.

The simulated data fit with actual tracking data to within just over 6 percent accuracy in terms of tie-strength. As such, the team has now simulated canine behaviour in three Thai cities and demonstrated a difference in how tie-strength affects behaviour. This, they suggest, may reflect significantly higher average numbers of dogs in a given area, the larger group distances and bigger connections between dogs and their packs.

The team suggests that the same approach to modelling canine behaviour might be extended to the walking behaviour of other animals with relative ease.

Jiwattanakul, J., Youngjitikornkun, C., Kusakunniran, W., Wiratsudakul, A., Thanapongtharm, W. and Leelahapongsathon, K. (2021) 'Map simulation of dogs' behaviour using population density of probabilistic model', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 65, No. 1, pp.14–24.
DOI: 10.1504/IJCAT.2021.113646

A computer algorithm based on a biological process could be used to detect breast cancer more effectively, according to new research published in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications. A team from India has improved on earlier bio-inspired algorithms to develop a particle swarm optimisation and firefly algorithm that boosts detection accuracy by up to 2 percent taking it to as much as 97 percent accuracy.

Moolchand Sharma and Shubbham Gupta of the Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology in New Delhi and Suman Deswal of the Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology in Murthal, Haryana, explain that breast cancer in women is common the world over and mortality rates are the second-highest and rising year by year. Early detection is critical to timely intervention that can improve prognosis and reduce the number of women who die prematurely from this disease.

The team points out that experiments with many different types of computer algorithms have been researched in recent years with a view to finding a way to automate the detection process from mammograms and improve the positive tests and lower false-positive results from screen programs. Their aggregated algorithm inspired by biological processes has been tested on archived data from the Breast Cancer Wisconsin (Diagnostic) Data Set and shown to have an accuracy of at least 93 percent. By adding a random forest classifier that accuracy can then be boosted to 97 percent, the team reports.

The team points out that there is still scope for further optimization and ti improve that accuracy perhaps by focusing more on the identification of key features in the scan images, such as texture and smoothness. They also add that the same approach might be readily extended to the diagnosis of other diseases by training the algorithm on appropriate data in the same way that they trained their algorithm on breast cancer data.

Sharma, M., Gupta, S. and Deswal, S. (2021) 'Modified bio-inspired algorithms for diagnosis of breast cancer using aggregation', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.37–47.
DOI: 10.1504/IJICA.2021.113615

Recently, environmental protections have been put into place to safeguard non-human animals, plants, and other living things that exist in radioactive places. Indeed, radiation protection of non-humans has been written into the International Commission on Radiation Protection) framework.

New research in the International Journal of Low Radiation suggests that the framework in using a reference animal and plant approach matching the anthropocentric 'reference human' approach has significant shortcomings. While this approach can be implemented relatively easily, it wholly ignores the biology involved in the management of radiation damage in wild populations. Moreover, it simply ignores the complexity and interdependence of natural ecosystems.

Carmel Mothersill and Colin Seymour of the Department of Biology at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, Canada, point out that internationally a more ecocentric and holistic approach is needed. Indeed, it is being looked at by some stakeholders. They point out that problems such as biodiversity collapse cannot be predicted in the wake of environmental problems based on measurements made at the level of the individual.

There remain many unknowns and uncertainties in the field. We do not necessarily know what abnormal means in the wider context when looking at individual exposure, for instance. The impact of exposure to high levels of radiation can be obvious, problems arise in our understanding given our limited tools when we need to consider the more subtle effects of low dose exposure, how this affects individuals, across the generations, and across their ecosystems.

The team discusses some promising new ideas, which they suggest may lead to more integrated protection systems involving the ecosystem as a central focus rather than the individual.

Mothersill, C.E. and Seymour, C. (2020) 'Living in radioactive environments: a non-human perspective', Int. J. Low Radiation, Vol. 11, Nos. 3/4, pp.178-185.
DOI: 10.1504/IJLR.2020.113535

Hundreds of millions of people use some of the countless social networking sites while billions use those and the bigger, more well-known, sites. A research team based in India and Saudi Arabia reports a new approach to detecting fake accounts on social media sites in the International Journal of Internet Technology and Secured Transactions.

Srinivas Rao of the Department of CSE at JNTUK in Kakinada, Gugulothu Narsimha of the Department of CSE, at JNTUH in Hyderabad, India, and Jayadev Gyani of Majmaah University in Saudi Arabia, explain that there are millions of fake accounts on social media sites. Some of them may well be entirely innocuous, while others are run by scammers, spammers, and those intent on spreading disinformation whether medical, scientific, political, or indeed in any other realm of human endeavour.

"Fake accounts are created for profitable malicious activities, such as spamming, click-fraud, malware distribution, and identity fraud," the team explains. "Some fakes are created to increase the visibility of niche content, forum posts, and fan pages by manipulating votes/view counts. People also create fake profiles for social reasons and it includes the friendly pranks, stalking, cyberbullying, and concealing a real identity to bypass real-life constraints," they add.

In their new work, the team describes an optimal validation model that uses a multi-swarm fruit fly algorithm to home in on the fake accounts once trained. This fuzzy logic approach can readily differentiate between genuine and fake accounts with a view to improving the overall trustworthiness of online identities. The team has demonstrated in their proof of principle efficacy when faced with fake accounts on the Facebook and Google+ social networks.

Rao, P.S., Gyani, J. and Narsimha, G. (2021) 'OVM-OSN: an optimal validation model applied to detection of fake accounts on online social networks', Int. J. Internet Technology and Secured Transactions, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp.109–130.
DOI: 10.1504/IJITST.2021.113511

Modern life in India with the emergence of the nuclear family, single-person households, late marriage, busy schedules, and more time spent away from home mean that more and more people eat alone in restaurants than ever before. A new analysis in this social shift is published in the International Journal of Business Excellence and looks at this change from the perspective of sacrifice, service value, customer satisfaction, and behavioural intentions.

Prabhat Kumar Singh Kushwah of the Department of Management at the Prestige Institute of Management in Gwalior and Pankaj Kumar Singh of the ICFAI Business School at IFHE Hyderabad (Deemed to be University), India, suggest that customers are more willing to "sacrifice" in terms of paying a higher price for their food if the service is better than that experienced in a rival establishment. However, in conflict with earlier findings by others sacrifice is not a predictor of service value, they report. This, they suggest, may be down to the fact that in an increasingly customer-led competitive environment, many restaurants are offering a lot of incentives to attract new clientele but are not working sufficiently hard to retain their original customers.

The team suggests that restaurants must innovate in terms of increasing service quality offered and service value perceived by old customers. "The right strategy for restaurants would be to provide loyalty benefits to the current customers to retain them with the restaurants and increase the utility of their services of the restaurants so that what they are receiving for what they are giving can increase in other words they need to focus on increasing service value," the team writes.

The next step in the work will be to extend the study beyond the original clutch of restaurants examined in Delhi and Bangalore to draw more general conclusions that might apply to other cities across India. Similar work might also next consider business sectors in the service industries other than restaurants using the same tools to examine the collated data.

Kushwah, P.K.S. and Singh, P.K. (2021) 'The role of sacrifice and service quality in the Indian restaurant industry', Int. J. Business Excellence, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp.153–170.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBEX.2021.113437

New research suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) might be able to identify and classify diseases in crop plants allowing more targeted application of treatments for specific fungal infections and other problems. The idea is discussed by a team from India in the International Journal of Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics.

Nitin Vamsi Dantu and K. Vimalkumar of the Amrita School of Engineering in Coimbatore, and Shriram Vasudevan of the K. Ramakrishnan College of Technology in Trichy, explain that fungal infections in crop plants commonly cause wilting, rusts, blotches, scabs, mouldy coatings, and rotted tissue. Such problems lead to crop failure or inedible produce and massive economic costs to the farmer. An automated way to quickly identify common plant disease and allow targeted treatment to be undertaken could save crops, increase yields, and cut costs.

The team is using deep-learning techniques to develop a system that could be incorporated into a mobile phone app. The app would allow farmers to take a snapshot of a diseased leaf and the app would analyses the image, identify the disease in the crop in the field in real-time. The app can distinguish between healthy potato plant leaves and those afflicted late blight. It can discern strawberry leaf scorch. It can also distinguish between various tomato diseases including bacterial spot, early blight, leaf mold, target spot, mosaic virus, and others.

The tests show the approach to perform better than the state of the art technology, the team says. The system is they say, accurate and functionally very stable.

Such innovations might help save an ailing agricultural industry in certain parts of India as well as reduce the psychological burden on struggling farmers that tragically sees thousands of suicides each year.

Dantu, N.V., Vasudevan, S.K. and Vimalkumar, K. (2021) 'An innovative artificial intelligence approach for disease classification in plants', Int. J. Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.1–16.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSAMI.2021.113459

A realistic notion of the self-driving car has emerged in recent years and much research is being done to make it a reality. Such vehicles could revolutionize many aspects of life allowing those with limited mobility, sight, or other impediments to driving to be car users nevertheless with all the benefits of independence such vehicles bring to the individual. Additionally, there are those who may never have learned to drive and yet could reap the rewards of car ownership without the complication of understanding steering wheels, brakes, and accelerators.

Writing in the International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, a team from Germany discusses the market opportunities associated with an aging society. They focus on the transition from advanced driver assistance systems to the fully autonomous vehicle of the future that would enable personal transport for many more people.

Timo Günthner, Heike Proff, Josip Jovic, and Lukas Zeymer of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Duisburg, Germany, explain how there is stagnation in the marketing of conventional cars. As such, comfort and safety features are being pushed to the fore by innovative manufacturers eyeing the prize of selling to an older, richer market more concerned with such features than youthful exuberance and performance, as it were.

The pensionable "silver market", as the team refers to it, is growing and increasingly willing to consider assisted driving systems, such as automatic parking and the like. It will be no great leap of the imagination to shift up a gear, figuratively speaking, and increase automated driving protocols to the point where the cars of the future for this niche will be fully autonomous, given appropriate regulatory approval. The team adds that there is not a simple linear relationship between age and willingness to pay and so more research in this area is needed while the technology that will ultimately underpin it matures over the next ten to fifteen years.

Günthner, T., Proff, H., Jovic, J. and Zeymer, L. (2021) 'Tapping into market opportunities in aging societies – the example of advanced driver assistance systems in the transition to autonomous driving', Int. J. Automotive Technology and Management, Vol. 21, Nos. 1/2, pp.75–98.
DOI: 10.1504/IJATM.2021.113352

Video games can be spectator sports in just the same as traditional sports, such as football, ice hockey, tennis, athletics etc. The majority of sports spectators view traditional sports remotely, commonly via a television with only relatively limited numbers of people able to attend a sports event. This was always the way, but the current Covid pandemic has precluded attendance at live sports events for and pushed spectating further online. Gaming has only ever had a limited number of live spectators and so the positioning of eSports as online sporting events had a head start.

New research published in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, looks at eSports from the perspective of a new era in spectator games from the perspective of the consumer rather than the gamer. Alan Smith of the Department of Marketing at Robert Morris University, Moon Township, Pennsylvania and Amber Smith-Ditizio of the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas, USA, discuss accessibility, competitiveness, and socialisation in eSports.

Specifically, the team focuses on accessibility, which includes pricing models and media in which players can spectate and participate. Competitiveness encompasses how players improve their skills, take part in tournaments, and the notion of equality. The socialisation aspect of the research looks at the sense of community that emerges, how gamers can play with friends, and content generated by that community. Most viewers report that they use the internet to spectate on eSports.

The team points out that in order to understand this emerging industry more completely it is necessary to if not discard then untether the research from studies of conventional sports. There is much to learn about how consumers of eSports, who are commonly participants in those activities themselves, sit within this burgeoning realm. Clearer understanding will hopefully lead to progress and improve the way in which future videogames are developed, how professional teams might become better organised as well as pointing to how corporate sponsorship might evolve.

Smith, A.D. and Smith-Ditizio, A.A. (2021) 'eSports: a new era of spectator games from a consumer's viewpoint', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp.406–431.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBIS.2021.113286

Online shopping has been with us for many years. The World Wide Web opened up to the commercial world back in the mid-1990s. However, the web itself has been displaced to a large degree by social networking and online life for many exists almost exclusively on these apps and sites rather than the broader internet. As such, commercial concerns hoping to keep pace with constant change must adapt to take advantage of social networking in the same way that bricks-and-mortar shops had to adapt to the emergence of web rivals. Could the social network be the new shopping mall?

Melanie Wiese of the Department of Marketing Management at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, discusses the prospects in the International Journal of Business Information Systems. She has investigated how quickly users are taking to the online marketplace of the biggest international social networking system, Facebook and considering the moderating role of trust in this environment. Completed surveys from almost 400 uses in South Africa provide the raw data for her analysis.

Fundamentally, Wiese's results show that it is perceived enjoyment and usefulness that are the most important factors determining whether or not a Facebook user will make a purchase through this system. She found that while privacy risk and social norms were not significant influences. Indeed, among the Facebook users surveyed, the majority were more trusting of shopping through Facebook than more conventional online shopping. Her findings could guide those hoping to sell their wares on Facebook helping them to improve their marketing strategies.

The alignment of social networking and shopping has been a possibility for many years, perhaps first mentioned in the research literature in 2010, but hinted at long before that.

"Shopping on social networks presents an opportunity for users to complete transactions within the social network's environment, while it provides brands the opportunity to meet consumers in their space," says Wiese. She adds that researchers and marketers alike need to quick to respond to changes in this fast-moving online environment if they are to make credible and timely predictions. There needs to be a sense of urgency, she suggests, as otherwise cutting edge research quickly becomes out-dated historical artifact rather than forward looking.

Wiese, M. (2021) 'Shopping on social networks: is this the storefront of the future?', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp.303-326.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBIS.2021.113280

The term "zombie firm" was coined in the late 1980s in the context of "zombie banks". In fiction, the word zombie itself usually refers to a monstrous creature that is animated and yet dead. In the context of finance, however, we might think of a zombie as a commercial organization that remains active and yet is unable to pay its debts nor generate a profit. Moreover, the life of a zombie firm is often prolonged artificially by subsidies from third parties such as governments and foreign investors.

Nguyen Thi Tuong Anh, Doan Quang Hung, Nam Hoang Vu, and Bui Anh Tuan of the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi, Vietnam, suggesting that addressing the problem of zombie firms is an important issue at the international level. They point out that many zombie firms are state-owned and invested in foreign transition economies. Writing in the International Journal of Business and Globalisation, the team explains how they have used longitudinal data concerning enterprises and the local business environment in a transition economy to devise a solution to the problem.

They demonstrate that driving out persistent zombie firms in manufacturing industries might be possible by reducing entry costs to a market to facilitate greater competition. The approach, they suggest, may not be effective in non-manufacturing industries.

The team concludes, based on their study of zombie firms in Vietnam, that rather than offering subsidized bailouts to such firms, governments should use market-based instruments to eradicate the zombies and stronger firms to emerge better adapted to the market.

Anh, N.T.T., Hung, D.Q., Vu, N.H. and Tuan, B.A. (2021) 'Does lowering entry cost counter the persistence of zombie firms?', Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp.333–354.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBG.2021.113273

A business case study in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation shows how producers of luxury goods can benefit from a social media presence. Specifically, the team focuses on luxury watchmakers and their Instagram accounts.

Armansyah Adhityo Pramono, and Fitri Aprilianty of the School of Business and Management at the Institut Teknologi Bandung, in Bandung, Indonesia, have tracked the Instagram activities of five luxury watch brands in order to glean information about what works and what does not work on this photography-based sharing platform.

The team discusses the nature of the luxury watch market. It is a growing, sizeable, and profitable market but highly competitive and volatile, they write. There are complexities that need to be understood in order that a brand improve awareness among its target market.

Fundamentally, the team has demonstrated a positive association between social media marketing in this context, the relationship between brand and customer and purchase intention. It seems, as one might expect, that content that engages with the value customers place on status symbols such as luxury watches and their hedonism correlates with purchase intention but has not yet been used frequently in social media marketing for such brands.

In order to reap the rewards of investing in Instagram use for marketing of luxury watch brands, those brands must focus on the values that influence purchase intention the most but also improving the degree of engagement with their putative customers, the team suggests. In a world where social media is commonplace and everyday, brands must highlight exclusivity and authenticity as well as their association with high-status people and world events.

Conversely, there are aspects of marketing commonly used by non-luxury goods, such as consumer feedback and even consumer-led design that do not seem to have much effect on purchase intention of luxury watches. Similarly, special offers and promotions are not as important in this sector. After all, it is the luxurious quality of a brand that is the main appeal not its value for money. Luxury goods are commonly status symbols for hedonists and these characteristics are wherein their appeal lies and can be targeted on social media.

Pramono, A.A. and Aprilianty, F. (2020) 'Social media and luxury brand: what luxury watch brands need to know when on Instagram', Int. J. Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp.316–336.
DOI: 10.1504/IJTTC.2020.113210

Conventional crop-spraying with herbicide to kill weeds among a crop wastes a lot of the herbicide and raises environmental concerns. A smart crop sprayer might identify weeds growing through the crop and spot spray only the unwanted plants. Work from a team in China published in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering, looks at the real-time segmentation of a cornfield to detect weeds that could be used to control such a smart crop-sprayer.

Uncontrolled weed growth in a crop leads to reduced yields of that crop. However, herbicides to selectively kill the weeds are expensive and also lead to pollution. It is in the best interests of farmers the world over and for the sake of the environment, that herbicides are used as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Hao Guo, Shengsheng Wang, and Yinan Lu of Jilin University in Changchun have proposed a lightweight network based on the encoder-decoder architecture SResNet. They optimized the model so that it can quickly discern weed plant from crop plant in an image.

"In weed identification, the recognition effect is susceptible to factors like light, occlusion, and image quality, so improving the robustness of weed recognition is still a challenging subject in traditional machine vision," the team explains. Their approach offers a lightweight semantic segmentation model based on the encoder-decoder architecture which takes into account accuracy and processing speed. To demonstrate the benefits of their system, they have compared results with classical semantic segmentation models (SegNet and U-Net) and showed it to have competitive performance. The test frame-rate is almost 70 frames per second and so capable of real-time weed identification in a cornfield. Their average score has almost 99 percent accuracy.

Guo, H., Wang, S. and Lu, Y. (2020) 'Real-time segmentation of weeds in cornfields based on depthwise separable convolution residual network', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp.307–318.
DOI: 10.1504/IJCSE.2020.113185

One theory of ageing invokes the Second Law of Thermodynamics and suggests that in the long-term, the heat energy generated by metabolic changes causes damage to living systems that accumulates as repair mechanisms cannot keep pace with the damage, entropy accumulates, and this is manifest in the signs of ageing that are all too familiar – greying hair, wrinkled skin, immune compromise, organ failure, cognitive decline.

A team from Turkey, writing in the International Journal of Exergy, point out that as is ever the case with living systems, the picture is far more complicated. Indeed, an individual is not truly a single living thing given the presence of myriad microbes that live on the skin and within the alimentary canal, for instance. Indeed, the team from Yeditepe University in Istanbul explain that the human gut microbiota acts as an autonomous thermodynamic subsystem within what we ought to refer to as the human superorganism. These microbes generate and export their own entropy without causing age damage to their human host.

The team's thermodynamic calculations show that between 12 and 59 percent of the metabolic entropy generated by each of us as a whole is produced by the microbial guests in our gut and exported in faeces. This entropy is not associated with ageing damage.

The researchers explain how entropy removal via the waste stream from a chemical plant is well known and discussed at length in the pertinent scientific literature. Given that we know from the work of Schrödinger and Prigogine that living systems must import energy and export entropy to maintain their living state this new research into the entropy export by the gut microbiota could open up new avenues for research into ageing that have not previously been considered in depth.

Yildiz, C., Yilmaz, B. and Özilgen, M. (2021) 'Fraction of the metabolic ageing entropy damage to a host may be flushed out by gut microbiata', Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp.179–195.
DOI: 10.1504/IJEX.2021.113004

Climate change represents perhaps the biggest challenge facing humanity, therefore education has an important role to play in teaching students about how we might mitigate the problems but also how to cope with what might be termed eco-anxiety.

A team from Canada writing in the International Journal of Higher Education and Sustainability, suggests that part of a well-rounded university education must provide students with the tools with which to address the challenges presented by the environmental crisis we all face. Part of this education should show them how to be responsible eco-citizens but also give them the skills to become creative, solution-oriented thinkers. With such people entering adulthood and becoming the innovators and leaders of the future humanity might be able to cope with the acute problems and address the chronic problems facing climate and the environment.

Laura Sims and Marie-Élaine Desmarais of the Université de St. Boniface and Rhéa Rocque of the University of Winnipeg, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, suggest that educators "have a responsibility to create inclusive environmental and sustainability educational approaches that are enabling, emotionally supportive, engaging, and praxis-oriented." Their work focuses on the concept of eco-anxiety and how students might be taught to cope with such a problem in a positive and pragmatic way.

At the time of writing their paper, humanity was facing another major challenge – the Covid pandemic caused by a lethal coronavirus that emerged towards the end of 2019. The pandemic is still with us more than a year later. The team adds that the pandemic has taught us many lessons that can equally be applied to education for sustainability, inclusion, and eco-anxiety. "In living this experience, we have seen people come together, changing their lifestyles, and acting individually for collective benefit," they write. They add that the pandemic has shown us that "we can stop our destructive, consumptive path, if need be, at very short notice, and re-imagine other possibilities…we are strong enough, together, to face existential challenges."

Sims, L., Rocque, R. and Desmarais, M-É. (2020) 'Enabling students to face the environmental crisis and climate change with resilience: inclusive environmental and sustainability education approaches and strategies for coping with eco-anxiety', Int. J. Higher Education and Sustainability, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.112–131.
DOI: 10.1504/IJHES.2020.113059

Despite the growing number of tools being used to anneal so-called big data, researchers are only now beginning to find ways to handle big networks. A new approach described in the International Journal of Data Science, takes a local community approach to studying networks that could have applications in understanding how disease outbreaks become pandemics, defeating terrorist networks, thwarting malware, and understanding the effect of influencers and viral advertising on marketing.

Ali Choumane and Abbass Al-Akhrass of the Faculty of Sciences in the LaRIFA Lab at the Lebanese University in Nabatieh, Lebanon, explain analyzing huge networks is computationally very expensive in terms of the time and resources needed to process all the nodes and connections between them in order to find hubs and other interesting features. This is especially the case where a network contains densely connected nodes.

Community detection is one approach to circumventing this mammoth task allowing researchers to find the local connections from the busiest of individual nodes. The team is developing an algorithm to find such local communities in a huge network quickly and at a lower computational cost than earlier approaches. The team explains how they start with a seed node and allow the algorithm to iteratively expand on this to identify a community around that node that most resembles known community structures previously seen in real life. Such communities are likely to be the most realistic, after all.

The expansion process builds using a neural network classifier that can discern which nodes ought to be added to the local community and which ought to be discarded. The classifier can be fine-tuned to adjust resolution so that smaller or larger communities can be found within a huge network without the need to retrain the algorithm each time.

"We trained this classifier using three measures that allowed us to mutually quantify the strength of the relation between nodes and communities," the team explains."These measures depend on the proportion of edges that the node has with its community, how much the neighbours of the node are involved in its community and finally the membership degree of the node in the community."

The researchers add that they used the well-known Lancichinetti–Fortunato–Radicchi (LFR) synthetic networks as a benchmark as well as real-world networks from different application domains to demonstrate experimentally the high performance of their approach.

Choumane, A. and Al-Akhrass, A. (2020) 'Supervised local community detection algorithm', Int. J. Data Science, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp.247–261.
DOI: 10.1504/IJDS.2020.113061

Cloud computing has revolutionised the way files are stored and shared and processing carried out from the corporate down to the individual private user level. Security remains a contentious issue. As such, there is an ongoing need to ensure data is protected optimally. Research published in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, discusses an efficient and optimised approach for the secure sharing of files in the cloud.

Cloud computing has been with us for many years now, although still sometimes considered a "new" paradigm. It represents delocalised, distributed, and shared services and allows all kinds of organisations and individuals to offload their storage and computer processing needs on to third-party servers and services, commonly for a fee, in a freemium, model, and occasionally at zero cost to the user.

There are many benefits to cloud computing. Obviously, distributed servers can offer greater processing and storage capacity than local computers. The downside to cloud computing can be the very nature of it in that it is ultimately dependent on a third party for the service and also for privacy and protection of one's data.

Neha Agarwal and Ajay Rana of Amity University in Noida UP and Jai Prakash Pandey of KNIT in Sultanpur UP, India, have proposed an encryption method that offers a hybrid approach comprising a symmetric and asymmetric algorithm. The approach they demonstrate is more secure and more efficient than other current approaches used to protect files for cloud sharing.

Agarwal, N., Rana, A. and Pandey, J.P. (2021) 'An efficient and optimised approach for secured file sharing in cloud computing', Int. J. Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp.232–246.
DOI: 10.1504/IJAIP.2021.112905

We seem to face apocalyptic forecasts on a more and more frequent basis and yet often the predictions do not manifest themselves in the anticipated doom and gloom. Of course, some predictions have long-term consequences such as those surrounding climate change. However, as with all areas of science, the error bars that scientists know only too well can simply look like uncertainty and dithering to some non-scientists.

Research published in the International Journal of Global Warming suggests that the framing of uncertainty that is an essential part of the scientific endeavour leads to confusion among some non-scientists. The railing against this uncertainty is often perceived as "anti-science" but for the lay public it may be more a matter of being anti-uncertainty. People prefer to know for sure what they might expect to happen in their future, especially when it comes to apocalyptic forecasts, rather than to be faced with doubt.

David Rode and Paul Fischbeck of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, have found that the mere mention in an apocalyptic climate forecast reduces the amount of media attention a given forecast receives. Given that there will be uncertainty, error bars, confidence intervals, and other such matters mentioned in every scientific source, this can lead to a credibility gap. When a report fails to mention the uncertainty, it gains more media traction than a report that does not.

The team has suggested various strategies that might allow the scientific message complete with its uncertainties to reach an appropriate audience without instilling over confidence nor without looking like it is hesitant about the data it presents. The team concludes by alluding to Carl Sagan who warned us that extraordinary predictions require extraordinary caution in communication.

Rode, D.C. and Fischbeck, P.S. (2021) 'Apocalypse now? Communicating extreme forecasts', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp.191–211.
DOI: 10.1504/IJGW.2021.112896

The number of people actively using social media is around the three billion mark. In the current Covid pandemic, such tools are increasingly useful for keeping in touch with friends and relatives when social distancing and lockdown are in place. Conversely, the additional activity and updates means that many users are becoming weary of the information overload and report feelings of "burnout" in using the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other applications and websites.

Research in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, looks at this phenomenon of social media burnout in terms of ambivalence and emotional exhaustion. These two responses to the often overwhelming nature of constant online updates and the deluge of new information, whether worthy or trivial, have been present throughout the short history of online social media but are now being discussed more commonly.

Users talk of "taking a vacation" from their social media apps, having a "digital detox", or giving up during a culture-associated "fasting" period, for instance.

Bo Han of the College of Business at the Texas A&M University-Commerce, Shih Yung Chou of Dillard College of Business Administration at Midwestern State University, USA, and Tree Chang of the Department of Social Work and Service Management at Tatung Institute of Technology, Taiwan, have integrated the concept of benevolence value in the user experience of online social media for the first time.

A new model of the user response emerges from their work that will help guide the social media research community in understanding user behaviour as these services mature and evolve. It should also provide clues for managers of the various services hoping to learn how to preclude burnout in their users and so encourage their continued use of the services without compromising their mental health.

Han, B., Chou, S.Y. and Chang, T. (2021) 'Does the benevolence value matter when social media burnout strikes?', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp.288–302.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBIS.2021.112828

Someone once infamously remarked that the public has "had enough of experts". This is so obviously not the case in so many walks of life, of course, including marketing and commerce. Social media, for instance, has given a platform to experts in products in a way that members of the public never had before. Those who study popular culture and fashion will have seen the growing follower counts on social media outlets for a small number of people with expertise in a niche area who have colloquially become known as influencers.

Research has now demonstrated what might seem obvious: the greater the expertise an influencer is perceived to have by their followers, the more likely the message they send is to be received positively and acted on by those followers. The research by Kyoo-Hoon Han and Eunmi Lee Department of the department of Public Relations and Advertising at Sookmyung Women's University, in Seoul, South Korea is detailed in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising.

This finding reinforces what some observers suggest is a positive effect of social media and that observers in the opposite camp see as worrying. Influencers have gained power, it seems, through social media, and with power, there comes responsibility but also the potential for abuse of that power.

The Covid pandemic has led to the move online of many endeavours and activities that traditionally involved physical and face-face interactions. As such, there is perhaps a pressing need to ensure new checks and balances are in place to reduce the risk of the abuse of newly wielded power without stifling freedom of expression, personal choice, and privacy, of course. Nevertheless, given a positive outlook, there is great potential for the new normal of the online world of influencers and their followers. There is also now great scope for research into this burgeoning area within the commercial realm.

Han, K-H. and Lee, E. (2021) 'Viewer responses to product messages using one-person media influencers', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.104–122.
DOI: 10.1504/IJIMA.2021.112790

The Inderscience Research Picks this week focuses on how online resources are helping people cope in different ways with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Each day, we will highlight and discuss a relevant paper from the Inderscience journals.

This week, we have already talked about working, education, and socialising during the Covid-19 pandemic. This fifth paper homes in on some of the problems facing agriculture in India during this difficult period and offers some solutions.

Shantanu Trivedi and Neeraj Anand of the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun, India, and colleague Saurav Negi of the Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat, Oman, have analysed the agricultural supply chain in the Uttarakhand region based on semi-structured interviews with farmers, wholesalers, and retailers in order to find ways that the industry might be endowed with greater resilience in the time of Covid.

They found that interstate supply issues are problematic at this time and moreover, they found that transportation restrictions, labour shortages, inefficient cold-chain facilities, panic buying, fluctuation in prices, and a lack of collectors/aggregators have all conspired to cause disruption. Ultimately, the issue derives from the requirement that each stage and each transaction has historically required physical interaction.

Face-to-face and other physical interactions would be to some extent unnecessary if information and communications technologies (ICT) could take up the slack on such roles. Indeed, ICT in many spheres has replaced much of the conventional interaction and allowed efficiency to be improved across endless industries. Moreover, ICT is now critical to sustaining those industries while healthcare services and medical science work to overcome the pandemic.

"A knowledge-based view can help in developing a pandemic resilient agriculture supply chain network to support the continuous supply of food products from farm to fork, the team writes.

Trivedi, S., Negi, S. and Anand, N. (2020) 'Impact of COVID-19 on agriculture supply chain in India and the proposed solutions', Int. J. Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.359–380.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSAMI.2020.112864

The Inderscience Research Picks this week will focus on how online resources are helping people cope in different ways with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Each day, we will highlight and discuss a paper from the publication the International Journal of Web-based Communities (Issue 1, volume 17, 2021).

This week, we have discussed working, education, and socialising in the online realm during the Covid-19 pandemic. This fourth paper applies more broadly than simply during the pandemic and discusses the issues of privacy in the context of online communities.

Chun Guan, Jun Hu, Yu Zhou, and Alexander Shatalov of Nanchang University in Jiangxi, China, have focused on how one's location privacy might be preserved in this era of web-based communities and big data. The team proposes the addition of noise – spurious location data, for instance – to one's personal "data-print" to preclude a third party, or indeed, a second party such as a service provider from, defining your path and position with any precision.

Privacy is not simply a matter for those deemed to have "something to hide". Everyone would prefer to have control over information about themselves after all personal and private data might be exploited for nefarious purposes by others whether that is in terms of identity theft and fraud, targeted advertising, insurance premium weighting, or control by the authorities.

Mobile telecommunications devices are useful to us in many ways not least because they have sensors and software that allow the precise position of the gadget to be gleaned by various methods whether cellphone or Wi-Fi network access point or through the Global Positioning System (GPS), and perhaps other tracking technology. This location awareness allows users to benefit from a wide range of other technologies and use their device's software in many ways that would not be possible without it. Unfortunately, the flipside to these benefits is that service providers sometimes need access to one's location and this can be exploited by them as well as third parties. The team compares to approaches to the addition of noise in their approach and demonstrates that a "centroid" approach is the more effective.

Guan, C., Hu, J., Zhou, Y. and Shatalov, A. (2021) 'Method of differential privacy protection for web-based communities based on adding noise to the centroid of positions', Int. J. Web-Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.53–64.
DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.112855

The Inderscience Research Picks this week will focus on how online resources are helping people cope in different ways with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Each day, we will highlight and discuss a paper from the publication the International Journal of Web-based Communities (Issue 1, volume 17, 2021)

If working practices and education have been compromised by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, then so too, obviously, have our social lives. The limitations of lockdowns and keeping apart to reduce the risk of catching or passing on the virus have been at the forefront of our minds for many months now. The usual places we might gather such as pubs and restaurants, theatres and festivals have all been off-limits periodically in many parts of the world in response to the disease.

How might we stick together even while we are apart? Ardion Beldad of University College Twente in Enschede, The Netherlands, discusses a possible answer to that question looking at how we might sustain our "social capital" through our online activity and the web-based communities in which we dwell, virtually speaking.

As a social animal, the concept of social distancing is very much at odds with our inherent nature. Of course, over the last few years before the Covid-19 pandemic, many people had adopted online technologies for many aspects of their lives. The difference now is that many are essentially obliged to now adopt an online-only social life because of the risk of infection. Unfortunately, the digital divide can now be seen as a gaping maw given that there are many less privileged in society who simply do not have the economic means to access the internet from home, for instance. How we might address this problem is discussed in Beldad's paper.

Beldad also looks at the implications for privacy of the increasingly widespread adoption of online socialising for those who do have access as well as the potential implications for mental health of spending increasing amounts of time in a virtual world, rather than the physical world.

"The clamour to return to normal face-to-face interactions is expectedly intensifying after months of social distancing measures, Beldad writes. But until an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is developed*, people are left with no other choice but to maintain their connections and interactions online."

*It is worth noting that at the time of writing this Research Pick, more or less effective vaccines are now in place in various parts of the world, but much work remains to be done in terms of vaccinating a sufficiently large proportion of the world population to allow us to overcome this pandemic. There are also the ongoing issues of the inevitable emergence of genetic variants of the original virus, which may well have a different susceptibility to the original vaccines.

Beldad, A.D. (2021) 'Sustaining social capital online amidst social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic: web-based communities, their mitigating effects, and associated issues', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.35–52.
DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.112857

The Inderscience Research Picks this week will focus on how online resources are helping people cope in different ways with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Each day, we will highlight and discuss a paper from the publication the International Journal of Web-based Communities (Issue 1, volume 17, 2021).

Education has in many ways suffered terribly in the wake of the pandemic. Students have been forced into remote learning situations often in environments that are not entirely conducive to learning. This is particularly acute where the housing is crowded or access to the internet and technology such as computers is limited. Commonly, both problems are present for the same students. Young people can often bounce back from problems in ways adults might not, but too many problems in their path can nevertheless lead to long-term issues.

Nataliia Morze of the Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University in Ukraine and Eugenia Smyrnova-Trybulska of the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, have looked at the initiatives of private firms, society, and communities in Ukraine and Poland in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and with regard to secondary and higher education. They write that the effects on students and the opportunities available to them or otherwise are very different depending on their position in society in terms of economics, family situation, housing, and health. It might be said, that those in a more "privileged" environment will be able to adopt the alternative learning opportunities more readily while those from economically vulnerable sections of the population may not be so fortunate. The detrimental effect of socioeconomics could ultimately widen the educational divide and thence the economic divisions in society.

The new work looks at how, given access to the internet, how web-based communities might mitigate the lack of face to face meetings between students and their teachers. They ask whether we are in a time of transition that might help us work through the current pandemic and make us more prepared for the next similar crisis that emerges. Based on their analysis of practices and experiences, the team has found ten core elements they suggest are crucial to effective online education in an emergency of the kind the Covid-19 pandemic, and future pandemics, presents.

•  Ensuring reliable network infrastructure
•  Using friendly learning tools
•  Providing interactive suitable digital learning resources
•  Guiding learners to apply effective learning methods
•  Promoting effective methods to organize instruction by adopting a range of teaching strategies
•  Providing instant support services for teachers and learners
•  Empowering the partnership between governments, enterprises, and schools
•  Allowing the crisis to drive innovation
•  Developing online and blended learning
•  Making online education a strategic priority

Morze, N. and Smyrnova-Trybulska, E. (2021) 'Web-based community-supported online education during the COVID-19 pandemic', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.9–34.
DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.112858

The Inderscience Research Picks this week will focus on how online resources are helping people cope in different ways with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Each day, we will highlight and discuss a paper from the publication the International Journal of Web-based Communities (Issue 1, volume 17, 2021)

Martin Sposato of Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has investigated the potential of online communities for the implementation of remote working under enforced lockdown as experienced in many countries during the Covid-19 pandemic. The main challenges are the implementation of suitable technology for workers, the maintenance of an appropriate routine for continuity, and the development of a sense of community among workers no longer able to meet face to face or chat over the proverbial watercooler.

In the face of the various challenges, employers and managers have a responsibility to ensure that staff output and productivity are not compromised and that they can sustain the quality of the work being undertaken.

Sposato points out that the unprecedented challenge of the global pandemic has led to the adoption of technologies and practices that were previously only used to any great degree by a proportion of the workforce, tools such as video conferencing. Now, almost everyone who is able and has perhaps been forced to work from home, maybe for the first time has had to become familiar and adept at using rather quickly a range of tools that may not have been part of their normal daily work before.

Remote working, Sposato explains, is changing the employment landscape significantly. Indeed, in some areas of employment, it has become increasingly obvious that the daily commute need no longer be a part of the routine and a large proportion of many types of work can be done without staff ever needing to set foot in their employer's premises. Moreover, there is even an indication for some forms of business maintaining premises may not even be necessary.

Once we emerge from the current crisis situation at some point in the future, the new normal may look very different from the old normal for workers everywhere. Sposato suggest that there is a pressing need to develop web-based community that could increase the effectiveness of remote working and create systems that foster engagement among members of those communities. Work is in a state of flux while the pandemic is ongoing, both employers and employees need to take stock and those with the abilities need to plot our route through the pandemic to that new working normal.

Sposato, M. (2021) 'Remote working in the time of covid-19: developing a web-based community', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.1–8.
DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.112862

Consumer behaviour and the corporate response to a changing marketing landscape have been driven by the advent of social media over the last 15 years or so. There are pros and cons, but companies that manage their social media outlets and engage with customers in a positive way can reap the rewards and manage their brands for an improved bottom line.

Just how much of a boost to corporate success good brand management in social media and online social networks can be is still up for debate given the relatively small amount of research that has been undertaken in this area. Work published in the International Journal of Electronic Business, investigates the relationship between different content categories and user engagement as well as the impact on user trust of a brand and their ultimate intention to buy the brand.

Vincent Göttel, Bernd Wirtz, and Paul Langer of the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer analysed 247 Facebook brand communities. As one would perhaps expect, they found that entertaining, vivid, informative, and credible content had a positive effect on user engagement. This positive effect is ultimately reflected in trust in a brand and purchase intention.

The team writes that "This study represents one of the first confirmatory empirical research papers about success factors of social media brand community management in terms of content categories provided by community managers which positively influence user engagement." They thus suggest it could serve as the basis for future related conceptual and empirical research.

Göttel, V., Wirtz, B.W. and Langer, P.F. (2021) 'Success factors of brand community management in social media', Int. J. Electronic Business, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.1–31.
DOI: 10.1504/IJEB.2021.112762

Psychological stress is an important determinant of mental health. Its early detection might allow interventions to be made to preclude chronic problems. Writing in the International Journal of High Performance Computing and Networking, a team from India, has turned to an analysis of updates on the well-known social media service, Twitter, with a view to detecting psychological stress in the platform's users based on the characteristics of the user's updates, or "tweets".

Aysha Khan and Rashid Ali of the Department of Computer Engineering at ZHCET, AMU in Aligarh, India, explain how traditional psychological stress detection techniques require specialists and professional equipment. Machine learning could be used to analyse twitter output and automate the process of detection, the researchers suggest.

The pressures of life inevitably lead to stress in some individuals, they always have. Stress can not only lead to problems with mental health, but this can spill over into physical problems such as raised blood pressure and the concomitant increased risks of cardiovascular disease associated with that condition. There is growing evidence that chronic stress can also have a detrimental impact on one's immune system and perhaps even increase the risks of certain diseases, including cancer.

Online social networking via sites such as Twitter, has radically changed the way we communicate, share information, and perceive the flow of news and updates we receive. For many, these outlets have opened up boundless possibilities for improvement, for others, the constant need to share and garner validation has led to increasing stress. The picture is complicated and many factors feed in and out of the bigger perspective of how online social network affects us on a daily and ongoing basis. The team has demonstrated a novel approach to extracting the mood and mental state of users in an automated manner that could ultimately be employed by health workers to detect stress in the people they care for.

Khan, A. and Ali, R. (2020) 'Stress detection from Twitter posts using LDA', Int. J. High Performance Computing and Networking, Vol. 16, Nos. 2/3, pp.137–147.
DOI: 10.1504/IJHPCN.2020.112700

The Covid-19 pandemic caused by the emergent coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has forced nations to radically overhaul their healthcare systems in order to cope with the new pressures of millions of sick people. Innovation is still needed, especially in Africa. New research published in the International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, suggests that indigenous knowledge could assist in this regard.

Olawale Olaopa of the Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has explored and examined the role of traditions and practices in influencing community and individual perceptions of health and illness, prevention, cure, and management of COVID-19. The main conclusion is that indigenous knowledge can benefit the community and might even reduce the impact of the pandemic. This will be especially true if the indigenous knowledge is used synergistically with scientific understanding and undertaken in an environmentally aware manner.

"Indigenous knowledge remains a fundamental aspect of social culture and inheritance communicated and transferred verbally from one generation to the next," writes Olaopa. This tradition has for countless generations played a vital role in the life of the community. It has a potent effect on the socio-economic conditions and political situations in which the community lives as well as affecting the spiritual lives of people. It is more than forty years since the World Health Assembly (WHA) first recognized and supported indigenous knowledge in traditional medical practices and it is to this day seen as a critical component of primary health management at the level of local communities.

Olaopa suggests, based on his ethnomedical, explanatory, and health promotion model, that students of health-related disciplines and related fields should be encouraged to study indigenous knowledge and the associated traditional medicine. They might also benefit from an internship in a rural community where traditional medicine is used. This, he suggests, could help "remove the various misgivings, misconceptions, and prejudices against traditional medicines and practices."

Olaopa, O.R. (2020) 'Harnessing African indigenous knowledge for managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa', Int. J. Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.267–290.
DOI: 10.1504/IJTLID.2020.112744

A case study of a US whiskey company examines the business operations from grain to glass with particular focus on the company's downstream supply chain and how the global coronavirus pandemic has affected risks, efficiencies, and modes of distribution.

Angelyn Bidlack, Jenny Fisher, Lascelles Hussey, Alyssa Rudner, and Janaina Siegler of the Lacy School of Business at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, explain how the company Midwest Whiskey was established by partners in 2014 who had left their previous day jobs to pursue this new business venture. Their ethos was to create and market a line of inexpensive, whiskeys produced entirely within Indiana, from grain to glass. Bourbon whiskey is legally required to be derived from at least 51% corn. Given that Indiana is the fifth biggest corn producer in the USA, it seemed a natural fit.

The company's success brought challenges for the majority shareholder Casey Dixon as did grain storage and efforts to expand into bigger wholesale markets with the requisite state and federal laws. At the start of 2020, the company, nevertheless was poised for bigger and better things. New staff had been taken on, aging barrels acquired. Then Covid-19 emerged, rocking almost every industry worldwide. The team discusses the company's response to the pandemic and how the environment for growth changed significantly through the course of the year.

One avenue of growth is the premium mixer market for home cocktail makers. While mixers are not the core business, they do open up lateral marketing possibilities as well as help raise brand awareness. Other creative marketing and business approaches are discussed in the case study that may well offer lessons to other companies as well as revealing to business students how companies are forced to adapt in the face of adversity.

At the time of writing, the pandemic is anything but over, a future of bustling, thriving restaurants and tasting rooms can be hoped for, but there is a long way to go before our new normal becomes the old normal once more.

Bidlack, A., Fisher, J., Hussey, L., Rudner, A. and Siegler, J. (2020) 'From grain to glass to COVID-19', Int. J. Teaching and Case Studies, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.358–374.
DOI: 10.1504/IJTCS.2020.112749

Researchers in India have studied the effects of yoga practice on mindfulness, emotional wellbeing, and other measures of mental health among senior managers at a multinational petroleum company. Writing in the International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management, the team explain the short-term benefits of a five-day residential yoga course and suggest that ongoing practice might be needed to preclude relapse in the context of a manager's psychological stress.

Psychological stress among managers in high-risk corporations is well known. Maintaining mental health in the workplace can be difficult for many and adopting a healthy work-life balance is often precluded by the nature of the job. There are many tools one might use to encourage management and others within any organisation to improve their own wellbeing including exercise, rest, and recreation. Yoga is often cited by practitioners and advocates as a useful approach to adopt in one's life for improved physical and mental health.

Solid research into the realities of its effects on individuals in this context is somewhat lacking, however. The present work remedies that situation to some degree and offers a baseline from which additional studies might build to demonstrate the efficacy of yoga practice as a tool in improving workplace wellbeing. The team suggests that even 30 minutes of daily practice with cyclic meditation can have benefits for psychologically stressed managers.

Sreekumar, T.S., Nagendra, H.R. and Ilavarasu, J.V. (2021) 'Effect of yoga intervention on mindfulness, perceived stress, emotion regulation and affect: a study on senior managers in an Indian multinational corporate', Int. J. Indian Culture and Business Management, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp.37–52.
DOI: 10.1504/IJICBM.2021.112599

Researchers writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, have proposed the use of the affine transformation to improve the performance of the edge fusion algorithms for removing noise from digital photographs, specifically in the art world.

Lei Zhao of the School of Fine Arts and Design at Mudanjiang Normal University in Mudanjiang, China, demonstrates how noise can be reduced using this transformation by about 74 per cent. Smoothing is also greatly improved when compared to two well-known approaches – non-subsampled contourlet transform and hybrid particle swarm optimisation.

Noise in a photograph is a random variation of brightness or colour in the image. In monochrome print photography, noise is often referred to as grain and is sometimes a desirable artefact. It may well also be desirable in some context in digital photography or the scanning of otherwise low-noise photographic prints. More commonly, however, avoiding the generation of noise in an image is preferred but not always possible. For photographic images taken under low-light conditions and the requisite high camera sensitivity values (high ISO) inherent noise is almost unavoidable. Such noise may be manifest as a lack of clarity between areas that would otherwise be of high contrast or else appear as a random, fuzzy veil of purple speckles in a colour image, or grey specks in a monochrome image.

"The proposed fusion algorithm based on radiation transformation can better meet the requirements of edge fusion of art photography images," the team writes. They add that they hope to further improve the smoothness of the fusion and improve the effect of the fused art photography image still further.

Zhao, L. (2020) 'Edge fusion algorithm of art photography image based on affine transformation', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.301-316.
DOI: 10.1504/IJART.2020.112646

Sometimes there is too much choice when a purchasing decision needs to be made. Consumers are often flummoxed by the myriad pros and cons of many alternative products. Often, a decision comes down to a single factor rather than an informed balance of all the options. As such, a purchase might be made that ultimately does not accommodate all of the original consumer's needs and requirements leading to buyer's remorse and disappointment. Environmental and "green" considerations are also now increasingly invoked in addition to the needs of the consumer in the decision-making process.

Tien Chin Wang and Yen Ying Huang of the Department of International Business at the National Kaohsiung University of Sciences and Technology, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, have investigated the often conflicting factors using fuzzy VIKOR analysis to look at how consumers choose between "green" domestic appliances. This approach allows complicated factors to be reasonably described in conventional quantitative expressions to get quantitative and rational explanations for given purchasing decisions.

The team's conclusions could help marketing companies find better approaches to advertising the company products and reducing the amount of conflicting and confusing information the consumer must cope with in making their decision. The team concludes that the significance of their study is to accurately identify the most likely factors affecting consumers' purchase decision, so that the industry might optimise the use of limited marketing budgets.

Wang, T.C. and Huang, Y.Y. (2020) 'Application of fuzzy VIKOR on consumers purchasing the green home appliances', Int. J. Green Economics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.349–365.
DOI: 10.1504/IJGE.2020.112578

Research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Aviation, looks at the opportunities and challenges facing the aviation industry in its aspirations to employ electric aircraft rather than adopt biofuels.

Diego Lentini of Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy and Hernán Tacca of the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, explain how the growth of air travel in recent years, Covid pandemic aside, has led to a massive increase in emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances. New ways to power aircraft that are carbon neutral, pollution free, and sustainable are now urgently needed the industry is to become sustainable. Dedicated airframes are now needed in order to make the transition to sustainable, electrically powered aircraft.

Fundamentally, putative electric aircraft suffer from a significant limit on their range. Other types, such as turbo electric aircrafts require liquid hydrogen, which brings its own serious challenges. And, hybrid-electric aircraft require smaller wings and thus can handle only a smaller load.

The team's analysis of current technological solutions and proposals suggests that many of the options envisaged for electric aircraft can give "only a limited relief of the aviation environmental impact, and imply substantial extra costs." Turbo aircraft fed by liquid hydrogen may well offer a viable alternative provided the hydrogen is sustainably sourced, the team suggests, but this would require serious consideration in terms of safety. The team concludes that before electric fleets become tenable for the aviation industry there needs to be a "paradigm shift in the fuel infrastructure development, and above all, a decisive policy shift in the way environmental problems are tackled." There perhaps remains a significant delay in departures before we see electric aircraft taxiing to the runways and taking to the skies.

Lentini, D. and Tacca, H.E. (2020) 'Opportunities and challenges for electric propulsion of airliners', Int. J. Sustainable Aviation, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.247–259.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSA.2020.112645

Progress in image processing has allowed many advances in medicine. Work published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology now shows how an efficient and optimised system for image processing can be used to distinguish cancerous lesions on the tongue from other non-cancerous features.

Mahnoor Rasheed, Ishtiaq Ahmad, Sumbal Zahoor, Muhammad, and Nasir Khan of The University of Lahore in Pakistan, point out that tongue cancer is a rare form of cancer, but nevertheless can be very debilitating and in the worst cases just as lethal as other cancers. Advanced and precise early detection of cancer of any kind can lead to a better prognosis and outcome for the patient.

The new approach to tongue cancer detection involves a two-step process. In the first, advanced filtering techniques are applied to "clean" images by removing noise from the micrographs obtained from tissue cultures. In the second phase, the image is segmented to allow the computer algorithm to analyse the details in the image and discern those features associated with cancer. The team tested three segmentation and detection techniques and while all three worked well, the most efficient and accurate was the marker controlled watershed method.

The team explains that the field of medical science for the detection of cancerous cells in different parts of the body is vast and challenging. An iteration of this sort focusing on a specific form of cancer takes medicine a step forward in this ongoing battle.

Rasheed, M., Ahmad, I., Zahoor, S. and Khan, M.N. (2020) 'An efficient and optimised system for detection of cancerous cells in tongue', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp.391–412.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBET.2020.112424

In the face of ongoing conflict and environmental degradation, how might a nation, such as Nigeria, build a democracy that might be sustained? That is the question addressed by work published in the International Journal of Sustainable Society.

Adaora Osondu-Oti of the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy in the College of Social and Management Sciences at Afe Babalola University has studied environmental degradation across Niger Delta and the attendant conflict in that part of the world using a qualitative case-study approach.

"Niger Delta is one of the most polluted cities in the world with resultant conflict that has caused immeasurable harm to the people," writes Osondu-Oti. She suggests that the Nigerian government must work assiduously towards ensuring environmental sustainability and responding to the plights of the people. This is the peaceful route towards a sustainable democratic society amid the double jeopardies of environmental degradation and conflict.

The region, Osondu-Oti says, has suffered massive pollution of land, water, flora, and fauna, which have decimated the resources on which it depends since oil was first discovered in the Niger Delta in the 1960s. It is said that democracy is receding and the people in such places are not benefiting from its promise in the way that they had hoped.

"Economic, social, and environmental sustainability are crucial for legitimacy, smooth functioning, and ultimately the sustainability of democracy," Osondu-Oti writes. "Yet, little steps are being made towards achieving sustainability in the country, as evident in the Niger Delta region."

Osondu-Oti, A. (2020) 'Can Nigeria build a sustainable democratic society in midst of environmental degradation and conflict?', Int. J. Sustainable Society, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.326–341.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSSOC.2020.112440

Once we emerge from the Covid pandemic, there will remain a need for some level of social distancing in public places such as restaurants or at the very least an increase in automation for serving and billing. Writing in the International Journal of Simulation and Process Modelling, a team from Japan has investigated how restaurants might best manage scheduling when staff are working alongside robotic counterparts.

Takashi Tanizaki of Kindai University, Takeshi Shimmura of Ritsumeikan University, Nobutada Fujii of Kobe University, and Antonio Oliveira Nzinga Rene of Toyama Prefectural University, explain that the use of robots in the workplace has increased in recent years. Robots can carry out the more mundane, or low-value-added, tasks that are perceived as too menial for staff. This also frees up employees to improve customer relations, boost return visits to an establishment, and even improve profit margins for the owners.

In all, the team suggests that balancing customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and management satisfaction may well be mutually exclusive to some degree. The team's study has focused on finding a way to boost all three without any increase in one leading to a negative impact on the others.

"The simulation results show that increasing the utilisation of robots for low value-added work and hall staff for high value-added work with customer contact contributes to improvements in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and management satisfaction in restaurants," the team writes.

The question remains though...how much do you tip a robot?

Tanizaki, T., Shimmura, T., Fujii, N. and Rene, A.O.N. (2020) 'Staff scheduling in restaurants where hall staff and robots cooperate', Int. J. Simulation and Process Modelling, Vol. 15, No. 6, pp.571–583.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSPM.2020.112467

Exploiting nostalgia is a well-worn emotive approach to enticing customers to purchase a product or service. New work in the International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, has looked at how a person's character affects whether or not they are susceptible to what is commonly referred to as nostalgia marketing. One of the main findings from the work is that given a high-quality product nostalgia marketing will be successful even given a concomitant high price, the team has found.

Kyunghee Kim, Ahreum Hong, and Yannan Li of the Graduate School of Technology Management at Kyung Hee University in South Korea explain how nostalgia appeals at an emotional level for many people. It is used in many areas of human endeavour books and movies, fashion and food, and more broadly in the marketing of such things. "People often have good memories of their past and enjoy looking back to happy times," the team writes. "They enjoy being reminded of happy memories with family and friends." As such, incorporating themes or products from the past marketers can create a unique emotional feeling in their putative customers.

The team points out that there are negative associations with nostalgia. In recent years, rather than being perceived as a positive thing, there has been a suggestion that nostalgia is somehow a psychological problem associated with an unrequited desire for the past. This is then associated with melancholy, depression, and loneliness. A more holistic view of nostalgia would be inclusive of such negative connotations but also the more positive side. A balanced view of nostalgia would see it as a complex emotion or mood associated with reflection on the past whether people, experience, ideas, or objects that are no longer part of someone's present situation.

The team suggests that marketers need to reflect on how nostalgia "ain't what it used to be" if they are to benefit from improved sales when exploiting this emotion in their advertising efforts.

Kim, K., Hong, A. and Li, Y. (2021) 'Effects of consumer personal characteristics and psychological factors on nostalgia marketing', Int. J. Electronic Marketing and Retailing, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.89–109.
DOI: 10.1504/IJEMR.2021.112256

AI, or artificial intelligence, is attracting great attention across many industries, even food production, according to research published in the International Journal of Society Systems Science.

Darrell Burrell of Florida Institute of Technology, in Fort Lee, Virginia, USA, and colleagues point out that given the growing world population, which is expected to reach almost ten billion by 2050 there is an urgent need to develop properly sustainable agricultural practices and ensure food security at a much higher level than has ever been attempted in the past. This, they suggest, might only be possible with the rapid development of technologies such as AI.

With a global population of around 7.8 billion people in 2021, there are at least a billion people who suffer chronic hunger and malnutrition. This crisis is a result of inefficient food production and distribution systems, the team says and undeveloped agricultural land. We need a process improvement initiative to address this problem now, but also to create contingency for the growing population.

"These new technologies are creating the need for new educational and new awareness programs to inform and train farmers on the existence and utilities of these new advances," the team writes. Agricultural students and others need to be taught about robotics, computer science, cybersecurity, information security, and engineering, and other tools that will be needed to on farms of the future. They add that the technologies need to be opened up to parts of the world where food security is not guaranteed and people are chronically hungry too. Humanitarian aid and hunger aid must be apportioned to developing and underserved countries to help them advance food security and solve this global problem.

Burrell, D.N., Burton, S.L., Nobles, C., Dawson, M.E. and McDowell, T. (2020) 'Exploring technological management innovations that include artificial intelligence and other innovations in global food production', Int. J. Society Systems Science, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.267–285.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSSS.2020.112408

By combining synthetic polymers and natural materials it is possible to increase the range of characteristics that might be fabricated using 3D printing of components, according to research published in the International Journal of Nano and Biomaterials. In a proof of principle, the team has demonstrated how one such blend emulates the material properties of bone.

Gajanan Thokal and Chandrakant Patil of Amravati University in Maharashtra, India, have investigated the potential of blends of polyamide (PA12) and nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) with formic acid solution. The team used scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to investigate the structures of the components they produced using 3D printing of these blends. Standard stress and strength tests were also carried out as well as porosity measurements.

Ultimately, the team demonstrated that certain formulations could mimic the structure and characteristics of bone, perhaps opening up the possibility of printing 3D prosthetic bone parts for surgical repair and replacement. Such materials might have greater biocompatibility than conventional metal implants, the team suggests. There are also the advantages of improving the load bearing and re-implantation opportunities when a prosthetic implant ultimately wears out with use. In addition, such blended materials might well have improved bonding and implantation with the surrounding tissue due to their porous nature when compared with solid metal components.

The team points out that the specific type of bone their blended material emulates is that of the goat. As such animal trials of implants based on this substance might be carried out in this animal prior to their being used in humans although the specific formulation would inevitably require some modification for human use.

Thokal, G.N. and Patil, C.R. (2020) 'Finite element analysis of synthetic and natural polymer blends made by 3D printing', Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 9, Nos. 3/4, pp.105–122.
DOI: 10.1504/IJNBM.2020.112221

An international research team has reviewed how big data might be useful in the realm of fashion retailing. They offer their conclusions in the International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy.

Dag Øivind Madsen of the School of Business, University of South-Eastern Norway, Emmanuel Sirimal Silva of the University of the Arts London, and Hossein Hassani of the University of Tehran, Iran, suggest that big data is disrupting the fashion industry in unprecedented ways and has revolutionized traditional business models. "Leading fashion brands and new start-ups are both using big data analytics to improve business operations and maximise profitability," they explain. In their work, take stock of the research literature in this area and summarise the fashion industry's current position.

The team points out that there is evidence of many fashion brands actively engaging with social media whilst the most proactive fashion brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Michael Kors, and Pink Boutique, to name but a few, are already making the most of their online presence. They add that they have found evidence indicating that brands such as Zara, H&M, ASOS, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Macy's, Montblanc, Tory Burch, GAP, and Ralph Lauren are using big data analytics to improve their operations.

They have now identified five main drivers for the use of big data analytics in the fashion industry. The first one is that big data can allow trend prediction. Secondly, it can facilitate waste reduction. Thirdly it can be used to improve the consumer experience and engagement, and marketing. Fourthly, big data can be utilized to improve quality control and reduce the spread of counterfeit garments. Finally, big data can shorten supply chains.

There remain challenges the team has found as the industry seeks to model its markets and consumer behaviour but big data is weaving the way forward.

Madsen, D.Ø., Silva, E.S. and Hassani, H. (2020) 'The application of big data in fashion retailing: a narrative review', Int. J. Management Concepts and Philosophy, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.247-274.
DOI: 10.1504/IJMCP.2020.112160

Alternative approaches to understanding critique in the field of design studio teaching are discussed in the Journal of Design Research. Jason McDonald of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and Esther Michela of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, suggest that rather than viewing critique as being primarily about educational outcomes, such as accumulating design knowledge, or socializing students to a particular profession, they hope their insights will help students move forward as individuals.

In design education the term "critique" is flexible, the researchers explain it is just as likely to refer to a range of activities in which students receive feedback on their work as being a formal "jury evaluation" of their output. It can also simply be an in-class discussion among instructors and students or even informal, out-of-class help among students themselves. Unfortunately, it is well recognized that critique can be harmful, dominating, and oppressive, in many ways rather than a valuable educational and learning tool.

While the teaching and socialising aspects of critique remain important, their new perspective is not so much about facilitating the management of the students' education but more about help students take up specific ways of life that are made available through studio participation. The incentive for finding a new approach in this context is that the conventional critique approach exists in a high-stakes form and can have a detrimental effect on a student's wellbeing rather than a positive one. There is a definite need to create healthier studio culture that provides education in a more positive environment. Critique acts upon students and can change them not necessarily for the better.

The team recognizes that the pros and cons of critique may well be understood by many educators already. "Our intent," they write, "has not been to propose wholly unprecedented ideas about how critiques can take place." They add that rather, "Our aim was to develop a way of speaking about critiques that considers their foremost purpose to be supporting students who are pressing into forms of the self that are opened up through studio participation."

McDonald, J.K. and Michela, E. (2020) '‘This is my vision’: how students depict critiques along with themselves during critiques', J. Design Research, Vol. 18, Nos. 1/2, pp.57–79.
DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2020.112057

Let's get physical – The poor and disadvantaged tend to report higher rates of mental health issues. It's almost as if social inequality can lead to personal problems. Work published in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research, discusses the potential for physical activity to improve mental health in the context of race, ethnicity, and gender and the link with social inequality.

Jake Jennings of the Department of Economics at California State University, Chico and Iris Buder of the Department of Economics at Idaho State University in Pocatello, USA, explain that many steps have been taken in efforts to address inequality and inequities, but there remains a long road ahead before the gaps are closed. They write how "Positive mental health is more than the 'absence of a mental disorder;' it is integral in a person's ability to fulfill productive activities, find employment, handle adversity, cope with normal stresses of life, and contribute to society." Low socioeconomic status often correlates with poor mental health and a lack of access to the means to remedy that situation.

The team has now looked at how much physical activity might improve mental health despite inequalities for people of different race, ethnicity, and gender. Researchers have used cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental methods to analyse reporting of the number of mentally or physically healthy days in connection to socioeconomic factors, such as income, education, wealth, and occupation. The present team has now used the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data to show the mitigating effects of physical activity on the number of mentally unhealthy days people experience.

"We believe that this work has important public policy implications, as it can help shape and target policies aimed at increasing physical activity levels," the team writes. Physical activity is good for one's overall health. The new research provides policymakers with new insight into how physical activity might be employed to boost the number of mentally healthy days an individual has.

Jennings, J. and Buder, I. (2020) 'The mitigating impact of physical activity on mentally healthy days: differential effects based on race, ethnicity and gender', Int. J. Behavioural and Healthcare Research, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.103–116.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBHR.2020.112166

The blockchain that underpins digital currencies can be used much more widely to create smart contracts and immutable and protected digital products and services. The potential of this innovation is only now being recognised but looks set to start an intellectual and innovation revolution that will have as great an impact on society as the invention of the internal combustion engine did on transport and the internet did on communications.

Writing in the European Journal of International Management, Tamir Agmon of both the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University, in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel and the School of Business, Economics and Law at Gothenburg University in Gothenburg, Sweden, discusses how distributed digital technology unshackles individual creators and producers and even multinational enterprises from conventional firms, financial intermediaries, and event regulatory authorities in a way that was not possible in the pre-digital age.

"Major innovations are about reducing transactions costs," explains Agmon. "This has been true since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and it continues along the inventive process in the last 220 years." He adds that the nature of the emerging distributed, non-centralised, digital technologies are disrupting conventional markets right now, However, as with the motor car and the telephone before them, they have the potential to improve the welfare of many people by transforming the way we carry out transactions in the market in the future as workers, creators, and consumers.

Indeed, this new distributed digital technology could bring us closer to the hypothetical notion of the neoclassical perfect market model wherein limited productive resources are utilised in a more optimal manner than is possible with conventional approaches. It is likely that recognition of this revolution will emerge most rapidly in the realm of information and communications technology (ICT) before the concepts spread more widely.

Agmon, T. (2021) 'The new distributed digital technology world trade and MNEs: another step in the inventive process', European J. International Management, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.135–145.
DOI: 10.1504/EJIM.2021.111945

A new photo-sharing social network based on the blockchain could enhance the authenticity and credibility of data as well as precluding data tampering, according to research published in the International Journal of Technology Management.

Blockchain is the technology that famously underpins digital cryptocurrencies. Fundamentally, the blockchain is simply a ledger, a digital record of transactions. It is an open system that does not require a trusted third party as all transactions are logged in an immutable distributed public ledger that requires no central repository of data, it is entirely decentralized.

Jiang Duan, Li Kang, and Zhi Chen of The Blockchain Research Center of China at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu and Tao Peng and Yifeng Wang Chengdu 9Broad Technology Co. Ltd also in Chengdu, suggest that some people are reluctant still to adopt certain social networking and social media technologies because of privacy and provenance concerns. They have developed a blockchain approach that addresses many of these concerns.

Given how many people billions of people currently use social networks and how many more might if given improved security and privacy there is obvious pressure for the development of such technology. There are an estimated 5 billion accounts on the well-known centralized social networks at the moment, which represents connectivity among a large proportion of the world's population.

The team's new blockchain consensus algorithm supports fast and frequent transactions and improves efficiency in a way that was not possible previously. Moreover, it is highly scalable and so should cope well with the vast numbers of potential users that are online. The system allows a user to claim and control ownership of their images and to putatively be rewarded financially for their use.

Duan, J., Kang, L., Chen, Z., Peng, T. and Wang, Y. (2020) 'A photo-sharing social network based on blockchain technology', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 84, Nos. 1/2, pp.70–85.
DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.2020.112078

Technology is providing educators with unimaginable tools that are rapidly coming to the fore especially because of restrictions due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Writing in an editorial in the International Journal of Smart Technology and Learning, Charles Xiaoxue Wang and Michele Garabedian of the Stork College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, USA, discuss the potential of virtual reality in education and prelude a special issue of the journal on this topic.

They define virtual reality (VR) as "any technology that provides its users an interactive computer-generated experience through text, audio, visual, spatial and/or speed messages within a simulated environment that engages its users in multi-sensory interactions and reactions". By this definition, augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and hybrid reality (HR) are also included in the purview of this issue. They point out that with current technology it is possible to seamlessly integrate VR in learning, training, and instruction in many different contexts.

Broadly, VR can offer different communication methods, immersive and reproducible learning environments adaptable for special needs, a unique perspective that promotes interaction and is low-risk. VR also opens up new perspectives that an educator might offer and gives learners novel opportunities for their response.

The number of research papers discussing VR had already begun to increase dramatically in engineering and medicine and more recently the number in educational research has surged too.

"Each article in this special issue offers a unique and significant perspective in exploration of VR and VR related issues," the authors write.

Editorial: virtual reality through the lens of educators – full editorial available as a free PDF here. Special Issue table of contents here.