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  • Can we embed human rights in our economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic? That is the hope discussed in a paper published in the International Journal of Public Law and Policy. Katharine Young of Boston College Law School in Newton, Massachusetts, USA, explains how COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the world into an unprecedented health and economic crisis and will require an unprecedented approach to recovery.

    "As economists and policymakers turn to the task of recovery, protecting human rights remains intrinsically important, both morally and legally. It is also instrumental to the ends of public health and economic resilience," Young writes. She argues that that the human rights to life, health, education, social security, housing, food, water and sanitation, are as essential as civil and political protections.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought inevitable indignities and material deprivations, the recovery should ensure that those deprivations are not simply propagated in the post-pandemic world. Economic and social rights must be respected in the aftermath of the pandemic. Moreover, our recovery must build on our history and understanding of past social and economic crises and go beyond those lessons to renew our commitment to ending inequality in all its forms.

    "…a human rights approach does not offer a singular, uniform policy prescription," Young adds. "Instead, it offers the parameters of accountability and participation that have been a known feature (or at a least goal) of the United Nations human rights regime since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

    Young, K.G. (2020) 'The idea of a human rights-based economic recovery after COVID-19', Int. J. Public Law and Policy, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.390–415.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJPLAP.2020.114810

  • Juggling one's job and one's personal life, the so-called work-life balance, is high on the agenda for thee modern worker especially as we begin to realise how imbalance can lead to mental health problems and even physical issues. New work published in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, has looked at how improved work-life balance among company employees not only benefits them as individuals but also has a marked effect on productivity and thus profits.

    Poonam Kaushal Balaji of the Institute of Modern Management at the Sri Balaji Society in Pune, India, points out that a lot of stress in a person's life is focused on their job. She has surveyed hundreds of IT workers in the three Indian cities of Chandigarh, Bangalore, and Pune with the aim of identifying workplace factors that cause stress and affect the elusive perfect work life balance in this profession. Statistical analysis of the results showed significant correlations between workplace stress factors and a detrimental effect on work-life balance.

    Organisations compete for talented employees who perform well and are highly competent, but the converse is that this expectation comes with pressure on the employee to always be delivering on their promise and this can bring with it unwarranted stress for some. Pressure on time and targets means that along with the stress, pressure is applied that tips the work-life balance ever in favour of work rather than rest and relaxation. Kaushal goes so far as to describe workplace stress as the "exterminator of the work-life balance".

    She suggests that there is a pressing need to address this problem with new rules for employers and employees alike that can provide new balance and reduce the risk to mental and physical health in the high-pressure IT industry.

    Kaushal, P. (2021) 'Work stress and work life balance: a study of working professionals of the IT sector', Int. J. Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.4–15.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJTTC.2021.114841

  • School children all over the world know the way to write secret messages on paper using lemon juice or wax or other household substances. The invisible message is written with the appropriate material and is only revealed when the recipient "decodes" it using heat or some other way to develop the hidden substance.

    A more sophisticated approach to secret messages is needed in the adult world, of course, and there are many different tools that allow sensitive documents to be encrypted beyond brute-force attack so that only the legitimate recipient can read them. Such technology works optimally with the digital output of word-processing and related software where the bits and bytes of the document can quickly and efficiently be scrambled using a password or key. The reverse process is then only available to the holder of the key.

    However, there is a problem when it comes to handwritten documents. A scanned image of such a document is not composed of bytes representing the letters and words of the document, rather it is a map of all of the pixels making up the document. As such, a handwritten document might be encrypted by applying an appropriate tool for image encryption providing the scanned document is of sufficiently high resolution. Either way, there will be a lot of redundancy in the encrypted image file. This means greater processing power is needed for the initial encryption, the encrypted document file size will be larger than necessary, and the decryption process itself will use excessive processing power to retrieve the original document.

    Such matters are perhaps of little consequence when considering a short segment of handwriting, but a handwritten report running to many pages would best be encrypted with a more efficient technology aimed specifically at the written word.

    Writing in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security, a team from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, have demonstrated such a technology in the form of a handwriting document encryption scheme based on segmentation and chaotic one-dimensional logarithmic map. The approach takes the scanned document and breaks it up the words digitally into their component parts, grapheme. The pixel locations of each part of the grapheme rather than the whole scanned area of the document are then scrambled with the encryption key. The team has offered proof of principle with standardized test documents and demonstrates how efficient their process is.

    The team explains that there are 2 to the power of 180 (2180) possible encryption keys for their approach, which makes it immune to brute-force attacks with current computers. Moreover, their statistical analysis indicates superior permutation and substitution properties for their proposed encryption scheme compared with conventional image encryption schemes applied to the same test documents. The process is relatively slow but the team is now optimizing performance for real-world applications. One additional benefit is that the same technology might also be adapted to different alphabets and perhaps even character-based languages without compromising the performance and efficacy.

    Abu-Amara, F. and Bensefia, A. (2021) 'A handwriting document encryption scheme based on segmentation and chaotic logarithmic map', Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 14, Nos. 3/4, pp.327–343.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJICS.2021.114709

  • Face recognition has come on apace from a cliched trope of science fiction to a reality of the modern world with widespread use in photography databases, social media, and the security world. However, as with any tool, there are those who would abuse it for nefarious ends. New research published in the International Journal of Biometrics investigates one such aspect of face recognition where a third party might "spoof" the face of a legitimate user to gain access to systems and services to which they are not entitled and offers a suggestion as to how such spoofing might be detected.

    Sandeep Kumar, Sukhwinder Singh, and Jagdish Kumar of the Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India, explain how biometrics, including face recognition, has come to the forefront of security in all sorts of realms from the simple accessing of a person's smartphone to securing sensitive premises. The key to precluding face recognition spoofing lies in the determination of whether the face being presented to the security camera or device is "live" or a static photograph or video rather than the actual person.

    The team has turned to an improved SegNet-based architecture that can measure "blur" on the basis of local minimum and maximum left and right edges and calculate blur of horizontal and vertical edges. A flat image such as a photograph or video display presented to a security camera or device would be wholly in focus whereas "depth-of-field" comes into play. With a three-dimensional object, such as a real face, presented to the camera, the eyes would be sharply in focus assuming the camera focused on that part of the face, but the curved sides of the head would be slightly out of focus because they are not in the same plane relative to the camera lens as the eyes. Regardless, it is technically impossible for the whole of a three-dimensional object presented to a camera to be in focus, detecting the blur of parts of the object in front of or behind the focal plane is key to discerning whether a real face is in front of the camera or a flat image.

    The team's proof of principle offers up to 97 percent accuracy, which is an improvement on earlier algorithms when tested against standard benchmarks. Moreover, it can determine the "liveness" of a presented face within about one second. The researchers are now working on improving their system's speculation abilities by looking at shading, another characteristic of a real face that is is obvious to a person looking at a face but difficult for a computer to detect via a camera.

    Kumar, S., Singh, S. and Kumar, J. (2021) 'Face spoofing detection using improved SegNet architecture with a blur estimation technique', Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 13, Nos. 2/3, pp.131–149.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBM.2021.114639

  • Although it might be said that there has been malicious writing since our ancestors daubed cave walls with ochre symbols or the very first scribes notched letters into ancient stone tablets, fake news, spam, malicious and threatening words have come to the fore with the advent of our ubiquitous and always-connected digital devices. We might refer to this as "suspicious content".

    New work published in the International Journal of Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, developed an optimisation framework for detecting suspicious content in a body of text. The algorithm is built on a biological paradigm – the behaviour of an ant colony.

    The individual members of an ant colony carry out tasks and use pheromones to communicate with other members of the colony. They can solve rather complex problems together even though the individual ants lack the cognitive skills to do so. In computer science, the way in which individual ants behave, each acting as an agent in a problem "space", can be modelled in an ant colony optimization algorithm (ACO). This probabilistic technique simulates the way in which the colony finds solutions to problems such as finding and transporting food via the shortest and safest route from food source to the colony's food store and many other colony activities. Previously, vehicle and internet routing problems have been solved using ACO, but the same approach can be applied to finding solutions to other problems such as detecting patterns of words in a large text corpus, for instance.

    Asha Kumari and Balkishan of the Department of Computer Science and Applications at Maharshi Dayanand University in Rohtak, India, have focused on mobile phone text message content (short messaging service, SMS) and updates on the well-known microblogging social media platform Twitter. Given the ubiquity of these services in everything from entertainment, internet banking, navigation, trading, and other services requiring short messages, it is important to have tools to hand to quickly and accurately detect suspicious content.

    Kumari, A. and Balkishan (2021) 'An ant colony optimisation-based framework for the detection of suspicious content and profile from text corpus', Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.1–24.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJISTA.2021.114637

  • There's an app for that... but which one to choose?

    The growth of software – colloquially known as apps, meaning applications – for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers has been enormous. Well-known apps are easy to find or users learn of them through word-of-mouth. However, searching for a previously unknown app that perfectly fits one's needs is not always straightforward.

    Now, writing in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems, a team from Algeria and France have developed a new approach to searching for apps that homes in on the functionality the user needs by mining not only the app's description but also the reviews left by users. The team's approach then scores the results offering the user the most relevant app to match their needs. The team describes their proof of principle as effective and able to perform better than the state-of-the-art retrieval models for app retrieval.

    Messaoud Chaa of the University of Bejaia and the Research Center on Scientific and Technical Information, CERIST, colleague CERIST colleague Omar Nouali, Algeria and Patrice Bellot of Aix Marseille University, France, explain that there were around 30 billion app downloads in 2019 and this number is growing with growing smartphone and tablet adoption around the world. In the Google Play Store alone there are almost 3 million apps, while the Apple App Store carries more than 2 million. "An efficient app search system is essential", the team writes and at the present time, there is no perfect tool for searching for the app you need that you don't know exists.

    The team's approach using natural language processing (NLP) allows them to obtain a score for each app and its functions that can be searched by the prospective user and matched more precisely to their needs than a simple app name search might offer.

    Chaa, M., Nouali, O. and Bellot, P. (2021) 'Leveraging app features to improve mobile app retrieval', Int. J. Intelligent Information and Database Systems, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.177–197.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJIIDS.2021.114530

  • A new video equivalent of optical character recognition (OCR) but for sign language is described by researchers from China in the International Journal of Systems, Control and Communications.

    Kai Zhao, Daotong Wang, and Jianbo Su of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Kejun Zhang and Yu Zhai of the Shanghai Lingzhi High-Tech Corporation discuss a system that can recognise Chinese sign language in a video stream and convert the language in real-time into text. Such a system could be used to automate the generation of subtitles for people sharing the video stream who are not familiar with Chinese sign language. The system was built with a database of half a million video segments and uses a three-dimensional convolutional neural network to extract the relevant frames for conversion.

    This is, the team writes, "a complete real-time sign language recognition system" for Chinese sign language. It is composed of a human interaction interface, a motion detection module, a hand and head detection module, and a video acquisition mechanism. The researchers have now demonstrated 92.6% recognition accuracy on a dataset containing 1,000 vocabularies. The system would not only be useful in adding captions to video of a signer but could be used in public areas such as hospitals, banks, and train stations where a person signing could talk to a member of staff who is a non-signer for instance.

    The team adds that improvements to the accuracy of the system might be made by incorporating skin detection to extract greater subtleties from the movements of the person signing. Likewise, the addition of detection of the signers underlying skeleton would also add to the sophistication of the recognition system and so improve accuracy.

    Zhao, K., Zhang, K., Zhai, Y., Wang, D. and Su, J. (2021) 'Real-time sign language recognition based on video stream', Int. J. Systems, Control and Communications, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.158–174.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJSCC.2021.114616

  • A new study in the International Journal of Business and Emerging Markets looks at how the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic affect stockmarkets in China and how the "shocks" experienced there were transmitted to the world's largest stockmarkets.

    Naveed Ul Haq and Abid Shirwani of the University of Management and Technology in Lahore, Pakistan, used a wide range of analytical tools to examine the ebb and flow of value in the long-run and short-term over the period January 2012 to March 2020, which culminated in the announcement of a global pandemic. The tools included unit root test, Johansen cointegration test, vector error correction model, Granger causality test, variance decomposition, and impulse response function test.

    The team observed long-run relationships between stock markets and could clearly see short-run results showing that the previous day's stock prices in Hong Kong and the US had a positive relationship with the Chinese stockmarket. The Granger causality results, however, showed something different – a unidirectional long-run causality from the UK, Hong Kong and Japan to China. In the short-run causality results the effects are bidirectional between China and the world's major stockmarkets.

    The team explains how their findings support the well-known prospect theory or loss-aversion theory, whereby investors are generally more afraid of loss then they are encouraged by a gain. This means that given a choice of two different prospects, investors will generally choose the one that has less chance of ending in a loss rather than the one that offers more gains. In terms of the COVID-19 crisis, the study suggests that it was not the socioeconomic circumstances prior to the pandemic that influenced stockmarket reactions but rather the health policies implemented during the crisis that had the most impact.

    Ul Haq, N. and Shirwani, A.H.K. (2021) 'Examining the impact of coronavirus on stock markets: investigating the cointegration and transmission of shocks between China and the world's largest stock markets', Int. J. Business and Emerging Markets, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.206–232.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBEM.2021.114403

  • A new study from researchers in Denmark and Germany suggests that despite the growing number of women entrepreneurs, numbers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are now adequately represented in this trend. Details of an exploratory study across Denmark, Latvia, and Turkey, are reported in the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, and hope to explain this underrepresentation in STEM.

    Sanita Ármane, Seda Irem Gärtig, and Silke Tegtmeier of the University of Southern Denmark, in Sønderborg and Alexander Brem of the University of Stuttgart, carried out interviews with a number of women entrepreneurs educated in STEM subjects. They uncovered the women's main motivations, the challenges they face, and the support sources on which they rely to glean important advice for future women entrepreneurs as well as for policymakers to increase the number of STEM-educated women entrepreneurs at the national level.

    A recent survey across Europe revealed that only about a third of all the millions of entrepreneurs in the business world are women. This reinforced the long-standing notion that entrepreneurship is a male-dominated field. Moreover, the underrepresentation of women from a STEM background is also rather worrying with most companies run by women not being involved in those areas. Reinforcing a second notion that businesses founded in STEM areas tend to be male-dominated too.

    Many observers have argued that encouraging more women entrepreneurs in STEM-related fields is of great importance in terms of economic growth and an enhancing social status. Moreover, gender diversity at the top of any corporate hierarchy is key to ensuring the diversity of employees, again all to the positive in terms of socioeconomic benefits.

    This new study points to possible reasons for the shortfall in the number of women entrepreneurs from a STEM background and running businesses that work in the areas covered by STEM. The work shows the apparent differences across three nations and offers new advice on how women from a STEM background might be encouraged to seek out and exploit new opportunities as entrepreneurs.

    Ármane, S., Gärtig, S.I., Tegtmeier, S. and Brem, A. (2021) 'STEM educated women entrepreneurs in Denmark, Latvia and Turkey: a context-based explorative study', Int. J. Entrepreneurial Venturing, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.186–216.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJEV.2021.114409

  • In this Research Pick, we are highlighting three papers from the International Journal of Web Based Communities that focus on how social media has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in this time of worldwide crisis.

    The first paper discusses how social media and web-based communities in general have responded to the pandemic whereby small groups of worshippers almost overnight converted their usual activities to the online world without much need for intervention from the hierarchy above, as it were. The second offers a personal perspective on the pros and cons, the benefits and challenges of social networking during the pandemic. Finally, the third paper looks at how faith communities have moved online to allow their congregations to continue with their religious endeavours.

    The emergence of a novel coronavirus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, in late 2019 and its subsequent spread around the world leading to the declaration of the disease it causes, COVID-19, as a pandemic led to many changes in the daily lives of billions of people. Of course, there is the ongoing tragedy of those who suffer serious symptoms and in many cases death, and there is also the ongoing problem of so-called Long-covid, symptoms that seem to persist long after the person has stopped being infectious, such as severe fatigue and significant disruption or loss of one's sense of smell.

    The socioeconomic symptoms of this pandemic have seen enormous changes in working practices, closure of many areas of normal life such as entertainment and hospitality, the disruption of sporting events, and more significantly the failure of many companies and enterprises and lost jobs for those affected.

    We are yet to fully understand what detrimental impact this disease will have on humanity and at the time of writing, new waves of infections underpinned by new, lethal variants of the disease, are overwhelming healthcare systems in Brazil, India, and elsewhere. Many parts of the world remain in lockdown while others that have escaped the worst ravages so far are keeping a weather eye on their borders in the hope of precluding the spread of a new variant in their country.

    The role of social media for the spread of information about COVID-19, vaccination programs, and public awareness of lockdown rules may well have helped reduce the total number of infections and deaths from the earliest and potentially devastating predictions. Moreover, social media and its attendant applications, including video conferencing, have allowed many people to continue their work and maintain family and social connections online in a way that would not be possible without this technology.

    There has been a downside to the so-called "new normal" for many, especially those on the wrong side of the digital divide that have no reliable access to the requisite devices and high-speed internet connections needed to make the most of social media and video conferencing and the like. Even for those with access to the necessary tech, the downside of living one's working life and social life almost exclusively online has exacted a toll on mental health for many people trapped behind a screen and unable to fulfil their old-normal roles in life.

    All three papers cited below are available in IJWBC.

    Isaias, P., Miranda, P. and Pifano, S. (2021) 'Framing social media and web-based communities within the COVID-19 pandemic: enduring social isolation and subsequent deconfinement', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.120–134.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.114450

    Issa, T., Al Jaafari, M., Alqahtani, A.S., Alqahtani, S., Issa, T., Maketo, L. and Pervaiz, S. (2021) 'Benefits and challenges of social networking during COVID-19: personal perspective', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.135–148.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.114446

    Cooper, A-P., Jormanainen, I., Shipepe, A. and Sutinen, E. (2021) 'Faith communities online: Christian churches' reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.99–119.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.114453

News

New Editor for International Journal of Applied Nonlinear Science

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

New Editor for Journal of Design Research

Prof. Jouke Verlinden from the University of Antwerp in Belgium has been appointed to take over editorship of the Journal of Design Research. The journal's former Editor in Chief, Prof. Renee Wever of Linköping University in Sweden, will remain on the board as Editor.

Inderscience Editor in Chief receives Humboldt Research Award

Inderscience is pleased to announce that Prof. Nilmini Wickramasinghe, Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology and the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, has won a Humboldt Research Award.

This award is conferred in recognition of the award winner's academic record. Prof. Wickramasinghe will be invited to carry out research projects in collaboration with specialists in Germany.

Inderscience's Editorial Office extends its warmest congratulations to Prof. Wickramasinghe for her achievement, and thanks her for her continuing stellar work on her journals.

Best Reviewer Award announced by International Journal of Environment and Pollution

We are pleased to announce that the International Journal of Environment and Pollution has launched a new Best Reviewer Award. The 2020 Award goes to Prof. Steven Hanna of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the USA. The senior editorial team thanks Prof. Hanna sincerely for his exemplary efforts.

Inderscience new address

As of 1st March 2021, the address of Inderscience in Switzerland will change to:

Inderscience Enterprises Limited
Rue de Pré-Bois 14
Meyrin - 1216
Geneva
SWITZERLAND