February Research Picks Extra

Teaching in the cloud

An international team from Iran and Malaysia have investigated how cloud computing might best be incorporated into teaching practice. In order to reveal the pros and cons of cloud computing in this environment, the team used the Danielson Teaching Framework. This framework focuses on key aspects of teaching by breaking the practice into specific components, such as communicating with students, students engagement and others. This Framework has previously been shown to lead to high-quality teaching and so the adoption of cloud computing in this setting was expected to give good results too. The team’s initial investigations show this to be the case improving teacher and student organisation, scheduling and collaboration. Fundamentally, cloud computing, by definition avoids the problems associated with the limitations of any given personal computer by displacing the computational and storage aspects to networked, but remote and distributed servers.

Saadatdoost, R., Sim, A.T.H., Jafarkarimi, H. and Saadatdoost, L. (2015) ‘A cloud-based teaching framework: an introduction’, Int. J. Management in Education, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp.235–253.


The hybrid hospital pharmacist

Canadian researchers have demonstrated that a hybrid technology that combines the benefits of RFID tags (radio frequency identification tags) and conventional barcodes can improve logistics in a hospital pharmacy. The approach has the potential to improve efficiency and expediency in delivering prescription drugs to patients as well as reducing the risk of drug administering errors. The external pharmaceutical supply chain and the medication process between healthcare worker and patient- the start and end point of the overall healthcare system from the prescription perspective – are well researched and well covered in terms of technology and understanding of the processes involved. It is the logistics in between this supply and demand that are not so clear. Tests in four North American hospitals and five external organisations by the Canadian team have shown that a track-and-trace approach – based on combining RFID tagging and barcodes improves efficiency and accuracy, strengthens inventory visibility, reduces inventory costs, improves the readiness of purchase orders, decreases supply cycle times, reduces manual labour, strengthens patient security, and supports waste management and reverse logistics activities.

Romero, A. and Lefebvre, E. (2015) ‘Combining barcodes and RFID in a hybrid solution to improve hospital pharmacy logistics processes’, Int. J. Information Technology and Management, Vol. 14, Nos. 2/3, pp.97–123.


Oxbridge clusters

Rupert Waters of the Centre for International Marketing and Entrepreneurship Research at Halmstad University, in Sweden, has looked at a decade of progress and development in two of Europe’s major technology clusters – Oxford and Cambridge. Both cities and their environs have ancient universities associated closely with them as well as numerous hi-tech companies and organisations. Indeed, both regions are well known for their scientific and technologically driven products and services, their science and business parks and the close ties between academia and industry.

Waters has drawn information from national datasets relating to economic issues such as new firm formation, sectoral composition and gross value added in order to review the ongoing development of these two regions centres. He has shown that both Oxford and Cambridge clusters have been highly successful in regional economic development. But, that this development alone is insufficient to guarantee the overall economic growth of the associated county, Oxfordshire or Cambridgeshire, and to lead to it outperforming the UK’s national economy. Waters points out that Oxfordshire’s growth has slowed in the last three years to be closer the national average, Cambridge has slightly outperformed Oxfordshire but from a lower base. “What is not clear,” he says, “is whether there is evidence that either cluster-based economy have run out of steam and that there is evidence of a fourth stage in either or both.” Additional research is now needed to help us understand the future of such technology clusters in these two regions and more widely.

Waters, R. (2015) ‘Clusters and resilience: economic growth in Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire’, Int. J. Global Environmental Issues, Vol. 14, Nos. 1/2, pp.132–150.


Conceptual indexing

Most of the web’s search engines rely on opaque, but nevertheless alarmingly fast, algorithms to help you find information in their databases spidered from billions of websites. However, the search engine results pages, the so-called SERPs, are notoriously fickle as many users will attest, commonly offering spurious results, perhaps unrelated to the keywords on which one is searching. As users we often find an organic, manual approach to finally tracking down the information we need. For more formal archiving and searching a structured, conceptual indexing, approach is perhaps needed. Now, researchers in France, at INSA Rouen, have turned to a category network approach to help them structure a database in a more usable and useful format. The category approach is modelled on the Wikipedia approach to information, allowing them to create a conceptual taxonomy that uses a directed acyclic graph to map terms (one or more words, keyphrases rather than keywords, if you will) to a specific concept in the Wikipedia category network. Their preliminary evaluation of French has provided encouraging results and the team is now planning to extend the approach to English and other languages based on the fact that Wikipedia has skeletal frameworks for about 280 languages.

Abi Chahine, C., Chaignaud, N., Kotowicz, J-Ph. and Pecuchet, J-P. (2014) ‘A Wikipedia-based approach to conceptual indexing and retrieval of documents’, Int. J. Knowledge and Learning, Vol. 9, Nos. 1/2, pp.87–103.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.