A better life outback

Desert lands cover about a quarter of the Earth’s land mass and are home to some half a billion people and yet they are commonly portrayed as extreme places with marginalized communities. The people who live there are perceived as living in hardship and isolation and surviving largely due to subsidies from the “mainstream” economy. New research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development suggests that for some desert regions, particularly Australia’s “outback”, there is huge potential given appropriate infrastructure and investment for desert regions to become places of great prosperity and wellbeing.

Digby Race of the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation, in Alice Springs and The Australian National University, in Canberra and colleagues from other universities, report that there is great potential for 200,000 people who live in Australia’s vast desert area which covers about 3.6 million square kilometers. However, the team asserts, “The multi-dimensional nature of the debate about the future of Australia’s desert region often leaves policy makers with little overarching synthesis to guide public policy.”

The desert region of Australia includes the traditional homelands of many Aboriginal peoples, the team points out, and over the last century or so has developed a mixed economy based on pastoral operations, government education and health services, gas and mining operations, and tourism. However, the Aboriginal peoples commonly remain marginalized by mainstream society. The researchers have now drawn together research on climate change, energy, housing and transport to provide an analysis that spans disciplines of how Australia’s desert region could become a highly livable and prosperous area for existing and new residents. It is, of course, hoped that such development would be in concert with the preferred lifestyles of the Aboriginal peoples.

“While there will always be uncertainty about future conditions and challenges, investing in strategies that are culturally appropriate, have little regret (low risk) and provide multiple benefits appears the best pathway,” the team suggests. “That is, investing in the connectivity and mobility of remote communities, creating a coordinated transport system, transitioning to renewable energy, and building super energy efficient housing can all be elements of re-designing the livability of desert Australia.”

Race, D., Dockery, A.M., Havas, L., Joyce, C., Mathew, S. and Spandonide, B. (2017) ‘Re-imagining the future for desert Australia: designing an integrated pathway for enhancing liveability’, Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 20, Nos. 1/2, pp.146–165.

Research Picks Extra – April 2017


Meeting madness

Love them or hate them workplace meetings are almost as certain as death and taxes even if they are often inefficient, unproductive, and a waste of time. Moreover, the counterproductive behaviour of any combination of managers, staff or even teams can be deleterious to the wellbeing of those concerned and trickle into the workplace to those people who did not attend the meeting. New research suggests that those most badly affected by counterproductive and frustrating behaviour in meetings tend to be those people who are themselves more agreeable and empathetic than others. Whereas to more aggressive and assertive characters, it’s water off the proverbial duck’s back. There are implications for managerial practice and for suffering workplace meetings without suffering too much.

Yoerger, M., Crowe, J., Allen, J.A. and Jones, J. (2017) ‘Meeting madness: counterproductive meeting behaviours and personality traits’, Int. J. Management Practice, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.203–223.



Computer, what movie do you recommend?

Recommendation systems for shopping, music and even friends and contacts have become commonplace since the advent of social media and social networking. A new data mining approach to collaborative filtering that allows a computer algorithm to pluck movie recommendations for users based on personal preferences and those of their associates could generate more personalised suggestions than other systems, according to research from India.

Subramaniyaswamy, V., Logesh, R., Chandrashekhar, M., Challa, A. and Vijayakumar, V. (2017) ‘A personalised movie recommendation system based on collaborative filtering’, Int. J. High Performance Computing and Networking, Vol. 10, Nos. 1/2, pp.54–63.



Preparing for a rainy day in the cloud

Cloud computing, distributed services on remote servers, is a very popular way to gain access to fast, high-powered computing and data storage without having to purchase costly in-house equipment. However, as several high-profile cases show, cloud services are vulnerable to attack from malicious third parties through the likes of a denial-of-service (DOS) attack on the servers. A DOS not only makes the technology unusable, often for extended periods of time, but while the servers are busy attempting to handle the massive wave of data requests behind such an attack, they are also vulnerable to attack by malware and from hackers who can break into such systems while other parts of the server network are effectively “distracted” by the attack. A team from Australia and China have demonstrated a significant type of attack on cloud services running virtual machines. Their revelations should allow operators to tighten security and close loopholes in their clouds.

Liu, M., Dou, W. and Yu, S. (2017) ‘How to shutdown a cloud: a DDoS attack in a private infrastructure-as-a-service cloud’, Int. J. Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.1–14.


Tuberculosis, the old disease with new life

In 1993, the re-emergence of tuberculosis (TB) led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the disease a global emergency. Once thought to have been conquered by antibiotics, various socioeconomic factors have led to the worrying spread of TB beyond the usual endemic enclaves of the disease. Poverty, increasing intravenous drug use, the spread of HIV/AIDS and the causative bacteria become resistant to antibiotics are all working in concert to bring back a lethal disease. The Stop TB Partnership hopes to essentially eradicate TB by 2050, cutting the number of annual cases to fewer than one case per million population. Scientists from Korea have looked at 22 so-called high-burden countries that account for 80% of incidence and made their own forecasts for how likely the effort is going to be in reducing incidence to those levels. Their forecasts suggest that for all but four or five of those countries the reduction targets will be met, but the outliers will remain of significant concern for years after without urgent modifications to medical strategy there.

Chang, Y.S. and Choi, C.Y. (2017) ‘Will the Stop TB Partnership targets on TB control be realised on schedule? Projection of future incidence, prevalence and death rates’, Int. J. Data Science, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp.44–69.

Automated automobile cattle avoidance

Driverless cars are hitting the headlines across the globe but for the foreseeable future we will still have drivers. The pressure then is how might some of the safety features of driverless cars be incorporated into conventional vehicles? Writing in the International Journal of Vehicle Autonomous Systems, researchers from India describe a real-time automatic obstacle detection and alert system for driver assistance.

Sachin Sharma and Dharmesh Shah of the Department of Electronics & Communication, at Gujarat Technological University, in Ahmedabad, India, point out that an increased incidence of road crashes in their country correlates with increasing wealth and the surge in vehicle numbers this development has wrought. They add that road infrastructure is not keeping pace with traffic demands especially in roads connecting villages and towns. Moreover, on busy, imperfect roads, the Indian cow represents a significant obstacle that must also be taken into account.

Safety, security and comfort are generally considered important to vehicle design with performance, fuel economy and other factors also considered in terms of how marketable a given vehicle will be. However, road traffic collisions are the leading cause of death of people between the ages of 15 and 29 years old, according to the World Health Organization, is road traffic collisions. Technology to reduce this grave incidence should be a high priority of vehicle design. India has the second largest road network in the world and 1 in 20,000 people die there in a road traffic accident, 12 in 70,000 are seriously injured in such accidents.

Sharma and Shah’s collision alert system uses a dashboard camera and an algorithm that can determine whether an object near the vehicle is an on-road cow and whether or not its movements represent a risk to the vehicle. A timely audio or visual indicator can then be triggered to nudge the driver to apply the brakes whether or not they have seen the animal. The algorithm requires optimization and the issue of night-time driving is yet to be addressed, the team says.

Sharma, S. and Shah, D. (2017) ‘Real-time automatic obstacle detection and alert system for driver assistance on Indian roads’, Int. J. Vehicle Autonomous Systems, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.189-202.