UK Digital Economy Crucible 2017 is coming near you…

By Tashi Gyaltsen, CHERISH-DE Project Officer


On the road…

I am thrilled we are launching the campaign for UK Digital Economy Crucible 2017. We are starting our promotional event at Newcastle University on 14th November followed by University of Stirling on 24th November, University of Nottingham on 8th December, and UCL on 20th Jan 2017. We are currently looking at other venues, including The Alan Turing Institute, Southampton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Ulster in the coming months. We will update the locations and dates on our blog and on Twitter when they are confirmed.

Looking at 2017…

This is our second year, and we are passionate about making UK Digital Economy Crucible bigger and better. We are looking for enthusiastic and ambitious researchers/lecturers (1-7 years since completing PhD) from diverse backgrounds from all UK universities. We will kick-off the residential skills lab in our hometown Swansea on 18th and 19th of May 2017, followed by Edinburgh on 22nd and 23th of June, and complete the programme in London on 27th and 28th July. We will build on the many positives and learn from our challenges from 2016 to ensure UK Digital Economy Crucible 2017 is even more immersive and collaborative. To reinforce our community of dedicated digital researchers, we will also be holding an Alumni gathering on  November 3rd, 2017 where the Crucible participants can catch up, discuss further collaborations and emerging opportunities, and pitch for seedcorn research funding available to them.

UK Digital Economy Crucible is for all disciplines…

Digital Economy is essentially an economy that is powered by interactions and transactions that is done on digital computing technologies. It is all around us and embedded in almost everything we do these days. Contrary to common belief, the development of digital economy does not entirely fall on computer science. Far from it, and more importantly, it needs the research, expertise and collaboration from diverse disciplines, including engineering, social and human sciences, media, arts & humanities, law and criminology, business management, maths and biology. The ultimate aim of the CHERISH-DE is to make a real difference to people’s lives, and we can only achieve it through interdisciplinary effort that captures many aspects of our lives. This is where the UK Digital Economy Crucible comes in and offers that unique platform for researchers/lecturers to get together in a series of skills labs, acquire leadership skills in their careers, and collaborate on innovative research ideas. The programme also provides exclusive opportunity to interact with distinguished speakers in the field of digital economy and other crucial actors such as media, industry, general public, funding councils and Parliament.

And some tips…

It will be highly competitive to get a place on the programme this year. And I hope some tips may help you put in a strong application. First of all, write your application in plain language as our review panel will consist of people from different backgrounds. Stick to the criteria as marking on each question will be based on them, and bear in mind that the purpose of the Crucible programme and CHERISH-DE is to work together to enrich people’s lives through practical innovation of technology. So be clear about how your research can help and its potential of achieving greater impact through collaboration and use of technology. And finally, it is highly recommended that you read up on Digital Economy from sources such as EPSRC, UK Parliament, UK Government and CHERISH-DE website before starting your application. If you have any questions or concerns about eligibility, process or application, please do not hesitate to get in touch (

Good luck and hope to see you soon!


10 Tips for a Successful CHERISH Digital Economy Escalator Fund Proposal

As the 31st October deadline draws near, the consensus at CHERISH Heights was that you may appreciate some pointers on what makes a successful Escalator application. Sitting on the Escalator panel earlier this year, proposals were marked down for a handful of repeated and easily avoidable reasons.

#1 Mind your language

thing-explainerTrue to its multi-disciplinary, applied research roots, CHERISH peer review and research panels are made up of people from different backgrounds, academic and non-academic. A non-specialist audience will decide whether or not you are successful – so use language that someone who does not work in your area will understand. Someone recently recommended a book called the Thing Explainer by Randall Moore as a good place to start for this kind of thing.

#2 List clear outputs

Applications with clear outputs fare a lot better than those without. Even if the proposed research is quite, quite brilliant – we need to know what you are going to do with it once complete. No matter how modest, well defined outcomes will help your bid . CHERISH is about taking research out into the world, so think about how you can easily achieve this…

  • Can you present a workshop at the end of the research?
  • Are you going to do a talk in your department or your supporting organisation?
  • Will you publish any papers or talk at conferences?
  • Will it allow you to apply for further larger funding pots ?
  • Is it on a theme that may be of interest to The Conversation ?
  • Does it lend itself to public engagement (a big part of CHERISH) at Oriel Science?

#3 Double check staff costs

We will notice if the staff costs you give are incorrect. Miscalculating overheads or salaries basically invalidates your proposal at the panel stage. Talk to your research hub, double-check and give yourself the best chance of success.

#4 Use the CHERISH RA to support your researchwin_20160817_08_55_10_pro

This is Thomas, the RA on the CHERISH project. You can bid on his time and you  don’t have to budget for that cost in your application as it will be covered by the CHERISH project.  But be mindful that CHERISH RAs are not there to *drive* your project.  Rather they can provide focused assistance and expertise to help with *aspects* of your project.  Please be specific about *how* and *when* you plan on making use of RA time.

#5 Don’t round-up costs

Be as accurate as you can in listing any costs. Applications with mysteriously ‘perfect’ costs (e.g. £1000 for a flight, £500 for accommodation) look slapdash. Take the time to include accurate costs that reference the date and source of the figure.

#6 Wherever you can involve Early Career Researchers

There is a huge emphasis within CHERISH on helping ECRs develop their careers. One of our key objectives is ‘creating a next generation of digital economy researchers’, so be creative and make sure ECRs are prominent within your application.

Perhaps you are a senior academic, with a track record of successful large research bids; consider whether a less experienced departmental colleague may relish their first PI experience and suggest they lead the project or join you as a Co-I.

#7 No cutting and pasting

This sounds so obvious, but is surprisingly common. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve been tempted to cut and paste a paragraph from a different document, rather than re-interpret or re-write a section to anwer a specific question.

The problem is, if you do this it stands out like a sore thumb. Even really ingenious ideas can’t be funded if they don’t answer the questions on the application form. Cutting and pasting from an earlier proposal and hoping for the best just doesn’t work. Some members of the panel may not be an expert in your field, but they are still able to spot a case of ‘proposalese’ when they see one.

#8 Be clear about what we can and cannot fund.

We cannot fund you if you are 100% employed at Swansea University, but we can fund the cost of an RA. We can fund travel and subsistence for academics from outside Swansea University, for example if they are Co-Is, but not their time. We cannot fund any external partners, the idea being that they are supporting the collaborative research process.

#9 Don’t put another university as your external partner 

CHERISH wants research to be taken outside of the academic world and encourages collaborative research with non-academic partners. However, academics from other universities can be Co-Is on a project (see #8).

#10 Consider the other CHERISH funding opportunities

If your bid involves travel for research collaborators based abroad – either for them to visit you or vice versa – why not go for the more straightforward International Mobility Fellowship? It is constantly open for applications and decisions are made without the aid of a formal panel.

Similarly, if you are thinking of spending time at a (non-academic) UK based organisation as part of your bid, you may be better served applying for a more light-touch (and funded) CHERISH Secondment.

If you need clarification on any points – just drop us an email

Good luck!

Understanding Digital Economy Careers & Practices @ TwitchCon

As part of Mark and Jamie’s Crucible funded research, they attended TwitchCon conference in San Diego. TwitchCon is an international conference to bring together leaders in gaming and streaming to discuss cutting-edge research and collaborations. Mark and Jamie attended TwitchCon to understand the careers and practices of Twitch’s streamers, by interviewing a large number of leading professional streamers from all around the world. Here are some thoughts from Mark and Jamie on the trip:
We interviewed over 60 people, ranging from short one-or-two-minute interviews exploring what they liked about Twitch and why they came to TwitchCon, to longer interviews lasting up to 30 minutes with professional streamers which examined their lives and backgrounds, how they first heard about Twitch, how and why they started broadcasting on the platform, when they became a “partnered” streamer (someone who works with Twitch to build their channel), and how they view the future of the platform and the future of their careers. The data in particular from these longer interviews yielded fascinating data about Twitch has been transforming the lives of its users, how streamers navigate tensions of a precarious career and the balance between work and play when broadcasting gameplay, and what kinds of future career plans they were developing. These streamers ranged from the world-famous to the newly professional, and were generally very willing to offer us their time for the research.

CHERISH-DE @ British Science Festival

The British Science Festival kicks off today at Swansea University and at CHERISH-DE we couldn’t be more excited. From the 6th-11th of September the festival will explore a wide host of subjects, ranging from food to music, genetics to space, and climate change to cyber security.

In the exciting programme you can see the 100 free events that will take place on campus and throughout the city. As these are too many to cover in a blog post, we thought we’d highlight the talks and demos given by researchers involved with CHERISH-DE instead:

Discover the future of screen technology with computer scientist Matt Jones. Hear how his team are exploring displays that mutate to create textures and change shape to reveal controls like dials and switches depending on our needs. See some of the early prototypes that are connecting our digital interactions to the physical world.

With the anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon looming, Lella Nouri-Bennett reflects on how the world has changed since 9/11 in terms of politics, security efforts and our understanding of terrorism in the UK. In particular, how has counter-terrorism advanced over the last 15 years, how has our societal understanding of terrorism evolved and are we any safer now?

Over 20% of UK students have considered sex work. This award winning docudrama brings the real-life testimonies of students currently working within sex industry to the screen. The film was made as part of a pioneering new study, The Student Sex Work Project, which has transformed understanding about the motivations and needs of student sex workers.

This special screening will be followed by a Q&A with criminologist Debbie Jones, who co-led the study, producer Chris Britten and clinical sexologist Sam Geuens.

  • How do Machines learn? with Jonathan Jones • Sat 10 & Sun 11 Sep • 11:00 – 16:00 • National Waterfront Museum City Centre

Machine learning is a valuable tool in use in many applications today. Visit Jonathan’s stall to learn via examples and interactive techniques how machine learning can provide valuable results. The focus will be on drawing parallels between human learning, and how machines can learn in order to make informed predictions used in various fields from crime prevention to medicine.

Cinzia will be presenting her research on Big Data and the Internet of Things and answer any questions you might have at Soapbox Science 2016 Swansea. Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do.

From one industrial landscape to another

I (Thomas Reitmaier) recently joined the CHERISH digital economy research centre at Swansea University. Digital Economy (DE) research is an emerging theme within the UK and CHERISH-DE is linked to a handful of other DE research centres across the UK, all funded by the RCUK. To further this research agenda CHERISH sponsored the International Population Data Linkage Conference, so I was fortunate enough to attend the IPDL even though my research emphasizes user and community engagement, rather than on obtaining population-level insights by analyzing and linking big data sets.

The conference was hosted by Swansea University at the beautiful new Bay Campus. As I had just started working for CHERISH-DE – based at the older Singleton Park Campus – I had never been to the Bay Campus before. All I knew was that the National Cycle Route 4 connects both campuses. Route 4 is a beautiful and flat route, so once I got going I quickly covered a lot of ground and didn’t even realize that I had missed an earlier turnoff. I had overshot my target by about 2 kilometers. As I was now running late, I turned off Cycle Route 4 towards the A483, where I passed by Amazon Park. An industrial landscape of massive proportions.

Amazon Park
Amazon Park

A few hours later, I got to visit another, much older industrial landscape, as part of the pre-conference programme: the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. At Blaenavon we visited the Big Pit National Coal Musuem, a real coal mine, and were lowered 90 meters in the company of a former coal miner, who guided us around the coal faces, engine houses, and stables. Our guide joked that he has spent more of his life underground than a potato and not only told us about the technical aspects of mining and transporting the coal, but also about the communities in the surrounding valleys the industry supported. These are communities that are now struggling. He thought it was criminal that Wales imports coal from Australia, when there is perfectly good coal to be found here and in similar places across South Wales.

Blaenavon Big Pit © ejbaurdo

Once we returned to the surface it was only a very short bus ride to the Blaenavon Ironworks, with it’s water balance tower, blast furnaces, and cast houses. But I particularly enjoyed looking at the refurbished worker’s cottages, each restored to be representative of a time period ranging from 1840 – 1960, as they offered glimpses of the social history of the workers.

Blaenavon Ironworks

In stark contrast to these heavy industrial sites was Cardiff Castle, which we got to visit next. Over the centuries the castle passed hands from the Romans, the Normans, to the Bute family, who in turn gifted it to the city of Cardiff. The Butes owned lands in Glamorganshire and had feudal titles to common lands, which were rich with coal deposits. The Butes generated massive wealth by consolidating land rights which allowed them to develop and claim royalty on coal mines and iron industries as well as transport infrastructures. The immense wealth the Butes extracted from the coal fields and related industries is reflected in the expensively and profusely decorated rooms in Cardiff Castle. What a contrast to the humble dwellings I saw just a few hours earlier.

Cardiff Castle Arab Room © microwavedboy

The Welsh Banquet that we attended at the Castle rounded the evening off with warm hospitality, traditional song, dance, food, and plenty of drink. All in all it was a fantastic days of diverse experiences. Retracing the steps I took on that day, I can’t help but wonder how our contemporary digital economies, industries, infrastructures, and communities will be remembered in 100 years time? To some extent the conditions and possibilities of our future community life are being hard-wired into our computing infrastructures we are building today. And so I can’t help but feel inspired and distressed all at once. Inspired by passion and commitment of local communities as well as by the creativity and intellect of colleagues and collaborators at CHERISH-DE that range across a variety of disciplines. But daunted by the task that lays ahead: to ensure that the technologies we develop together make the digital and physical spaces we live in convivial and sustaining. I have only been working at CHERISH-DE for a few short weeks, and my head is already spinning with ideas. I look forward to the years that lay ahead!

The New ABCs of Research – Ben Shneiderman Talk

Ben signing a copy of his book on the day

The CHERISH-DE centre was delighted to welcome back Ben Schneiderman to Swansea University last month. The renowned computer scientist gave a talk on 21st June 2016 in the Wallace Theatre, Swansea University on his latest book The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations. 

Ben is a renowned figure within the world of Human-Computer Interaction and the founder of the well-known, annual CHI conference – an essential fixture in the HCI calendar.

Ben discussed the importance of researchers choosing ‘big, real-world problems’ as the starting point for their research questions. His book eschews the traditional, linear approach espoused by Vannevar Bush that moves from theory into applied, eventuben s bookally permeating into the real world for his ABC (Applied and Basic Combined) principle. This is based on a blending of the SED (Science, Engineering and Design) ways of thinking to find practical solutions to real-world problems and simultaneously present foundational theories. Louis Pasteur/ Pasteur’s Quadrant was given as an example of how scientific research can address a real-world problem from the outset.

Using a Google word count illustration and a Google Ngram, Ben illustrated how, in recent years, the concept of design has become an increasing force and influence in our world.

ben s
Ben Shneiderman

Ben spoke about teams and leadership and how multi-author papers, on average, result in a better quality of paper. Team working is made possible via new technologie and there are fewer single author papers these days.

Amongst other things, Ben gave us two tips for successful teamworking and collaborations:

  1. Who does what when (down to the hour it’s expected!)
  2. Something small soon

His talk can be viewed via this link:

Book website:

Thank you Ben, for your visit- we look forward to seeing you again!

The Digital Economy Imaginarium: Immerse yourself in a positive future

The Digital Economy – “what it means to me and my organisation. Now. And in five years”.

Last Wednesday, 8th of June, Cherish- DE held the first event of a series, named Digital Economy Imaginarium. This session was facilitated by Prof. David Ford from Swansea University and both, speakers and attendees, enjoyed a lovely and sunny morning in the Techhub Cafe.


Our centre is charged with supporting and fostering collaborations between academics and external organisations – large and small, public and private – within the Digital Economy space.

These series of events are dedicated to starting and continuing conversations around:

  • Three minute flashtalks on the Digital Economy from industry, public sector and academic points of view
  • Exploration of common problems and potential solutions
  • Start conversations and take the first steps to collaboration
  • Network with people and organisations working in related fields
  • Pathways to collaborative research

Take time out to imagine how technology can enable a positive future


You can see the flash video of this session in our Twitter account