Virtual Cloud Computing Workshop, 23 April

If you are interested in Cloud Computing, and would like to know more about what is going with Cloud Computing across STFC and beyond, you may also be interested in attending the one day Cloud Computing Workshop on April 23rd (9.25 – 16.30), which is being held virtually via Zoom (https://ukri.zoom.us/j/671063844). Talks will cover science projects that rely heavily on cloud compute systems, including the Jasmin Climate system, and other science projects across STFC. There will also be a talk from JISC on the Geant cloud in Europe.

The purpose of the workshop is to help join up the Science cloud computing community, and to help build knowledge and understanding of Cloud Computing capability across STFC. Consequently, as well as the formal talks, we are also expecting to hold a session where attendees can give a couple of minutes pitch about what they’re doing and if useful, ask for help from others working on similar things.

This event was originally planned to take place on site at RAL, however, as it will now be held online, there is no longer any requirement to register, please just use the Zoom link above to attend on April 23rd.

Guest Blog: Clean Air Challenges for Industry

We’re pleased to welcome our first guest blog from Jim Mills, Chair of Environmental Industries Commission Air Quality Group. SAQN members can share their responses on our new Discussion Board.

As the Chair of the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), Air Quality Group, I was delighted to be invited to engage in conversation with the STFC Air Quality Network (SAQN). Our group consists of a wide range of environmental industry members who are keen to learn about and engage with some of the cutting edge research conducted by SAQN and also to share some of our own challenges and ideas with the academics and researchers within the SAQN. 

There are four main categories of EIC members:

· Major corporates (eg major industrial forms involved in automotive and energy technology, major waste and resources firms etc)  NRMM manufacturers, rail, marine and aviation companies, etc) 

·  Abatement Technology Companies (Retrofit systems, alternative fuels, combustion experts, green wall providers, pollution catalysts, absorbents, HVAC companies, etc)

·  Monitoring and Analysis (sensor and reference grade monitoring technologies, data analysts, computer modelling, indoor air quality and ventilation specialists, etc)

·  Consultants (some specialists operating in one or more of the above and many large internationals operating in most or all of the above.

As EIC members, we all share common goals and those are, to minimise the impact of our own and our clients operations on the environment in general and more specifically, on air pollution and climate change. 

Here is a non-exhaustive selection of some of the specific issues we are currently involved in, which we hope will provoke discussions with people within the SAQN.

1.      Standby generator sets many of which burn diesel fuels not only in times of power outages but also are used to supply power to the National Grid in times of high demand. Some of this plant is older technology and thus generates higher levels of NOx and PM than more modern generators. Perhaps alternative, cleaner fuels could be used to reduce emissions with immediate benefits and without significant capital investment as an interim step whilst regulations are tightened and technology is updated? 

2.      Non Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM)  This equipment used on construction sites is not currently regulated to the same standards as on road vehicles but are a contributor to NOx and PM emissions within our cities often close to sensitive receptors. How might we reduce these emissions, develop good practice and enforce compliance?

3.      Mobile refrigeration units. These also are not regulated to the latest Euro VI standards and are often not considered within CAZ or LEZ schemes, but they contribute to exposure in cities and around large distribution depots around the UK. They can run continuously for up to 24 hours a day, making them a serious source of emissions to air. How much do these units contribute to poor air quality and can we find cleaner ways of running refrigerated containers with lower emissions?

4.      Green walls and other barriers and abatement systems are now being used around an increasing number of schools, nurseries and homes for the elderly in an attempt to reduce air pollution exposure. How effective are these interventions and how might we measure and/or improve their efficacy?

5.      Encouraging the monitoring of carbon dioxide in addition to criteria pollutants. We can then calculate criteria pollutant ratios to CO2 in order to produce emissions indices, which can assist with source apportionment studies and to study changes in road transport fleet emissions over time. Absolute pollution concentrations vary with meteorology, but emissions indices can better show underlying emission trends and are much less affected by weather. Given the low cost of CO2 sensors, why don’t we routinely measure CO2 at existing air quality monitoring sites, in order to better exploit this important additional information? 

6.      If we are to improve indoor air quality, where most of us spend most of our time, the interface between outdoor air quality and indoor air quality needs to be better understood. How do we monitor indoors and outdoors in a manner that provides comparable data? How do sources of pollution indoors (cleaning materials, heating, cooking etc) react with pollution from outdoors? How is indoor air quality affected by building design and ventilation systems and to what extent can we intervene to reduce exposure and create healthier indoor spaces?

We are planning conversations around these and other air quality challenges and to facilitate further discussion, EIC are inviting SAQN to address one of our quarterly meetings during 2020 to explore how researchers and industry can work in collaboration to address some of these issues.

Jim Mills, EIC

New date for Collaboration Building Workshop announced: 2-3 November 2020

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we have postponed the Collaboration Building Workshop, which was due to take place in June 2020. Our new dates are Monday 2 – Tuesday 3 November 2020. The workshop will take place at Jurys Inn, Birmingham. The venue is in easy walking distance of Birmingham New Street Station.

Full details of the workshop, including selection criteria and timelines are on our website. Applications for the workshop remain open until 1st September 2020.

Domestic Fuel Burning: share your research questions

Does your research explore domestic fuel burning challenges? What are the key research questions in this area? We would like to explore the interest in this space and link research questions to policy needs. Please share your research questions on domestic fuel burning, which we will collate and discuss with policy colleagues. If there is sufficient interest we will develop this as a special interest group within the network.

Please note that these questions can be broad / top level. We are not requesting information that is unpublished or proprietary.

Call for researchers and industry partners for new Air Quality Technologies European Special Interest Group

UK Fluids Network has been nourishing a network of special interest groups in different areas of fluids research in the UK. One of the groups (led by Svetlana Aleksandrova from Coventry University and Andrew Williams from University of Chester) is dedicated to Particulate Matter Filtration, and is a community of researchers, industry representatives and policy makers building a dialogue around reducing particulate matter pollution from transport.

After three years of successful operation, the group is now seeking to expand into a European Special Interest group and become a part of ERCOFTAC (European Research Community on Flow, Turbulence and Combustion). The new group will have a wider scope, with a provisional title of “Air Quality Technologies“.

Being part of Ercoftac will allow the group to continue supporting excellent research related to reducing air pollution, build a dialogue between academia, industry and policy makers, exchange ideas and inspire the new generation of researchers. Activities of the group will include (but not be limited to) organising meetings, seminars, courses, summer schools, research visits etc.

The group already has potential representatives from several European pilot centres (UK, Greece and Iberia), but would like to invite all researchers working in adjacent areas to take part in the bid. Industrial representatives are also very welcome.

In order to be included on the Steering Committee (i.e. take an active part in making decisions about the group future and funding distribution), the organisation should be paying Ercoftac an annual fee (500 EUR for universities, 1000 EUR for industry). There is no such requirement for taking part in regular Special Interest group activities.

If you are interested in taking part in the bid, please contact Svetlana Aleksandrova (csy092@coventry.ac.uk) or Andy Williams (andrew.williams@chester.ac.uk).

Outcomes and Actions from SAQN Launch Meeting

The SAQN has reviewed feedback from network members and points of discussion raised at our initial meeting, and agreed the following actions for the network to pursue:

Future events

For future events we will continue to prioritise venues with convenient location and good accessibility, as far as budget will allow. 

Online discussion space

We will investigate options for this that would allow conversations between members. Constraints would be that we do not have a budget for this, and do not want something that involves a lot of monitoring/moderating. A possible platform is LinkedIn or there may be a google platform supported by the University of York that would suit.

Collaboration Building Workshop

A decision was taken to rename the sandpits as ‘Collaboration Building Workshops’ given the negative connotations of sandpits for many people. The topics identified could be used for the workshop in June to give the event more focus, but the LMG had concerns that this might be too narrow and exclude too many people. The risk of giving the sandpit no focus is that there will not be enough common interest amongst the attendees to produce good projects. This discussion will be taken further by the LMG when planning the workshop.

Mapping networks

Given the feedback about the numerous other networks, we felt it would be helpful to map these networks and identify their particular niche. This would help us in our awareness of other events and activities, as well as to define more clearly our own niche in the air quality space. It would also enable us to better signpost members to other relevant activity where their interests cannot be met by SAQN. This mapping exercise would need to be maintained and revised over time to take account of the changing landscape.

Tracking new collaborations

One of the aims of the network is to foster new collaborations among network members that lead to new projects and research activity. We have positive indications that such collaborations have started already at the launch, but need to get more detailed information about who the collaborators are and what activity they are doing. We will ask members to report back regularly through the monthly newsletter, but also send an annual survey to members, asking them to give details of any new partnerships that they have developed through SAQN. This information can be reported back to STFC, but will also allow us to make better connections through the network, by spotting opportunities for different organisations to join a developing collaboration or signposting people to relevant funding.

Under-represented sectors

Discussions at the meeting identified areas of interest to the network where we did not have representation. These included health (particularly highlighted by Ian Mudway’s excellent presentation), social sciences (as demonstrated by the interest in behaviour change) and agriculture (given the strong interest in ammonia). We will:

  • Seek out individuals from these sectors to join the network / be champions / join the steering group
  • Identify relevant events to attend/present at where we can reach these sectors
  • Explore the possibilities of hosting smaller events aimed at these particular sectors (possibly by piggy backing on existing meetings or holding virtual meetings/seminars)

We welcome ongoing feedback on the activity of the network. If you have any comments on the actions from the report, or other ideas about what you’d like to see from the network, please email fleur.hughes@york.ac.uk

Pre-Launch Survey Analysis

Our pre-launch survey closed in January, and was completed by 202 people. Our report shows some of the information we gathered and how we are using this to inform our plans for the network. Thank you to all those who completed the survey and shared their views with us.

To view the report in detail, click the ‘full screen’ symbol in the bottom right hand corner of the image. To view each of the three pages, use the arrows in the bottom left corner.

Tell us which networks are relevant to air quality

In our launch meeting, our members spoke about the number of other air quality networks operating in the UK, the risk of too many meetings and overlap of subjects. We would like to create a map of air quality networks so that we can better understand the landscape, offer more signposting to our members to relevant events and opportunities and provide a more joined up approach to air quality challenges.

If you are a member of, or are aware of other relevant networks, please complete this short form with brief details.

Travel Grant Applications Now Open

Applications are now open to SAQN members for our Travel Grants scheme. Travel grants are offered for activity that will enable network members to build collaborations, make new connections, take advantage of STFC capabilities and assist them in proposal development. Members may apply for funding for travel, accommodation, subsistence and training/registration fees where needed.

Travel grants are available to network members, so don’t forget to join the network before you complete your application. We’ll be awarding them on a rolling basis throughout the life of the network, so there is no deadline for applications.

If you feel that you could benefit from one of our Travel Grants, please complete the online application form.

Further details about SAQN funding can be found on our Funding page.

SAQN Launch Report

The first event of the SAQN took place 14-15 January at the Principal Hotel in York. Over 80 delegates from across the UK joined the event to hear more about the opportunities to tackle air quality challenges. Academics from many universities mixed with representatives from industry and colleagues from across the STFC. Policy organisations also attended, including staff from Defra, the Environment Agency, local councils and Natural England.

Sessions on the first day included information on the wider Air Quality landscape, identifying challenges and opportunities in research, policy, health impacts and industry. Presentations from STFC colleagues then highlighted the breadth and variety of capabilities available across the different locations and facilities.

Network members laughing
Network members talking

The second day began with a look at the funding opportunities available within the network and beyond, with a presentation from UKRI SPF Clean Air and one of their funded projects, QUANT.

Using the information from the presentations, the network then held round table discussions to identify topics of interest, and to post these to an online noticeboard. Over lunch everyone voted on the subjects that were of most interest to them, which were:

  • Ammonia – Challenges and Opportunities
  • Sensors and Miniaturisation
  • Machine Learning
  • Indoor Air Quality Monitoring
  • Integrating Data
  • Behaviour Change
  • Health Effects Monitoring and Data
  • Early Career Researcher Support Network

The meeting concluded with feedback from each discussion, leaving plenty of ideas for consideration by the SAQN and the network members. Presentations from the meeting are available to download.

Thank you to all our presenters and to everyone who attended the launch, gave us their input and made it a great success. Our next annual meeting will take place in Spring 2021. To find out about this and other network events, please join the network.

Photos: Paul Shields, Kevin Smith