News

Research Partner required for CV-19 virus detection technology

VN Aerotoxic Detection Solutions are currently developing a sensor for the detection of poisonous compounds inside aircraft cabins, and they are putting together an independent project to adapt the technology so that it will be able to detect Covid-19 and other viruses non-invasively, and in real-time.

The company is looking for research partners who could help with source the virus, facilities or funding to enable the research and development of the technology and build a proof of concept as a technology validation.

Further information about the project is available to download in the following documents:

For further information and to discuss getting involved, please contact Mark Gilmore on mgilmore@vn-ads.co.uk.

LIDA Data Scientist Internships

The Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) is now inviting applications for the fifth cohort of its leading Data Scientist Internship Programme. Paid internships are available for a fixed term period of 12 months, commencing end September 2020, to help drive research activity across each of LIDA’s constituent areas: health informatics, urban analytics, statistical and mathematical methods, and visualisation and immersive technologies.

LIDA are looking for graduates from a wide range of backgrounds who have a keen interest in using data and statistical and predictive techniques to answer real-world questions. As an intern, you will have the opportunity to own delivery of data science projects and get hands-on technical experience using real data. You will also be able to build your capacity in advanced analytics through the benefit of supervisor mentorship as well as training in programming, visualisation and statistical analysis.

Internship start date: 28th Sept 2020

Length of internship: 12 months fixed term contract, full time (35 hrs per week)

Salary: Grade 5 sp17: £23,067 pa

Closing date for applications: Friday 17th July 2020

Interviews: will be held remotely in August

For more information on the Programme, and to see information about the current cohort of interns and the kinds of projects on which they are working, please visit the LIDA website.

APPLY ONLINE for an internship by visiting the University of Leeds jobs site (job number PSLDA1000).

Please contact Kylie Norman, Programme Co-ordinator, or lida@leeds.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Funding Opportunities for Air Quality & COVID-19

Below are some of the current funding opportunities available to researchers looking at the relationship between Air Quality and COVID-19. If you are aware of other relevant funding calls, please email fleur.hughes@york.ac.uk

NERC CV-19 public engagement

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is inviting proposals for public engagement with environmental science which understand, address or mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. NERC intends to fund projects costing up to £10,000 each with a total budget of £50,000. Successful projects must be completed by 31 March 2021. The closing date for proposals is 16:00 Hours (BST) Wednesday 13 May, 2020 via email. Full details of the funding call.

UKRI open call

This is an open call and proposals can be in any part of the UKRI remit. For those whose proposal is at least 50% NERC, welcome to contact NERC’s healthy Environment team. A representative can talk through with a prospective applicant the proposal idea– please email atmospheric@nerc.ukri.org – NERC are always happy for the community to get in touch.

Information on the UKRI open call can be found the UKRI website.

MRC/DHSC call

For proposals around CV-19 that have a strong health element, there is also an MRC/DHSC rolling call open, details of the call can be found on the MRC website.

SAQN Collaboration Building Workshop

Applications are open for the SAQN Collaboration Building Workshop on 2-3 November 2020. This workshop will enable researchers to meet with and explore research opportunities with colleagues in STFC, and apply for SAQN funding for Scoping Studies.

Clean Air Programme

More info on Clean air can be found on the website.

NERC are anticipating opening another funding opportunity for research and innovation consortia to generate new knowledge and tools to influence policy and regulation. NERC ran scoping workshops in January and February around a UKRI Consortia call. The read-out report of this workshop will be published by NERC.

Information on the Strategic Priorities Fund.

Champions

The Clean Air Champions act as thought leaders, flag bearers, and strategy owners for the new UKRI Clean Air programme. They bring together outstanding researchers in atmospheric, medical and social science in joined-up thinking and ground-breaking solutions to help create a sound health-based policy, innovative business and trusted public information for the benefit of current and future generations.

This video provides an overview from NERC on the two previous waves and aims of the programme.

Co-ordinating Research Action: Air Quality & CV-19

SAQN are pleased to be collaborating with UKIEG and AQNUK to convene an online workshop, bringing together air quality, virology, aerosol, metrology, climate, health and built environment researchers to determine the current state of knowledge on the possible interactions between air quality and COVID-19, ambient environmental conditions indoors and out, establish evidence gaps and make recommendations for a necessary rapid response and longer term research agenda. 

We’ll be hearing from the UKRI Clean Air Champions, representatives from the health community and from Defra’s Air Quality Expert Group, who will be sharing initial findings from their recent call for evidence. 

Registration is free – for the full agenda and booking form visit the event page.

Defra Areas of Research Interest in Air Quality

Members who attended our Network Launch in January 2020 will remember the interesting presentation from John Newington, Head of Air Quality Evidence at Defra. John has kindly shared a paper about Defra’s areas of research interest, which we are pleased to share in full below.

Network members can use our new Discussion Board to raise and debate any of the topics of interest below.

Areas of Research Interest: Environmental Quality Outcome System – Air Quality and Noise

Air pollution commands significant political interest. Despite significant improvements, further reductions in emissions are needed to improve human and environmental health, ecosystem resilience and to address exceedances of statutory nitrogen dioxide limits, which are the focus of current legal challenges, and meet new emissions targets and ceilings. There is an increasing focus on the climate agenda and it is important that policies required to deliver Net Zero also deliver co-benefits for air quality and ecosystem function. Unintended consequences to air quality must be  avoided whilst incentivising decarbonisation of heat, energy and transport and reduction of agricultural emissions.

There are three broad areas of research and development need, to deliver our statutory International and domestic obligations and meet the delivery challenges we are facing in the short term (1-3 years) and medium term (4-10 years):

ARI 1: Air Quality improvements and their link to health & environmental impacts and outcomes

The ability to robustly articulate health and environmental costs and benefits of complex interventions are fundamental to the development of effective policy. Despite a reasonably strong evidence base there remain significant areas of uncertainty which require improved characterisation of the problems and their resulting impacts. These include:

  1. Differential PM toxicity: Understanding the different toxicities on different disease targets from various PM sources including secondary formation from ammonia, to enable better causal relationships to be made between source effects on health outcomes.
  2. Personal exposure and health inequalities: Improve our understanding and ability to apply it, at relevant scales across the variable exposure environments and individual experiences, including; from the indoor-outdoor interplay;  better understanding specific pollutants and mixtures; understanding whether total exposure or peak exposure drives health and ecosystem outcomes; understanding how exposure varies across the UK and whether it is linked to specific behaviours, socio economic reasons or other health inequality drivers.
  3. Non-exhaust Emissions (NEE): more detailed and accurate understanding of the NEE source apportionment across the UK and ability to interrogate historic trends and predict trends
  4. Behaviour change: understanding the scale of behaviour change needed to implement clean air policies and the mechanisms to realise those changes, at all tiers of societal organisation (individuals, business, government). Improve our understanding of the barriers to change and implications for air quality policy ambitions for people and places. 
  5. Quantifying and costing ecosystem change: understanding the air pollution effects on habitat resilience, species and ecosystem services and biodiversity targets if action is not taken to reduce emissions that lead to nitrogen deposition and acidification. What is the financial cost of ecosystem damage and remediation. How does ecosystem damage impact development aspirations and land use planning ambitions. Identify habitat change including recovery for policy evaluation.
  6. Measurement of particle characteristics across UK: New legislative requirements for measuring and reporting Ultrafine Particles, particle number (as well as mass) and Black Carbon are likely in the near future. Improved understanding of their importance and relevance to environmental and health outcomes are needed to inform policy decisions and UK measurement capability
  7. Understanding of what works: systematic evaluations of air quality interventions at all scales across the UK for all air pollutants.

ARI 2: Evidence capability transformation & innovation

The field of air quality science would significantly benefit from focused research into the development of new techniques to draw out the salient evidential messages from wider sets of information. Many of these techniques are developed in isolation where a systems approach to developing UK capability would be beneficial. Research and development of practical approaches to utilising the UK’s capabilities in this area could provide significant benefit in both better characterising the problems and delivering policy and technical solutions. For example:

  1. Better characterise current environment – improve the accuracy and performance of models used to estimate emissions and concentrations of Air Pollutants and keep up with the changes in the world around us. 
  2. Combined atmospheric science, ecosystem and health outcomes datasets: Deliver research maximising the information to be found within existing atmospheric science and health outcomes data to increase our understanding intervention options and impacts, aid decision making, reduce air pollutant emissions and improve health and environmental net gain outcomes. Develop Novel approaches and methods to combine and use these and new local, national and global datasets.
  3. Innovation in measurement and data science techniques  for evidence improvement and policy evaluation purposes to make local and national scale decision making improvements: Maximise the benefits and practical application of i) low-cost sensors ii) the ‘internet of things’ iii) use of Artificial Intelligence Techniques iv) Use of model-coupling and model systems approaches v) combining proxy datasets e.g. SMART city data vi) data merging and fusion techniques vii) EO technology and data to improve national and local emission inventories 
  4. Systems thinking: develop system thinking research and incorporate air quality into broader research areas, including urban land use planning, building design, net zero policy development and into the delivery of an enhanced system of AQ evidence infrastructure to deliver the evidence base of the future. Develop more flexible and inter-operable model systems across disciplines.
  5. Data Discovery and Re-use: Improve the accessibility and transparency of UK data sets through continued use of open data and/or data sharing and standardisation of relevant data sources, considering synergies with other domains, e.g. noise, biological, health and environmental parameters, ecosystem condition, meteorology.

ARI 3: Abatement Innovation and streamlining of implementation through planning

Air pollution is a result of the way we currently generate power, heat our homes, produce food, manufacture consumer goods and power transport. Better, cleaner technologies and changes in behaviour will tackle the pollution and reduce people’s exposure and health impact whilst protecting ecosystems. Technological Innovation and development of new ways of working across all sectors and in all environments where people are exposed will be needed. Specifically, research and development to tackle the following emerging challenges is a priority:

  1. Working practices and technology to reduce ammonia (and other pollutant) emissions from livestock production and anaerobic digestion and the subsequent digestate management, 
  2. Abatement Innovation across all sectors, specifically, domestic combustion, transport sectors, agriculture, industrial processes subject to BAT and IED and facilitation of risk assessment through integrated tools to streamline decision-making and implementation.
  3. Emissions from non-exhaust road transport emissions (brake and tyre wear)
  4. Building design and indoor product development to reduce VOC, PM and other air pollutant emissions from all sources found in UK homes. 

John Newington, December 2019

DEFRA Call For Rapid Evidence: Air Quality Impacts of COVID-19

Defra’s Air Quality Expert Group have issued a request for rapid evidence on how changes in societal and economic activity during the Covid-19 outbreak are affecting air quality in the UK. Submissions are by 30 April 2020.

Key questions are:

  • What sectors or areas of socioeconomic activity do you anticipate will show a decrease in air pollution emissions, and by how much? Are there any emissions sources or sectors which might be anticipated to lead to an increase in emissions in the next three months?
  • Can you provide estimates for how emissions and ambient concentrations of NOx, NO2, PM, O3, VOC, NH3 etc may have changed since the COVID outbreak? Where possible please provide data sets to support your response.
  • What changes do you anticipate in indoor air quality as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How might public exposure to air pollution have changed as a consequence of recent restrictions on movement?
  • How might altered emissions of air pollutants over the next three months affect UK summertime air quality?
  • Based on what is already known about air pollutants as respiratory irritants or inflammatory agents, can any insights be gained into the impact of air quality on viral infection?
  • Are there any insights that can be gained from aerosol science on possible viral transmission mechanisms?

Call details: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/news?view=259.

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.