Institute for Social Sciences Research (ISSR) newsletter - October 30 2020

Published on 30 October 2020

Our ISSR newsletter from October 30 2020, including items on ISSR engagement, research, impact, and our Graduate community

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It's coming up to All Hallows' Eve so from all of us at #ISSR... enjoy #Hallowe'en from the comfort of your home. Be safe, and have fun!

The Centre for Scottish Culture at UoD supports studies in Scottish literature, art & history. With Hallowe'en near, Humanities Dr Allan Kennedy's new blog tells the spooky but tragic tale of the Crook of Devon witches, a group of 13 men and women accused of witchcraft in 1660s Kinross-shire.

Carrying on with the Hallowe'en theme, check out the virtual conference on 8 November 2020 - Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland.

Witches of Scotland is a campaign for justice for people accused and convicted under the Witchcraft Act 1563 - 1736.

ISSR Seminar Series

ISSR Seminar | David Poeppel

Our series continues next week as we welcome Professor David Poeppel. Once your register you will receive a confirmation email with the Teams direct link. A follow-up confirmation will be sent 24 hours prior to the event.

Monday 30 November - 3pm

We welcome Morris Altman, Morris Altman, Professor, Chair of Behavioural & Institutional Economics, & Co-operatives and Dean, Dundee Business School. He will present a talk on his book 'Why Ethical Behaviour is Good for the Economy: Towards Growth, Wellbeing and Freedom, Edward Elgar Publishers, 2020.

The importance of ethics to economics and the economy has been a long-standing concern and debate amongst scholars and public policy pundits. A key contribution of this book is to model ethical behaviour, demonstrating why ethical behaviour can have serious positive economic and wellbeing outcomes and be consistent with competitive market economies. Contrary to conventional economic theory, which has a profound effect on policy, being ethical can be an engine of economic growth and development.

This aligns with our Innovation in Methods and Data Analytics and Health and Wellbeing themes. The seminar is chaired by ISSR Co-Director and seminar lead Professor Judith Sixsmith.

Research and Impact

Human Rights Implication of the US Election

Photograph of Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump shaking hands over the North Korean / South Korean Border

Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarised Zone in June 2019. KCNA/EPA

Professor Kurt Mills, Politics and International Relations in the School of Social Sciences has recently concluded a research project in conjunction with Rodger Payne from the University of Louisville, a former ISSR Global Scholar, entitled ‘America First,’ Multilateralism, and the Human Rights Regime, which examined the effect that US President Donald Trump’s policies have had on human rights.

As part of this project he published three pieces of work entitled: America First and the human rights regime, How Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ agenda has damaged global human rights, and Justifying American exceptionalism: the Commission on Unalienable Rights undermines modern human rights. His comments below on the human rights implications of the US election flow from this research.

Next week’s US election has significant implications for the protection of human rights – both domestically and internationally. During the past four years, the Trump administration has taken many actions which undermine human rights norms and institutions.

The US State Department has set up a commission to reconceptualise human rights along the lines of what are perceived to be the intentions of the authors of the US Constitution. This entails pulling back from an expanding and progressive understanding of human rights to a focus on religious rights as the most important set of rights. This would allow individuals and religious groups to discriminate against people under the guise of religious freedom. This narrowing of the understanding of rights would reduce protections for many groups, including women and LGBT communities. As part of this agenda, Trump has appointed to the Supreme Court judges who have, or are likely to, scale back many hard won rights over the decades, including abortion and same-sex marriage. The most recent appointment to the Court, Amy Coney Barrett, seems likely to solidify an extreme conservative majority which will chip away at or completely erase many of these rights.

President Trump has praised authoritarian leaders around the world, and has acted in authoritarian ways himself domestically. The former condones and empowers anti-democratic leaders internationally, and the latter undermines democracy and the rule of law at home. Four more years of a Trump administration will solidify these anti-democratic tendencies.

Trump has undermined what had been the most generous (if still problematic) refugee resettlement programme in the world, drastically reducing the number of refugees the US accepts for resettlement. More broadly he has attacked and vilified refugees and other immigrants, engaging in such abhorrent practices as family separation at the border and putting children in cages. Anti-immigrant practices look set to expand under a second Trump administration.

Trump has advocated the use of torture, and while it is unclear whether such a practice has actually been used over the last four years, it remains a possibility. And further, such a public stance send a message to other countries that it is OK to torture.

The Trump administration has attacked and sought to undermine key global human rights institutions, such as the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court. Such attempts to undermine the global institutional fabric of human rights protection, however imperfect it may be, also look set to continue under a second Trump administration.

All of these actions – and many more – have undermined human rights domestically and internationally, and have undermined the US’ standing in the world and its claim – however problematic – to be the ‘leader of the free world.’ A second Trump administration would accelerate these trends, with devastating consequences for the rule of law and protection of human rights around the world and the US’ global standing.

America First and the human rights regime

How Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ agenda has damaged global human rights

Justifying American exceptionalism: the Commission on Unalienable Rights undermines modern human rights

Lightning Talks Forum – new staff with Q & A’ held on 21 October.

Many thanks to all who joined the ISSR seminar. The seminar was well received and gave a flavour of the wide variety of research going on across our member Schools. For those who could not attend, a recording is available to watch in the ISSR teams channel. See below, a few more abstracts taken from the lightning talks.

Get in touch if you are trouble accessing the link Videos - Seminars and Panels section

Social Cognition Across the Lifespan

Lizzie Bradford, Psychology, Social Sciences

Social cognition plays a critical role in our daily lives. Social cognition refers to the ability to compute and attribute mental states (e.g., beliefs, desires, knowledge) to other people, allowing successful interactions to occur.

My research focuses on identifying the cognitive basis of social cognition, across different contexts: I examine how social cognitive abilities develop and are engaged across the lifespan, from infancy through to older adulthood, as well as examining how these social cognitive abilities may vary across cultures. For instance, do individuals from collectivist cultures show enhanced social cognitive abilities when compared to individuals from individualist cultures? Additionally, my research looks at how variations in social cognitive abilities may in turn influence the general well-being of individuals. The talk will outline some of the key results relating to ageing effects in social cognitive abilities, and the implications of these results for everyday functioning.

Using Satellite Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in Uganda

Roeland Hemsteede, Geography and Environmental Sciences - Social Sciences

Trafficking in Persons. With an estimated 40 million+ people in modern slavery, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals have set the ambitious target of eradicating this practice by 2030. This requires innovative approaches that can help stakeholders such as governments, NGOs, and transnational organisations to direct scarce resources effectively. Using satellite technology to feed into a ‘Modern Anti-trafficking Support System’ can help to rapidly identify potential sites where trafficking in persons takes place and do so in a resource-efficient manner. Stakeholders such as law enforcement can then respond much more effectively.

For this to work, it is essential that high-quality data is fed into the system and that this technical solution is tailored to the needs and capacities of those stakeholders who will utilise it. The University of Dundee is working with partners in the UK and Uganda to engage stakeholders, understand their user requirements, and explore what data sources can be leveraged in order to develop a Modern Anti-trafficking Support System.

Publishing News

How to Become a Global Actor: Scotland's International Legal Personality

Dr Jacques Hartmann published in Edinburgh Law Review

Transformative Change: Educational and Life Transitions (TCELT) most recent blog is available to view.

TCELT's more recent blog is available to view about transitions triggered by COVID-19 and the importance of a collective approach to meet unexpected challenges. “Death itself is intrinsically pandemic to the human condition”.

Graduate Community

The Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) poster parade event.

Tharin Phenwan, a third year PhD student at the School of Health Sciences, University of Dundee talks to us about his research and recent entry to the above poster competition. 'My research is called “ACP initiation and transformation in home-dwelling people with dementia”: I want to understand more about what prompt people with dementia to talk about their future plans, when they talk about it and with whom. My work will ensure that people living with dementia have the best information to make well-informed choices about their future care.

Originally, I intended to conduct face-to-face interviews with people with dementia. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions, I had to change my plan to online interviews instead. Conducting online interviews with people with dementia pose many additional challenges, compared to traditional methods but it is doable and practical in the current situation where we have to shift the “filed work” online. I have conducted a rapid review and presented my finding that are related to technical, ethical and practical issues around collecting data online in people with dementia as a part of The Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) poster parade event.

This virtual poster exhibition is a part of the SPPC autumn conference that aims to: showcase new and innovative work from across Scotland and beyond; form an integral part of networking and best practice sharing and learning through this annual conference. Students and staff from the university can also vote for the best poster. More details can be found from the SPPC website and under the hashtag #SPPCPosterParade'.

PhD Lightning Talks Forum - Call for Speakers

A reminder that we are looking for speakers for the PhD Lightning Talks Forum taking place on 18 November. It is hoped that we can fill a few more slots so if you have joined the PhD programme between July 2019 and July 2020, we invite you to participate.

If you would like to talk briefly about your research, please contact Donna.

When you are a confirmed speaker I will compile a list and write out to you again soon with information on the running order. The lightning talks are a steady run of presenters each talking for 5 mins on MS Teams. If you opt to use slides too then a maximum of 3 slides for your five min talk and you can upload and share these yourself on teams. All the tech stuff can be arranged nearer the time.

To support and encourage your colleagues please register to attend.

ISSR Engagement

Share your ideas

If you would to be featured in the ISSR newsletter please send any items to me. This could be any staff/RPG articles of funding successes with a social science interest, COVID-19 research, awards & recognition, progress on existing work. All news welcome!

(100-250 words will be fine – excluding links, one line intro about yourself, title and image by no later than 11am Friday). *Do not include hyperlinks. Heading/text in full and separate full link in your content please.

Access support and facilitation from ISSR.

I am available on Teams on Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm so please get in touch if you have an idea or project that you would like support in promoting and/or help facilitating with.

Don't forget to join the ISSR community through Teams to access updates on research related activities. Simply click on 'create or join team' and enter the code e2wv1jf. I can help support, facilitate and arrange online events. Please contact Donna on Teams for a chat and find out how ISSR can support you.

If you know anyone who would like to receive information please ask them to contact ISSR to be added to the distribution list.


Donna Hendry

Research and Knowledge Exchange Officer

+44 (0)1382 388173
Story category Public interest