Our research and academic activity is grouped into six interdisciplinary academic themes; Creative and Cultural Industries; Biomedical and Clinical Sciences; Zero Carbon; Business, Economic and Social Policy; Public Services and Data Science.
Professor Clare Brindley, Associate Provost Innovation and Research, explains: “Our interdisciplinary approach brings together research experience, expertise and skills that deliver innovative solutions to important research questions and our partners’ challenges. The themes are embedded in our learning and teaching, ensuring our curriculum is informed by real-world research.”
Here are some examples of current projects and their impact.
Helping people live with chronic pain
Chronic and recurrent pain impacts over 10 million people in the UK alone. Many patients with chronic or recurrent pain experience it secondary to the main symptoms of their conditions, and in those cases the pain isn’t any less important but is often overlooked in treatment plans.
Our researchers have raised awareness of the problem, which has led to changes in care practices internationally to enable sufferers to live with their pain more effectively. These include:
- Treating the severe chronic joint pain endured by people with haemophilia
- Administering pain-relieving medications to patients with sickle cell disease
Professor James Elander led interdisciplinary studies investigating how people with haemophilia cope with the agony of chronic pain caused by joint damage resulting from recurrent joint bleeds. This included producing the first evidence about pain acceptance among people with haemophilia, plus a DVD to help affected people self-manage their pain.
The research generated wider recognition of haemophilia as a chronic pain condition and brought about improvements in practice promoted by influential US bodies such as the National Haemophilia Foundation and their Medical and Scientific Advisory Council’s Pain Initiative.
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)
Another key strand of our research focuses on the pain associated with SCD, a condition affecting the red blood cells. It addresses a trend where some SCD patients have been stigmatised as ‘drug-seeking’, with healthcare staff reluctant to prescribe strong analgesics for pain relief because of their concerns about addiction. Those concerns have been heightened by the ‘opioid epidemic’, the alarming increase in the availability of very strong synthetic opioid drugs, which has had dramatic negative consequences, including very high numbers of deaths caused by overdoses.
Providing comparisons between the UK and US, the research has explored SCD patients’ experiences of how their painful episodes were managed in hospital and how their pain was perceived and assessed by care staff. A major psychometric exercise resulted in the development of new ways to measure patients’ satisfaction with their pain treatment, and the research led to trials of new analgesic protocols for the treatment of sickle cell pain in hospital.
The findings have since been used to underpin clinical practice, staff training and evaluation of pain management in organisations with registered SCD patients, from Barts Health NHS Trust in London to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US.
In addition, they have informed:
- The Sickle Cell Society’s Standards for the Clinical Care of Adults with SCD
- US government guidelines on treating SCD patients in Medicare
- Guidance on prescribing for people with SCD in a handbook on methadone prescribing
- Materials for the Sickle Cell Open Education Resources project
- Guidance issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services on differentiating addiction from pseudo-addiction and managing chronic pain in the context of substance use disorders
Creating a business model for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has embarked on a two-year Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (MKTP) with our experts from the Centre for Supply Chain Improvement. The Trust needed to establish a business model for its commercial ecosystem services.
With environmental regulations tightening, the Wildlife Trust is seeing an increase in demand for ecosystem services such as biodiversity offsets, carbon sequestration, and nitrate and phosphate mitigations. An MKTP offers the Trust the expertise and knowledge to support its service demands through our researchers' expertise.
Dr Phil Fermor, Innovation Manager at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Our Wildlife Trust needs to capitalise on these commercial opportunities to ensure we have a strong financial footing and can achieve our main goal – which is that 33% of Derbyshire is managed for wildlife. The Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Derby will help us do this.”
Professor Jose Arturo Garza Reyes is the lead academic for the project and explains that the MKTP will benefit many people in the University: “It offers a great learning opportunity for hundreds of our undergraduate and postgraduate students, from across business management, operations and supply chain, and environmental management and sustainability courses. They will all learn a lot from the case studies, projects and guest lectures that will be generated by this project.”
The Trust is also working with academics from the College of Science and Engineering to focus on developing the technical capabilities required to assess biodiversity outcomes of target sites and develop tools for baseline biodiversity assessment and long-term site monitoring.
Ensuring greater inclusion for young people with SENDs
The University’s research has filled significant gaps in knowledge about how children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SENDs) – and their families – can be better served in the future by statutory services, school leaders and charitable organisations.
Our experts have been shaping policies and practices to improve the social and educational inclusion of children and young people with SENDs. The Department for Education (DfE) commissioned the University to complete a large-scale account of the impact of major reforms to the SEND policy by the 2014 Children and Families Act. The team investigated service users’ experience of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans which are designed for children and young people whose special educational needs require more help than would normally be provided in mainstream settings.
The findings have shed invaluable light on the effectiveness of EHC plans as a route to independent adulthood for over 230,000 young people with SENDs. They have helped strengthen elements of the DfE’s approach and have been widely used by Brinn Lamb OBE who led an enquiry into parental confidence in the SEND system.
The direct impact of the team’s expertise has been felt locally as well as nationally, as schools in the Derby area have extensively benefitted from the team’s expertise. Through a 30-month research and development project commissioned by the Derby Opportunity Area Board, the University has helped 66 mainstream schools to improve their inclusion practices for learnings with SENDs. Following the implementation of the research, the city council concluded that the positive influence on school culture had led to improved attainment levels such as a 21% rise in Year 1 pupils meeting the phonics standards.
The team was commissioned by the Book Trust to investigate how books can support social inclusion, development and wellbeing for young people with SENDs. The findings not only illustrated the importance of books to a group who may never read or write for themselves, but reinforced calls for policy makers to recognise them as relevant, literate citizens. It led to the Book Trust changing its school library packs and the team delivering training for the charity’s staff on inclusive literacy.