Introducing our first Signature Research Themes

Shane Weller

It is a great pleasure to announce the University’s first three Signature Research Themes: Food Systems, Natural Resources and Environment; Future Human; and Migration and Movement. The establishment of these themes is a key part of the University’s strategy to develop further our research profile, regionally, nationally and internationally. They reflect some of the most innovative and exciting multi- and interdisciplinary research currently being undertaken at Kent. They also all take account of the fact that regional, national, and global challenges require close collaboration between academic researchers across the full range of disciplines with partners beyond academia.

The Food Systems, Natural Resources and Environment theme embraces four sub-themes (Food Systems, Health and Sustainable Consumption; Conserving Nature; Human–Animal Relations; and Environment, Society and Sustainability). Researchers working within this theme will explore topics such as: resource, land use, and biodiversity conservation; human-animal relations; waste management; ecology; urban agriculture, food planning and rural development; food-related health behaviour; improved nutrition for physical and cognitive performance and hidden hunger; sustainable coasts/fisheries; co-creation and innovation in food chains; circular economy and agri-food systems; digital shopping, shared economy and food delivery; and the environmental impact of food consumption.

The theme will engage with health agendas, focus on gaps in policy engagement and work closely with bodies such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It will also take full account of the Sustainable Development Goals such as Zero Hunger, and Good Health and Wellbeing. Linking to the University’s Growing Kent & Medway project and our Eastern ARC partner institutions, as well as with organisations such Quadram, will enable the theme to strengthen regional innovation.

The Future Human theme will support multidisciplinary collaborative research on the use of science and technology for human enhancement and its wider social implications. Research in this field will explore the opportunities, limits, challenges and risks of using science and technology for human advancement. Four sub-themes will provide a shared focus for a range of disciplines to explore the ways in which human enhancement will affect our lives in the areas of health (the Healthy Human), society (the Everyday Human), work (the Working Human) and performance (the Super Human).

The research and innovation activities embraced by Future Human will be focused on priority areas for society and industry. In its first phase, there will be a series of consensus workshops to bring together stakeholders from business and the public sector, and the establishment of an industrial and public steering committee.

The Migration and Movement theme will bring together and build on the vibrant research and teaching activities at Kent in the field of migration and movement broadly conceived. The approach will be to expand our understanding of migration and movement beyond the movement of people to include the migration of pathogens, remittances, technologies, cultures, scriptures, coffee, drugs, medicines, labour and ideas. Researchers working within this theme will develop the University’s teaching portfolio to reflect this broader conception of migration and movement, and will engage closely with a wide range of non-governmental associations. Sub-themes will include Borders, Identities, and Identifications, and there will be a launch event on Borders. In collaboration with partner institutions, the theme leads will compile an Interdisciplinary Glossary of Key Concepts. Researchers will be encouraged to develop new concepts (for example, the ‘health migrant’), and to tackle the problematic of nuance and translation.

Kent’s Signature Research Themes are designed to be dynamic and inclusive. If you would like to be involved or to ask questions, please do get in touch. You can either email themes@kent.ac.uk or go to the main Signature Research Themes webpages.

Professor Shane Weller | Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Research and Innovation

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