Research excellence at the University of Kent

School of Mathematics and Actuarial Sciences

The Research Excellence Framework also assesses the impact that the research has outside academia. The case studies below are a selection of the research submitted by the School of Mathematics and Actuarial Science.

Statistical tools for ecologists

Dr Takis Besbeas, Dr Stephen Freeman, Dr Gututzeta Guillera- Arroita, Professor Byron Morgan, Professor Martin Ridout

Reliable data is essential for the conservation of wild animal populations and the preservation of biodiversity. Statistical ecology research at Kent has allowed ecologists to collect higher-quality data in more efficient ways and has given them access to new methods for data analysis.

The use of these tools is now standard practice in ecology projects around the world. For example, the methods were used to gain an improved understanding of the decline of British farmland birds, such as the lapwing, the house sparrow and the song thrush, which has been used to underpin conservation plans. They also formed a key element of the analysis of data from tiger surveys, supporting the Indonesian Government’s National Tiger Recovery Plan.


Detecting growth hormone misuse

Dr Eryl Bassett

Growth hormone administration can enhance athletic performance, but it can also have serious medical side effects and has been banned in sport for many years. However, its misuse is difficult to detect since the substance occurs naturally in the body in varying degrees and is quickly eliminated.

Statistical work at Kent, led by Eryl Bassett, helped to develop a reliable test for growth hormone misuse. The team developing the ‘biomarker’ test included medical scientists from St Thomas’ Hospital, London and the University of Southampton, and assay specialists from King’s College London. With support from authorities across the world, including the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the test was used for the first time in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Statistical methods of calibration

Professor Jim Griffin, Professor Stephen Walker, Dr Xue Wang, Dr Maria Kalli

Statisticians at Kent have come up with a new way to calibrate industrial measuring instruments. These instruments – typically flow meters and density meters – need to be extremely precise and this is reliant on accurate calibration, often an expensive and time-consuming process.

The new method of calibration developed at Kent makes it possible to reduce the number of test runs and increase capacity by up to 50%. It achieves these gains using Bayesian methodology to incorporate data from previous calibrations. A further benefit is that any anomalies in the data are less influential because the Bayesian approach ‘borrows strength’ from the historical data. This reduces the likelihood that a meter will need to be recalibrated.

Digital library

Public access to mathematical functions

Professor Peter Clarkson

The Digital Library of Mathematical Functions (DLMF) provides detailed information about mathematical functions for engineers, scientists and the general public. Published online (freely available) and as a book by Cambridge University Press, it plays a vital role in supporting the development of new technologies.

The project was funded by the US National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) and includes a chapter by Peter Clarkson that is based on research at Kent. Clarkson’s chapter is on a topic of increasing importance, Painlevé Transcendents, relevant to numerous mathematical and physical phenomena.

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Last Updated: 11/02/2015

Banner photo (c) Simon Tollington, DICE