Published on:

8th Nov 2023

Research for All: The "How to Fix..." podcast offers actionable solutions.

🎧 Bonus Episode! 📢 

Recently Ged Hall had the pleasure of talking to Kersti Mitchell, External Communications and Campaigns Manager, and Dr Jim McQuaid, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Composition, about the University of Leeds's new podcast “How to fix …”

It was an insightful conversation that explored the importance of research culture and how to make academic content accessible to a wider audience. 

🔍 Here are 3 key takeaways from the episode: 

1️⃣ Collaborative Approach: Research culture thrives on collaboration and teamwork. By bringing together academics from various disciplines, we can address complex issues like air pollution, cost of healthy food and violence towards women more effectively. 

2️⃣ Accessible Research: We discussed the need to make research more accessible to the general public. Through the How to Fix… podcast, we aim to empower listeners with practical advice and insights from experts, like Dr. Jim McQuaid, who shared valuable tips on reducing pollution and improving indoor air quality. 

3️⃣ Impactful Engagement: The success of the podcast can be measured by various indicators, such as other universities taking notice, policymakers listening, and engagement from students and the general public. We also discussed using metrics to understand our audience, including gender and age breakdowns, as well as social media engagement. 

How are you making your research accessible and would a podcast be the way to go? We’d love to hear your thoughts

Kersti and Jim mentioned a number of things in the interview that may be of interest:

You can follow Kersti and Jim on X (formerly Twitter) at @kerstimitchell and @jimmcquaid respectively.

All of our episodes can be accessed via the following playlists: 

Follow us on twitter: @ResDevLeeds (new episodes are announced here), @OpenResLeeds, @ResCultureLeeds  

Connect to us on LinkedIn: @ResearchUncoveredPodcast (new episodes are announced here) 

Leeds Research Culture links: 

If you would like to contribute to a podcast episode get in touch:


Welcome to the Research Culture Uncovered podcast, where in every episode we explore what is research culture and what should it be. You'll hear thoughts and opinions from a range of contributors to help you change research culture into what you want it to be.


Hi, this is Ged Hall. And for those of you don't know me, I'm an Academic Development Consultant at the University of Leeds. My specialism is research impact and all of the episodes that relate to that, you can find through a playlist, which I'll put in the show notes. Today, I'm joined by Kersti Mitchell, External Communication Communications and Campaigns Manager. That's really hard to say Kersti, you need a different job title.


It is a bit of a mouthful isn't it Ged, sorry about that. I thought coped with that admirably.


And Dr Jim McQuaid, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Composition. And I'm talking to both of them today about the University's new podcast series called "How to Fix..."

But listeners, as you know, Before we dive in and understand a little bit about the topic, we'd like to understand a little bit about the people because it's people who generate research culture, which is what this podcast is all about. So, Kersti, I had a look at your LinkedIn profile and there's quite an extensive history of being a journalist, a broadcast journalist, both on TV and radio.

So I was really, I guess you. probably get asked this question all the time, but what was the favourite story you covered in all that time? And, uh, is there a blooper you're happy to share with us?


So, a favourite story, that, that's a tricky one because unfortunately in my sort of 30 plus years as a journalist, most of the stories that I covered were quite grim.

and revolved around fires or murders, um, that kind of thing. So favourite is a difficult, um, it's a difficult one to tackle. I've done some strange things. So I seem to veer, um, from doing grim stories one day to doing stories about skateboarding dogs or something similar the next day. So, uh, Yeah. So some of the really weird things that I've done, um, for television, uh, have been, well, I did the world's first indoor bungee jump, for Look North at Magna, you know, the steel centre in Rotherham.

Um, it was very, very, very, very high up and I had to sort of jump into this dry ice and there was an awful lot of screaming, uh, none of which was edited out. Um, so that, that was interesting. I've done, I've done aerobatics, um, in a little biplane, for Look North as well. Um, and the bit that you didn't see off camera afterwards was the bit where I was very sick.

And, uh, speaking of feeling sick, the other, one of the other things that sticks in my mind was, was having to eat tripe also. On television. Um, definitely not in the favourite category, but the story I think that I was involved with, which had the most sort of impact and which has stuck with me even to this day, is a programme that I produced.

Because having been a reporter and onscreen reporter, I decided I wanted to have a go at producing. Um, one of the last things I did was produce. Quite a hard hitting, um, episode of Look North about child sexual exploitation in Huddersfield. Um, and, you know, we spoke to relatives of some of the victims and yeah, it was, um, it, it was, it was, uh, pretty, pretty, uh, grueling.

But, but it was the story that very much needed to be told, and it had been something that had been going on for decades and then, then a court case happened. And people were found guilty and we were able to, to tell the story. So that's the one that sticks with me, I think, and that the team, um, of which I was a part.

Um, we were lucky enough to get a Royal Television Society Award for that one. So that's the one that sticks with me, but it's definitely not in the favourite category. It's perhaps the one, perhaps the one that had the most impact.


Yeah. Yeah. That's, uh, that's really important to know, isn't it? That the stories are the important thing and, and you get out of the way, but I just wanted to congratulate you on not swearing when you were, uh, when you were bungee jumping, because yeah, I think, I think I would be, um, with my head for heights, which is non existent.

Jim's is very different. He does all, used to do a lot of climbing. Didn't you, Jim?


I did yeah,


but mine, mine would definitely be generating a lot of swear words that would need to, need to be taken out. Um, so Jim, um, there's quite a few stories that, uh, that I could tell about our undergraduate days together, but shall we leave that to the hidden days of the pre social media age?


That's probably a sensible thing. Thank you for that consideration.


Yes. Well,

I think you'd probably get me back if, uh, if I did. Dropped something you weren't happy with, um, but I know after your degree, you did a lot of work in the music and events industry, not least working with Utah Saints. So is there a favourite story that's also clean that you can tell us from that, uh, from that time?


There are a number of different, uh, I did it for two years after I, uh, graduated and, um, there's, there's, there's a range of them, some of which are, uh, uh, more interesting, uh, than others. But, um, I, we, uh, quite early on, we toured with, uh, I toured America with the band called The Shamen. It was the first time I'd actually been on an aeroplane when I got asked if I wanted to go to New York.

So, um, and after a few dates Um, uh, going around, uh, the U. S., um, The Shamen had a, a, a wardrobe, um, uh, manager, uh, Louise, and it was af just after, uh, Ebeneezer Goode, if people remember that song, was, uh, number one in the charts, uh, a very infamous, uh, record, um, and, um, in the video, there was a character called Ebeneezer Goode.

Um, but there, Louise came up to me and said, um, asked me if I fancied being Ebeneezer Goode. So this was actually putting a cape and top hat on and coming on stage for the last, uh, for the song. Um, and I would, uh, distribute, uh, sweets and tricks and things like that into the crowd, uh, as the lyrics of the song suggested.

So, um, and that's the, probably the most bizarre thing. It means, uh, very little to the students that I teach now. Um, so I tell them to ask their parents if they've heard of The Shamen and Ebeneezer Goode. Um, but that's probably, and I, and I ended up, um, uh, featuring The Face Magazine. Um, so that, that was a, a bit of a claim to fame because it doesn't exist now, but it was a very, uh, fashionable.

It was a hip magazine in them days, I guess you'd call it, but, uh, and, uh, they sent me a photograph. So I've got a photograph of myself dressed as this, uh, dressed up as Ebeneezer Goode. I'm not really recognizable, uh, unless you actually know me quite well. And this is, there is, there is no video evidence of this that I'm aware of.

So this does not exist on social media. So I have a photograph to actually prove it. So, but, uh, yes, that was, that was probably the, uh, the most interesting one thing that I got asked to do.


The absolute bliss of the period before smartphones, isn't it? There's no video evidence of, uh, of things going on.

Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you both for that. Um, so Jim, you were one of the. panelists on the first episode of the podcast. And I'm going to come to you to have a chat about that in a minute. So the first episode dropped on the 3rd of October and, um, and we're four in, aren't we? One, one actually released today.

Uh, and that first episode was How do We Clean up Our Air? But Kersti, Jim told me when I, when I found out about, uh, the podcast that, uh, the idea would come from kind of your direction. So could you tell us. uh, how the kind of idea came about and, and why?


Yeah, so I work for a team which is called the External, um, Communications and Campaigns team.

Um, we're sort of one arm of, um, what used to be known as the media relations team. And our job is to, to shout loud about the research that's going on, um, in the university. Um, and. do that via as many different channels and outlets and reach as many people as, as, as we can. Um, and we're always looking for any ways to do this.

And, um, I came from a background in broadcasting as we just talked about. And, um, it struck me that Although there were lots of little sort of ad hoc podcasts going on within various faculties at the university that there wasn't really one that was aimed more at an external and general audience. And I only joined the university a year ago, but it didn't take me long to realise that.

You know, there was some incredible things going on and, um, not only that, but it began to struck me, uh, strike me after, after sort of a month or two that there were sort of various researchers, you know, like Jim, um, in, in different faculties that were all working towards a common goal. Um, and I thought it would be really good to try and showcase that and to bring some of these people together to talk about those common goals and how their sort of individual efforts might help to solve some of the issues that they were tackling.

Um, so I went to my boss and said, please, can I have some money? And , he said, yes. And, um, and that's how it started. And then I had to sort of sit down and think, well, what are the themes that we want to talk about? What are the, what are the huge issues that we are facing as a society? Um, that I know that we are doing great research on, and which would also resonate with a, with a general audience.

And it sort of, it went from there really and there were lots of emails flying to and fro. And, you know, where I sort of would sort of approach one academic and say, I know you're doing work in this area. What do you feel about doing this? And, you know, do you think that this other person might be a good fit for it as well?

Or can you think of any other person who might be a good fit? And so sort of between us, I would start the ball rolling and we would have these sort of online conversations. Um, and then people like Jim would say, ah, yes, but what about this person? And it probably hadn't occurred to me. And that's how it came together.


And in terms of, uh, the topics. How did you decide to kind of zone in because the university has a incredibly wide range of research going on. You know, we often, we often talk about it internally. We actually offer a wider range of programmes at undergraduate level than the Oxfords and Cambridges of this world.

So yeah, how did you, how did you kind of narrow down to kind of decide on the, on those first eight for this season?


Well, some of it, um, was around, you know, thinking about the university's objectives, and, um, some of it was obvious, because, you know, climate change, net zero, um, obviously we have to talk about that.

Some of it was more organic, um, so the one about violence against women and girls, that really came about because I had been involved in a big campaign with Anna Barker and her team in the School of Law, um, around her research into, um, safety in parks for women and girls. Um, so I was already working on that and thought, well, this would actually be a really good subject, um, for this.

And I was aware of what Sam Lewis was doing also in the School of Law, um, around domestic abuse and, and particularly domestic abuse in more rural areas. And then it suddenly occurred to me that it might be nice to, to reach out to Alison Lowe, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. And she was thrilled to take part, because if you listen, you'll hear that she's not only speaking from her own lived experience, but she, she can tell us about the policies that are either already in train here in West Yorkshire, or that she and Tracey Brabin are planning to roll out in the very near future.

So, It was kind of, it came together like that. Um, it was a number of different factors. That, that, you know, that arrived where we, you know, before we arrived at the final seven, actually.


Yeah. Sure. Seven. Oh, there's seven. I thought there was going to be eight.




Okay. That's good. Good clarity. I'll, I'll, I'll take it out of my diary for that final eighth.

Um, Jim, you've done a load of media work over the, over the years. You've been an academic after your Utah Saints period. So, um, I just wondered what, uh, what you were hoping to achieve out of being part of this, uh, this, this particular episode, and you were one of a panel of three, uh, talking about, uh, fixing air quality and, and, uh, and cleaning up air.


Yeah, so when the Kersti got in touch, you know, I was, uh, you know, very keen to be involved and actually draw from other people that we have on campus. So, uh, my colleagues, uh, James Tate in the Institute for Transport Studies, uh, which is in the same faculty as my school, which is Earth and Environment.

And also Cath Noakes, who's in Civil Engineering, a different faculty. Um, so, uh, because we have, uh, different areas of expertise. Um, and it all because because air quality is a or air pollution is a very complex topic. Now, if you talk to any academic, they are going to say that whatever they do, no matter what it is, is very, very complex, but to tackle air pollution or air quality.

truly does require a multidisciplinary approach to it. So, um, from Cath's perspective, she looks at most of her work is on indoor air. Uh, and most people think about, you know, don't realize that we spend on average, the average person spends between 80 and 90 percent of their time inside. So indoor air is very important and, uh, Chris Whitty's, uh, the Chief Medical Officer, uh, his annual report last year was about air quality and, um, included a section, a chapter on, uh, indoor air quality.

His, his book was, his report was, uh, air quality. Uh, both indoor and outdoor, um, so we have to think about ventilation, is, is, is outside air, is it more polluted, less polluted, things like that. When we talk about air quality, we're not just talking about, um, things out the back of vehicles, we're also talking about, um, people having candles, air fresheners, and things like that, but also mould, so damp.

Will impact air quality. And we saw that tragic story of the two year old last year who, who, who, who sadly passed away due to the damp conditions in his house. Um, but there's also also things about traffic. Uh, the, the, the, the popularity of domestic burning or secondary heating is a significant source of pollution.

So, and that, that's showing that, you know, that's changed. In recent times, as people have, uh, you know, moved the aspirational, uh, desire for people to have, uh, wood burners, log burners in their house, um, the changing types of traffic we have, but if you go to an electric vehicle, an electric vehicle still has brake pads, brake pads, when applied, produce particulate materials.

That's not going away. Um, vehicles have tyres, whether they're an internal combustion engine or, uh, an electric system. So the tyres still produce particles. So, and, you know, it just illustrates the complexity, uh, of this. So, um, and certainly in Leeds, we have a lot of people coming in from all the different areas to talk to each other.

So we, um, We, we, we talk together quite often and there's been a number of, uh, quite large proposals have been put in from across, uh, the university. And then, you know, the, the desire to, you know, be engaged in a podcast was, um, to make a lot of this a lot more accessible to people. So, you know, research output traditionally is judged on papers in, uh, esteemed learned publications.

Um, but the readership of that is very, very small. So, uh, and generally you write a paper and you, you will know a fair few of the people who read it. But when it comes to topics like air pollution, you know, the people, the important, to me, you know, the most important people to understand about air pollution.

Are the public and how they can, how they can, uh, they can tackle it themselves. Can they tackle it themselves, um, about supporting, um, why clean air zones are good things. The ULEZ (Ultra Low Emmissions Zone - for vehicles) , for example, very controversial, uh, you know, in, in London, but actually illustrating just how many people die or their health is deteriorated through air quality.

Um, you know, in the UK, a lot of people will say, you know, we've got, we've got to think about, you know, elsewhere, uh, around the world that's producing a lot of pollution. But if we see ourselves as, uh, leaders, you know, we should be, you know, telling people, uh, some, uh, you know, home truths about the air quality.

And air quality. also affects people locally. So, um, I'm involved in a project in Bradford, uh, as part of the, the Born in Bradford cohort study, and they've been following, um, over 13, 000 children since they were born, tracking their health. Uh, their diets and things like that, just to see how they've been, you know, as they grow up and they've, they've recently the first cohort, then I've gone into secondary school, um, but they did a study, uh, it's, it's a few years ago now, but, um, they, they came to the, the results were the.

fact that of a third of primary school asthma cases in Bradford were caused by air pollution. So when you actually start saying that to teachers, to parents, they start to sit up and listen that actually they are contribution, contributing to the air quality and thus the health of their own children. So when we were at school, certainly when I was at school, someone with asthma was a bit of a novelty.

Now, now, you know, not trying to. Um, you know, uh, you know, asthma's a serious disease, but there weren't many people. Now, you know, I suspect there's not a class in the country in any school across the country where there are not at least one case of asthma. You know, this is increasing. This is on the increase now.

And, you know, we, we have the power to actually inform people to turn our scientific data into something that's consumable accessible to the general public, not to talk about concentrations in, I would talk about concentrations in micrograms per cubic metre, which means, you know, we did. Uh, a degree together, Ged.

So, you know, you're nodding your head, uh, but to the, to most people that means absolutely nothing. But if you take a map and you show levels of pollution, you turn it into smiley faces and gas masks, you know, people start to sit up and listen and then, and they know what that means. So, and giving people the ability that they can control, especially in the domestic environment, they can control the air that they're breathing.

I think is a, you know, we, we, we, we, we are, you know, it's, we, we, we, we should be telling people this and not just keeping it, uh, in the realms of these peer reviewed journals, but actually getting out and telling people in podcasts, you know, talking to people, going into, I talk to schools and things like that, just to get the message across to people, uh, in a, in a.

Format that they can understand. So people talk about it on the bus, in the pub, at the sports centre, these sorts of things, so they can understand it.


Yeah, I love the, in the episodes I've listened to, especially, especially yours, Jim, um, you know, all the really easily actionable, um, steps that people can take.

So it isn't relying on the system to change or the government to implement something. It's actually something I can change from today going forward.


That was one of, that was one of my goals, really. It's almost, we have a saying in the media industry that it's kind of news you can use. Well, it wasn't news, but it's kind of almost views you can use or research you can use.

So that, that was what was great about the academics, like Jim and James and Cath, you know, in that one, you know, there was real practical advice that people could take away. It made me think there was something, I think it was James that said it in the one about air quality, about doing short journeys in your car.

And it hadn't occurred to me that actually that's one of the worst things that you can do because, uh, you know, your engine, I can't remember how you put it. I'm sure you would put it much better, Jim. But, you know, basically, the filters and the things that sort of stop all the pollutants going into into the atmosphere are just not working properly.

So if you just sort of nip down the road to. pick up, I don't know, half a pound of sausages or whatever from your local shop and you go in your car, that's one of the worst things that you can do. And I've actually now made a conscious effort to, you know, to not do that, but it hadn't occurred to me before.

Um, so that's one of the great things about it. And I think throughout the series, our researchers have done an excellent job. in explaining what, what can be really complex research in a very accessible way. And, you know, I really do applaud them for that because that was a big ask of them.


Absolutely. Um, you, you mentioned, uh, one of the things that Jim, you made a really eloquent, um, Argument for it needed all three of you and probably even more people's expertise to kind of really solve the issue with, uh, with the air that we breathe.

Um, how important was it to kind of delve into the kind of teamwork aspects of, uh, of the different research going on and kind of have those different voices? Kersti, I'll come to you and then Jim, if there's anything you want to say in addition.


Well, it was really important because I, I wanted to showcase how our researchers are working together towards common goals.

Um, and they're not just sort of sitting, you know, in their labs on their own, um, trying to do their work single handed because it can't be done, not when you're dealing with something as complex as air quality or getting to net zero, or, um, trying to find some way. Some kind of cure for cancer, or at least improving the outcomes of people with cancer.

Um, one person can't do that alone. And, um, so it was important to show how, how our academics are working together. Um, that was one of the key messages that I wanted to get out there. That there are these sort of, um, these common themes that, um, that everybody's working towards. and it is interdisciplinary and it does involve different schools and different faculties.

Um, so yeah, and I, I think, um, I think we've definitely done



Yeah. Jim, any thoughts on that one for you?


Yeah, so, I mean, it's, it's, it's interesting because thinking back to the original conversation, um, that, uh, I had with Kersti, so, um, there was, there was myself and James, but we didn't want to complicate it by having two people with the same name, um, but I actually suggested Cath initially, and I think because, you know, Kersti was a little bit, Uh, uh, dubious about it because she was actually thinking about Cath for an indoor air quality ventilation, uh, article, because there are people think about them being a lot more separate because you've got the indoor ventilation, um, in particularly with COVID, you know, Cath did masses and masses of work.


I wanted to think about Cath for a fuel poverty one, Jim, that's what it was, and actually she could have sat in on either of those panels, I think, but yeah.


So, but I said, well, if you're talking about air quality, indoor and outdoor air quality are the same thing, you shouldn't really separate them. Um, and I, I, I'm actually part of the, uh, Leeds City Council air quality and human health panel, and they had the same question about, should we have another panel for indoor air?

And I said, no, it should be the same people sitting, because if you, you're predominantly going to get the same people sitting in the room. So why not just tie them together? And it's interesting what you said about, uh, Cath and, um, the fuel poverty, because, uh, and this is the way, this is the way conversations and networking happens.

So, on the corridor in, uh, Earth and Environment, I have a colleague in our Sustainable Research Institute, uh, Lucie Middlemiss, and she looks at fuel poverty. Um, and for years now, um, when she comes in in the morning, she'd walk past my office, she'd wave, we'd come in, we'd have a conversation. And we'd always say it'd be really good to get a project together because they are linked.

You know, there are, there is some very interesting links there. But we have just had a PhD student starting on this exact subject. And the other supervisor is Cath Noakes. So, uh, so there's this, you can, you can see there's this, there's this, you know, wide selection of people across campus, but. You know what they bring together by actually talking to each other and that sort of thing is huge.

I'm actually and because when I'm measuring the instruments we use to measure air quality are measuring aerosols. So I've done a couple of projects directly related to COVID. With Cath looking at, you know, aerosols from masks, you know, how effective are, are, are masks. And also another one, um, using a technology called, um, uh, far UV.

This is ultraviolet light at a specific wavelength. Um, so for anybody out there, 222 nanometers. So this is, this is quite high energy, ultraviolet light, but it kills microbes. So you can see the obvious uses for that. However, it does, uh, it does lead to the formation of ozone in the atmosphere, which high levels of which are, are not, you know, are not, uh, healthy.

But in some environments where killing microbes is very important, such as a hospital setting, this might be something that's put in place. So again, this is, these are just conversations that we have in passing. You know, I don't suppose you know anybody who can measure ozone, said Cath, and I said, well, I can.

So there's, there's, there's all these sorts of things, you know, coming together and that's just by the network of, you know, what we kick off by just knowing each other in these, uh, just having conversations, random, seemingly random conversations in, uh, in corridors and things like that. So it just shows the, you know, how things are so interconnected and it's sometimes very difficult to split them out.

Into two different podcasts and when I, when I said, um, I didn't have to make a very, uh, hard pitch to, uh, Kersti to actually combine myself, James and Cath, you know, as soon as I said it, it was like that, that, that's, that's an obvious, obvious thing to do because it brings across and also brings across, uh, from different faculties.

So it's not just people in the same faculty, but, you know. You know, engineers, chemists and transport people, uh, you know, talking together and ultimately after the same, you know, goal of just informing people.


Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Um, and you mentioned a little earlier the accessibility, you know, there was an You know, a question for me, we're, we're running a podcast here.

Kersti, you mentioned there's lots of podcasts kind of hosted by the university, but not one kind of almost central, um, central one that kind of gives a big presence to the university. So, so I was just interested in terms of that accessibility angle. Can you say about a little bit more about how.

important that is, uh, to the two of you. Um, and I guess one thing that, that is always playing on my mind being a research impact evaluation geek is, okay, if it's really accessible, sometimes that can make it very difficult to assess. the effect it's having, so how many people might have taken up those, those actions, those small steps that they can change about their behavior.

Um, so Kersti, I'll come, I'll come to you, um, in terms of how you were thinking around that and, and in terms of the accessibility, uh, and that evaluation piece.


So yeah, when I started on this journey, I had to think. quite hard about who, um, who was going to be aimed at. Um, really I kind of wanted to, to, to aim the podcast at anybody and everybody.

Um, you, you can't really do that. You need to have some notion of which audiences, um, you want to listen. So I, I was thinking along the lines of what other academics, I was thinking about other higher education institutions. Only today, um, we've had a, we've had a great, um, sort of repost and quote tweet from the Russell Group, um (The Russell Group represents 24 research-intensive UK universities.) , saying if you're looking for your next podcast, listen to this one.

Uh, that being how to fix, which is great because, um, hopefully other higher education institutions, other Russell Group universities will, will now have a look at what we're doing and might want to follow suit. And that, you know, when I drew up my kind of plan of, you know, what would success look like, that was one of the indicators.

Um, so if other universities start to look at what we're doing and how we're doing it, that would be great. But also, you know, I wanted to, to try and get it under the noses or, or get some of the decision makers, uh, the policy makers to listen as well. So I've been working with Policy Leeds, and they've been, um, sharing the podcast and sharing some of the policy takeaways from those podcasts with, um, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, with Leeds City Council, with Bradford Council.

Obviously, some of the points that came through in Jim's podcast are very relevant to all three of those organisations, but I've been sort of, um, You know, working away behind the scenes as well and trying to get it under the noses of some of our MPs as well. Some of the MPs who sit on, um, you know, relevant All Party Parliamentary Groups or Select Committees.

Um, but as well as that, I thought, well, it would be useful for students. Uh, so some of your students, Jim, maybe some of the Cath's students, some of the PhD students that you were talking about, some of the undergrads. Um, in Earth and Environment or in EPS (Engineering and Physical Sciences Faculty) , um, would be interested to hear the sort of, um, you know, how, you know, the different approaches are coming together to tackle some of these subjects.

But then, but then just, you know, the average person on the street as well. So, as I mentioned before, you know, some of the, some of those practical steps that people can take. So, how will we measure that? So, obviously, you know, I'll have the metrics. We'll have the metrics from, um, the podcast, uh, the people who are hosting the podcast, it's Podmasters, um, and they can give us some indicators about, um, uh, the gender of the people who are listening and, you know, the ages, the people who are listening and they can break it down to the individual episodes.

Um, social media is a great, great way of measuring, um, you know, how many people are engaging and the kinds of people that are engaging. So with the violence against women and girls one, well, uh, you know, we've, we've had engagement on social media from, from the Mayor, Tracy Brabin, from the Deputy Mayor. Um, yeah, the list goes on really.

So those are just some of the metrics that, that we'll be using to, to measure success. Um, in a, in a way, this podcast is, is, is, is another indicator as well. The fact that you're interested in how we went about this, I think shows that, you know, it has piqued the interest of lots of different people.


Yeah, absolutely.

Jim, I'll, I'll come to you. I know you wanted to come in on accessibility and maybe how to evaluate too.


So, um, yeah, so, um, I, I, I, when talking to people, I am a, uh, uh, a huge fan of analogies. So I, just to point things out, so they, because what I just in, you know, I want it in the teaching, but actually when you're talking to someone who's not an expert on the subject, for a light bulb moment, those sorts of things.

So, you know, things that when you say it to people, they go, Oh, that's obvious, isn't it? So, If you're pushing a pram at the side of the road, push the pram away from the actual carriageway, because... The babies, the prams are, you know, badly designed because they're the same height as exhausts. So if you move them away, that small distance does reduce the concentration quite significantly.

Um, if you're walking at the side of a road, for example, um, think about, and it's windy, think about which side of the road you walk on. Because if you walk with the wind at your side and the traffic. Beyond you, downwind of you, that wind's not blowing the pollution at you. And counter to that, so this is getting a little bit more technical, but when you actually explain people it makes a little bit of sense.

The concept of a, in a, in a busy, in a busy city centre where you've got high buildings, either side of a carriageway, they're referred to as a street canyon. So if you think about the wind blowing, so which side of the road do you walk on, if you think about the wind, if it's, if it's coming from the right hand side, and it blows, it'll circulate down, and it'll come down the left hand side, if you like, of the street canyon, and then blow across the road, and then back up.

So you get this circulation. So actually, if you, if the wind's blowing from the right hand side, you want to be on the opposite side of the road because the circulation, it doubles back on itself. So, it's very difficult to do, uh, without some visuals. But, you know, quite often it's just grab a pen and paper and people go, oh, right.

You get this sort of eddy, eddy forming and things like that. And if you go to a road crossing, you press the button, step back, because you're suddenly increasing the distance and it's very simple to do, you know, step back, you know, and you know, the further back you step, you know, you're getting further and further away, people press the button and they stand there impatiently as the traffic just keeps going past breathing in, you know, a couple of feet away from them.

Uh, the source of the pollution, all these sorts of things you say to people and they go, Oh, yeah, that's, that's, that's quite obvious. And, you know, and if people are walking, think about, do you need to walk down a busy road? Because if you can walk across a park or even quieter streets, um, even if it takes you a little bit longer.

Couple of minutes extra on your journey. You're getting a bit more exercise. So there's there's a there's a double Benefit there, but you know avoiding main roads wherever possible just those sorts of things if you can see cars There's there's pollution there. It's a quiet street um You know that just just those sorts of quite simple things.

So I do do like to, you know, not not put, you know, big challenges in front of people things that they can do themselves. I think is a, you know, a very useful thing to do. And just on the network. So the Podmasters team, and I don't know whether Kersti's aware of this. But do you remember Andy Harrison Ged when we were students?


I do, yes.


He was the editor of Leeds Student (student newspaper) . So, he, he, he set, he's one of the team that set up Podmasters. So I contacted him after that. So, there's this bizarre circularity, uh, to this entire cycle. Uh, that it goes back to, uh, is, um, you know, circulates around, uh, uh, Leeds, the University of Leeds, strangely.

And the year, years that we were there.


Yeah, if the podcast was a stick of rock, Ged.


It does, it does, just as Leeds running all the way through it.


We'd have University of Leeds running all the way through it, because of course the presenter, Rich Williams, is formally a student as well. He did, he did political science, so.



Yeah, absolutely.


And the Leeds Student office was, uh, the Leeds student and the ENTS office (entertainment office) , which is the, the, the entertainment committee, the music, the people who put on the discos and things like that. Um, we were back to back. So, you know, we, we, we were down, uh, by the pool room, uh, in the, in the union.

So we were very close to each other. So, cause they would always come to, uh, uh, come to the concerts and things like that. So we worked actually quite closely, uh, with them and then. You know, 30 years later, we're, we're, we're doing this together.


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's always been important, even from when we were, uh, undergraduates of the university all those years ago, Jim, that, uh, that the university really connects with the people around it, wherever they are in the world.

Um, that's always been important. And, uh, and I think that's demonstrated now with the Knowledge Equity Network in terms of kind of reducing the barriers, uh, for everybody to access, access research information and influence. research strategies. So, you know, it's, uh, um, it's definitely been in the lifeblood of the university and is one of the reasons I came back, uh, after leaving.

Um, we're, we're, we're just about up to time, uh, on our, on our interview. Um, so. Thank you for both for coming on the Research Culture Uncovered podcast. Kersti, it's been lovely to meet you and Jim, it's been great to catch up. Um, we've been able to do a bit of reminiscing, uh, about our, about our student days as well as talk about the things that are important today.

Um, so can I leave you both to say goodbye to our listeners? Kersti, I'll come to you and you can do your. Brilliantly professional clothes,


No pressure! I'm not sure what that would be, but yeah, thanks so much for having me on the podcast today, Ged. I just wanted to finish up by saying what a pleasure it's been actually, um, being a part of this series of podcasts and, um, you know, as a great admirer of the work that our researchers are doing.

before I started this, but having sat in on seven of these recordings now, my mind has just been blown by the incredible work that's going on here at the University of Leeds. And yeah, I just really hope that we can get that out there to as many people as possible, um, so that they can be equally impressed and also hopeful.

Because, you know, we are facing some big challenges, aren't we? And, um, I think it's good for people to know that there's a lot of work going on to try and find solutions to some of these issues.


And Jim, uh, do you want to do a goodbye in a nineties? Rave style ?


Well, possibly not, but, uh, I mean the, um, no, um, no, this has been really, really interesting.

Um, and, and all these conversations always make me, you know, think about different, you know, slightly different angles and, and actually doing the podcast, um, with James and Cath, um, you know, you're al you're always learning. Um, I don't, I don't know, we're surrounded by very clever people at the university, but nobody knows everything, despite what they may tell you.

Um, and, you know, one big takeaway from me that it hadn't quite, because Kersti said, so what would be your, you know, big message that you want to get across? And, uh, it was something that James said, uh, it's about the MOT (vehicle safety check conducted annually) in the UK. The MOT really needs updating. Uh, it, it really doesn't think about how modern cars now function and things like that.

So that could, that could really, because it's, uh, that's very much out of date, uh, these days. And it was interesting that Kersti actually used the word solution. So, um, because of the, uh, the, the expertise across the university in, I'll say all things air quality, um, uh, James, uh, is currently, James Tate at ITS (Institute of Transport Studies) is currently putting, leading Um, Uh, a new MSc program that we have, uh, building and I, I'm, I'm part of that as is Cath and, uh, a wide variety of people, Alison Tomlin in, in, in SCAPE (School of Chemical and Process Engineering) and Steve Arnold also in Earth and Environment, people in job, uh, in Chemistry as well.

ll be launching that, uh, for:

Just like this podcast, uh, you know, we're talking originally about it being two separate ones, myself and James, and then Cath maybe doing something ventilation fuel poverty, but, you know, we're hitting the same barrier that... how to put separate things out into different modules when actually they cross over so much.

So, um, but that, that, that's something we haven't actually got another meeting about that, uh, next week, but that's just thought I'd make a plug for that. So, you know, advertising that. So that's, that's something to keep your eyes out for.


Yeah, good bit of sales pitch right at the end. You, you've always been a salesman, Jim.

Um, thanks a lot for, for listening. Uh, and I hope you found this interesting and you can feed this into whatever your conversations are around research culture and trying to have impact with, uh, with the work you do out there in the rest of the. Higher education land.


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About the Podcast

Research Culture Uncovered
Changing Research Culture through conversations
At the University of Leeds, we believe that all members of our research community play a crucial role in developing and promoting a positive and inclusive research culture. Across the globe, the urgent need for a better Research Culture in Higher Education is widely accepted – but how do you make it happen? This weekly podcast focuses on our ideas, approaches and learning as we contribute to the University's attempt to create a Research Culture in which everyone can thrive. Whether you undertake, lead, fund or benefit from research - these are the conversations to listen to if you want to explore what a positive Research Culture is and why it matters.

Unless specified in the episode shownotes, Research Culture Uncovered © 2023 by Research Culturosity, University of Leeds is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. This license requires that reusers give credit to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms. Some episodes may be licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0, please check before use.

About your hosts

Emma Spary

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I moved into development after several years as an independent researcher and now lead the team providing professional and career development for all researchers and those supporting research. I am passionate about research culture and supporting people. I lead our Concordat implementation work and was part of the national Concordat writing group. I represent Leeds as a member of Researchers14, the N8PDRA group and UKRI’s Alternative Uses Group.

Taryn Bell

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I work as a Researcher Development Adviser at the University of Leeds. My focus is on career development, with a particular focus on supporting funding and fellowships. I previously worked at the University of York as their Fellowship Coordinator, developing and growing the University's community of early career fellows. Get in touch if you'd like to learn more (!

Katie Jones

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I am a Researcher Development and Culture Project Officer at the University of Leeds, where I lead projects within the Researcher Development and Culture Team. My role involves managing projects that enhance the development of researchers and foster a positive research culture across the University and the higher education sector.

Tony Bromley

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I've worked in the area of the development of researchers for 20 years, including at the national and international level. I was lead author of the UK sector researcher development impact framework charged with evaluating the over £20M per year investment of UK research councils in researcher development. I have convened the international Researcher Education and Development Scholarship (REDS) conference for a number of years and have published on researcher development evaluation and pedagogy. All the details are on !! Also why not take a look at

Ged Hall

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I've worked for almost 20 years in researcher development, careers guidance and academic skills development. For the last decade I've focused on the area of research impact. This has included organisational development projects and professional development for individual researchers and groups. I co-authored the Engaged for Impact Strategy and am heavily involved in its implementation, across the University of Leeds, to build a healthy impact culture. For 10 years after my PhD, I was a consultant in the utility sector, which included being broker between academia and my clients.

Ruth Winden

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After many years running my own careers consultancy business I made the transition to researcher development leading our careers provision. My background is in career coaching, facilitation and group-based coaching, and I have a special interest in cohort-based coaching programmes which help researchers manage their careers proactively and transition into any sector and role of their choice.

Nick Sheppard

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I have worked in scholarly communications for over 15 years, currently as Open Research Advisor at the University of Leeds. I am interested in effective dissemination of research through sustainable models of open access, including underlying data, and potential synergies with open education and Open Educational Resources (OER), particularly underlying technology, software and interoperability of systems.