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Throwing around rubber ducks – Technical challenges and innovations in psychology (ATSiP conference 2017 report)

By Sam Royle.

The Association of Technical Staff in Psychology (ATSiP) conference each year provides a unique opportunity for technical staff in psychology to come together and discuss the challenges of supporting psychology teaching and research, and the innovations applied to addressing the common (and not-so-common) problems encountered in psychology settings. It further provides an opportunity for Technicians to show off their own work or research, and demonstrate that #TechniciansMakeItHappen.

For the 32nd Annual ATSiP conference, delegates gathered at University College Dublin (UCD) on the 28th of June. UCD is based on a 133-hectare campus located about 6km’s from the city centre, and boasting plenty of green areas and a large lake at the centre, making for a beautiful location for this year’s conference (though it was a bit wet during our visit!). Conference presentations were held in the Newman building, with delegates staying in student accommodation.

This years conference was attended by 27 delegates and vendors. Our hosts were Colin Burke, of University College Dublin, and Patrick Boylan, of Dublin City University.

Day 1.

Proceedings began in the early afternoon with a brief welcome to the University from the head of the UCD psychology department, Professor Alan Carr, whilst delegates were still arriving. This was followed by a tour of the UCD psychology facilities and some of the wider campus, including the James Joyce Library, and the facilities classic, semi-circular lecture theatres. This also provided an opportunity for some delegate mingling and ‘catching-up’, and helped develop the typically relaxed atmosphere associated with the conference.

Presentations opened with ATSiP member Kristin Thompson, of Buckinghamshire New University, who discussed the use of virtual reality (VR) for teaching. Utilised in a module on ‘exceptional human experiences’, the presentation included in depth considerations of the ethical and safety implications of using VR and the difficulties in developing environments without expert support, as well as personal experiences with some surprising emotional responses to VR.

Following this, I presented my and my colleagues work on the combination of VR with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) for neuro-cognitive research, providing an overview of fNIR as a neuroimaging modality, as well as work combining fNIR with 2 different VR systems, an adapted Oculus Rift DK2 and a CAVE-like system, the Octave. Greater freedom of movement resulted in greater data loss, but results indicated that both were viable methodologies with research and therapeutic implications.

Before closing for the day, Wakefield Morys-Carter of Oxford Brookes University provided an account of the current utility of online testing using Psychopy’s export to HTML feature, identifying useful tips and tricks, as well as highlighting a number of key differences between the local and online functionality of the software, such as the need to specify image sizes specifically for online use (in NORM units).

Delegates enjoyed an evening meal at the Clonskeagh House Pub, a short walk away from the UCD campus. A big thanks to the staff, who provided a lovely meal, good beer, and put up with a number of us until a little way into the early hours of the morning.

Day 2.

The second day kicked off with a breakfast selection at the university refectory, with cereals, fruits and pastries on offer as well as hot breakfast items, though we did have to make sure to get there early enough to beat the summer school students.

The ever lively Robertino Pereira of Acuity then provided a presentation of a VR eye-tracking solution, which allows for several immersing functionalities in VR environments, such as gaze contingency, natural targeting, interaction, and foveated rendering. A demo of the kit was provided, showing the natural gaze of an avatar reflected in a mirror, the ability to target throws accurately and naturally , and natural interaction with a shop menu, the combined results of which were rubber ducks being bought and then thrown around (I am assured none were harmed).

After coffee and pastries, Haulah Zacharia of the University of Westminster gave an account of her experiences with the centralisation of technical resources. A balanced account of both the pros and cons of being based in a central department, Haulah gave some good advice on how to ensure that centralisation processes are as beneficial as possible, such as trying to ensure involvement in the drafting of the job description, and obtaining direct professional supervision from within the psychology department.

Lejla Mandzukic-Kanlic, also of the University of Westminster, then provided an account of an impressive mobile learning scheme, in which students are provided with an iPad loaded with a number of useful applications, to support their learning. Compelling evidence suggested the first year of the programme, where level 5 and 6 students each received a device, was a success. Adoption amongst students was reported at 87.62%, and staff and students both reported increases in technological confidence. On top of this the programme had significant green effects (51.9 hours of photocopying saved), and workload effects (229 administrative hours saved).

Following a lunch in the refectory, Jo Evereshed of Cauldron, demonstrated their student friendly, online behavioural research platform, Gorilla, that allows for accuracy and reaction time testing via the internet. Gorilla manages complex experimental setups utilising a simple to understand graphical user interface, but provides flexibility with direct access to coding tools.


The ATSiP conference is also an opportunity for delegates to interact with vendors, some of whom brought equipment to demonstrate during coffee breaks on the second day. Thanks go to Robert Jones of Linton Instruments, Richard Plant of Black Box Toolkit, Andy Shaw and Caroline Norbury of Tracksys, as well as Robertino Pereira of Acuity, Jo Evershed of Cauldron, and Matthew Etherington of Lorensbergs.

Belinda Fay Hornby of the University of Central Lancashire gave a report on developments within the BPS regarding the roles of technicians, and wider participation, before welcoming Kelly Vere, Technical skills and development manager at the University of Nottingham and Higher Education Engagement Manager with the Science Council, to introduce to delegates the Technicians Commitment – A Science Council initiative designed to ensure that signatories ensure the visibility, recognition, career development, sustainability, and impact of technicians in Higher Education. I’m sure many other delegates would agree it was very positive to hear an emphasis being put on the contributions of technicians, and would like to thank Kelly for joining us in Dublin.

The ATSiP AGM was also held on Thursday, before delegates headed into the centre of Dublin to visit the Qualtrics office. Thanks go to Qualtrics and our hosts Sophie, Therese and Robyn, who provided Guinness and wine from the office bar, along with canapés and cupcakes, and a comfy setting for a presentation on the Qualtrics system. Following this, delegates attended a conference meal at the quirky Boulevard Café. Thanks go to the staff for a lovely meal, complete with two desserts and apparently never-emptying glasses of wine.

Day 3.

The final day once again began with Breakfast in the Refectory, before Matthew Etherington of Lorensbergs provided an overview of the Connect2 booking system, which is designed for Higher Education institutions. Matthew detailed a case study of its implementation for lab and equipment booking in the psychology department at the university of Portsmouth. Connect2 allows for the individual management of both equipment and lab space, with the ability to specify rules for bookings and providing an in-built check in/out system, allowing for more organised management of departmental resources.

Following a quick coffee break, Richard Weatherall of Canterbury Christ Church University presented to us the Swivl, a smart video recording device that can be used to automatically track a user or group of users. Richard provided an account of its adoption for easy lecture recording along with evidence that students see lecture recordings as useful, but crucially, not a replacement for being at the lecture. The Swivl has a number of features that make lecture recording an easy task, including the ability to directly route slides into the data recording, consistent audio from the marker based microphone, and of course, the ability to follow a wandering lecturer.

Richard Plant of Black Box Toolkit then highlighted the issues of replicability in millisecond level reaction time testing caused by reliance on internal hardware, and presented the mBBTK, a piece of equipment designed to ensure the highest possible accuracies in event marking timing. The mBBTK can boast sub-millisecond accuracy (and that’s accuracy, not precision), on 24 unique TTL marker lines. The device can be used standalone, or controlled utilising a Bluetooth or USB connection, allowing for flexibility in its methodological adoption.

Our final talk of this year’s conference came from Wakefield Morrys-Carter, who took to the stage once again to demo the use of Kahoot, an online learning resource in which students can respond to questions using either a web client, or their smartphone (by quizzing us on his previous presentation!). Wakefield also provided a brief introduction to Socrative, another online learning resource, and provided materials for a workshop on Psychopy use, made available through the website so that delegates could access it after the conference end.

I was personally honored to receive the Keith Nicholson Memorial Prize for best presentation – It’s always nice to see that your work is interesting to other people as well!

Plans are for the ATSiP 2018 conference to be held at the University of Bath.


Delegates of the 2017 ATSiP conference at University College Dublin.

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John Hudson wins the 2015 BPS poster competition

Our very own John Hudson, PhD student under the supervision of Dr Ashley Weinberg has won the poster competition at the Annual Conference of the BPS!

His poster looked at factors connected to job-related stress in the public sector. You can find his poster here.


Congratulations John!


Follow John on Twitter: @brucierooster

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Educational Psychology: Creating a seminar for teachers

By Jenna Condie

In the final year of our undergraduate programmes (BSc Hons Psychology, BSc Hons Psychology and Counselling, BSc Hons Psychology and Criminology), one of the option modules that students can chose to take is Educational Psychology.  Educational Psychology can be “…loosely defined here as the application of psychological theories, research and techniques to the educational development of young people in the context of the home, school and community” Holliman (2013, p. xxii).  More broadly, educational psychology also considers how people can learn better, how teaching and learning practice can be improved, whether different people should be taught differently, and how learning can transform the person and impact upon their lives.

For the assessment, students taking this module propose a seminar for teachers, selecting a topic from the field of educational psychology that they consider is both current and of practical use in the training of teachers.  The emphasis is on the application of theory to teaching practice.  Last year, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling student (now graduate!), Jessica Tomes created a seminar for teachers that focused on mental health stigma and how teachers can educate students to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues in the school environment.  You can read her work below.

Educational psychology seminar assignment: Jessica Tomes from SalfordPsych

Jessica also presented her work as a poster ‘Reducing Mental Health Stigma Through Educational Seminars’ at the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Conference which took place at The University of Northampton (3-5 July, 2013).

Jessica Tomes Educational Psychology Poster Presentation at CAMHS, 3-5 July 2013 from SalfordPsych

It is fantastic to see how an assignment can be taken further to embrace opportunities such as presenting at conferences and sharing your ideas and work beyond the module.

For more information about the Educational Psychology module, please contact Jenna Condie, , Twitter: @jennacondie



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Five ideas for maximising your summer as a psychology student

By Jenna Condie

To say I spent the summer months during my undergraduate psychology degree sleeping and watching daytime TV is not quite true.  I did work a variety of psychology-relevant jobs and pick up the odd book or two.  However, I am now aware that I didn’t really make the best use of those breaks to develop my psychological knowledge and skills and ready myself for the graduate job market.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing! On that note, here are five ideas for making the most of your summer as a psychology undergraduate.  These ideas are inspired by recent opportunities I have noticed or stories I have been told…mostly via Twitter (hint hint!).

1.  Volunteering

Most psychology students I speak to are already volunteering for various organisations.  A local opportunity I spotted recently (call still open at the time of writing) was for the British Red Cross as a Bridge Group Project Volunteer in Manchester on Wednesday afternoons.  The Bridge Group aims to help male refugees and asylum seekers cope with and adapt to a new city and culture.  Activities include IT taster courses, tours of the city centre, first aid training and football tournaments.  Due to the nature of the work, the volunteering positions are available to males only.  Based on my graduate experience of working with ‘hard to reach’ and marginalised communities such as Gypsies and Travellers, I cannot emphasise the value of such experiences for developing communication skills and deepening your understanding of other cultures.  At the same time, you could be reading up on psychological theory and research around migration and the processes people go through when adapting to a new place.

Another local opportunity that cropped up in my Twitter newsfeed today was for Mind Manchester, a voluntary organisation that works to improve the lives of people with mental health needs. @ManchesterMind particularly want young people (18-25) and people from ethnic minority backgrounds as these groups are currently underrepresented on their boards.


2.  Season work

Get away! Literally! Being a season worker or ‘seasonaire’ can be great fun.  To make the most of it, there are a number of ways this experience can be relevant to psychology.  For example, companies such as PGL Travel and Esprit Sun have positions that provide relevant work experience for those considering a future career with children and young people.  Further afield, there’s also the ever popular Camp America.   It could be a bit late for this summer, but next summer maybe?

To combine ideas 1 (volunteering) and 2 (season work), check out organisations that arrange volunteering work in developing countries.   SL Volunteers is an organisation that recently grabbed my attention as it is led by students and graduates.  Their work is based in Sri Lanka where they run various projects such as The Children’s Home Project.  They also have a clinical psychology placement scheme.  There are often costs associated with these volunteering schemes but the organisations involved try to keep costs as low as possible.  Perhaps you could be enterprising (see below!) and generate some sponsors and/or apply for funding opportunities

3.  Enterprise

The organisation mentioned above, SL Volunteers, was established in 2010 by graduates from the University of Manchester and one of the founders, Lucy Nightingale, studied psychology!  Maybe you’ve noticed a gap in services for university students – start talking to people across campus who might be interested in your idea.

By enterprising, I don’t necessarily mean starting a business.  I mean create something, start something, bring people together with a common goal.  If you don’t like the ways things are, change it.  You might have an idea to start a group or a Facebook page or a blog for example.  There is nothing wrong with starting small but thinking big.  Perhaps there are opportunities for you to be ‘intrapreneurial’ (being entrepreneurial within an organisation) within the companies and organisations you are already working for or associated with.

Having the status of ‘student’ attached to you can be a massive advantage for starting an enterprise.  If you are at Salford, check out the Careers and Employability Service’s enterprise page:

4.  Events

There are lots of events and conferences going on throughout the summer, some of which are free.  An interesting event I spotted today (Twitter again!) is a talk by the poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay MBE called ‘GOOGLE ME’ – A talk on identity from someone finding theirs, organised by the University of Huddersfield (10th July 2013, 6-7.30pm).  This is a fantastic opportunity to hear Lemn speak.  Here’s a previous talk he gave for TED:

Attending events can give your ideas for dissertations, develop your critical thinking, and provide opportunities for networking.  If there is a cost to attend an event, one option is to offer to help out so you can attend for free or at least get a reduced fee (enterprising again!) whilst gaining more work experience.   Another option is to offer to write a review or a blog post about the conference or event…this has worked for me in the past and leads nicely onto the final idea for summer.

5. Developing your online presence

Last but not least, you could invest some of your summer into your online presence.  Your professional online identity is now crucial for job (and potentially university) applications.  Don’t believe me? Just Google ‘Paris Brown’ or ‘EmmaWay20’!  A nice starting point for developing your professional self is to create a profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn.  Because it’s the most professional of the major social networks, it can help you position yourself differently to how you might do on personal networks such as Facebook for example.  We have set up a group on LinkedIn called SPNet to provide a network of students and staff to support each other on this platform and to start making connections with one another.

Another place which I have already mentioned is Twitter.  This is the network where I get most of my up-to-date news and information about the latest opportunities…as this blog post demonstrates!  For ideas about what to tweet and how to construct a professional self on Twitter, check out the @salfordpsych twitter archive and previous blog posts from current students about using Twitter for professional and learning purposes.

If you fancy going one step further…start your own blog like other Salford Psychology students such as Hannah Smith and Scott Robertson.  You can also write guest posts for collaborative blogs.  For example, this morning the BPS Social Psychology Section posted a call for blog posts on…you guessed it…Twitter (see below)!

Again, if you are at Salford, the Careers team can help with this and are available during the summer.  There’s some drop in sessions too:

A Psychological Summer

If you are already having a psychological summer, great.  Maybe there’s one or two ideas here that you want to follow up or even better, this post has sparked some ideas of your own.  I expect the ideas in this post are just the tip of the iceberg…further ideas or suggestions are much appreciated, please leave them in the comments box below.  We’d also be really interested to hear about your work experiences over the summer…you can even guest blog about them here!

Contact details: Jenna Condie, Lecturer in Psychology, E: or Twitter: @jennacondie

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Social Psychology Poster Conference

By Ashley Weinberg

Second year students studying Social Psychology presented their own research in a poster conference held recently here at the University of Salford. This year saw the largest ‘marketplace of ideas’ yet, with over 120 individual pieces of work on display. The event was highlighted for commendation by the British Psychological Society visiting panel when they reaccredited the Psychology at Salford programmes last year.

Research into Facebook has mushroomed with particular interest in its impact on communication styles, on our self-esteem and even on helping behaviour. One study invited fellow students to compare their own personality traits with those attributed to online avatar characters they had created. The hypothesis that characters we dream up would be quite similar to ourselves was not supported, which confirms we really are capable of behaving quite differently when online than in person. Another study highlighted the role of emoticons (smiley faces and the like) in our feelings when online.


Investigations into the link between personality and physical attractiveness were as popular as ever, and the role of gender differences in our desire to help or conform with others was tested in some novel ways – whether it was the ‘accidental’ dropping of books to see who would help or the use of signs (with appropriate permission of course!) to see if men and women would be subtly directed through one library entrance or another.  The library study by Kirstie Collins attracted most votes from fellow students for one of two prizes on offer. The other prize went to James Dunn for the poster awarded the top mark.

Many congratulations to all the second year students for a wonderful exhibition of talent!

All photographs were taken by #salfordpsych students and posted on Twitter.  Image attributions can be found in our Storify archive here.   

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From Salford to Seoul and Hong Kong

Peter on a previous visit to OUHK. Flickr: @jayneandd
Peter on a previous visit to OUHK.

This post is from Dr Peter Eachus, Director of Psychology and Public Health, on his recent visit to Seoul for a conference and then on to visit our partners at the Open University of Hong Kong.

In early December I attended ICCIT 2012, the 7th International Conference on Computer Sciences and Convergence Information Technology. This is a premium international conference on all areas related to the Theory, Development, Applications, Experiences, and Evaluation of Networked/Ubiquitous Computing and Advanced Information Management.

This year, over 400 scholars/researchers from more than 40 countries participated in 3 workshops and 4 invited sessions touching the various aspects of Networked/Ubiquitous Computing, Content and Multi Media, and Advanced Information Management. ICCIT2012 was held in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The paper that I presented was titled ‘Development of a Hybrid Decision Support System for Intelligence Analysis’ and this described our research aimed at improving the way intelligence analysts work. The conference was excellent and South Korea is a fascinating place, apart from the weather which was the worst in 30 years, -15 degrees and deep snow!

Hong Kong is only a three hour flight from Seoul so I decided to call in on our partners at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). Although I was only there for two days, I met the new staff, and students from all three years. The final year students will graduate in July this year along with their UK colleagues and it was good to find that some of the OUHK students were planning on attending our graduation ceremony in the UK. We also discussed the possibility of staff and student exchanges. It is possible for students from OUHK to visit the UK for a semester and of course vice versa.

Andrew Tang, my counterpart in OUHK, and I are presenting a paper at The Asian Conference on Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences 2013  that is being held in Osaka in Japan in March. This will be our first joint research presentation but I hope not our last!

If you would like to contact Peter about anything in his post, please email

Image: Flickr: @jayneandd