100% impact in sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism rated outstanding/very considerable


This was the first submission of the Department of Sport and Exercise Science to the research assessment process. Our submission was based on the fundamental and applied research of eight academics, including three Early Career Researchers, working in three interrelated, multidisciplinary research groups: Extreme Environmental Medicine and Science; Breast Health; Human Performance and Health. The submission included two impact case studies which reflected our world-leading role in applied research in these important niche areas. One impact statement was in the area of “Improving understanding and changing protocols for the rescue and resuscitation of immersion victims”, the other in the area of “Improving sports bra design and breast health through biomechanics research”.

  • 100% of our impact is rated as either outstanding or very considerable in terms of its reach and significance.
  • 87% of our research output is rated as internationally excellent or internationally recognised in terms of its quality, significance and rigour.
  • The environment that we create for research is rated as either internationally excellent or internationally recognised in terms of its quality, significance and rigour.

Research groups / Research themes

Extreme Environmental Medicine and Science (EEMS: Tipton, Corbett, Eglin, Lunt). This group investigates the physiological and psychological response to extreme environments and the selection, preparation and protection of those entering such environments.

Breast Health (Scurr, White). This group investigates breast biomechanics and health.

Human Performance and Health (Corbett, Dicks, Eglin, Scurr, Thelwell, Tipton). This group adopts a multidisciplinary approach to understand, evaluate and enhance human performance for sport, exercise, work and health. Each research group includes additional personnel.

Impact case studies

Improving sports bra design and breast health through biomechanics research

In collaboration with major, global apparel companies, fundamental research by Dr Scurr and colleagues has led to the development of new and innovative methods for investigating the biomechanics of the breast during sport and exercise. This research has generated the following global impacts: knowledge transfer to industry that now use these methods to design and validate their products; economic benefit in terms of increased sports bra sales; increased awareness of this important aspect of women’s health and the associated benefits of good-fitting and well-designed apparel.

Improving understanding and changing protocols for the rescue and resuscitation of immersion victims

Internationally, immersion is a leading cause of accidental death and the leading cause of death of sportspeople (221 of the 635 UK immersion deaths in 2012 were sports-related). The Extreme Environmental Medicine & Science Research Group (EEMSRG) publishes widely, from scientific papers to specific reports for a wide range of international end-users, including various emergency services. Our research has had global impact on (i) The protection, rescue and treatment of immersion casualties, (ii) International standards, guidelines, policies, campaigns and training manuals of those responsible for the protection, rescue and resuscitation of casualties, (iii) Raised public awareness of immersion issues.

Infrastructure and facilities

In addition to REF-related income over the REF period (£1,008,587) an additional £262,102 of income, not submissable to REF, has been attracted by our research groups via sources such as University of Portsmouth Enterprise Ltd contracts and industry matched-funding for PGRS. The University invested another £230K in building and maintenance of the research facilities. Between 2008-2012 the annual number of projects being undertaken by the DSES increased by 44 %, the commensurate invoiced income rose by 60 %. This income came from a wide variety of sources including industry (UK, France, Germany, US), various charities (e.g. RNLI, EI) and government agencies (MoD UK, MCA, US Coastguard). This funding has supported both fundamental and applied research, as evidenced by our research output. Our funding has, in part, come about because of the reputation we have developed in our niche research areas. We have also been successful in obtaining repeat and continuation funding; the large majority of our current research sponsors have supported us on previous projects. We believe this is indicative of our ability to run projects to time, objectives and produce high quality and relevant outputs. As noted, strategic investment has brought improved infrastructure and equipment as well as matched funded PGR and MRes opportunities. Consultancy income has supported research equipment purchases (e.g. portable oxygen analysers) which have enhanced and extended our ability to undertake field work with, for example, occupational groups such as the RNLI, MCA and oil industry. The EEMSRG runs a cold injuries clinic which sees patients funded by various legal firms and HM Treasury solicitors. Research on the assessment of non-freezing cold injuries runs alongside the clinic, and the funding generated by the clinic is re-invested into the research infrastructure within the department.

Significant investment has been made to establish a combination of well-equipped research facilities that are unmatched internationally. The department has three environmental chambers with control of climatic conditions (-20 to +50°C) and oxygen levels for hot, cold and altitude research. A swimming flume and immersion tank are integral to these facilities and a hypoxic system allows us to simulate altitudes up to 7500m in each chamber. We have the only laboratory in the world that, in one environmental chamber, can control altitude, temperature and includes a swimming flume with control of water temperature. A second chamber can achieve the same combination, with the exception that this chamber contains a 2.5m deep immersion facility providing some shallow water hyperbaric capability. In addition, DSES has a large exercise physiology laboratory, a small trials laboratory, two state of the art biomechanics laboratories and a psychology research laboratory. Strategic investment has included the addition of a second laboratory for the Research Group in Breast Health in November 2012 and provision of a dedicated IT data analysis suite in early 2013. The demand for the use of the facilities is high and carefully managed with a generic booking system. In recognition of the unique provision we have in terms of facilities, the DSES annually hosts groups from other local and national institutions, including Birmingham University (Medical School) and King’s College, London (MSc Course in Human & Applied Physiology) who undertake research-based field courses in our laboratories with our support. DSES has also “pooled” its research facilities as part of its membership of the UK Space Biomedicine Consortium.

Research in DSES is co-ordinated by the DoR and ADoR who report to the Departmental Management & Strategy Committee chaired by the Head of Department. Research active staff are supported by Senior Research Associates and Research Assistants who are employed on a contractual basis via external research income. University funded technical support (seven technicians) and general administrative support (four administrators, one with a research brief) complete the team supporting research. Research governance is embedded within our research policies and processes: all research proposals undergo scientific scrutiny by a specifically constituted Faculty review committee that examines both the scientific and ethical aspects of the proposed work and the risk analysis associated with it. Our guidelines for the use of our laboratories outline standards for calibration, data acquisition and storage. Our DSES Research Policy covers all aspects of research from protocol preparation to publication.

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