Duke-Exeter Collaborations Fuel Faculty Research

Despite the pandemic, faculty from both universities successfully wrapped up joint research projects spanning disciplines

-By Duke Global Staff

(Pictured above, left to right: Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Global Engagement, and Stuart Westhead, Regional Head for Global Partnerships, North America and Europe, Exeter University, during their visit to Duke in May 2019)

November 18, 2021

Stuart Westhead, director of Exeter University’s Global Partnerships in North America and Europe, was about to board a train from Washington D.C. to travel to Duke’s Marine Lab in Beaufort in March of 2020. There he hoped to speak with leaders about expanding joint research endeavors between Duke and Exeter.

Instead of getting on the train, he ended up on a flight back to the United Kingdom. The pandemic spoiled his plans. “It was a real shame to have to cut the visit short,” said Westhead. “We had been talking about these projects and hoped to build on partnerships we had developed between our two Marine Labs, and instead I had to turn around last minute.”  

“It was a disappointment,” noted Eve Duffy, AVP for Global Affairs, “but our faculty met the challenge and made it work.” Much of the initial proposals were about getting people together to advance conversations and research agendas. “We realized that we didn’t need those interactions and could collaborate differently and more efficiently,” said Duffy. Researchers pivoted quickly, moving to online collaborations and Zoom calls to advance their agendas.

“The scope and breadth of the collaborations is brilliant to see and speaks to the strength of connections between Duke & Exeter faculty,” concluded Westhead. An additional call for proposals will be issued by Duke and Exeter this December.

The Office of Global Affairs, which funded the projects jointly with Exeter, just received final reports from each of the PIs. Below are brief summaries of each of the projects.

Shame and Medicine (Luna Dolezal, Exeter and Will Bynum, Duke)

Dolezal and Bynum explored the potentially damaging impact of shame on effective patient care and provider empathy. They produced graphic medical resources to teach medical learners about shame. These resources will be downloadable and widely available as a teaching resource. The team’s broader goal is to create online teaching packages for each area of medicine as residents move through their training. Additional funds from the Welcome Trust will advance this work.

Revaluing Care in the Global Economy (Jocelyn Olcott, Duke and Felicity Thomas, Exeter)

The care workers, nurses, doctors, and food delivery drivers who rose to such prominence during the pandemic highlighted the significance of care work in the global economy. The number of people who require care is growing rapidly, and yet care is often undervalued due to limited metrics that measure the economic impacts of care work. Olcott and Thomas organized an international conference of researchers defined eight different themes related to care work, especially around ageing and care and the tensions between care and control/surveillance. Each theme links up to different policy recommendations. The faculty leads are seeking outside funding and building on connections made during the conference.

Residential Location and Segregation (Christopher Timmins, Duke and Amy Binner, Exeter)

Timmins and Binner developed AI to analyze discrimination in the UK rental housing market, which affects, among other things, education, healthcare and wellbeing. They have begun analyzing rental housing market discrimination in four different U.K cities, and Duke undergraduates have coded the results for statistical analysis. The partnership has expanded to include other universities and NGOs, and the PIs are applying for a large EU funding grant.

Transatlantic alliances in Times of Turmoil: American Perceptions of Transatlantic Alliances in an Age of Trump (John Aldrich and Peter Feaver, Duke and Jason Reifler and Catarina Thomson, Exeter)

This project examined American attitudes towards security alliances with America. The researchers surveyed 2,500 Americans about their opinions on U.S. support for NATO and European alliances. They shifted their focus with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to consider perceptions of U.S. commitments overall. The researchers expanded their networks, and Reifler is now working on three separate related projects with faculty from universities across the globe.

The Function and Ecology of Ultra-Black Coloration (Sönke Johnsen and Alexander Davis, Duke and Martin Stevens and Laura Kelley, Exeter)

Birds, butterflies, spiders and fish combine pigment with nano-structures to create a black color that is 100 times more black than everyday black objects. Scientists do not know why these animals develop this pigmentation. Researchers collaborated with the Natural History Museum History in London and have groundbreaking findings. They indicate that some species use ultra-black to signal to other organisms. These finds will contribute to how we understand the evolution of color and their role in ecology.

Norms and Incentives Interact in Community Resource Management (Alexander Pfaff, Duke and Miguel Fonseca, Exeter)

Pfaff and Fonseca explored how incentives can make a difference in people’s behavior. Their work is connected to understanding how to motivate people to make environmentally sound decisions as we face the devastating effects of climate change. They developed a survey mechanism, ran field studies and trials. With their eyes on a larger grant, the two partners hope to undertake further field work in developing countries where incentives could play a key role in reducing energy use.

Marine Turtle Conservation (Connie Kot, Duke and Annette Broderick, Exeter)

Building on existing initiatives to advance knowledge of marine turtles in order to better inform policy and planning, Kot and Broderick focused on Northwest Atlantic and Mediterranean loggerhead turtles. Their goal was to support these initiatives and gather expertise on how to better collaborate (as individuals and organizations) to improve related initiatives for management and conservation. Their collaboration enabled a forum to discuss ways to archive, share, and communicate scientific research, how to best standardize tracking data, and provide recommendations on how to move forward with future efforts in defining areas important to marine turtles.