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Citizen science: enlisting people to help us evaluate the real magnitude of medicinal waste and disposal practices

This project involves working with ordinary people, who need no special qualifications, to collect (1) scientific information about the extent of medicinal waste in the UK and (2) information about the different ways in which people dispose of their unwanted medicines in the home and elsewhere.

Department: Pharmacy

Supervised by: Professor Parastou Donyai

The Placement Project

This project supports a research collaboration (est. Feb. 2019) between Pharmacy and Biomedical Engineering, ReMINDS (Reuse of Medicines through Informatics Networks and Digital Sensors), which explores medicines reuse for tackling medicinal waste. With several internal grant successes, we are becoming trailblazers in the up-and-coming area of sustainable pharmacy. This proposed UROP project is in line with the university’s principle of sustainability and contributes to both Agriculture, Food and Health and Environment research themes. This project will collect up-to-date information about medicines waste and disposal practices, through citizen science; scientific work done by ordinary people with an interest in the field but without any special qualifications. We will enlist people’s help not only because medicinal waste is a universally accepted problem within the NHS but also because existing knowledge in the field is now dated. The highly referenced report (https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1350234/1/Evaluation_of_NHS_Medicines_Waste__web_publication_version.pdf) evaluating medicines waste, estimating a £300m/year cost to the NHS, is now a decade old. Another problem is that inappropriate disposal (e.g. in bins or sink/toilet) of medicines remains hidden within people’s homes and is largely unexplored. Unsafe disposal means medicines reach rivers, groundwater, soil, and even drinking water, with a detrimental impact on the environment and implications, for example, for antibiotic resistance. It is timely that these problems are reviewed and the situation updated. Our project will establish an app/web platform and media campaign to raise awareness of medicines waste and unsafe disposal practices, with a key aim being to collect photographs and information about medicines accumulated and/or thrown away.

Tasks

Complete a literature search to learn about existing research on medicinal waste and disposal practices (week 1) Learn how to use Bristol Online (a platform for collecting survey data) (week 2) Identify how to develop an app/web platform for securely collecting photographic submissions capturing medicinal waste accumulated in the home (week 3) Design and create a means through which people can submit both factual written/textual and photographic information about medicinal waste and disposal practice (week 4) Design a media campaign for recruitment of citizen scientists (week 5) Launch the citizen science project and prepare a summary of the project (week 6)

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Good writing skills; Ability to work methodically and analyse text; Genuine interest in sustainability; Open-mindedness and flexibility; Experience /interest in app/web design; Good time management and ability to meet goals set

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will be guided to use Bristol Online and therefore gain expertise in the use of this key data collection software. The student will develop their analytical skills, by collating and examining relevant articles, collecting information from the general public, and their writing skills, by putting together a short report. The student will gain experience of designing a citizen science project as well as app/web development. They will also gain experience of working as part of a multidisciplinary team.

Place of Work

Whiteknights Campus, Pharmacy Department

Hours of Work

9am to 5pm

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 06 July 2020 - Saturday 15 August 2020

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 24th February and 3rd April 2020. Students should submit their CV and covering letter of no more than 1 side of A4 stating why you are interested in this specific opportunity to p.donyai@reading.ac.uk. Successful candidates will then be invited to interview.


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