Thursday, 24 November 2011

REF outputs should include blogs!

Those not acquainted with the delights of the Research Excellence Framework that calculates HE funding to Universities on the basis of published research may not find this too interesting, but I saw a blog written by someone at LSE, arguing that blogs should be allowed within the outputs submitted by research active staff.

Hear Hear & let's hope the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) take note and read this one!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Social Psychologists talk about August riots

Link below follows to probably the top crowd psychologist in the world (Professor Steve Reicher, from the University of St Andrews), talking about the August riots in England on Radio 4's All in the Mind programme.

Excellent stuff & well worth a listen!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Undercover Police snatch squads used on Nov 9th Demo!

The link below shows some rather worrying footage of how undercover Police were used at the recent student demo in London on Nov 9th, and were also involved in snatch squads to arrest protestors- the first time that I'm aware such a tactic has been used in public order situations by Police in the UK (apparently it happens a lot in Europe). This is rather alarming, as the use of undercover Police in public order situations can only increase distrust between  protestors and the Police, and can also lead to accusations by some that  undercover cops can act as agents provocateurs (although I'm a bit wary myself of buying too much into the agent provocateur theory, as it implies that people in crowds will always follow uncritically the actions of others!). It also seems to reflect the adoption by the Met of a much tougher approach to public order policing in the wake of last year's tuition fees protests, and the August riots.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Plastic bullets postcript

I'm typing this in the evening following the demo in London, and I'm pleased to see that they didn't use plastic bullets today, but a little jealous that the rally seemed to end up at the Moorgate campus of my old employer's, London Metropolitan University & I wasn't there!

However, did they really need 4000 Police Officers for a march that was estimated at between 2-4000 protestors?! This seems a response to political flak the Met recieved in the wake last year's tuition fee protests (and possibly the August riots), rather than any specific intelliegnce they had about expected numbers or what may happen today & is totally disproportionate to the numbers that turned out. How often do you get 1 Police officer per protestor?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

alarmist story by BBC about plastic bullets

The BBC has put out a rather sensationalist story about the the upcoming student demo in London on Nov 9th,  ( using the headline;

'London tuition fees protest: Rubber bullets 'available'

In it they state the Metropolitan Police are prepared to use rubber bullets (or baton rounds) in 'cases of "extreme" disorder' at tomorrow's demo, and then they interview a Green party member of the Greater London Assembly who is appalled and denounces such a plan. This seems to me a bit of a non-story. The Metropolitan Police (and other regional forces) have had officers who are trained in the use of baton rounds for at least the last 30 years, and it would seem likely that they always have such officers on stand by to use in emergencies if ever needed. It doesn't mean that they will be deployed specifically on tomorrow's demo, or that they are likely to be used.

Baton rounds have not so far being used on the Mainland UK in public order situations (they are used quite frequently in Northern Ireland though). As far as I am aware, the closest that the Police in England have come to using such weapons was during the 1985 Broadwater farm riot in Tottenham, London, when officers with baton rounds were deployed with orders to fire if necesary, because a Police officer (PC Keith Blakelock) had been killed during the disturbances. However, thankfully they did not end up opening fire, as the officers deployed did not consider it necessary.

Therefore, while I personally think that the chances of the Police using baton rounds tomorrow against unarmed student protestors are minimal to non-existent ( I sincerely hope I am not proved wrong!), I don't think stories like this are particularly helpful, as such rhetoric merely raises the stakes, decreases trust between the two sides, and makes collective disorder more, not less likely.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Beware of pop psychology!

A recent TV programme on the UK's Channel 4 by Derren Brown claimed to be doing an experiment that helps show why people become 'de-individuated' in riots and do bad things. Needless to say it's a load of pop psychology rubbish based on out-dated theories that are completely rejected by current crowd psychologists. I had hoped that Derren might know better, as he has previously cited work that we have done on crowd behaviour, but why let current scientific evidence get in the way of TV ratings!

Some colleagues have done an excellent response to this awful programme, which is available at;