Archive for the 'General' Category

Greening Events II Final Report

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The greening_events_II_final report is now available.  Copies of the appendices are available on request please contact

The  project was funded under the JISC Greening ICT Programme.  The project team would like to thank Rob Bristow (JISC Programme Manager) for his support during the project and to staff at UKOLN and especially Kirsty Pitkin for their excellent work on Event Amplification.  We would also like to acknowledge the helpful assistance of the Steering Committee, namely: Martin Wiles (chair), John Brenton, Lesly Huxley, Larissa Morrish, Chris Preist, Nikki Rogers, Johanna Rule, Paul Shabajee, Amy Watts and Fiona Wilkie on advising the team on the direction of the project and the participation of staff from the University of Bristol who provided feedback on the Alternatives to Travel pilot.



Evaluation of the Alternatives to Travel Campaign

Friday, January 18th, 2013

A pilot campaign on promoting Alternatives to Travel ran from June to December 2012 in 5 University of Bristol departments, this included the provision of online support materials, offers of individual or group training and limited provision of headsets and webcams to get people started using virtual meetings technologies.

The campaign was initiated with an email sent from the Head of Department (or sent on their behalf) to all staff to promote the pilot (with reminders sent out in September/October).  The emails were supported by a series of posters which were provided to departments to put up in public areas such as coffee areas, lifts, backs of toilet doors, etc.

The uptake of training and requests for equipment was disappointingly low; there were ten formal training sessions undertaken during the six month pilot across the 5 departments.   The low awareness of the pilot may be due in part to poor timing for the promotion, the first emails were sent out in late June which may have coincided with the start of staff holidays/research leave, etc and reminders were sent out in September/October which again may have clashed with the start of the new academic year.  However given increasingly busy workloads and pressures on staff it would always be difficult to find a good time to promote this sort of campaign.  The email messages were backed up by posters which were distributed in public areas around the departments.  Ideally there should have also been some general clinics/workshops arranged for each department rather than relying on individuals or groups to request these, however again with competing demands on staff attention these proved too difficult to arrange.

Reactions and feedback from those undertaking the training and/or offer of equipment however was very positive:

  • “Thank you for all your assistance …Everything worked out just perfectly!”
  • “The chap who came and set up Skype for me was great! I’ve been using it regularly ever since.”
  • “Thanks for all your help.  One happy punter.

And we have a couple of examples where staff are regularly replacing face-to-face meetings with the use of virtual technologies.


A post pilot questionnaire was distributed to the departments at the end of pilot period in December, this repeated the questions from the original survey to see if or how attitudes and behaviours had changed within that period.  We received 109 responses across 4 of the original 5 departments (unfortunately the Graduate School of Education were not able to distribute the survey in time for inclusion) this equated to just over an 8% return rate across the 4 departments and therefore a slightly higher return than the pre-questionnaire (which perhaps could be attributed to when in the academic term the survey was distributed).  Of those 109 responses:

  • 77% had participated in a virtual meeting during the past 12 months (as opposed to 63% in the previous survey)
  • The majority of these took part in virtual meetings every few months
  • The most popular virtual meeting solution was still audio conferencing, followed by videoconferencing and instant messaging

With regards changes in attitudes towards virtual meetings:

  • 47% said that they enjoyed travelling as part of their work (26% disagreed and 24% were neutral)
  • 40% thought that virtual meeting technology is reliable. This was a small increase from 38% from the previous survey
  • 19% believed virtual meetings are difficult to set up which is slightly higher than the previous survey at 18%
  • 56% believed virtual meetings are more convenient than face-to-face meetings. This was quite a considerable rise from the previous survey at 38%
  • 63% thought communication is not as effective in virtual meetings, this was a slight decrease from 66% in the previous survey
  • 37% thought virtual meetings were a good substitute for face-to-face  meetings as opposed to 34% previously

Staff were again asked about specific examples where they thought virtual meetings could be used effectively, responses here included:

  • Already use them in preference to F2F (face-to-face)
  • As a replacement for frequent visits and co-tutoring students
  • I am part of a virtual team and so already extensively use virtual meetings
  • I have several PhD students based in other institutions around Europe with whom I keep in touch via Skype. This has been fantastic.
  • We have discussed this for reviewing grants at a virtual meeting rather than flying abroad
  • My work meetings will probably double next year and at least half of those could be done virtually

When asked for examples where they didn’t think virtual meetings could be used effectively, responses again included:

  • Anything involving new ideas, new people, new collaborations… must have a prelim[inary] face-to-face at least
  • Conferences
  • External examinations/vivas
  • Training on equipment or software
  • When there is a large group of people

Comparing the responses from the pre-questionnaire distributed in February 2012 and the post-questionnaire responses in December 2012 there does appear to a growing sense of acceptance of the usefulness/role of virtual meetings.  There are inevitably some differences of opinions in what virtual meetings can and can’t be used for; notably PhD vivas are cited in both categories.  However situations that require meeting people for the first time or handling sensitive topics seem to be situations that still calls for face-to-face meetings.

On reflection a key outcome of this work is the finding that there are key custodians of travel services, and a relatively small proportion of high-mileage travellers. We propose that future work of this type should concentrate on a programme of targeted training directed towards very high-mileage travellers and/or departmental administrators and those involved in setting up and supporting meetings rather than directing a campaign at all staff.

Improvements to MyMobile Bristol

Monday, November 19th, 2012

One of the strands of work associated with the project was to update the  MyMobile Bristol code to promote the use of public transport for visitors to the University of Bristol. MyMobile Bristol is a JISC funded project to develop a web application to deliver content optimized for smartphones within a ‘just in time’ and ‘on the move’ context. The information is targeted at students, staff and visitors of the University of Bristol and aggregates data from the University, Bristol City Council and other third parties. For the Greening Events 2 project, some of the development work focused on improving the MyMobile Bristol code. This development activity included adding new data sources, improving existing data sources and further developing the underlying software to improve functionality and robustness.

The Software

Mobile Bristol uses the Mobile Campus Assistant (MCA) software (  to deliver information and data to mobile devices. MCA provides a solution that is capable of aggregating information from disparate sources and produces a website that is suitable for modern mobile devices. For example, MCA delivers the and websites.

MCA was originally developed as a JISC-funded rapid innovation project in 2009.It was then further developed in the MyMobileBristol project during 2010-11, funded by JISC through their Business and Community Engagement (BCE) programme (

The MCA Software is made of a number of key components:

  • A Resource Description Framework (RDF) store holds data that is loaded when the application starts and data harvested from remote sources.
  • Harvesters that retrieve data (HTML, XML, RSS etc.) from remote websites convert the data to RDF and store it in the RDF store.
  • A RESTful web interface that queries the data store and return the results as HTML, JSON, RDF or KML. The web interface returns HTML that is used by web browsers found on mobile devices. The pages might include JavaScript that will then query the service for points of interest (POI) and display them on a map.

Software Development for Greening Events II

Software development for the project covered a number of areas:

  • The facility to get information on a POI (point of interest) on a map was improved, providing more flexibility in what is displayed in an information bubble. This was particularly useful in displaying details of city car parks.
  • The way URIs are handled in the system as improved to remove unresolvable URIs.
  • The code for getting geo data from OpenStreetMap was improved. In the past it was stored in a number of locations and files – they are now all loaded in the RDF store.
  • A ‘Dynamic Navigation’ feature was added, so that it was possible to create a navigation list from harvested data rather than being preconfigured.
  • The system was updated so that you could add ordered POI to provide a list of points on a map to provide directions.
  • There were numerous updates to how geo-location data was stored and retrieved within the system.
  • There were general improvements across the code base.


A key feature of the development activity for the Greening Events II project was to improve the existing data sources used in Mobile Bristol and adding new ones.


An initial task was to refresh the data held about local amenities, such as cafes, pharmacies and cinemas.  A key source of data for this information is the community driven OpenStreetMap (OSM).  Some effort was given to improving the quality of information about POI (points of interest) around the University precinct, such as adding missing bicycle racks, post boxes and cash points. It was possible to use the tools on the OSM website for improving the quality of the data. A fresh export was then taken from OSM, converted to RDF and then used by the Mobile Bristol website.

Bristol City Council

Bristol City Council provides some data about local facilities. We took an XML file of local car parks and modified it slightly – we removed on street parking (as there were too many data points which made the map unusable) and fixed some incorrect latitude and longitude values. We were then able to include a map of city car parks.


The Mobile Bristol website proves a map of city bus stops derived from the NaPTAN (National Public Transport Access Node) data source. The data was out of date (2009) and was inaccurate in some areas – for example, it had a cluster of bus stops within a city park.  A fresh export was taken and process for adding the data and using it within the system was updated.

University of Bristol

A number of new data sources from the University of Bristol were added to the system. For example, the locations of Video Conference Rooms were added so that staff might be encouraged to stay in Bristol for meetings rather than travel.

We added Walking directions from travel hubs to the University precinct, which coincided with travel information provided for visitors to the 2012 Open Days.

The software and sample data sources are available at under a permissive Open Source license.

Alternatives to Travel Campaign

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

A campaign to encourage the use of virtual meeting technologies as alternatives to travel is being run with 5 pilot departments within the University of Bristol (School of Arts (Archaeology, Drama, Music and Philosophy), School of Community and Social Medicine, Department of Geographical Sciences, School of Physiology and Pharmacology and Graduate School of Education)

The campaign is attempting to draw on Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion (, to encourage uptake within the pilot departments, these principles are:

1.       Reciprocity
People tend to return a favour, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing.

How it was applied to the project:

  • Provision of headsets (“we’ll give you the headsets, you make the calls!”)
  • Provision of help & support (“we’ll help you, you make the calls!”)

2.       Commitment and Consistency

How it was applied to the project:

  • Disruption of consistent behaviours (i.e. non-use) by inserting strong messages when people are ‘in limbo’ and potentially open to them e.g. posters in coffee areas, on the back of toilet doors, in lifts, etc encouraging them to use virtual meetings

3.   Social Proof

People are more likely to commit to things when they see other people are also committed.

How it was applied by the project:

  • Ensured that there was Head of Department buy-in
  • Provided case studies about benefits

4.  Authority

People will tend to obey authority figures.

How it was applied to the project:

  • Supporting message from the Deputy Vice Chancellor
  • Asked Head of Departments to send out email messages supporting the pilot to staff

5. Likeableness

People are easily persuaded by other people that they like.

How it was applied to the project:

  • Attempted to get popular staff as departmental champions to promote the pilot

6. Scarcity

Any perceived scarcity will generate demand.  For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

How it was applied to the project:

  • Limited number of headsets and videocams made freely available during pilot (in return for a short case study)

The project team also tried to address the issues brought up in the pre-questionnaire and workshops around knowing what equipment and rooms were available for booking virtual meetings and offering one-to-one support and training to get people started.

This information is available at :

 The campaign will run for several months to allow the departments to explore the use of technologies for supporting virtual meetings.

Amplification of Events Report

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

One of the specific workpackages within the Greening Events II project was allocated to UKOLN ( to look at current and emerging best practice in the field of amplified and hybrid events within the UK higher and further education sector to help improve the sustainability outcomes of events.

The report includes:

  • Template for planning hybrid events
  • Perspectives of hybrid events from different participants (delegates, speakers, suppliers)
  • Risk analysis checklist
  • Tools for supporting hybrid events
  • Case studies of hybrid events
  • Evaluation and metrics for hybrid events
  • Estimation of the carbon impact of technologies to deliver amplified and hybrid experiences
The report was launched at UKOLN’s IWMW 2012 event which itself used amplification to a remote audience through the live video streaming of the plenary talks at the event.

A Word and PDF version of the report can now be found at 

Alternative to Travel Posters

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

A series of posters have been created to support the Alternatives to Travel Campaign within the pilot departments.  A number of these were printed and provided to departments to display in public areas such as coffee areas, on the back of toilet doors, in lifts, etc






Alternatives to Travel Pilot

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

We are working with the following University of Bristol Schools/Departments to promote virtual technologies as alternatives to travelling:

  • School of Arts (Archaeology, Drama, Music and Philosophy)
  • School of Community and Social Medicine
  • Department of Geographical Sciences
  • School of Physiology and Pharmacology
  • Graduate School of Education

There are 3 planned phases of the pilot:

1.  Research current attitudes and behaviours of staff, via an online survey with a short staff workshop and/or follow-up interviews.

2.  Implement a ‘campaign’ to support the use of alternative technologies within the School, to include emails to staff, optional training sessions, posters in the coffee room and admin areas, posters for printing out to place around workstations, a support hotline.

3.  Re-visit staff attitudes and behaviours after the campaign. Have things changed? Has use of alternative technologies – and positive attitudes to them – increased?  What works and what doesn’t?

Results from First Phase

An online attitudinal questionnaire was distributed to staff in the 5 academic departments to look at current behaviour and attitudes to using technology as an alternative to travelling to meetings. We received 85 responses across the 5 departments (a response rate of approximately 6%). Because of the low response rate it is not likely to be representative of the population but provides some indication of attitudes of the sub-set that were inclined to respond.  Of those of did respond:

  • 63% had participated in a virtual meeting during the past 12 months
  • The majority of these took part in virtual meetings every few months
  • The most popular virtual meeting solution was audio conferencing, followed by instant messaging and videoconferencing
  • 55% agreed that they enjoyed travelling as part of their work (14% disagreed and 24% were neutral)

With regards to attitudes towards virtual meetings:

  • 38% agreed that virtual meeting technology is reliable (20% disagreed and 28% were neutral)
  • 18% agreed that virtual meetings were difficult to set up (40% disagreed and 32% were neutral)
  • 38% believed virtual meetings are more convenient than face-to-face meetings, (26% disagreed and 33% were neutral)
  • 66% thought communication is not as effective in virtual meetings as face-to-face meetings, (5% disagreed and 25% were neutral)
  • 34% thought virtual meetings were a good substitute for face-to-face  meetings (24% disagreed, 36% were neutral)

Staff were also asked about specific examples where virtual meetings could be used effectively, responses included:

  • Contact with mentors in schools via virtual meetings, also additional supervision of PGCE students at a distance
  • Interim catch ups during projects and collaborations
    • Meeting with co-applicants on grant applications where they live in different parts of the country or abroad
    • Can be quite effective for job interviews, but very often the panel will want a face-to-face follow-up interview with a candidate successful at videoconference

Examples where they felt that virtual meetings couldn’t be usefully used included:

  • Meeting new colleagues for the first time
  • Contract negotiations
  • Fieldwork/data collection
  • In-depth planning meetings
  • Large conferences
  • Student observations

In terms of what is needed to encourage them to participate more in virtual meetings, these included:

  • Knowing what services and equipment is available in the university
  • Having bookable, dedicated rooms in each department.  Most staff worked in shared offices and are reluctant to disturb colleagues by holding a web conference/Skype session in their room. Having to travel for 20 minutes to use virtual conferencing equipment is annoying.
  • Being able to trust the equipment (need better support and ‘hand holding’

The research on current attitudes and behaviours will feed into the design of a campaign to encourage staff to make more use of ICT to support or replace face-to-face meetings where participants were required to travel in or outside of Bristol.

Travel to Work Survey Results

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The University of Bristol runs an all-staff ‘Travel to Work’ Survey every two years which is championed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor. The Greening Events II project team were able to add in questions about business travel and a specific section on ‘alternatives to travel’ to the survey in order to take advantage of the high response rate that the survey generally receives. The alternatives to travel section asked respondents about their use of virtual conferencing technologies and their attitudes to the possibility of making additional use of these in the future as well as any barriers that may preclude their use of these technologies.

  • 2,277 completed surveys online (41.4% completion rate)
  • 51  Paper returns
  • 54.6% (n1225) reported travelling as part of their job
  • 59% (n727) of that travel is by train, 20.6% (n254) using their own car and 8.5% (n105) by plane
  • Majority travel less than 6 times per year
  • Just over 10% travel more than once a week

Travel considerations – high priority:

  •  Timing (68.8%)
  • Convenience (58.9%)
  • Speed (49.1%)
  • Cost (47%)
  • Environment (18%)
  • Amount of accompanying baggage (14.9%)
  •  Health and Safety (13.4%)
  • Number of people travelling (11.5%)
  • Reputation/perception (3.7%)


Other factors:

  • Ability to work during travel, Distance, Childcare responsibilities, Flexibility, Lack of public transport, Health

Alternatives to travel

  • 58.1% (n 1310) not participated in any virtual meeting during 2011
  • Main reason given was ‘not invited to participate’ (977), followed by ‘never crossed my mind’ (250)
  • Lesser concerns: Difficulties in setting up the meeting (68), worries about effectiveness (65), losing networking opportunities (60), difficulties in operating equipment during meeting (53), enjoy time away from the office (35)
  • Other reasons included: not having facilities or knowledge, having no need to as part of role

Of 946 who had participated in virtual meeting during 2011:

  • Audio only conference most used facility (574), followed by instant message -MSN, Skype (386) and Videoconferencing (374)
  • Telephone most used technology (546), followed by desktop computers (406) and laptops (364)
  • 148 have used dedicated UOB videoconference suite
  • Senate House most used, small use of AGN suites and some additional facilities identified

Making more use of technologies in future:

  • 18.2% didn’t think it would be possible, 24.1% yes and 49.8% maybe (n=1020)
  • 24.2% wouldn’t want to replace meetings, 26.9% yes and 42.9% maybe
  • Main positive impact = reduced stress/time of travelling
  • Main negative impact = harder to judge emotions

Other comments included: conferencing facilities in UOB not publicised enough, rooms for conferencing needed in open plan offices, would like UOB to support Skype, still problems with the technologies

From the survey we identified 695 staff within the university who were interested in being involved in further research on virtual conferencing.  From this group of people we will be working with a pilot group of Schools and Departments to do further work with on ‘alternatives to travel’.

Initial Community Engagement

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

An initial scoping consultation with University of Bristol staff took the form of 16 one-to-one interviews across a broad cross section of university employees. When asked about what considerations went into making travel choices the response from all but one interviewee was that cost was the main consideration.[1] It is probably worth noting that only two of the interviewees mentioned environmental concerns at all.  It is therefore extremely unlikely that these will ever outweigh cost concerns when planning travel.

Other considerations stated were:

  • Speed (particularly for more frequent travellers)
  • Timing
  • Convenience
  • Amount of accompanying baggage
  • Number of people travelling
  • Health and safety

Travel choices made by employees of the University already tend to be reasonably sustainable choices.  For example train is usually preferred over car travel unless there are extenuating circumstances such as the need to carry a large amount of baggage, making a rural trip without good transport links, or many people going to a single destination being able to car share.

Given that most travel conducted by the university already appears to be conducted in as sustainable manner as is reasonably possible, any changes to the travel behaviours themselves are unlikely to result in large environmental gains compared to the significant amount of effort required promoting these changes.

However a consistent comment across the University is that although substitution technologies such as video conferencing are used, their uptake remains limited. Therefore a decision was made to use a follow up university-wide survey to focus on alternatives to travel.


[1] The International Office was the only case where the personal safety and wellbeing of the employee was stated to be the highest consideration. This is probably because the interviewee was the head of the department and therefore had the safety of her employees explicitly in her mind in a way that travellers themselves might not, whilst intuitively avoiding options that would put themselves at risk.

Joining the Greening Events Team

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Hello all. My name is Heppie Curtis and I have recently joined the Greening Events team. I thought that I would introduce myself and outline the work that I am undertaking.

There are two strands to the Greening Events project. The first is to profile the university’s business related travel and calculate the associated carbon impact. This is in accordance with HEFCE’s desire to have higher education institutions lead the nation in quantifying scope III carbon emissions and will have an influence on continued HEFCE funding.

In addition to looking at the way people are travelling, the second strand of the project is to investigate why people travel. Here the research focuses on the purpose of the many and various meetings that give rise travel and develop an understanding of how to maximise the benefit that can be gained from those meetings. If you need to travel then how do you get the most benefit from that travel? The outcome from this part of the project is to be a toolkit that helps event organisers decide what type of event they want to hold, how best to achieve their goals and then finally how to lower the environmental impacts of that event.

My work history involves fourteen years of industrial research in the computing industry: the last few years of which were focused on conducting environmental assessments of computing equipment. Given the complexity of ICT devices, that introduction to practical sustainability was a baptism by fire, but the role did allow me to wed my personal interest in sustainable living with my career.

I am, at heart, a scientist and a geek, with a passion for understanding how to enjoy this awful* world sustainably. Never happier than when researching and grubbing around in numbers and details, although always with a view to practically apply knowledge.

My other passions are singing and climbing and if I could only work out how to sing, climb and geek simultaneously then my life would be perfect.

I can be found in the Sustainability Department at Bristol University, and my e-mail address is

*In the sense of: solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: the awful majesty of alpine peaks.