SAS Blogs | Supporting world-class research in the humanities

What does your sense of smell mean to you?


Image: @ wong yu liang/shutterstock

The best public engagement is underpinned by world-class research. In March, the Institute of Philosophy’s Centre for the Study of the Senses held a launch event for the national charity Fifth Sense that brought together leading researchers, clinicians, campaigners and loss-of-smell sufferers to raise awareness of the effect on people’s quality of life if they lose their sense of smell.

What we know as ‘taste’ is really taste, touch and smell;
you don’t have strawberry receptors on your tongue, for
example – that’s all smell.
– Professor Barry Smith, Institute of Philosophy

The Centre for the Study of the Senses often calls on its wide range of international partners to create events that bring the latest findings to the national subject communities and the wider public. Its launch event for Fifth Sense included an international workshop, open to all interested parties, that featured leading researchers on olfaction (the sense of smell) from philosophy, psychology and neuroscience.

Jay Gottfried (Chicago) discussed the close connection of sense of smell to memory and emotion; Juyan
Lim (Oregon) explained why odours reaching our nose from the mouth are experienced as tastes.
Ilona Croy, from Europe’s leading centre for the study of olfaction in Dresden, and Spanish philosopher, Marta Tafalla, spoke about the many roles smell plays in everyday life. Marta, who was born without a sense of smell, and unable to taste most flavours, spoke movingly about her search to find out what she was missing. Philosophers and psychologists from the universities of Glasgow, Oxford, Roehampton and Warwick were invited to comment on these talks.

The following day, the team from the Centre joined together with clinicians, medical researchers, campaigners and anosmia (loss of smell) sufferers from Fifth Sense to explore life without this sense. Patients spoke of the emotional changes the loss had caused, while others spoke of ways to work around the condition. Fifth Sense founder Duncan Boake and Professor Barry Smith (director of the Institute of Philosophy), spoke about the role of smell in creating the experience of flavour. Duncan revealed how his interest in food now focused on texture and the basic tastes of sweet and sour, salt and bitter, and he offered advice to anosmia sufferers to enhance their experience of eating.

The day’s event generated a lot of press attention and raised awareness of how important our
often-neglected sense of smell is, and researchers from the workshop spoke of the importance and
significance that patients’ testimonies gave to their research.

This blog post was originally published in the School of Advanced Study Annual Report and Review 2014 which is available from the School in hard copy or from the SAS website (click here). For more information check out the websites for the Centre for the Study of the Senses and Fifth Sense.

Image: © wong yu liang/Shutterstock.

Magna Carta: the international symbol of freedom


By Danny Millum

Magna Carta has inspired some of today’s fundamental liberties, yet it began life 800 years ago as a practical solution to a political crisis. It has since evolved to become an international symbol of freedom, and with the creation of the largest exhibition ever staged about this celebrated document, we now have an opportunity to uncover the story of how its power has been used – and abused – from its genesis through to today’s popular culture. Continue reading →

#PotW: Afterlife of Greek Tragedy – 5/6 March


Warburg - event highlight - see text for captionThe conference (organised by the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Classical Studies) will explore the impact of Greek Tragedy on intellectual and cultural history, on the visual arts, philosophy, politics, rhetoric and literature, including the development and character of European and other theatrical traditions. The proceedings will be jointly published by the two Institutes as Supplements to the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies.

Organisers: Peter Mack (Warwick) and John North (UCL)

Speakers: Erika Fischer-Lichte (Freie Universitaet Berlin), Katie Fleming (Queen Mary London), Edith Hall (Kings College London), Fiona Macintosh (Oxford), Anthony Ossa-Richardson (Queen Mary London), Valentina Prosperi (Sassari), Elina Pyy (Helsinki) Andrea Rodighiero (Verona), Hanna Roisman (Colby College), Ruth Webb (Lille) and Gerald Wildgruber (Basel)


When: 5 – 6 March 2015

Where: The Warburg Institute, University of London, School of Advanced Study; Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB

Register online here (by 3 March).

Managing your Research: launch of a new online resource to help historians to look after their data


Managing your research

Historians don’t often like to think about data management.  Indeed, it is almost considered an ugly word or a taboo.  Data Management gets in the way of the interesting stuff – the research, the learning.  Nevertheless, it is vital to the work that we do.  History is data.  It is the essential essence of the subject.  Yet, it is so easy to leave your folder system in a complete mess or not to consider issues of preservation or back-up until necessary (or until your hard drive dies on you!).  Stuff that you produce now, for current use is understandable, but 6 months down the line, a year?  Perhaps not so much.

It is for this reason that the Institute of Historical Research in partnership with the Department of History at the University of Hull and Sheffield, as well as the Humanities Research Institute (Sheffield), have produced this online resource to guide postgraduate students in the processes of looking after their research.

The online course – Managing your Research – offers students the opportunity to create a data management plan which can be used to help guide their research and used as evidence of a well thought out research project for supervisors, funding bodies, and potential employers. Using videos, handbooks, and exercises to guide the researcher through the relevant information, the course is designed to be of practical use for anyone starting or undertaking a research project.

Managing your Research was developed via funding from the AHRC Collaborative Skills Development strand. It is the main output of the History DMT project and can now be found on the School of Advanced Study’s PORT website.

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