Durham Research in the News
Credit Crunch hits cash-strapped home-owners
Homeowners have drawn on their biggest asset, the roof over their heads, not to fund ‘champagne moments' but to get through hard times; according to a new study.
Mortgage equity withdrawal is a much more popular and frequent event than previously thought. New figures show that borrowers haven't just used their housing equity to splash out on holidays or cars; struggling households have borrowed against their homes to meet their basic needs like bringing up the kids.
Researchers looked at the borrowing patterns of over 8000 households in the UK from 2001-2005. They found that in any one year, 2 in 5 homeowners ended up with higher mortgages than in the previous year, even though they had not moved home. Instead they had re-mortgaged or extended their existing home loan. On average, these households borrowed an additional £5000 to £7500 in a given year. Some of them tapped into as much as three-quarters of their home equity in this way.
Housing expert Professor Susan Smith from the Department of Geography said: "The Credit Crunch is a welfare disaster for struggling households who have previously relied on the option to borrow up against the value of their home.
"In the early years of this century we saw a form of self-administered welfare payment develop where home-owners cash in on their homes, in boom times: to support children, smooth over a fall in income, or meet the costs of relationship breakdown."
This was covered nationally by outlets including the Press Association, Guardian, Channel 4 News, as well as regionally by outlets such as Sunderland Echo, The Journal, Shropshire Star.
People who want NHS access should be more responsible, says expert
Patients should recognise they have responsibility for their own health if they want access to free healthcare, says a leading expert.
Professor Martyn Evans from the School of Medicine and Health argues that patient should comply with ten moral duties, which require them to look after themselves and others around them, and to use the NHS in a responsible way. He believes that people who neglect their health and the health of others around them, or who misuse the healthcare available to them are draining the NHS scarce resources.
Professor Evans says: "Widespread behaviour that is adverse to health and to the effectiveness of the NHS, such as binge drinking and missing GP appointments, is on the increase. There is a need to state more clearly the responsibilities patients have to secure the future of the free public healthcare system. Right now, far too many people suppose that only doctors have duties, and that only patients have rights."
Professor Evans, who has published an academic paper on patient duties, suggests individual patients should cooperate more fully with medical advice and treatment, be courteous to NHS staff, and follow health promotion guidelines.
This story gained widespread regional coverage including the Journal, Northern Echo and Sunderland Echo.
Conclusive vote by global scientists determines real cause of Indonesian mud volcano
Professor Richard Davies, Director of CeREES in the Department of Earth Sciences, has played a key role in helping determine the cause of the Java mud volcano, Lusi.
Two years of global public debate over the possible causes of Lusi has finally concluded. A resounding vote of international petroleum geologists from around the globe, including Professor Davies, concluded the mud volcano was triggered by drilling of a nearby gas exploration well.
Professor Davies, who carried out the first scientific report into the causes and impact of Lusi two years ago, has repeatedly challenged alternative theories that the eruption was triggered by an earthquake. His ongoing research has maintained the mud volcano was manmade.
Lusi started to erupt in East Java, Indonesia, on 29 May 2006, and is still spewing huge volumes of boiling mud over the surrounding area. It has displaced around 30,000 people from their homes and swamped 12 villages. The outcome of the vote may have implications for compensation of the local population affected.
Professor Davies commented: "New data on the pressures in the well the day before the eruption provides a compelling tape recording of the well as it started to leak. "I remain convinced that drilling was the cause of the mud volcano. The opinion of the international scientists at the event in South Africa adds further weight to my conviction and the conclusions of many other leading scientists who have studied Lusi."
This has been covered internationally over the past two years by outlets including Reuters, Agence France Presse, Gulf Times, Times of India, The Jakarta Post, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, New Statesman, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC Radio Australia; and nationally by outlets including Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Financial Times, BBC Radio 4, BBC news online.
"Cosmic Eye" sheds light on early galaxy formation
A Cosmic Eye has given scientists a unique insight into galaxy formation in the very early Universe.
Using gravity from a foreground galaxy as a zoom lens the team, including scientists from Durham University, was able to see a young star-forming galaxy in the distant Universe as it appeared only two billion years after the Big Bang.
The researchers, led by Dr Dan Stark, of Caltech, say their findings show for the first time how the distant galaxy might evolve to become a present-day system like our Milky Way
The Cosmic Eye is so called because the foreground galaxy, which is 2.2 billion light years from Earth, appears in the centre of an arc created by the distant galaxy - giving it the appearance of a human eye. Research co-author Dr Mark Swinbank, in The Institute for Computational Cosmology said: "This is the most detailed study there has been of an early galaxy. Effectively we are looking back in time to when the Universe was in its very early stages.
"This technique of using gravitational lensing provides us with a glimpse of what we will commonly achieve when the next generation of telescopes, which are still a decade away, come online."
This generated national coverage in Telegraph, Daily Mail, Channel 4 News, Press Association as well as international coverage including United Press International.