December 2014 saw the announcement of the long awaited Research Excellence Framework (REF) results, in which 96% of Bournemouth University’s research was rated at an international level, with 18% of that deemed to be world leading.

The assessment recognised BU as a leading university in both the UK, and south west region. Tourism was rated as first in the UK based on internationally recognised research. While art and design was ranked as first in the south west based on world leading research, and communication, cultural and media studies was rated as first in the south west based on the impact of its research.

Commenting on the BU’s achievements, Professor John Vinney, BU’s Vice-Chancellor said,

This assessment of research differs from the last time we were assessed in 2008 as it now also measures the “impact” of our research. This is a measurement of how research helps improve society and it is very much at the heart of what we do at BU. We have invested heavily in our research at BU and I am delighted that this has been recognised by our improved assessment with the REF.

The impact of research

For the first time, REF also measured not just the quality of research, but also its impact on the wider world. BU’s results showed that over 70% of our research impact has been deemed to be outstanding (4*) or very considerable (3*).

Research which makes a difference to the world is at the heart of BU’s work, and our results reflect that commitment. One example from our REF submission was Dr Ian Stephenson’s work into improving motion blur in animated films.

Researchers at Bournemouth University developed a new method of improving motion blur in filming, thus producing higher quality images without any penalty in rendering time. The method was implemented by Pixar and is now regularly used in major feature films, making a significant contribution to improving viewer experience.

Motion blur is the effect which occurs when objects are filmed at speed or during a long exposure and can appear to make objects look streaky.  In digital animation, creating images with no motion blur is quite straightforward, but the end result is an image which looks unnatural compared to those shot with a real camera. This means that motion blur needs to be added in again in order to create a more realistic image.

Techniques to add in motion blur had been largely unchanged for over twenty years, until research from Bournemouth University led to a significant modification in practice. Previous techniques, reflected that the camera captures light over time, but did not taken into account the time needed for the shutter to open and close. By incorporating the slow physical movement of a real shutter into computer graphics rendering software, images which are much more closely matched to that of a real camera can be produced.

Future funding

As well as being an acknowledgement of the excellent and exciting research already going on at BU, our REF results will have an impact on our future research funding. REF results are used by the UK’s four funding bodies to allocate research funds from 2015 onwards. The majority is allocated via a funding formula, of which REF results form a significant part.