A study by the DAM research group examines the massive increase in Airbnb accommodation in Barcelona17.01.2020The ratio of Airbnb accommodation per inhabitant in Barcelona is among the highest in Europe, with around 12 homes per 1,000 people, exceeding Rome (10), London (7) and Madrid (3), but below Paris (28) and Florence (24), according to data from the Airbnb portal from June 2019. That is the conclusion of a study by the Data Analysis and Modeling (DAM) research group at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia, carried out by the researchers Raymond Lagonigro and Joan Carles Martori and the researcher Phillipe Aparicio of the Institute Nacional de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Canada, which involved analysing the spatial distribution of Airbnb accommodation in Barcelona in relation to the socioeconomic characteristics of the population and tourism indicators. The results of the study have been published in the scientific journal Applied Geography, in an article entitled Understanding Airbnb spatial Distribution in a southern European city: The case of Barcelona.
Among other effects, the proliferation of Airbnb accommodation in areas such as El Raval, El Poble Sec, La Barceloneta, Sant Pere and Santa Caterina i la Ribera led to a decline in population density levels and an increase in house prices ranging from 68% to 133% in the period between 2012 and 2018. The appeal of these neighbourhoods lies in the urban regeneration plans that the city implemented between 1990 and 2010, and the regeneration of the seafront in the Olympic Village area in 1992.
Family income levels, the population's level of education, the size of the home and the number of tourist attractions are the key factors influencing the geographical distribution of Airbnb accommodation, according to the data analysed using a statistical method which divided the city of Barcelona into 1,061 sections according to the census figures for each area.
The neighbourhoods in the city centre have the highest density of Airbnb accommodation
There were 19,819 Airbnb accommodations in Barcelona in June 2019, including private and shared homes and rooms. Accommodation becomes scarcer as the distance to the city centre increases. The highest density of Airbnb homes is located at tourist sites, which act as a showcase and attraction for visitors. The areas with the company's highest concentration of rental accommodation are the north-western part of Ciutat Vella, the Gràcia neighbourhood and some areas of the Eixample, and the Sagrada Familia in particular. More than 10% of homes in these neighbourhoods are advertised on the portal. Some census areas in the Eixample, Sant Pere and Santa Caterina i la Ribera district are the areas where most homes have been converted into Airbnb accommodation, with more than 30%.
Barcelona has seen a huge increase in tourism since 1990, when this sector became one of the city's major industries. Barcelona has been the fifth ranked city in Europe in terms of visits since 2010, with more than 30 million overnight stays by tourists in 2018, including hotels and other tourist accommodation.
According to the researchers, the city of Barcelona needs a stricter system for regulating Airbnb accommodation, a review of tourism accommodation licenses, and new urban policies if it is to cope with the massive increase and growth in rentals of this type in the city, and meet the urban challenge posed by this new system of rentals and tourism and its consequences, including rising prices and the decline in population density.
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels
Disruptive technologies will define the public participation processes of the future08.01.2020Government bodies, institutions and organisations such as municipal councils and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), are increasingly using websites, mobile applications and other digital resources to engage citizens in policymaking and public decision-making. However, most of these public participation forums are used to a limited extent for practical purposes, or there is no effective consistency between their theoretical objectives and their practical application. That is the starting point of the CO3 European research project, which will be creating a new platform for the relationship between institutions and citizens using disruptive technologies over three years.
This initiative uses co-creation, co-production and co-management methodologies that engage all the interested parties to establish a digital platform that meets the needs of both citizens and the public or private organisations that use it as the end result. At the same time, the scientific project evaluates the risks and benefits of using new technologies which are still used to a limited extent in public participation processes.
The project is known as "CO3. Transformative impact of disruptive technologies in public services," and is receiving funding from the European Horizon 2020 programme (grant no. 822615) and has an overall budget amounting to almost ? 3.2M. The project was launched last January and will conclude in early 2022, and is led by the Università di Torino (Italy). It is interdisciplinary, and also involves researchers from very varied fields from the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) in Spain, the LINKS Foundation (Italy), the Institut de Recherche et d'Innovation Centre Pompidou in Paris (France), the OpenLab in Athens (Greece) and companies including Flexiguided and U8 (Germany) and Geomotion (Spain).
A platform made by and for everyone
"Imagine that the municipal council wants to build a new school on a disused plot of land in the neighbourhood where you live, but many of the residents think that the school is unnecessary, and that the disused area would be very useful if it was turned into a green area instead. It would be very useful if all those affected could use a mobile application, for example, to look at the plan for the new school via augmented reality, give their opinion, vote
and make alternative proposals suited to their needs," says Ruth S. Contreras, a researcher at CO3 project by the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia.
The platform that will be obtained after three years of work will become a web space and a mobile application that will include many technological opportunities: geolocated social networks, the use of augmented reality, the ability to vote or participate in a debate, in an environment, according to Contreras, "where stakeholders will be able to create, start or add events to monitor activities which have the highest participation in the CO3 ecosystem." It will also incorporate gamification, i.e. techniques from games (or rather video games), such as points, rankings and prizes, to encourage public participation.
However, the researchers believe that there are two key factors to the success of their product: first, the preparation process that has been adopted throughout the entire project, and which has involved all those affected from the outset: "as a working methodology, co-creation involves designing something in tandem with the person who has to use it, and this is essential in the case of software, particularly if it is complex and is going to be used for social and public purposes, as in this case," explains Contreras. The researcher points out that "the design of software or a platform must always be based on a need, it must be easy to use for the end users, and it must be useful."
Second, "everyone who wants to must be able to use the end product freely and adapt it to their own requirements," says Andreas Nitsche of Flexiguided, and as such "each government body or institution that uses it will enable options and disable others depending on their goals and the stakeholders involved." The technology developed will also be available as an app and in a web format, which can also be customised, and available in several languages.
Three pilot tests underway
The software created by the CO3 partners is being developed in three phases, which involve three pilot tests in Athens, Turin and Paris respectively. In these three cities, the councils "are fully committed to the initiative" and they are now "cities with a smart city model in development," says Guido Boella, lead researcher of the project at the Università di Torino. The first phase was carried out in 2019, when ideas were gathered at technological meetings and demonstrations, group work sessions and above all, co-design workshops, about "what form the web and the application should take so that all the stakeholders find them useful and functional," explains Boella.
According to the LINKS researcher Antonella Frisiello, during this first they realised phase that the need for a fully customisable end product is the cornerstone of the project: "In general, everyone wants a practical, easy and fast resource, but the type of functionalities they want differ widely between one city and another, depending on each situation, context or problem they have to address." In all cases, citizens, members of government bodies, institutions and academics have participated in the co-design process, and in some cases students and even children were involved.
Homelessness, urban planning and cohousing in the pilot tests
During the second phase of the project, which is beginning now, the partners will work at different levels to produce and implement the software based on the information received in the co-creation phase. Finally, in the last phase of the project, they will return to the three pilot cities to test their results in three real situations, in the third "co-management" phase.
In the case of Athens, the project will address the problem of homeless people, which amount to a large group in the city, and how the City Council and NGOs can use technology to establish a network of relationships and provide them with the resources they need, such as food and hostel stays. In Paris, the urban development of the Olympic facilities for the 2024 Games will be the test bank for the project, and will involve multiple stakeholders in defining the new environment. Finally, in Turin, the pilot project will consist of an initiative involving cohousing, or shared social housing.
This third phase will also be used to fine-tune the areas of the software with operational problems, and to obtain the end product, which will be made available to any government body, institution or organisation that is interested.
UVic-UCC and Association Montessori Internationale sign a cooperation agreement19.12.2019The University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia and Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) have signed a cooperation agreement between the two institutions. This cooperation agreement will cover teaching, research and knowledge transfer between the two organisations.
The agreement aims to promote Montessori education at all levels in Spain, and to give UVic-UCC a leading role in research in Spain, working with AMI. The "Trainer of Trainers" programme, a comprehensive training programme for trainers on the Master's degree course, will also be available in order to ensure quality and high standards in the teaching of the subject. Joint research projects will be carried out and the Montessori Research Chair will be established, and the mobility of students and teachers between the two institutions will be encouraged.
UVic-UCC has had a long-standing commitment to teaching using Maria Montessori's pedagogical method on the programme of the Master's degree in Montessori Education, the only one in Europe to have been validated by AMI. In addition, UVic has training and research laboratories for early childhood education at its Masia de Torre dels Frares facility: the Teresa Buscart Classroom and the Montessori Classroom, which are educational spaces with the real dimensions and proportions of a nursery or infant school, which students can use and learn according to the same processes experienced by the children.
The University has welcomed the signing of this agreement. The Dean of the Faculty of Education, Translation and Humanities (FETCH), Eduard Ramírez, believes that "this agreement reinforces the existing partnership between UVic-UCC, Montessori Palau Girona and Montessori Institute of San Diego, and AMI recognises the history and educational model of the Master's Degree in Montessori Education that has been established by the Faculty and UVic-UCC." According to Ramírez, "the agreement positions us internationally as a training centre with unbeatable facilities and spaces for training future professionals related to Early Childhood Education and Montessori Education."
Association Montessori Internationale was founded by Dr Maria Montessori in 1929, in order to protect the integrity of her life's work and to ensure its continuity. It is the world's oldest Montessori international organisation, and is recognised as an authority in the field. It offers knowledge for aspiring trainers and thereby guarantees the content of their educational programmes.
The Montessori method consists of fostering the child's personal growth, helping them to access the emotional and social world, and encouraging the creation of a full intellectual capacity, in an adapted environment that promotes their development.
A la foto: Lynne Lawrence i Eduard Ramírez
Judit Molera is working with a study of crocodile bones and teeth at the ALBA Synchrotron17.12.2019A study of crocodile bones and teeth, from both the species in the Nile today and fossils from around 70 million years ago, has been carried out at the ALBA Synchrotron. UVic-UCC, the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), the University of Alcalá (UAH) and the Spanish National Research Council's Ceramics and Glass Institute (ICV-CSIC) have collaborated in this research to ascertain the differences and similarities between these bones and teeth, which provide insights into the growth and physiology of individuals and species, and how different crocodile groups lived in different ecosystems in the past.
The participants from UVic-UCC were the team led by Judit Molera, coordinator of the Research Group in Mechatronics and Modelling Applied to Technology of Materials (MECAMAT). The research aims to compare these tooth and bone samples from today's Nile Crocodile species (Crocodylus niloticus) with fossils from an extinct species from the Upper Cretaceous, to see whether the environmental changes taking place today mean the same for crocodiles as they did in the past. They have already found some differences between the fossils and modern samples using techniques such as electron microscopy, and now they want to discover the reasons behind for them.
The new contribution made by this study is its combination of two perspectives: materials science and biology. The ALBA's MSPD beamline is widely used to study materials including minerals, ceramics and glass, but is also useful for studying organic materials. The spatial resolution provided by synchrotron light diffraction makes it possible to study morphological variations in tissues which are not visible when other techniques are used. "These differences in teeth and bones between the extinct and modern crocodiles may be due to changes at various levels: at the individual level, due to the evolution of the species itself or for environmental reasons," says Julia Audije, a doctoral student at UAM. She also warns that caution should be exercised when drawing conclusions, because "for example, crocodiles replace their teeth approximately every 80-260 days."
The scientific team hopes that they will be able to obtain much more information from this analysis, which was carried out at the Synchrotron for the first time, and they rate the collaboration between the group of biologists and geologists at UAM and UAH and the experts in material science very highly. According to the UAM lecturer and researcher, "we would perhaps not have had access to the ALBA without the help of Judic Molera's team at UVic-UCC and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Barbero at the ICV- CSIC, who are very knowledgeable about this technique and the applications of the synchrotron."
A project by the M3O and Digital Care research groups will create ICT tools to support caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease17.12.2019Researchers in the M3O research group (Methodology, methods, models and outcomes of health and social sciences) and Digital Care at UVic-UCC will be coordinating an Erasmus+ project to develop ICT improvements designed to make everyday life easier for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients. The study will be led by M3O researcher Anna Ramon, and will involve the academic and business world and caregivers in applying new products and services.
The tools they will develop will primarily be used to improve the quality of care that informal caregivers provide for people with the disease, to enable them build a social support network for each other, and to help them stay healthy. The caregivers' involvement in the design of the tools by means of co-creation processes will be one of the project's distinguishing features and according to Anna Ramon, "will ensure that the products that it creates are the most suitable for their needs and ensure greater usability and efficiency as a result." The ultimate goal, says the researcher, is to "improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer's disease."
Partners from four different countries
The project, which will formally begin on 1 January, will also involve partners from Portugal, the United Kingdom and Belgium, mainly from universities with bachelor's degree programmes in the areas of health and social care and technology. According to Ramon, coordinating a group like this one is "a great opportunity to grow as researchers in terms of the method and contributing to getting results."
The UVic-UCC team consists of members of the two research groups and two faculties "to cover the two areas of the project: the health and social aspect, and the technological aspect." As well as Anna Ramon, Josan Merchan, Eduard Minobes and Montserrat Romero from the M3O research group and the Faculty of Health Sciences and Welfare will be participating. Cristina Borralleras and Sergi Grau from the Digital Care research group and the Faculty of Science and Technology will be taking part.
This is the first project that UVic-UCC has coordinated within the framework of the Knowledge Alliances call for the Erasmus+ funding programme, which promotes transnational activities between higher education institutions and companies.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and about 10 million new cases are identified each year. Dementia is one of the main causes of disability and dependence among the elderly all over the world, and has a physical, psychological, social and economic impact not only on the patients, but also on their caregivers and families and on society in general.
The Epidemiology and Public Health research group, the thirty-first at UVic-UCC, is established 17.12.2019The Governing Council of the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia has approved the establishment of the Research Group in Epidemiology and Public Health (GRESP) led by the researcher Albert Espelt. This is the thirty-first research group at UVic-UCC, and it will be based on the Manresa campus.
The GRESP will work in the field of the medical and health sciences, and on transferring information and studying the population's health, with an emphasis on social factors and social inequalities as its primary working area. One of the main lines in the research group's work is observing public health among young people. It also aims to monitor the health of young people and adolescents in central Catalonia. The researchers aim to study health behaviours in depth, including drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality and violence. It will be using a panel of surveys on health and their social determining factors for students at secondary school, high school and vocational training programmes to that end. The group's ultimate goal is to analyse community health programmes in order to extract scientific evidence from various health interventions and policies.
The group has been established to address all the demands received by the Faculty of Health Sciences of UVic-UCC at Manresa, as a result of the many projects in this field it has worked on in recent years, such as the health plan in Manresa, the Healthy University project and various surveys of secondary school students. The GRESP consists of six researchers at the UVic-UCC Faculty of Health Sciences in Manresa, and a researcher at the Open University of Catalonia.
Mireia Bartrons co-authors a study on the effects of climate change on soil carried out in Iceland17.12.2019Climate change will heat up the air, the sea, but also the soil. Key processes for our survival take place beneath our feet, such as the recycling of organic matter and the fertility of soil. This Monday, the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution is publishing the most comprehensive research carried out to date on the effects of warming the soil in the short and long term. This research was conducted by the ForHot Consortium in Iceland, which was established in 2012 by a group of scientists, who are convinced that Iceland is the best laboratory in Europe for studying global warming.
These scientists include the co-authors of the study Mireia Bartrons, a lecturer and a member of the Aquatic Ecology research group at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC), Sara Marañón, Jordi Sardans and Albert Gargallo, researchers at the CREAF (Ecological and Forestry Applications Research Centre) and Josep Peñuelas, a researcher at the CREAF and the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council).
During their work, the researchers observed that the ecosystem suffers experiences an overreaction during the first few years of the soil warming: the metabolism of microorganisms speeds up, carbon is released into the atmosphere, and the soil's composition changes. However, in the long term, it reaches a new equilibrium at which point no sudden changes appear to take place: the species of living beings are different or have adapted, and although the concentrations of carbon, nitrogen and organic matter are lower, the ecosystem has reached a new steady state.
The researchers compared the effects of warming on 124 elements in the ecosystem that included various living organisms (plants, communities of microorganisms and fungi) and inert elements (soil composition). According to the research team, one of the strong points of their work is the consortium which they belong to, which consists of scientists studying different variables in the same places, such as microbial communities, soil chemical variables, root biomass, nematodes, vegetation and carbon levels. "The focuses of other research are more limited in scope," says Sara Marañón, a researcher at the CREAF and the co-author of the study.
An area in Iceland shows the short-term and long-term consequences of soil warming
The research was carried out near Hveragerdi in southwestern Iceland - "a special location because the geothermal activity there causes the soil temperature to rise from 0.5 °C to 40 °C, depending on the distance to the underground hot spots," says Mireia Bartrons, "and this allows us to study how the rise in temperature affects the subarctic ecosystem."
The ages of the temperature gradients in this environment also vary. On the one hand, some soils have evolved with these gradients for over 50 years. On the other, an earthquake in 2008 created new geothermal gradients in other soils. As a result, the researchers were able to compare the effects of rising temperatures on the soil ecosystem in the short term (from 5 to 8 years) and the long-term effects (over 50 years). "Experiments measuring the impact of the temperature of the soil do not usually date back so far, and rarely last longer than 10 years. The most innovative feature of our research is that it enables us to observe changes in ecosystems over the long term, and to find out for the first time about the adaptations that different elements and processes undergo in the ecosystem. That is extremely valuable," say the researchers.
According to Mireia Bartrons, "the key in this research is not to try to extrapolate the specific changes that take place in the various communities of plants, microorganisms and animals in this area to other ecosystems, but instead to identify the elements in an ecosystem that are most useful for predicting the effects of climate change in the long term." Her colleague Sara Marañón adds that "we cannot expect all global warming studies to last for over 50 years. That's why this research provides a framework for understanding the changes that these rising temperatures trigger in the ecosystem. This will make it easier for future research to select the variables that can best predict what will happen in the long term using a short-term analysis."
The BETA Technology Centre is leading a community of 14 European projects to extend the green economy to the entire Mediterranean region16.12.2019The countries of the Mediterranean region are facing challenges as a result of unsustainable human activity, including the decline of natural resources, climate change, water scarcity, the growth of urban environments and rising pollution levels. At the same time, positions with a Mediterranean perspective are not always adopted when European environmental policies are defined. In this context, the European Green Growth community was established three years ago. It is coordinated by the BETA Technology Centre (Biodiversity, Ecology and Technology and Environmental and Food Management) at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) and operates under the auspices of the Interreg MED programme.
This community shares and creates synergies from among 14 European projects which have so far brought together 165 institutions, entities and companies in the Mediterranean region, which work towards sustainable development in the region, in fields as varied as the food industry, smart cities, waste management and obtaining funding.
A community of green economy projects
According to its coordinator, the BETA Technology Centre researcher Mercè Boy-Roura, the ultimate goal behind the creation of this community has been "to establish an umbrella project that enables other more specific projects to have a real and relevant impact on the territory, either by transferring innovative business models to companies or by influencing policymaking." Boy-Roura believes that "these are things that would be difficult for each project to achieve individually and in isolation."
During its first three years, from November 2016 until last October, the project was called Synggi (Synergies for Green Growth Initiatives). During this period, it worked to establish and launch the community, bringing together projects and actors that innovate in the field of the green economy, or in other words, "the economy that improves human well-being and social fairness, reduces environmental risks, is efficient in the use of resources and follows a model that takes into account the social dimension and the conservation of ecosystems," according to Boy-Roura's definition. She says that "having created a sense of belonging to the group among very diverse projects, and a working dynamic based on cooperation that has established dynamics that are very rare in this field" while completing the first phase of the project has been very important.
With UVic-UCC as its main partner, the community has six other members: an Italian consortium that includes most Italian universities working on industrial and managerial economic issues (CUEIM), the Centre for Energy, Environment and Resources (CENER21) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the companies Dynamic Vision from Greece and REVOLVE Mediterráneo from Barcelona, the French network ANIMA Investment, and the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) in Belgium. The 14 projects that make up the community are in practice a network consisting of up to 165 of all kinds of institutions, including the public administration, the private sector, academia and civil society, on both the north and south coasts of the Mediterranean. In total, the community involves 13 countries and has a budget of around 30 million euros. The participants on behalf of the BETA Technology Centre also include its director, Sergio Ponsá, and the centre's manager and promoter Albert Palou.
Three more years to influence political decision-making
The second phase of the Green Growth community began this November, and will continue until June 2022. Over these three years, the members coordinated by the BETA Technology Centre will continue to work in four major working groups, covering four major subject areas aligned with European environmental policies: efficiency in the use of natural resources; green and intelligent management of public services; waste management and reduction, and competitiveness and innovation.
Mercè Boy-Roura believes that its next objectives are clear. First, "to work together so that the Mediterranean region makes the transition to a new sustainable economic model, in other words, to a working model that prioritises the reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling of materials and products as opposed to the consumption of raw materials." This means "making different proposals in many different fields and in many different ways, but always on a coordinated basis that meets the region's needs."
Meanwhile, the success of the Green Growth community will also involve "being able to transfer our results to the regional and national government bodies and to the economic and industrial sector," so that they all "take them into account and include them when legislating and making decisions."
Inclusion in the agenda of the Union for the Mediterranean
At the end of the first phase and the beginning of the second, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) endorsed the Green Growth community, giving it recognition that is awarded to projects that the 43 countries in this intergovernmental organisation unanimously believe are important for the future of the territory. In the case of Green Growth, the endorsement is an acknowledgement of the results obtained by the community, and it is including them as a benchmark in its own strategic agenda. At the same time, it believes that the initiative brings specific benefits to the citizens in the Mediterranean arch, and contributes to the integration of the various regions that are a part of it.
According to Mercè Boy-Roura, "being part of the strategic agenda of the Union for the Mediterranean is very important for the community, because it means that the 43 member countries consider the green economy as a priority in the Mediterranean and they also use our results as a benchmark." According to the researcher, "taking this step has taken us to a level of influence that we would not have thought possible at the beginning of the project."