Our research impact in health science and sport

Across the Faculty, we are determined for our research to transform the health and wellbeing of individuals and make a demonstrable impact on society.

How is our impact measured?

  • We have the highest UK Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014) score for research in allied health sciences in the UK.

  • Almost 90% of our health research output, and over 75% of our sports research output, was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of its originality, significance and rigour.

  • We’re top in Scotland for allied health research and for sport research outputs (REF2014).

infographic: 1st in Scotland

1st in Scotland

for allied health research and for sport research outputs

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

Research impact case studies

Our case studies in preventing work-related cancer and tackling tobacco use illustrate some of the impact our ground-breaking research has made around the world.

International research led by our Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group found that those who work in areas where they are exposed to a ‘toxic soup’ of chemicals are at a much higher risk of developing certain cancers.

The research, which looked at the scale and cost of occupational cancers, especially asbestos-related cancers and breast cancers, has informed policy decisions made by governments around the world.

It has also contributed to prevention strategies and patient support, including material used by Macmillan Scotland, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention, the Cancer Prevention Society and World Health Organisation Europe.

Our award-winning interdisciplinary research into the marketing of tobacco has changed public health and health policy. The University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing (ISM) found that point-of-sale marketing of tobacco, including tobacco display racks, directly influences consumer behaviour and has a clear effect on both adults and young people smoking.

Our research contributed directly to the development of the 2009 Health Act (England and Wales) and the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010, the latter being the most significant change in Scottish tobacco control legislation since the 2005 ban on public smoking. Both acts restrict the display of tobacco at the point of sale to make tobacco products less attractive and accessible.

The display ban was implemented successfully in large shops and supermarkets between 2012 and 2013, with smaller shops obliged to comply by 2015.

We were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2013 for the significance of our research.

Students studying in science lab

Promoting better understanding of sports anti-doping policy and education

International research led by the Sport Social Science Research Group at Stirling has shown that anti-doping policies can have unintended and unreasonable side effects.

The research, conducted in collaboration with international agencies, analysed:

  • the factors behind athletes’ decisions to use doping and preventative factors
  • how anti-doping policy affects everyday lives of athletes
  • perception and trust in anti-doping policies and testing systems
  • the deterrence effect of testing programmes
  • the role of coaches
  • challenges in anti-doping education
  • challenges in expanding testing to non-elite athletes
  • the state of anti-doping in prominent countries
  • the political issues around anti-doping.

Five projects have now been commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Our research has informed new approaches to anti-doping in stakeholder organisations. It has helped lead to the roll out of education and testing to non-elite masters and amateur cyclists in a major cycling country.

Our researchers have been involved in structuring new anti-doping committees within sports governing bodies and sit on national anti-doping committees. Our research has also impacted upon public engagement and understanding of the nature of anti-doping policy, and increased our understanding of how athletes are affected by anti–doping.

Protecting brain health through understanding sub-concussion in sport

Internationally recognised research led by Stirling’s Mobile Cognition Research Group found that routine heading practice at football impacts on memory and brain function which may have consequences for long-term brain health and fine motor control which could increase injury risk.

The research looked at changes in memory and in the communication between players’ brains and muscles before and after making twenty headers -a drill most amateur and professional teams would be familiar with. The ball was fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. The heading lead to increased inhibition in the brain and reduced memory test performance.

The research, which was the subject of a BBC documentary, has informed policy decisions made by sports governing bodies around the world.