Heriot-Watt and University of North Florida Cultural and Linguistic Exchange

by Stacey Webb

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For a BSL version of this post, please click here

I have been working in collaboration with Dr. Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida (UNF) on a linguistic and cultural exchange opportunity between some of our respective interpreting students. The project was designed to provide an expansive experience in our field of interpreting as well as increasing cultural awareness while exploring Scotland.  Students had the opportunity to connect with leaders, community members and other sign language interpreting students. One of the major highlights of the trip was being able to participate in Critical Link 8, themed “a new generation” aimed at future proofing the profession.

I am personally grateful to all the people who helped make this week a success and I hope that it was a memorable experience for everyone. I first got to meet the American students from UNF the over the previous weekend, where they got to experience some Scottish sunshine..some Scottish rain and of course farmers markets, bagpipes and the castle!  Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and I loved seeing them take in the place I have made my home.  To wrap your head around of what this experience included here is a recap of the week:

Monday June 27:  Students both ASL and BSL had been eagerly awaiting the introduction of the buddies.  All students were put into pairs! Although we didn’t expect them to be “buddy/buddy” or think that friendships would form over night, we wanted to make sure they knew that they had at least one person to go to with questions, comments and concerns but also to engage in collaborative reflection with. We provided some thought provoking questions to ask each other as well as several activities throughout the day that we hoped would initiate conversations around sign languages and the interpreting profession in both American and Scottish contexts. Students from UNF and HW met for the first time at the Edinburgh Business School Cafe (EBS).  We figured coffee and bacon rolls can only make a day start a little brighter!  After a brief induction, the tutors left the students to find their way to their classes.  Students were then provided a brief introduction to the language of the other country.

Heriot-Watt’s Gary Quinn spent two hours with the American students teaching them some basic communication strategies in BSL, while Suzanne Erhlich, from UNF, and I taught the local HW students some American Sign Language.  These language introductions went over really well, and students were eager to begin practicing with their buddies.  After these initial classes, Yvonne Waddle, Heriot-Watt PhD student and local BSL/English Interpreter, volunteered her time to the students to teach Scottish words and phrases.  It was important to show the students just how different English speaking countries are- yes they may share a similar language, but there are so many words, phrases, and cultural rhetoric that is actually not shared across the ocean.  People often assume that when you move to an English speaking country it will be just like home- and from my own personal experience, I can assure them it is not! This class was a hit amongst the students, and I caught a few of them using their new Scottish words and phrases throughout the rest of the week!

Fanny Chouc, from the French section, assisted us by running a mini conference that focused on the pros and cons of technology.  Mavis Lasne, PhD student participated in the conference and gave a speech in Chinese, where MSC student volunteers ,interpreted her speech into English, and our students then interpreted it into ASL and BSL.  Interventions were also provided in BSL, ASL and English.

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Yes, it was a jam packed and we are not even close to being done yet! After the mini conference,  students were sent off for some reflection time- clear set time to be without teaching and without their tutors. They could meet with their buddies and use the time to “soak it all in”, make mental notes of what they learned from the day, and ultimately get to know each other. Heriot-Watt has a beautiful grounds and I am sure many of their paths have been a source of inspiration amongst many of our students and staff.

Later that evening, students headed to the city centre, where we embarked on a private tour city  tour with Sandemans New Edinburgh Tours .  We invited friends from the Deaf Community, some local and some from abroad abroad.  A local interpreter, Katy Smilie, volunteered her time to interpret the tour into BSL, and I worked into ASL.  We learned stories of Deacan Broadie, Maggie Dixon, and Greyfriars Bobby- a true Edinburgh experience!  Thanks to Brian Marshall, he was also able to share with us (and the guide) the location of the first Deaf Club, and even pointed out the grave site of Walter Giekie, a famous Edinburgh Artist and former star pupil of the Braidwood school. It was fantastic to have Deaf locals on our tour.

We then headed to the Grassmarket for dinner.  All 30 of us made it to the Beehive Inn and I have to take a moment to thank the staff, as they were all fantastic! I am personally grateful to them as I know it can be difficult to manage such a large group.

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Tuesday 28 June:  You thought Monday was packed….  On Tuesday morning, we embarked on a tour with Rabbies on a all day excursion of Scotland.  With two busses full,  the students and invited members from the Deaf Community made there way to Dunkleld, Hermitage waterfalls, Pitlochry, the Queen’s View, Loch Tay/Kenmore and ended at The Famous Grouse Distillery.

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We owe a big thank you to the UNF students for making this tour possible. Ultimately the 6 students on this trip funded the opportunity for all of the HW students and Deaf Community members attend without cost of their own.  This is great example of reciprocity, a value that we hope remains with each one of our students as they continue to navigate their futures as professional sign language interpreters.

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This trip was also special for me on a personal level; my first interpreter educator was also on board, Melissa Smith, from San Diego, California.  She has inspired me as both an interpreter and an educator.  To  be able to introduce her to my own students was was incredibly meaningful.

The tour took us to some really beautiful places. Katy Smilie again, volunteered to interpret, but also the students tried their best interpreting from time to time to keep communication accessible.  It was truly a lovely day; and has Robbie Burns once said, “Wherever I wander, where ever I rove, the hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”

 

Wednesday 28 June-  Friday 1 July:  Critical Link!!! One of the main reasons this week was selected for this linguistic and cultural exchange was that Critical LInk 8 was being held in the James Watt Centre at Heriot-Watt University. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this conference, so the students were not only the ones excited to go.  Personally, I feel it is really important for students to go ahead and attend professional conferences, especially international ones, to truly jump start their professional journeys. It is in these contexts, students are engaged in true experiential learning- where they see that all of the “stuff” their tutors are trying so hard to teach them is real and meaningful to the professionals and not simply “stuff” you learn for the sake of being a student.

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The Conference provided interpreting in British Sign Language and International Sign Language, additionally, there were other sign languages in use (e.g. American Sign Language and Norwegian Sign Language), which provided students even more insight to how different sign languages are from country to country. They were also starstruck- the names they have only read in books, journal articles and seen/heard about in lectures came to life.

Me:  “Did you know you were just sitting by Debra Russell?”

Student: “I was?! Stacey, I feel like I am at Disneyland!”

Other students came up to me and told me how many people they had met.  Talking to them you would think they were actually in Hollywood! It truly was special, because if you are going to have any celebrity idols- I think the ones in our profession are pretty great!

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To celebrate the success of our week, we headed for one last dinner together.  Toasts of thanks, laughter and even a few tears the students were delighted with the week.  To top the evening off, Franz Pöchhacker joined us at Checkpoint in Edinburgh!

The week was perfect blend of sign language, interpreting, deaf community and other  professionals within the field of interpreting/translation (spoken and signed).  Friendships were formed and memories were made.  One of the students from UNF shared with me that the experience was in fact  “life changing”– and that is why we teach, right? Yes, that is why we go above and beyond to create meaningful learning experiences for our students. I am so thankful to everyone who helped make this week great, your efforts are much appreciated and please know they made a direct impact on the 13 students who participated in this exchange!

In closing..

So as you can see the Heriot-Watt BSL section has been busy!

Over the past several months staff, students and the local Deaf community have been meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of the Month for a meal.  We have been going to Entwine, however, recently it has closed down.  I am working on finding a new place and I think we will be meeting at CheckPoint, but will keep you all posted via Facebook.

As always, remember it takes a village to raise a sign language and in staying with the critical link 8 theme, we humbly invite you to join us in future proofing the next generation of interpreters.

 

LINCS BSL team rock at Critical Link 8

by Stacey Webb

Over the past year, Christine Wilson and the rest of the organising committee have been planning Critical Link 8 (CL8), which was hosted at Heriot-Watt University 29-June – 1 July, with pre-conference activities on 27-28 June.

Therefore, the Monday after the SML graduation, Heriot-Watt staff and student volunteers were busy ensuring the success of this conference.  For those who are unsure what Critical Link is, it is an organization that exists to:

  • Promote the establishment of standards which guide the practice of community interpreters
  • Encourage and sharing research in the field of community interpretation
  • Add to the discussion about the educational and training requirements for community interpreters
  • Advocate for the provision of professional community interpreting services by social, legal and health care institutions
  • Raise awareness about community interpreting as a profession            (Critical Link, 2016)

The theme of this year’s conference was the “next generation”- which we see very fitting with our recent graduates!

The conference was a huge event. Read the news story on the main HW website here.

Our BSL team was nicely represented with posters, presentations and the provision of interpreting services:

Posters

Brett Best, EUMASLI Graduate, How Signed Language Interpreters Perceive Facebook is Used by the Interpreting Community

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Heather Mole, 2nd year PhD Student, Do sign language interpreters think about their power and privilege as members of the majority hearing group?

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Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017) in conjunction with Rosemary Oram and Alys Young from University of Manchester, Social Research with Deaf people Group, Critical links between Deaf culture, well being and interpreting: Translating the Deaf Self

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Stacey Webb, 3rd year PhD Student, Job Demands Job Resources: Exploration of sign language interpreter educators’ experiences

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Papers

Robyn Dean, 2016 PhD Graduate,  An Idol of the Mind: Barriers to justice reasoning in sign language interpreters

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Emmy Kauling, EUMASLI Graduate and PhD Student (September 2017), Tomorrow’s interpreter in higher education: a critical link between omissions and content knowledge

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Professor Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017), and Professor Graham Turner, in conjunction with external colleagues  Loraine Leeson,Theresa Lynch, Tobias Haug, Heidi Salaets, Myriam Vermeerbergen & Haaris Sheikh Justisigns: Future proofing access to justice for deaf sign language users

Stacey Webb, Assistant Professor in Sign Language Studies & Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida,  Reflective Practice as a Pedagogical Strategy for Interpreter Educators

Yvonne Waddell, 3rd year PhD student,  Exploring the language and communication strategies of a mental health working with an interpreter in mental health interactions with Deaf patients.

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Interpreting Provision

Marion Fletcher, BSL Interpreter Coordinator at Heriot-Watt, did an excellent job coordinating the interpreting services for the conference. The team was made up of some fabulous interpreters and a few of them are also members of the Heriot-Watt  BSL team.  So a special shout out to our own-  Professor Jemina Napier, Yvonne Waddell, Robert Skinner, and Marion Fletcher. Thank you for not only providing excellent interpreting services, but also for being an excellent example of skill and professionalism to  the next generation of sign language interpreters.  I wish I had a picture of the team all together, but here are some shots of them in action:

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Why Interpreting Studies needs Silo Breakers

by Jonathan Downie

Academics are as much followers of fashion as any lover of Dior or Calvin Klein. Sure, it might not be the latest fragrances or the newest haute couture but research tends to be concentrated around a few themes.

In Interpreting Studies, the 70s and 80s were the age of cognitive research, mostly related on conference interpreting. Psychologists flocked to the discipline and those interpreters brave enough to row out into the deep water of academia were happy enough to follow them. In those days, we learned about ear-voice-span, modelling, and error triggers. The foundations would be set for the creation of the effort models by Daniel Gile in the 1990s, models which are still used today, even if there is still debate about their accuracy.

In the 90s, Interpreting Studies suddenly found itself moving away from conference interpreting towards practices that, depending on your particular cultural bent are variously called “community interpreting” or “public service interpreting”.  Barring the semantic debate on whether court interpreting is a different kind of thing altogether, these terms roughly mean “anything that isn’t business or conference interpreting”.

Largely, the growth of research in PSI (as I will call it for speed) continues unabated, which is no bad thing. Through research in PSI we have learned that interpreters are social beings, that their work is affected by many more factors than our previous lists of error triggers would have suggested and that the idea that interpreters can and should be all but invisible and default to doing nothing when faced with ethical decisions is a load of nonsense.

So far, so good. But, the sad thing is that these welcome advances in knowledge have taken time to filter down to other areas of interpreting. If it wasn’t for Ebru Diriker, Seyda Eraslan and Morven Beaton-Thome, we might never have realised that conference interpreters and political interpreters are as visible and contextually-driven as their PSI compatriots. If it wasn’t for scholars in sign language interpreting, we wouldn’t have realised that the same norms work in that area of interpreting too. (Actually, one could make a good argument that sign language interpreting scholars figured it all out before anyone else but that is another debate.)

What is becoming increasingly obvious is that the separation of Interpreting Studies into silos – PSI people here, sign language people there, conference people wondering what is going on over there, cognitivists trying to shovel everyone into labs in the corner – is actually damaging to the field and to practice. While we can’t always say empirically that findings from sign language interpreting apply directly to conference interpreting or court interpreting, we can at least argue that people in other areas of interpreting should be paying attention. We might actually want to suggest that the next logical step of most research is to try answering the same questions in a different setting.

But instead of better collaboration, silo thinking is entering even into the realm of industry conferences. The first call for papers of the FIT conference in 2017 included tracks for sign language interpreting and community interpreting only, wiping out any chance for experts in other areas of interpreting to contribute, at least initially.

Yes, yes, conferences have to set themes and have to limit participation somehow but does dividing contributions along the lines of different interpreting settings (and even languages) actually make any sense? Does it not simply reproduce in the conference hall the same divisions and inability to communicate with each other that already dogs our profession? Can’t we do better?

To cite Bob the Builder and President Barack Obama, “yes we can”. What if we had conference themes that dealt with our shared concerns, such as PR, client relationships, safety, and professional status instead of on PSI, conference interpreting and the like? What if researchers worked across sub-disciplinary boundaries to examine whether PSIs use different cognitive strategies than business interpreters or whether some of the work on performance in church interpreting might equally apply to conference interpreting?

It doesn’t take too much imagination to think of ways of breaking out of our current silos and working together. The next big idea for conference interpreting might well come from sign language interpreting. Court interpreters might learn PR and self-presentation ideas from mental health interpreters. Let’s interpret and research together and end our self-imposed divisions. It’s exactly what interpreting needs.

 

Critical Link 8 keynote speakers and pre-conference events

This year’s Critical Link 8 Conference, which will be hosted in LINCS by CTISS, is going to be big. We are delighted to announce the Keynote Speakers:

  • The Rt Hon Lord Carloway, Lord President and Lord Justice General, the most senior judge in Scotland and Head of the Scottish Judiciary
  • Professor Laura Gavioli, Professor of English Language and Translation at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Volk, Professor of Computational Linguistics at the University of Zurich

If the intensive Critical Link 8 Conference Programme is  not enough and you are looking for even more things to do in Edinburgh next month, we have an exciting list of pre-conference events:

PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS (summary)

CL8 delegates and external participants

 Monday, 27 June  Tuesday, 28 June
 Beginners’ CAT Tools – Trados
Working in the Booth: Simultaneous Interpreting Taster 
Changing Societies, Changing Terminologies: Challenges  for Public Service Interpreters
Is There an App for that? Getting the Most out of Tablets in Community Interpreting
 Speak the Unspeakable: Interpreting for Victim Services
 Mission not Impossible: Teaching Interpreter Skills in Short Course Settings
“Shh…!” Confidentiality Issues for Freelance Translators and Interpreters 
 Ramon Inglada
 LINCS Staff
 Katerina Strani
Alexander Drescel & Joshua Goldsmith
 Marjory Bancroft
Katherine Allen
 Sue Leschen
 One-day
One-day
 Half-day: afternoon
One-day
 Half-day: morning
 Half-day: afternoon
 Half-day: afternoon

For more information & to register, click here

 

PRE-CONFERENCE VISITS (summary)

CL8 delegates and partners/friends only

Tuesday, 28 June
Visit to the Scottish Parliament 17.15-18.30 (tbc) Leaving Heriot-Watt 16.00-16.30 OR Meeting as Scottish Parliament at 17.00
Walking Tour of the Royal Mile Starting 18.30 Meeting in City Centre
Guided Tour of Mary King’s Close 20.00-21.00 Meeting in City Centre

For more information, click here

To register, click here

Looking forward to meeting you all in June!

 

As If We Weren’t There

by Jonathan Downie

Neutrality has often been touted as one of the cornerstones of interpreting ethics. The general view seemed to be that interpreters should be so good that the multilingual event would run as if everyone spoke the same language. In other words, it should be as if we weren’t even there.

Now, I have already publicly said that I have serious doubts about using “as if we weren’t there” as a basis for our practice but let’s pretend that it works absolutely fine and let’s simply ask the question: “what does it mean to make the event run as if we weren’t there?”

For many interpreters, the answer will be that, whenever we are faced with ethical issues, we should either do nothing or stay inside our roles as interpreters. If we are asked to hold a baby while a woman has a gynaecological exam, we should say ‘no’ and explain why. If we are asked our opinion by a lawyer, we should decline. If we notice someone being taken advantage of, we should do nothing at all.

The odd thing is that, the more we think about those kinds of dilemmas, the more we realise that doing nothing and standing back is the exact opposite of making it ‘as if we weren’t there.’ For instance, the fact that a witness does not speak the same language as the rest of the court, automatically puts everyone involved in a weaker position than they would be if they all spoke the same language. The jury will find it harder to pick up linguistic cues, the lawyers will find it harder to wrestle the nuances out of responses, the judge will find it harder to assure that the witness is not being badgered and so on. For that reason, if we don’t ask for side benches when necessary, a bilingual court becomes less fair than a monolingual one since not all the necessary information is available to everyone who needs it.

How about mental health interpreting? My colleague, Dr Robyn Dean once shared an ethical scenario presented to sign language interpreters which goes a bit like this.

You are interpreting for a Deaf person who is receiving care from a psychologist. After the meeting, the Deaf person leaves the room and the psychologist turns to you and says, “so what do you think?” What should you do?

The ‘right answer’ given in one handbook was that the interpreters should refuse to comment, since it is not their place or training to pass judgment. Yet, if it is our job to restore things to the way they would be if we weren’t there then refusing to pass on the kind of information that the psychologist would pick up if their patient did not need an interpreter puts both parties at a disadvantage.

Obviously, it is not the place of the interpreter to make clinical judgements on the person’s mental state. There could be a case to be made, however, for the interpreter to pass on the kinds of signals that a trained psychologist could read in a patient who spoke their language. So, it may be useful and relevant to say, ‘his signing space was small’ or ‘he tended to reverse the normal grammatical sentence order’ or, ‘when you asked him about his childhood, his signing became sharper and more intense.’

In this case, the interpreter is not doing the psychologist’s job for them but simply passing on the kind of information they need to do their job effectively. If they don’t, we could easily argue that someone seeing a psychologist with the help of an interpreter would be at a disadvantage compared to someone who didn’t need one.

If these cases seem controversial, it’s only because we are not used to actually thinking about the outcomes of our decisions. We are more used to defending our space as interpreters by telling people what we don’t do than thinking about our responsibility as interpreters and what we should do. We are not used to realising that there are consequences for every decision, especially deciding to do nothing.

In short, if it is our job to make it ‘as if we weren’t there’ then we have to realise that our work would necessarily include addressing the imbalances of power, differences in knowledge, and variations in cultural norms that arise when two people do not share the same language. Doing nothing or declining to act actually makes these differences more pronounced, which would seem to go against what we think we are doing when we try to make it ‘as if we weren’t there.’

I remain to be convinced that trying to do that is a sound basis for ethics. But I am definitely not of the opinion that declining to act is any better. There must be some better basis upon which interpreters can make decisions responsibly, what might that be? Let’s hear your views.

Critical Links – A new generation (Call for papers!)

CALL FOR PAPERS

Critical Link 8

Critical LinkS – a new generation
Future-proofing interpreting and translating

29 June – 1 July 2016

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Pre-conference workshops and events will also take place before the conference (27-28 June) and the Edinburgh Interpreting Research Summer School (EIRSS) is scheduled to take place 4-8 July 2016.

The Critical Link 8 conference organising committee looks forward to receiving abstracts and proposals from those interested in community/public service interpreting and translating, from all possible perspectives. This Call includes submissions for papers, posters, panels, round tables, and workshops. Innovative ideas for sessions in other formats will be welcomed. Proposals may also be submitted for pre-conference workshops and demonstrations.

The conference will bring together all community/public service interpreting and translation stakeholders: community and public sector representatives, employers, developers of tools and technologies, policy makers, practitioners, professional bodies, researchers, service users, trainers and educators, TICS (translation, interpreting & communication support) service providers, and other interested parties to build on progress made to date in order to move forward.

The overarching theme of the conference is Critical LinkS – a new generation. The aim is to explore future-proofing community/public service Interpreting and translating: to investigate working together across professional, geographic, user-group and language communities, through technology, and coping with current and emerging constraints (e.g. economic, environmental, geographic, legal, linguistic, social…). The conference will be particularly interested in “the interpreter/translator of tomorrow”; TICS stakeholders exploring solutions together; the economic impact of interpreting and translation and of investment in interpreting and translation; and in new and emerging issues and innovations.

Abstracts of papers relating to the following key strands of research and practice will be prioritised for inclusion in the programme, as will empirically-based research and examples of interdisciplinary working.

1. Policy – in the widest sense, not solely at the legislative or public sector levels, and from the perspective of all stakeholders. This may include frameworks or procedures both within professions or communities of practice or user groups and between these groups. It may include reflection on ethical issues, quality control, working conditions, or service provision and procurement.

2. Practice – exploring the landscape of the community/public service interpreting and translation world, the evolving nature of the needs and solutions, and possible environmental changes e.g. use of technology. This may include focus on the links between the various players, but also between the activities and roles within the process. Focus on specific fields (e.g. forensic, legal defence, domestic violence, medical, social, training or education, welfare, etc.) or user groups (e.g. children, people with mental illness, victims of human trafficking, etc.) will be of interest. Call for Papers

3. Pedagogy – exploring education and training provision, practice and resources and focusing, in particular, on working with service users and other professional communities in training/education and resource-building, on planning for the future and changing needs, and on innovative practices and methods of delivery.

4. Price – exploring quality, challenges, and costs and benefits in the widest sense (i.e. human and social, as well as monetary) and taking old arguments forward into the future e.g. managing constraints whilst managing/increasing quality. Consequences and “costs” of failures, benefits of investment.

5. Plus – other topics which are particularly current or innovative e.g. hybrid practices and communication modes, etc.

Abstracts should be approximately 300 words long and written in English. During Critical Link 8, it will normally be possible to present in English, British Sign Language and International Sign (please contact the organisers for more details). Abstracts should be headed with the following information: format, the language of presentation, and the main strand(s) your topic aligns with (1-5). Papers will be 20 minutes long. Panels, round tables and workshops may last 60 minutes or 90 minutes (please specify). There will be a dedicated area and times for the presentation and discussion of posters. Proposals for pre-conference workshops and demonstrations from researchers, practitioners, technology developers, or others should be labelled accordingly. Any such proposals may be discussed in advance by contacting CriticalLink8@hw.ac.uk

Key dates

Submission of abstracts for papers, posters and other proposals opens: 1 July 2015

Deadline for submission of abstracts and proposals to Critical Link 8 30 September 2015

Notification of acceptance 1 December 2016

Deadline for presenters to confirm participation by registering 12 February 2016

Draft programme available 11 March 2016

Registration will normally open autumn 2015

For more information, please go to the following websites:

CTISS – Heriot-Watt University http://ctiss.hw.ac.uk/

Critical Link International http://www.criticallink.org/

or contact CriticalLink8@hw.ac.uk

To submit your abstract, please go to https://www.eventspro.net/mm/getdemo.ei?id=1070307&s=_B19BO7CC9