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Xjenza Online Vol. 9 Special Issue
Xjenza Online Vol. 9 Special Issue ISSUE: Xjenza Online Vol. 9 Special Issue



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Special Editorial
Top Research in Malta 2019

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Article
The sex ratio at birth
Victor Grech
Pages: 74 - 80
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
The sex ratio at birth (male/total: M/T) is remarkably constant but may be influenced by many factors. Even small changes may result in highly statistically significant variations. The most important factors that impinge on M/T are stress and sex-selective termination. Additional factors include geographical trends, coital rates, radiation, secular trends and seasonality. This paper will summarise these factors but the most important is gendercide, which has resulted in circa 130,000,000 missing women in the world.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.01
Article
Being an academic: A process of becoming
Ronald Sultana
Pages: 81 - 91
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
This paper presents an autobiographical narrative outlining some of the key milestones of the author’s academic journey as evident in his publications in the three inter-related strands that mark his scholarship, namely the links between education, work and employment, teacher education, and international and comparative education. The author draws on over thirty years of experience in research with a view to sharing hard-won insights with early-stage researchers and scholars embarking on an academic career. He notes that while steadfast work is the key ingredient of attaining international recognition in one’s field, luck, being in the right place at the right time, and the enabling influence of mentors are also important, as is the capacity of making the best of opportunities that arise. In his view, however, the litmus test of a successful career is the extent to which intellectual labour promotes the common good.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.02
Article
Origins and Destinations: Career Paths of Male and Female Academics at the University of Malta
Godfrey Baldacchino
Pages: 92 - 98
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
35 individuals (23 men and 12 women) were recruited as full-time assistant lecturers at the University of Malta around thirty years ago. By looking at their ad- ministrative responsibilities, by following their career pro- gression, as well as by exploring publically available metrics about the quantity and quality of their scholarship, it can be argued that there is no significant difference among this cohort based on gender. This suggests that men and women in Malta can today achieve similar career destina- tions in academia; and existing gender gaps are therefore likely to close with the passage of time, on the basis of existing policies.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.03
Article
My 50-Year Research Journey on the Economies of Malta and Other Small States
Lino Briguglio
Pages: 99 - 113
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
This article presents an overview of my work since the early 1970s. My early works were mostly related to the Maltese economy. Between 1989 to date, I focused my research interest on economic vulnerability and economic resilience of small states. I associated economic vulnerability with the high exposure to adverse external shocks by small states, mostly due to their high dependence on external trade as a result of their small domestic market. A piece of research on economic vulnerability published in World Development in 1995 was highly cited, possibly because it led the way in the construction of economic vulnerability indices, and ushered in a large number of studies on the same subject. I associated economic resilience with policy-induced changes which enable a country to withstand or recover from adverse external shocks. Two later studies on economic resilience which I co-authored pioneered the methodology for creating an economic resilience index, and were highly cited. My work on resilience highlighted the need for good governance. I end this personal overview, with the works that dealt with the pros and cons of island tourism, the role of competition law and policy in small states, the need for small states to be internationally competitive, the high degree of climate change vulnerability of small islands, and the need for sustainable development in islands in view of their environmental fragility. My 50-year research journey entailed thousands of labourious hours of processing and deriving conclusions from qualitative and quantitative information, but this often led to great satisfaction in seeing my studies published, cited and inspiring further research.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.04
Article
The Politics of Education
Peter Mayo
Pages: 114 - 121
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
In this reflective account, I provide an overview of some of the main currents, mainly in sociological research, and specifically sociology of education research, to which I have been exposed as an academic in my thirty or so years tenure at the University of Malta with temporary academic appointments in other foreign universities. I refer to my research in the context of these currents which have contributed to my ongoing formation as an academic, educator and citizen. The overarching rubric for most of my academic oeuvre would be the Politics of Education. I would like to think that my work is that of an engaged sociologist - a value committed one. The major influences in this piece are Antonio Gramsci, Paulo Freire, some classical sociologists, Henry A. Giroux, Antonia Darder and many others within critical social and political thought. I consider historical movements in the education field as having had an influence on my thinking, notably those concerning workers’ education. Lack of space denies me the chance to explore the influence of other currents in political and education thought which made their presence felt in my work but which can easily be tokenized in the restricted space available. I do provide detailed bibliographical references to my several sustained writings, as author and co-author, on some of them, especially those involved in specific forms of difference, race, gender and biodiversity in particular.



Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.05
Article
Online Recreational Gambling Intention: The Effect of Subjective norms, Spitefulness and Gender
Jirka Konietzny, Albert Caruana
Pages: 122 - 134
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Online recreational gambling has grown significantly over recent years. This growth has been aided by increasing global internet penetration, the rise of web 2, and the ubiquitous diffusion of mobile phones. It has also been assisted by a weakening in subjective norms that has seen recreational gambling become increasingly accepted as a leisure pursuit and more recently also by covid-19 measures. This research looks at the relationship between subjective norms and gambling intention and the possible mediation effect of spitefulness as an overlooked social behaviour. The study also investigates whether gender plays a moderating role. Hypotheses of these linkages grounded in established behaviour intention models are proposed, and data are collected from a sample of customers of an online gambling firm based in Malta. Moderated-mediated regression supports the role of gender and the partially mediated effect of spitefulness in the relationship between subjective norms and recreational gambling intention.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.06
Article
Students’ Attitude towards Academic Misconduct Scenarios: A Review and Pilot Study
Alexia Grech, Hackenbruch Sophie, Isabel Stabile
Pages: 135 - 144
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
To determine the prevalence of academic misconduct among medical students in a predominantly Catholic EU country.
Medical students at the University of Malta (UM) responded to an online questionnaire about academic misconduct scenarios. Results were analysed by Chi-squared and unpaired t-tests.
The response rate was 10% (n=75; 57% female; 81% locals; 89% under 25). Significantly more females considered threats upon students, abuse of alcohol/drugs, and inappropriate language as serious offenses. Fewer than 20% agreed that writing a piece of work for another student or lending own work to be copied, were serious offenses; 30% would not inform faculty of serious misconduct and 41% were unsure whether they should. Forging signatures, cheating during exams, damaging property, lying about their CV and threatening others topped the list of offenses considered wrong. Thirty-eight percent of all students and 15% of Year 5 students reported that it was not wrong to inform others about a just completed OSCE (p=0.0004); 10% admitted having done it (p=0.001). Significantly more Year 2 students agreed that failure to inform the University of a previous conviction for theft was wrong (p=0.04); 8-10% of students admitted copying during exams, copying others word-for-word or writing work for other students; 18% had/would forge signatures on official records.
Medical students at UM behave similarly to those elsewhere in terms of academic dishonesty. Utilizing only assessment of knowledge to determine academic progression may not adequately equip students with those characteristics that would be expected of them as junior doctors.


Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.07
Article
The Role of Menstrual Stem Cells in Premature Ovarian Failure and Asherman's Syndrome
Owen Galea, Nicoletta Riva, Jean Calleja Agius
Pages: 145 - 161
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
A new population of stem cells have recently been discovered within the menstrual fluid. These cells exhibit fibroblast-like morphology and meet the minimum criteria for stem cell classification as stipulated by the International Society for Cellular Therapy. Menstrual-derived stem cells (MenSC) exhibit mesenchymal stem cell characteristics, high proliferation and multilineage differentiation potential. MenSC are derived from endometrial cell populations which, together with a large part of the endometrium, are sloughed from the endometrium during the menstrual phase of the uterine cycle. MenSC are cyclically available in large numbers and can be obtained non-invasively and cheaply. Furthermore, MenSC are not limited by ethical dilemmas since they are obtained from menstrual blood which is considered a clinical waste. These attributes make MenSC an attractive alternative to other conventionally used adult stem cells and consequently have attracted substantial interest in the field of gynaecology and regenerative medicine. This systematic review will focus on the potential role of MenSC particularly in premature ovarian failure and Asherman's syndrome.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.08
Article
The role of orthography in learning a second language: Evidence from Maltese English
Mitterer Holger
Pages: 162 - 172
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Research has indicated that the acquisition of a second language (L2), in particular of its phonology, is influenced by orthography. For instance, Bassetti (2017) found that Italian learners of English produce the /p/ in words with a double letter (such as pepper) with a longer [p] than the /p/ in words with a single letter (such as weapon). This indicates that Italian learners are influenced by their first language (L1) orthography-to-phonology rules, where a phonological quantity contrast between short and long consonants is cued as such in orthography. We tested whether this pattern is due to a focus on orthography in most formal L2 education by testing Maltese learners of English. Just as Italian learners, Maltese learners have a quantity distinction in their native language that is coded by single versus double letters. However, unlike Italian learners, the English L2 is used spontaneously outside the classroom, so that acquisition is based less on orthography. The results show that Maltese learners do not make a quantity distinction in English words with single versus double letters. This indicates that earlier results are due to the focus on orthography in formal education rather than an automatic use of orthography in speech processing.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.09
Article
Green Organic Synthesis via Multicomponent Reactions
Giovanna Bosica, Roderick Abdilla, Kris Baldacchino, Riccardo De Nittis
Pages: 173 - 179
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
The success of the modern pharmaceutical industry is largely due to the remarkable achievements of organic synthesis over the last century. However, many of these reactions were developed at a time when the toxic properties of many reagents and solvents were not known and waste minimisation and sustainability were not significant issues. By the latter half of the 1980s, the worldwide chemical industry knew that it had to clean up its act: its environmental reputation was dismal. In the past two decades, the Green Chemistry movement has helped industry become much cleaner. Green chemistry efficiently utilises (preferably renewable) raw materials, eliminates waste, and avoids the use of toxic and/or hazardous reagents and solvents in the manufacture and application of chemical products. There are several ways in which organic synthesis can be carried out in line with the Green Chemistry principles and among these, multicomponent reactions under green conditions prove to be useful and versatile tools. Recent examples of applications will demonstrate the molecular diversity that can be obtained from this green synthetic approach.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2021.3.10