Online First


Article
Clinical vaccine research in children in Malta
David Pace
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Clinical vaccine trials in children are extremely important for the investigation of new vaccines as well as for studying different ways of scheduling vaccines that are currently in use. Data from such trials, in addition to epidemiological data on the infectious disease the vaccines are trying to prevent, can be used to introduce vaccines as well as to improve the current immunisation schedules. The purpose of this review is to showcase the clinical vaccine research on meningococcal C vaccines in children that was carried out in Malta in collaboration with the UK from 2010 to 2013, data from which have already been presented and published in peer reviewed journals. This review gives a synopsis of the immunogenicity of reduced dose meningococcal C vaccine schedules in infants as well as the immune kinetics of the antibodies induced following a booster dose at 12 months of age. The practicality of the study findings are discussed, including their relevance to the meningococcal vaccines that were recently introduced on the national immunisation schedule in Malta. Hopefully this research will encourage doctors to show interest in leading future research in children in Malta with appropriate support from our clinical and academic institutions.
Article
Living in the era of multiple epidemics – A Malta perspective
Sarah Cuschieri
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have long been a global epidemic way before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, it was estimated that 6.55% of the adult population in Malta suffered from at least one NCD, with type 2 diabetes, obesity and low back pain dominating the NCD scene. The onset of COVID-19 challenged the healthcare systems, as well as the wellbeing of the population. Restrictions instituted to control COVID-19 led to negative repercussions on those suffering from NCDs apart from bringing to the fore specific NCDs such as mental illness, obesity, and back pain. Furthermore COVID-19 increased the population burden through enhanced morbidity and mortality. However, the COVID-19 vaccination was observed to have helped dampen this burden. Yet, it is important that a syndemic approach is adopted to ensure that all epidemics are simultaneously given the appropriate attention and timely action is provided to safeguard the population health and wellbeing.
Article
Research on Microgrids at the University of Malta
Alexander Micallef
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
This article presents some of the work done in recent years by the microgrids research team at the Department of Industrial Electrical Power Conversion (IEPC). Research activities are dedicated towards enabling secure, reliable, and carbon free electricity systems. To date, the main contributions by the department were made to the operation, control and management of microgrids in low voltage (LV) distribution networks, ship electrification (shipboard microgrids) and low voltage DC microgrids. The paper also presents a few of the significant results achieved by the department to date including a hierarchical control architecture for single phase microgrids, control algorithms of power electronic converters for AC and DC microgrids, energy and power management strategies, power quality improvement algorithms and technologies, demand response strategies and devices, and the effective integration of renewables and energy storage systems.
Article
Quality education, social cohesion and active labour market policies: A comparative analysis of two European island states
Camilleri Mark Anthony, Adriana Caterina Camilleri
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Societies benefit from the delivery of inclusive education, lifelong learning and from active labour market policies. Therefore, this research presents a critical review of the relevant literature. It features a comparative analysis on the latest socio-economic policies that are currently being implemented in the Mediterranean island states of Malta and Cyprus. The findings suggest that both countries need to attract more students to vocational and higher education in order to improve their employment prospects. The latest European reports indicate that their labour market policies are increasingly targeting vulnerable individuals, including women, single parents, older adults and migrant workers, among others, who are not in employment, education or training. In conclusion, this contribution implies that the pursuit of continuous improvements in quality education and social cohesion can create a virtuous cycle of productivity outcomes, including job creation and societal well-being.
Article
Cannabinoids For Fibromyalgia: An Updated Systematic Review
Jean Claude Scicluna, Giuseppe Di Giovanni
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Fibromyalgia is an increasingly prevalent condition resulting in high morbidity and economic burden for sufferers. Minimal to modest benefit has been achieved by pharmacotherapies, creating a strong rationale for novel therapies. Substantial evidence has implicated the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of fibromyalgia symptoms. However, the therapeutic potential and potential adverse effects of cannabis-based therapy in fibromyalgia are still under-reported, leading to clinicians’ hesitation to opt for such therapy. This systematic review examined the literature and provided a critical review of the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based therapy in fibromyalgia. It resulted that medical cannabis is a safe and effective treatment option for fibromyalgia, whilst further research in this area is needed.
Article
Interferometric phase denoising and unwrapping: a literature review
Gianluca Valentino, Johann Briffa, Reuben Farrugia, Asma Fejjari
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Interferometric SAR (InSAR) phase denoising and phase unwrapping are two key steps of the InSAR pipeline, leading to estimated deformation maps. The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the recent literature in the field of InSAR phase denoising and unwrapping, and identify the most promising techniques, as well as benchmarks for performance comparison. Summaries of the performance metrics of the various methods are also provided. An example use case of InSAR techniques, including phase denoising and unwrapping, to estimate deformation following a volcanic eruption is provided.
Article
AI and Games: The Remarkable Case of Malta
Georgios N. Yannakakis
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
We currently witness a technological revolution that is attributed primarily to artificial intelligence (AI) advancements. Even before this AI Spring, however, the plethora of machine learning, search and optimization breakthroughs have been made possible through the direct applications of AI algorithms in digital games. As AI advances, games also advance since AI can continuously test, improve, design and complexify the environments it is engaged in. This symbiotic relationship between AI and games is currently shaping the research frontier of AI and boosts the innovation potential of games across multiple domains.

This short paper has a dual purpose and corresponding parts. Throughout the first general part of the paper, I survey briefly the current state of the art in the AI and games field. Then I outline the critical role of games in AI research, the importance of AI for game development, and the impact their relationship has on current and future scientific breakthroughs. In the second specific part of this paper, I focus on the Institute of Digital Games of the University of Malta as a successful centre of excellence on AI and games research, education, and innovation. Specifically, I provide evidence suggesting that a national focus and targeted investment in AI and video game development has managed to place a small island country like Malta — in just under a decade — among the leading players of AI and games research, education and innovation globally.
Article
A Decomposition of Poverty Headcount: Income and Population Dynamics
Melchior Vella, Gilmour Camilleri
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
We formalise and present a detailed decomposition method to explain changes in poverty when the poverty line is not fixed and depends on the income distribution. Using the shift-share simulation approach, we decompose poverty change into four components, namely income growth, change in inequality, change in poverty line, and change in total population. We provide empirical illustrations with EU-SILC data for Malta between 2005 and 2018. We find that the poverty line and income growth have been the most important contributors to poverty changes, especially during periods of rapid income growth. This decomposition can be used either to interpret changes between two periods or to microsimulation models of taxes and benefits.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2022.2.01
Article
Understanding the Economic and Sociodemographic Determinants of Early School Leaving: A Configurational Approach
Fabri Stephanie, Victor Martinelli, Spiteri Jonathan, Vincent Cassar
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Education is at the heart of any nation's social and economic development and certainly within the specific scope of the European Union’s strategic development. As a result, early school leaving is a subject of inexorable importance because its effect reverberates in other social and economic realities. This paper examines the macroeconomic and socioeconomic determinants of ESL by adopting a multi-analytical strategy involving a linear regression method and a configurational approach. The outcomes highlight the complexity of ESL involving nonlinearity, equifinality, and asymmetric relations. Inequality and parental education emerge as key determinants of ESL; these relationships are more robust compared to the other determinants, namely Gross Domestic Product per capita, youth unemployment, and parental job status. The practical and theoretical aspects of these outcomes are explained throughout the discussion.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2022.2.02
Article
Designing an evaluation strategy for a large-scale science and arts festival using Science in the City, Malta as a case study
Edward Duca, Simone Cutajar, Simona Seligova
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
In this work, we analyse and present a step-by-step guide on how to set up a valuable and informative mixed method evaluation strategy of large-scale science festivals and events. A literature analysis helped identify the best technique to set up a multi-approach methodology (multiple-choice questionnaire and silent observers). Questionnaire data was to be collected using systematic sampling. The approach was applied to a local case study to develop a best practice. Its implementation was analysed and assessed to provide festival organisers with useful recommendations to enhance the evaluation strategy, and improve festival quality and researcher engagement in subsequent editions. Combining a mixed-method approach to collect both qualitative and quantitative data helped gather a good and comprehensive overview of the festival. It set a baseline for future editions to improve upon. All the evaluation efforts carried out in this work were very dependent on volunteers, therefore an effective and appropriate volunteer recruitment, training and retainment strategy was essential. This work has developed a baseline assessment of the festival establishing a professional evaluation strategy with limited funds and experience. It is a step-by-step guide for large science festival organisers who want to set up effective evaluation of their efforts.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2022.2.03
Article
Public opinion and protest efficacy: A study on the proposed yacht marina in Marsaskala, Malta.
Valerie Visanich
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Public opinion data regarding environmental concerns are central to a better understanding of the effects of social movements in sensitising environmental issues, and at times changing political decisions. In August 2021, Transport Malta issued an expression of interest for the design, construction and operation of a 700-berth yacht marina in the bay of Marsaskala, a fast-growing locality in the south east of the Maltese Islands. A social movement made up of residents, non-residents, an environmental NGO and local stakeholders organised a number of protests following the publication of the marina plans. The aim of this article is to identify underlying factors causing individuals’ concerns on the proposed development. It explores the environmental movement surrounding this concern and analyses survey data on public opinion. It does so to better understand the extent of specific areas of impact that the proposed marina would have on the community of Marsaskala. Specifically, it focuses on how this would impinge on the everyday life of citizens. Results point to the social, environmental and economic impacts that this development would have, particularly on the community infrastructure of the locality of Marsaskala. Discussion focuses on how the ongoing impact on public opinion and protest, not only on mobilising public opinion but impacting political decisions.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2022.2.04