The second talk at the conference was by Stephen Bax, a fairly recently appointed professor at the OU.
He gave some background on his experience and interests. He has experience of working in Arabic speaking and also studied the language. It seems that this interest in Arabic and the Arabic speaking world might become influential within the OU in the near future - I hope so as it is clearly an interesting and important part of the world.
He discussed his interest in languages more generally and referred to the mysterious language, Voynich (the name sounds Russian as "voina" means "war" but I think this is just a coincidence). Apparently, it still has not been decoded although he has attempted parts of the manuscript.
He then referred to his role in encouraging research and referred to the important research that the OU is engaged in. This is highlighted at http://www.open.ac.uk/creet/main/research-themes/language-and-literacies He suggested that research is not intrinsically complicated although some of the details are. He explained about his interest in eye movements while reading. He referred to some very sophsticated equipment that can track these movements and showed some of the results demonstrating that effective readers move around a text rather than in a linear way. This is quite familiar in principle from what I have read on reading as a skill but it would be useful to know more of the detail.