Thursday, 11 June 2020

NUI Galway will host the 24th Annual Health Promotion Conference online on Thursday, 18 June, with this year’s theme being ‘Promoting Health and Wellbeing: Creating a more equitable and sustainable environment’. The conference is hosted by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway in collaboration with the World Health Organisation; Department of Health; the Health Service Executive; and the Association of Health Promotion Ireland. The virtual conference aims to promote exchange of ideas on research, policy and practice, as well as to act as a networking platform to promote future development of collaborative partnerships in the field of health, wellbeing and sustainability. Transitioning to an online conference complements the conference sustainability theme, decreasing collective consumption while maintaining a sense of open discourse and providing networking opportunities. The conference will bring together leading academics, researchers, practitioners and policymakers to present theoretically informed, empirical research and perspectives on health and wellbeing, sustainability, climate adaptation, livable healthy space and place, and equitable governance structures including: Dr Faten Ben Abdelaziz, Head of Enhanced Wellbeing Unit, Division of UHC/Healthier Populations at WHO-HQ Geneva Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director, Strategic Planning and Transformation, HSE Kate O'Flaherty, Head of Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health Professor Sharon Friel, Australian National University, Australia Dr Trevor Hancock, University of Victoria, Canada Professor Anna Davies, Trinity College Dublin Matthias Braubach, European Centre for Environment and Health, WHO Regional Office for Europe The conference programme comprises a mix of plenary lectures, paper and poster presentations, interactive paper discussion sessions, and (Live interactive) panel discussions from leading academics, researchers and practitioners alike. Professor Sharon Friel will be discussing ‘Extinction thwarted: surviving global warming’ and said: “Climate change threatens humanity and the planet on which we live. Social inequities, including startling variance in the health outcomes that different population groups enjoy, also pose a threat to humanity, although less directly. Humanity can and must act to prevent catastrophic climate change and redress egregious global health inequities. With a focus on disrupting the existing ‘consumptagenic system’, there are necessary steps we must take to move from inertia towards effective and equitable climate change adaptation and mitigation through progressive public policy, sustainable business models and effective social mobilisation.” Dr Trevor Hancock will present his paper on ‘Gaia: The ultimate setting for health promotion’ and said: “The ultimate determinant of our health is Gaia - the living Earth - from whence comes all our basic needs; oxygen, water, food, materials, fuels and many other life-supporting services. We cannot be healthy if we harm the health of the Earth. So we have to rapidly transform our society, economy and way of life to one that is compatible with living well within the limits of this one planet that is our only home.” Professor Anna Davies will discuss ‘Food Sharing: Contributions to Health, Wellbeing and Sustainability’ and  Matthias Braubach will present on ‘Environmental health inequalities across Europe: evidence for action’. This event provides a platform for exchange of ideas for research, policy and practice developments in health promotion and sustainability. It also provides the opportunity to explore how issues of health, equity and sustainability can be encouraged, measured and governed at different scales. Dr Mary Jo Lavelle, Director of Outreach Programmes at the Discipline of Health Promotion at NUI Galway and Conference Co-Chair, said: “As the world faces the Covid-19 pandemic, our 24th Health Promotion conference focus provides a timely platform for connecting health, environmental sustainability and equity research in an increasingly globalised world. The conference theme reflects on the challenges required to create a transition towards a more equitable and sustainable environment to promote health and wellbeing. Humanity’s global consumption demands are causing irreversible impacts on global ecosystems and the Earth’s bio-capacity. Ecological issues (such as climatic change, ocean acidification, land degradation, water scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, and biodiversity loss) represent serious threats to human health. So too, does the future projected growth in urban environments and their impact on health outcomes through reduced air pollution and provision of green space as well as the magnitude of urban heat islands. Consequences of anthropogenic environmental change and degradation to the structure and function of the Earth’s natural systems represent a growing threat to human health and wellbeing that need to be considered if we are to promote and protect the future health and wellbeing of our population and planet. Promoting positive health and wellbeing cannot be achieved without an understanding of the need to conserve planetary biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as the need to transition towards more sustainable forms of consumption practices.” The conference is relevant to practitioners, researchers and policymakers alike. Registration details for attending this online event at https://bit.ly/2BPt1Ln. For further information on the conference, including latest news, updates and publications, please visit the https://bit.ly/2MHQRuK. For further enquiries contact NUI Galway’s Health Promotion Research Centre at hprc@nuigalway.ie or Dr Mary Jo Lavelle at mary.lavelle@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Thursday, 11 June 2020

An NUI Galway researcher, Pietro Marchese, will be awarded a Fulbright Irish Awards for 2020-21 by Minister Ciarán Cannon T.D. today. At a time when international education programmes face huge challenges, the enduring Fulbright Programme will 36 remarkable academics, professionals and students from Ireland to go to the USA and collaborate with their U.S. counterparts.  Pietro Marchese is a PhD student at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine, funded by the Irish Research Council. He holds a BA in Biological Sciences and a M.Sc. in Plant Biotechnology from the University of Turin in Italy. His doctoral research focuses on marine natural products drug discovery for regenerative medicine, implementing high throughput screening strategies to detect drug candidates produced by marine filamentous fungi. As a Fulbright-Marine Institute Student Awardee to the University of South Florida in Tampa, he will investigate the chemistry of fungal strains isolated from the deep Atlantic Ocean in order to identify new bioactive molecules for diseases such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. While at USF, he will also improve the drug discovery program by testing a library of deep-sea fungal compounds for new medical targets.  Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway, said: "I am delighted to extend my congratulations to Peitro Marchese. Exchanges such as Fulbright, expand knowledge bases and provide opportunities for new discovery. These academic and cultural exchanges, such as Pietro's project to identify new bioactive molecules for diseases and drug discoveries, help expose the talent of NUI Galway's research internationally." The resilient Fulbright programme has served to strengthen international relations throughout turbulent times for over seventy years. Founded in 1946, it has enabled academic and cultural exchanges between more than 2,500 Irish and American citizens since 1957. With an emphasis on cultural immersion and building long-term academic and professional connections, the Fulbright programme selects excellent candidates from all over Ireland to work with top U.S. Institutions across all disciplines ranging from science, technology and business, to the arts and culture. Minister Ciarán Cannon T.D. said: “The role of Fulbright Awardees in driving international research and keeping global channels of communications open is more important than ever. Fulbright has always propelled collaboration between the brightest minds. I wish this year’s Awardees every success for their time in the United States.”  The next round of applications for Fulbright Irish Awards will open on 31 August 2020, interested applicants should visit www.fulbright.ie for more information.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Research finds Ireland can improvise well in a major crisis, but “silo mentality” a barrier to long-term environmental planning New research by NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute has shown Irish policymakers can respond in fast and imaginative ways when put under pressure by disruptive crises. However, it shows failure to plan for long-term environmental challenges. Known as the EPIIC (Environmental Policy Integration: Innovation and Change) project, which was funded by the EPA, the initiative explores how well environmental policy is integrated into Ireland’s system of government and public administration. It looked at emergency responses, how they’re dealt with in the short-term, and how they impact the long-term. The research found that Irish policies for energy poverty and conservation were quickly and creatively developed, even in the face of the 2008 financial crisis.   Throughout the process 38 interviewees expressed strong views on a lack of environmental data sharing, on the suitability of voluntary agreements that aim to go beyond compliance, and the importance of subsidies, specifically feed-in tariffs, for new renewable technologies in Ireland such as anaerobic digestion or biogas. Interviewees suggested that awareness of the Environmental Policy Integration concept was limited because of a ‘silo mentality’. It suggested that the State could engage more with the citizen to achieve buy-in when formulating responses for the long run. This will require institutional change, adaptation, and evolution along with a dedicated ‘network agent’ to broker formal policy networking. Environmental Policy Integration is not a new concept, nor is it unique to Ireland, but the EPIIC project showed how it requires a renewed effort to ‘mainstream’ environmental and climate concerns into all other policy sectors, notably into agriculture, energy, transport, and health. The research commended policy ‘champions’ for using this approach including specialist agencies, larger multi-national firms and also not-for-profit NGOs. Dr Brendan Flynn, NUI Galway, Principal Investigator for EPIIC and one of the Ryan Institute authors explained: “This research is more relevant than ever right now. Our approach was to explain how policymaking is increasingly having to improvise in a global era of disruption -and that was long before COVID-19. However, with the scale and lethality of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is not just an opportunity -but a necessity -to get joined-up policies working. Our research explains how, for example, retrofitting for energy conservation was so successful in getting ‘silos’ ranging from health to energy to jobs working together, during the last great recession in the late 2000’s. That success story can be replayed and built upon.” Pádraic Ó hUiginn, co-author, elaborated: “Our research identified areas of cross-sectoral pressures on the Irish environmental policy system and the gaps and opportunities for joined-up thinking. We followed our own ‘epic’ process of thirty-eight interviews, across three jurisdictions, aimed at giving voice to the experiences, insights and learnings of those on the frontline of environmental policy delivery. We think the EPIIC report offers something like a ‘Rough Guide’ or a ‘Lonely Planet’ travel guide for those in government and public administration faced with the daunting challenges of delivering joined-up environmental policies. It offers tips on the ‘must see’ and ‘best to avoid’ routes to policy integration.” EPIIC was published as part of the EPA Research Programme 2014–2020. The programme is financed by the Irish Government. It is administered on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment by the EPA, which has the statutory function of co-ordinating and promoting environmental research. -Ends-

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Tá An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar le teachtaireacht speisialta a thabhairt do chéimithe le linn an tsearmanais Reáchtálfaidh OÉ Gaillimh Bronnadh Fíorúil an tSamhraidh Dé Máirt, an 16 Meitheamh, a chraolfar beo ar Facebook do 155 céimí agus dá muintir. Bronnfaidh an Ollscoil roinnt Céimeanna Baitsiléara Onóracha, Ard-Dioplómaí, Dioplómaí agus Teastais Iarchéime, Máistreachtaí, Céim Dhochtúireachta le Litríocht (DLitt) agus Céimeanna PhD ar mhic léinn ó Choláiste an Leighis, na nEolaíochtaí Sláinte agus an Altranais; Coláiste na hEolaíochta agus na hInnealtóireachta; Coláiste an Ghnó, an Bheartais Phoiblí agus an Dlí; agus Coláiste na nDán, na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta agus an Léinn Cheiltigh. Baineann péire de na grúpaí céimithe is mó leis an MA Obair Shóisialta agus leis na cláir fhochéime sna hEolaíochtaí Sláinte, lena n-áirítear Teiripe Shaothair, Cosliacht, agus Teiripe Theanga agus Urlabhra. Le linn an tsearmanais craolfar físeán ina ndéanfaidh an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar comhghairdeas leis na céimithe nua as an éacht atá déanta acu. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, roimh an searmanas: “Is tréimhse neamhghnách í seo agus is daoine iontacha iad ár gcéimithe, agus ar son OÉ Gaillimh, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le gach céimí as an obair chrua agus as an éacht atá déanta acu. Táimidne in OÉ Gaillimh diongbháilte de go ndéanfaidh an Ollscoil seo a cion féin le céimithe a oiliúint a fhágfaidh a lorg ar an domhan trí chéile, agus a bheidh in ann freastal ar riachtanais ár sochaí amach anseo. Baineann ár gcéimithe nua le réimsí éagsúla agus baineann go leor acu le hEolaíochtaí Sláinte agus le taighde, agus muid ag breathnú chun cinn ar an tráth a dtiocfaimid as an bpaindéim seo, beidh siad ag teastáil go géar ónár dtír agus ónar ndomhan chun go dtiocfaimid chugainn féin. Beidh a gcumas, a smaointeoireacht chruthaitheach, a dtaighde den chéad scoth, agus thar aon rud eile a gcomhbhá ag teastáil uainn agus táimid ag súil go mór leis an tráth a nglacfaidh siad páirt ghníomhach i dtéarnamh ár dtíre. Táimid ag súil le héachtaí ár mac léinn a cheiliúradh leo féin agus lena muintir ar dhóigh fhíorúil ach ar dhóigh a mbeidh thar a bheith speisialta freisin.” Beidh neart mac léinn idirnáisiúnta páirteach sa searmanas chomh maith, agus cuirfidh an Ollscoil fáilte roimh chéimithe ón tSín, an Mhalaeisia, Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá, an Indinéis, an Bhrasaíl, Meicsiceo, Neipeal, an Ríocht Aontaithe, agus tíortha eile nach iad, mar aon le mic léinn ó fhud fad na hÉireann. Craolfar an searmanas bronnta beo ag 2pm ar www.facebook.com/nuigalway -Críoch-

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to deliver special message to graduates during the ceremony NUI Galway will hold its Summer Virtual Conferring on Tuesday, 16 June, which will be broadcast live through Facebook to 155 graduates and their families. The University will award a number of Undergraduate Honours Bachelors, Higher Diplomas, Postgraduate Certificate and Diplomas, Masters, Doctor of Literature (DLitt) and PhDs to students graduating from the College of Medicine, Health Sciences and Nursing; College of Science and Engineering; College of Business, Public Policy and Law; and the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies. Two of the largest cohorts of graduates come from the MA Social Work and undergraduate programmes in Health Sciences, including Occupational Therapy, Podiatry, and Speech and Language Therapy. A video from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar congratulating the new graduates on their achievement will be broadcast during the ceremony. Speaking ahead of the ceremony, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “These are extraordinary times and our graduates are extraordinary people, and on behalf of NUI Galway, I would like to congratulate each graduate on their hard work and achievement. We in NUI Galway are determined that this University will play its full part in developing graduates who will make a real difference in the world and for the world, and will shape the future needs of our society. Our newest graduates come from a variety of fields with many from the Health Sciences and research, and as we look ahead to emerging from this pandemic, our country and our world will need them in our recovery. We will need their capacities, their creative thinking, their high quality research, and above all their compassion, and look forward to them all playing an active part in our country’s recovery. We look forward to celebrating the achievements of our students with them and their families in a virtual but no less special way.” International students will also be well represented at the ceremony, with the University welcoming graduates from, among other countries, China, Malaysia, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Nepal, and the United Kingdom, along with students from across Ireland. The conferring ceremony will be streamed live at 2pm on www.facebook.com/nuigalway -Ends-

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

The University now ranked in top 1% in the QS World University Rankings NUI Galway continues to perform strongly in the 2021 QS World University Rankings released today (Wednesday, 10 June), moving up another 21 places.  It is now ranked 238th in the world’s top 1,000 institutions. This ranking confirms its position among the world’s elite educational institutions, placing it in the top 1% of universities in the world, and in the top 20% in the QS World Ranking. In these rankings, NUI Galway is the leading University in the Republic of Ireland outside Dublin, and is ranked 100th in Europe. Since 2014 NUI Galway has moved up 42 places, having improved its ranking in 8 of the previous 9 years. NUI Galway continues to perform strongly in its International scores, reflecting the welcoming and vibrant population of Galway City. In particular, this year, NUI Galway has improved substantively with regard to its academic and employer reputation internationally. Speaking on the announcement of this year’s QS rankings, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “This announcement provides welcome news during these uncertain times, and reflects the commitment of our campus community to the highest standards in our work.  Excellence is a core strategic value of NUI Galway with an objective to respect and support the ambition of our students and staff so they are enabled to be excellent in their contributions to our communities.  The openness and diversity of our university empowers us as we forge further links around the world to sustain and strengthen our mission.” In total, eight Irish universities feature among the world’s top 1000 institutions. As a group, all eight Irish universities improved their Academic Reputation score over the past twelve months, indicating increasing regard for their academic standards among the 102,000 faculty surveyed by QS. NUI Galway has adapted its research focus in recent months to enable a multi-disciplinary response to the COVID-19 emergency, with agile modes of teaching and learning facilitating its community around the world. Professor Ó hÓgartaigh continued: “Our response to the pandemic has highlighted our commitment to together looking globally for the public good and we look forward to tackling the challenges that face us and our society with bravery and ambition in times ahead.  As the world seeks to contain, rebuild and learn from this crisis, the role of academia and investment in education are vital one to the global effort, underpinning our commitment to public health and to reimaging our humanity.” The full rankings can be found at www.TopUniversities.com. -Ends-

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Tá an Ollscoil i measc an 1% is fearr áit i Ranguithe Ollscoile Domhanda QS anois Tá gaisce déanta arís ag OÉ Gaillimh i Ranguithe Ollscoile Domhanda QS 2021 a eisíodh inniu (Dé Céadaoin, 10 Meitheamh), agus é ag bogadh suas 21 áit eile. Tá an Ollscoil anois sa 238ú háit i measc an 1,000 institiúid is fearr ar domhan. Deimhníonn an rangú seo seasamh na hOllscoile i measc scoth-institiúidí oideachais an domhain, agus í i measc an 1% is fearr d’ollscoileanna ar domhan, agus i measc an 20% is fearr i Rangú Domhanda QS. Sna ranguithe seo, is é OÉ Gaillimh an Ollscoil is airde ar an liosta i bPoblacht na hÉireann lasmuigh de Bhaile Átha Cliath, agus tá sé rangaithe sa 100ú háit san Eoraip. Ó 2014 i leith tá OÉ Gaillimh i ndiaidh bogadh suas 42 áit ar an liosta, agus tá ardú tagtha ar a rangú in ocht mbliana as na naoi mbliana roimhe seo. Tá OÉ Gaillimh ag déanamh gaisce sna ranguithe idirnáisiúnta i gcónaí, agus is léiriú é sin ar a fháiltiúla atá cathair na Gaillimhe agus ar an bpobal bríomhar atá sa chathair. I mbliana go háirithe, tá feabhas mór tagtha ar OÉ Gaillimh maidir lena cháil acadúil agus a cháil mar fhostóir go hidirnáisiúnta. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, nuair a fógraíodh ranguithe QS na bliana seo: “Tá fáilte mhór roimh an bhfógra seo san am éiginnte seo, agus léiríonn sé tiomantas chomhluadar ár gcampais do na caighdeáin is airde inár gcuid oibre. Is croíluach straitéiseach de chuid OÉ Gaillimh é an barr feabhais agus tá sé mar aidhm againn meas a léiriú agus tacú le huaillmhian ár gcuid mac léinn agus comhaltaí foirne ionas go bhfuil ar a gcumas barr feabhais a bhaint amach ina gcuid oibre ar mhaithe lenár bpobail. Tugann oscailteacht agus éagsúlacht na hollscoile cumhacht dúinn agus muid ag cruthú naisc bhreise ar fud an domhain chun ár misean a chothú agus a neartú.” San iomlán, tá ocht n-ollscoil in Éirinn luaite i measc an 1000 institiúid is fearr ar domhan. Mar ghrúpa, chuir gach ceann de na hocht n-ollscoil Éireannacha feabhas ar a scór maidir le Cáil Acadúil le dhá mhí dhéag anuas, rud a léiríonn go bhfuil béim níos mó ar chaighdeáin acadúla i measc an 102,000 comhalta foirne a ndearna QS suirbhé orthu. Tá OÉ Gaillimh i ndiaidh a bhéim taighde a oiriúnú le cúpla mí anuas chun freagairt ildisciplíneach ar éigeandáil COVID-19 a chumasú, le modhanna solúbtha teagaisc agus foghlama ag déanamh éascaíocht dá phobal ar fud an domhain. Dúirt an tOllamh Ó hÓgartaigh: “Tharraing ár bhfreagra ar an bpaindéim aird ar ár dtiomantas féachaint le chéile ar fud an domhain don rud atá ar leas an phobail agus táimid ag tnúth le dul i ngleic leis na dúshláin atá romhainn féin agus ár sochaí le crógacht agus le huaillmhian sna laethanta amach romhainn. Agus an domhan ag iarraidh an ghéarchéim seo a chur faoi smacht, atógáil ina diaidh agus foghlaim uaithi, tá ról na hacadúlachta agus infheistíocht san oideachas ríthábhachtach don iarracht dhomhanda, agus mar bhonn agus taca lenár dtiomantas do shláinte an phobail agus d’athmhúnlú ár ndaonnachta.” Beidh na ranguithe ar fad le feiceáil ag www.TopUniversities.com. -Críoch-

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Minister Humphreys announces 11 new COVID-19 research and innovation projects building on previous investment Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, today announced an investment of €1.4 million in 11 projects under the SFI-coordinated research and innovation response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment builds on previous funding and complements the existing research work underway in higher education institutions across the country. Amongst the projects announced today is NUI Galway project ‘A rapid test for COVID-19 antibodies’ led by Professor John Pius Dalton. The team at NUI Galway will develop a fast, lab-based test known as an ELISA, that can measure antibodies in blood and determine whether a person has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. The team has already made a short-list of antigens, the features of the virus that prompt antibodies, and will use these as a basis for developing antibody tests that can be rolled out at scale to test large populations.  Professor John Pius Dalton, Professor of Molecular Parasitology at NUI Galway, says: “Essentially, this is community tracing using immune status, but the information gained is an essential element in the overall control measures employed to stop the spread of disease, as well as understanding its distribution, infectivity and epidemiology.” Speaking at today’s announcement, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said: “I am delighted to announce this further investment in research and innovation related to COVID-19. These projects will address immediate priorities to assist us with the challenges we face as we seek to reopen our society and economy, and get the country running again. Research and innovation from our higher education institutions, in collaboration with our health services and industry, can support us in delivering solutions to the many challenges the pandemic has thrown at us. Working together we can find solutions and move forward towards recovery.” Commenting on the awards, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, said “The COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation programme exemplifies the high international standards, agility and responsive nature of our research community. This programme has been delivered by a high level of interagency and higher education institutional collaboration. We are stronger when we work together, and we will continue to collaborate with our colleagues to share the latest knowledge, developments and innovations, and to support ideas that will generate solutions to the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The eleven new projects cover the following: Putting COVID-19 infections on the map in Ireland – TU Dublin Remote blood-pressure monitoring in pregnancy in the COVID-19 pandemic – University College Cork A rapid test for COVID-19 antibodies – NUI Galway Rapid Advanced Production Responses to Frozen Supply Chains in Hospitals - University of Limerick Ireland’s medium-term future in the COVID-19 pandemic – Maynooth University Expanding lab tests for the COVID-19 virus – Waterford IT COVIGILANT - Evidence to inform Ireland’s digital contact-tracing strategy – University of Limerick New antibody tests for SARS-CoV-2 – Maynooth University 3D printing PPE for healthcare settings – University College Dublin  Identifying Protective Immunity in Frontline Healthcare Staff During the COVID-19 Pandemic- Trinity College Dublin  SARS-CoV-2 in sewage and bodies of water – University College Dublin Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan added: I am proud of how the Irish research community has mobilised so rapidly and intensively in focusing on this issue. Ireland’s investment in research allows us to move rapidly and coherently in a crucial area such as Covid-19 research. This will have benefits for Ireland but also for the wider world.  This could not be done without our ongoing long-term investment in our higher education and research and shows the need for continuing investment in these areas at all times. The Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme was established by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the Health Research Board and Irish Research Council. Today’s announcement builds on the previous investment of €3.5million across 26 projects and the ongoing work in our universities and institutes of technology that are adding significantly to the national effort to combat the virus and assist us on the path to recovery. More than 500 applications were received by the agencies.  All of the projects funded have been internationally peer reviewed at the assessment stage. Further announcements will be made over the coming weeks as the reviews are completed. The agencies, working with partners across our public service and health system are now evaluating areas of priority with a view to issuing thematic calls as the next phase of the programme. The focus for the second phase will be on important scientific and engineering research that will contribute in a meaningful way to re-opening Ireland. ENDS

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

NUI Galway are inviting the public to take part in a questionnaire that is designed to find out how people’s attitudes to food has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, which is being carried out by the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, is part of a European-wide research project into measuring to what extent this crisis has changed people’s relationship to food in terms of  planning, purchasing and growing food as well as in the preparation, the ingredients used and in dietary aspects. Brendan Smith of the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway said: “For some people food is purely about subsistence. For others it can be about good health, connection with nature and with family, in expressing one’s cultural identity and way of life. Have these attitudes being reinforced, increased or lessened as a result of the lockdown? There is no doubt that, in some individual cases, there has been a behavioural shift towards what is eaten and how it is eaten. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a rise in the amount of people that are now growing vegetables, herbs and fruits at home; in trying to decrease food waste; in cooking and baking new types of recipes, with banana bread for instance becoming a recent social media sensation; in families sharing meals together; in concern about the impact of ‘food miles’ on the environment and society and in where one buys food. Yet there also seems to be an increase in families purchasing takeaways as a substitute to eating out. So we want to find out, amongst other things, how extensive these changes actually have been and if people intend to continue with these changes post COVID.” To support the European-wide citizen science project please complete the questionnaire at https://www.food-covid-19.org/. All data will be treated anonymously and confidentially at every stage of the research that fully complies with the EU's GDPR regulations. -Ends-

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

A study by the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, Ireland, in partnership with the University of Zurich, has uncovered new insights into how the replication of DNA  occurs  which can be applied to help develop novel cancer treatments.   The breakthrough research looked at a protein called CDC7 which is a trigger for cancer cells to replicate their DNA and form tumors.  The NUI Galway research shows how drugs that block CDC7 work, indicating how they could be further developed to stop cancer growth. The key characteristic of all cancers is that cells divide in an uncontrolled  way forming a tumour. When a cell divides into two cells its DNA needs to be replicated so that both mother cell and daughter cell get a complete copy of the DNA. There are specific points on the DNA called origins of replication and CDC7 works by activating a set of proteins at these origins to trigger the initiation of DNA replication. Drugs that act against CDC7 block initiation of DNA replication and therefore block the growth of cancer cells.   Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Centre for Chromosome Biology and Discipline of Biochemistry in the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, Corrado Santocanale said: “Cancer incidence is continuously increasing both in Ireland and around the world with scientists and researchers constantly looking for new and innovative treatments. My team has shown that CDC7 has another role to play in addition to activating proteins at replication origins.” He added: “We know that many types of cancers are stressed by constantly replicating their DNA and we have discovered that when replication stress occurs in cancer cells, CDC7 works with another protein called MRE11 to overcome the stress and restart replication, so the cancer cells can keep growing. However, if drugs that block CDC7 are added, the cancer cells are unable to overcome the replication stress.” The new research is particulary relevant for the more aggressive cancers such as pancreatic and colon cancers which have high levels of replication stress, diseses in which drugs that block CDC7  are likely to be particularly effective. The researchers also found that if cells have a mutation in the breast cancer gene BRCA2, CDC7 actually increases DNA damage, increasing the likelihood of breast cancer developing and suggesting that drugs that block CDC7 could also be investigated to help in the prevention of certain types of breast cancers.  Professor Noel Lowndes, Director of the Centre for Chromosome Biology said “ This study, published in the prestigious journal EMBO Reports, demonstrates how basic research, that increases our knowledge biological processes, is vital to uncover new directions to take in the effort to develop  effective cancer treatments. The full study is available at https://www.embopress.org/doi/10.15252/embr.201948920 -Ends-

Monday, 8 June 2020

NUI Galway is now accepting online applications for its Access programmes. The Access Programmes are designed particularly for school leavers aged 22 or under, and mature students aged 23 or over, who never had the opportunity to study at third level and could not for a diverse range of reasons perform to their full potential academically. The deadline for applications is Friday, 19 June, at 5pm. The Access Programmes are delivered at a number of NUI Galway campuses including: the main campus in Galway City; St. Angela’s College, Sligo; Ballinasloe, Co. Galway; and An Cheathrú Rúa, Co. Galway. NUI Galway’s Access Programmes provide an opportunity for students who are generally under-represented at third level to progress to University. It is aimed primarily at those on a low income and/or who have long-term disabilities. The NUI Galway Access Courses aim to support students build confidence in themselves, in their academic ability and also to support them all to reach their full potential. Imelda Byrne, Head of Access Centre at NUI Galway, said: “The Access Programme is more than just a group of people, young and not so young, from all walks of life, coming together to avail of this educational opportunity. It is about providing those who have experienced educational disadvantage an opportunity. It is about supporting those who do not have the confidence previously, to progress to NUI Galway. It is about giving all the participants on the Access Programme an opportunity to come together to draw support from each other. And it is about giving a strong message to those in governance that points in the leaving certificate is not the only determinant of success in higher education.” Tom Murphy, a current undergraduate at NUI Galway, said: “The lecturers could not have been friendlier or fairer. At no time did I feel alone or cast adrift. For someone who had been out of education for such a long time the syllabus was just the right degree of challenging. The rate of the Access Course was just right. Not too hard and not too easy. The Access Course was also a great opportunity for me to make some new friends. While the work is not overwhelming people have different abilities and different learning dispositions. Certain camaraderie builds up and new friendships are forged that last all through college.” The online applications may be found on the Access Centre webpage at www.nuigalway.ie/access. -Ends-

Monday, 8 June 2020

The annual AtlanTec Festival went virtual in 2020 for the first time in its six year history. For five days, from May 18-22, the festival’s 30 online events reached a total audience of over 2,500 people. Virtual presentations covered topics and trends in tech and digital innovation in the fields of AI, cybersecurity, fintech, medtech, mindfulness and leadership. This year’s line-up also included a special focus on COVID-19 and featured NUI Galway researchers who are responding to the pandemic with innovative solutions. There were speakers and attendees from 23 countries and over 350 different companies and universities, in what was an AtlanTec Festival like no other this year. Speaking about the festival, Caroline Cawley, CEO of itag, said: “'Virtual work methods have catapulted us as fast as COVID-19 itself and the strong tech cluster along the Atlantec Gateway rallied in the fall-out to host a real world virtual technology festival.  Supported by Cisco Webex Platform and our amazing tech companies we brought over 30 keynote speakers to devices around the world.  Congrats to everyone involved especially the AtlanTec Festival Committee and our supporters.” The AtlanTec festival usually takes places around various Galway venues during April/May with in-company events hosted by the many large tech companies and vibrant start-ups in the region. Traditionally, the festival culminates with a day-long conference at NUI Galway with up to 400 attendees. This year, the multiple-event festival was run on the Cisco Webex conferencing platform. Cisco, with a 200+ strong R&D site in Galway supporting the Webex platform, has long been a partner of the festival. The festival is supported by Avaya, Cisco, itag Skillnet, Fidelity Investments, Genesys and NUI Galway. To see the recordings of the sessions or to find out more about Atlantec, visit atlantec.ie. -Ends-      

Friday, 5 June 2020

<>Findings based on Chinese data also indicate even greater risk of dying from COVID-19 if high blood pressure not treated by medication A team of five global cardiology experts at NUI Galway have collaborated to interpret a study into high blood pressure linked to increased risk of dying from COVID-19. The study has found that patients with raised blood pressure have a two-fold increased risk of dying from the coronavirus COVID-19 compared to patients without high blood pressure, according to new research published in the European Heart Journal today (Friday, 5 June) as a fast track publication. In addition, the study found that patients with high blood pressure who were not taking medication to control the condition were at even greater risk of dying from COVID-19. Professors Patrick W. Serruys, Osama Soliman and Yoshi Onuma recently enhanced the contingent of global experts in the field of cardiology at NUI Galway, which includes Professor William Wijns and Professor McEvoy, all co-authors on this paper. The expert team at NUI Galway collaborated with a team in China and have analysed data from 2866 patients with COVID-19 who were admitted to Huo Shen Shan hospital in Wuhan, China, between 5 February and 15 March 2020. Of these patients, 29.5% (850) had a medical history of high blood pressure (hypertension). They found that 34 out of 850 hypertensive patients (4%) with coronavirus died compared to 22 out of 2027 patients without hypertension (1.1%) – a 2.12-fold increased risk after adjustment for factors that could affect the results, such as age, sex and other medical conditions. Among the patients with hypertension who were not taking medication for the condition, 11 out 140 (7.9%) died from coronavirus compared to 23 out of 710 (3.2%) of those who were taking medication – 2.17-fold increased risk after adjusting for confounding factors. As fewer cases of COVID-19 are being diagnosed now in China, a grant for a randomised clinical trial has been submitted at NUI Galway by Professors J. William McEvoy and Patrick Serruys, who are co-authors of the EHJ paper. In a meta-analysis, the researchers pooled the data from the Huo Shen Wan patients with data from nearly 2,300 patients in three other studies to investigate the death rates in patients being treated with drugs to control blood pressure levels by targeting the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). These drugs include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). Other, non-RAAS inhibiting drugs used for treating high blood pressure include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) or diuretics.  They found a lower risk of death among the 183 patients treated with RAAS inhibitors than in 527 patients treated with other drugs. However, the researchers say this result should be treated with caution as the number of patients in this analysis was small and so it could be due to chance. Professor Patrick W. Serruys said: “There are three remaining questions, and we hope our clinical trial in Ireland will answer the first two: what kind of medication should be given to COVID-19 patients with hypertension – RAAS inhibitors or non-RAAS inhibitors – and could these medications mitigate the risk of dying in these patients? The last question is whether or not RAAS inhibitors influence the risk of infection for COVID-19.” “As for the last question, a recent population-based study in the New England Journal of Medicine has suggested that antihypertensive medications, such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs are not associated with an increased risk of testing positive for COVID-19.” As this is a retrospective and observational study, it cannot show a causal relationship between RAAS inhibitors and the risk of dying from COVID-19. Other limitations include the inability to include all relevant confounding factors; some data, such as electrocardiograms (ECGs) were not recorded in detail; and the impact of antihypertensive medications can only be assessed in the short-term, with prospective studies needed to see longer-term effects. Professor Patrick W. Serruys took up the role of Established Professor of Interventional Medicine and Innovation at NUI Galway in recent months. He is an expert in interventional cardiology since 1979 and he has held many of the most senior roles in his field throughout his career. Through his many innovations he has been instrumental in changing the course and treatment of coronary artery disease over the last three decades. His innovations include the introduction of the use of drug-eluting stents into clinical practice for the first time and in 2006 the discovery of fully biodegradable drug-eluting scaffolds so that a permanent metallic stent would no longer need to be implanted in patients. He has been a Principal Investigator on more than 80 European and Multinational cardiovascular clinical trials. Professor Serruys has been joined by Professor Osama Soliman as Medical Director of the CORRIB Corelab for Structual Heart Imaging, Heart Failure and Cardio-oncology, and by Professor Yoshi Onuma as Medical Director of the CORRIB Corelab of Coronary Imaging and Atherosclerosis Research. Professors Soliman and Onuma bring decades of experience in the field of noninvasive and invasive coronary imaging, novel coronary devices, cardiovascular imaging, clinical trials, innovation in medicine and education of cardiologist researchers. These three brought a group of cardiologist researchers (academic team) who are originated from various countries including Japan and China; the academic team triggered the current intercontinental collaborative research between Ireland and China. Professor David Wood, former President of the World Heart Foundation, also joined NUI Galway as Adjunct Professor of Preventive Cardiology last year. Professor Wood is a cardiologist committed to prevention of cardiovascular disease. He has contributed to international policy and guidelines on cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention through the World Health Organisation, World Heart Federation and the European Society of Cardiology. Professors Serruys, Wood and Wijns have all received the Gold Medal of the European Society of Cardiology, which is the highest honour the Society can bestow on exceptional scientists for their contribution to cardiovascular medicine. Professor William McEvoy has also recently returned to Ireland from John Hopkins University School of Medicine USA and has been appointed as Professor of Preventive Cardiology, Consultant Cardiologist at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospitals and also hold the role of Research & Medical Director National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health (NIPC)in partnership with Croí. Speaking on the appointments Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway and lead Consultant Endocrinologist for Saolta University Healthcare Group has welcomed this new research. “NUI Galway is developing a leading role in advancing cardiovascular healthcare globally aligned with Government and agency strategy to promote Ireland as a global cluster of medical device research. Research, such as this study on high blood pressure linked to increased risk of dying from COVID-19, shows that by bringing together global experts we can make significant advances in healthcare. We have expanded our team to provide the full suite of cardiovascular expertise - prevention, imaging, treatment, and of course, technology innovation. These appointments provide an incredible opportunity for clinicians and researchers to collaborate to advance patient care.  The investigators will also participate in CURAM, the SFI Centre in Medical Device Research.” NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “The appointments of Professors Patrick W. Serruys, Osama Soliman and Yoshi Onuma epitomises NUI Galway’s respect for and commitment to excellent research in the health sector. Research advances of real value to people will result from the combination of their expertise in the field of cardiology and the exceptional research teams currently in NUI Galway. This study into high blood pressure linked to increased risk of mortality from COVID-19 is an example of this combination and commitment. I welcome their appointments with great anticipation of the opportunities to ultimately deliver better health outcomes for patients, for the public good.” -Ends-

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Presidents from NUI Galway, University of Bristol, University of St. Andrews, and Uppsala University will discuss the way forward for higher education during the crisis and its aftermath NUI Galway will host an online seminar to address the issues faced by universities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The seminar, ‘Universities and the COVID-19 Crisis: Problems, Prospects and Pathways’, will take place on Thursday, 11 June at 4.30pm. Immense challenges face universities as a result of COVID-19. Teaching missions have been complicated by the move to online instruction, with uncertainties about whether campus opening will be possible, requirements around social distancing, and how to engage new and existing students. The financial position of institutions is under threat due to reliance on international students to fund the system and reduced income generally. At the same time, universities are a source of vital research on the pandemic as society as a whole looks for a solution and plans for the future. This online seminar brings together leaders of four major universities: NUI Galway; University of Bristol, UK; University of St. Andrews, Scotland; and Uppsala University, Sweden, to discuss these challenges. It is a rare opportunity to hear from people in charge of diverse institutions about their approaches and the way forward for higher education during the crisis and its aftermath. The session features contributions from internationally recognised authorities: Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President, NUI Galway Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol, UK Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St. Andrews, Scotland Professor Eva Åkesson, Rector, Uppsala University, Sweden Professor Daniel Carey, Director of the Moore Institute at NUI Galway, has convened the session which will address university staff members, students, alumni and the public. Speaking about the importance of the occasion, Professor Carey said: “This is a unique moment for higher education, with huge risks but also the chance to make a difference and to find new ways to teach, research, and address social challenges. Leaders based in four different countries will provide perspectives on problems and pathways during the current crisis.” To attend the online seminar visit https://www.facebook.com/nuigalway/live/ -Ends-

Thursday, 4 June 2020

A person’s health is determined by their inherent genetic differences combined with lifestyles and the environments in which they live.  This unique identity means that a “one size fits all” approach is no longer accepted as the best way to manage an individual’s health.  There is a demand for new “personalised” approaches to better manage our health and to target therapies to achieve optimum health outcomes. By combining and analysing information about our genome, with other clinical and diagnostic information, patterns can be identified that can help to determine our individual risk of developing disease, detect illness earlier and determine the most effective interventions to help improve health, be they medicines, lifestyle choices, or even simple changes in diet. Researchers, led by Professor Ines Thiele, a Principal Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, who is based at NUI Galway, have developed whole-body computational models - Harvey and Harvetta. These virtual humans represent whole-body metabolism, physiology, diet and the gut microbiome. These new models successfully predict known biomarkers of inherited metabolic diseases and enable exploration of potential metabolic interactions between humans and their gut microbiomes at a personal level. Precision, or personalised, medicine requires realistic, mechanistic computational models that capture the complexity of the human representing each individual’s physiology, dietary habits, metabolism and microbiomes.  Molecular biology has yielded great insight into the ‘parts list’ for human cells, but it remains challenging to integrate these parts into a virtual whole human body. The Virtual Human Physiome project has generated comprehensive computational models about the anatomy and physiology of human organs but has yet to be connected with molecular level processes and their underlying networks of genes, proteins, and biochemical reactions. Prof Thiele’s team tackled this challenge to develop the first whole-body, sex-specific, organ-resolved computational models of human metabolism, which mechanistically connect anatomy and physiology with molecular level metabolic processes. Their study is published today in the prestigious journal Molecular Systems Biology.  Harvey and Harvetta are virtual male and female human metabolic models, respectively, built from literature and data on human metabolism, anatomy and physiology as well as biochemical, metabolomic and proteomic data. They are anatomically interconnected as whole-body metabolic models, comprised of more than 80,000 biochemical reactions distributed over 26 organs and 6 types of blood cell. Moreover, they can be expanded to include gut microbial metabolism. These unique models enable generation of personalised whole-body metabolic models using an individual’s physiological, genomic, biochemical and microbiome data. Generating personalised whole-body metabolic models is an interdisciplinary effort. The development of whole-body models of metabolism required the development of novel algorithms and software for constraint-based modelling of high-dimensional biochemical networks. “A whole-body model is generated by starting with a set of anatomically interconnected generic reconstructions of human metabolism”, says Assistant Professor Ronan Fleming, a co-author of the study from the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research, Leiden University. “This draft model had in excess of 300 thousand dimensions, which was then pared down to approximately 80 thousand organ-specific reactions using efficient algorithms and high-performance computing facilities.” “Harvey and Harvetta will usher in a new era for research into causal host-microbiome relationships and greatly accelerate the development of targeted dietary and microbial intervention strategies” said Prof Ines Thiele, who lead the research. “These models could accelerate insights into pathways involved in sex-specific disease development and progression. Moreover, thanks to the ability to personalize the whole-body metabolic models with clinical, physiological, and omics data, they represent a significant step towards personalised, predictive modelling of dietary and drug interventions and drug toxicity, which lies at the heart of precision medicine.” To view the full study visit https://doi.org/10.15252/msb.20198982 This study was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No 757922), the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) through the ATTRACT programme (FNR/A12/01), the National Centre of Excellence in Research (NCER) on Parkinson’s disease, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 668738. -Ends-

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Irish scientists have collaborated to develop an innovative autonomous drone platform to deliver sterilising ultraviolet light from above to disinfect public surfaces and therefore reduce the transmission of coronavirus and other microbial threats Researchers at NUI Galway’s Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) Lab have developed a novel method of providing sterilising ultraviolet light radiation in a wide variety of environments by harnessing the versatility of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. The project is led by NUI Galway’s Professor Derek O’Keeffe and Dr Ted Vaughan, with Dr Kevin Johnson from the University of Limerick. As the world recovers from the first surge of COVID-19, there is a real need for a novel and versatile solutions to sanitise the wide terrain variety of public places. These include hospital wards, restaurants, trains, buses, planes, shopping centres, airport terminals, restrooms, amongst other. To help combat this issue the research team have developed @UVCDrone which uses ultraviolet (UV) light to sterilise surfaces. UV light (10-400 nm) is not visible to the human eye and is divided into three bands UVA, UVB and UVC. The @UVCDrone uses UVC (100-280nm) which is high frequency, short wavelength radiation that can destroy the genetic material of microorganisms, preventing them from reproducing and thereby providing the ability to sterilise surfaces. Its germicidal action has been used for decades in water, air, laboratory and medical applications. Professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway and Consultant Physician University Hospital Galway, Professor Derek O’Keeffe said: “We need innovative solutions to fight COVID-19 and our @UVCDrone solution allows the delivery of sterilising ultraviolet light to a wide variety of public space landscapes from staircases to shop floors.” UVC light is harmful to humans, so the @UVCDrone delivers the UVC light when the public space is unoccupied, such as at night time. The drone is programmed to switch on at a pre-defined time, autonomously fly around the public space using a bespoke AI algorithm and when finished cleaning, land again for recharging. Dr Kevin Johnson, University of Limerick added: “COVID19 is a public health emergency and @UVCDrone is another important tool to help us defeat it.” For more information visit www.uvcdrone.ie. -Ends-

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

<>Survey aims to capture data on the numbers and distribution of hedgehogs in Ireland to monitor future populations The humble Hedgehog, probably one of Ireland’s favourite mammals, is the subject of a new national survey led by researchers at NUI Galway and the National Biodiversity Data Centre. The public are asked to take on the role of ‘Citizen Scientists’ and help out in recording hedgehogs for the survey. There are a number of ways in which volunteers can take part: Firstly, as casual recorders, people are asked to report any sightings of live or dead hedgehogs whenever they see them via the Biodiversity Ireland website here https://www.biodiversityireland.ie/projects/additional-survey-schemes/irish-hedgehog-survey/. For those who would like to get more actively involved, there is a Garden Hedgehog Survey where volunteers can survey their garden for hedgehogs using a footprint tunnel that can be made at home, or a trail camera if they have one. Volunteers can take part whether they know they have hedgehogs or not. The simple survey requires that the tunnel or camera be left in place for five nights and checked every day for signs of hedgehog activity. Volunteers may survey their own garden, a friend or relative’s garden, school garden or a green area in an estate – as long as they are compliant with the current CODID-19 restrictions. Results of the survey are submitted via an online recording form. Instructions for making a footprint tunnel, the survey method and online form can all be found on the project website www.irishhedgehogsurvey.com. There is also an online questionnaire survey for farmers on the website which aims to gather information on hedgehogs on farmland habitats across the country. It is a short, simple survey and farmers are asked to please fill it out whether they believe they have hedgehogs on their land or not. The Irish Hedgehog Survey forms part of the research of PhD candidate Elaine O’Riordan from the Zoology Department at NUI Galway: “Hedgehogs are one of the most understudied mammal species in Ireland. We have very little data on the status of the Irish hedgehog population. Thus, it is not known if Irish hedgehog numbers are experiencing similar declines as seen in Britain and other countries across Europe.” Recent studies in the UK estimate losses of up to 50% of hedgehogs in rural areas and 30% in urban areas over the last 20 years. These losses have been largely attributed to habitat loss and damage due to changing farming practices and increased urbanisation and infrastructure. It is hoped the current study will provide information on the numbers and distribution of hedgehogs in Ireland that will enable us to monitor their population in the future. The Irish Hedgehog Survey will run for the next two years and will expand in 2021 to include a countryside hedgehog survey. -Ends-      

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

The cardiology team at Galway University Hospitals (GUH) and NUI Galway researchers have carried out a first-in-man clinical trial for a sensor which detects changes in the health of patients with heart failure and securely transmits the information to the care team for review, allowing for clinical intervention to prevent a heart failure flare-up resulting in urgent hospitalisation. This technology is particularly relevant now during restricted movements when patients with underlying conditions are cocooning to minimise the chances of contracting COVID-19. Over the past 18 months, seven patients with advanced heart failure have had a Cordella Sensor implanted in their right pulmonary artery to monitor their heart pressure. Using a secure cloud-based system, the physiological data from the sensor can be read daily by the clinical team in the hospital who can identify if there is a change in the patients’ condition and modify their medication and make other decisions on their care. Dr Faisal Sharif, Consultant Cardiologist at GUH and Director of Cardiovascular Research and Innovation Centre at NUI Galway is the lead for the clinical trial. He said, “Patients with advanced heart failure usually have 3 or 4 hospital admissions per year with each stay lasting between 2 and 3 weeks in order to get their flare-up under control. However, there are changes in the pressure of the pulmonary artery around a week before a flare-up and if these changes are detected in time, myself or my colleague Dr John Barton can make changes to the patients’ medication which will prevent the flare-up and the subsequent hospital admission. “To monitor the pressure in the pulmonary artery we insert a tiny sensor into the artery – it is a simple procedure that just requires an overnight in hospital. We can then receive the data from the patients when they are at home via a hand-held reader which they hold over the sensor and this in turns transmits the information directly to our clinic by wifi. “In addition, the Cordella System includes Bluetooth-enabled devices to measure blood pressure, weight, heart rate and oxygen saturation which all connect to our clinic. We then have all the data we need to assess the patient without the patient having to leave home. “Since the clinical trial started 18 months ago, none of the patients who have taken part have been admitted to hospital with heart-related illnesses. Also, they no longer need to travel to outpatient clinics which would typically involve 6 or 8 visits per year. This greatly improves the quality of life for our patients and during this time of cocooning, it is one less worry for them. “Besides the convenience of being able to check their condition at home, this new technology allows the patient to become actively involved in their treatment. The patients become part of the team and are empowered and motivated to get involved in managing their own care themselves.” John O’Connor, a patient from Galway City said, “This technology gives me peace of mind that my heart pressures are being monitored constantly by hospital staff without the need for me to go into the hospital. Since I’ve had the sensor I’ve had no hospital admissions for almost two years. I would highly recommend this to other patients.” Dr Pat Nash, Consultant Cardiologist at GUH and Chief Clinical Director, Saolta University Health Care Group added, “This pandemic is forcing us to look at new and innovative ways to deliver high quality care to our patients while also taking precautions against the risks that are associated with close contact that is the normal part of a clinical examination. The success of this clinical trial can be measured in the improvements in the patients’ quality of life, the dramatic reduction in the need for hospitalisation and the enhanced role that the patients are able to play in their own care. All of these successes are even more significant in light of the current public health measures and the need to protect patients with long-term underlying conditions.” Ms Chris Kane, General Manager, Galway University Hospitals said, “As we continue to contend with the challenges of resuming to a new-normal, we will need to embrace technology where it is appropriate for the clinical setting and our patients. This is an excellent example of providing quality care in a patient’s own home environment to a level as close as possible to a hospital visit.” The second phase of the clinical trial has just commenced and is open for patients with heart failure, who meet certain criteria and are being treated at the Heart Failure Clinic in GUH. The technology has been developed by a US-based company called Endotronix. The trial has been running simultaneously in Ireland and Genk, Belgium. Ends

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

<>Light shed on the emerging problem of ‘Cyberchondria’ Advice for social media users and service providers on how to curb the spreading of COVID-19 misinformation A study carried out by the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway has examined the triggers leading people to share COVID-19 misinformation through social media. Defined as “false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive” misinformation poses a serious threat to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid spreading of such misinformation is amplified by social media and could result in the lack of adherence to recommended public health measures, or engagement in non-recommended behaviours. For example, one article claiming Sweden, where lockdown measures were not implemented, is experiencing low death rates has been shared over 20,000 times on Facebook.  The truth is that Sweden has a death toll of over 4,000, a much higher figure than the combined toll of Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Norway, which have implemented stricter lockdown measures and have recorded fewer than 1,000 deaths between them. While social media can be a useful tool for staying informed on the COVID-19 crisis, the study finds that when people become overloaded with social media content, their ability to critically assess the validity of the information received is impaired. The result is that trust in the unverified information remains high, and they are more likely to share that content throughout their social network, which ultimately exacerbates the COVID-19 misinformation problem. The study also sheds light on the emerging problem of ‘cyberchondria’ - the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search results and literature online. The data shows when people attribute a higher severity and susceptibility to COVID-19, they spend more time searching online for COVID-19 symptoms, which amplifies the stress and anxiety experienced because of cyberchondria. Co-author of the study, Dr Eoin Whelan, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, said: “While misinformation is not a new problem, the quantity and dissemination of misinformation has grown exponentially due to the ubiquity of social media. We have already seen the impact misinformation spreading through social media can have in political elections. Now, we are witnessing its harmful effects on public health in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our study suggests when people become overloaded with social media content, they are not only more likely to believe unverified COVID-19 information, but will further contribute to the problem by spreading the misinformation onto others.” The study also explains how social media companies can use these findings to help curtail the problem of COVID-19 misinformation. “Social media companies have a significant role to play in curbing COVID-19 misinformation. WhatsApp has already introduced restrictions on the forwarding of messages containing COVID-19 related information, while Google directs people searching for COVID-19 related information to trusted websites. Our findings suggest that if social media companies also restrict the amount of COVID-19 specific information people are exposed to, this would be effective in curbing the misinformation and cyberchondria problems identified in our study. Additionally, health organisations can use our findings to educate social media users to consume content in a sustainable manner and thus avoid these problems”, says Dr Whelan. A copy of the full study, published in the journal European Journal of Information Systems, is available on request.  The research was based on 294 people who use social media on a daily basis.  It was authored by Dr Whelan with Samuli Laato and Najmul Islam of the University of Turku, Finland. -Ends-

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

A lecture series at the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway featuring new Professors in the College, will continue with an online lecture, which will be facilitated by the Moore Institute, by Personal Professor in the School of Psychology, Professor AnnMarie Groarke, on Thursday, 11 June at 2pm. In her talk titled ‘What Enhances or Hinders Psychological Adjustment to Chronic Illness for women and men? A programme of research’ Professor Groarke will share findings from her programme of research on psychological adjustment in patients with cancer and arthritis. Given individual variability in response to diagnosis and treatment of illness the focus of this research has been to identify factors that enhance or disrupt adaptation. Specifically, it highlights the importance of stress appraisal and stress management on quality of life. Coping strategies, illness beliefs and psychological protective attributes that are useful and adaptive are also identified. While diagnosis of serious illness is associated with emotional distress, positive psychological change can also occur in the aftermath of highly stressful events. Some findings on when and why this post-traumatic growth might occur for women with breast cancer will be discussed. The potential impact of prostate cancer and its treatment on men’s sense of manhood and identity is also a focus of interest. Implications for patient care and self-management will be considered. Dr Seán Crosson, Vice-Dean for Research in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to continue this lecture series which provides a great opportunity for the University to make the general public more aware of the world-leading innovative research and practice being undertaken in the college. This is the tenth speaker in the series which has featured contributions to date in the areas of social policy, education, political thought, online therapies, language transmission, folk song traditions in Irish, historical research, behavioural psychology, and modern Irish literature. We are honoured to now feature Professor Groarke in the series, an academic whose research, particularly with regard to the psychological adjustment to illness, has brought significant advances for patients, including through the development of cognitive-behavioural stress management programmes.” Register for this online Lecture at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_808oOsxkRp-PX2PqL8NBcw This lecture will also be streamed live via the Moore Institute Facebook page at https://facebook.com/mooreinstitute/live -Ends-  

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Armagh Footballer Caroline O’ Hanlon and Dublin Footballer Jack McCaffrey to provide players’ perspective UNESCO Chairs at NUI Galway and Penn State will present a live discussion with representatives of Barça Foundation and the GAA to explore sport’s role as a tool for good in supporting society and the development of life skills such as empathy and identity during Covid-19.  Armagh Footballer Caroline O’ Hanlon and Dublin Footballer Jack McCaffrey will provide the players’ perspective in an event that will share stories of humanity and community engagement as well as exploring the future connections needed to cope through sport beyond the first wave of the coronavirus crisis.  The event is free to all and can be viewed at 6pm on Thursday, 28 May at NUI Galway’s Facebook page - facebook.com/nuigalway Both Barça Foundation and the GAA have been active in supporting communities during the current pandemic.  A recent survey of GAA clubs found that approximately 19,000 GAA volunteers had supported approximately 35,000 people in local communities through activities such as collection and delivery of essentials, sharing public health information and meal delivery.  Yolanda Antin, Partnerships Coordinator, Barça Foundation and Colin Regan, GAA Community and Health Manager will outline their activities, joined by Kalyn McDonough, University of Delaware. Speaking today, Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair for Youth Civic Engagement at NUI Galway said: “The value of sport as a tool to learn empathy is often overlooked but should never be underestimated.  Through participation in sport we create relationships with others and by learning from the joy of winning and upset at losing we create a capacity to understand what others feel because we have felt it.  The highs and lows of sport mirror life, and by bringing this understanding into our lives, we develop our capacity to show empathy to others.” The event is part of a series of 12 weekly virtual conversations hosted by the Institute for Lifecourse and Society at NUI Galway and UNESCO Chairs for Children, Youth, and Communities at NUI Galway and Penn State University.   Each week these Facebook live events (at 6pm Thursdays) bring together the views of academics, policymakers and most importantly citizens directly affected by coronavirus.  This includes a focus on kernel issues for children and youth, parents, older people, families and people living with a disability.  It is hoped the conversations will assist greater human empathy human understanding and compassion.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Dr Kerin is only the second Irish mathematician to have a published article in the Annals of Mathematics An Irish mathematician, Dr Martin Kerin, from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway, has had a research article published in the Annals of Mathematics, widely regarded as the top journal for pure mathematics in the world. The article, written in collaboration with Professor Sebastian Goette of the University of Freiburg and Professor Krishnan Shankar of the University of Oklahoma, resolves a question first asked around 60 years ago on the geometrical properties of seven-dimensional objects which very closely resemble spheres. The Annals of Mathematics was founded in 1884 and is published by the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University, in cooperation with the Institute for Advanced Study. Only around thirty articles are accepted each year and Dr Kerin is only the second ever Irish-based mathematician to have an article appear in the journal. The article deals with the geometry of seven-dimensional exotic spheres. A standard sphere can be thought of as the set of all points at a fixed distance from a given point and is the result of gluing two discs (the hemispheres) together along their boundaries. If the boundaries of the two discs were instead glued together in a more interesting way, one would obtain an exotic sphere: to the casual observer it appears like the standard sphere, but it is a very different object. The discovery of exotic spheres by John Milnor in the late 1950’s resulted in his being awarded the Fields’ medal, the highest honour in mathematics. The subsequent quest to understand these spaces led to the development of much of modern topology and geometry. In the 1960’s, mathematicians began to wonder how much the geometry of exotics spheres, that is the shape, resemble that of the standard spheres. A common measurement of shape is the curvature, the same quantity used in Einstein’s general theory of relativity to describe gravity and the shape of the universe. The standard sphere is the basic example of a positively curved space, and previous work had shown that some of the seven-dimensional exotic spheres admit nonnegative curvature. In this article, a new construction of the seven-dimensional exotic spheres was discovered, which allows one to conclude that, in fact, all of these spaces admit non-negative curvature. Dr Kerin said: “It is a tremendous honour, and a dream come true, to have our article appear in the Annals and to see our names listed among many of the greatest mathematicians in history. I am fortunate to have two fantastic collaborators in this project, each of us bringing different strengths to the table. Some of the basic ideas in the paper had been floating around in the back of my mind for around a decade, and we were able to successfully apply these basic ideas to a long-standing open problem. We are very proud of our achievement, but it is possibly even more pleasing that this project has thrown up many other interesting questions. We will likely be busy with this line of research for many years to come.” The article can be found at https://annals.math.princeton.edu/2020/191-3/p03. -Ends-

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A recent study undertaken by Dr Anna Hobbins, Postdoctoral researcher at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, led by Professor Ciaran O’Neill from the Center for Public Health at Queens University Belfast, together with colleagues from NUI Galway, the Office of Health Economics in London and Axentiva Solutions in Spain, suggests that there is no meaningful difference in how people value health, whether they have private health insurance or not while other studies have shown it to significantly impact on whether and how people use the healthcare system in Ireland. “Differences in health service use between people with and without health insurance have been observed in Ireland with respect to preventive, primary and tertiary healthcare services and this is a major source of concern for policy-makers” explains Dr Hobbins. “We wanted to find out whether the differences in how people with and without health insurance use the healthcare system relates to a difference in the value they assign to their health.” Almost half of the population in Ireland hold private health insurance. Studies examining the factors that explain insurance uptake suggest this is because it is perceived as affording faster access to public services and may actually afford faster access to services. Approximately 37% of the population have a medical card, just under half have private health insurance and approximately 6% have both private and public insurance. To conduct this research, Dr Hobbins and the team used specific valuation tasks with a sample of 1160 residents of Ireland during 2015/16. The study provided no compelling evidence that any meaningful differences exists in the values accorded to health between those with and without health insurance. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM commented: “This study provides an important perspective for making healthcare and access decisions at policy level in Ireland. I’m delighted to see our researchers work contributing to these important conversations, supporting CÚRAM’s mission of improving quality of life for people, in particular those with long term chronic healthcare needs.” Earlier studies have drawn attention to the greater likelihood of healthcare needs having gone unmet among those without insurance relative to those with. In Ireland, equity has been highlighted not just as an important policy goal, but as one of the guiding principles in the national health strategy. Significant research has been carried out before now on differences within the population with respect to how they use the healthcare system. Whether the differences in how we use the system relate to our ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, age or body shape, these studies are useful in identifying any disparities or inequalities and what impact health policies have had in addressing them. This study suggests that differential use of the healthcare system in Ireland is grounded in the differential access afforded by insurance not preferences for health. The findings suggest that the current position in Ireland, where the state subsidizes the acquisition of insurance through the provision of tax relief and charges less than the full economic cost of publicly provided services, runs counter to the pursuit of equity and may accentuate unwarranted disparities in service use. Dr Hobbins continued: “Our analysis provides no compelling evidence that there exist differences in the preferences for health among those with and without private health insurance in Ireland. It follows that observed differences in use between those with and without insurance more likely relate to the differential access private health insurance affords than to differences in preferences.” Dr Anna Hobbins is a postdoctoral researcher working on economic evaluation of medical devices at CÚRAM and Health Economics and Policy Analysis Centre NUI Galway. She completed her PhD in Queen’s University Belfast which involved producing the Irish “value set”, “population norms” using the EQ-5D-5L system. The output from her work, which has involved collaboration with colleagues across multiple disciplines, has been published in a range of leading national and international peer-reviewed journals. To access the full paper please visit https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168851020300555?via%3Dihub -Ends-

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

NUI Galway Professor of Medicine, John J. Carey has been awarded the ‘Dr John P. Bilezikian ISCD Global Leadership Award’ by the International Society for Clinical Densitometry (ISCD). Professor Carey was presented the award for his distinguished service and leadership in the global promotion of the field of bone densitometry and the ISCD. Professor Carey is a Consultant Physician in Rheumatology and Medicine, and Clinical Lead for DXA, Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disorders, at Galway University Hospitals, and Professor in Medicine at NUI Galway. He has published more than 40 research papers, 5 book chapters, and presented around the world on osteoporosis, densitometry, biosimilar medications and evidence-based medicine. Professor Carey is an ISCD member since 1999, a Past President of ISCD, a member of several ISCD committees, and current faculty for all ISCD densitometry courses: Osteoporosis Essentials, Vertebral Fracture Recognition, Body Composition and Pediatrics, and a member of the Asian Tripartite Alliance for Osteoporosis. Under his leadership the ISCD held their first annual meeting outside of the Americas in NUI Galway in 2016, attended by professionals from 28 countries around the world, and established the European-Middle-East and African Panel, and later an Ireland-UK panel to represent their interests to the society, and the society to theirs. He is one of two ISCD representatives to the Asian Tripartite Alliance representing the ISCD, The International Osteoporosis Foundation and the Asian Federation of Osteoporosis Societies, and currently a guest editor for a special of The Journal of Clinical Densitometry Titled: Quality Densitometry: A Global Perspective. Speaking about the announcement of the award Professor Carey said: “I am truly humbled to be honoured with this award, which really reflects the many great effors and support of friends colleagues and professionals around our planet who are dedicated to excellence, professionalism and friendship, and the unwavering support of my wonderful family without whom none of this would have been possible.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Annual Meeting was held recent virtually for the first time. This year’s awardees will be honoured in person at next year’s Annual Meeting in the USA. -Ends-

Monday, 25 May 2020

New research published in Occupational Medicine estimates the economic value of lost productivity from workplace bullying in Ireland Findings from a new NUI Galway study on workplace bullying, led by Dr John Cullinan of the Discipline of Economics and Dr Margaret Hodgins from the Discipline of Health Promotion, has been published in the journal Occupational Medicine. Workplace bullying is aggressive behaviour perpetrated by one or more persons, repeatedly and systematically over a prolonged time period, where the targeted person feels unable to defend themself. In a previous study, the NUI Galway research team highlighted the relationship between bullying and work-related stress in the Irish workplace. The current study builds on this to examine the economic costs of workplace bullying. The research describes the range of impacts of workplace bullying on individuals and organisations. Using statistical methods, it estimates the number of workdays lost as a result of workplace bullying and calculates the economic value of the associated lost productivity. Overall, the research estimates a total of 1.7 million days lost due to bullying at a cost to the economy of €239 million per year. In addition, the study finds that although bullying is more prevalent in the public sector, it has a larger effect on absences in the private sector. Commenting on the study, Dr John Cullinan said: “Workplace bullying is a pervasive problem with significant personal and wider costs. Our study highlights the considerable economic cost of workplace bullying in Ireland. In addition to lost productivity from workplace bullying, there are also likely to be costs associated with early retirement and presenteeism. Furthermore, bullying-related costs are unlikely to have gone away as a result of new COVID-19 work-from-home practices.” Dr Margaret Hodgins noted that: “To tackle the problem, organisations need an anti-bullying policy in order to signal to staff that bullying is unacceptable. However a policy is insufficient in itself and it is vital that it is implemented fairly and in a timely fashion. Ideally, organisations should be proactive, identifying how and when bullying occurs in the organisation, and be prepared to develop specific interventions that are appropriate to context.” The journal article is available at https://academic.oup.com/occmed/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/occmed/kqaa067/5839678 -Ends-

Monday, 25 May 2020

The sudden closure of schools due to COVID-19 and the lockdown that followed led to a dramatic change in Irish education as online teaching resources had to be provided at short notice. The lockdown exposed a considerable technology gap in society with many families not being able to afford the laptops that now became an essential device for their children to access and download online educational courses and teaching materials To come up with a solution that could help students and to face up to the challenges of providing the necessary secure equipment, the technical personnel at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics NUI Galway compiled easy-to-follow video and written instructions that would allow people all over the country to reimage laptops by wiping off all data and installing free open-sourced operating systems and other key software such as browser, word processing and spreadsheet. Brendan Smith, Education and Public Engagement Officer with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, said: “This need was partly answered by the generosity of companies and individuals donating second-hand laptops and by tech-savvy volunteers willing to wipe private data off hard disks and by installing new software before the hardware could be distributed to those in need.  However issues of paying for new software licences and the technical expertise required to properly reimage (wipe date/install software programmes) laptops were of concern.” “Though the Leaving Certificate 2020 examinations have been cancelled, nevertheless the demand for laptops will only increase as more and more second level educational resources and testing will henceforth be provided online. Therefore we feel that this free reimaging instructional video and text manual  is now needed more than ever. It will become an important public service as it will empower ordinary people in towns and villages across Ireland to become digital fixers and a technical resource within their local communities. It will give a new lease of life to old laptops and in the process lower electronic waste, reduce carbon emissions and provide a more sustainable circular economic model. This resource has already been directly sent to Tusla, Galway City Partnership and Foróige”, continued Brendan. The Insight initiative is now part of a larger NUI Galway wide movement coordinated by the University’s Access Centre that, as part of its University of Sanctuary designation, will prioritise those students and their communities who are most vulnerable to technological inequality. It will be modelled on the highly successful ‘Tech2Students’ collaboration between Trinity Access (TCD) and Camara Education Ireland. The video is available at https://youtu.be/ypaAj1Lz8uQ. -Ends-

Monday, 25 May 2020

NUI Galway academics Professor Enrico Dal Lago, Dr Paul Michael Garrett and Professor Afshin Samali were recently elected as Members of the Royal Irish Academy for their contribution to Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Sciences. The NUI Galway academics were among 29 new members admitted to the academy by Dr Mary Canning, President of the Academy, through a special video call. Enrico Dal Lago is Professor of History in the School of History and Philosophy at NUI Galway. He is a comparative historian who publishes on the history of the United States and of Italy. He specialises in the history of slavery, abolitionism, comparative nationalisms and the American civil war. He is the author of five monographs. His most recent book is Civil War and Agrarian Unrest. Dr Paul Michael Garrett is senior lecturer in Social Work at NUI Galway. He is a leading international authority in the field of critical social theory, social work and social policy. His recent highly influential books include Welfare Words and Social work and Social Theory. He has authored six monographs and over one-hundred peer reviewed articles. Afshin Samali is Professor of Cancer Biology and Director of the Apoptosis Research Centre at NUI Galway, and an international leader in the field of endoplasmic reticulum stress and cell death signalling in cancer. He has received multiple prestigious funding awards and the NUI Galway President’s Award for Research Excellence; he was elected to the European Cell Death Organisation Academy; and has founded three biotechnology companies. Welcoming the newly admitted members, Dr Canning said: “Ireland should be immensely proud of these women and men who have brought international acclaim to our country. As members of the Royal Irish Academy they will strengthen our capacity to provide the expert advice Ireland needs at this time’. She thanked the many Academy members who had put their expertise at the service of the people of Ireland during the current COVID-19 crisis and announced that ‘an Academy steering group has been established to develop and coordinate the activities of the various Academy committees and members and to maximise the Academy’s convening power across all humanities, social sciences and science disciplines throughout the island of Ireland.” Congratulating Professor Dal Lago, Dr Garrett, and Professor Samali on this honour, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “On behalf of colleagues at NUI Galway, I extend warmest congratulations to Enrico, Paul and Afshin on their election to membership of the Royal Irish Academy.  This recognises the excellence of their continuing contributions to their respective academic fields.  As educators, researchers and as academic leaders at NUI Galway, they demonstrate personal talent and commitment to the advancement of and the re-imagining of humanities, social sciences, and research, nationally and internationally.  I’m delighted to see their achievements so justly recognised by the Academy in this way.” Election to membership of the Royal Irish Academy is the highest academic distinction in Ireland. There are currently 618 members of the Academy, 88 of whom are Honorary members, including Nobel laureate William C. Campbell, and Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford. Other members include Mary E. Daly, historian and commissioner with the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation; and Frances Ruane, economist and chair of the Abbey Theatre. ENDS

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Report from NUI Galway on domestic coastal and marine tourism and leisure NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) has released a report that presents estimates of the value of domestic coastal and marine tourism in the Republic of Ireland.   While annual expenditure figures are produced for the overall domestic tourism market by the Central Statistics Office, information on marine and coastal specific domestic tourism activity is more difficult to obtain. According to the findings in this report the average expenditure per coastal day trip in 2018 was €95. The equivalent for coastal overnight trips was €310. Total expenditure by domestic tourists in coastal areas was estimated to be €698 million in 2018, which represents 35% of the total expenditure by domestic tourists that year. The marine related activity expenditure on overnight trips, or what might truly be referred to as domestic marine tourism, is estimated to have generated revenue of €381 million with €172 million of this being spent on water-based activities. Dr Stephen Hynes, co-author of the report and Director of SEMRU based at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change at NUI Galway, said: “While the results presented in this report are from a time that precedes the current Covid 19 crisis they nevertheless highlight the economic contribution that domestic marine tourism and leisure activity makes under normal circumstances to coastal regions, particularly those regions outside the capital. Also, given that it is likely that the overseas tourism market will take much longer to recover, and Irish residents’ travel abroad will also be curtailed, the industry should be examining how they can maximise the return from the domestic tourism market this year and next.” To generate information on domestic coastal and marine tourism in Ireland SEMRU carried out a household survey of residents in 2019, funded by the Marine Institute through its Marine Research Programme. As well as expenditure patterns the survey also examined participation rates amongst domestic residents in a variety of marine activities and where Irish residents went for overnight coastal visits in the reference year 2018. The survey consisted of face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of over a 1000 households. Based on the results of the survey, 77% of respondents had actively engaged in marine related activities, on either day or overnight trips, during the year 2018. The most popular land-based coastal activities were walking/running along the coast/beach/cliffs/etc., beach or seaside trips, and coastal sightseeing. The most popular water-based activities were sea swimming, surfing, recreational boating of different types and sea angling. Significant differences in participation rates were observed across a number of socio-demographic classifications including age, social class and education attainment levels. The results also indicate that domestic tourists* undertake the majority of their marine activities on the West and South coasts of Ireland. The report argues that given the observed differences in marine activity participation rates across the social classes, a worthy policy objective would be ensuring that all sections of society have the opportunity to access the well-being and mental health benefits that are known to come from interaction with the marine environment. Given the current crisis this is more important than ever. It also offers an opportunity to develop new marine tourism offerings focused on the expanding consumer demand for wellness services and products. According to Dr Hynes consideration should be also be given by coastal tourism and leisure operators to the fact that marine active tourists have been shown to spend more and stay longer than the average tourist: “As we point out in the report, while the overseas market is often the main focus of the development agencies, the domestic marine tourism market offers significant opportunities for growth. Given the sector will, for the present, have to focus on the domestic side of the market in the short to medium term, now is the ideal opportunity to explore innovations in delivering new visitor experiences and marine tourism products aimed at the home market.” The reported spatial pattern for domestic resident participation in marine related activities is also interesting from a marine spatial planning perspective. Unlike the overseas tourism market research carried out by SEMRU previously, where the majority of the marine activity undertaken was found to have been in the southern half of the western sea board, the distribution of marine activities undertaken was much more evenly spread out for the domestic tourism market. Commenting on the report, Professor Alan Ahearne, Director of the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway said: “The World Tourism Organization is forecasting that international tourist arrivals could plunge 60-80% this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and may remain at depressed levels next year. Tourism in Ireland will be looking to domestic demand for recovery -- and the evidence points to the huge potential for coastal and marine tourism to contribute to rebooting activity in this sector.” For more information on SEMRU and to download the full report, please visit www.nuigalway.ie/semru/. -Ends- * In line with the Fáilte Ireland definition, a domestic tourist here is defined as a person whose trip includes an overnight stay away from their usual place of residence.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

NUI Galway student James Hayes is the 2020 winner of the €2,000 Mary Mulvihill Award, the science media competition for third-level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015). To mark the book’s republication, this year’s competition invited entries on the theme of ‘Our scientific heritage’. It encouraged students to submit projects and works in text, audio, visual or mixed formats that explored places, artefacts, personalities, and issues—such as public awareness or conservation—relating to Ireland's scientific and industrial heritage. Students from seven third-level institutions across the country submitted entries that covered a broad range of topics, including a history of the Dunsink Observatory, an environmental campaign to preserve Bantry Bay’s kelp forests, and biographical essays on diverse figures, including computing pioneer Kathleen McNulty and microscopist Mary Ward. The winning entry from James Hayes, ‘Cabra’s Scientific Banksy: The Story of William Rowan Hamilton and Quaternions’ is a biographical essay about mathematician William Rowan Hamilton’s discovery of quaternions. Hayes deftly weaves in references to graffiti artist Banksy, Alice in Wonderland, the Angolan basketball team, an 1813 mental arithmetic contest of eight-year-old prodigies and the early days of NASA’s space exploration programme. A native of Knockcroghery, County Roscommon, and a past pupil of Roscommon CBS, James Hayes is a first-year student of Mathematical Science at NUI Galway. At seventeen, he is the youngest winner of the Mary Mulvihill Award. In addition, he is the first male winner of the award and also the first winner to come from a college outside of Dublin. Hayes focuses on the “flash of genius” Hamilton experienced in October 1843 when he carved the equation that had just come to his mind into the stones of Broombridge on the Royal Canal near Cabra, in Dublin. This makes Ireland’s most famous mathematician “Cabra’s scientific Banksy” in the title of Hayes’s essay, and the bridge is designated as “the birthplace of modern algebra”. Hamilton had been struggling with complex numbers in three dimensions, which could not be multiplied or divided. He realised he had to use four dimensions, hence the name, quaternions. James Hayes writes: “Hamilton’s carvings represent the basic rules of multiplication for these quadruples. It was a discovery that sent reverberations throughout the mathematical world and whose implications and application survive to this day.” These applications are found in computer graphics and computer vision, including, for example, in self-driving cars. “James Hayes took on a familiar story but one that often struggles to explain the scientific breakthrough at the heart of the question – what are Quaternions? The science was clearly, accurately, and succinctly presented, in the midst of a well-researched and flowing narrative that brought Sir William Rowan Hamilton to life for new audiences,” said Nigel Monaghan, Keeper, National Museum of Ireland, Natural History, and a member of the judging team. “Mary’s family is delighted with the announcement. James Hayes’ winning essay echoes Mary’s passion for communicating Ireland’s scientific heritage and it is wonderful to see this fine tradition continuing. The subject of his essay connects nicely with her audio guide to the Royal Canal,” said Mary’s sister Nóirín Mulvihill, who is co-chair of the Mary Mulvihill Association. The usual presentation of the awards at an event in Dublin cannot take place, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 2020 marked the first year that the winner of the Mary Mulvihill Award was also invited to attend the Robert Boyle Summer School in Waterford and Lismore, although this event has been postponed for the same reason.   For further information on the award and on past winners see: https://marymulvihillaward.ie. -Ends-

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Findings Published Today in Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Research completed in NUI Galway has shown that lowering blood pressure by taking blood pressure medications reduces the risk of developing dementia and cognitive impairment by 7%. The findings are published today in a leading international medical journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Fourteen randomised controlled trials (96,158 participants) were included in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Blood pressure lowering with antihypertensive medications reduced the risk of developing dementia or cognitive impairment by 7%, and cognitive decline also by 7% over a four-year period. “When you consider how common dementia is in the population (50 million people worldwide), effective treatment and control of hypertension would have a major impact on preventing dementia. Our findings emphasize the need for more effective screening, prevention, and treatment of hypertension, which remains suboptimal in Ireland”, explains Dr Conor Judge, joint first author and Wellcome Trust Health Research Board Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) fellow. Dr Judge continued: “We know from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging that two thirds of people aged over 50 in Ireland have hypertension (high blood pressure), of which half are unaware of the diagnosis, and one third are not on treatment. This is a major care gap.” This study aimed to gather all the evidence from previous trials of blood pressure lowering medications and estimate how much the risk of dementia can be reduced by taking blood pressure lowering medications in people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure. Blood pressure lowering reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. Prevention of dementia can now be added to the benefits of treating hypertension. Importantly, there are no available therapies that directly prevent dementia, so this study highlights the critical importance of blood pressure in the risk of dementia. Dr Michelle Canavan, Consultant Geriatrician at Galway University Hospital, and senior author of the paper, commented: “Prevention of dementia is a major health priority. We know from previous research that a major concern of older people is developing dementia. The message from this study is simple: Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, it can be readily treated with lifestyle changes and medications. We would hope that our study will heighten awareness of the importance of controlling blood pressure to maintain “brain” health, combined with a healthy lifestyle.” The research was funded by Wellcome Trust, HRB, HSE and NUI Galway through the ICAT programme. -Ends-