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-

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Bailíonn tuarascáil nua, Spotlight on Health and Adolescent Health and Well-being, a d’fhoilsigh Oifig Réigiúnach na hEorpa de chuid na hEagraíochta Domhanda Sláinte (WHO) inniu, an-chuid sonraí maidir le sláinte choirp, caidrimh shóisialta agus folláine mheabhrach 227,441 leanbh scoile atá 11, 13 agus 15 bliana d’aois, as 45 tír. Tá rangú íseal ag leanaí na hÉireann maidir le húsáid substaintí ar a n-áirítear ag caitheamh tobac agus ag ól alcóil agus rangú ard maidir le gníomhaíocht choirp. Tá rangú ard ag Éirinn chomh maith maidir le húsáid achrannach na meán sóisialta. Cuireann an tuarascáil torthaí comparáideacha idirnáisiúnta an tsuirbhé ar Iompraíocht Sláinte i Leanaí ag Aois Scoile (HBSC) i láthair, a chomhordaíonn WHO agus a dhéantar a bhailiú gach ceithre bliana.  Tá leagan na hÉireann den staidéar seo faoi stiúir an Ollaimh Saoirse Nic Gabhainn san Ionad Taighde don Chothú Sláinte in OÉ Gaillimh. Sa tuarascáil nua seo cuirtear leanaí na hÉireann atá 11, 13 agus 15 bliana d’aois i gcomparáid leo siúd i 44 tír eile ar fud na hEorpa agus Mheiriceá Thuaidh. Léiríonn príomhthorthaí comparáideacha: Go rangaítear leanaí na hÉireann go hard maidir le bricfeasta a ithe agus go híseal maidir le deochanna boga milsithe a ól ag gach aois. Tá laghduithe suntasacha déanta ar an méid milseán a itear agus an méid deochanna boga a óltar ó 2014 Go rangaítear Éire go híseal ag gach aois maidir le húsáid thuairiscithe tobac agus alcóil Go rangaítear Éire go hard i gcomparáid le tíortha eile maidir le dianghníomhaíocht choirp thuairiscithe Go bhfuil laghdú suntasach tagtha ar shástacht saoil ó 2014, agus go rangaítear Éire go híseal i measc leanaí atá 15 bliana d’aois ó thaobh sástachta saoil Go rangaítear Éire go hard maidir le húsáid achrannach na meán sóisialta ag gach aois, agus i measc leanaí atá 13 agus 15 bliana d’aois go rangaítear Éire go hard i ndáil le cibearbhulaíocht.   Staidéar na hÉireann Ba é an tIonad Taighde don Chothú Sláinte in OÉ Gaillimh a rinne suirbhé na hÉireann agus ba é an séú babhta a ndearnadh sonraí a bhailiú in Éirinn. Is iad cuspóirí an staidéir iomláin léargas nua a thabhairt, agus tuiscint níos mó a fháil ar shláinte agus ar fholláine daoine óga, ar a n-iompraíocht sláinte agus ar a gcomhthéacs sóisialta, go náisiúnta agus go hidirnáisiúnta araon. Chomh maith leis an bhfeidhm monatóireachta agus ginte eolais atá aige, tá ionchur i bpolasaí agus i gcleachtas ar cheann de phríomhchuspóirí an HBSC, agus is í an Roinn Sláinte a dhéanann leagan na hÉireann a mhaoiniú. Déantar iniúchadh sa suirbhé trasnáisiúnta ar ghnéithe éagsúla de shláinte ógánach agus d'iompraíocht shóisialta, lena n-áirítear féinmheasúnú ar mheabhairshláinte; íomhá choirp; nósanna bia; gníomhaíocht choirp; comhthéacs scoile; caidrimh le teaghlaigh agus le piaraí; úsáid tobac, alcóil agus cannabais; bulaíocht agus gortuithe; agus sláinte ghnéis (dóibh siúd atá 15 bliana d’aois agus os a chionn amháin). Cuireadh béim ar leith ar chumarsáid ar líne sa suirbhé is déanaí de chuid HBSC, chun tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar ról leathan na teicneolaíochta digití i saol daoine óga. Dúirt Kate O’Flaherty, Ceannasaí Sláinte agus Folláine sa Roinn Sláinte an méid seo a leanas: “Cuireann an staidéar idirnáisiúnta is déanaí seo ar ár gcumas ár ndul chun cinn i réimse sláinte agus folláine leanaí a chur i gcomparáid le dul chun cinn atá á dhéanamh i 45 tír eile; ár gcomharsana san Eoraip agus Ceanada. Soláthraíonn an staidéar seo faisnéis luachmhar iompraíochta idirnáisiúnta a taifeadadh beagán roimh thús phaindéim Covid-19; tabharfaidh an chéad staidéar eile deis dúinn éifeacht na paindéime ar iompraíocht, sláinte agus folláine déagóirí a thomhas.   Tá go leor réimsí ann ina bhfuil ag éirí go maith le hÉirinn, mar shampla ár rátaí ísle i leith caitheamh tobac, úsáid íseal alcóil agus deochanna milsithe agus leibhéil réasúnta maith gníomhaíochta coirp. Ní raibh na réimsí a bhain le folláine mheabhairshláinte agus sástacht saoil chomh dearfach céanna, agus cé go bhfuil go leor oibre ar siúl cheana féin idir Ranna Rialtais, gníomhaireachtaí agus comhpháirtithe eile chun aghaidh a thabhairt air seo, beidh tábhacht níos mó ag baint leis agus muid ag tacú le folláine agus teacht aniar sa fhreagra ar phaindéim Covid-19.”   Rinne an tOllamh Saoirse Nic Gabhainn ón Ionad Taighde don Chothú Sláinte in OÉ Gaillimh, agus Príomhthaighdeoir staidéar HBSC na hÉireann, cur síos ar thorthaí na hÉireann sa tuarascáil: “Tugann an staidéar seo léargas luachmhar ar shláinte agus folláine leanaí in Éirinn, agus ar an gcomparáid idir iad agus leanaí i dtíortha eile. Is fiú é a thabhairt faoi deara go gcoinnímid rátaí measartha íseal ar úsáid substaintí agus rátaí arda ar ghníomhaíocht choirp. Fáiltítear go mór roimh na feabhsúcháin ar iompraíocht i leith bia maidir le hiontógáil níos ísle milseán agus deochanna boga. Mar sin féin, tá réimsí áirithe ann a dteastaíonn iarracht bhreise uathu. Mar shampla, i gcomparáid le tíortha eile, tuairiscítear leibhéal níos airde i measc leanaí na hÉireann maidir le húsáid achrannach na meán sóisialta ná an chuid is mó de na tíortha eile agus is cúis imní iad rátaí na cibearbhulaíochta. Is léir go bhfuil gá le níos mó oibre chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar na laghduithe ar shástacht saoil i ngach aoisghrúpa.”     Príomhthorthaí na hÉireann: Iompraíochtaí maidir le Cothú Sláinte Bricfeasta laethúil a ithe: Rinneadh leanaí na hÉireann a rangú i measc na 5 thír is fearr maidir le líon na leanaí a thuairiscíonn go n-itheann siad bricfeasta go laethúil Baint amach moltaí i leith gníomhaíocht choirp a bhaineann le haon uair an chloig ar a laghad de ghníomhaíocht choirp, measartha go bríomhar, ar bhonn laethúil: I gcomparáid le tíortha eile, tá Éire rangaithe i measc na 10 dtír is fearr maidir le líon na mbuachaillí agus na gcailíní 11 agus 13 bliana d’aois a bhaineann amach moltaí i leith gníomhaíocht choirp. Ag gach aois, tuairiscíonn líon níos mó buachaillí ná cailíní go mbaineann siad amach na moltaí. Iompraíocht maidir le riosca a thógáil Iompraíochtaí riosca a thosú: In Éirinn, tá an líon leanaí atá 11 agus 13 bliana d’aois a thuairiscíonn tús a chur le caitheamh toitíní agus úsáid alcóil íseal i gcomparáid le tíortha eile Tá iompraíochtaí óil agus úsáid tobac ag feabhsú i gcónaí in Éirinn agus nuair a chuirtear iad i gcomparáid le tíortha eile Iompraíocht ghnéis chontúirteach: Rangaítear cailíní in Éirinn i measc na 10 dtír is mó nach n-úsáideann an piollaire frithghiniúnach ná coiscín sa chaidreamh collaí deiridh a bhí acu.   Meabhairshláinte agus Folláine Sástacht Saoil: Rangaíodh leanaí 15 bliana d’aois na hÉireann i measc an 2 thír is ísle maidir le sástacht saoil Tá sástacht saoil laghdaithe go mór i ngach aoisghrúpa de leanaí na hÉireann ó 2014 Rangaítear Éire go híseal ar thuairiscí a bhaineann le siomptóim (tinneas boilg, tinneas droma, neirbhíseach agus meadhrán) ag aois 11 bhliain d’aois Is mó seans go dtuairisceoidh cailíní ná buachaillí ag aois 13 agus 15 bliana d’aois siomptóim iolracha Tá baint ag saibhreas mór teaghlaigh le sláinte féinrátáilte níos fearr, sástacht saoil níos airde agus ráta níos ísle siomptóim iolracha.   Idirghníomhaíocht shóisialta le teaghlach agus le piaraí Tacaíocht Teaghlaigh a bhraitear: Rangaíodh Éire i measc na ndeich dtír is ísle maidir le líon leanaí atá 11 agus 13 bliana d’aois a thuairiscigh ardtacaíocht teaghlaigh Tacaíocht teaghlaigh agus piaraí a bhraitear: Tá feabhas tagtha ar an tacaíocht a bhraitear i measc cailíní 13 bliana d’aois ó 2014. Úsáid achrannach na meán sóisialta: I ngach aois, rangaíodh Éire i measc na 10 dtír is fearr maidir le líon na leanaí atá luaite le húsáid achrannach na meán sóisialta Bulaíocht a dhéanamh ar dhaoine eile ar scoil: Rangaíodh Éire (leanaí atá 13 agus 15 bliana d’aois) i measc na 10 dtír is ísle maidir le líon na leanaí a thuairiscíonn go bhfuil siad i mbun bulaíocht a dhéanamh ar dhaoine eile ar scoil Cibearbhulaíocht: I gcomparáid le tíortha eile, tá Éire rangaithe i measc na 10 dtír is airde maidir le coitiantacht na cibearbhulaíochta i measc leanaí níos sine (atá 13 agus 15 bliana d’aois). Tá na sonraí a bhailítear don staidéar bunaithe ar shuirbhéanna a rinne na mílte ógánach, agus ar an gcaoi sin cinntítear gur féidir a gcuid guthanna agus imní a chur san áireamh go hiomlán nuair a chuireann WHO a straitéisí, a pholasaithe agus a ghníomhartha Eorpacha le chéile chun sláinte agus folláine leanaí agus déagóirí a fheabhsú. Cuireann an staidéar le corpas fianaise atá ag fás agus a éilíonn go ndéanfaidh rialtais agus lucht déanta polasaithe idirghabhálacha níos éifeachtaí agus níos spriocdhírithe chun dul i ngleic leis na héifeachtaí a bhaineann le neamhionannais shóisialta, sláinte agus inscne i measc daoine óga san Eoraip. Chun cóip iomlán de Spotlight on Adolescent Health and Well-Being a fháil, téigh chuig: www.euro.who.int/en/hbsc-spotlight-vol1 -Críoch-

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Can you teach someone to be funny? Is it wrong to laugh at things that are challenging or upsetting? How can we use humour to help understand and make meaning from current university research? These are the type of questions being asked, and answered, on You’re Up Next, a new podcast from Bright Club Ireland which will be released starting Wednesday, 27 May. Bright Club Ireland is the well-known science comedy variety night that trains academic researchers to explain their work using stand-up comedy. The podcast series You’re Up Next will be hosted by Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, a lecturer in the School of Physics in NUI Galway and the founder and director of Bright Club Ireland. The series is produced by Shaun O’Boyle and Maurice Kelliher. The five episodes of You’re Up Next will talk about comedy, as well as new ideas of engaging the public with science, research, and academia. Creative approaches and problems are shared from international ‘guest ranters’ including: Dr Shane Bergin of UCD, a noted science education expert; stand-up comedian and former Bright Club coordinator Áine Gallagher; science event producer Hana Ayoob; engagement producer for Science Friday Kyle Marian Viterbo; and Bright Club UK founder Dr Steve Cross. These experts from Ireland, the UK, and the US will not only discuss science comedy, but also themes of equity, access, and who can call themselves a scientist. Bright Club is supported by Science Foundation Ireland through the SFI Discover Programme, the Community Knowledge Initiative, the Research Office at NUI Galway and the AMBER and CÚRAM SFI Research Centres. Speaking about You’re Up Next, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Humour is a universal way of communicating and Bright Club’s work is hugely engaging and impactful. Through the medium of comedy, this new podcast will discuss and translate scientific research into meaningful, memorable and engaging material. Science Foundation Ireland are delighted to support ‘You’re Up Next’ and we look forward to exploring the funny side of science.” Bright Club Ireland has been running events since 2015, led by Dr Fairfield. They have staged over 70 shows in cities across Ireland as well as major comedy and music festivals, training academics with comedic techniques to communicate their research. Currently Bright Club events run every two weeks online. ‘You’re Up Next’ will be available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and on most podcast platforms, and a preview episode is already available. More information about Bright Club Ireland can be found at www.brightclub.ie, or follow Bright Club Ireland on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. -Ends-

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences has launched Ireland’s first Masters in Obesity programme. Given the growing prevalence and resulting impact on health care resources and on affected individuals, there is an urgent need to develop specialist expertise across a broad range of obesity-related disciplines. Obesity is a major health problem, both for patients and for society, and the programme will combine theory and clinical practice and is suitable for those interested in policy-making or in the provision of healthcare. NUI Galway developed the new Masters in Obesity to inform better, evidence-based, compassionate and dignified care to patients affected by obesity and related disorders, and to develop better population-based strategies and policies to mitigate the obesity epidemic. Students will develop in-depth knowledge of various therapeutic strategies available to patients and will understand the factors underlying variations in the development of complications from obesity. The course will explore the potential benefits and harms of various population level strategies that can be formulated to address the obesity crisis, and the societal, political and legislative problems faced in implementing these. Speaking about the programme Professor Francis Finucane, a consultant endocrinologist at Galway University Hospitals and Programme Director, said:  “NUI Galway is uniquely well placed to deliver this programme, which forms part of an integrated suite of leading postgraduate programmes in Preventive Medicine and Cardiovascular Health, including Preventive Cardiology and Diabetes. It will be delivered by clinical academic staff attached to the regional bariatric service, providing multidisciplinary medical, nursing, surgical, dietetic and psychological care to patients with severe and complicated obesity. Expert clinicians and specialists from the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health (NIPC) together with lecturers from other bariatric centres and from other disciplines such as marketing and health economics will also participate in programme delivery.” For doctors this programme will be an adjunct to specialist training. The appeal will be broad and include general practice, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, public health and occupational health. Similarly, psychology, dietetic, occupational therapy and physiotherapy graduates who will ultimately deliver obesity multidisciplinary care will benefit from this advanced training in obesity. Managers within the health service, hospital groups, policy makers and industry stakeholders will also enhance their understanding of obesity and further their career prospects through completion of this programme. For nurses, there is also an option to complete a dedicated MHSc in Obesity, delivered through the School of Nursing at NUI Galway, which integrates the same obesity core modules with others that are more relevant to advanced nursing theory and practice. Speaking at the launch of the new programme, Director of Health and Wellbeing at An Roinn Sláinte, Department of Health, Kate O’Flaherty welcomed the initiative, saying: “The new MSc Obesity at NUI Galway is an interesting and welcome development, given the growing recognition of the scale of the problem of obesity in Ireland and internationally, of the associated health, economic and social consequences and burdens, and of the extent to which it is a risk factor of many other chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and mental ill-health.” For more information on the new Masters in Obesity visit https://www.nuigalway.ie/courses/taught-postgraduate-courses/obesity-msc.html, or nurses interested in the MHSc in Obesity can get more information from https://www.nuigalway.ie/courses/taught-postgraduate-courses/obesity-mhsc-pdip.html. -Ends-

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

A new report, Spotlight on Adolescent Health and Well-being, published today by WHO Regional Office for Europe, compiles extensive data on the physical health, social relationships and mental well-being of 227 441 schoolchildren aged 11, 13 and 15, from 45 countries. Irish children rank low on substance use such as smoking and drinking alcohol and high on physical activity. Ireland also ranks high for problematic social media use. The report presents the comparative international findings of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, which is co-ordinated by the WHO and undertaken every four years.  The Irish arm of this study is led by Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn in the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway. In this new report Irish 11, 13 and 15 year olds are compared to those in 44 other countries across Europe and North America. Key comparative findings show that: Irish children rank highly for eating breakfast and low for sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption at all ages. There have been significant reductions in sweets and soft drink consumption since 2014 Ireland ranks low at all ages for reported tobacco and alcohol use Ireland ranks high relative to other countries in reported vigorous physical activity Life satisfaction has significantly reduced since 2014, and Ireland ranks low for life satisfaction among 15-year olds Ireland ranks highly for problematic social media use at all ages, and among 13 and 15 year olds, Ireland ranks highly for reports of having been cyberbullied. The Irish Study The Irish survey was carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway and was the sixth round of data collection in Ireland. The overall study aims to gain new insights, and increase our understanding of young people’s health and wellbeing, health behaviours and their social context, both nationally and internationally. As well as serving as a monitoring and a knowledge-generating function, one of the key objectives of HBSC has been to inform policy and practice, with the Irish section of the study being funded by the Department of Health. The cross-national survey covers diverse aspects of adolescent health and social behaviour, including self-assessment of mental health; body image; dietary habits; physical activity; school context; relationships with families and peers; tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use; bullying and injuries; and sexual health (for those aged 15 and above only). A special focus on online communication was included in the most recent HBSC survey, to better understand the expanding role of digital technology in young people’s lives. Kate O’Flaherty, Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health said: “This latest international study enables us to compare our progress in the area of child health and wellbeing with that of 45 other countries; our European neighbours and Canada. This study provides valuable international behavioural information recorded shortly before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic; the next study will allow us to gauge the effect of the pandemic on teenage behaviour, health and wellbeing.  There are many areas where Ireland is doing well, for example our low smoking rates, low consumption of alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks and comparatively good levels of physical activity. The areas of mental wellbeing and life satisfaction were comparatively less positive, and while there is already a lot of good work underway between Government Departments, agencies and other partners to address this, it will be of increased priority as we support wellbeing and resilience in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic." Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, and the Principal Investigator of the Irish HBSC study, commented on the Irish findings within the report: “This study provides valuable insight into the health and wellbeing of children in Ireland, and how we compare with children in other countries. It is positive to note we retain comparatively low rates of substance use and high rates of physical activity. The improvements in dietary behaviour in relation to lower intake of sweets and soft drinks are very welcome. However, there are also some areas that require further effort. For example, compared to other countries, Irish children report higher levels of problematic social media use than most countries and rates of cyberbullying are of concern. It is clear that more work is required to address the reductions in life satisfaction across all age groups.”   Key Irish findings: Health promoting behaviours Daily breakfast consumption: Irish children ranked within the top 5 countries for the proportion of children reporting daily breakfast consumption Meeting physical activity recommendations of at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily: When compared to other countries, Ireland ranks in the top 10 for the proportion of 11 and 13 year-old boys and girls meeting physical activity recommendations. At all ages, a larger proportion of boys report meeting the recommendations than girls. Risk-taking behaviour Initiation of risk behaviours: In Ireland, the proportion of 11 and 13 year-old children reporting initiation of cigarette smoking and alcohol use is low relative to other countries Drinking behaviours and tobacco use are continuing to improve in Ireland and when compared to other countries Risky sexual behaviour: Girls in Ireland rank among the top 10 countries for not using the contraceptive pill or condom at last intercourse. Mental Health and Well-being Life satisfaction: Irish 15-year olds ranked within the bottom 2 countries for life satisfaction Life satisfaction has significantly reduced in all age groups of Irish children since 2014 Ireland ranks low on reports of symptoms (stomachache, backache, nervous and dizziness at age 11 Girls at age 13 and 15 are more likely than boys to report multiple symptoms High family affluence is related to better self-rated health, higher life satisfaction and lower rate of multiple symptoms. Social interaction with family and peers Perceived family support: Ireland ranked within the bottom ten countries for the proportion of 11 and 13 year-old children reporting high family support Perceived family and peer support: have improved among 13 year-old girls since 2014. Problematic social media use: Across all ages, Ireland ranked within the top 10 countries for the proportion of children categorised with problematic social media use Bullied others at school: Ireland (13 and 15 year-olds) ranked within the bottom 10 countries for the proportion of children who report bullying others at school Cyberbullying: Compared to other countries, Ireland ranks among the top 10 countries for prevalence of cyberbullying among older children (13 and 15 year-olds). Data collected for the study are based on surveys completed by thousands of adolescents, thereby ensuring that their voices and concerns can be taken fully into account when the WHO frames its European strategies, policies and actions for improving child and adolescent health and well-being. The study feeds into a growing body of evidence calling for more effective and targeted interventions by governments and policy makers to tackle the effects of social, health and gender inequalities among young people in Europe. To access a full copy of Spotlight on Adolescent Health and Well-Being, visit www.euro.who.int/en/hbsc-spotlight-vol1 -Ends-

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Report shines a light on a ‘lost decade’ of mortgage possessions and warns that Covid-19 could result in a new round of arrears A major research report confirms, for the first time, that almost half of the mortgage possession cases listed before the courts are being pursued by “household name” banks, which are directly supervised by the European Central Bank. The research, A Lost Decade – Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, was carried out by Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway. The report examined some 12,650 mortgage possession cases between April and December 2019, and provides a detailed breakdown of the financial institutions seeking possession of homes. The ECB ‘significant’ supervised entities accounting for 46% of the listed cases in the study period are AIB (and its subsidiaries), Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and KBC. The report also reveals that one in every five mortgage cases over that period was being pursued by Permanent TSB, which is 75% owned by the Minister for Finance of Ireland and is supervised by the Central Bank of Ireland.  So-called vulture funds, or non-bank mortgage entities and retail credit firms, were taking one third of cases before the Irish courts over that period.  Dr Kenna warned that Covid-19 could result in a new round of mortgage arrears and that many of the challenges of the last decade could re-emerge: “It is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past and I would recommended that those facing mortgage payment problems post Covid 19 should be able to avail of the State mediation, personal insolvency and new legislation in 2019 which obliges courts to carry out proportionality assessments.” His research confirmed that women have been particularly vulnerable to the actions of financial entities. “One of the most glaring aspects of this report is the absence of a gender dimension. Women as the majority of single-parents, with responsibility for children and often most relying on State supports, are more heavily impacted by these actions of financial entities. Yet, despite legal obligations on equality, no State agency, including the Central Bank of Ireland, addresses gender in its reports”, explained Dr Kenna. The research finds that only one quarter of borrowers at risk of losing their homes had any listed legal representation. Some 7% represented themselves.  In contrast, financial institutions were almost always legally represented, with just 10 legal firms accounting for 70% of the possession proceedings on behalf of financial entities. The report confirms that the numbers of possession orders being granted is reducing year on year, since 2015. Continuing the pattern over the years, for every two orders granted, three are not granted by the courts, for a variety of reasons. Most cases were dealt with by the County Registrar rather than the Judge in Circuit Courts.  The highest proportion of cases were located in the South East (19% of cases) and Midland (18% of cases) Circuits. The full report, A Lost Decade – Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, is available at https://bit.ly/3dRxmLZ. -Ends-

Monday, 18 May 2020

The latest findings from the population wide survey, the Corona Citizens’ Science Study has found that 8 out of 10 people (84%) would consider installing a contact tracing app if it contributed to an easing of restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus. The findings are from phase three of the Corona Citizens’ Science Study*, a population-wide survey conducted by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics (NUI Galway) looking at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lock down, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland. Over 8,700 people took part in the survey which was conducted on May 6th for a period of 24 hours. 72% of respondents reported a good understanding of the measures announced by the government in regards to the phased re-opening of the country. However, a little over half were fully clear on the guidance in relation to returning to work and the reopening of businesses. Over 60% of respondents reported that they were feeling more anxious since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the vast majority worried about catching the virus or a family member catching the virus (78%) while nearly 40% were worried about other health problems and around 30% of respondents about the relaxation of restrictions and their finances.  It also found that females and younger people were feeling more anxious and ill at ease, in contrast to older respondents. Researchers have attributed this to a greater change in circumstances for younger as opposed to older respondents. 3 out of 10 people reported postponing medical treatments, a figure consistent with similar survey findings. 10% of respondents reported to an increased level of tension in their household since the start of the pandemic. Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway, joint research lead said, “The findings regarding previously surveyed topics are remaining quite consistent. It is worrying that there is a consistent level of cancelled and postponed medical appointments which will have a knock on effect and major medical issues will emerge further down the line. Interestingly, our younger respondents are reporting greater levels of anxiety than older respondents and while the pandemic is impacting all of society, it is impacting younger cohorts in very specific ways.” Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said, “The response from those surveyed appears to be quite positively disposed towards installing a contact tracing app, on the premise that it would lead to a lifting of restrictions.We understand that plans are in place to roll out a contact tracing app, with an opt-in clause and it will be interesting to ascertain the depth of the digital divide nationwide with it. Respondents are also positively disposed to the communications around the phased re-opening of the country, however it is a cause for concern that only half are clear around the return to work and reopening of businesses.” Medical Appointments About 31% (2,650) of people have postponed medical treatment or check-ups, similar to the last wave. Respondents said it was because the healthcare professional is not seeing any patients at the moment (56%, previous 55%); 32% (previous 39%) say they don’t want to create an extra burden; 23% (previous 26%) are worried about the risk of catching Covid-19. About 14% had a hospital medical examination postponed (same as last time) and 7% (previous 6%) postponed an operation. Dental appointments (35%), check-ups (36%), counselling (5%) and diabetic clinics (2.4%) were the other main categories of delayed medical appointments. Employment/Working from home 63% of respondents were employed (previously 69%), while, similar to last times, students made up 4% and homemakers 7%. However, a higher percentage identified as retired at 19% (previously 13%). Of the people who were in employment (5,420), 56% are currently working from home every day; 20% on some days and 14% never worked from home.  In the previous rounds, about 45% worked from home. Similar to the previous survey, 15% indicated as an essential worker (about 1,400 respondents). Understanding of restrictions The government’s phased plan received an eight or higher (on a scale of 10) from 72% of respondents, which was similar to the understanding of which activities were allowed from the first phase (72%). However, it was less clear when people could go back to work (55% gave an 8 or higher) or when businesses they needed would open up again (56%). When asked how easily people would find it to comply with these restrictions, 78% gave an 8 or higher (10 being very easy to comply) for the 5km travel restriction; 74% for working from home and 78% gave an 8 or higher for adhering to social distancing.    Activities Walking remains the most popular leisure activity (93%). Indoor exercise is done by about 53% of respondents; 29% play board games; 64% do some sort of gardening and 38% (DIY).Compared to last time, more people are chatting in open air (69% compared to 63% and 54% previously). Childcare Of preschool aged children (about 1,000), 87% were taken care of at home. However, when looking at differences between non-essential and essential workers, 93% were taken care of at home compared to 68% of the essential workers. Essential workers have to rely more often on childminders (18%, up from 10% previously); family (12%) and grandparents (4%), compared to non-essential workers (respectively 4%, 3% and 1%). School  There were over 1,500 parents with children in primary school. Most children (29%) have daily contact with their school teacher; 21% say it is 2-3 times a week; 47% once or less often each week. For 3% of children there is no contact with their primary school teacher. For secondary school parents (about 2,600), 64% of under 15 and 54% of those over the age of 15 had daily contact with their teacher. 25% (under15)  and 2%( over15) respectively 2-3 times a week; 11% (under15) and 18% (over15) once a week or less often. General Health Flu-like symptoms were reported by 2.5% of people , down from 3% of respondents in the last wave and 6% in the first wave. The main symptoms reported remain the same; tired/exhaustion (66%), sore throat (48%), dry/throaty cough (28%, down from 38%), runny nose (32% down from 37%) and/or muscle pain (32% down from 38%). This did not change much overall. Similarly, of the people they live with, this time 10% of respondents indicated these had flu-like symptoms, which was down from 11% in the second wave and 17% previously. Mental Health and Well-Being Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, about 61% (5,300) of respondents indicate to be more anxious; even much more anxious (14%) while 8% indicate to be less anxious. The anxiety is mainly due to the worry of catching the virus or their family catching the virus (78%), while 37% also indicate worry about other health problems; 33% about the relaxation of restrictions; 26% about their finances or their business and 24% about working from home or their child’s schooling.This survey again, did not show major changes in either mental health or well-being compared to the first or the second survey. The impact of the pandemic on well-being and mental health would appear to be greater for younger as compared to older people. This may be explained by the fact that younger people are likely to have experienced a much greater change in day-to-day living than those in the older population. Compared to the Healthy Ireland Survey of 2016, it seems that the pandemic has had a negative impact on well-being and mental health. Demographics The mean age was 50 (median 52) which was higher than both previous surveys. About 23% of respondents were male and 77% female.Age groups were well represented, with about 54% of the people between 35 and 54; 4% under the age of 25; 16% were 65 or older. This older age group is better represented than previously (11% previously).Education remained high, 65% had a university degree, which was similar in the previous waves. Dublin had the higher number of respondents with 43% (previous 41% and 38%) and Galway 16% (previously 14% and 12%, Cork 8% (previous 7% and 6%) and all other counties were represented at less than 5%. *Corona Citizens’ Science Study -Ends-

Friday, 15 May 2020

Professor Gerard Flaherty of the School of Medicine at NUI Galway has been appointed as lead for the COVID-19 task force of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM), of which he is one of just 58 Fellows worldwide. The purpose of the task force will be to advise the ISTM Executive Board on how the Society's activities should adapt to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, to evaluate the research evidence base and provide technical advice to international agencies in relation to the safe resumption of international travel, based on public health guidance and travel health risk assessments. Reflecting on this voluntary role, Professor Flaherty commented: "I am proud to represent NUI Galway in my various contributions to the leading professional society devoted to travel medicine education and research. The safe facilitation of international travel will be at the core of our new task force's efforts." Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway, said:"The appointment of Professor Flaherty as the International Society of Travel Medicine COVID 19 Task Force lead is an excellent choice. Professor Flaherty, as a clinical expert with extensive experience, will be a dedicated advocate for safe and healthy travel as the world emerges from lockdown." The ISTM is an international society of physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other medical professionals who promote travel health initiatives. Founded in 1991, ISTM has built a global network that is committed to the advancement of travel medicine, and fosters research, facilitates the rapid exchange of information, and provides educational programming to serve the travel medicine community. The organisation promotes the development and evaluation of safe, effective, preventive and curative interventions for patients prior to travel, during travel and post travel. -Ends-  

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

AtlanTec Festival 2020 - The Art of AI and Digital Innovation, 18-22 May 12 May 2020: One of Ireland’s biggest tech events is going virtual and global this year. The international line-up of expert speakers has been announced for the AtlanTec Festival 2020 which takes place online from the 18-22 May 2020. Across five days, over 30 online events will delve into hot-topics and trends in tech and digital innovation the fields of AI, cyber security, fintech, medtech, mindfulness and leadership. This year’s line-up will also include a special focus on COVID-19 and feature NUI Galway researchers who are responding to the pandemic with innovative solutions such as applying AI. The Art of AI & Digital Innovation is for business leaders, expert software developers, entrepreneurs and technologists who can connect in – for free – from wherever they are in the world. There will also be a fun social element with a Tech Quiz on the 20 May. “In light of the pandemic restrictions and reflecting a changed world, the AtlanTec Festival has adapted and this year we are going virtual,” said Caroline Cawley, Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit itag which runs the event. “Our mission is to promote, strengthen and grow the information technology industry along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s a credit to all involved here locally and to our speakers from around the world that we are adopting tech — to talk tech — and pushing ahead with such a mammoth event.” Now in its sixth year, the festival usually takes places around various Galway venues with in-company events hosted by the many large tech companies and vibrant start-ups in the region. The conference usually culminates with a day-long conference at NUI Galway with up to 400 attendees. The festival is supported by Avaya, Cisco, itag Skillnet, Fidelity Investments, Genesys and NUI Galway. Fiona Neary is Innovation Operations Manager with NUI Galway’s Innovation Office and will moderate sessions on the university’s COVID-19 research responses and start-ups in the region: “The west of Ireland has a vibrant ICT sector with particular strengths in enterprise software. We have the perfect mix of third-level education institutes, high-potential start-ups and supports, innovative indigenous companies and multinational corporations. What we also have is some amazing people with incredible knowledge and insights to share. It’s so great to get together again for AtlanTec – even if it’s to be virtually this year.” Free registration is open now at www.atlantec.ie For more on NUI Galway’s research and innovation response to COVID-19 visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/our-research/covid19/ -ENDS-

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

NUI Galway celebrates its students' talents and skills with a series of awards this spring and summer.  NUI Galway students are awarded for their commitment and engagement to various campus and community programmes, with outstanding students representing NUI Galway at national awards. The NUI Galway Employability Award recognises what students have learned and the skills they have developed through work and extra-curricular activities. The award is designed to prepare graduates directly for the job market by developing employability skills through workshops, events and highlighting their work experience. It helps students showcase what they have to offer to employers. Grace Mannion, Employability Project Officer said, "Since the Employability Award was launched the number of students receiving the Award had increased year on year from 50 students in 2018 to 360 students this year.  This programme gives NUI Galway students a competitive advantage in the graduate job market.” Paul Vance, Head of Resourcing, KPM  “At KPMG we place a very high value on NUI Galway graduates. So to be involved in the Employability Awards gives us a terrific opportunity to share learning experiences with the students. I am a big fan of students getting involved in ‘out of class’ activities. The Award gives them terrific opportunities to express their skills, personalities and extracurricular activities, as well as to build strengths and relationships.”  The ALIVE Certificate for Volunteering is awarded to students for volunteering their time to communities. To date over 900 students have completed an online reflection about the their community volunteering. Lorraine Tansey, Student Volunteer Coordinator said, "This academic year students have enthusiastically engaged with environmental projects, disability programmes, a wide range of charitable fundraisers and cultural festivals, and we see their outstanding commitment to inclusive and more equal societies." International student Adhiti Krishnan when asked about volunteering with Croi West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation said, "The fact I was able to contribute my time and make some difference, is something I am very proud of." The live online celebration showcased a variety of volunteer projects through student stories and guest community speakers Brendan Smith of the National Computer Museum and Elena Toniato from European Capital of Culture Galway 2020. The Student Societies Awards celebrate the achievements of the Societies in NUI Galway each year. This year 122 societies with 1140 committee members organised over 3000 events. The Awards event was hosted a virtual awards ceremony and announced the winners in 17 award categories, 14 of which will be representing the University at the Board of Irish College Societies (BICS) national Society Awards at the end of May. Among the winners this year were: Best Cultural, Academic and Social Society award went to Dramsoc, Best Civic & Charity Society went to Slainte Society who are best known for they Teddy Bear Hospital, Best event was won by Anime and Manga Society for their Akumakon Convention in January, Best Individual went to Noel Minogue of Dramsoc, Best New  Society went to Mincéirs Whiden Society who support and promote the traveller community in NUI Galway. Best Departmental society went to the Medical Society. Best Fresher went to Ryan Carroll from the Fantasy and Science Fiction society who also won most improved society.  Representing the University at the national societies awards programme, BICS Awards, will be the Musical Society for Best Promotional Campaign for Kips the Musical, Best Video and Poster went to Dramsoc, Best Photo to Marine Society for a photo from their beach cleanup day. Other winners on the night were Best Cultural Contribution for Cheerleading Society, Best Website for Energy Society and Best Small Publication for Anime & Manga Society. Riona Hughes, Societies Coordinator said, "We are very happy with the engagement from the societies and the calibre of their applications and are very thankful to our panel of adjudicators who all participated in our virtual ceremony, I wish all our societies the best of luck at national level and have nothing but the highest praise for our students who are adapting to very challenging circumstances and still providing support for their members" Students will prepare portfolios and interviews for the national societies celebration, the BICS Awards are due to be held in September 2020. Students of NUI Galway will also be acknowledged for their commitment to student government and be awarded through the national Union of Students of Ireland, USI, award programme in June 2020, Student Achievement Awards Ireland, SAAI. NUI Galway nominees include Padraic Toomey for Part Time Officer of the Year; Clare Austick for Full-Time Officer of the Year; Mansi Kesarwani for International Student of the Year; University of Sanctuary for Equality Campaign of the Year; Emma Jane Kinsella for Outstanding Mental Health Activism; Réiltín Tynan for Student Representative of the Year; Cameron Keighron for Postgraduate Champion of the Year; The NUI Galway SU Laptop Loan Scheme for Access Champion of the Year; and St Angela’s College Sligo Students’ Union for Students' Union Team of the Year. NUI Galway is committed to a rich student experiences that includes engagement with a variety of skill building programmes to enhance students' skills. Student leadership, understanding of civic engagement, communication and presentation skills. Professor Michelle Millar, Dean of Students said, "Congratulations to all the students for volunteering with our campus and wider communities this year. The civic skills you learn and share are more important than ever.” To see the wide range of student engagement programmes visit: www.nuigalway.ie/university-life -Ends-

Monday, 11 May 2020

Survey Shows 83% Want to Continue to Work Remotely After Covid-19 Crisis 7,241 people completed the online survey across a wide range of industries over a one-week period in April-May  11 May 2020:  A recent survey by researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission (WDC) has shown that 83% expressed interest in continuing to work remotely.  Over half of those surveyed (51%) had never worked remotely before the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those who had never worked remotely, 78% would like to work remotely for some or all of the time after the crisis is over. The survey was led by Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor Alan Ahearne and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell at NUI Galway, and Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at WDC.  These are the initial findings from the national survey of 7,241 individuals across a wide range of industries and sectors over a one-week week period in April-May 2020.  The top three challenges of working remotely included: Not being able to switch off from work; harder to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and co-workers; and poor physical workspace. The top three benefits of working remotely included: no traffic and no commute; reduced costs of going to work and commuting; and greater flexibility as to how to manage the working day. The challenge of juggling childcare with work commitments was cited as a key issue in the open-ended comments received. The provision of better ergonomic equipment is one of the key changes suggested by employees to help with their well-being and productivity while working remotely.  Many also report the need for more suitable workspace within their home and just under 1-in-5 (19%) identified internet connectivity as an issue. In relation to current levels of productivity, 37% of respondents indicated that their productivity working remotely during COVID-19 is about the same as normal and 30% report that their productivity is higher than normal.  25% report that their productivity is lower than normal and 9% of respondents indicate that it is impossible to compare productivity as the demand for products/services/business has changed.  The majority (83%) of the 7,241 respondents indicated that they would like to work remotely after the crisis is over.  Of these: 12% indicated they would like to work remotely on a daily basis 42% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a week 29% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a month 16% indicated they do not want to continue working remotely. The survey indicates that 87% of those surveyed across all counties in Ireland are now working remotely because of Covid-19. Speaking about the national survey, Professor Alma McCarthy said: “The findings of our survey indicate that employee preferences to continue working remotely will facilitate the opening up phase and aid with social distancing.  The future of work post-COVID-19 is really interesting.  The vast majority of respondents want to continue to work remotely when the crisis is over.  Many roles and jobs can be performed effectively remotely.  What is the benefit of long commutes to work and sitting in traffic if we can leverage technology at least some of the week to do our work?  Productivity does not necessarily correlate with presence in the workplace.  What we do is more important than where we do it for many roles. A mind-set change is needed by managers and employers in terms of managing work remotely. The current crisis provides an opportunity for organisations and managers to rethink how we work.”  CEO of the Western Development Commission Tomás Ó Síocháin said: “While a significant majority (83%) want to continue working remotely to some degree post-Covid-19, the figure is higher in the West and Midlands. Just over half (51%) would like to work from their home, with the balance seeking a mix of home, a hub/work-sharing space and the office. The preference of working from home or close to home in a hub/work-sharing space will allow individuals a better balance of work and home and generate and sustain economic activity in rural and regional areas.” Respondents suggest a number of key changes and improvements that their managers and employers should make regarding remote working at present: Provision of better and more ergonomic physical workspace including provision of a good (ergonomic) chair, provision of printer, and better screens. Better management of video-conference meetings Reduce expectations and workload to more realistic levels Regular communication and check-ins Ensure provision of well-being supports More flexibility in terms of hours of work to cater for caring responsibilities at this time.  The initial survey report is publicly available http://whitakerinstitute.ie/project/covid-19-remote-working-employee-pulse-survey/.  The research team will be doing further analysis and more publications will be available on the websites in the future.   ENDS

Friday, 8 May 2020

Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD, today announced the first winner of the SFI Future Innovator Prize, Dr Alison Liddy and her project team at NUI Galway. Dr Liddy and the project team have been awarded €1million for their project, Hydrobloc, a novel and transformative treatment for people suffering from chronic pain. A special prize of €500,000 was also awarded to Prof Dominic Zerulla and his team at PEARlabs, University College Dublin (UCD), in recognition of the potential impact of their project to develop a novel, nanoscale biological imaging technology. The SFI Future Innovator Prize, funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland, is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland. This prize challenges the country’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators to create novel, potentially disruptive technologies in collaboration with societal stakeholders and end-users. Commenting on the awards Minister Humphreys, TD, said: “Congratulations to the Hydrobloc team on winning this prestigious award and leading the way with this much needed novel and innovative treatment for chronic pain. Such was the potential from this Challenge Funding programme, that a special award was received by the PEARlabs team for their pioneering research in nano-microscopy. At this time, as we battle an unprecedented pandemic we clearly need disruptive science and technology to help us find solutions. I am delighted to support the SFI Future Innovator Prize programme and wish the winning teams all the best as they continue their journey and further develop their concepts for the benefit of society.” Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan added: “I extend my congratulations and look forward to seeing these innovative concepts come to fruition. In the current climate and this rapidly changing world, fast response and agility are required in order to tackle the enormous societal issues we face. The challenge funding model, in tandem with our traditional research models, gives us a greater chance of developing the tools to help us quickly address current crises with dynamic and transformative solutions.”  The SFI Future Innovator Prize has a strong team focus with each member bringing necessary expertise to advance the project. Teams work to tight deadlines, with the necessary supports and flexibility, in order to accelerate progression towards their proposed solutions. Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “The SFI Future Innovator Prize is part of an approach to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland to accelerate and validate excellent and innovative solutions to critical societal and global issues. The Hydrobloc team headed by Dr Alison Liddy proved to be worthy first winners, successfully completing all aspects of this demanding and disruptive programme with the potential to alleviate chronic neuropathic pain with a novel nanogel. I am delighted to say that the calibre of research supported has been so high that a special award was made to Prof Dominic Zerulla and his team for their novel imaging technology.” Chronic neuropathic pain sufferers live with constant pain, which has a significant personal and societal impact. Neuropathic pain is caused by damage or disease affecting the sensory nervous system (the part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information).  It is estimated that 8% of the European population suffer from neuropathic pain, 300,000 in Ireland alone. The Hydrobloc nanogel (a nanogel is a tiny particle of submicroscopic size) provides long term pain relief which is drug free without the severe side effects of prescription medications. On winning the Final Prize Dr Alison Liddy said:“The SFI Future Innovator Prize has been pivotal in allowing the Hydrobloc team at NUIG to significantly progress our research and realise its potential. We are honoured to win the final prize and have no doubt after being through the programme that there is a world class level of innovative talent in Ireland which will benefit our country in the future.” The SFI Future Innovator Prize has enabled the Hydrobloc project to significantly progress along the patient pathway, further validate the clinical need among stakeholders, expand potential clinical indications, and develop and refine the core technology through extensive pre-clinical testing. Asked about the experience of participating in the Future Innovator Prize programme, Dr Liddy added: “A unique aspect of the challenge programme is the social impact element which emphasised the societal aspects of our solution with crucial input not just from clinicians, but also from patients. By incorporating this Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) paradigm we have integrated the voice of the patient into Hydrobloc and ensured that the core goal is the development of a treatment that will improve the lives of patients living with debilitating pain. The programme has also introduced us to an exciting network of brilliantly innovative scientists and importantly has opened the door to investors.” The UCD PEARlabs team, led by Prof Dominic Zerulla, UCD School of Physics, developed a highly innovative imaging solution that enables super-fast real-time nanoscale optical microscopy. This aims to transform our understanding of processes such as cell signalling and cell proliferation in cancer. Their project was entitled, Enabling Next Generation Biological Imaging. On receiving the Award, Prof Dominic Zerulla, founder PEARlabs said: “I am delighted to receive this award, which is verification that the transformative potential of our disruptive imaging method has been recognised. Our PEARlabs technology will allow life science researchers to understand bio-medically relevant mechanisms to enable an unparalleled in-depth understanding of life-threatening diseases such as cancer and pandemic viral infections, including the coronavirus. This will in turn facilitate the development of faster drug delivery and testing.” The patented technology can therefore aid early diagnostics, precision medicine and the delivery of improved drug treatments. It also has the potential to be used as an add-on to conventional optical microscopes opening up access to ‘nm resolution imaging’ for many fields of science. Asked about the experience of participating in the Future Innovator Prize challenge Prof Zerulla remarked: “Our journey to the SFI Future Innovator Prize was extremely exciting. Successfully getting through the rigorous evaluation process, consisting of three competitive rounds and being able to enthusiastically demonstrate our research to national and international expert panels was quite an experience. This external validation has been very important for PEARlabs (a UCD spin-out supported by NovaUCD) which is currently in negotiations with international investors and global companies.” The awards will be used by the winning teams to further develop their solutions and enable them to progress their research toward having positive impacts for society.  More recently SFI launched two further challenge programmes, the Artificial Intelligence for Societal Good Challenge and the Zero Emissions Challenge in partnership with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. ENDS

Friday, 8 May 2020

The Nanoscale Biophotonics Laboratory (NBL) at NUI Galway will lead a major new €5 million project to develop and deploy new Process Analytical technologies (PAT) tools for the online measurement and analysis of industrially relevant nanoparticles. The project, PAT4Nano (Process Analytical Technology Tools for Real-Time Physical and Chemical Characterization of Nanosuspensions) is funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Research and Innovation Actions.   The PAT4Nano project begins this month and will be coordinated by NUI Galway’s Professor Alan G. Ryder, and consists of five industrial partners from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK, with three research partners from Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany.  Nanosuspensions are a critical material type found in everything from pharmaceuticals, to inks, paints, and fine chemicals used in advanced manufacturing.  The accurate measurement of nanosuspensions and the size of nanoparticles is critical for efficient manufacturing processes and ultimately the performance of materials.  PAT4Nano aims to develop tools to enable the continuous, rapid, and reliable measurement of nanoparticles to facilitate the more efficient, less costly, and accurate manufacture of nanomaterials.  In PAT4Nano the consortium end user partners, are working on diverse applications in pharmaceuticals, inks/pigments, and materials for catalysis, batteries, and glass manufacture.  One specific example of where nanoparticles play an important role is for some pharmaceutical drugs where the size and characteristics of nanoparticles can be used to produce more effective therapies.  The project is unique in that the end users of the PAT4Nano technologies will be working in very close collaboration with both technology providers and research centres to produce the best solutions which can be deployed in a manufacturing environment. Professor Alan Ryder, who leads the Nanoscale Biophotonics Laboratory based in the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, said: “PAT4Nano is an exemplary, interdisciplinary, industry-academic partnership which aims to solve challenging issues with the online, rapid measurement of nanoparticles which affects the manufacture of a wide range of advanced materials like therapeutic drugs, additives for glass and battery manufacture, to inks, and even biologics like vaccines." -Ends-

Thursday, 7 May 2020

NUI Galway researchers today announced a collaboration with US medtech company Endotronix in a project ‘CRÓGA’ to use telehealth for remote management of heart failure during COVID-19. Heart failure patients who contract COVID-19 face substantially elevated risk of death or severe debilitation so it is imperative to protect heart failure patients from exposure to the virus by isolating them at home as much as possible. However, the need for outpatient clinic cardiology assessment directly conflicts with the need to isolate this extremely vulnerable population. Chicago-based Endotronix has developed a health management system for chronic heart failure patients, including a cloud-based disease management data system and an implantable wireless pulmonary artery pressure system. This system allows remote monitoring of key clinical information of the patients. In a pilot study, Endotronix’ Cordella™ heart failure management system home telehealth kits will be rapidly deployed to heart failure patients in the northwest of Ireland. These kits are specifically designed to activate and use without leaving home. Daily readings include blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation, body weight and ECG. Readings are uploaded to a cloud server and analysed at least twice weekly by dedicated NUI Galway/UHG clinical research staff. Using phone, text, or email, the clinical staff provides advice, asks/answers questions, adjusts medications, and decides whether further therapy is needed.  Additionally, missed daily readings or deteriorating vitals may indicate a patient’s health has seriously degraded, triggering follow-up action. The project will be committed to the principles inherent in the GDPR and provide a compliant and consistent approach to data protection. Dr Faisal Sharif, the project lead said: “We have seen an unprecedented growth in the capacity to produce, store, and communicate data, in digital formats. Internet-based platforms now allow patients and the healthcare providers to communicate with each other through cloud-based systems. Endotronix Cordella system will enable physicians to review important clinical information from these high risk patients while they remain safe in their own homes. This clinical information will be used to plan further treatment for the patients remotely. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of eHealth and technologies like Cordella can help us save lives of these vulnerable patients.” Dr Haroon Zafar, the project co-lead said: “The double hit of heart failure and COVID-19 pandemic has raised great concerns for people living with heart failure. Ireland needs a better way to empower its cardiology resources to address heart failure during COVID-19. It must leverage telehealth technology to move heart failure management towards a preventive, home-based, patient-centred paradigm. The concept proven by project CRÓGA may be applied to other chronic underlying conditions that increase mortality risk during pandemics.” David Fitzpatrick, Advanced Research and Development Manager at Endotronix Ireland said: “We are excited to work with NUI Galway to aid some of our most vulnerable patients in these difficult times. Using our Cordella System, we want to ensure a high standard of care and peace of mind for heart failure patients while cocooning. Cordella allows home based, remote, daily monitoring of user health vitals so that their clinical team can monitor and adjust treatment efficiently and without the need for an in-person clinic visit.”                                                                                         -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

App being trialled by healthcare workers before being made available to general public for phase one of Government’s reopening plan Researchers at NUI Galway’s Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) Lab, led by Professor Derek O’Keeffe, have developed a new smartphone app to help with social distancing. As recommended by the World Health Organisation, one of the basic principles in minimising the spread of this infectious disease is social distancing. It is currently suggested that people should have a space of at least 2 metres around them to reduce the chance of respiratory spread of the disease from person to person.  ‘SPACER – The Social Distancing App’ aims to reduce the problem of person to person spacing by harnessing ubiquitous smartphone technology and a novel algorithm which uses the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol, to alert hospital staff if they are less than 2m from each other via a vibration alarm. The system is currently being evaluated at Galway University Hospital and will thereafter be available for the general public. Following this evaluation, The SPACER app will be made available for download for phase one of the government’s plan to reopen Ireland on May 18th.   The app vibrates when someone else with the Spacer App on their phone (or with Bluetooth enabled) is less than 2m for over one minute. If the SPACER app vibrates, then the person can either move further away from someone nearby or suspend the alarm for 10minutes if it was not possible to move straight away, for example health care workers performing a clinical procedure. Professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway and Consultant Physician University Hospital Galway, Professor Derek O’Keeffe said: “Implementing the 2 metre social distancing can be difficult to manage in busy work environments such as hospitals, and it is vital that frontline staff stay adequately distanced to ensure that they do not spread the virus between themselves. Unfortunately globally to date healthcare workers are the occupation that have made up the largest percentage of people affected by the COVID19 pandemic due to their clinical work and their working environment. Therefore we urgently need an active and dynamic solution to help this vulnerable cohort and the general public to maintain social distance.” “The approach to managing COVID19 with digital health solutions can be thought of like fire safety, our SPACER App is like fire prevention – trying to prevent people from staying in contact too close and for too long”, continued Professor O’Keeffe. Dr Ramona McLoughlin, Clinical Director – Medicine Saolta Group and Gastroenterologist at Galway University Hospitals, added: “Maintaining social distancing is particularly challenging in health care settings, particularly a busy acute hospital like University Hospital Galway. The SPACER App will help staff be more aware of their proximity to their colleagues and help them, where possible, maintain the 2 mt distance and help protect themselves, their colleagues and our patients.” The SPACER App is currently being used by doctors and nurses working in the Acute Medical Unit (AMU) of Galway University Hospital. Dr Colin Davenport, Acute Medical Unit Consultant at University Hospital Galway said: “Following distancing guidelines as much as possible is a vital part of controlling this pandemic. By making health care professionals aware of when they are getting too close to others around them the SPACER app has the potential to significantly reduce any spread of coronavirus amongst staff and patients, and ultimately to prevent more cases of COVID-19 emerging.” HIVE Lab collaborators involved with developing this innovative digital health solution include: Mark Cahill, Grainne Conefrey, D. Kevin Johnson, Dr Spyridoula Maraka, Conor McGuire, Garry McNulty, and Jerico Pingul. More details on the project can be found at www.spacer.ie -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, are now offering co-teaching support for primary school teachers in STEM. Primary school resources from CÚRAM’s highly successful Teachers in Residence programme have been adapted to support teachers delivering STEM education online over the coming months. These lesson plan kits have been developed by primary school teachers, in collaboration with CÚRAM researchers. They are suitable for fifth and sixth class students and link with the primary science curriculum. Five comprehensive lesson plan presentations, recorded by CÚRAM’s Teachers in Residence programme manager Dr Sarah Gundy, are now available. These presentations are supplemented by downloadable lesson plans. Dr Gundy, together with CÚRAM’s researchers are also offering primary school classes their very own ‘Ask a Scientist’ session in collaboration with their teachers either via email or as part of an online session. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, commented: “We are very conscious of the difficulties faced by parents and teachers trying to continue to deliver quality content in a completely new format. We would like to offer these ready to use resources that deal with a very relevant and topical area of research to support the huge efforts being made by parents and teachers in a very challenging time.” Pre-recorded lesson plan presentations include: Healing the Heart: Learn basic heart anatomy, how a heart attack occurs and how to keep their hearts healthy. Follow up activities include construct a large diagram of the heart which can used to play “Heart Twister” at home! Mending the Musculoskeletal System: Learn about bones, muscles, and tendons, and how doctors currently treat damage to these tissues. Follow up activities show how to construct a model hand and act as a surgeon to fix a tendon using a Biomedical Engineering Kit from material you have at home. Fixing the Brain: Learn how nerves send and receive messages, and the causes of Parkinson’s disease. Students can build their own medical devices to treat Parkinson’s disease and test the devices by making jelly “brains” at home. Exploring Stem Cells: Learn about how stem cells are used by animals to heal their bodies. Students build model animals using cells made from playdough, and fix their injured animals by using playdough stem cells or building prosthetic devices. What are Biomaterials?: Learn about medical devices, and natural and synthetic sources of biomaterials. Students can make their own biomaterials at home (using slime!) to fix soft tissues. To register your interest in the resources, or to simply book an ‘Ask a Scientist’ session for your class, please contact sarah.gundy@nuigalway.ie.  In addition to teaching resources, CÚRAM has also added ‘Bite-Sized Science’ activities to our website. Bite-Sized Science offers quick, uncomplicated science activities for teachers or parents to share with children at home. The focus of this resource is on generating excitement for science without asking too much of already time-pressured parents. Each activity can be completed with just a small bit of help for younger children (JI-2nd class) and independently for older children (3rd-6th class). Care is being taken to select engaging activities that can be completed with the simplest of ingredients and materials, using everyday items found in most homes, and plenty of recyclables. Look out for new activities every Tuesday and Thursday over the coming months. Should kids take an especially keen interest, links will be provided that allow them to delve a little deeper into the science behind the experiment. See http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/artists-in-residence/bite-sizedscience/ ENDS

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Phase three of the population wide survey, the Corona Citizens’ Science Study will ask the public whether they would consider installing a contact tracing app if doing so helped with the lifting of restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. Contact tracing apps have already been introduced in countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Australia. The apps rely on either bluetooth or localisation technology (GPS). Apps based on these technologies can trace how the virus spreads in the community and help limit contagion. However, there are concerns over the issue of balancing privacy rights with that of public health. The introduction of a contact tracing app is under consideration by the government with an announcement expected in the coming weeks. The Corona Citizens’ Science Study is conducted by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics (NUI Galway) and is examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lock down, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland*. Phase three will commence on Wednesday, May 6th at 06.00am and remain open for 24 hours. The rate of interaction between teachers and school children will feature in the latest survey. Previous survey findings showed that over a third of respondents were now home-schooling their children and 55% said that their children were now lacking motivation. Further clarity will be sought on the nature of the delayed treatments and check-ups reported by 32% of respondents in phase two. Researchers are also keen to gauge the state of emotional well-being among people and will ask about the general levels of anxiety and the specific issues causing this.   Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine/Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, joint research lead said, “We are keen to get a sense from the general population on how well or poorly their understanding is of the government’s phased plan to relax restrictions. Furthermore, we want to gain a deeper understanding of the rationale for the postponing of medical treatments, which we believe has huge ramifications further down the line.” Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said, “We want to look at the lock-down, and how people think we might move out of it, and in particular to get some idea of whether an app would be acceptable as part of this. How do people balance privacy and contact tracing? How does our very real digital divide affect this?.” Findings from phase two of the survey* found that one out of every two people ranked lifting the 2km restriction on movement as the first item they would like to see removed and a third were in favour of removing the limitations on small gatherings. The findings also showed that movement restrictions were effective with a drop in the percentage of respondents reporting symptoms of the virus in survey two (3%) in comparison to 6% in the first survey. There remained a high degree of understanding of the measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus with 92% reporting positively on their understanding of social distancing and 83% for isolation recommendations. *February 29th 2020 *Findings published April 27th  2020 at www.nuigalway.ie/corona-study To take part in survey part three click here 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

NUI Galway will host a virtual Open Scholarship Week (OSW2020) to showcase the importance of research and education that is accessible to everyone. The event will take place online from 11–15 May. Open Scholarship is a global movement towards research and educational practices that are collaborative and transparent. The aim is to make research and educational resources such as publications, data, research outputs and teaching and learning resources, publicly available as early as possible, as well as actively encouraging participation in the research process by the general public and co-creation of knowledge. OWS2020 builds on the successful Open Science Week 2019, which was the first of its kind in Ireland. The event will again bring together researchers, academics, educators, and members of the public to highlight and showcase what open scholarship is and how to work together towards creating knowledge that is open and accessible to everyone. Online events taking place across this week will target several elements of Open Scholarship, including Open Data, Open Access, Open Education and Citizen Science. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, commented: “The importance of transparency and openness in research and scholarship has never been so important or so apparent. Transparency and openness play key roles in NUI Galway's strategy; emerging from the success of last year’s inaugural Open Science Week, we are delighted to host Open Scholarship Week 2020.” Dr Elaine Toomey, Cochrane Ireland/Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Open Scholarship Week committee member at NUI Galway, said: “Recently, the COVID-19 emergency has really shone a spotlight on the importance of open scholarship, collaborative working and the importance of making research widely accessible and available early-on. We are delighted to be able to run a full week of events dedicated to open scholarship for the second year running. In particular, it has been fantastic to see such great engagement from different disciplines within NUI Galway and from our national and international collaborators.”   A number of workshops, discussions and lectures will take place OSW2020 including: Antonio Schettino, Erasmus University Rotterdam, will deliver a keynote address on ‘Open Science Communities: to The Netherlands and Beyond!’. This will be followed by NUI Galway’s Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research and Dr John Caulfield (Strategic Implementation) from NUI Galway who will discuss open scholarship within NUI Galway strategy. Antonio will host an introductory workshop on how to use the Open Science Framework A session on how to discover, license, re-purpose and share Open Educational Resources, delivered by Iain MacLaren, Director of NUI Galway’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Sharon Flynn from the Irish Universities Association will host the panel discussion ‘Wikipedia in Higher Education: Ban or Embrace?’ and a workshop entitled ‘Wikithon - become a Wikipedia editor’ Two lightning talks on ‘The Growing Importance of Open Access Data and Open Source Software’ by Speakers Niall Moran from the Irish Centre for High End Computing and Adam Leadbetter from the Marine Institute, who will also present examples from their relevant fields The Digital Repository of Ireland will present a session on ‘Publishing, citing and preserving your research’ using the Arts and Culture in Education Research Repository A half-day session on ‘Open Synthesis: Open Science in Evidence Synthesis’ which will feature insights from international experts including David Moher, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Emma Thompson, Cochrane, and Neil Haddaway, Stockholm Environment Institute. All events are free and open to all but individual registration is required for all events. Full details and registration is available at www.nuigalway.ie/osw/, and follow #oswgalway2020 on Twitter. -Ends-


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