Thursday, 29 July 2021

AI-enabled satellite remote sensing can provide solution for measuring climate change adaptation A research project at NUI Galway has been announced today as the winner of the SFI Future Innovator Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Societal Good Challenge, for its ground-breaking AI-based satellite imagery analysis tool to measure climate change adaptation in agriculture. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, together with Minister of State for Overseas Development and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, TD announced the winning TAPAS project. The TAPAS team led by Dr Aaron Golden and Professor Charles Spillane from NUI Galway, have been awarded €1 million for their interdisciplinary project resulting in a tool capable of providing objective data on the effectiveness of agricultural interventions for climate change adaptation.  The TAPAS project was co-funded with Irish Aid under SFI’s partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and has focused initially on test sites in Senegal that are subject to adaptation-strengthening agri-food interventions. Adaptation to climate change in developing countries is expected to cost $140-300 billion per year by 2030, so assessing the effectiveness of resilience-strengthening interventions through the measurement, reporting and verification of climate change adaptation in the agriculture and food sectors is a critical area of development. Over 130 countries are now prioritising agricultural adaptation in their national plans to meet the necessary ambition of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Speaking today, Minister Simon Harris said: “Congratulations to the TAPAS team at NUI Galway on this fantastic achievement. Building resilience through climate change adaptation which will strengthen food security is a critical issue for governments across the world and this solution provides a way forward that will allow public and private enterprises to invest wisely by assessing effective interventions and helping to achieve the objectives set out in the national Climate Action Plan.” Commenting on the Award, Minister of State for Overseas Development and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, TD added: “Imagine that it hasn’t rained for a year or that your crops have been scorched by the sun. That’s the reality for communities across the developing world who rely on rain-fed agriculture. Climate change threatens the ability of millions of families to provide food and earn income. I welcome the ingenuity of Dr Golden and his team at NUI Galway in developing this technology which will help communities adapt to our changing climate.” On winning the prize Dr Aaron Golden, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Maths, NUI Galway, stated: “The TAPAS project team and I are absolutely delighted to receive this prize in recognition of the importance of the ground-breaking technology we are developing with TAPAS, which we believe has the potential to empower society across the globe to proactively reduce the impact of Climate Change, most especially those communities in the developing world whose economies are almost entirely dependent on agriculture. It has been an honour to work with such excellent collaborators at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and SFI’s unique and innovative Challenge based funding process has, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs, really helped us thrive as an interdisciplinary group of scientists to bring this transformative project to reality." The team co-lead Professor Charles Spillane, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, added: “Climate change adaptation is a critical 21st century challenge, particularly in the agriculture sector where almost 20 million (~40%) of the world’s agricultural land area is at risk of adverse effects of climate change. The current lack of a universally deployable system to measure adaptation to climate change motivated us to develop one, by combining AI with satellite remote sensing of agricultural systems. Moving forward from COP26, our TAPAS technology for measuring adaptation will inform both public and private investments to ensure that the most effective climate change adaptation interventions are deployed globally.” Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “Congratulations to Dr Aaron Golden, Professor Charles Spillane and Dr Andy Jarvis. This novel solution shows exactly what can be accomplished when interdisciplinary expertise comes together under a challenge-based funding structure that facilitates ideation through to invention. I am delighted for the team and look forward to following TAPAS as the impact of this solution unfolds across the globe. “I would also like to extend my congratulations to the runners up, Professor Patricia Maguire and the AI_PREMie team, for the important work they are doing in advancing foetal health and women’s health with their state-of-the-art diagnostic application.” As part of the SFI AI for Societal Good Challenge, a runner-up award of €500,000 was awarded to Prof Patricia Maguire, University College Dublin (UCD), and her team AI_PREMie­ in recognition of the potential impact of their AI-powered risk stratification platform for preeclampsia. -Ends-

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

NUI Galway’s Access Programmes, which have been supporting students from backgrounds traditionally under-represented at third level education for over twenty years, have announced that applications for this year’s Access Programme for School Leavers opens on the 1 August 2021. Access courses introduce students to methods of study and writing that are required for successful participation in higher education, and also prepares students to make informed choices about further study options. Saoirse O’Connor, who completed the NUI Galway Access Programme for School Leavers this year, said: “This year the course was held online due to the pandemic, but I still had the opportunity to meet new people, make friends and overall I had an enjoyable experience throughout the programme. I also benefited from the ongoing supports of the access office, which helped me to do my best. I am hoping to begin a General Nursing Degree with NUI Galway in September.” Oisín Halligan, who also completed the Access Course at NUI Galway in 2020-21, said: “The access course was the opportunity I thought I’d never get academically, the course gets you far more prepared than secondary school and there are so many good people involved in the course that are there to help whenever possible.” The Access Course runs for 21 weeks, either full-time or part-time, during the academic year, and students who complete the Access Course receive a Diploma in Foundation Studies from NUI Galway. They are also eligible to apply for direct entry (via the CAO) to full-time University undergraduate degree courses. Dr Mary Surlis, Senior Manager with NUI Galway’s Access Centre, said: “Access Centre is focused on widening participation and embracing diversity and inclusion at third level by bringing people into higher education who, for a diverse range of reasons, have not reached their potential through the traditional entry route. Our Access Programmes are designed not only to develop a student’s academic skills but to support students in building confidence in themselves and supporting them to reach their full potential.”  Applications for this year’s School Leavers Access Programme is open from 1 August until the 17 September, and is available to those who are 22 years of age or under and have not had the opportunity to study at third level. The Access Centre runs a number of Access Programmes both on-campus and at NUI Galway outreach centres at An Cheathrú Rua, Ballinasloe and St. Angela’s Sligo. Further information and the online application form is available at www.nuigalway.ie/access/school-leavers -Ends-

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

University’s societies win seven awards at the 25th Annual Board of Irish College Societies Award NUI Galway’s societies were the big winners at this year’s Board of Irish College Societies (BICS) Awards taking home an outstanding seven awards. BICS is a national organisation that was founded in 1995 and whose role is to provide a national forum for the societies in Ireland’s Universities, Colleges and Institutes of Education. The 25th Annual Board of Irish College Societies Awards ceremony was broadcast live from the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone recently. NUI Galway excelled in seven categories including: Best Individual (Large College): Hannah Aris, Auditor of Energy Society, and Vice Auditor of WiSTEM Society Best Fresher (Large College): Anna Lee Dowling, Incoming Auditor of the Law Society Best Event (Large College): ‘S.O.C. Stream’, an online society collaboration that comprised of a 12 hour and a 48-hour live stream, raising €2,000 for charity Best Publicity Campaign: Galway University Musical Society (GUMS) Best New Society (Large College): Society for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (WiSTEM) Best Poster: Galway University Musical Society (GUMS) and the Drama Society (Dramsoc) Best Promotional Video: Fantasy and Science Fiction Society (FanSci)   Over the 2020-21 academic year, NUI Galway had 96 actively running Societies representing over 10,000 students and holding 2,243 events online. Riona Hughes, NUI Galway Societies Officer, said: “Despite the unprecedented challenges faced by all of us due to the pandemic, with the hard work and dedication from all of our members we still managed to function as an organisation. Student societies are a path to a greater experience of higher education, to build friendships which will last far beyond your college years and gaining skills which are just as valuable as any you will learn in a lecture hall.” Acknowledging the contribution societies made to the student experience during lockdown, Riona Hughes added: “Our societies continued to do what they do best, create supportive communities of like-minded people and to entertain and educate each other while finding ways to remain human and connected in very challenging circumstances. Their creativity and generosity was outstanding.” Year on year, the Board of Irish College Societies continues to grow and now have 18 colleges, 742 societies with over 50,000 students represented across Ireland. They act as an information resource and support mechanism for society administrators, promoting the sharing of ideas and the implementation of best practice. For more information on NUI Galway Societies visit www.socs.nuigalway.ie -Ends-

Monday, 26 July 2021

Researchers are investigating whether psychological factors can contribute to medically unexplained physical symptoms and a sense of disconnection NUI Galway’s School of Psychology is seeking participants for a new study to investigate psychological factors that could contribute to medically unexplained physical symptoms and a sense of being disconnected from the environment. Laura McHugh, Psychologist in Clinical Training, and Dr Jonathan Egan, Deputy Director of the Doctorate Programme in Clinical Psychology at NUI Galway, are seeking adults who may experience: a sense of detachment from their body or the world around them; changes in senses such as vision, hearing, taste or smell; unexplained pain or numbness; or feelings of unreality. These recurring symptoms that have no medical explanation occur commonly in adults and have been found to be higher during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly amongst frontline healthcare staff. These symptoms can be burdensome, impacting social and occupational functioning as well as emotional wellbeing. The researchers plan to investigate the impact of psychological factors such as emotional awareness, style of relating to others and mood, as well as the role of childhood experiences in medically unexplained physical symptoms and feelings of detachment from the world around us. Dr Jonathan Egan, NUI Galway, said: “The more integrated we feel in our emotions, thoughts, body and actions, the higher a sense of self we experience. During Covid-19, our external environment went into shut-down and it was a non-supportive place to grow and develop. This meant we could not access activities which gave us a sense of shared experience and we all lost an aspect to ourselves, our glimmer of vitality was extinguished.   “For many, we also lost connection with others, we lost that sense of closeness; akin to a person moving country to an alien environment where there is no support available. In this case a person’s fear system may become activated and thinking becomes safety/danger oriented, with creativity, play and our sense of a hopeful future being jettisoned out with the bath water.” Dr Egan continued: “We then become a smaller and less integrated version of ourselves, contracted, de-conditioned, less open. This lowers our mood and we lose that sense of connection with ourselves and others. Many then focus inwards on their bodies for signs and symptoms of danger and ill health, as well as externally, people withdraw from others.  Our energy and vitality then plummets to the point of exhaustion and numbness at an emotional level, and our minds’ previous clarity becomes a constant fog with little memory of the beautiful vista which we once had. There no longer seems to be a point.” If you are over 18 years old and would like to take part in the study, please visit https://bit.ly/3evzSdi for more information and complete the anonymous online survey. -Ends-

Friday, 23 July 2021

Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, will give a presentation on ‘Transformative agrifood pathways for achieving global climate targets’ at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit on Tuesday, 27 July, 2021. The recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2021 report has highlighted the worsening global situation regarding chronic food insecurity, which has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, humanity was already not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) commitments to end world hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. The recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 (SOFI 2021) report highlights that there are now 811 million people suffering from chronic hunger, up from 690 million before the pandemic. More than 2.3 billion people lack year-round access to adequate food, while 3 billion people do not have enough money to buy healthy diets. All of these indicators of food security and nutrition are currently going in the wrong direction. In September 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is convening a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The Summit aims to launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. Over the past year, Professor Spillane has been commissioned by the Climate Division of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to research and develop a vision paper and policy brief on ‘Transformative agrifood pathways for achieving global climate targets’ as a knowledge input to the UN Food Systems Summit policy process in September 2021. A team from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway consisting of Professor Spillane, Dr David Styles, Dr Una Murray and Dr Peter McKeown have been working on the vision documents in close collaboration with colleagues across a range of FAO Divisions at their headquarters in Rome. On 26–28 July 2021 the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit will set the stage for the culminating global event in September by bringing together diverse actors from around the world to leverage the power of food systems to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The event aims to deliver the latest evidence-based and scientific approaches to food systems transformation from around the world, launch a set of new commitments through coalitions of action and mobilise new financing and partnerships. The Pre-Summit will take stock of the progress made through that process, laying the groundwork for an ambitious and productive UN Food Systems Summit, which will take place in September alongside the UN General Assembly in New York. Professor Spillane has been invited by FAO and UNDP to deliver a presentation on “Transformative agrifood pathways for achieving global climate targets“ and engage as a Panel Member at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit FAO/UNDP Session on “Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA)”. In addition to Prof. Spillane, the FAO/UNDP Session will have contributions from: Julia Wolf, SCALA Programme Coordinator; Rohini Kohli, Lead Technical Specialist NAPs, UNDP; John Chrysostom Birantana, Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Uganda; Vinod Ahuja, FAO Representative in Mongolia; and Greg Downing, Sustainability Director on Climate at Cargill. The FAO/UNDP Session will be held on Tuesday 27 July at 13:30-14:20 CEST with online registration available at https://bit.ly/36UQ8Az, or https://bit.ly/3wZgKuI. For further information on the Pre-Food Systems Summit 2021 visit: https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-summit/pre-summit.  -Ends-

Friday, 23 July 2021

Scientists show that different marriage systems within traditional farming communities in Africa affect the spread of variants of pandemic crop viruses Scientists from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway have analysed the social factors that influence the spread of viruses responsible for Cassava Mosaic Disease, one of the most important virus crop diseases in Africa. Their results revealed contrasting dynamics of viral diversity due to different marriage systems across traditional farming communities in Gabon, Central Africa, directly related to cultural differences in the way villages exchange cassava varieties through matrimonial networks. The study has been published today (23 July 2021) in the leading journal Nature Communications. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made all of humanity acutely aware of how social interactions contribute to the spread of viral diseases. The research by Dr Marc Delêtre, Professor Charles Spillane and Dr Ronan Sulpice from NUI Galway, in collaboration with Dr Jean-Michel Lett from Cirad (France), has now shown that social factors that govern interactions between communities of farmers also influence the spread of pandemic crop viruses that threaten food security in Africa. The research combined anthropological field research by Dr Delêtre in Gabon with molecular plant virus epidemiology in the lab to analyse factors that influence the spread of viruses responsible for the Cassava Mosaic Disease, one of the most important virus crop diseases in Africa. Dr Marc Delêtre conducted the interdisciplinary research as a member of Professor Charles Spillane’s Genetics and Biotechnology lab in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway during his EU Marie Curie funded postdoctoral research project. Dr Delêtre analysed the DNA sequence of plant viruses in infected cassava plants collected from different villages across Africa and found that the diversity of the viral variants causing Cassava Mosaic Disease was much higher in matrilineal communities (where membership to the social group is inherited from the mother) compared to patrilineal communities (where descent is traced through the father). Dr Delêtre said: “I have been working in Gabon since 2004, interviewing farmers, recording varieties and collecting samples. I discovered that there is a strong relationship between rules that control exchanges of cassava landraces between smallholder farming communities and rules that govern the transmission of the clan (kinship), with a direct impact on the dynamics of crop genetic diversity.” In matrilineal societies, farmers readily import new cassava varieties through matrimonial networks, and as a result varietal diversity increases in the community. In patrilineal villages, farmers rely mainly on small sets of heirloom crop varieties. On average, cassava varietal diversity is five times higher in matrilineal villages than it is in patrilineal ones. However, communities who exchange germplasm are also more exposed to new viral variants. Dr Delêtre added: “Seed exchange networks play an active role in the dynamics of agrobiodiversity and can make smallholder farming systems more robust to pathogens where they favour the adoption of disease-resistant varieties. However, they can also make these systems more vulnerable if they facilitate the dissemination of seedborne plant pathogens. What we found is that there is also a cultural component to crop plant epidemiology.” Cassava mosaic disease is one of the most important virus crop diseases in Africa, causing losses of 20% to 95% of cassava harvests and economic losses estimated at US$1.2 to 2.3 billion each year in Africa. With the threat of other crop pandemics spreading across Africa, such as the Cassava Brown Streak Disease, an emerging threat to regional food security, understanding how social systems can drive transmission of crop viruses is key to designing and promoting local strategies for preventing or curbing the spread of crop pandemics. Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, commented: “Understanding different social systems is critical for understanding the transmission and evolution of pandemic viruses, whether they are viruses infecting humans, livestock or crops. Genetic epidemiology combined with an understanding of social interaction systems can generate the knowledge necessary for reducing the transmission of viral diseases that are catastrophic for the poorest or most marginalised in society. The findings of this interdisciplinary research will inform new approaches for reducing the burden of viral disease on staple crops of smallholders in Africa.” Read the full study in Nature Communications here: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-24720-6. -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

A new study, led by Dr Elaine Wallace at NUI Galway and senior academics from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, have investigated whether consumers follow a brand on social media that reflects their real self, or if they follow a brand to create more of an ideal self-image, and whether this would be associated with different outcomes offline.  Companies often try to understand the relationship between followers of their brands on social media, and how those brands perform in the offline, real world. When consumers follow brands on social media, they sometimes do so to signal something about themselves (the real self), or to create a self-image that might be more of an ideal.  The study explored if that meant some consumers’ relationships with brands on social media are more superficial.  Specifically, the study investigated whether individuals would pay a premium price for those brands offline, for instance would they still pay if the price of that good went up, or if it was more expensive than other brands in that category. The study also investigated whether these followers on social media would talk about that brand with their friends.   Participants in the study followed a brand on social media, which included fashion and sports clothing brands.  55% of the respondents were female, with an age range from 23-37 years.  56% of the participants were heavy social media users, spending at least three hours online daily.  The social media platforms used were Instagram (50% of users) and Facebook (40%), as well as sites such as Pinterest.  While 57% of the respondents were students, the majority of the remainder were working. The data was collected in Portugal.  In the study, the authors considered whether brand trust (measured as the credibility, integrity, and benevolence of the brand) would influence those outcomes such as willingness to pay a premium price.  In addition, the study investigated brand engagement, which is the degree to which social media users would spend time and interact online with the brand they follow. Both trust and engagement are typical characteristics of a strong brand relationship. As expected, when consumers believed that the brand they followed was a reflection of their true selves, they would pay a premium price for it, and talk about it with friends – but only when they trusted it and were engaged with it. Surprisingly, when consumers believed that the brand they followed helped them to show off an ideal self-image, they did not trust the brand or engage with it – yet they would still pay a premium price for it, and they would talk about the brand with their friends. Lead author of the study, Dr Elaine Wallace, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, said: “We were surprised with our findings. Strong brand relationships are usually based on trust. Why would consumers sometimes pay more for a brand, even when they don’t trust it?  We believe that when brands are used to create an image on social media, consumers are willing to pay more for them in the real world, because they allow them to create an image offline too – yet this relationship might be somewhat superficial because they don’t necessarily trust that brand." “By contrast, when people follow a brand that reflects their true selves, they need to first trust that brand, before they will pay more for it. We believe this signals a more authentic relationship between the consumer and the brand.”  The full study is available in the Journal of Business Research: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2021.06.058 -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The ShellAqua Project will measure the potential benefits provided by shellfish aquaculture A new research project, ShellAqua, aims to quantify the ecosystem services, that is the benefits to human wellbeing provided by the natural environment from healthy ecosystems, potentially provided by shellfish aquaculture. ShellAqua was one of the projects that recently received funding by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund funded Knowledge Gateway Scheme. The project, led by the MOREFISH group, an aquaculture research unit based within the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, began in May 2021. The MOREFISH research group specialises in the incorporation of life cycle assessment and circular economy models for the seafood sector in Ireland. The project was developed from partnerships and engagement with industry through the Atlantic Area Interreg project, NEPTUNUS. The project has four goals, each formed around producing tangible outputs for society, industry and wider stakeholders: Develop an ecosystem services-based tool using operational and monitoring data for case-study shellfish aquaculture sites. These datasets will be developed using laboratory scale experiments and on-site monitoring. Develop life cycle datasets on mussel and oyster production in order to produce a tool that will allow operators and producers to continue monitoring their environmental performance after the project concludes. Assess the economic benefits of the outputs from the preceding goals. The results of the previous work packages will be used to estimate the value of the ecosystems services provided by shellfish aquaculture at the case-study sites. Engage in knowledge transfer of methods, results and approaches. Industry partners and stakeholders will be actively engaged throughput the project through a series of workshops and training events. Industry partners who supported the ShellAqua application included Coney Island Shellfish Ltd., Blackshell Farm, and Kelly Oysters. The application was also supported by the community-based organisation Cuan Beo and the representative body for Irish Aquaculture, Irish Farmers’ Association Aquaculture. The locations of these sites will allow for the development of datasets and profiling of mussel (Mytilus edulis) and oyster (Crassostrea gigas) aquaculture in Galway Bay, Clew Bay, Sligo Harbour and Drumcliff Bay. Michael Mulloy, chairman of Irish Farmers’ Association Aquaculture and owner of Blackshell Farm said: “That the ShellAqua project is valuable for the future and helps take the industry in the direction we need to go. The project will provide the tools we need to verify the sustainability of our industry.” Frank Carter,  of Coney Island Shellfish Ltd., and aquaculture representative of the Northwest Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum, said: "Coney Island Shellfish Ltd. supports the ShellAqua project in its aim to equip the shellfish industry to assess its own environmental impact and, using the tools developed by the project, demonstrate its ability to contribute positively to the climate change agenda. In so doing, the industry will be empowered to actively engage in the drive towards environmental protection and the preservation of biodiversity, while continuing to produce a healthy and sustainable food source." Alan Kennedy, MOREFISH and ShellAqua project manager at NUI Galway, said: “This is another example of how proactive engagement between researchers and the aquaculture sector can support the sustainable development of the industry with significant potential benefits for broader society.” The project aims to provide results of interest not only to industry but also to wider stakeholder groups. The expected outcomes from ShellAqua will include farm level tools to estimate carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous removal (i.e. ecosystem services), a sustainability tool, valorisation strategies for shellfish waste streams and knowledge transfer. Through developing this network with a focus on strong industry engagement, it is expected that research outputs from future projects can proactively support industry identified needs. Diarmuid Kelly, Chair of Cuan Beo, said: “While we have always known the importance of having healthy bivalve populations within our bays, this project will provide us with the scientific evidence of the ecosystem services provided by such communities. It will also give us the necessary information needed to inform policy makers of the benefits of protecting shellfish waters.” For more information on ShellAqua, MOREFISH and NEPTUNUS visit: www.morefish.ie, https://neptunus-project.eu/ or contact Alan Kennedy, NUI Galway, at michaelalan.kennedy@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Seán Breathnach shortlisted for 2021 Bingham Ray New Talent Award NUI Galway academic and filmmaker Seán Breathnach has been nominated for the prestigious Bingham Ray New Talent Award at the 33rd Galway Film Fleadh. Foscadh, written and directed by Breathnach and produced by Paddy Hayes of Magamedia Teo., will premiere at a special outdoor screening at Fr Burke Park, Father Griffin Road, Galway, on Friday 23 July, at 9pm. The film is inspired by characters from acclaimed novelist Donal Ryan's The Thing About December and stars Dónal Ó Héalaí (Arracht), Fionnuala Flaherty (Out of Innocence) and Cillian Ó Gairbhí (Blood).  Set in the wild mountains of Connemara, Foscadh tells the story of friendless and guileless recluse John Cunliffe who is suddenly propelled into manhood at the ripe old age of 28. When his over-cosseting parents pass away, John inherits mountain land that is in the way of a lucrative wind-farm development, and he is forced to navigate the choppy waters of romance, trust and vengeance for the first time. Talking about his first feature film, Breathnach said: “I think this is an especially Irish tale, exploring themes of heritage, memory and identity. It tells the story of a recluse, John Cunliffe, the beating heart of our story, who must forge his own path following the tragic loss of his parents. It was a privilege to bring Foscadh to life and I very much look forward to its release this week." The outdoor screening of Foscadh will be followed by a Q&A with director, cast and crew. Former students of NUI Galway media courses, Eoin O’Kelly Smith and Daithí Ó Cinnéide, worked as trainee assistant directors on the film. Caitríona McCormack acted as production assistant. Filming took place in Corr na Móna and Headford, Co Galway at the end of 2019. NUI Galway Professor Breandán Mac Suibhne said: “Foscadh is a wonderful film, conceived and created here in the west of Ireland, that deserves - and will get - a wide audience. Its writer and director Seán Breathnach, is also a great teacher, who epitomises NUI Galway’s commitment to excellence in all we do. His colleagues are immensely proud of him.” The winner of the 2021 Bingham Ray New Talent Award will be announced at an online awards’ ceremony on the closing night of the Galway Film Fleadh, Sunday July 25th at 6pm. Breathnach teaches scriptwriting and production on the MA (Cleachtas Gairmiúil sna Meáin) and the BA (Cumarsáid agus Gaeilge) programme at NUI Galway’s Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. His short film Maidhm was premiered to critical acclaim at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2015 and went on to win awards at the ​Limerick Film Festival, the Fingal Film Festival, as well as the best actress award at na Gradaim Cumarsáide. It screened in Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. The Bingham Ray New Talent Award is named after the co-founder of indie film distributor, October Films, and former president of United Artists, Bingham Ray, who attended the Galway Film Fleadh and Galway Film Fair for many years before his untimely death in 2012. The award recognises Bingham’s generosity, wealth of knowledge and contribution to the industry each year with the award. Foscadh was the script selected for the 2017 CINE4 commission, a scheme run by TG4, Fís Éireann and the BAI.  Ends

Monday, 19 July 2021

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Hildegarde Naughton TD have today launched a new online learning hub at NUI Galway to provide an integrated, publicly-available resource on sexual consent awareness and consent learning resources. This initiative builds on the work of the pioneering Active* Consent research team in NUI Galway and comes as part of a Government initiative to improve the understanding on the meaning of, and importance of, consent in sexual activity. At the heart of this partnership will be a dedicated website, populated with resources that have already been developed by the Active* Consent team for the third level sector, as well as newly-designed resources supported by this project. Launching the initiative, Minister Harris said: “No part of our society is untouched by sexual violence and harassment. People need to be safe, empowered, confident, and capable in their relationships and Ireland can take a leading role in confronting sexual violence and harassment. The work being done in our higher education sector on Consent can be a positive educator for other areas, and this online learning hub will provide an important resource not only for our higher education institutions, but also for a wider community. “For higher education students, the programme available through the hub reflects the three levels of the Active* Consent online programme – a consent workshop based on the team’s research; an eLearning resource on consent, sexual violence and harassment; and ongoing social media engagement into topics such as disclosure that links to students’ social media platforms. “For higher education staff, the three tiers of engagement available on the hub will provide awareness raising on definitions, skills, and student support practices; education for decision makers and leaders on how they can support lasting culture change; and in-depth training for those involved in consent education, support for student disclosures, and policy implementation.” The Department of Justice will fund the Active* Consent research team at NUI Galway to create the online learning hub, and is partnering with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on this important initiative. Minister Naughton, speaking at the launch in NUI Galway, said: “There can be no place for any forms of sexual violence and harassment in our society, and there can be no room for doubt or ambiguity on the meaning and importance of consent. “We must improve people’s understanding of what consent is, and what healthy consent looks like. This initiative will be an excellent resource for the third level sector and beyond. “It is an important commitment in Supporting a Victim’s Journey, the Department of Justice roadmap to improve the justice system for victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases, and will contribute to our national campaign on consent later this year.” NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: "NUI Galway is delighted to partner with the Department of Justice and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on this excellent initiative. At the heart of NUI Galway’s values are respect and openness. By championing respect and openness through initiatives such as the online learning hub, we can have a profound and sustainable transformative impact on society. We look forward to supporting this initiative and all who participate." Dr Padraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “The online learning hub is based around the idea of ‘consent literacy’ for all members of our society. This means that people feel confident in their knowledge and understanding of consent, their communication skills with partners, how to access supports themselves or help others to do so, and how we can safely challenge unacceptable aspects of our culture. “We will work with our partners such as Galway Rape Crisis Centre and Rape Crisis Network Ireland to create the resources we need to have a culture of consent in our colleges, schools, and communities.” See short video on Active* Consent - Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG4OcQfYhs4&t=1. -Ends-

Friday, 16 July 2021

- Déanfar neartú ar stádas na Gaeilge agus daingneofar stádas dátheangach an champais - Ceapfar an chéad Oifigeach Gaeilge - Cuirfear foirgneamh nua agus spás ar fáil do phobal labhartha na Gaeilge - Déanfar athfhorbairt ar Scéim Cónaithe na hOllscoile - Beidh 20% den fhoireann phroifisiúnta ábalta a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh as Gaeilge   Tá céad Straitéis na Gaeilge seolta ag Ollscoil na hÉireann Gaillimh. Sheol an Dr Máire Geoghegan Quinn, iar-Aire Rialtais agus Iar-Choimisinéir na hEorpa ar Thaighde, Nuálaíocht agus Eolaíocht, atá nuacheaptha mar chathaoirleach ar Údarás na hOllscoile, Straitéis na Gaeilge 2021-25 go hoifigiúil inniu (16 Iúil 2021). Leagann an Straitéis amach fís uaillmhianach le beocht a chur i gcampas dátheangach na hOllscoile agus le bealach a leagan amach do chultúr iomlán dátheangach, trí polasaithe oibríochta, struchtúir rialachais agus bealach a thabharfaidh cumhacht dá cuid pobail tacú leis an nGaeilge. D’fhorbair Coiste Straitéiseach nuabhunaithe na Gaeilge, ar a bhfuil Uachtarán na hOllscoile, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh ina chathaoirleach, an Straitéis, le rannpháirtíocht fhorleathan ó bhaill inmheánacha agus sheachtracha na hOllscoile.  Sa Straitéis, aithnítear cúig phríomhthéama:  Gnóthaí Acadúla, Gnóthaí Riaracháin, Spás agus Acmhainní, Gnóthaí na Mac Léinn agus an Pobal i gCoitinne. Dúirt an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Uachtarán na hOllscoile: “In Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, táimid fite fuaite i bpobail Ghaeilge agus Ghaeltachta, ar leac agus i gcroílár na Gaeltachta. Is cuid lárnach, dhomhain dár bhféiniúlacht agus dár saol í an Ghaeilge. Tá sé mar luach againn mar chomhluadar ollscoile go mbeidh ómós againn dár bpobail éagsúla, san Ollscoil agus sa cheantar máguaird, go mbeimid oscailte don saol lasmuigh agus muid tiomanta don inbhuanaitheacht. Is gné lárnach den ómós seo, den oscailteacht agus den inbhuanaitheacht chultúrtha agus chomhluadair í an Ghaeilge. Ní haon ualach í seo ach luach agus buntáiste agus muid sa domhan mór. "Tá OÉ Gaillimh chun cinn in Éirinn agus, dá bharr, go hidirnáisiúnta maidir le teagasc, taighde agus tionscnaimh Ghaeilge a fhorbairt agus, leis sin, mar eiseamláir sa bhaile agus i gcéin maidir le dlúthchaidreamh a chothú le pobail teanga, teangacha Ceilteacha agus mionteangacha go háirithe. Sin í an deis agus an dúshlán atá romhainn.” I measc na bpríomhbhearta i Straitéis na Gaeilge 2021-25 tá: Spás agus Acmhainní: Dearbhaítear sa Straitéis go dtabharfar aghaidh ar sholáthar spáis trí fhoirgneamh nua a thógáil do phobal labhartha na Gaeilge ar an gcampas.  Déanfar tuilleadh forbartha ar Scéim Cónaithe na Gaeilge, le haghaidh pobal labhartha na Gaeilge a neartú mar phobal beo.  Cruthófar agus déanfar forbairt ar mhoil teanga ar champas na Gaillimhe, chomh maith le spás sóisialta faoi úinéireacht na mac léinn a bhunú. Struchtúir Riaracháin agus Bainistíochta: Ceapfaidh OÉ Gaillimh Oifigeach Gaeilge, agus beidh dualgas iomlán ar an té sin as fís na hOllscoile ó thaobh na Gaeilge de a thiomáint.  Cinnteofar go mbeidh ‘an Ghaeilge san Ollscoil’ mar mhír sheasta ar chlár Údarás na hOllscoile agus dearbhófar go mbeidh cruinnithe ar bun i lárionaid Ghaeltachta.  Cuirfear i bhfeidhm polasaí nua, ag eascairt as an riachtanas go mbeidh sé de dhualgas ar gach aonad, seirbhísí custaiméirí a chur ar fáil as Gaeilge; scéim a chur i bhfeidhm ina dtugtar aitheantas oifigiúil don Ghaeilge mar scil sa phróiseas earcaíochta; agus beidh 20% den fhoireann phroifisiúnta ábalta a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh as Gaeilge. Úsáid na Gaeilge san Ollscoil: Bunófar Seirbhís Ateangaireachta Ollscoile; Cinnteofar go bhfuil mic léinn ábalta déileáil le córas riaracháin na hOllscoile as Gaeilge ó thús go deireadh ina gclár staidéir; Beidh Scéim nua ealaíne le dearadh agus le cur i bhfeidhm a dhíreoidh ar ealaín Ghaeilge a shuiteáil ar fud an champais. Gnóthaí Acadúla: Cur leis an rogha teagaisc as Gaeilge chomh maith le héascaíocht agus forbairt a dhéanamh ar thograí uaillmhianacha bunathraitheacha sa disciplín; fiosrú a dhéanamh ar na roghanna maidir le modúil idirdhisciplíneacha as Gaeilge a thairiscint. An Pobal: Tá tacaíocht tugtha ag Lárionaid Ghaeltachta na hOllscoile do phobal na Gaeltachta le breis agus 20 bliain agus tá siad faoi réir le leas a bhaint as na deiseanna a eascraíonn as Plean 20 Bliain an Stáit don Ghaeilge mar aon leis an leasú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.  Tá OÉ Gaillimh chun tosaigh ar thraenáil as Gaeilge a chur ar fáil d’ábhar oidí in Éirinn agus tá taighdeoirí den scoth againn i réimsí na pleanála teanga, na sochtheangeolaíochta agus na cumarsáide. Dúirt an Dr Máire Geoghegan Quinn. “Tá oidhreacht shaibhir Ghaeilge ag an Ollscoil seo agus cáil ar fud an domhain mhóir bainte amach ag scoláirí, scríbhneoirí, aisteoirí, iriseoirí, polaiteoirí  agus craoltóirí  Gaeilge a d’fhreastail ar an gcampas stairiúil, nuálach seo le céad go leith bliain agus tuilleadh.     "Bhí riamh buntáiste ar leith ag baint leis an nGaeilge anseo in OÉ Gaillimh ó thaobh suímh agus pobail de.  Tuigeadh ón tús gur chun leasa na teanga, na Gaeltachta agus na hOllscoile s’againne an muintearas seo eadrainn a chothú agus a neartú, rud a rinneadh. "Is í seo an t-aon ollscoil atá lonnaithe ar thairseach na Gaeltachta, tobar na teanga beo.  Tugann an suíomh uathúil seo agus ár nIonaid Ghaeltachta, sa nGaeltacht féin an deis dúinn an nasc sin leis an nGaeilge a thabhairt chun cinn ar bhealaí nuálacha.   Cuireann an Straitéis nua seo bonn nua seasmhach comhtháite faoin nGaeilge i ngach gné de shaol agus d’obair na hOllscoile agus fáiltím roimpi. “Ní mar dhualgas reachtúil ná mar ualach atá le hiompar go drogallach a féachadh ar an nGaeilge ach mar chuid dhílis, lárnach a théann go smior san institiúid agus gach cuid de.  Is mar sin a bhí agus is mar sin a bhéas.” D’eascair na réimsí tosaíochta straitéise agus na príomhaidhmeanna a bhfuil cur síos déanta orthu i Straitéis na Gaeilge 2021-2025, as comhráite agus díospóireacht ag cruinnithe de Choiste Straitéise na Gaeilge agus i roinnt fochoistí ina raibh baill inmheánacha agus sheachtracha páirteach iontu, san áireamh bhí ionadaíocht thar ceann na mac léinn, agus aiseolas ó phobal na hOllscoile, tar éis próiseas comhairliúcháin poiblí.  Ba é meon forleathan na ngrúpaí oibre ná gur cheart don straitéis a bheith uaillmhianach, ionas go gcuirfí chun cinn an Ghaeilge atá i mbaol, i saol na hOllscoile, i bpobal na Gaeltachta agus i bpobal na Gaeilge. Dúirt an tOllamh Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Uachtarán Ionaid & Meabhránaí OÉ Gaillimh: “Is straitéis uaillmhianach í seo atá lán le dóchas do thimpeallacht dhátheangach a chothú agus a fhorbairt.  Daingníonn an straitéis seo an teachtaireacht gur Straitéis ionchuimsitheach í Straitéis na Gaeilge atá faoi úinéireacht phobal na hOllscoile, beag beann ar an gcumas teanga atá acu. “Aithnítear an ról tábhachtach atá ag OÉ Gaillimh i gcúrsaí eacnamaíochta agus i sochaí an réigiúin, tá sé i gceist againn dul i mbun oibre le gnólachtaí, eagraíochtaí agus líonraí lena chinntiú go bhfuil ár nOllscoil ag tacú leis an gceantar.” Cur i bhFeidhm na Straitéise Bunóidh Coiste Straitéise na Gaeilge, Coiste Feidhmithe Straitéis na Gaeilge, óna chuid ball, le tacú le cur i bhfeidhm Straitéis na Gaeilge 2021-25. Déanfar forbairt ar phlean iomlán feidhmithe, a thabharfaidh aghaidh ar na réimsí tosaíochta straitéise, ina n-áirítear bearta a chuirfear i gcrích, amscála, úinéireacht agus spleáchas.  Beidh aird ar leith á tabhairt ag an Uachtarán Ionaid agus Meabhránaí ar mhonatóireacht an phróisis, aidhmeanna na straitéise a bhaintear amach agus cuirfidh sé tuarascáil ar fáil go bliantúil ar an dul chun cinn atá déanta, d’Údarás na hOllscoile. Tá OÉ Gaillimh meáite i dtreo a chuid dualgais reachtúla a chur i ngníomh faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus tabharfaidh Coiste Feidhmithe Straitéis na Gaeilge aird freisin ar Scéimeanna Teanga na hOllscoile agus a gcuid dualgas, faoi Acht an Choláiste Ollscoile, Gaillimh (Leasú), 2006, le hoideachas ollscoile i nGaeilge a chur chun cinn. Léigh Straitéis na Gaeilge 2021-25 ina hiomláine ag  http://www.nuigalway.ie/gaeilgebheo/. -Críoch-

Friday, 16 July 2021

- Status of the Irish language in the University to be strengthened reinforcing its bilingual campus status - Inaugural Irish Language Officer to be appointed - New building and space for the Irish Language Community - Irish Language Residency Scheme to be redeveloped - 20% of professional staff will have the ability to conduct business through Irish NUI Galway has launched its inaugural Irish Language Strategy. A Strategy for the Irish Language 2021-25 was officially launched today (16 July 2021) by Dr Máire Geoghegan Quinn, newly appointed Chair of the University’s Governing Authority and former government minister and European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. The strategy sets out an ambitious vision to bring the University’s bilingual campus to life and to set out a path for truly bilingual culture, through operational policies, governance structures and empowering its communities to be champions of the Irish language. The strategy was developed by the newly established Irish Language Strategic Committee chaired by President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, with wide participation from both internal and external membership to the University. The Strategy identifies five main themes: Academic Affairs, Administration Affairs, Space and Resources, Student Affairs, and the Public at Large. President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “Here at NUI Galway we are fite fuaite with our Irish language and Gaeltacht communities, and the Irish language is a central and deep part of our identity and our lives. It is our value as a university community to respect our diverse communities, both in the University and in our hinterland, to be open to the outside world and to be committed to the sustainability of culture and community. The Irish language is a core aspect of this respect, of this openness and sustainability. This is no burden – it is a privilege and a distinctive advantage for us and our community. “NUI Galway is a leader in Ireland and, consequently, internationally in developing Irish language teaching, research and initiatives and, with that, an exemplar at home and abroad in terms of fostering close ties with language communities, especially Celtic and minority languages. That is the chance and the challenge that lies ahead.” Key measures in A Strategy for the Irish Language 2021-25 include: Space and Resources: This Strategy will commit to addressing space provision for the Irish language community on campus proposing the construction of a new building; further develop the Irish Language Residency Scheme to boost the Irish speaking community as a living community; and language hubs for the Irish language will be created and maintained on the Galway campus while a student-owned social space will also be developed. Administrative and Management Structures: The University will appoint an Irish Language Officer who will have overall responsibility for driving the University’s vision for the Irish Language; ensure that ‘the Irish language in the University’ be a standing item on the Governing Authority agenda and also commit to hosting meetings in the Gaeltacht centres; implementation of new policy where there is now a requirement in respect of all units to provide customer services through the medium of Irish; implement a scheme whereby the Irish language as a skillset is officially recognised in recruitment processes; and 20% of professional staff will have the ability to conduct business through Irish. The Use of Irish in the University: Establish a University Interpretation Service; Ensure that students are able to deal with the University’s administrative system through Irish from the beginning to the end of their study programme; and design and implement a new art scheme focusing on the placement of the Irish language across the campus. Academic Affairs: Expand the offering of teaching through Irish and facilitate the development of ambitious, transformative research projects in the discipline; and investigate the options in relation to the offering of interdisciplinary modules through Irish. The Community: The network of University Gaeltacht Centres has supported the promotion of the Gaeltacht community for over 20 years, and they are prepared to capitalise on opportunities arising from the State’s 20-Year Plan for the Irish Language and the amendment to the Official Languages Act. The University is at the forefront in the provision of Irish language training to student teachers in Ireland, and has excellent researchers in the fields of sociolinguistics, language planning and communications. Dr Máire Geoghegan Quinn, commented: “NUI Galway has a rich Irish language heritage and a worldwide reputation for Irish language scholars, writers, actors, journalists, politicians and broadcasters who have served on this historic, innovative campus for over a century and more.     “The Irish language has always had a particular advantage here at NUI Galway in terms of location and community. It was understood from the outset that it was in the interests of our language, the Gaeltacht and our University to foster and strengthen this relationship between us, which was done. “This is the only university located on the doorstep of the Gaeltacht, the well of the living language. This unique location and our Gaeltacht Centers, in the Gaeltacht itself, give us the opportunity to develop that connection with the Irish language in innovative ways. This new Strategy lays a new, stable and integrated basis for the Irish language in all aspects of the life and work of the University and I welcome it. “The Irish language was not seen as a statutory duty or a burden to be borne reluctantly but as a faithful, central part that goes to the heart of the institution and all parts of it. That was and will always be the case.” The strategic priority areas and key objectives outlined in A Strategy for the Irish Language 2021-25 stemmed from the discussions and debates held at meetings of the Irish Language Strategic Committee; the various sub-committees comprised of internal and external members, including the student voice; and feedback from the overall University community following public consultation. The overall ethos of the working groups was that the vision and strategy be ambitious, so that the Irish language, which is at risk, can be promoted in University life, in the Gaeltacht community and in the Irish language community. Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, NUI Galway Deputy President and Registrar, said: “This strategy is ambitious and is imbued with a vision of hope for the development and fostering of a sustainable bilingual environment. This strategy reinforces the message that NUI Galway’s Irish Language Strategy is an inclusive strategy and that everyone in the University has ownership of it, regardless of their language ability. “Recognising the unique and influential role our university plays in our region’s society and economy, we plan to work with businesses, organisations and networks across the west of Ireland to ensure that our university is positively serving our region.” Strategy Implementation The Irish Language Strategic Committee will establish an Irish Language Strategy Implementation Committee from its membership to support the implementation of A Strategy for the Irish Language 2021-25. A full implementation plan will be developed, addressing each of the strategic priority areas to include deliverables, timeframe, ownership and dependencies. The Deputy President and Registrar will pay particular attention to monitoring the progress of the plan and the achievement of strategic objectives and goals and will provide a progress report to the Governing Authority on an annual basis. The University is committed to executing its statutory responsibilities under the Irish Language Act and the Irish Language Strategy Implementation Committee shall also have regard to the University’s established language schemes and its responsibilities, under the University College Galway (Amendment) Act (2006), to promote university education through the medium of Irish. Read in full A Strategy for the Irish Language 2021-25 at http://www.nuigalway.ie/gaeilgebheo/ -Ends-

Thursday, 15 July 2021

NUI Galway is to lead a new European project to bring a new entrepreneurial focus to higher education. i2i (Idea to Impact) will train more than 800 students and 300 staff over two years to look beyond the boundaries of their own disciplines, to think innovatively and enhance the start-up ecosystem in a network of universities and colleges. The project is open to students, as well as academic, professional services and research staff, across several European institutions to develop a more entrepreneurial mindset in the disciplines of health, technology, climate, culture and creativity.   NUI Galway and partner institutions in Spain, Greece, Slovakia and Bulgaria have been awarded €1.2 million from the European Union’s Horizon Programme and European Institute of Technology Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education for the i2i project. Professor Becky Whay, NUI Galway Vice-President International, said: “The i2i project epitomises much of what NUI Galway is achieving through its globalisation project Global Galway.  “Additionally, the network that is being developed by i2i and the ideas behind the project complement our University values and will make a significant difference in addressing our capacity and capability to foster entrepreneurship and to develop our university as an engine for innovative thinking.” Principal Investigator on the project, Dr Tony Hall, Deputy Head of NUI Galway School of Education, said: “i2i will promote and support innovation in health, technology, climate, culture and creativity, through the collaboration of higher education institutions with organisations and partners across five entrepreneurial ecosystems: Ireland, Spain, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Greece. The award of i2i augments NUI Galway’s position as a leader in innovation in higher education in Ireland, and internationally.” The i2i project will run for two years from July 2021 and it builds on two other flagship programmes at NUI Galway. One is the innovative Designing Futures, which is being rolled out across the University to enhance student experience as part of the Government’s Human Capital Initiative. The second is ENLIGHT, a key part of the University’s Global Galway project which aims to enhance the diversity of learning and working experience for staff and students.  Natalie Walsh, NUI Galway’s Director of Entrepreneurial Development and i2i Co-Principal Investigator, said: “The i2i project will significantly help to grow the innovation ecosystem across our regions. We look forward to demonstrating the potential of the west of Ireland as a leader in the entrepreneurship domain and working with like-minded and like hearted partners from across Europe to build innovation capacity through partnership and create a foundation for future funding in this space.”  The i2i project will also include the development of a shared Innovation Vision Action Plan to identify the improvements being targeted for each higher education institution and how to address gaps through knowledge exchange, collaboration, programmes and partnership. Ends

Monday, 12 July 2021

NUI Galway partners with Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork  Staff and students encouraged to log onto www.unicov.org Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today urged staff and students to volunteer to be part of rapid testing and other testing surveillance systems on college campuses. The project, called UniCoV, will conduct a large-scale analysis of testing technologies for use in surveillance of Covid-19 and prevention in higher education settings.  These will include rapid antigen testing, saliva-based PCR testing and wastewater surveillance. The findings will inform the development of early warning systems for future outbreak prevention and control. Staff and students can enrol across four universities – NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork. Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I recently published Government’s plan for a safe return to on-site teaching, research and study this semester. “Rapid testing may potentially be an important element of this plan. This pilot project will help us learn more about different types of tests, how effective they are and if they can or should be used in higher education settings. “None of these replace the public health advice but could be additional weapons in our fight against COVID-19. Over 8,000 will participate in the study and it is of course optional but I really would encourage staff and students to participate and help us with our plans for a safe and sustainable re-opening of campuses and society.  You can sign up at www.unicov.org, it’s easy, it’s secure and you’ll be playing a vital role in our recovery from this pandemic.” The UniCoV project is led by Professor Breda Smyth, NUI Galway and Director of Public Health, HSE West. Professor Smyth commented: “Students in Ireland have shown significant resilience in adapting to the challenges that COVID-19 has created. However, evidence suggests both in Ireland and internationally this is not without adverse effects including reduction in academic performance, social isolation and deteriorating mental health and wellbeing. UniCoV will inform surveillance systems to support the provision of safe campus environments and provide evidence to facilitate return to campus activity for staff and students in further and higher education institutes.” Testing will involve volunteers providing saliva samples twice weekly and dropping them off at on-campus collection points.  These samples will undergo PCR or LAMP testing.  On the same day, those volunteers will take a self-administered rapid nasal swab antigen test, and upload a photo of their result from their phone to the secure www.unicov.org website.  The website also includes a detailed information leaflet, instructional videos and an informed consent document.  The UniCoV study will also include wastewater monitoring. Wastewater surveillance involves the collection of wastewater samples from each campus site and analysis for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A live dashboard will provide anonymised aggregate information about each campus’s results. This is a key part of the surveillance system and will allow for early warning of any potential outbreak. Student Health Units will provide referrals for people with symptoms of COVID-19. Along with Professor Smyth, Principal Investigators on the project include Professor Charles Spillane, Ryan Institute NUI Galway; Professors Kingston Mills and Orla Sheils, Trinity College Dublin; Professor Mary Horgan and Dr John MacSharry, University College Cork; Professors Patrick Mallon and Grace Mulcahy, University College Dublin. Additional UniCoV collaborators are based at these institutions and also at the University of Limerick and Teagasc. The complementary skills and expertise of the experts involved from across Irish universities form a strong and critical network to conduct this important research study. NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “NUI Galway is delighted to play a leading role in this hugely important pilot project along with our partner institutions and the HSE West. NUI Galway’s research community has played a significant part in providing healthcare solutions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and this multi-institutional research collaboration will be crucial to working towards a return to campus for our students and staff and also in keeping them and the wider Galway community safe from the virus. “I commend the vision and work of Professor Breda Smyth, Professor Charles Spillane from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and our partner institutions in piloting UniCoV on our campuses. This project draws on scientific and public health research excellence and expertise from across Ireland to develop a SARS-CoV-2 infection rapid testing surveillance system that will provide evidence for the most efficient and effective testing method in different settings and inform the development of early warning systems to assist with the management of future outbreak prevention and response. As a university, we are committed to respecting and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of both our campus and external community. UniCoV demonstrates how we are all working together to address the health challenges created by the pandemic to make our campus and wider community a safe place towards combatting Covid-19." -Ends-

Friday, 9 July 2021

NUI Galway will host the annual conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research from 12-16 July. With 800 speakers from more than 40 countries around the world, the conference will discuss the theme of “Theatre Ecologies”, exploring topics related to the environment, ecology, the impact of Covid-19 on theatre, and much more. In a first for the International Federation for Theatre Research, the conference will be held virtually, allowing international delegates to experience a Galway academic event from their own homes. It is also the first time that the conference has been hosted by an Irish university. The conference also features a specially curated showcase of theatre from the West of Ireland, celebrating NUI Galway’s partnerships with TG4, Druid Theatre, Galway 2020, and many others. Speaking ahead of the opening of conference, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway, Patrick Lonergan said: “The event is a major moment for Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway. The University launched its BA in Drama in 2011, and it is particularly fitting that, a decade later, we have the opportunity to welcome the world’s theatre scholars to this Galway event. This gives us an opportunity to showcase the excellence of theatre-making and theatre research in Galway, to celebrate our partnerships with local arts organisations, and to create new international relationships and networks.” The move online has produced unexpected benefits, according to Professor Lonergan: “While the postponement of our conference last year due to Covid-19 was disappointing, the development of an online conference has shown us that there are new ways to stage academic events. Given that our conference explores the theme of theatre ecologies, it seems particularly fitting that the 2021 conference will have a very limited carbon footprint. We’ve also benefitted enormously from the specialised help and advice of the NUI Galway conference office, and our conference secretariat Abbey Conference and Events.” The International Federation for Theatre Research was founded in 1957 and exists to facilitate communication and exchange between scholars of theatre and performance research throughout the world. Its recent annual conferences have previously been hosted in China, Sweden, Serbia, the UK, Brazil, Japan, and in many other countries. For more information on the International Federation for Theatre Research visit https://www.iftr.org/conference. -Ends-

Thursday, 8 July 2021

A HABscope, a microscope with an attached iPod using artificially intelligent software is currently being tested by scientists from the Marine Institute and NUI Galway to detect harmful algal bloom species (HABs) in Irish waters. The pilot study is part of an international collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA in the USA.    The HABscope was recently used on board the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Voyager as part of a dedicated harmful phytoplankton survey (DINO21) in the Celtic Sea led by Dr Robin Raine of NUI, Galway. Data collected from this pilot study will contribute to the PhD research being conducted by Catherine Jordan from NUI, Galway as part of the Marine Institute’s Cullen Scholarship Programme. Ocean colour satellite imagery, combined with the HABscope system, provides scientists with a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the ocean and may provide early detection and monitoring of phytoplankton blooms. Daily imagery is used to track the bloom’s movement using specifically designed algorithms which calculate the reflectance of light off the ocean surface. The HABscope, developed by NOAA with funding from NASA, consists of a microscope with an iPod attached, embedded with artificially intelligent software to identify the swimming pattern of the phytoplankton Karenia. Results are returned instantly on whether the genre of phytoplankton is present in the water sample. Ms Catherine Jordan said, “When phytoplankton appear in high numbers, and depending on the type of phytoplankton, they can produce green and dark red hues in the water known as 'algal blooms'. As these blooms can sometimes be visible from space, satellites provide a useful tool in monitoring the location and extent of these blooms. In most cases phytoplankton blooms are of benefit to the ecosystem, but a small proportion of phytoplankton species produce toxins which may affect other marine life.” “This is the first time that the HABscope has been tested outside of the Unites States,” Ms Jordan added. “Using the HABscope alongside satellite technology may help to provide early wide-scale warnings of the presence of harmful algal blooms. HABS can have an impact on industries such as aquaculture, fisheries and tourism, so it is important to be able to detect, monitor, track and forecast the development and movement of HABs in real-time.” Karenia mikimotoi is a naturally occurring phytoplankton species which occasionally can form dense blooms off the Irish coast. These “Red-Tides” can sometimes cause the seawater to discolour and can even result in localised mortality of a range of marine animals. The Marine Institute monitors our coastal waters for this species as part of the National Phytoplankton Monitoring Programme. It is thought Karenia overwinter in low numbers as motile cells and when favourable conditions arrive in early to late summer they can form these blooms. As part of the recent survey on board the RV Celtic Voyager, Karenia was detected offshore in one area at a cell density of 250,000 cells per litre in a thin sub-surface layer, analogous to an underwater cloud. The HABscope was used successfully with samples from this layer and its performance is currently being evaluated. Despite causing occasional impacts on marine animals, Karenia has no impact on human health and is a common species in Irish coastal waters at this time of the year. The Marine Institute programme analyses water samples from around the coast of Ireland to identify any harmful or nuisance phytoplankton, and to monitor their impact on shellfish and finfish in particular. -Ends-

Monday, 5 July 2021

CORRIB Core Lab partners with SINOMED and European hospitals to study how new stent improves quality of life NUI Galway and leading international medical device company SINOMED have teamed up to conduct a clinical trial of a special stent which has the potential to break new ground in the treatment of patients with heart disease. The PIONEER-IV trial will take place over several years in 30 hospital centres across Europe and involve 2,540 patients.  The trial will use the newly patented Healing-Targeted Supreme Stent (HT Supreme™) from SINOMED. The novel drug-eluting stent is designed to encourage rapid healing of the treated blood vessel, thereby potentially reducing reliance on some long-term medications such as blood thinners. The trial is sponsored by NUI Galway and centrally coordinated by the University’s CORRIB Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Laboratory. University Hospital Galway (UHG) is the first European site to enrol patients. Professor Faisal Sharif, Professor of Translational Cardiovascular Medicine and Innovation at NUI Galway and Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at UHG, is Principal Investigator on the trial in Ireland.  Professor Sharif said: “We are delighted to translate novel devices such as HT Supreme stents for Irish patients. The trial will also allow us to perform assessment on blood vessel narrowing with new and safer software that establishes the absolute necessity to treat that coronary artery stenosis. New devices and technologies, like offered in this trial, allow us to constantly improve the standard of care for our patients by making interventions safer with better clinical outcomes.” Patients will be considered for the trial if they suffer any type of coronary heart disease, including acute heart attack, chronic complaints or blood vessel narrowing. Eligible patients will undergo a refined physiological blood vessel selection process in order to determine which blood vessel has to be stented and which one could be treated with pharmacological therapy, without the use of a permanent implant. This strategy is the best guarantee of a safer and more cost-effective treatment. NUI Galway’s CORRIB Core Lab is led by Professor Patrick W Serruys, Established Professor of Interventional Medicine and Innovation, and Professor William Wijns, Science Foundation Ireland Professor of Interventional Cardiology, both of whom are internationally renowned experts in interventional cardiology.  Co-chair of the PIONEER-IV trial, Professor Serruys said: “SINOMED has an international reputation for state-of-the-art stents with a healing-targeted mechanism that may help overcome the long-standing problem of traditional stent implantation, allowing for safer long-term results.”  Deputy chairman of the trial, Yoshi Onuma, Professor of Interventional Cardiology and medical director of CORRIB Research Centre, said: “The hope is that this trial will simplify the treatment for patients undergoing stent implantation of diseased blood vessels, and could offer benefits to patients when coupled with a shorter duration of blood-thinning medications.” Professor Andreas Baumbach (London), Professor Javier Escaned (Madrid), Professor Faisal Sharif (Galway) and Professor Peter Smits (Rotterdam) will act as global Principle Investigators.  Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, welcomed the trial. He said: “Leading this research from Galway is consistent with the University strategy to be a global leader in cardiovascular research and innovation and the presence of CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, in the University. We are particularly happy to partner with SINOMED on this project which aligns with the University’s Global Galway project.” Dr Jianhua Sun, PhD., chairman and chief executive officer of SINOMED, said: “We are honoured to be working with the prestigious thought leaders at NUI Galway in searching for a better and safer strategy for treating patients. We believe that our HT Supreme, coupled with an optimal treatment strategy can make a big impact in bringing a greater benefit to patients.”  Ends  


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