Tuesday, 4 February 2020

NUI Galway and Loci Orthopaedics Ltd recently initiated an Enterprise Ireland funded Innovation Partnership Programme project. The aim of this programme is to facilitate any company in accessing the latest skills and expertise from research institutes throughout Ireland. Commenting on the partnership, Dr Noel Harrison, Programme Director for the BE and ME Programmes in Mechanical Engineering at NUI Galway and Funded Investigator in the SFI centre I-Form, said: “Direct industry research engagement such as this, particularly with Galway’s Med-Tech global hub, is a critical feature of our activity in Mechanical Engineering. This project reflects the industrial relevance of 3D printing for our students and researchers. The state-of-the-art suite of printing capabilities in plastics, composites and metals in our Advanced Manufacturing Lab continues to attract multi-sector industry and academic collaborations for material and process optimisation and provides valuable experience for our students.” Dr Eimear O’Hara, NUI Galway graduate in Mechanical Engineering and Research Fellow on the project said: “I’m very excited to directly work with industry on this novel medical device project utilising the unique design freedoms of metal 3D Printing and our knowledge of the printing process and materials. It is fantastic to be able to design, manufacture and test novel orthopaedics devices in-house, thus enabling local start-up company growth.” Additive manufacturing continues to be an area of significant growth in the global healthcare technology space. The increase in the number of 3D-printed orthopaedic products along with the rise in orthopaedic complications are major growth aspects boosting the demand for 3D-printed orthopaedic implants. Declining cost differences between 3D-printed and traditionally manufactured implants are also enabling device manufacturers to expand the applications of 3D-printed in the musculoskeletal sector. In parallel to this, the number of 3D-printed medical devices cleared for clinical use by the FDA in the US has increased by 400% since 2014, indicating a tipping point has been reached in the acceptance of these implants by the regulators and the market. It is estimated that the total revenue generation associated with ‘additive orthopaedics’ in 2018 amounted to over $500M worldwide. This market is expected to grow at 6% per year. Speaking about the Innovation Partnership Programme, Loci Orthopaedics co-founder Dr Brendan Boland said: “The programme is a great opportunity to work within the Academia-Clinical-Industry model. The OsteoAnchor technology was originally developed by Dr Harrison, an international leader in the field of 3D printing for orthopaedic implants. The company now gets to work with Dr Harrison and his extensive technological knowledge to further develop this product. Loci Orthopaedics works with world-leading orthopaedic surgeons to develop evidence-based implants who can provide ongoing input into the incorporation of this technology into new implants. The company has already developed products in the area so have the expertise and extensive industry contacts that can help advance this product to market to enter into a rapidly growing and lucrative market segment.” -Ends-

Monday, 3 February 2020

NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute has launched a new €7.45 million project to develop ground-breaking and innovative scientific and engineering platforms for the production of advanced cellular therapeutics for use in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other major diseases.  Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme the AutoCRAT project will address the critical need to develop industrially relevant, cost effective and fully automated manufacturing systems for this new area of medical treatment. Based on a strong interdisciplinary and collaborative effort, it will generate a deeper understanding of the science of stem cells and their therapeutic use as well as harnessing world-class expertise in advanced engineering and robotic systems. The project will also meet the need for development of an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and the demand for other cell-based treatments by transforming the way stem cells and their secreted therapeutic factors (mainly a novel type of biological nanoparticles, the so called extracellular vesicles (EVs)), are manufactured. Cellular therapies are being tested for a wide range of conditions including degenerative diseases, immune and inflammatory disorders and cancer. These revolutionary therapies offer great promise for patients and practitioners and may finally open the door to new and effective treatments which up to now have been unavailable. Several different types of cells may be used, (including stem cells, tissue-derived adult cells and cells of the immune system) depending on the specific treatment. The use of living cells as a medicinal product presents extraordinary challenges in terms of production and current manufacturing protocols are relatively inefficient and limited in scale.  They also require highly-skilled teams of technicians operating in a clean-room environment. As clinical trials progress and more treatments are available for patients, cost-efficient and high throughput manufacturing remains a major challenge.  The initiative is being led by NUI Galway and Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology, Aachen. AutoCRAT arises from strong and fruitful collaborations between these partners in the recently completed AUTOSTEM project, which led to the development of a fully automated and closed advanced robotic platform for the industrial-scale manufacture of cell products. The AUTOSTEM concept will now be further developed to include enhanced technologies for a wider array of cell types and products derived from cells. The AutoCRAT system will also include automated testing protocols so that process monitoring and quality control are managed within the robotic platform.   The AutoCRAT Regenerative Medicine Factory (ARM-F) will produce chondrocytes and stem cells for arthritis treatments using robots for every manufacturing step. It will also generate products based on proteins, RNA and other materials that stem cells produce and which are now understood to be key elements of their therapeutic mechanism. Thus, AutoCRAT will enable the production of cell-based therapeutics on an industrial scale, that is more controlled and at a lower cost compared to existing technology. This will accelerate the development of the cell therapy industry and make these treatments more accessible for the benefit of patients.  The AutoCRAT project will be led by Mary Murphy, Professor of Regenerative Medicine and a Principal Investigator at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway. Professor Murphy said: “This is an exciting interdisciplinary project that will develop new cell therapies for arthritis and provide the platform for automated, robot-enabled manufacturing of the cell products to ensure that patients will benefit in the foreseeable future.” According to Frank Barry, Professor of Cellular Therapy at REMEDI, the adoption of best in class manufacturing protocols is still the most serious obstacle facing the cell therapy industry: “We know from our experience in managing cell therapy clinical trials that the  manufacturing side is inefficient and vulnerable with an unacceptably high cost of goods. The only way the field can progress is through the widespread adoption of highly automated production and testing protocols. AutoCRAT addresses these gaps and will be a game-changing innovation.”  Other essential contributions will come from: Valitacell Ltd (VC), based in Dublin will establish automated quality control tests for the automated factory. The University of Gothenberg and Leiden University Medical Center will work with REMEDI to develop and test these new arthritis therapies. Essen University Hospital and the University of Genoa will develop methods to produce EV-containing, cell-free therapeutic products for arthritis in the automated system. Panaxea BV will determine the costs of production and delivery of the developed therapies. They will also assess the potential benefits of an effective cell therapy for osteoarthritis to patients and their families as well as the broader European and worldwide economies. Pintail Ltd will assist with the management and administration of the Project and will ensure that AutoCRAT output is disseminated effectively to our target audience. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874671. The material presented and views expressed here are the responsibility of the author (s) only. The EU Commission takes no responsibility for any use made of the information set out. -Ends-

Friday, 14 February 2020

NUI Galway is exploring the designation ‘Age Friendly Campus’ through a student lead project that will see three initiatives on campus focus on welcoming members of the community to engage through a campus walk, public seminar and computer classes. NUI Galway students from second year Biomedical Science and the Older Persons Council (OPC) have worked together to organise these three events to progress a campaign for an Age Friendly University. The students have aimed to tackle three main areas: to raise awareness of the biodiversity walks on campus, to encourage participation in technology and to discuss the ‘Age Friendly Ireland’ programme. “Welcoming older people to our university is very important as it will encourage us all to engage more in wellness, cultural, social and educational opportunities” said Lorraine Tansey of NUI Galway’s Community Knowledge Initiative. “The main overall goals are to create a more diverse university campus, promoting more intergenerational engagement and helping to challenge stereotypes and combat ageism.” The World Health Organisation has identified aging populations as a major area of focus for cities, hospitals and educational institutions in proactive engagement with increasing diverse needs. The three events are free, open to all and are student-lead.  The Age Friendly Walk will be held Monday 17th of February at 11pm. Meeting point at the Cathedral. The Age Friendly Computer Classes will be held Tuesday February 18th, Tuesday March 3rd and Tuesday March 10th from 12pm-12:45pm in the ILAS building on the ground floor G007. The Age Friendly Designation for NUI galway Seminar will be held Tuesday 10th of March at 12pm in the ILAS building on the ground floor G007. The guest speaker Dr. Kieran Walsh, Professor of Ageing and Public Policy will offer an insight into the national Age Friendly initiatives. To book your place on these events please call Lorraine Tansey 091-495346.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Those who have never been in love report better healthSexual minority youth at increased risk of poor healthResponses from 15 year olds in eight European countries  A new study, led by Dr András Költőand the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland team, based in the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, linking patterns of romantic attraction with self-rated health and health symptoms, has been published in the Journal of LGBT Health. ‘Self-reported health and patterns of romantic love in adolescents from eight European countries and regions’ is the first study to examine adolescent romantic love patterns across multiple countries, and to test whether they are related to health outcomes. NUI Galway researchers Dr András Költő and Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn carried out the study with their colleagues from other European countries to investigate the relationship between how adolescents rated their own health and who they were in love with. Adolescents aged 15 years from eight European countries and regions (Bulgaria, England, France, French Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, North Macedonia and Switzerland) were asked if they had ever been in love and whether they had been in love with someone of the opposite gender, the same gender, both or neither. The sample (which is nationally representative for all of these countries) comprised 13,674 young people. Adolescents who had never been in love reported the best self-rated health and fewest health symptoms such as headache, stomachache, feeling low, irritability or bad tempers, difficulties getting to sleep, nervousness and feeling dizzy. The rates of opposite-gender love (heterosexual) were 52% in England and 82% in France. Proportion of same-gender love (lesbian/gay) were around 2% in both countries. Having been in love with others of both genders (bisexual) was marginally more frequent, with 3% in England and 2% in France. However, 40% of the English and 13% of the French adolescents reported never being love. Rates of same- and both-gender attracted adolescents were similar in the other countries, but proportion of those who reported opposite-gender love varied more widely. Adolescents who had been in love with people of the same gender were three times more likely to report multiple symptoms and were one and a half times more likely to report having poor health than 15-year-olds who had been in love with people from the opposite gender. Those who had been in love with both boys and girls (which may indicate being bisexual) were three times more likely to report multiple healthy symptoms and were three and a half times more likely to report having poor health than 15 year-olds who had been in love with people from the opposite gender. These patterns persisted across the eight countries studied, even when factors such as levels of family affluence and the participants’ gender were taken into account. Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr András Költő stated: “This study suggests that bisexual young people and adults are even more affected by poor health than their lesbian and gay peers of the same age, and all sexual minority youth are faring considerably worse than their heterosexual peers. This is likely to be connected to the discrimination, prejudice and high levels of stress many LGBTI+ (the abbreviation stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex or belonging to other sexual or gender minority) young people experience in their everyday lives. We hope these findings will supplement Ireland’s National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy 2018-2020, the world’s first governmental strategy that aims to improve sexual and gender minority young people’s health and wellbeing.” The data does not feature Irish youths but NUI Galway plans to present findings on Irish young people in the coming months.  The article can be downloaded at: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/lgbt.2019.0107 ENDS

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Science breakthroughs such as this in schizophrenia at NUI Galway will be further enhanced when the University enroll its first class of students in a new undergraduate BSc degree in Genetics and Genomics in September 2020 Scientists at NUI Galway have identified how some genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia.  In a study led by Dr Derek Morris and Professor Ciaran Morrison, recently published in the leading international journal Human Molecular Genetics, reducing the function of a known schizophrenia risk gene called SDCCAG8 was found to cause changes in brain cell behaviour. This may indicate biologically how changes in our DNA increase risk of schizophrenia, thereby providing opportunities for new therapy development.  Schizophrenia affects on average one in one hundred people but its biology is poorly understood. Schizophrenia is highly genetic, meaning that many of the risk factors for developing the illness lie in the ~20,000 genes in the human genome. Large-scale genomics studies identified SDCCAG8 as a gene involved in schizophrenia. To explore how SDCCAG8 may be involved in illness, Irish Research Council-funded PhD student Mairéad Flynn used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to remove SDCCAG8 from cultured brain cells.  This resulted in the cells struggling to migrate and to change into more specialized brain cells. The team also found that the functions of hundreds of other genes were also affected in these cells, which potentially disrupts normal brain development and function and puts individuals at risk of developing mental illness.   Professor Ciaran Morrison, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, explains: “Our analyses indicate that genes influenced by SDCCAG8 are important for different brain functions and this presents us with a model for how other genes may contribute to the biology of schizophrenia. This can be exploited to help understand the biology of schizophrenia in greater detail and open up opportunities for new drug development, which is badly needed for this mental illness.” In parallel with this research NUI Galway will enrol its first class of students in a new undergraduate BSc degree in Genetics and Genomics in September 2020. The new course offers students the opportunity to learn about the scientific advances that allow the identification and analysis of such disease genes. For more information on the BSc in Genetics and Genomics visit https://www.nuigalway.ie/gy321 According to Programme Director of the new BSc in Genetics and Genomics, Dr Derek Morris: “Advances in genome editing and sequencing over the last 15 years have revolutionised many areas of biology and biomedical science such as the study of common illnesses, as exemplified in our schizophrenia research. We want to teach students who are interested in biology and mathematics about the different applications of genetics and genomics in areas such as medicine, agriculture, evolution, the environment and biotechnology, and for them to critically evaluate the emerging ethical issues.” The study in Human Molecular Genetics can be viewed at  https://academic.oup.com/hmg/advance-article/doi/10.1093/hmg/ddz292/5683666 -Ends-

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Despite recommendations to intensify treatment in recent blood pressure guidelines, as many as 150,000 Irish patients may NOT need to increase blood pressure medication Embargo to 00.01 GMT on Wednesday, 29 January, 2020: A major research study from NUI Galway has interrogated the implications for patients of new, lower, blood pressure thresholds recommended in recently released American and European medical guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure (also termed hypertension).  The findings from this NUI Galway study indicate that up to 150,000 Irish adults who are newly eligible for treatment to a lower than previously recommended blood pressure target, may in fact not benefit from increases in their doses or number of blood pressure medications. This may have knock on implications for the national drugs bill. The NUI Galway investigation, led by Professor Bill McEvoy, was conducted in collaboration with US investigators and is now published in a leading international medical journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The investigators looked specifically at the new American diastolic blood pressure threshold of 80 for the diagnosis of hypertension.  This new diastolic blood pressure threshold of 80 was a reduction from prior guideline recommendations that advised doctors to use a diastolic blood pressure of 90 or more to make a diagnosis. Diastolic blood pressure is the lower of two readings reported when describing blood pressure values, the other, top, number is called systolic blood pressure. High blood pressure can be diagnosed when either the systolic or diastolic (or in some cases both) numbers are above the threshold value. The NUI Galway investigation looked at a type of high blood pressure or hypertension, termed isolated diastolic hypertension. This occurs when the systolic (top) number is normal (i.e., below 130 according to new guidelines) but in contrast the diastolic (bottom) number is high (i.e., greater than or equal to 80 according to new guidelines).  Professor McEvoy and coauthors report that, when applying the new guidelines, approximately 5% of the US adult population will be newly diagnosed with high blood pressure (or hypertension) based on this pattern of isolated diastolic hypertension. That translates into approximately 12 million adults in the US being newly diagnosed with this condition. The corresponding Irish figure would be 100,000 new cases. Though there are differences between American and European guidelines in how high blood pressure is defined, both sets of guidelines recommend that a target blood pressure of 130/80 be achieved for the majority of adults who are receiving treatment to lower their blood pressure. Therefore, the findings from this NUI Galway study have implications for Irish adults in that approximately 600,000 are already on treatment for high blood pressure and up to 150,000 of these may now be newly eligible for increases in their treatment doses or number of medications just to get the diastolic (lower) number to less than 80 despite having a normal systolic (top) blood pressure of below 130. However, the research from McEvoy and collaborators suggests that increases in blood pressure drug therapy may not benefit adults with this pattern of isolated diastolic hypertension. Specifically, they found that as long as the systolic (or top) blood pressure was below 130, there was no increase in risk for adverse health outcomes among adults with a diastolic blood pressure over 80, compared to adults with lower diastolic blood pressure values. Professor McEvoy said: “Guidelines in both America and Europe advise that doctors treat blood pressure down to a level of 130/80 in the majority of patients. There is little doubt that treating the systolic (or top) blood pressure value down to 130 is beneficial and reduces heart disease and stroke. This is important to stress. However, the recommendation to also treat the diastolic (lower) value down to 80 is more controversial and our results would suggest that the more traditional target for diastolic blood pressure of 90 is also safe as long as the top number is controlled below 130. By focusing on good control of the top number and by relaxing drug treatment goals for adults with isolated increases in the bottom diastolic blood pressure number, we may be able to avoid potential overtreatment of a lot of people and instead focus on healthy diet and lifestyle.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Nicholas Canny, Professor of History Emeritus at NUI Galway, former President of the Royal Irish Academy, and founding Director of NUI Galway’s Moore Institute, has been awarded the RIA’s highest honour, the Cunningham Medal, for distinction in research and for furthering the aims of the Academy. The medal will be presented to Professor Canny at a special ceremony at the RIA last night The Cunningham Medal was first awarded by the Academy in 1796, following a bequest from Timothy Cunningham, a legal scholar and Member of the Inner Temple. Distinguished past recipients include the mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, the physician, traveller and antiquarian Sir William Wilde, the historian David Beers Quinn, the poet Seamus Heaney, and most recently the chemist Dervilla M.X. Donnelly. Professor Canny, the foremost historian of early modern Ireland, has also made leading contributions to Atlantic history. He took his undergraduate degree at University College Galway and his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. His numerous books, articles and edited collections have explored the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland; colonial identity in the Atlantic World; and Making Ireland British, 1580–1650. He is currently completing a major study entitled Imagining Ireland’s Pasts; Early Modern Ireland through the Centuries. Nicholas Canny first became a Member of the RIA in 1981, was elected Member of the Academia Europaea in 1995, became a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 2005, was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2007, and to the Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid) in 2011. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, 1982-85 and was Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, 2005-2008. He was elected President of the RIA 2008-11 and was appointed by the European Commission to be a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council 2011-16, the only person from Ireland, so far, to have been given this responsibility. Professor Daniel Carey, MRIA, Director of the Moore Institute, said: “This is a major honour to one of the university’s most distinguished graduates, with an international reputation as an historian and leader in research policy and administration. His career has been an inspiration to colleagues in the humanities at NUI Galway and across the country.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Researchers from NUI Galway’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Irish Studies, together with Forbairt Pobail Maigh Cuilinn (Moycullen Community Development Association), have developed a people powered plan for the future development of the village. The Moycullen 2030 Village Plan project was funded by the Irish Research Council. The village of Moycullen is set for change with a number of key infrastructural investments are due. A bypass of the village is set to commence in 2020, a new primary school will be built by 2022 and a dedicated cycleway in the form of the Connemara Greenway is due for completion in the same year. In all, 300 housing units have been granted permission within the village boundaries, and longer term infrastructural investments such as the planned ring road around Galway city will also have very real effects of the village. Conservative estimates would place these changes as at least doubling the population of the village by 2030. Principal Investigator Dr Patrick Collins, Discipline of Geography at NUI Galway, said: “With funding from the Irish Research Council we were keen to test our methodology for people powered planning. Today’s publication is essentially the culmination of the wishes of a community, a document that was collectively authored by the people of a place.”  The project acted as an effort to plan from the bottom up rather than the top down. It also sought to identify a sustainable future for a village in the context of a rapidly urbanising Ireland.  Local Councillor Noel Thomas said: “The people of Moycullen were given a unique opportunity to develop a community based plan for their village, a plan that should play a very important role in the development of the upcoming Local Area Plan for Moycullen. The results are very impressive and clearly show that the residents of Moycullen want to see the village develop into the future, in a progressive and sustainable manner.”   The project commenced in June of 2019, over the course of six months it far exceeded initial targets and today’s publication reflected the wishes of close to half the population of the village (820 people). Key concerns from schooling and infrastructure to a climate resilient village were expressed.   “Ensuring the best possible representation was key. We employed a number of new methods such as the development of the Village Plan App. This augmented reality App helped people appreciate broad considerations from the environmental to the social and the commercial in planning for future development”, Dr Collins continued.  Interviews, face-to-face surveys, focus groups, online engagement and a public event enabled the most comprehensive public engagement ever undertaken in the village. Over the past two months Dr Collins and colleagues have been sifting through the results.  Dr Collins said: “What we have ended up with is an extremely coherent and well thought out plan. This plan not only reflects the desires of the people of a place, but abides by key issues facing us all. It is climate aware, it recognises the key principles of design-led planning and abides by county level and national planning documents.”  The Moycullen Village Plan 2030 forsees future development of the village that is guided by the three following principles:  Community - universally recognised as a defining trait of the village, all development needs to be cognisant that any new building ensures the successful continuation into the future.  Connectivity - future development of the village requires better connections. Moycullen needs to be better connected to the city and to its outstanding natural environs. Of importance is a growing village that connects its people in better ways.  Collaboration - to achieve its full potential the future development of Moycullen must occur in an open, transparent and informed way. A community centred village requires community at the centre of its development.  Reflecting on the work, Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha of the Moycullen Community Development Association commented: “We are delighted to be involved with this innovative community study, we would hope that the community inputs will help in preserving Moycullen’s unique identity as it develops towards 2030. The facets of Community, Connectivity and Collaboration identified by the study need to be progressed ahead of the expected development of Moycullen, and we would look to the local authority and government agencies to recognise and action the Communities inputs.” Key recommendations set forth include: The purchase of a derelict building in the village to act as a cultural/community hub. The development of a public park in the village that will accommodate the successful farmers market and also act as a new village centre. Bus connections and the completion of the Connemara Greenway are seen as important for the village to develop in an environmentally sustainable manner. Further recommendations include the branding of the village as the gateway to the environment and activity pursuits and a new forms of local governance for the village and its people.  -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

The National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) has announced that it will continue its partnership with O’Donovan Rossa Club as club sponsors, promoting both sport and education within the region. Attending the event were NUI Galway’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Mayor of Belfast Daniel Baker and representatives from O'Donovan Rossa under-16 hurling, camogie and football teams who tried on their new kit. Speaking at today’s announcement, Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh said: “Investing in young sporting talent is extremely important to us. Not only does it improve outcomes on the pitch, but dedication to sport is later reflected in a commitment to education and developing a career by applying skills such as determination, resilience, team work and communication.” Jane Adams, one of Ulster’s most decorated camogie stars and a Rossa legend, said: “I’m delighted that NUI Galway are renewing their sponsorship of Rossa under 16 and minor teams. I’m absolutely thrilled that their sponsorship is going to be extended to include girl footballers and the camogie teams.” Sport at NUI Galway recognises the relationship between academic performance, health and well-being. The Sport and Recreation Unit has a mission to promote participation in sport and physical activities by all students and staff, and to support higher standards of performance in sport for elite athletes and teams within NUI Galway. Over 6,000 students in NUI Galway are participating in weekly sporting activities, and 43% of these students are competing in a new sport for the very first time. Margaret Flynn, Chairperson of Rossa GAC, commented: “Renewing and developing our strong links with a world-renowned university like NUI Galway will help our underage teams to continue to improve. We believe that the majority of our young players will be going to university in the near future and it is tremendous that O’Donovan Rossa has such a close connection with a university like NUI Galway.” The announcement comes at a time when universities in the Republic are becoming more accessible to students from the North. Professor Ó Dochartaigh said: “The recent introduction of new, fairer A Level equivalences in the system in the Republic mean almost all courses are now within the reach of students with three A-Levels, and all are within reach if you have an AS as well. Every year, NUI Galway welcomes a strong cohort of students from across the North to study on our 71 undergraduate degrees. Low fees, the relatively affordable cost of living and its sheer proximity, NUI Galway is becoming an option for students in Northern Ireland to consider.” In October 2019, NUI Galway confirmed that in 2020 and beyond students who have been resident in Northern Ireland and have UK/EU/EEA/Swiss citizenship will be treated as EU students for the purposes of fees for the duration of their courses. The decision was taken by the University to provide certainty to A Level students as they make their college choices over the coming months. The fee status decision also extends to postgraduate students enrolling in 2020. For further information on applying to NUI Galway and Free Fees Initiative eligibility http://www.nuigalway.ie/undergrad-admissions/faqs/ -Ends-

Monday, 27 January 2020

“What we have developed is like a living Velcro that removes and traps pathogens” Nature-inspired wipes and masks which could capture and trap the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are being developed by scientists at the Irish company Aquila Bioscience. This technology can be used by front-line personnel and civilians under risk of exposure as prophylactic measure to reduce viral transmission in places of contact such as hospitals and transportation hubs. The start-up, based at NUI Galway, has developed a chemical-free strategy that effectively removes bacteria, viruses, fungi and biological toxins from surfaces. Positive results have been achieved against a number of pathogens in a laboratory setting. The wipes have been under development for almost two years with the specific aim of not only removing pathogens from surfaces but also ‘trapping’ them within the material so prevent them spreading and so help effective disposal. In addition, the solution is non-toxic so can be used on human skin, mucosal surfaces and wounds. The development of this technology was funded by the European Defence Agency and was conducted in collaboration with the Irish Defence Forces and the Czech University of Defence.  “What we have developed is like a living Velcro at nanoscale. All cells are coated with proteins and complex carbohydrates. Every cell-to-cell relationship is ruled by interactions between these carbohydrates and proteins. We are tapping into this interaction by infusing our wipes with specific proteins and carbohydrates to which the pathogens bind – and stick,” explains Professor Lokesh Joshi, co-founder and director of Aquila Bioscience, and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway. Nature has been experimenting for millions of years to find solutions against infectious diseases, explains Professor Joshi who is also Director of the Glycoscience Research Group at NUI Galway. “There is an ingenious manner by which nature protects us from infectious microbes and most biological toxins which have carbohydrates and proteins on their surfaces. In nature, humans and animals produce, milk, urine and saliva/mucus full of specific proteins and carbohydrates that bind to the pathogens to protect us from most of the pathogens we encounter on a daily basis.” Currently all of the available decontamination strategies include artificial chemicals for example bleach, calcium hypochlorite and hydrogen peroxide. These strategies destroy biological agents, but are toxic, harmful to human beings and not safe for use on human surfaces (i.e skin). In addition, the use of conventional decontamination solutions can lead to recurrent infection and can interfere with forensic evidence due to their destructive nature and cannot be used for routine use as prophylactic purpose. Aquila Bioscience technology can deliver safe and effective decontamination that can be routinely used on sensitive areas like skin, nose, eyes and mucosa, where other methods are either not safe or cause skin reactions. It is also totally non-toxic and composed of biodegradable materials in contrast to the damaging environmental impact of chemically based solutions and the major problems caused by non-recyclable wipes in the environment.  Aquila Bioscience continues to collaborate with the Irish Defence Forces, with their needs to be prepared against biothreat agents. This collaboration has also brought the technology to the attention of other national and international security and humanitarian agencies who have expressed strong interest in using the technology to protect first-responders and affected people. “Our true hope it that this may indeed be an effective, safe and environmentally safe method to protect people from the potentially deadly pathogens they might encounter,” concluded Professor Joshi. -ends-

Thursday, 23 January 2020

UNESCO Chair Professor Pat Dolan and actor Cillian Murphy today (Thursday, 23 January) launched a new initiative to introduce Empathy education for secondary school students in Ireland. The programme, Activating Social Empathy, is part of a suite of work undertaken by a team of researchers at NUI Galway that has developed a concrete basis for understanding empathy education among adolescents. A major focus of the UNESCO Chair’s work both nationally and internationally, is the role of empathy in the development of social understanding and its potential to enable young people to foster better social responsibility, civic behaviour and critically, action.  UNESCO Chair and Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, Professor Pat Dolan said: “Within schools, empathy education initiatives like the one we launch today equip young people with vital skills in social emotional learning as well as offering them opportunities to engage in active citizenship and more compassionate caring towards others. Empathy education is urgently needed in schools to curb hate speech aggression and racial and other forms of negative profiling – it is imperative that the new incoming Minister for Education and Skills adopts empathy education in the same way as maths or other stem subjects.” Earlier work by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre (UCFRC) research team conducted with adolescents identified a need for greater focus on the promotion of empathy related skills and social values in Irish secondary schools.  In response, researchers at the Centre have developed Activating Social Empathy, an interactive, social and emotional learning programme to teach empathy skills and foster positive peer relations among secondary students. The programme is designed to form part of the Junior Cycle Wellbeing Programme and targets students’ learning and skill building around four key principles: Understanding Empathy, Practicing Empathy, Overcoming Barriers to Empathy, and Putting Empathy into Action.   Professor Dolan continued: “The Activating Social Empathy programme was piloted in seven schools from September 2017 to June 2018. Overall, feedback on the programme was positive, with students and teachers typically reporting that the programme had a positive impact on students' empathy and personal development. Due to this initial positive feedback, we are now preparing to begin the next evaluation phase.” Following a two-year feasibility testing phase, the programme is being launched as part of an evaluation study using a randomised-control design, in 25 schools nationwide involving over 2000 students. The evaluation will assess the impact of the programme on students’ empathic attitudes, social values, and interpersonal behaviours. The evaluation is being carried out by the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre (Prof. Pat Dolan & Dr Charlotte Silke) and the School of Education (Dr Niamh Flynn & Emer Davitt) at NUI Galway. The full, evaluated programme will be available as a free resource to schools in Ireland from September 2020.           The launch, which was also attended by youth advocates for empathy education, provided an opportunity to showcase the Youth as Researchers Video Resource Library for Schools and Community Groups, developed in collaboration with Foróige, narrated by Cillian Murphy. The event is part of a broad focus of the UNESCO Chair in extending the broader ethical education of youth in national and international settings in collaboration with UNESCO.        Commenting on the event, actor and Centre Patron Cillian Murphy said: “You can’t really be an actor without employing empathy as a very important tool in your arsenal. In supporting this education programme which we are launching today, my hope is that it will help young people see that everyone has a different story and everyone’s story is valuable.” -Ends-

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The new board of the Galway University Foundation met for the first time today. The Foundation is dedicated to raising philanthropic support for the development of NUI Galway. The new board is chaired by Professor Ruth Curtis, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, NUI Galway. Ruth was also the first female Vice President of NUI Galway in 1996. Additional members of the board are as follows: Brendan Jennings – BComm graduate 1981 and former Managing Partner, Deloitte. Deirdre Courtney – BA 1986 and LLB 1988 graduate. Partner in Ivor Fitzpatrick & Co Solicitors Eamonn Gilmore - BA 1976, Honorary Doctorate 2016, and former President of the Students Union. EU Special Representative for Human Rights, EU Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Colombia, and Former Tánaiste of the Government of Ireland. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, B Comm 1988, President of NUI Galway is an ex officio member of the board. The board thanked the previous board members for their work in helping to raise over €155 million towards the development of the University, and also reviewed the recommendations of the recent report by the Charities Regulator into the Foundation, and noted that all recommendations have now been implemented. Following the inaugural meeting of the new Foundation Board, Chairman Professor Curtis, noted that: “It is an exciting time for the University as it reaches the milestone of 175 years. The new NUI Galway strategy- ‘Shared Vision Shaped by Values’ sets out an ambitious programme of development, and the new Board of the Foundation looks forward to working closely with the President and his team in the years ahead to deliver on this new and exciting agenda for the University.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Next Monday night (27th January) Claire Byrne will host the biggest Election 2020 leaders debate of the campaign so far. For the very first time RTÉ will broadcast a special leaders debate live from NUI Galway.  The seven political parties leaders joining Claire on stage for the major two hour live debate will be: Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin), Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael), Brendan Howlin (Labour), Micheál Martin (Fianna Fáil), Richard Boyd Barrett (Solidarity / People Before Profit), Eamon Ryan (Green Party) and Roísín Shortall (Social Democrats).   The leaders will also face questions from an audience of over 300 people independently selected by RED C Research polling company.  Speaking ahead of the huge broadcast, presenter Claire Byrne said: "I am really looking forward to bringing the national debate to Galway. I want voters to get a clear picture of what each party is offering. We'll be teasing out the key policies with the seven leaders with the sole aim of giving voters the information they need before they head to the polling booth on February 8th." This is the second time a major leaders debate has been broadcast outside of Dublin, following RTÉ's successful debate at the University of Limerick in 2016.  Welcoming the broadcast from Galway, President of NUI Galway Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “NUI Galway is for the public good, belonging to the people and for society.  We’re delighted to partner with RTÉ to bring this important debate to Galway. The University is 175 this year, and our city is European Capital of Culture, so it’s fitting that the leaders of our country’s parties will meet here to outline their visions for the future of the nation.  We look forward to welcoming them to the West at this important moment of decision-making in our nation’s history.” The programme will be available to watch live on RTÉ One, RTÉ News Now and worldwide on the RTÉ Player. Claire Byrne Live Leaders Debate, Monday 27th January at 9.35pm - Ends - 

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

NUI Galway will host a CAO information evening for students, parents, guardians and guidance counsellors in the Radisson Hotel in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, on Thursday, 30 January, from 7-9pm.   The evening will begin with short talks about NUI Galway and the undergraduate courses it offers. Afterwards, current students and NUI Galway staff will be on hand to answer any individual questions in relation to courses and practical issues like accommodation, fees and scholarships, and the wide range of support services available to our students. The ever-increasing popularity of NUI Galway is in-part due to its innovative programmes developed in response to the changing needs of the employment market. NUI Galway is launching four new degrees for 2020 entry responding to the needs and the demands of the job market - Law and Taxation; Law, Criminology and Criminal Justice; BSc Genetics and Genomics; and a BSc Geography and Geosystems. Information on these new degrees will be available at the information evening. There will be a representative from across the University’s five colleges available to answer questions about the programmes on offer, entry requirements, and placement and employment opportunities. Members of the Accommodation Office will be on hand to answer any queries about on-campus or off-campus options, including the new Goldcrest on-campus development, which brings the total of on-campus beds to 1,193. Sarah Geraghty, Student Recruitment and Outreach Manager at NUI Galway, said: “Students choose NUI Galway as they want to study with the best academic and research minds in their field. They want to study in our new state-of-the-art facilities, such as the new Human Biology Building for medicine students and in Ireland’s largest engineering school, the Alice Perry Engineering Building. The location of our campus in the heart of Galway city appeals to students who want to live in a vibrant and creative city and who want to find a new home away from home. We look forward to meeting Leaving Cert students and their parents to explore if NUI Galway is the right fit for their third level studies.” For more information contact Caroline, Duggan School Liaison Officer on caroline.duggan@nuigalway.ie or 087-2391219. -Ends-

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

NUI Galway will host the Spring Postgraduate Open Day on Tuesday, 4 February, from 12-3pm in the Bailey Allen Hall, Áras na Mac Léinn. The Open Day will showcase all of NUI Galway’s full-time and part-time postgraduate programmes, including taught and research masters, as well as doctoral research options. The Open Day will have a strong focus on how to make postgraduate studies affordable and the multiple funding and scholarship opportunities that future students should explore when considering investing in their education and career. There will be a number of talks including a panel discussion on career pathways post-graduation, grant opportunities, postgraduate funding and the application process. The panel will be joined by Hugh Hamrock, Bank Manager, Bank of Ireland, NUI Galway branch, who will advise on banking services to support postgraduate studies. The talks will also include a presentation on the Hardiman PhD Scholarship scheme and a Personal Statement Workshop by the Career Development Centre. All EU postgraduate students presenting a first class honours in their undergraduate degree are eligible for a €1,500 scholarship towards their taught Masters at NUI Galway. Current postgraduate student, Sinead Shaughnessy, is a recipient of one of NUI Galway’s Excellence Scholarships. According to Sinead: “The postgraduate scholarship allowed me to further my studies and enhance my future career prospects. It incentivised me to work hard throughout my undergraduate degree to achieve First Class Honours. I am currently studying a MSc in Human Resource Management which will give me a distinct edge in the industry when applying for jobs.” Valerie Leahy, Postgraduate Recruitment Officer at NUI Galway, said: “We especially encourage visitors considering a return to university studies to attend our Postgraduate Open Day. Almost half of those applying to our postgrad courses are not recent graduates, they are returning to study or upskill for their current job. Support is offered to those who have been out of the education system for some time and our research shows that students from industry or the home returning to education flourish academically.” NUI Galway have launched a range of new postgraduate programmes in 2019 and 2020, including MA Global Media and Communication, MA Rural Futures Planning and Innovation, MA Sports Journalism and Communication, MSc Applied Multilingualism, MSc Computer Science – Artificial Intelligence, and MA Creative Arts: Producing and Curation. Information on all new programmes, along with NUI Galway’s 170 other postgraduate programmes will be available at the exhibition in the Bailey Allen Hall. To view NUI Galway’s new and unique postgraduate programmes and to book a place at the Open Day visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/postgraduate-open-day/ or visit on the day. -Ends-

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Tá sraith léachtaí ar siúil ag Coláiste na nDán, na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta agus an Léinn Cheiltigh in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh. Díríonn an tsraith seo ar Ollúna nua-cheaptha an Choláiste agus leanfar di le léacht ón Ollamh Pearsanta leis an Léann Éireannach, an tOllamh Louis de Paor, Déardaoin, an 30 Eanáir ag 5pm, in Institiúid de Móra, OÉ Gaillimh (GO10). Ina chuid cainte dar teideal ‘Níos Gaelaí ná an Ghaeilge. Flann O’Brien: More Irish than Irish?’, roinnfidh an tOllamh de Paor torthaí a chuid taighde ceannródaíoch faoi shaothar Flann O’Brien, ag díriú go háirithe ar an ngné Ghaeilge i saothar O’Brien. Ceapadh an tOllamh de Paor ina Stiúrthóir ar Ionad an Léinn Éireannaigh in OÉ Gaillimh sa bhliain 2000 agus i measc a shaothair foilsithe áirítear monagraf ar shaothar Mháirtín Uí Chadhain, Faoin mblaoisc bheag sin: an aigneolaíocht i scéalta Mháirtín Uí Chadhain (1991), díolaim filíochta i nGaeilge ón bhfichiú haois, Coiscéim na haoise seo (1991), a cuireadh in eagar in éineacht le Seán Ó Tuama, eagrán dátheangach de rogha dánta de chuid Máire Mhac an tSaoi, An paróiste míorúilteach/The miraculous parish (2011) mar aon le heagrán criticiúil de rogha dánta Liam S Gógan, Míorúilt an chleite chaoin (2012). Bhain sé duais Jefferson Smurfit in Ollscoil St Louis-Missouri sa bhliain 2002 agus fuair sé bonn Charles Fanning ó Ollscoil Southern Illinois in Carbondale sa bhliain 2009. Bhí sé ina Chomhalta Fulbright ar Cuairt in New York University agus UC Berkeley in 2013-14 agus ina Scoláire Burns in Boston College in 2016. I measc a chuid foilseacháin is deireanaí tá Leabhar na hAthghabhála/Poems of Repossession: Twentieth-century Poetry in Irish (2016), agus Ag Caint leis an Simné?: Dúshlán an Traidisiúin agus Nualitríocht na Gaeilge (2018). Bhí an méid a leanas le rá ag an Dr Seán Crosson, Leas-Déan Taighde i gColáiste na nDán, na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta & an Léinn Cheiltigh: “Tá an-áthas orainn leanúint leis an tsraith léachtaí seo a thugann deis iontach don Ollscoil an pobal i gcoitinne a chur ar an eolas faoin taighde agus faoin gcleachtas nuálaíoch den scoth atá ar bun sa choláiste. Is é seo an naoú cainteoir sa tsraith a chuimsíonn go dtí seo réimsí a bhaineann le beartas sóisialta, oideachas, smaoineamh polaitíochta, teiripí ar líne, seachadadh teanga, traidisiúin na n-amhrán tíre i nGaeilge, taighde stairiúil, agus síceolaíocht iompraíochta. Is mór an onóir dúinn anois an tOllamh de Paor a bheith páirteach sa tsraith agus de bharr a chuid taighde, foilseacháin, agus cleachtais, tá tuiscint níos doimhne ag léitheoirí, lucht éisteachta in Éirinn agus go hidirnáisiúnta ar ábharthacht agus tábhacht leanúnach litríocht na Gaeilge sa lá atá inniu ann” -Críoch-

Monday, 20 January 2020

NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights and An Cumann Staire/History Society will host a Holocaust Memorial Event for 2020 with Tomi Reichental, a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and Ben Barkow, former Director of London's Wiener Library. The talk will take place on Wednesday, 29 January, at 6pm in Human Biology Building on campus.  Tomi Reichental was born in 1935 in Piestany Slovakia. In 1944 at age nine, he was captured by the Gestapo in Bratislava and deported to Bergen Belsen concentration camp with his mother, grandmother, brother, aunt and cousin. When he was liberated in April 1945, he discovered that 35 members of his extended family had been murdered. His grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all died in the Holocaust. Recounting the sights and smells at the concentration camp Tomi said: “Typhoid and diphtheria were the biggest killers, but people were dying of starvation and cold in their hundreds. First the bodies were removed and burned, but later they were just piling up in front of our barracks, there were piles of decomposing bodies. The soldiers who liberated Belsen in April 1945 said they could smell the stench for two miles before they reached the camp. In the camp I could not play like a normal child, we didn’t laugh and we didn’t cry. If you stepped out of line, you could be beaten up even beaten to death. I saw it all with my own eyes.” According to Professor Ray Murphy of NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights: ‘Tomi’s message of tolerance and forgiveness is more important today than even. He reminds us of our common humanity and the need for human solidarity.” Ben Barkow recently retired from London's Wiener Library - the world's oldest institution created for the documentation of the Holocaust - where he had worked for 32 years. He is chair of the Academic Advisory Board of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, which is creating Britain's national Holocaust memorial next to the houses of Parliament. He is also on the advisory board of the Imperial War Museum's planned new permanent Holocaust exhibition and is a trustee of a number of a number of Holocaust-related charities.  The discussion at NUI Galway will be followed by a Q&A session. Admission is free but early arrival is advised. -Ends-

Monday, 20 January 2020

NUI Galway has announced a new partnership with leading enterprise Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software firm UiPath, making it the University the first in Ireland to offer robotic process automation content to accounting and finance students. At postgraduate level, the partnership will feature as part of an innovative ‘Disruptive Technologies in Accounting and Finance’ Summer School offered to students on the Master of Accounting, MSc in International Accounting and Analytics, and MSc in Corporate Finance programmes. Students will develop practical skills in RPA, mapping of workflow processes, Data preparation and Data Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The summer schools are designed for two cohorts of students - those about to commence their accounting/finance careers and early/mid-career professionals wanting to upskill and prepare for a transformed workplace. At undergraduate level, RPA awareness training will also be incorporated into a redesigned first year module offered to all accounting students. Siobhan Ryan, Sales Director, UiPath, said: “Through the Academic Alliance partnership, NUI Galway becomes the first Irish institution of Higher Education to join the programme. This is a timely occasion for Irish students to gather automation skills that are very much needed in the market. We are honoured to have a prestigious institution such as NUI Galway pledge towards aligning their curricula to the industry’s needs and thus include RPA into their accounting and finance curriculum. Within the next short years, both private and public companies will seek new talents, especially in the Finance and Accounting departments and embracing these new technologies will enable students to bring much value to the workplace.” Professor Breda Sweeney, Head of Accountancy and Finance Discipline, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway, said: “Through our expanding suite of postgraduate summer schools and redesign of undergraduate modules, we are equipping students with cutting-edge skills in RPA and analytics. This will undoubtedly enable them to be at the forefront in meeting the needs of an accounting and finance world that is undergoing radical and rapid transformation.” The summer school will be led by Sharon Cotter, NUI Galway, who has 27 years of experience working in finance functions in industry. The summer school incorporates guest lectures from leading companies in Ireland on their experiences of RPA and practical hands-on workshops in using UiPath software. Sharon Cotter, Lecturer, Accountancy and Finance Discipline, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway, said: “I am delighted that UI Path are partnering with us and that our students will acquire important learning in accounting and finance, but not as we know it, through the opportunity to engage with the technologies which are disrupting the traditional work of accounting and finance professionals.” For more information about the MSc programmes email accounting@nuigalway.ie or visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/accountancy-finance/. -Ends-

Monday, 20 January 2020

Researchers at NUI Galway recently hosted the 13th Irish Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Conference, the second time the University has been chosen to host Ireland’s flagship conference in the field.  The conference was jointly organised by the University’s School of Computer Science, School of Business and Economics, School of Education, and the Data Science Institute. HCI focuses on the human design aspects of new computer apps, devices and interfaces. With the increasing ubiquity of computers in society and people’s lives, particularly since the emergence of personal computing in the 1980s, HCI has grown as a field of research, and emphasizes the importance of human factors and users’ needs and requirements in the development of novel digital technology. Karen Young, NUI Galway’s School of Computer Science and Conference Chair, said: “The HCI is the main conference in Ireland for researchers and practitioners in user-centred design, where the focus is on building our community in this important discipline that ensures users’ needs and human design issues are researched and addressed in the development of innovative technology.” The conference included research presentations and papers from all application domains relevant to HCI, including: AI/Hybrid systems, Living Environments, Gaming, Education, Interaction Design / UX, Health and Aging, and Digital Health and Wellness. The conference also featured keynotes by leading figures in HCI in Europe and internationally including: Professor Matt Jones, Swansea University, on ‘The Robots are Coming - Be Afraid!; Professor Stephen Brewster, University of Glasgow on ‘Designing New Interfaces for Cars’; and a closing keynote by Rachel O’Donnell, Genesys, on the industry perspective on HCI and user experience design. The conference website, including presentations and highlights of the event, is available online at https://sites.google.com/view/ihci-2019/home. -Ends-

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Health Research Board is funding a pilot project to design and develop the infrastructure needed to share and link data securely. The project will be led by the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), which is hosted by NUI Galway  A pilot project funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) to design and develop the infrastructure needed to share and link data securely, is being led by the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) hosted by NUI Galway. It will design and test the major infrastructural elements for safe use and linkage of these different data sets using synthetic data, such as fake data that resembles the characteristics of real health datasets Data is one of our most valuable national assets. However, we don’t use it to its full potential because we don’t have the right infrastructure or services in place to share, store or link data safely for research and studies that benefit society. In the Irish health and research ecosystem we routinely collect hospital data, disease registry data, data from longitudinal studies and surveys, census data, administrative data – but currently little can be done beyond their collection and stated use without being in breach of data protection legislation or ethical guidelines. According to Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the HRB:“Gathering robust sets of health data can be expensive and time-consuming, so it makes sense to use them to their full potential. The fundamental question is; how can we ensure data is used or shared safely, ethically and legally? This Proof of Concept initiative will create the blueprints for a future infrastructure in Ireland that will ensure safe access to health data and develop ways to share or link existing data responsibly for the benefit of people’s health and patient care.” The pilot project will build on a model developed by the HRB called ‘DASSL’ (data access, storage, sharing and linkage) which outlines the infrastructure and services to ensure: Safe projects (valid research purpose) Safe people (trusted researchers) Safe data and data governance (people’s data protected) Safe setting (security controls) Safe outputs (disclosure control of outputs) The project represents the first steps to establish a DASSL infrastructure that facilitates the linking of multiple sensitive datasets in a safe environment to harness new insights from existing data. This will greatly enhance the ability to support health service planning and delivery and provide evidence for policy. Similar infrastructures and services are already in place and widely used across Europe, Canada and Australia, but each country would have its own unique requirements and environments. “If upscaled and launched nationally, this infrastructure has the capacity to join the dots between the different datasets to improve people’s health and patient care at an individual and at a population level. It will vastly increase the value that can be derived from individual datasets,” says Dr Morrissey. The two-year project will design and build a prototype technical infrastructure to demonstrate how secure, controlled access for researchers to routinely collected health and social care datasets can be implemented in a safe environment for new types of data analyses that have been intractable in the past. The goal is to lay the foundations for a national infrastructure for data access, sharing, storage and linkage of sensitive health, social care and related data in line with legal and ethical requirements and provide guidelines for the upscaling of the model. A key aspect of the project is to engage with a wide range of stakeholders including patient groups to ensure broad awareness and consultation, to build confidence in the approach and to leverage support for the infrastructure at a national level. Dr Simon Wong who leads the projects at ICHEC and hosted by NUI Galway, said:“This project is a major step in addressing a real gap for the use of health data for research purposes in Ireland. We will be working with a wide range of partners nationally and internationally to ensure that what we build will not just be to the highest standard, but the design incorporates feedback from the Irish health ecosystem, the general public and the research community to ensure trust in the infrastructure.” Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “ICHEC’s reputation as an internationally recognised centre of excellence in high-performance computing continues to grow. This project strongly demonstrates its focus on the economic and societal benefit which can be had from collaboration and innovative approaches.” ICHEC at NUI Galway, will work with researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and the Health Service Executive. Working with other national and international collaborators will also be crucial, including those based at the FutureNeuro Research Centre. The DASSL model was first described in a discussion document published by the HRB in 2016 - Proposals for an Enabling Data Environment for Health and Related Research in Ireland. The document voiced the particular challenges in health research where policy relevant studies were abandoned or inordinately delayed, and where the use of routine health data that are collected and maintained at great cost is under-utilised in health services planning, clinical practice and evidence for policy. -Ends-

Thursday, 16 January 2020

For the 15th year running NUI Galway opened its doors for its award winning Teddy Bear Hospital, organised by the University’s students. The two-day event will see over 1,200 sick teddy bears admitted to the hospital, accompanied by their minders, 1,200 primary school children. The event is organised by the Sláinte Society, NUI Galway’s health promotion society that focuses on promoting all aspects of physical and mental health. Up to 200 medical, healthcare and science students will diagnose and treat the teddy bears. In the process, they hope to help children, ranging in age from 4-8 years, feel more comfortable around doctors and hospitals. Clodagh Ryan, a third year Medical student at NUI Galway and co-auditor of Sláinte Society, said: “Every year, we strive to treat as many sick teddies from as many different schools as possible and we can’t wait to do it all over again this year! We hope to provide a fun, relaxed atmosphere so that both children and teddies can feel more comfortable around doctors and hospitals.” Over the years, children have come along with teddy bears suffering from an imaginative range of sore ears, sick tummies and all kinds of other weird and wonderful ailments. This year, 29 local primary schools are participating in the event, equating to over 1,200 children. On arrival at the Teddy Bear Hospital on campus, the children each have an individual consultation with one of the teddy doctors on call. The ‘patients’ will be examined by the doctors and will receive a ‘pawscription’ and referral to surgery or x-ray. The students will have specially designed X-ray and MRI machines on hand, should the teddy bears need them. Recuperating teddy bears can avail of medical supplies from the Teddy Bear Pharmacy, stocked with healthy fruit from Total Produce and Fyffes, along with medical supplies sponsored by Matt O’Flaherty Chemist After all this excitement the children can enjoy a bouncy castle and face painting. Sponsorship for the event comes from the Medical Protection Society. Ríona Hughes, NUI Galway’s Societies Officer, said: “The award winning Teddy Bear Hospital is always a joy when students welcome local school children and their teddies onto campus. I would like to congratulate the Sláinte Society and their many volunteers who organise this very popular event each year.” -Ends-

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Don 15ú bliain as a chéile, d’oscail OÉ Gaillimh Ospidéal na mBéiríní, eagraithe ag mic léinn na hOllscoile. Tiocfaidh breis is 1,200 páiste bunscoile chuig an ospidéal lena mbéiríní tinne le go gcuirfí cóir leighis orthu thar an dá lá. Is é Cumann Sláinte OÉ Gaillimh atá i mbun an ócáid a eagrú. Díríonn an cumann ar gach gné den tsláinte fhisiciúil agus den mheabhairshláinte a chur chun cinn. Beidh suas le 200 mac léinn leighis, cúraim sláinte agus eolaíochta i láthair chun na béiríní a dhiagnóisiú agus a leigheas. Tá súil acu go gcuideoidh an ócáid le páistí idir 4-8 mbliana d’aois a bheith ar a suaimhneas le dochtúirí nó i dtimpeallacht ospidéil. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Clodagh Ryan, mac léinn leighis sa tríú bliain in OÉ Gaillimh agus comh-iniúchóir an Chumainn Sláinte: “Gach bliain, déanaimid ár ndícheall cóireáil a chur ar an oiread béiríní breoite ón oiread scoileanna agus is féidir agus is fada linn é arís i mbliana! Tá súil againn atmaisféar spraíúil, suaimhneach a chruthú ionas gur féidir le páistí agus le béiríní a bheith níos compordaí timpeall ar dhochtúirí agus ar ospidéil.” Tá béiríní tugtha chuig an ospidéal ag páistí i gcaitheamh na mblianta agus iad ag samhlú go raibh réimse leathan tinnis ag gabháil dóibh, leithéidí cluasa tinne, boilg bhreoite agus gach cineál easláinte eile faoin spéir. Tá 29 bunscoil áitiúil agus breis is 1,200 páiste ag glacadh páirte san ócáid i mbliana. Gabhfaidh na páistí i gcomhairle le duine de na dochtúirí béiríní tar éis dóibh a theacht i láthair ag Ospidéal na mBéiríní ar an gcampas. Déanfaidh na dochtúirí scrúdú ar na ‘hothair’ agus tabharfar oideas dóibh, agus cuirfear ar atreo ansin iad le haghaidh obráide nó x-gha. Beidh meaisíní speisialta x-gha agus MRI ag na mic léinn ar fhaitíos go mbeidís ag teastáil ó na béiríní.  Beidh na béiríní atá ag teacht chucu féin in ann ábhair leighis a fháil i gCógaslann na mBéiríní, áit a mbeidh torthaí sláintiúla le fáil a bhuíochas le Total Fruit agus Fyffes, mar aon le hábhair leighis urraithe ag Cógaslann Matt O’Flaherty. Nuair a bheidh an méid sin curtha díobh acu féadfaidh na páistí am a chaitheamh ar phreabchaisleán agus a n-aghaidh a phéinteáil. Is iad Medical Protection Society a dhéanann urraíocht ar an ócáid. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Ríona Hughes, Oifigeach na gCumann in OÉ Gaillimh: “Is mór an spórt Ospidéal na mBéiríní nuair a chuireann mic léinn fáilte mhór roimh pháistí scoile áitiúla agus a gcuid béiríní ar an gcampas. Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis an gCumann Sláinte agus lena n-oibrithe deonacha a eagraíonn an ócáid seo a bhfuil an-tóir uirthi gach bliain.” -Críoch-

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Light shed on ‘dark side’ of fitness app engagement Warning re implications of apps in employee wellness programmes A study carried out by the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway has examined how fitness apps can affect the wellbeing of the user.  The research specifically focused on identifying how the social features of fitness apps predict the type of passion (harmonious and obsessive) one has for physical exercise, and what the resulting positive and negative implications are for the person’s wellbeing. To motivate people to exercise, modern physical fitness apps, such as Strava, Nike+, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and Fitocracy, are gamified to provide a variety of rewards to users based on the tracking and analysis of their digital trace data e.g. the number of steps walked per day, calories burned, or average speed of a cycle or run. The market for fitness apps has exploded in recent years as people turn to self-tracking and gamification to motivate and sustain physical activity.  For instance, in the United States alone, 92 million people use fitness apps contributing to a market volume of US$602.0m in 2019 (Statista 2019). The research found that fitness apps can lead to both positive and negative wellbeing outcomes, depending on the person’s social motivation for using the app.  People who use fitness apps for reciprocation (i.e. giving support and encouragement to other exercisers), are more likely to have a harmonious passion for their exercise, and ultimately lower life stress.  In contrast, people who use the app for social recognition (i.e. to receive praise and public endorsements for their exercise activities) are more likely to develop an obsessive passion for physical exercise, and suffer higher life stress in the long run. Lead author of the study, Dr Eoin Whelan, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, said: “The majority of exercisers are now using digital technology to track and share their workout data in order to support their fitness goals.  But these fitness apps can be a double-edged sword.  Our study suggests fitness sharing apps can certainly help seed and sustain exercise routines, but there is a danger that some users may develop obsessive tendencies, which need to be avoided.  Fitness app social features which promote self-recognition, such as posting only positive workout data or photos, can be linked to maladaptive perceptions of exercise and burnout in the long run.  In contrast, fitness app social features which promote reciprocation, such as giving support and commenting on colleagues’ activities, are likely to lead to adaptive outcomes.”  The study also flags to employers the risks and responsibilities of giving employees free fitness apps and incorporating fitness apps as part of employee wellness programmes.  “Our results shed light on the dark side of fitness app engagement in that they may indirectly lead to greater burnout.  If the organisation supports fitness app use among employees, they should also be responsible for ensuring the employee maintains control over their exercise patterns.  One possible solution could be for the organisation to monitor the exercise log files of employees and assess these for signals of exercise obsession,” says Dr Whelan. A copy of the full study, published in the journal Information Technology & People, is available on request.  The research was based on 272 people involved in cardio-intense physical activity.  It was authored by Dr Whelan with Trevor Clohessy, Department of Business Information Systems, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. -Ends-

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Researchers from NUI Galway are currently recruiting participants aged 18 years or over to take part in a new nine-week Cognitive Occupation-Based Programme for People with Multiple Sclerosis (COB-MS). Approximately 50-60% of the 9,000 people in Ireland living with MS have difficulties with cognition, which has a large impact on their quality of life. The new COB-MS program based in NUI Galway was developed to address the wide-ranging symptoms and functional difficulties, associated with cognition, that present in MS. The program emphasises the ability to maintain employment, social activities, managing the home and self-care; and is focused on rehabilitation through an individualised cognitive intervention that is measured by and taught through an occupational participation perspective. The research program aims to assess: the preliminary efficacy, the acceptability and feasibility of the program; the outcome measures and procedures used within the program; the barriers and facilitators to using COB-MS; and to determine the appropriateness of progression to a definitive trial through gathering and assessing key trial information. According to the primary investigator on this research program, NUI Galway’s Dr Sinéad Hynes said: “Past research suggests that cognitive intervention and rehabilitation can enhance daily functioning in people with MS. A lot of work has gone into the development of the COB-MS program to ensure that it targets such cognitive activities applied in real-world settings. As a result, we're hopeful that the program will benefit people living with MS on wide-ranging outcomes.” To participate in the programme or for more information email cobms@nuigalway.ie or call 087 449 1154. -Ends-

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Study aims to discover problems that commonly arise in general practice such as missed or delayed diagnosis, and how such errors can be avoided in the future The School of Medicine at NUI Galway is conducting the ASPIRE study, which aims to involve patients in improving the safety of care in general practice. The research team are currently recruiting people who have previously experienced a medical error in general practice. People who are willing to take part in the study will be briefly interviewed about their experience either over the phone, or in person. A ‘medical error’ is described as an event which could have, or did, lead to harm for a patient receiving healthcare. This could include events like a missed or delayed diagnosis, incorrect drug dosage, inappropriate medication prescribed, a referral error, or a lapse in communication with the practice. The overall aim of the study is to find out about problems that commonly arise in general practice and how they can be avoided in the future. It will allow the researchers to identify a number of contributory factors to errors in general practice, which will enable the design and implementation of future safety strategies to reduce patient harm. This will benefit both General Practitioners and patients alike. Caoimhe Madden, a PhD researcher in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, who is leading the study, said: “Unfortunately the patient perspective is often overlooked in patient safety research. However, we believe that patient stories can provide us with a valuable insight, and enable our understanding of what areas need to be improved upon in general practice.” Professor Andrew Murphy, GP and Professor of General Practice at NUI Galway, said: “Patient safety is a real priority for all general practitioners. It is important that the patient voice is also heard in this vital area.” For more information or to participate in the ASPIRE study, please contact Caoimhe Madden, School of Medicine, NUI Galway at caoimhe.madden@nuigalway.ie or 091 495205.  -Ends-

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

The HRB is investing €4.5 million to train health practitioners and academics to PhD level doing research that will improve care for stroke patients, target chronic disease and tackle diabetic foot disease. Through the HRB Collaborative Doctoral Programme in patient-focused research three teams of experts will each receive €1.5 million. In addition to providing structured training for up to five PhD trainees in each cohort, they are also developing research programmes in highly relevant areas that address specific patient needs. According to Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board (HRB): “This HRB funding initiative will develop research techniques and ability among trainees, but it will also teach them about designing research programmes that target defined needs in clinical practice. The aim is to close the gap between research that is done and how it is applied in practice to improve patients’ health and care.” Details of the three Collaborative Doctoral Programmes are outlined below. Stroke iPASTAR (improving Pathways for Acute STroke And Rehabilitation) Stroke is a major cause of death and the commonest form of acquired physical disability in adults. Fragmentation of care results in poor coordination of key aspects of acute stroke care and does not provide an effective integrated system for acute and rehabilitative stroke treatment. The specific focus of this CDA programme is to train four PhD trainees from different disciplines and professions, (medicine, physiotherapy or occupational therapy, nursing, health economics or health services research) who will focus on delivery of stroke care for patients, from the hospital, to rehabilitation in the community, then living well after stroke. The programme is built on feedback from stroke survivors who explained the challenges they, and their families, face following stroke. They identified a need for more support and information at transitions of care after discharge from hospital and early supported discharge, the need for signposting to resources and services, and highlighted the hidden costs that they face in managing life after stroke. It is a collaboration between RCSI and University College Dublin (UCD) According to David Williams, Professor of Stroke Medicine, School of Medicine at RCSI, and Beaumont Hospital and Professor Frances Horgan, School of Physiotherapy at RCSI: "This interdisciplinary programme will generate a cohort of post-doctoral researchers with transferrable skills who can make a significant future impact across a range of settings with necessary expertise to generate research evidence that will support cost-effective, patient-focused stroke care. Our iPASTAR consortium of national and international experienced interdisciplinary stroke academic researchers, clinicians, stroke patients and PhD educators are all focused on improving acute stroke care, and stroke recovery and rehabilitation." Chronic Disease Collaborative Doctoral Programme in Chronic Disease Prevention (CDP-CDP) Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, cause significant illness, are the leading cause of disability and are the most common reason for premature death. If we can improve prevention and self-management of these conditions, we can significantly reduce people’s suffering and reduce costs to health services. This HRB Collaborative Doctoral Award 2019 aims to improve patient care by developing and delivering a doctoral training programme in evidence-based chronic disease prevention. It is developed by a consortium of senior research and clinical leaders in diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular prevention. The individual PhD patient-focused research projects will focus on diabetes prevention; digitally delivered cardiac rehabilitation; prevention for women with previous gestational diabetes; enhancing the role of Clinical Nurse Specialists to prevent stroke; and development of peer-support for cardiovascular prevention. It is a collaboration between NUI Galway, UCC, UCD and the Health Service Executive and will recruit five PhD trainees who will start training in September 2020. Professor Molly Byrne, Professor of Health Psychology and HRB Research Leader; Director, Health Behaviour Change Research Group, NUI Galway says: "This is a unique opportunity to promote collaborative leadership between health psychology and public health to develop capacity in interdisciplinary research and service delivery in chronic disease prevention, focusing on preventing and managing common chronic diseases which have a major impact in people’s lives." According to Professor Patricia Kearney, Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, UCC and Director of ESPRIT Research Group: "This collaborative transdisciplinary approach will increase capacity in patient-focused research on chronic disease prevention in Ireland and enhance understanding among patients and health service providers." Diabetic Foot disease Diabetic Foot Disease: from PRevention to treatment to IMproved patient Outcomes (DFD PRIMO) Diabetes mellitus, a disease associated with high blood glucose, can cause several complications that can directly affect the feet. A diabetic foot ulcer is an open wound or sore on the foot that is often slow to heal and can become easily infected. Infection can spread quickly in people with diabetes and unfortunately leg and/ or foot amputation and early death are associated with diabetes and its related foot problems. Early recognition of foot problems and timely, appropriate, treatments are key for the prevention of serious foot problems in people with diabetes. Clinical guidelines advocate for preventative measures however there is little evidence in the area of prevention of foot problems in diabetes. The main aim of this programme is to train future healthcare innovation leaders in providing cost-effective care to people at risk from Diabetic Foot Disease (DFD). It will equip a cohort of talented doctoral students with core, specialised research, and complementary transferable skills to enable them to establish and lead world class research in DFD. Early stage professionals, such as public health nurses, podiatrists and health behavioural researchers will be trained in this programme. Emerging from the training programme they will be equipped to lead research and development of care delivery in their specialism; competently and independently undertake patient focused research and evaluate patient, population, and healthcare system outcomes. Speaking about the training programme, Prof Timothy O Brien, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway says: "We plan to create the next generation of interdisciplinary healthcare researchers who will provide new approaches to the prevention and treatment of diabetic foot disease. Ultimately our goal is to enhance patient care through rigorous clinical research undertaken with the input of patients."

Monday, 13 January 2020

As part of NUI Galway’s 175th anniversary celebrations, Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, today chaired a special seminar highlighting the important role of the higher education sector in both shaping and implementing government policies, as well as its pivotal and enabling role in delivering societal wellbeing and change. NUI Galway last week launched its new strategy, titled “Shared Vision, Shaped by Values” which places the shared values of respect, excellence, openness and sustainability as the guiding light for the future direction of the University.  It will see NUI Galway focus on its continued contribution to enhancing policy and society, while sustaining our planet and people.  Speaking today, President of NUI Galway Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “The higher education sector in Ireland is vital to our society and the knowledge economy.  We are here for our students and society, and through our research and teaching aim to provide major social, economic and cultural impact.   Our new strategy is focused on living our values of respect, excellence, openness and sustainability, and today highlights our emphasis on cooperation, meitheal, with educators, policy makers and regional partners to support the sustainable development of our region.” Speaking at the event, Minister O’Connor said: “Our society and economy depend on the higher education sector to develop quality research and deliver excellence in teaching and learning for our students.  The sector plays a pivotal role in sustainable development by supporting students to develop the relevant knowledge, skills and values to become informed active citizens, and I welcome the collaborative approach of NUI Galway to shape policy with a shared focus on societal wellbeing.”  The event included a series of panels and contributions on government policy, driving innovation, the impact of culture and creativity and collaboration to maximize regional impact.  Joining staff and students of NUI Galway were representatives from: Department of Education and Skills, Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture Hewlett Packard Enterprise Galway Arts Festival Land Development Agency Galway City Council -Ends-

Monday, 13 January 2020

NUI Galway is calling for scientists and science enthusiasts to enter ‘FameLab’ the world’s largest science communication competition held in 30 countries. For the fifth year running, one of four regional FameLab Ireland heats will take place in Galway on 19 February with an expected high calibre of entrants once again. With science becoming increasingly specialised, those working in the field can struggle to explain their projects to colleagues let alone the general public. And explaining what you do can be extraordinarily important. The FameLab competition, an initiative of the Cheltenham Science Festival, recognises this and challenges up and coming scientists, engineers and mathematicians to explain a complex idea in a straightforward and engaging way. The Galway event is being managed in by the British Council and NUI Galway, and forms part of the annual FameLab Ireland competition. The Galway competition is open to a whole range of people who apply, work on, teach or study science, including: People who apply science, technology, engineering or mathematics in industry or business. People who work on applying science, engineering, technology or mathematics (e.g. patent clerks, statisticians, consultants to industry). Lecturers and researchers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, including specialist science teachers with a science degree. University students of science, technology, mathematics or engineering aged 18 and over. People who apply science, technology, mathematics or engineering in the armed forces or government bodies. Armed only with their wits and a few props, the top newest voices from the world of science and engineering across the region, the finalists in FameLab Galway heat will deliver short three-minute pieces on bizarre, quirky and pertinent science concepts. Expect to hear anything from why men have nipples to how 3D glasses work, and is nuclear energy a good or bad thing. Presentations will then be judged according to FameLab’s “3 Cs”: Content, Clarity and Charisma. Winning contestants from FameLab Galway will attend an all-expenses paid two-day communication masterclass over a weekend in March, and participate in the FameLab Ireland final held in Cork on Wednesday, 15 April. The winner will represent Ireland at the FameLab international finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival with representatives from organisations like NASA and CERN. By entering FameLab, participants will begin a journey with like-minded people, build their networks, expand skillsets essential for developing their career and, most of all, have a fantastic time! Training for FameLab Galway entrants will take place in Galway on Wednesday, 29 January, with the Regional heat scheduled for Wednesday, 19 February in An Taibhdhearc. To register for the training, please complete the online registration form: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/famelab-galway-training-tickets-86493669895 by Monday, 27 January. To enter the FameLab Galway heat, please complete the online registration form: www.britishcouncil.ie/famelab/enter-competition/apply by Friday, 8 February or alternatively, submit an entry to FameLab Ireland by online video, visit: www.britishcouncil.ie/famelab for further details. The FameLab Galway regional heat is partnered with NUI Galway, GMIT, Marine Institute, MET, Insight, CÚRAM and Lero. For further information about FameLab Galway contact Dr Lisa Murphy at lisa.murphy@nuigalway.ie and Follow on twitter @FameLab_Gaway -Ends-

Monday, 13 January 2020

‘Schools Engagement with Archives through Learning’ NUI Galway’s Access Office is launching its 2020 ‘Breaking the SEAL (Schools Engagement with Archives through Learning)’ Programme on Thursday, 16January, at 9am in the Archbishop McHale College, Tuam, Co. Galway. This award winning programme, developed by Dr. Paul Flynn & Dr. Barry Houlihan, is an initiative of the University’s James Hardiman Library and the School of Education, in partnership with Access Centre at NUI Galway. The programme will be launched by Seán Canney, Minister of State Community Development, Natural Resources & Digital Development. The programme is designed to help Senior Cycle History students engage with the resources of the NUI Galway library and archives to complete their mandatory Research Study Report, while at the same time introducing them to key transitional skills such as: collaboration; critical analysis skills; independent thinking; academic writing; and digital skills. Dr Flynn further emphasizes that "History, as a second level subject, offers opportunities that other subjects don’t such as the development of crucial 21st Century skills such as collaboration, critical engagement, academic writing and experience presenting materials to a public audience. Breaking the SEAL offers a unique opportunity for Leaving Certificate History students to develop these skills and support teachers as they prepare students for the leaving certificate examination." It has been well documented that these are the very skills that new entrants to undergraduate programmes find the most challenging. Therefore, the programme aims are two-fold: provide students with an initial introduction to the aforementioned skills through onsite workshops and online support; and to support students as they begin, develop and complete their mandatory Research Study Report projects. Joseph Nyirenda, Attract Transition Succeed (ATS) Coordinator at NUI Galway said: “Breaking the SEAL is a project that has helped both history teachers and students in completing their Research Study Report project, while at the same time giving a changes to students to forge links with young historians across Europe. The project further builds relationships between young historians and local history societies via a new programme which involves mentoring. “ Breaking the SEAL is a project that is growing since its launch in 2015. Last year for example, 9 schools took part and for the 2019-2020 academic year, 19 schools have signed up. Apart from winners representing Ireland in the EUSTORY, Breaking the SEAL offers students the opportunity to opportunity to have their submitted abstracts being published and receive a certificate of participation. Participants will also receive mentoring support from external history experts and will meet with current NUI Galway students who will provide advice and what life entails while in college.” The project is further breaking grounds by linking local history associations with young historians who are developing their RSR project. Currently the Old Journal of Tuam Society will be working with students at Archbishop McHale College by providing mentorship through their process of RSR project. Breaking the SEAL holds the rights to the IrishNational History. Finals of this competition will be held at NUI Galway on 30 April, and the winners will be invited to engage with European young historians via the EUSTORY Competition. For the first time in its history the EUSTORY Competition will be held outside Germany with NUI Galway hosting the 2020 event. This event will take place in the month of October and details of the actual will be confirmed in the first quarter of 2020. For more information, contact Joseph Nyirenda at 086 852 8550 or joseph.nyirenda@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Friday, 10 January 2020

     Increase in the number of children reporting never having had an alcoholic drink      Majority of children who had alcohol sourced it from a parent or home      5% drop in the number of children trying smoking, but 22% of 12-17 year olds have tried e-cigarettes      Consumption of sweets and sugar-sweetened drinks each down by 6%      5% increase in children reporting being bullied (more likely in real-life than online)      Reduction in numbers of 15-17 year olds reporting ever having had sexual intercourse, but contraceptive use also down      Slight drop in life satisfaction and happiness; girls significantly less happy Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, and Minister for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD, have today launched the Health Behaviours in School-aged Children (HBSC) 2018 Study. The Irish part of this international study was carried out by NUI Galway’s Health Promotion Research Centre and led by Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn. The study shows many positive trends in health behaviours in children, as well highlighting some areas of concern. The study shows 64% of children reporting that they have never had an alcoholic drink, an increase of 6% since 2014. Of those children who reported ever having had alcohol, 54% received alcohol from a parent, guardian, sibling or reported taking alcohol from the family home, with a further 30% sourcing it from friends.   The study also shows that 11% of children aged 10 - 17 years old have tried smoking, a 5% drop from 16% in 2014, and 22% report trying e-cigarettes. Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to launch this valuable study. The health and wellbeing of our children is a key indicator of the health of the nation, and I am pleased to see many positive trends. In particular, the good news around smoking and alcohol use by children which both continue to decline. “However, the numbers of teenagers trying e-cigarettes and vaping products is a cause for concern and will be addressed by measures I will introduce in 2020, including new legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under the age of 18.” Minister Harris continued: “Given the damaging effect that alcohol can have on the growing brain, the reduction in children trying alcohol and children reporting having been drunk is welcome.  However, I am struck by the finding that by far the most common source of alcohol for children is within their family home. This is an issue that all of us, as parents and adults in the lives of young people, need to reflect on. We need to change our culture around alcohol in Ireland, if we are to reduce the corrosive effects alcohol has on so many young lives. “The figures on bullying and sexual health underscore the importance of the valuable work my Department and the HSE are doing with parents, schools and youth organisations to help young people develop the skills to build resilience, confidence and healthy relationships.” Presenting the results, Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, Principal Investigator of the HBSC Ireland research team at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to present this report to the Ministers, demonstrating continued improvement in some areas of child health and wellbeing, but also highlighting key areas where action is required at school, family and community levels.” She continued: “It is vital to respond decisively to the high rates of e-cigarette use and the stubborn bullying patterns illustrated in this our sixth national HBSC report.” Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, said: "I welcome the publication of the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) report and its contribution to our knowledge of the lives of children.  The HBSC is an important resource and presents key indicators on important aspects of children’s lives, including outcomes on health and social and emotional well-being; their relationships with their parents and their friends. These data are widely used by my Department in both the State of the Nation's Children report and the Better Outcomes Brighter Futures indicators set." The study also contains information on physical activity and the consumption of sugary sweets and drinks. While 52% of children report exercising four or more times per week, 9% of 10-17 year olds report being physically inactive. Both figures are static since 2014 and are broadly in line with the findings of other studies. Consumption of sweets and soft drinks is down significantly; 21% of children report eating sweets once or more per day, while 7% report consumption of soft drinks. These figures are down from 27% and 13% respectively in 2014. Minister Catherine Byrne said: “I welcome the findings of the HBSC study we are launching today, in particular, the drop in the number of children eating sweets and drinking soft drinks. This shows that the good work being done by many groups, including schools, in promoting healthy eating habits is having an impact.  I also welcome the small drop in numbers of children reporting they go to bed or school hungry, but this is a figure that we need to see at zero. The number of children taking part in sufficient levels of physical activity is another cause for concern and still far too low. “The decrease in the numbers of children smoking, drinking alcohol and using cannabis between 2014 and 2018 is positive but there still remains much work for all of us to do to address the challenges facing our children and to support them to enjoy positive health and wellbeing.” The report concludes that 30% of children report being bullied in the past couple of months (up from 25% in 2014), while 16% report being cyberbullied. There is a 4% drop in life satisfaction and happiness to 43% from 47% in 2014. Girls are significantly less likely to report being happy than boys. 24% of 15-17 year-olds report every having had sexual intercourse, down from 27% in 2014. However, of those reporting having had intercourse, use of the birth control pill is down by 4% to 29% in 2018, while there is a 9% drop to 64% in those reporting use of condoms. Minister Byrne continued: “One concerning finding is the slight drop in overall feeling of happiness and life satisfaction which is mirrored in other recent surveys of our young people. I am struck by the fact that more bullying takes place in real life than online. This underscores for me the very important role that adults in schools and our communities play in promoting healthy and respectful environments for young people, and in supporting participation in activities that protect mental wellbeing such as sport, arts and culture.” HBSC is an international study carried out in 47 participating countries and regions in conjunction with the World Health Organization.  The study provides a valuable insight into the health behaviours of school children, monitoring trends in health behaviours such as smoking, vaping, alcohol use, physical activity, food and dietary behaviour, bullying and indicators of wellbeing such as happiness, mental health and life satisfaction. The HBSC study in Ireland is funded by the Department of Health. The survey of 15,500 children from 255 primary and post-primary schools.   ENDS