€4.9 million investment announced in research to address pressing societal issues
Posted: 15 September, 2022
Food waste, education policies for children with autism in Ireland, and the impact of wind turbine noise are among the topics of 21 research projects to receive a total investment of €4.9 million under the Collaborative Alliances for Societal Challenges (COALESCE) programme, the Irish Research Council has announced today (15.09.2022).
The awards are being made as part of the fourth cycle of COALESCE, which funds excellent research addressing national and European-global challenges across a number of strands.
The IRC funds a strand unique in the Irish research funding landscape in supporting interdisciplinary projects led by an AHSS (Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences) researcher working in collaboration with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) researcher to address national or global societal challenges.
The programme also includes a number of strands run in partnership with Government departments and agencies, including INSTAR+ awards, funded by the National Monuments Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in partnership with the Heritage Council; and Better World Awards, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and supporting collaboration between researchers in Ireland and one of Irish Aid’s partner countries.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Dr Louise Callinan, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “The aims of the COALESCE programme strongly align with the commitments in Impact 2030, Ireland’s Research and Innovation Strategy, to drive interdisciplinary research underpinned by research excellence to maximise the impact on the grand challenges we face. We are delighted that through our continued partnerships with different Government departments and agencies we are able to support collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects that respond to current priorities and policy needs.”
Solving Societal Challenges
Among the researchers awarded funding under the IRC’s own interdisciplinary strand this year are:
• Dr Anushree Priyadarshini (Technological University Dublin), whose project titled “FORWARD” will quantify food waste generated by Irish households and conduct simulation modelling to identify occupational and demographic clusters of food waste generation, and the generation of clusters of food waste in a particular location and period of time. Based on this new knowledge, the project will focus on developing a roadmap for converting household food waste into sustainable biobased products.
• Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shúilleabháin (University College Dublin) in the project ‘Is fearr DEIS chun chainnte – promoting productive Mathematical practices in underprivileged classrooms’ will address education inequality by tackling the issue of Mathematics education in underprivileged schools. After closely examining what works, the project will design and pilot a school-based intervention to improve students’ classroom experiences and mathematical achievement. The project will introduce a collaborative form of professional development for Mathematics teachers to schools, thereby demonstrating how changing the classroom environment to one which encourages communication, develops problem-solving skills, and motivates students’ thinking, can impact teachers’ knowledge and students’ achievements.
• Dr Helen Phelan’s (University of Limerick) interdisciplinary, participatory project titled “The arts, data literacy and diversity (ADD)” examines how the arts can be used to develop data literacy. This research will develop a project that shares songs and data, in partnership with communities from different cultural backgrounds and will combine the arts and statistics to explore the impact of musical sharing on how data is understood and interpreted. The project addresses the UN sustainable development goal of reducing inequality, as many people are excluded from the new world of data by language, poverty, lack of education, and discrimination.
• Dr Sinead McNally (Dublin City University), whose project titled “Autism-friendly schools: including the voices of autistic pupils in educational provision in Ireland” will look at the current policies in Ireland that ensure inclusion of children with disability in education. In collaboration with Ireland’s national charity for the autism community, AsIAm, it will explore the most effective methodologies from a range of disciplines, which can ensure that the voices of autistic pupils are fully included in the Irish educational system.
• Dr Denis O’Hora (University of Galway), in his project titled, ‘Wind Sense: Generating Wind Turbine Noise Annoyance Maps for Ireland’ will investigate the prevalence and annoyance impact of wind turbine noise features around Irish wind farms, as Ireland expands its development of onshore wind farms to meet its commitments under the Climate Action Plan. Wind turbine noise annoyance maps will be generated for the candidate wind farms and will pave the way for a national wind turbine noise annoyance map to inform turbine developers and policy makers.
The Department of Foreign Affairs ‘Better World’ strand of the COALESCE programme addresses research collaboration and capacity-building between Ireland and target global south countries. Awardees work in one of Irish Aid’s partner countries, and among the researchers awarded funding under this strand this year is Dr Leo Casey from National College of Ireland.
Dr Casey’s project, “What makes a good teacher? The challenge of enhancing teacher professional identity and capability in Cambodian schools” will address the question of teacher effectiveness in the context of early grade education in the Battambang region of Cambodia. The study will investigate how Cambodian teachers can be enabled to improve their teaching practices and engage in a path of professional development.
The National Monuments Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, in partnership with the Heritage Council fund the INSTAR+ strand. Awards under this strand provide opportunities to fully realise the potential of Ireland’s archaeological record, transforming our understanding of how Ireland’s society has evolved with particular emphasis on ensuring that the large amounts of archaeological work previously undertaken in the context of development-led excavations is translated into knowledge about Ireland’s past. Among the researchers awarded funding under this strand this year is Dr Tomás Ó Carragáin from University College Cork.
Dr Ó Carragáin’s project, “Digital Atlas of Early Irish Carved Stones” will map the c. 4000 examples of carved stones on the island, allowing scholars and the public alike to explore regional and chronological patterns as never before. In collaboration with local communities, the project team will use the atlas to inform and enable detailed studies of outstanding collections centred on Clonmacnoise, Armagh, and Iveragh and to make an enduring contribution to the study of carved stones thereby promoting the public appreciation and conservation of these fascinating monuments.
A full list of the successful projects can be found here.