USI-IRC Why Research Matters Video Competition Winners Announced

Posted: 30 June, 2020

Congratulations to Emma Dunne (UCD), winner of the inaugural USI-IRC Why Research Matters Video Competition.

The level of engagement in this new initiative was outstanding, with over 80 entries by postgraduate researchers from across the island. Each entry was assessed on the clarity of research communication, effective audience engagement, and creativity of presentation. Due to the quality of the submissions, narrowing the field to a finalist pool was extremely difficult, and we decided to award two additional runner-up prizes: the winner of the research communication award is Andrew Power from GMIT, selected by the IRC, and the winner for creativity, chosen by Creative Ireland’s Sheila Deegan, is Maedhbh Nic Lochlainn from TCD. The overall winner, Emma Dunne, was selected by Jim Carroll of RTÉ Brainstorm.

Emma Dunne’s research project centers on the prevention of hypothermia in newborn preterm babies. In the womb, babies are cocooned in the warmth within the mother’s body. Upon birth, the baby must adjust to the external temperature and can often lose heat quite rapidly, particularly in the case of preterm babies who do not have the ability to generate their own heat and have very little insulating body fat. Abnormal temperature after birth (<36.5°C or >37.5°C) in newborn babies is associated with an increased risk of death and illness. A basic but important aspect of neonatal care is to monitor and help maintain babies’ normal body temperature immediately after birth. The overarching aim of Emma’s research is to identify specific time points after delivery where babies are at increased risk of heat loss. She and her colleagues will use this information to inform a randomized controlled trial in which they will evaluate the efficacy of a simple, cost-effective intervention for reducing the incidence of hypothermia. (Watch her video, on this page, to see what this is!). The hope is that the results of this research can be readily applied in all economic settings, with the aim of improving outcomes for infants born prematurely across the world.

Andrew Power’s research is on seabird eggs as a higher trophic level indicator of contaminants in Irish marine waters. He explains, “I test seabird eggs for the presence of a wide range of potentially toxic contaminants from three seabird species – Gannet, Guillemot and Common Tern – from both the east and west coasts of Ireland. This work is providing baseline data on the levels of contaminants in seabird eggs in Irish marine waters.” This baseline can then be compared to that of other countries, since all three species breed across the northern hemisphere. Andrew hopes that his research will help inform future plans to reduce the levels of identified contaminants present in the environment and act as a warning system on the build-up of new and emerging contaminants.

Maedhbh Nic Lochlainn’s research investigates how activists have used social media to contest housing and water issues in Ireland since the financial crisis. Maedhbh adopts a geographical approach to understand how activist use of social media works between and across digital technologies/platforms and material places. Using a combination of digital ethnography, maps, and participatory research interviews, she is contributing new understandings of activist practices and how these involve combining digital and material tactics in pursuit of transformative social change. Maedhbh points out that the importance of this question of the geographies of digital contention or protest has been highlighted during the ongoing pandemic, in which mass protest gatherings, alternative forms of digital dissent, and their potentials and limitations have captured popular attention. She observes, “We don’t understand enough about the practicalities and implications of these practices, but they matter for how we affect change and govern contemporary societies.”

The Irish Research Council and the Union of Students in Ireland congratulate Emma, Andrew, and Maedhbh on their exceptional videos and all entrants for their dedication to communicating Why Research Matters in Ireland and around the world today.

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