Posted: 25/09/20

Dublin, 25 September 2020: Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) announced today that out of the 41 projects that received Rapid Response funding, five ADAPT research proposals were among those successful in their applications. This new phase of funding is focused on projects that will address the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and explore some of the secondary effects it has had and could potentially have on society. 

ADAPT’s Director Vinny Wade commented on the announcement, saying “The academics and their research teams at ADAPT are proud to be able to offer their multidisciplinary expertise across a range of digital media technologies including AI, Robotics, NLP, sentiment analysis, linked data, and data analytics. These projects will help us to understand more about the virus, derive insights on the impact of the pandemic on mental health, and contribute to future public policy decisions.” 

Study on the Psychological and Social Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the spread of the disease continues to rise and further restrictions are being imposed, the acute and long-term effects of the pandemic on our collective mental health remain unknown. This study, headed up by ADAPT Researcher Dr Hossein Javidnia, employs a survey designed by psychologists to over 6,000 adults, aged 18-75, from across the country. The data from this survey will  be used  to train an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm to make predictions that will guide public health policy makers and healthcare professionals to prioritise strategies to address mental health in the communities. 

Feelings of anxiety and stress were commonplace before this crisis, however, the more unique effects the pandemic has had on mental health--feelings of social isolation, guilt, and fear of infection--make it difficult to predict the healthcare needs of the population in 6-12 months’ time. Statistics and AI models will analyse the survey data to identify the current and future risks on individuals’ mental health. 

Further, the findings of this study can be used to investigate the effects of the public policies to manage the pandemic on mental health. The research has the potential to be used to enable a set of strategic guidelines to promote psychological crisis intervention. Local authorities can outline the risk factors to help identify citizens with lower mental well-being by analysing the current and future protective and coping strategies used by others to deal with the crisis. This can help with creating an overall rapid response platform regarding mental health outreach in the case of future pandemics.  The survey can be accessed HERE.

Attitudes towards privacy in the times of COVID-19 

As nearly 2 million people have downloaded the HSE contact tracing app to date, questions regarding data privacy prevail. The ADAPT Centre and Lero, the SFI Irish Software Research Centre at DCU, have jointly been awarded over €70,000 in funding to study the Irish Public’s attitudes towards privacy, especially focusing on contact tracing apps, during the COVID-19 time.

The team is employing statistical methods on data collected through social media sentiment analysis and through surveys. The study will analyse the public’s willingness to share personal data, assess the potential efficacy of the contact tracing measures, and will aim to provide specific recommendations to public and private stakeholders. 

Rapid Cues for Research: COVID-19 Exploratory Search System Using Taxonomies

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are learning more and more about the virus that causes it – how it spreads, the kinds of symptoms it causes and how to treat it. This focus of research on the virus has led to a wealth of findings – so much so that it can be challenging for researchers to navigate their way through them.

A team at the ADAPT SFI Research Centre will build a system to help researchers in the life sciences and healthcare to explore new information and concepts about COVID-19. The system will use computer programmes to examine published studies and identify concepts that are relevant to COVID-19. Researchers will be able to explore and use the findings through a visual online interface.

Dr Muhammad Atif Qureshi, Lecturer at the Technological University of Dublin and a researcher with ADAPT says, “The human-centric search system we are developing is an attempt analogous to a telescope to rapidly discover concepts related to COVID-19 and speed up the process of finding the needle in the haystack of the knowledge pool.”

Researchers at ADAPT will develop an online system to automatically detect concepts relating to COVID-19 in published studies and data and enable users to explore those concepts easily. By making new information about COVID-19 concepts more discoverable, the research will facilitate new insights about the pandemic and how to tackle it.

COVID-19: Citizens Get Their Say

The pandemic is having a profound and lasting impact on the citizens of Ireland. We are calling on these same citizens to play a critical role in slowing down the spread of the virus. With this funding, SFI will support the creation of the COVID-19 Irish Citizens’ Online Forum. It will be a nationwide, large-scale debate between policymakers, government officials, experts, and citizens with the goal of identifying the next steps to be taken during the crisis and afterwards.

The Forum will be hosted by the ADAPT Centre and headed up by Dr Jane Suiter, by using an online platform called FUSE. This will allow for the open and transparent exchange of information and ideas, promoting a meaningful dialogue among participants. Further, the Forum will be held in partnership with RTÉ’s Science Week to increase public awareness and engagement on the issues.  

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted everyone in our society, however, there have not been many avenues for everyday citizens to present their thoughts and input on the issues they face. This Forum seeks to rectify that and provide a space where policymakers can listen to citizens directly.

Killing SAR-CoV-2 Virus with UV Robots

Disinfecting public areas, especially hospitals, in the time of COVID-19 is an especially time-consuming and error-prone process. We are not able to see the bacteria and viruses on the surfaces while wiping them down. Further, we have no method of countering viruses that are still aerosolised in the air through water droplets.

ADAPT Researcher Dr Conor McGinn and his team at Trinity College Dublin have developed promising robot technology that uses UV light to sterilise surfaces and help in the fight against COVID-19. This approach has effectively destroyed viruses both on surfaces and in the air, without using harmful chemicals in the process.

The research will continue to explore the applications of the technology and how best to deploy the robotic cleaners to work alongside humans. Exploring the ways in which hospitals, nursing homes and other places that need thorough sterilisation can effectively leverage this technology will enable administrators to make key decisions about deployment.

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