Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Opportunities and Challenges in Interdisciplinary Research

Today I attended this excellent workshop arranged by EPSRC UBHAVE project team, bringing together a number of excellent computer scientists, engineers, medics, industry members, psychologists and HCI experts from across the world, discussing the challenges faced by interdisciplinary researchers, from convincing patients to carry around monitors, to setting the right interface/sampling rate/data collection strategy for devices and sensors. The interesting projects, range of smart phone apps, and the adoption of technology in form of peculiar mixes of software and hardware brought a mesmerising atmosphere. Number of challenges were highlighted:

  • difficulty in establishing what method and which collaborator is right
  • privacy issues and security of devices
  • economic and personal incentives to use technology
  • large delay between research grant cycle and industrial advancements
  • Lower academic rewards (promotion/etc) for interdisciplinary research
  • understanding each other!
I worked 2 years on the Huntington Disease project, and indeed, communication between biologists, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists is a SERIOUSLY challenging issues, however it is just as vital to go through, as otherwise we face the classic problems that us (i.e., engineers and computer scientists) are constantly facing: designing systems by geeks, approved in conferences by geeks, adopted by geeks, and often failing to make it to mass markets, on the other extreme, our technology offers scale, speed and accuracy, and more importantly, ability to monitor in situ, capturing the contextual data, relieving the sociologist and biologist from privacy-intrusive and cumbersome ethnography, monitoring, lab experiments and interviews.

Rather than poisoning your fresh brains with my rants, I'll let you have a look at the program yourself and click on the links ! :)

Conference Programme

Morning Session: “Making Multidisciplinary Research Work”

10.30 – 10.40am         Welcome and Introduction
                                    Professor Lucy Yardley, University of Southampton, UK
                                    Professor Susan Michie, University College London, UK

10.40 – 11.20am         “Engaging the Users in Multidisciplinary Projects: How to find them, what to do with them, and where to go next”          
                                    Professor Torben Elgaard Jensen, Technical University of Denmark

11.20 – 12.00pm         “Multilevel and Reciprocal Behaviour Change: The Role of Mobile and Social Technologies”
                                    Professor Kevin Patrick, University of California, San Diego, USA

12.00 – 12.50pm         Panel Discussion led by:
                                    Dr Niels Rosenquist, Massachusetts General Hospital

12.50 – 1.40pm           Buffet Lunch(First floor, South Corridor Foyer)

Afternoon Session 1: “The Potential of Digital Technology for Assessing and Changing Behaviour”
(Small Meeting House)

1.40 – 2.20pm             “Behavioural Intervention Technologies for Depression”
                                    Professor David Mohr, Northwestern University, USA

2.20 – 3.00pm             “My Smartphone told me I’m Stressed”   
                                    Professor Andrew Campbell, Dartmouth College, USA

3.00 – 3.40pm             “UBhave: Addressing the question of how best to use phones to measure and change behaviour”
                                    Professor Lucy Yardley, University of Southampton, UK
                                    Dr Cecilia Mascolo, University of Cambridge, UK

3.40 – 4.10pm             Coffee(First floor, South Corridor Foyer)

4.10 – 5.00pm             Panel Discussion led by:
                                    Professor Susan Michie, University College London, UK
5.00 – 5.30pm             Close

Afternoon Session 2: “Challenges of User Led Innovation for Energy Technologies”
(First floor, Room 2)

1.30 – 5.30pm             Led by Dr Alastair Buckley, University of Sheffield, UK

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