€4.9 million investment announced in research to address pressing societal issue

19 Sep, 2022

TU Dublin lecturer Dr Anushree Priyadarshini is leading FORWARD, a project that will quantify the food waste generated by Irish households, that has received funding under the Irish Research Council’s Collaborative Alliances for Societal Challenges (COALESCE) programme.

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. 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, TU Dublin Faculty of Business

Food waste burdens waste management systems and worsens food insecurity and is a major contributor to the crises of climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 690 million people were hungry in 2019, with this number is expected to rise sharply during and post-COVID-19, while a staggering 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet on a day-to-day basis. Yet, the sheer scale of the food waste challenge has not been fully qualified or quantified, and thus, cannot be appropriately understood or confronted. FORWARD focuses on the ‘National Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy’ to support a ‘Zero Waste’ approach by facilitating an integrated reduce, reuse, recycle approach.

It will quantify food waste generated by Irish households and identify food waste clusters as a critical first step to supporting effective prevention and reduction strategies. Additionally, for turning waste to value it will develop a roadmap for bioconversion of household food waste into high value-added products using a circular bio-economy approach. Finally, conducting the sustainability assessment of the generated food waste and its conversion into value added product(s) it will develop an Environmental-Economic (EN-EC) Footprint Index and a Project Development Assistance (PDA) Tool. FORWARD will provide improved evidence based policy alongside reduced waste creation via accurate estimation of GHG emissions, water and land use, together with individual- and household-scale economic losses per kg of food waste generated. In parallel with demonstrating the feasibility of household food waste as a sustainable feedstock and source of sustainable revenue by creating new business opportunities through household food waste recovery and valorisation.

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.

Read more about the announcement here.