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Researcher Spotlight: Associate Professor Mary Codd


 UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

UCD Centre for Support and Training in Analysis and Research

"I think that if research is to continue to push boundaries, which it does need to, researcher support is essential."
Associate Professor Mary Codd, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

Associate Professor Mary Codd is the Director of the Centre for Support and Training in Analysis in Research (CSTAR). She has an area of interest around research quality and value of research output. 

CSTAR is the Centre for Support and Training in Analysis and Research in UCD. It specialises in the biostatistical and methodological areas of health research, both quantitative and qualitative.

CSTAR engage with helping researchers with data recording, data collection, data management and statistical analysis. They aim to build capacity and empower researchers, individuals and groups to do this type of work themselves.

CSTAR have built a solid reputation amongst the Irish health research community.

“A great asset to the health research community in Ireland.”
Professor Ian Graham, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, TCD and Consultant Cardiologist, Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital (AMNCH)

"What a great idea and much needed."
Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe MD, FRCPI, MRCOG, DCH
Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, UCD School of Medicine

Before the establishment of CSTAR, this type of researcher support service was very much conducted on an ad-hoc basis within the university. With CSTAR the university now has a structured organized entity.

Associate Professor Codd comments:

"Funding agencies are increasingly looking for applications from individuals who have already engaged with preparing their research proposals to a rigorous standard."

CSTAR receive a broad spectrum of researchers, mainly from the basic, clinical and molecular sciences and the animal and veterinary sciences. Additionally, CSTAR has individuals from architecture, engineering and social sciences seeking advice. 

They advise MRes, MSc and PhD students, research groups, grant applicants and private, industry and pharmaceutical sector researchers. They also consult for UCD AREC (Animal Research Ethics Committee).  

CSTAR is a UCD Academic Council approved academic centre. They do a three - day course twice per year which is CPD approved by the RCPI and RCSI and also do bespoke courses which are highly in demand.

Increasingly the public have to be concerned about research quality and output value. 

Funding agencies such as the Health Research Board, Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Research Council and international funding bodies are increasingly looking for applications from individuals who have already engaged in a multidisciplinary way. 

This is engagement both with the population survey procedures and the analytical procedures. Prof Codd notes;

"Some funding bodies now have in their recommendations - have you looked at and consulted research infrastructure e.g. CSTAR? This means people with research grants may potentially have an allocate of funding for a research consultation."

CSTAR are also an approved training site for the Faculty of Public Health Medicine and the Specialist Registrars in Public Health Medicine under the title of CSTAR Fellow. Individuals can intern at CSTAR for 6 months as part of their training.

This also means CSTAR is strongly linked to the College of Physicians and the Faculty of Public Health Medicine. The crux is that CSTAR are empowering people to take control of their data and enhance their skill set going forward.

"The statistician who supposes that his main contribution to the planning of an experiment will involve statistical theory, finds repeatedly that he makes his most valuable contribution simply by persuading the investigator to explain why he wishes to experiment"
Gertrude Cox (1900 – 1978).

Associate Professor Codd is also involved in research around Public Health. A major research project she is involved with is an in-depth analysis of the Healthy Ireland (HI) population surveys which began in 2015. Previously, there had been a very long gap in population surveys between 2007 and 2015. 

Associate Professor Codd and colleagues examined the relationships and usage of healthcare facilities with disease risk factors, disease protective factors and likelihood of chronic conditions. They then used a rigorous type of statistical modelling to examine the relationships between demographic factors and socioeconomic position.  

Their research found differences in outcomes due to age, in some cases gender, urban versus rural locations, educational level and socioeconomic position. The second part of the work combined survey data obtained from 1998 into one large data set, looking at physical activity and health trends over time. 

Physical activity, positive mental health and social participation are important protective factors for good outcomes for disease prevention. There has been some improvement over time, but there is a very long way to go. 

Associate Professor Codd also examined public health policies, programmes and legislation concerning those patterns over time.

Essentially, the team have demonstrated that age has an important impact on health but the socioeconomic position is the major determinant.  It is also clear that smoking, excess alcohol intake and lack of physical activity certainly harm health. 

They did not find an exact cause and effect relationship between current health policies and smoking, alcohol, exercise or obesity but attempted to infer that those policies had some positive impact to date.

"The physical activity story is a really important one. The impact of lack of exercise on long-term medical conditions, including mental health is very striking. Even when the researchers examined this data across the population and not just in certain groups of people."
Associate Professor Mary Codd, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

The team also found encouraging changes in smoking reduction and increases in physical activity, although in certain subgroups they were not happening. Associate Professor Codd strongly recommends that "more women need to get out there and do more exercise!"

Associate Professor Codd thinks that the Healthy Ireland analysis findings should lead on to the development of engagement with physical activity as a treatment or preventative measure for a variety of conditions in the realms around both physical and mental health. Although there are already guidelines in place but the key message is that more people need to get more active.

This research also has the potential for international comparisons. Associate Professor Codd is shortly submitting the final report to the Health Service Executive and the team are hoping to be publishing the paper over the next six months.

This research has lead Associate Professor Codd to consider the validity and reliability of data collection instruments and the development of data collection instruments for future research. 

About the researcher

Associate Professor Mary Codd is the director of the Centre for Support and Training in Analysis in Research (CSTAR). 

Associate Professor Codd also has another role as the Director of the Masters in Public Health (MPH) programme. The modules she teaches are Applied Research Methods and Data Management, Biostatistics 1 and Fundamentals of Epidemiology.

Associate Professor Codd has also developed a Graduate Teaching Assistant Module for Masters of Public Health students. CSTAR students gain a great deal of experience in the health sector. Some come from different sectors such as the commercial sector and enjoy understanding the health sector and the importance of data analytics.

Associate Professor Codd has additionally developed a knowledge transfer for research workshop. She had the opportunity to develop this within the context of Universitas 21 last year as part of a teaching excellence award and has taught this globally. She is also involved with the Research Supervisors Support and Development in the UCD graduate school. 

Associated References

(opens in a new window)Masters in Public Health Programme 

UCD Centre for Analysis in Training and Research: (opens in a new window)CSTAR

Resources: (opens in a new window)CSTAR Resources

Mary Codd Profile: (opens in a new window)About Mary Codd

Healthy Ireland: (opens in a new window)Healthy Ireland

UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

University College Dublin Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 7777 | E: public.health@ucd.ie