Are you curious about the type of research conducted by faculty, postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students in our School?
Here we invite our faculty and postdoctoral researchers to tell us how they got to where they are now, what excites them about their field of research and what their current projects are on while we ask our recent PhD graduates to tell us how it feels to have submitted, their greatest challenges and their plans for the future.
INTERVIEW with Social Justice PhD graduate Tara McGuinness
Tara McGuinness completed her doctoral research on the topic of white migration and privilege in São Paulo, Brazil in 2021. She was awarded an IRC Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship during the course of her PhD and was supervised by Emeritus Assoc. Prof. Ursula Barry.
How did you feel when you submitted your thesis?
When I submitted, I felt a huge sense of relief. I had been working on my doctoral thesis for several years so when I submitted, I had a sense of completion and pride.
What was the greatest challenge you overcame to submit?
The greatest challenge I overcame to submit was writing up during the pandemic. At times, I found it very difficult to motivate myself to keep writing.
How did you celebrate your graduation?
I will graduate in December, however, when I submitted, I celebrated with my family with cake!
What are you are your plans for the future?
I am working on a post-doc application and planning to continue to carry out research in the field of migration, critical race theory and gender.
Thanks Tara! How can readers learn more about you and get in touch?
My email: email@example.com
My Researchgate profile is: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tara-Mcguinness
INTERVIEW with Assoc. Prof. Naonori Kodate by Fondation France-Japon de l’EHESS
Naonori Kodate is Associate Professor in Social Policy and Social Robotics at University College Dublin
and founding Director of UCD Centre for Japanese Studies. His research covers comparative public policy,
science, technology and society, patient safety and gender equality in STEM. He is the Principal Investigator of a Toyota Foundation-funded international research project “Harmonisation
towards the establishment of Personcentred, Robotics-aided Care System (HARP: RoCS)”, and on the Board of Directors for the Future Technologies for Integrated Care Research Network, Japan.
First of all, as a FFJ associate researcher, member of the Cercle de la FFJ and two FFJ projects, Capitalisms, Technologies, Society and Health (CTSH) and Care-led Innovation, we would like to thank you for agreeing to give us this interview. We would also like to congratulate you on the publication of your
latest book chapter “The Role of Incident- Reporting Systems in Improving Patient Safety in Japanese Hospitals: A Comparative Perspective” and the publication of the book Shin Sekai no Shakai Fukushi. Vol. 1 (Japanese Handbook on Social Welfare in UK & Ireland). Your latest book, published in 2019, is
currently only available in Japanese. Could you give a brief overview of the main points of this book and, as you are based in Ireland, maybe could you tell us in which way Irish social welfare policies could
inspire Japanese policies in your opinion?
Thank you very much. It has been great to be a member of the FFJ team, and I am very happy to take
part in this interview. The edited book ‘Shin Sekai no Shakai Fukushi’ (New Global Social Welfare, in English, published by Junpōsha Ltd.) is a handbook, covering a wide range of social welfare policies across the world, and the original Handbook Series were published back in the 1990s. They have been widely read and referenced, and the main editors were all highly respected, eminent and pioneering academics in the research of social policy and social work (for example, the late Prof. Emeritus Yuichi Nakamura, and the late Prof. Emerita Yasuko Ichibangase) in Japan. So I was really over the moon when a team of new editors approached me. As a result, Ireland was included for the first time! I invited a few of my UCD colleagues, who specialize in housing policy, Northern Irish conflicts and their impact on mental health policy, as well as health and social care policies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to contribute.
As you know, Ireland is an old ‘nation’, but a relatively young ‘state’, born just 100 years ago. Taking just one example, universal access to primary healthcare has not yet been achieved (according to the WHO definition of universal access). In response, in 2017, the government proposed a ten-year programme to transform the system called Sláintecare, and there are great expectations for this reform, which could potentially integrate medical and social care, making full use of digital technologies. Historically, Ireland has relied on the non-governmental sector, i.e., community organizations and charity bodies, for providing care and services, and we can find excellent community-based initiatives and strong advocacy groups. In my area of research, the Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme is a good example of blending strong government commitment and local citizens’ active involvement. Although it is always a double-edged sword, when it comes to public policy based on self-help and mutual aid, which have been promoted in Japan in the last few decades, Ireland can provide us with a lot of unique insights and invaluable case studies.
Last May, you co-organized a film screening followed by a Q&A discussion for the documentary film Circuits of Care: Ageing in Japan’s Robot Revolution, with its director David Prendergast (Professor of Science, Technology & Society at the Department of Anthropology of Maynooth University, Ireland), who met researchers developing and testing assistive technologies for older adults. What do you remember from the discussions following the film screening? What would you say to our readers to encourage them to watch this movie?
The webinar co-organized by three organizations (FFJ, UCD Centre for Japanese Studies and Maynooth University’s Visual Ethnography Lab) welcomed more than 100 people, and it indeed generated a lot of discussion, covering themes such as potential ethical issues as well as possible benefits associated with the use of care robots (e.g., improved quality of life for older people and care professionals). The film Circuits of Care, which I produced and Prof. Prendergast directed, was shot in Tokyo in the autumn of 2019. The documentary presents a variety of robots, ranging from cybernetic walking supports to companion robots and automated sensor networks in nursing homes. Older adults and care professionals share their experiences of the practical benefits these technologies bring, the problems they create, and the unexpected relationships that can grow. We recorded additional material in the middle of the pandemic, so the film also sheds light on how assistive technologies were used during this period in order to continue providing care for older people despite all the challenges.
Throughout the springtime this year, we have engaged in public discussions about the film, which were targeted at a variety of local and international audiences. To name a few, the Service Design Network and the Response=Ability Summit 2021. The film has been nominated for awards at several film festivals, and won the Best Documentary Award at Long Story Shorts International Film Festival. It was great working with David and the team, but now, with these awards and nominations, I can tell you how rewarding it has been to receive these great reactions and feedback. Once the film is made available to a wider audience, I would very much like many people to watch and share their views, as the use of technologies in care settings will continue to bring us benefits as well as challenges.
As we can observe from this event, your participation in the CTSH project and the Toyota Foundation-funded international research project “Harmonisation towards the establishment of Person-centred, Robotics aided Care System (HARP: RoCS)”, for which you are the Principal Investigator, the use of care robots has an important place in your current research. Could you tell us more about your current and future projects on this topic?
The HARP: RoCS project uses a multidisciplinary lens, involving frontline care professionals and academics from various disciplines such as nursing, social work, medical engineering, sociology and psychology. The project has two phases: in the first phase, we looked into social care policies and cultural aspects related to the use of robotics in older people’s care in Ireland, Japan, Hong Kong SAR, China and France. In the second phase, we will introduce socially assistive robots in nursing homes in Ireland and Japan and see how they affect care practices at the organizational (care delivery) level.
In parallel, we have been conducting several projects related to assistive technologies in nursing homes in western Tokyo. The nursing homes have a great director and geriatrician, and when they, their professional team and I got together, we decided to form a research team, combining the perspectives of safety science and organizational theory. We first reviewed care processes, tried to find risks and needs, and as a result, identified ‘slips, trips and falls’ among older residents, particularly during nightshifts, as the priority area.
We originally thought this is where care robots and monitoring devices could be useful. Since the initial adoption of care robots in 2016, we have continued working on various projects and publishing papers. The latest article, out in August, reports the assessment of our original soft plush-type robot, which I named Monchan. Another paper will be published in a forthcoming book, ‘Systems Thinking for Global Health’ (Oxford University Press), which I co-edited. In both papers, I believe the key element was how assistive technologies are adopted by care professionals at the organizational level. Just like my research on the use of incident reporting systems for patient safety, future projects
will continue to be underpinned by the lens of safety science and organizational theory, and aim to propose how public policy can support safety and care quality.
Additionally, in 2018, we founded the Future Technologies for Integrated Care Research Network, Japan, and we will continue to bring together care providers, technology users, developers and policymakers in order to think about the use of technologies for better integrated care in Japan and beyond.
The use of care robots seems to be a good solution to overcome the lack of qualified employees in the care sector. What could be the benefits for patients who are not used to interacting with robots or modern technologies? If you are already able to discuss some patients in different countries, what is their opinion on the use of eHealth and care robots?
As we are all aware, COVID-19 has changed our lives dramatically, in particular, the lives of older people and their carers. Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the whole pandemic. There were areas of care delivery that were saved by the use of technologies (e.g., remote sensing, telemedicine).
That said, having studied and spoken to many care providers and older people, I know the idea of introducing care robots to replace human carers should be a last resort, and ideally will not happen at all. eHealth and care robots should be used only to enhance the quality of care. At the same time, the workplace environment in long-term care is very tough and the reality is that the retention of highly-experienced and excellent care professionals is already challenging. This applies to every advanced economy including France, I believe.
“eHealth and care robots should
be used only to enhance the
quality of care.”
So, we need to somehow find practical solutions so that older people can be cared for based on their needs, while keeping their ability to take care of themselves and remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible. We also know that a care system needs to adapt over time to support aging in place. When we reimagine our care system, robotics or technology-aided care will inevitably become part of the reconfigured system.
Just focusing on care robots for now, there are different types of robots (e.g., physically assistive, socially assistive and support for independent living), and it would be important first to know users’ needs, then think about how to maximize the benefits for older people and carers in their specific physical and social environment. If the main user is not used to interacting with robots or modern technologies, as you say, then there will be other ways of getting technological support.
“When we reimagine our care
system, robotics or technologyaided
care will inevitably become
part of the reconfigured system.”
There are still a lot of other barriers, such as infrastructure, cost and even robot functionalities, but these are evolving features in a broader eHealth landscape. From the public policy perspective, the important thing is to watch out for the risks of widening inequalities in society (access to care, technologies and human contact). As the successes and failures of implementing electronic health records from various jurisdictions demonstrate, public trust in the government, its public policy, care professionals and providers matter greatly in all of this. I am sure that both of the FFJ projects (Care-led Innovation and CTSH) will deal with these aspects, and I am delighted to participate in these new projects.
Focusing on the present, do you think that these technologies could be more widely used in the world as a solution for people who stopped going to the doctor during quarantines even if they were sick or those who are facing extreme social isolation, for example?
This is the million-dollar question! As I mentioned before, the use of telecare and telemedicine has become much more accepted and more widely used during the pandemic. Since it is well established now that people prefer staying in their private homes and communities as long as they can maintain their independent living, there will be a strong policy drive in order to realize what you have described. There are benefits in having such a system, but there certainly will be drawbacks as well, if more use of technologies means less human interactions. For instance, as you mention, will interactions with communication robots heal extreme social isolation? What about the impact of using robots on newly trained care professionals? Will care professionals lose their human touch and be robbed of developing their crucial skills and expertise? How about the use of technologies in the global south where healthcare systems are lacking in infrastructure and resources?
More evidence needs to be gathered concerning the use of technologies in care settings locally and globally, and we need to assess its effectiveness. There is now a greater need for international and cross-disciplinary research collaboration, using a common framework based on systems thinking.
“There are benefits in having such a system,
but there certainly will be drawbacks as well, if
more use of technologies means less human
The Fondation France-Japon de l’EHESS warmly thanks Naonori Kodate for accepting to answer this interview.
Fondation France-Japon de l’EHESS
Campus Condorcet | 2, cours des Humanités 93300 Aubervilliers - firstname.lastname@example.org - ffj.ehess.fr
Copyright © 2021 Fondation France-Japon de l’EHESS, all rights reserved.
► Naonori Kodate’s profile page on FFJ website Access: http://ffj.ehess.fr/naonori_kodate.html
► Naonori Kodate’s profile page on UCD website Access: https://people.ucd.ie/naonori.kodate
► Awarded Movie Circuits of care has been nominated for awards at several film festivals, and won the Best Documentary Award at Long Story Shorts International Film Festival. Further information about the movie:
► Latest article
Obayashi, K., Kodate, N. & Masuyama, S. Assessing the Impact of an Original Soft Communicative
Robot in a Nursing Home in Japan: Will Softness or Conversations Bring more Smiles to Older
People?. Int J of Soc Robotics (2021).
► Latest report
In:「 高齢者を支える技術と社会的課題 科学技術に関する調査プロジェクト報告書」、国立国会図書館 調査
及び立法考査局; 2021年3月；pp65-80. National Diet Library, Japan.
► Forthcoming book
Larkan F, Vallières F, Mannan H, Kodate N (Eds.) Systems Thinking for Global Health. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2022.
INTERVIEW with Dr Hayley James, Postdoctoral Reseach Fellow
Could you describe the project you are working on?
DEEPEN is a NORFACE-funded research project (2020-2023), that explores the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes in Europe. We investigate how governments, regulators and labour market actors govern funded pensions and whether participants are satisfied with pension fund performance in six European countries: Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Spain. The focus on the governance of pensions, and the extent to which this is democratic, is a very unique angle to this project and I hope our research will be relay impactful in highlighting the ways in which pensions can be democratic, in terms of meeting the needs and expectations of members.
What aspects of the project are you working on at present?
I am responsible for undertaking research across the different work packages for Ireland, which includes examining the regulatory framework in Ireland and conducting case studies of pension schemes in Ireland. We are just kicking off our qualitative interviews for the case studies, which is my favourite part! I work closely with other team members based in three other countries who look after the other country work packages.
What do you find most interesting and exciting about your work as a postdoctoral fellow?
I am really happy to be part of a collaborative project with teams in different countries. I’d worked on smaller projects before, with one or two others, but the scale of DEEPEN is really interesting as it brings more perspectives to the table. I also am really enjoying learning more about pensions policy across different countries. There’s a lot of diversity and complexity in policy, and I enjoy thinking about how different policy elements play out in terms of outcomes. My background is in anthropology and sociology, so this is quite new to me!
How did you get to the position you are in now?
I did a MA in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and then completed a PhD in Sociology at the University of Manchester. My thesis examined workplace pension saving decisions in the UK, highlighting the socio-cultural factors which shape how we think about and ultimately do pension saving. Lots of people in the UK don’t really know how pensions work, and so they interpret what a pension is through socially and culturally understandings that they already use in their everyday lives. This has pitfalls, not least because many people don’t or can’t engage with the importance of pension saving, but also because even the people who are saving as they are expected to, might have very different expectations about what will happen in later life. My conclusion was that workplace pension policy needs to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and recognise the different ways in which people want to engage with pension saving. And this increased in my interest in pension policy, eventually leading me to DEEPEN!
What are the main lessons you learned from doing your PhD research?
I think one major lesson was how multi-faceted research is across different disciplines and different methods, which I didn’t really understand before. I now really value inter-disciplinary work, as it challenges you to articulate your own perspective and understand the perspective of others in order to fully examine the phenomena you are studying.
Another lesson was about ageing, an aspect of our experience that we often dismiss. I developed an interest in lifecourse and ageing, and I considered how people envisage their own later lives in my research. It is just so hard for most people to comprehend our own ageing given the intensely negative cultural associations, never mind being able to take this into account in your financial planning! I taught a module on the sociology of ageing and loved introducing the topic to students.
Any advice for your younger self?
Well after my undergraduate degree I went into the corporate world and stuck out seven years as a consultant. I was always interested in doing something that involved analytical and problem-solving skills, but I sort of fell into this career as it’s what many of my peers were doing. But, I became disillusioned with the focus on profit and financial value in assessing the impact of projects, and eventually I decided to do an MA in Social Anthropology to explore different ways of thinking about finance and value, this led me to research. So my advice would be, don’t follow the crowd and go your own way!
What are your career plans for the future?
It’s a difficult question because the job market in academia and for post-docs in particular is so unpredictable. I would like to keep doing research in one form or another, as that’s what really drives me, and I would love to apply for a fellowship to continue my research agenda after the DEEPEN project. I feel fortunate that there seems to be lots of support available for post-docs at UCD, so I hope to benefit from that to shape my future career path.
Thanks Hayley ! How can readers learn more about you and get in touch?
UCD Profile: https://people.ucd.ie/hayley.james