16 May 2022

Prominent NPHET member delivers keynote address to kick-start UL Research Week

Prominent NPHET member delivers keynote address to kick-start UL  Research Week

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey chatting with Professor Philip Nolan, SFI director general at the start of UL Research Week | PICTURES: Alan Place

THE Covid-19 pandemic has ‘clearly demonstrated’ the value of public investment in research, the director general of Science Foundation Ireland has said.

Professor Philip Nolan, who was a key member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) for more than two years, made his comments while speaking at the beginning of University of Limerick's Research Week.

The SFI Director General delivered the keynote address at the ‘Learning from the Pandemic - the Power of Data in Public Health’, event.

He was joined by panelists Dr Catherine Motherway, Head of the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Limerick; Professor Cathal Walsh, Chair in Statistics at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UL; Professor Aedin Culhane, Professor of Biomedical Sciences (Cancer Genomics) at the UL School of Medicine and Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, who officially launched UL Research Week 2022 prior to the talk, moderated the event, which was organised by the Health Research Institute (HRI) at UL.

“The pandemic clearly demonstrates the value of public investment in fundamental research across a wide range of disciplines,” Professor Nolan stated.

“At the onset of the pandemic, when asked to build a team to monitor and model the development of the outbreak in Ireland, we were able to draw on the expertise of applied mathematicians, computer scientists, geospatial scientists, statisticians, epidemiologists and public health specialists to create the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group (IEMAG). A much wider body of expertise in virology, immunology, infectious disease, psychology and behavioural science was available to NPHET and Government. We should remember that this breadth and depth of expertise was available only because of decades of public investment in our higher education and research system.”

Professor Nolan, who also visited the CONFIRM research centre during while in Limerick, emphasised the importance of increasing the level of investment in research across the full range of disciplines, and of sponsoring interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.

He placed special emphasis on engaged research, research conducted in partnership with those it is intended to serve.

“It is only by coming together in partnership, across disciplines, and working in partnership with communities, practitioners, enterprises and civil society, can we hope to address really challenging problems like public health or climate change,” Professor Nolan said.

In welcoming Professor Nolan to UL, Professor Mey warmly paid tribute to the “calm and well-founded advice” he had given to the University in helping to develop models to get students and staff back to learning during the pandemic.

UL professors James Gleeson and Cathal Walsh, in particular, were hailed by Professor Nolan for their work on the IEMAG during the fight against Covid-19, with the SFI Director General saying the pair were “absolute pillars” of the modelling group.

UL Research Week 2022, which continues until Friday, showcases work taking place at the University and looks closely at ongoing efforts to address global challenges ranging from global health to geopolitics, biodiversity and sustainability, to the future of work.

Professor Norelee Kennedy, Vice President Research at UL, said: “The focus for 2022 is to highlight the many ways in which UL continues to discover new knowledge for a better world thus supporting the sustainable development goals with excellence and impact.”

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