EPSRC - NIHR HTC Partnership Award: Social Computing And Mental Health Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Lincoln
Department Name: School of Computer Science

Abstract

The current extent of ill mental health is estimated to cost the UK economy £105 billion per year in healthcare expenditure and lost revenue. Addressing mental health is therefore a clearly articulated priority for government. The broad use of ICT services, social media and smartphone applications has an increasingly important role to play in the delivery of clinical mental health services and in supporting societal mental health and wellbeing more generally. Indeed, for large sections of the population, and younger people in particular, the use of Social Computing technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is already informally entwined with every facet of everyday life including health and wellbeing. The expectation by the healthcare community, and by commercial software developers, therefore is that digital mobile and social technology can provide compelling, scalable and convenient access to information, social and peer support, as well as therapy and shared self-monitoring tools and services. However, there are a numerous difficult challenges associated with the design, deployment, use and evaluation of such technology in mental health settings which must be solved using multidisciplinary, rigorous and scientific methods. The research field of Social Computing broadly focusses on the user-centred design, implementation, use, and evaluation of technologies that consider social context in an increasingly digitally-connected society. The UK's Social Computing research community therefore has a wealth of experience and expertise that is relevant to, but not typically directed at, mental health services and systems. This network will address issues of support, coordination and collaboration in this context and bring together two communities: (i) engineering and physical sciences (EPS) researchers under the broad, and inclusive, banner of Social Computing covering sub-fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), ubiquitous and mobile computing, and web scienc (ii) clinical scientists, healthcare professionals, commercial partners, charities, user groups and patients who are concerned with mental health and wellbeing. The network will work closely with the NIHR MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) centre to engage in a range of coordinated scientific, technological, management and clinical activities to realise its overarching aim of pump-priming future UK capacity to deliver internationally-leading research at the boundaries between social computing and mental healthcare.

Planned Impact

Mental ill health leads to considerable personal, societal and economic costs, and is an urgent healthcare priority. The UK government's "No health without mental health" strategy document clearly sets out a digital agenda for mainstream, state-funded, mental healthcare, whilst the NHS strategic health authorities have recently funded a mapping exercise to gather requirements in this area. Despite this activity, very little UK ICT research is currently conducted, nor supported by EPSRC, that directly addresses issues of mental health and wellbeing. This gap in UK research activity is problematic; there is serious risk that the UK's EPS research base, and the expertise of its individual researchers, will be under-utilised in the design, development and evaluation of e-Mental Health services going forward. The core rationale for this proposed network is that the UK EPS research community has, in fact, a wealth of experience and expertise that is immediately relevant to, but not currently directed at, the need for the rigorous cross-disciplinary design, development and evaluation of e-Mental Health services and systems. The primary impact of the Network therefore is encompassed in increasing the capacity and readiness of the UK research community to contribute towards the delivery of scientifically-grounded e-Mental Health services and systems, and to initiate a number of pump-priming projects and funding applications in this area. Any increased uptake and adherence with well-designed and appropriately validated e-Mental Health services has the potential to deliver substantial societal impact; existing clinical treatments for mental health are difficult to scale and often suffer from poor take-up due to perceived stigma of mental health conditions. Mental ill health in younger people in particular frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated; the fact that younger people in particular also demonstrate a greater and greater inclination to utilise digital mobile and social systems for health is a strong indicator that e-Mental Health services and systems should be urgently designed for them and the larger population. Addressing mental ill health also has economic benefit; it has been suggested that the current extent of ill mental health costs the UK economy £105 billion per year in both healthcare and lost revenue due, for instance, to absence from the workplace; the recent Prince's Trust study highlighted a very urgent need to address mental health in unemployed younger people. There is willingness by the ICT commercial sector to engage with opportunities to deliver mobile and web-based services that aim to support wellbeing and hence there is opportunity to deliver further economic impact through this sector; indeed there is good evidence that computerised, and web-based, versions of validated therapies such as CBT are known to have positive clinical outcomes but are rarely used in practice - suggesting that user-centred design issues remain fundamentally unsolved in existing systems. The Network grant also has substantial inbuilt capacity to deliver impact around People; activities supporting early careers researchers and doctoral students will be well-resourced and prominent. Opportunities will be made available for networking, placements and visits and knowledge transfer and exchange. Furthermore, the Network will put great emphasis on users and people-centred design in its scientific approaches, for instance through inviting end users and patient groups to workshop events.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/M000206/1 30/06/2014 31/10/2015 £134,706
EP/M000206/2 Transfer EP/M000206/1 01/11/2015 31/12/2016 £92,717
 
Description **** THIS GRANT WAS TRANSFERRED TO NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY IN NOV 2015 ***
ResearchFish maintains a duplicate entry of it here - but for updates please refer to the Northumbria Version EP/M000206/2

The rationale for the existing NIHR HTC Partnership Award: "Social Computing And Mental Health Research Network" or "1in4.tech" is that the UK EPS research community has a wealth of experience and expertise that is relevant to, but not currently sufficiently directed at, the urgent need for the rigorous cross-disciplinary design, development and evaluation of digital systems, services, platforms and apps for mental health and wellbeing. The network works with the MindTech HTC centre to bring together EPS researchers under the broad banner of Social Computing covering cognate-fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), ubiquitous and mobile computing, with clinical scientists, healthcare professionals, commercial developers/SMEs, charities, user groups and patients who are concerned with mental health and wellbeing. The network is engaged in a range of coordinated activities (listed under "Engagement Activities" here in ResearchFish) to realize its over-arching aim of pump-priming UK capacity to deliver internationally-leading cross-disciplinary research at the boundaries between Social Computing, and mental healthcare research and practice.

The existing Network has established a committed, visible, open, accessible and active community of EPS researchers drawn from the fields of Social Computing, HCI, mobile and ubiquitous systems and web science to work with members of the MindTech HTC and researchers, healthcare professionals, local authorities, charities, commercial partners, user groups and patients concerned with mental health, wellbeing and dementia. We are part-through the process of creating a step-change in scientific dialogue between the network members, that bridges and then integrates, the two communities and that results in transfer of knowledge, design methods, approaches to user and patient studies, experimental techniques, software and interaction design, design models, ethics and privacy, governance approaches, data capture and analysis. The Network is on target with plans to deliver an event-driven approach to meeting its objectives. The Network announced itself with a half-day event at the British HCI Conference in September 2014 in which the investigators, MindTech HTC, and several network members presented an overview of the relevant research challenges and of the opportunities provided by the Network. The Network has been given the media-friendly label of the "1in4.tech" network and we have constructed an online resource at 1in4.tech for researchers which features invited bog posts, lists events and relevant news, and identifies latest useful research and findings.
Exploitation Route The project is still ongoing.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

URL http://1in4.tech/
 
Description We developed Launchspot, a civic platform organised around thematic campaigns to facilitate the commissioning, open tendering and development of technologies by a community of stakeholders. Working with Sunderland Software City, we ran a three- month campaign that called on the public to submit ideas for technologies to improve the experiences of those affected by dementia (see https://create4dementia.launchspot.co.uk/). The multi-stage process involved inspiration, design, judging and tendering phases. The process culminated in three shortlisted ideas, one of which - Family Connections - was chosen for development and the successful tendering team awarded a cash prize to create the application. We will post further updates when we have them.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Eating Disorders, Social Media & Digital Technology Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact It is estimated that nearly three quarters of a million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder (ED). The effects of EDs can also be dramatic; all EDs have been shown to greatly affect quality of life for the person involved, and those around them, and frequently have very serious impact on a person's physical health. Anorexia nervosa (AN), for instance, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, and it is estimated that less than 50% of people with AN recover completely from their illness.

For large sections of the population, and younger people in particular, the use of interactive apps, social media and online services are already entwined with every part of everyday life - including health and wellbeing. It is thought social media, for instance, play a major part in how people seek information about EDs and how they seek to communicate with others about them. However, EDs are a multifaceted problem, and their relationship with digital and social media is equally intricate.
The Eating Disorders, Social Media and Digital Technology Workshop aimed to better our understandings of how digital technology and social media impacts - both positively and otherwise - on EDs and to generate ideas for new research agendas and directions in this area. The workshop was organised by the EPSRC funded "Social Computing And Mental Health Research Network" (see 1in4.tech for details) and was held at the Think Tank, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK on Monday 7th December 2015.

Around 30 people attended the workshop with participants from research and academia (including from EU and the USA), patient groups and charities. The program will featured a number of invited international speakers, including Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham), Munmun de Choudhury (Georgia Tech), Beth Bell (York St. John University) and Wyke Stommel (Radboud University) and Ashleigh Ponder (#BalancedNotClean).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://eating-disorders.technology/
 
Description Networking event at ICT2015, Lisbon 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This Network Session was intended to act as a galvanising 'call to arms' for EU ICT researchers to engage with applied issues of mental health and wellbeing and to forge new working partnerships with a view to construction of new programmes, projects and proposals. The session was organised by Shaun Lawson (University of Lincoln, UK), David Coyle (University College Dublin) Ireland) and Conor Linehan (University College Cork, Ireland).

A cornerstone of R&I in Horizon 2020 is an investment in better health for all; moreover, encouraging innovation in mental health and wellbeing is key to the EU 3rd Health Programme. "ICT for Health" is also a likely sub-category of Societal Challenge 1 "Health, demographic change & wellbeing" in the 2016-17 work programmes. The EU has a substantial research base in ICT areas relevant to mental health; for instance those concerned with social computing and social media, HCI, online communities, cyber-psychology, web science, and mobile and ubiquitous systems. Research in ICT for mental health however can be viewed as difficult, ethically fraught and demanding of formal collaborations with clinical partners; there is a risk that this ICT research base, and the expertise of its individual researchers, will therefore might unexploited in the face of a major societal challenge.

Over 50 people attended the session,brainstormed new ideas for collaborations and swapped research agendas and contact details.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/events/cf/ict2015/item-display.cfm?id=15854
 
Description Panel at the British HCI 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact There is, at present, limited engagement by the HCI community in research that is concerned with mental health and wellbeing, as is starkly reflected, for instance, in the EPSRC portfolio. Without coordinated support, pump-priming activity and facilitated collaboration with relevant clinical partners, user groups and other organisations, there is major risk that our research base, and expertise, will remain unexploited in the face of a major societal challenge. This panel will discussed these challenge and the opportunities available that might go some way to addressing it. In particular the panel presented the aims of the recently announced EPSRC - NIHR HTC Partnership Award "Social Computing and Mental Health Research Network" which will provide funding and facilitate activities to address this challenge over the next two years.
Panel members: Shaun Lawson (University of Lincoln), Mike Craven (MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) centre), Anja Thieme and Patrick Olivier (Newcastle University), Maria Wolters (University of Edinburgh).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://hci2014.bcs.org/Programme.html
 
Description Two day international hack event: Create for Dementia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact On the 30-31st of May 2015, we invited teams of designers, coders, hackers, makers and researchers to come to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Create-4-Dementia. Our aim was to bring people together to share ideas, experiences and concepts as well as build digital prototypes that break-down, problematize and otherwise explore the digital design space around dementia and dementia care. We wanted to motivate critical, even subversive, provocative designs that might attempt to raise questions rather than provide technical solutions.

We made our invitation open to a wide range of people, including: software and hardware developers, designers and practitioners with backgrounds in, for instance, Human-Computer Interaction, interaction design, healthcare or education, or anyone who was interested in identifying new ideas, critiques and digital designs for the care of people with dementia. Teams competed for juried prizes and we provided space for work, rest and creativity as well as food, inspiring speakers, mentors and prototyping hardware and facilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://create4dementia.com/