Announcing the 2021 SSN Project Incubator Successful Grant Recipients

We are pleased to announce the successful recipients of the SSN’s 2021 round of Interdisciplinary Project Incubator Grants.  We received a very high number of great applications from across Deakin University, demonstrating our growing strength in interdisciplinary research and collaboration across and between HASS and STEM disciplines. The SSN looks forward to bringing you updates on these exciting projects in the new year!


Moving the Next Generation: Testing a motor skill assessment sensor wear App with teachers in schools

Dr Natalie Lander (lead CI), A/Proff Eduarda Sousa- Sá, A/Prof Lisa Barnett, A/Prof Shady Mohamed, Dr Darius Nahavandi, Dr Steven Lewis, Prof Mike Duncan

  • Research for Educational Impact (REDI), Deakin Faculty of Arts and Education
  • Faculty of Physical Education and Sport, Lusófona University
  • Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin Faculty of Health
  • Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI), Deakin Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE)

Motor competence (MC) is positively associated with higher levels of social and cognitive development, self-perception, physical activity and physical fitness. The childhood years provide a critical window of opportunity to develop MC, as such, it is a priority of national and international Health and Physical Education curriculums. In spite of its importance, low levels of MC in children remains a global health concern. Existing MC assessment is challenging due to time, cost, resources and training needs, resulting in minimal application and limited remediation. A MC assessment using Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) has been developed by HASS scientists Dr Lander and A/Prof Barnett in collaboration with STEM scientists A/Prof Mohamed and Dr Nahavandi. This prototype uses four IMUs with a Windows surface tablet. Motion data is streamed in real time to the tablet highlighting specific areas in need of improvement. The proposed SSN funding will be used to i) refine the prototype for use by teachers, and ii) to test implementation effectiveness of the App when used by teachers in schools.  


Ageing in rural and regional Victoria during COVID-19: A pilot study of representations and perceptions of older people in the Geelong region

Dr Cynthia Forlini (lead CI), Dr Christopher Mayes, A/Prof Kristy Hess, Dr Lisa Mitchell, Ms Courtney Hempton, Prof Alison Hutchison

  • Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin Faculty of Arts and Education
  • Barwon Health
  • Institute for Health Transformation, Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin Faculty of Health

This study examines perceptions and representations of older people in rural and regional Australia during COVID-19, which may include instances of ageism, stigma, and stereotype. First, we will analyse how older people are represented in local media outlets during COVID-19. Then, will conduct a pilot survey and interviews with stakeholders in the community (i.e. older people, general public, healthcare professionals, journalists) to examine the impact the representations of older people in the media are having on the policies (e.g. selective lockdowns) and professional practices (e.g. healthcare and journalism) that support and/or influence health and wellbeing.


Immortalising organs: A feminist study of emerging placental technologies 

Dr Jaya Keaney (lead CI), Dr Jacqueline Dalzeill, Dr Marnie Winter, A/Prof Neera Bhatia, A/Prof Dominique Martin

  • Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin Faculty of Arts and Education
  • ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent BioNano Science and Technology (CBNS), University of New South Wales
  • Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia
  • Deakin Faculty of Business and Law
  • Deakin Faculty of Health

Although pivotal to maternal and foetal health, the placenta is still not well understood, constraining scientific research on critical conditions like preeclampsia and foetal growth restriction. This is due in part to a lack of appropriate research models: animal placentas are inaccurate mimics, and human placenta donated from births and terminations has a limited research life. However, new biotechnologies are changing this. Emerging in recent years, placental organoids and placenta-on-chip models allow for placental cells to be cultured and grown indefinitely, or “immortalised”. This project explores new placental technologies from a feminist perspective, considering crucial questions of consent, ownership, commodification and antenatal care that emerge as these technologies reshape placenta research practices. 


Revealing the risks: Exploring the social implications of technology that allows individuals to use intuitive smart-wear to potentially recognise invisible viral threats

Dr Negin Amini (lead CI), Dr Monique Mann, Ms Courtney Hempton, Dr Tanya King, Prof Jennifer Loy

  • Deakin Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE)
  • Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin Faculty of Arts and Education

In a ‘COVID normal’ future, with viral threats potentially loose in the environment, engineers could develop wearable garments to allow individuals to detect significantly high temperatures in others, and to signal their own temperature. Yet the form of these technologies and the social and ethical implications need to be considered in order to ensure that potential defences do not unreasonably undermine individual rights and the defence of the potentially vulnerable in society. The development of such technologies requires an interdisciplinary approach to ensure design and potential implementation is informed by practicalities of the technology and user interaction, in addition to social and ethical considerations.


An app for that: COVID-19 contact tracing, public health and public goods

Dr Monique Mann (lead CI), Dr Luke Heemsbergen, Professor Catherine Bennett, Associate Professor Paul Cooper, Associate Professor Martin Hensher

  • Deakin Faculty of Arts and Education
  • Deakin Faculty of Health
  • Deakin Institute for Health Transformation

This project explores digital health technologies to better understand their role and contributions to public health and other public goods in the context of COVID-19 in Australia. Effective and efficient contact tracing systems are required as we enter into a new “COVID normal”. Yet, there are a range of open empirical questions regarding efficacy of contact tracing applications, and their contribution to public health in this large-scale social experiment. There is an even bigger question about whether we really need an app for that and if an app for that is the right solution to the problems posed by COVID-19.