My first six months - a TEAM effort of sorts!

By Darragh McCashin
Tuesday, 13th March 2018
Filed under: ESRBlog

My first 6 months in TEAM have been thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. This brief blog is to illustrate how I am progressing. My project is examining the effectiveness of computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT). 

Your method or mine?

One of the first University College Dublin (UCD) meet-ups between TEAM supervisors and early stage researchers (ESRs) involved a ‘journal club’ of sorts. We discussed a prominent HCI paper (human-computer interaction). It was clear where the crossover lay between the disciplines in the group – law, software engineering, psychology, and HCI. What was of particular interest to me was how the various disciplines set about answering the same questions we all harbour. In particular, many of the human factors components to the field of HCI are rooted to cognitive psychology models. I was intrigued at the breadth of HCI literature that applies a slightly more simplistic psychology methodological framework to highly practical trials with the end goal of producing something afresh. By contrast, evidence-based best practice dictates that projects commence with a systematic review of the topic at hand. Central to both approaches is the need for a robust theoretical framework to help us address the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions.

It is in balancing all these perspectives that I have been highly stimulated in starting my own systematic review. To that end, let me turn to the broad range of training I have undertaken thus far.

Balancing the events galore

The PhD process is often said to be ‘a lonely experience’. In my view, however inevitable that might prove to be, one can always put in place strategies to offset it. A key part of my energy comes from intellectual stimulation from conferences, in-person training, networking and advocacy. It is important to know when to say no of course, but I strive to keep a balance between the so-called ‘lonely’ side of research, and the interactive side. Accordingly, I have been fortunate to attend many of the UCD Library sessions on systematic reviewing, advanced social media skills, EndNote, and data management. For external training, I attended the Health Research Board Ireland trial methodology winter school, Cochrane Systematic Review Training, and the Psychological Society of Ireland’s Early Graduate Group workshop. Conference-wise, I have keenly attended the Technology for Well-Being conference (Dublin), International Association for Youth Mental Health annual conference (IAYMH), among several others. The key benefit to attendance is seeing fellow researchers’ works-in-progress before they become finalised output. Digesting the feedback on-show, in addition to clear strengths and limitations, affords insight into how best to build my own project.

Our Dublin community

I am reminded everyday as to how lucky I am to work in a team with the likes of Hidde van der Muelen, Claudette Pretorious, Gianluigi Riga, and other ESRs from different networks in the buzzing Belfield campus. My interdisciplinary supervisory team and I meet regularly, and this has been of great support and consistency during my first few months. We also are indebted to our programme manager (Erin) for providing structure and guidance throughout. Of course, advocacy and outreach are key features of our TEAM remit. It was in this spirit that a number of us tackled a ‘MudRun’ recently in aid of Pieta House (a local suicidal distress support service). During our downtime, we also try to attend local community events that include public lectures and mental health awareness evenings. All in all, it is a well-rounded set-up and routine in UCD and is the perfect platform to build upon. 

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