Berlin-Melbourne University Alliance
Digital Technologies to Measure and Promote Sustainable Health Behaviours
I am excited to announce the establishment of the Berlin-Melbourne University Alliance, a brandnew research collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Freie Universität Berlin, and the Charité Universitätsklinik. Our goal is to bring together researchers from the Behavioural Sciences and Computing to develop, deploy, and study technologies that quantify, track, and instill healthy behaviours. Hosted by the University of Melbourne and Freie Uniersität Berlin, the team consists of post-doc and graduate researchers advised by a prominent board of mentors, including experts from the Connected Health Center for Research Excellence.
The foucs of the alliance is to develop methods to quantify, track, and instil healthy behaviours. Everyday behaviours, such as a balanced diet or frequent hand washing can become habitual and impact people’s health by reducing the risk of viral infection and improve the management of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. As many individuals do not adhere to recommended behavioural guidelines (e.g., not washing hands in core situations), innovative methods to measure behavioural performance and intervene are needed. Digital technologies provide the means to continuously measure individuals ’behaviours and support them in achieving behavioural goals. To develop such technologies to successfully monitor and achieve sustainable behavioural changes in individuals ’everyday lives requires bringing together medical research, behavioural psychology, and computing science. Team members of the alliance work in an interdisciplinary environment across both locations in Australia and Germany.
Confined by the pandemic, the team conducted a 2-day, cross-continental study hackathon in June to prototype ways to study healthy smartphone behaviours. Partnering with the recently launched smartphone app not less but better, the group designed and launched a pilot study to investigate problematic smartphone activities and devised strategies to support more goal-directed as opposed to mindless technology usage. Over the course of two afternoons and a series of agile work sprints, a research agenda and a technology roadmap were developed, which will build the base for joint collaboration and user studies across Australia and Germany.
We were successful in securing a second round of funding for the alliance. As a result, we are currently recruiting two PhD students, one with a background in Psychology, another with a background in Computer Science (or related). If this sounds interesting to you and you are keen to spend some time in Berlin and Melbourne, please consider applying here.