Major ERC funding success for NUI Galway

Jan 05 2015 Posted: 11:01 GMT

Dr Eilionóir Flynn of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy and Martin O Donnell, Professor of Translational Medicine at NUI Galway have both been approved by the European Research Council (ERC) for starter grants.

Professor O’Donnell’s award will support his so-called "blue sky research" project entitled 'Clarifying Optimal Sodium Intake Project' (COSIP) which seeks to clarify how much sodium (salt) intake is optimal for health.

Professor O'Donnell explains that the leading cause of death globally is cardiovascular disease, and elevated blood pressure is a major modifiable cause. High sodium (salt) intake causes an increase in blood pressure, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Based on studies looking at reducing sodium intake and blood pressure, it is recommended that sodium intake is reduced to low levels (<2.0g/day) in the entire population, which is about half of current intake. However, says O'Donnell "sodium is an essential nutrient, and some recent research by our group, and others, has raised questions about whether low sodium intake is optimal for health in all people. My research will focus on understanding the relationship between different levels of sodium intake and physiological markers of cardiovascular health. We will explore whether our genetics play an important role in modifying the effects of different levels of sodium intake on blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart disease. Does one size fit all, or do people have different sodium intake requirements? In addition to sodium intake, we also look at potassium intake and effect of overall dietary patterns on cardiovascular health."       

O'Donnell said that this ERC funding will have a considerable impact on his research, as it will support an ambitious research programme over the next five years.

Dr Flynn is the youngest of the ERC Starter grantees this year and amongst nine in Ireland to win a total of €11m in funding under these prestigious awards. Her award of almost €1m in funding for the ground-breaking VOICES project will run for three and a half years.

The VOICES project aims to make visible the experiences of people with disabilities who have been denied legal capacity. It will involve a series of workshops where people with this lived experience will be paired with social and legal scholars to develop their narratives, and construct critical responses to these narratives, for inclusion in an edited collection at the end of the project. Particular themes to be addressed include criminal responsibility, consent, and contract law. 

Dr Flynn said "The VOICES project will take a radical approach to develop new law reform ideas based on the concept of “universal legal capacity”, a basic human freedom to make one’s own decisions and have them respected by law. People with disabilities will be supported in this project by legal and social science scholars to develop personal narratives about their experiences in exercising, or being denied, legal capacity. This is important because many people with disabilities, especially people with intellectual, psycho-social and other cognitive disabilities, have been denied this fundamental right – informally, in the private sphere, and formally, in the public sphere through states’ laws and policies."

Dr Flynn is Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, NUI Galway and Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy. The Centre focuses on advancing social justice and human rights for persons with disabilities through legislative and policy reform. With major research accolades and some of the most respected members in the field on the staff board, the CDLP has earned its place as a policy leader, both in Europe and beyond. See for more information.


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