Projects of the first Well-Being Research Incubator call

For the first time, EUniWell supports collaborative well-being workshops, with the aim of offering researchers from the EUniWell universities opportunities to learn about research activity taking place across Europe, to make connections and to build a network of peers, and to identify common interests, synergies and potential for collaboration.

Project lead: Filippo Randelli (University of Florence)

Participating universities: University of Cologne, University of Florence, Leiden University, University of Murcia

Project description: 

Rising sea levels and other forms of climate change have significant consequences for agriculture and food production. Planning for these impacts and considering the most appropriate responses will be the focus of the project.

The first aim of the project is to map the distribution of the sea level rise in every partner country. The preliminary mapping will allow us to have a clear overview of the salinisation of agricultural fields and coastal areas. This first goal will be achieved by the University of Florence research group which is composed by three senior researchers and three junior researchers.

The second step will be applied in every member country with an on field evaluation of the effects of sea level rise in the different scenarios. Every local unit will evaluate negative externalities and will provide a scenario for the future, focusing on best adaptation strategies. Together with a desk research activity, few onfield visits will allow to have an overview about the threats and challenges of specific localities (hot spot) with a high value for the regional development (cultural, social and economic values). During the workshop has emerged as a possibile adaptation strategy the saline agriculture. The University of Florence has an ongoing project already funded by the EU for the study of adaptation strategies for agricultural areas. The knowledge and results can be shared with the other EUniWell partners in order to achieve to local adaptation strategies.

Project lead: Anna Júlia Éliás (Semmelweis University)

Participating universities: University of Birmingham, Nantes Université, Semmelweis University

Project description: 

The microbiota, the microorganisms living within us, have a significant impact on our health. Knowledge of the composition and diversity of the microbiota and the health effects of its members has advanced considerably in recent years. However, the mechanisms that govern polymicrobial interactions remain a challenge for study and discovery. To date, research has focused almost exclusively on the kingdom of bacteria, ignoring the interactions between bacteria and yeasts, which belong to the kingdom of fungi.

The rationale of this project is that the challenging complexity of interactions between the many microorganisms in the gut can only be understood by an interdisciplinary integration of experimental and mathematical models. This understanding is essential for the rational design of effective new probiotics such as strains of yeast that can inhibit the growth of drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria.
The objectives of the experimental part are to develop and validate a sufficiently simple method to analyse the growth of bacterial and fungal co-cultures, in order to find synergistic and antagonistic combinations. The pooling of microbiological resources from Nantes and Semmelweis Universities in the consortium will make it possible to test different bacterial and fungal species and phenotypes of interest for health.
The objective of the mathematical modelling part is to develop a prototype model of yeast-bacteria interactions in order to use results from pure and mixed cultures in the laboratory to predict interactions in the more complex gut environment and to evaluate combinations of yeast and bacteria for their potential as probiotics. This model will be built by making additions to eGUT, our existing model of bacterial interactions in the gut, to enable the simulation of yeasts.

This project also aims to disseminate the innovative developments from the consortium widely, our first EUniWell workshop already allowed rich exchanges, which will be broadened to the wider scientific community. One of the current EU grants of Semmelweis University was also awarded in this field (namely AmReSu Twining).

This project meets EUniWell's research objectives by developing a multidisciplinary research consortium on the microbiome, given the multitude of impacts of the microbiome on our health and well-being.

Project lead: María del Mar Grandio (University of Murcia)

Participating universities: University of Birmingham, University of Florence, University of Murcia

Project description: 

Based on the contributions shared on the online Euniwell workshop “Risk and opportunities of digital media on an individual and social level: towards the fundamentals of digital wellbeing” (February, 24th, 2023), this project explores the impact of digital technology at the individual, workplace and societal level in three European Countries (Spain, United Kingdom, Italy). The aim is to look for the fundamentals of what we call digital wellbeing. In the line of previous studies on digital wellbeing as a multilevel concept (Vanden, 2021), our work highlights how to measure, from an empirical perspective, this complex phenomena based on some specific indicators that can help us to better understand how people experience the risk and opportunities of digital media. Concretely, the study focuses on the active adult population (18-65) since this sample offers the chance to measure the three wellbeing levels that shape our study: personal and family, workplace and civic level. From the methodological perspective, the research design comprises a structured online survey administered in each country (N=800), complemented by focus groups to validate the survey, that will be conducted in each of the three countries involved during the period of analysis (June 2023 till June 2024). Overall, the project will contribute to the growing understanding of the complexity of digital wellbeing as a multidisciplinary phenomenon and will provide a platform to assess its social impact in society with implications for academics, practitioners and other stakeholders.

The effect of social media uses on well-being is one of the hottest debates in academia and society at large, and research into its impact on well-being has accumulated rapidly (see for example Wheatley and Buglass, 2019). Understood as an umbrella term, digital wellbeing is an emerging concept that refers to how people experience the risk and opportunities of digital media on an individual and social level (need a ref here). Some scholars have explained the concept as the “subjective individual experience of optimal balance between the benefits and drawbacks obtained from mobile connectivity. This experiential state consists of affective and cognitive appraisals of the integration of digital connectivity into ordinary life” (Vanden, 2021, p. 938). Other scholars explain digital wellbeing as “crafting and maintaining a healthy relationship with technology that can be used in a balanced and civic way” (Yue et al., 2021, p. 4). Besides its growing relevance in society and academia, reported associations of digital media use and well-being are inconclusive (Valkenburg et al., 2022). Meta-perspectives on digital media use and well-being highlights that social media use does not have an unambiguously good or bad impact on well-being, but rather that associations are complex (Wheatley and Buglass, 2019). This project will explore the impact of digital technology on an individual and social level, in order to look for the fundamentals of what we call digital wellbeing. Discussions on wellbeing and the impact of digital technology began a decade ago, primarily focused on how to avoid the negative effects of technology on human behaviour and negative psychological outcomes. Scholars underline now how digital tools can also enhance various aspects of individual and social life (Livingstone and Bluss-Ross, 2020). Aims and objectives: To address the need to establish a holistic understanding of digital wellbeing for a future research agenda within Arena 2 “Individual and Social Well-being” of the EUniWell Research Incubator, the proposed research project aims to identify the positive and negative impacts of engaging with digital activities in these domains, and also explore ways to manage and control factors that contribute to a digital wellbeing in these specific fields. Specifically, we will contribute to the measurement, from an empirical perspective, of this complex phenomena based on development and assessment of specific indicators that can help us to better understand how people experience the risk and opportunities of digital media.

The project includes the following objectives:

  1. Developing an assessment protocol to measure the active population’s digital well-being, including the three levels of analysis: personal and family, workplace and civic level.
  2. Designing a measurement tool for digital wellbeing research, based on online questionnaires and with validation through focus groups.
  3. Comparing cross-cultural differences among European countries involved (Spain, United Kingdom and Italy)
  4. Identifying funding for future developments to broaden and up-scale this analysis with more Euniwell partners and countries.

Project lead: Dr. Irina Pokhilenko (University of Birmingham)

Participating universities: University of Birmingham, University of Florence, Linnaeus University, Nantes Université, Semmelweis University

Project description: 

Every day, people make decisions about purchasing and consuming food. These decisions are guided by habits, past experiences, as well as a range of socioeconomic and cultural factors. Food consumption has a direct impact on people’s health. Having a better understanding of the drivers of food consumption choices can support the design of tailored food-based interventions and lead to health and economic benefits for individuals and society.

Compared to schools and workplaces, food provision on university campuses is under-researched. Universities represent a unique setting as they include a wide range of people in terms of age, ethnicity, and cultural background. Being both a place of education and a workplace, universities are ideal settings for implementing health promotion interventions. Furthermore, universities are becoming increasingly interested in the health of their students and staff and in becoming more sustainable. Understanding the drivers of students’ and staff food choices can provide valuable evidence for informing university food policy and for transforming the campus food system by increasing the healthiness, diversity and sustainability of the campus food offer.

The aim of this project is to identify and compare preferences of university staff and students for lunch served on campus by conducting a survey within five university campuses in five European countries. Thereby, we will be able to compare our findings not only in relation to the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the respondents, but also in relation to their geographical location potentially uncovering cultural differences in food preferences. Furthermore, we will supplement the survey with the campus food system analysis using the University Food Environment Assessment (Uni-Food) Tool to contextualize our findings.

By focusing on nutrition and sustainability, this research relates to the EUniWell themes of ‘Well-being and health’ and ‘Environment, urbanity and well-being’. Furthermore, by exploring the variation of preferences among the staff and students in relation to their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, this research is expected to contribute to our understanding of how university food system policy can reduce nutritional and health inequalities and generate insight which will ensure that all food choices available on campus are nutritious, affordable and desirable to all students and staff. This research will also help inform the wider food strategy on how businesses can implement a healthy food offer that is both economically and environmentally sustainable using university campuses as a case study example.

Project lead: Mariagrazia Portera (University of Florence)

Participating universities: University of Cologne, University of Florence, Linnaeus University, Nantes Université

Project description: 

In the decades to come, cities are expected to be the scenario for virtually all conservation actions – both tangible and intangible cultural conservation and natural-biological conservation actions; a city park is in many cases the only form of nature that people in cities can experience directly and the same is true for cultural traditions, folklore and historical-artistic treasures. Preservation, broadly understood, will be increasingly a matter of urban strategies in the Anthropocene. Moreover, cultural treasures and biodiversity and natural heritage are both crucial communal assets for the perceived well-being of people in the cities: the availability of green areas and facilities, on the one hand, and a well-preserved and enacted cultural heritage, on the other hand, have both a relevant impact on the quality of life of the inhabitants of urban contexts, in terms of social integration, shared cultural values, health general conditions.

Two questions, however, need to be answered: particularly in urban European contexts, in which green areas frequently coexist side by side with examples of tangible and intangible cultural heritage (buildings, monuments; traditions, oral history), conflicts might arise between these two conservation strategies (conservation of material and immaterial culture; conservation of nature). How can the former and the latter be successfully integrated and complemented, to promote a truly sustainable bio-cultural model of a city? While a well-designed urban context, both from a cultural and a natural-biological point of view, is a fundamental resource for human well-being, what is the impact of human conservation actions on the non-human (plants and animals) urban populations? In the Anthropocene city, well-being is not an exclusive matter of humans.

This project aims, theoretically and practically, at identifying and discussing the main challenges posed by the integration of culture conservation and nature conservation when they occur on the same urban territory, taking into account both human and non-human urban populations. Thanks to the synergy of researchers from the humanities and the natural sciences, the project aims at producing EUniWell interdisciplinary “Guidelines for a bio-culturally sustainable city” to effectively inform institutional policies at the regional, national and international levels.