Spotlight on: The University College Dublin CONUNDRUM research team

Building on our last SPOTLIGHT piece which described our societal impact champion,  TASC,  and the origins of the project, this SPOTLIGHT introduces the research team at  University College Dublin (UCD). 

Professor Niamh Moore-Cherry is the principal investigator and led the application for the Science Foundation Ireland Sustainable Communities Challenge funding for CONUNDRUM. Niamh’s past work has focused on understanding the governance of urban (re)development, metropolitanisation and its urban and regional outcomes. In particular her research has three core elements which are crucial to the beginnings of CONUNDRUM: firstly, a focus on policy analysis and community engagement; secondly, a strong conviction of the importance of the policy-practice-research nexus; and finally a place-based approach to understanding that the same urban issues in different contexts and locations play out in very specific ways. 

Niamh’s approach is demonstrated in her previous work on Mapping Green Dublin, a collaborative action research project led by UCD’s School of Geography in collaboration with arts organisation Common Ground, artist Seoidín O’Sullivan and event facilitators Connect the Dots. The approach developed in Mapping Green Dublin was also deployed in her recent work for the National Economic and Social Council (2022), Exploring Place-based approaches to policy and practice in transition.

Dr Rachel McArdle joined the UCD team in January 2024, from University of Galway and Maynooth University previously. Her research interests include: sustainability, communities, climate justice, energy poverty and housing. Three common themes foreground Rachel’s research: community development, sustainability and social justice. In the past she has worked with different stakeholder groups and is committed to place-based research. 

She was co-primary investigator on an Irish Research Council funded project while at Maynooth University. Working with Pavee Point and TravAct, the project created maps of belonging and unbelonging by Travellers in North Dublin, link here. These maps were created after a series of community mapping workshops held in 2021-22 that were facilitated and led by  TravAct  researchers in Coolock, Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre  staff, and students and staff at Maynooth University. 

Dr Dean Phelan has been part of CONUNDRUM since December 2023, coming from Trinity College Dublin. Dean has worked on a number of different interdisciplinary projects across Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Maynooth University and University of Galway. Dean’s research also focuses on sustainability, urban systems and marginalised communities. 

Before joining the CONUNDRUM team, Dean worked on CULTIVATE (an EU, multi-stakeholder and transdisciplinary project) and played a key role in creating and publishing the first European Food Sharing Dictionary. The food sharing dictionary includes 43 terms translated into 25 EU languages, to enable stakeholders, researchers, and citizens to engage in food-sharing initiatives across the EU. He brings this focus on community engagement in policy development to the CONUNDRUM project. 

Together the team at UCD have been working on creating a literature review of community engaged research and mobility and increasing our stakeholder engagement. With weekly check in meetings, we are excited to continue our work on the next phase of CONUNDRUM where we actively work with communities through participatory mapping techniques to develop ideas for a proposed community-led mobility strategy.