The Institute of Public Health (IPH) is among the founding members of a new network for alcohol policy researchers in Ireland and the UK which officially launched today, led by the University of Stirling’s Professor Niamh Fitzgerald and Trinity College Dublin’s Professor Joe Barry.
The Alcohol Research Network UK-Ireland (ACORN) will act as a forum and stimulus for an interdisciplinary approach to the cultural, social, political and economic challenges faced by the UK and Ireland in attempting to implement effective policies to reduce the harm caused by alcohol consumption.
Dr Helen McAvoy (Director of Policy at IPH) said:
“I welcome the launch of ACORN and am pleased to join the Steering Group on behalf of the Institute. The UK and Ireland share a common challenge in reducing alcohol related harm in society. There is enormous value in sharing expertise, and as a North South organisation, the Institute welcomes the enhanced opportunities for research partnership and knowledge exchange across the United Kingdom through ACORN.
Whether you are an early or late career researcher, I encourage you to join the network. ACORN hopes to engage researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplines like social sciences, economics, political science, public health and policy studies. “
The Irish Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK has provided seed funding for ACORN activities for 2021-22.
The network aims to build capacity and drive innovation in alcohol policy research to support effective policy development, enactment, implementation, and evaluation.
By harnessing the knowledge and expertise of a wide range of academics through the network, researchers hope to find synergies, create new collaborations and benefit from shared learning and capacity.
The group has identified four cross-cutting themes: the first three – alcohol availability, pricing and marketing reflect the most effective approaches to reducing alcohol harms at a population level. The fourth theme focuses on the politics of alcohol policymaking.
Niamh Fitzgerald, Professor of Alcohol Policy at Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, said: “Alcohol is embedded in and affected by a range of cultural, social and societal influences that need to be considered if we’re to successfully reduce its harms among populations. This new network will be open to researchers from all disciplines, working across Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“By developing new partnerships between areas of research and different countries, sharing ideas and identifying common priorities, we will be able to effectively grow and diversify the strength of the vital research in this area.”
Joe Barry, Adjunct Professor of Population Health Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, said: “Culture, norms and consumption patterns around alcohol in the UK and Ireland are very similar. In the globalised world of 2021 international collaboration on policy and research in relation to alcohol is essential. From this ACORN initiative we hope to build capacity in these islands and we will publish internationally to show the benefits of between country collaboration. This way of engaging has been borne out by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The network will run a series of public events focused on its four themes including a research conference. Internal network activities will include capacity building events and small grants for selected early career researchers to visit experienced alcohol policy research teams in other nations for a short placement, when permitted under COVID-19 regulations.
The network’s steering group includes Dr Catherine Darker (Trinity College Dublin), Professor Niamh Shortt (University of Edinburgh), Colin Angus (University of Sheffield), Dr Pat Kenny (Technological University Dublin) and Dr Helen McAvoy (Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Health).
Founding members of the network come from five universities in Ireland and seven in the UK. The network is also supported by research users across the four nations of the UK including government and public health partners.
For more information visit www.alcoholresearch-uk-irl.net