Lab4Living Field Lab – Promoting interdisciplinary research
Lab4Living recently hosted the first in a series of ’Field Labs’ for the EPSRC-funded ‘Engineering for Life’ project (£800k) aimed at encouraging interdisciplinary research. This project is led by Professor Chris Care of the Material and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) at Sheffield Hallam University. The Lab4Living was proud to be chosen as the flagship exemplar of interdisciplinary research. This field lab demonstrated inter-disciplinary research in action.
The field lab was based on the (£400k) EPSRC-funded Future Bathroom project and inspired by a ‘Maze’ and ‘Lab Rat’ theme.
The Future Bathroom project is 1.5 years into its 3 year schedule. It has huge quantities of testimonial data, views, opinions, stories, ideas from elderly citizens of Sheffield recruited to the project as participants and as researchers. At the start of the project ’young’ researchers visited elderly people and asked them about problems they experienced in the bathroom. Meanwhile, older Sheffield residents were recruited and trained as researchers and sent out to visit their ‘peers’ within the city and ask the same questions. In comparing the data, it was clear that older researchers were able to elicit more information from their peers than the younger researchers.
The Field Lab was designed to disseminate research knowledge and raise awareness of issues on the one hand whilst on the other, gather views and opinions about those issues from a younger population. Positioning the Field Lab in the main atrium of the University targeted the students and staff of the University.
As a means of collecting data for formal pieces of research, there is still much refinement needed to the technique and method. We hope, that with further funding, we can explore this as a technique for gathering research data; almost as a substitute to the survey and user group. Something that can deliver responses to questions and elicit a much richer data set with the field lab context creating an atmosphere, allowing tactile experiences and interactions between respondents, feeding further insights and discussion in an open forum.