Dr Karen Salt

Deputy Director, R&I System Diversity and Security, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI)

Dr Karen Salt has over 27 years’ worth of experience engaging and co-creating solutions with communities, organisations, charities and governmental bodies. An expert on governance, systems and transformative change, she has led and managed interdisciplinary research centres, collaborative research teams and large research projects, including those focused on producing evidence-informed interventions and policies. She is currently the Deputy Director of R&I System Diversity and Security within UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the UK’s largest public funder of research and innovation. She has the challenging but rewarding task of driving UKRI’s cross-organisational strategic thinking and policymaking on system diversity and Trusted Research and Innovation. A sought after thought-leader and speaker, Salt works closely with leaders across Government, academia, civil society and industry and contributes to numerous international initiatives focused on embedding inclusive policymaking.

Dr Frances Burns

Northern Ireland Trust Research Environment (NITRE)

Dr Frances Burns is lead for the Northern Ireland Trust Research Environment (NITRE) a strategic initiative across the Department of Health, the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Honest Broker Service to enable connectivity, and data provisioning from within Health and Social Care Northern Ireland. Within her role she is leading the introduction of regulations for secondary use of Health and Social Care Data in Northern Ireland. She sits on the Health Data Research Northern Ireland Leadership Group working as part of Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) connecting Northern Ireland Health and Social Care data to support and accelerate research and enable streamlined data access and analysis. Formerly Programme Lead for the Administrative Data Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI) and having previously managed the establishment of the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing (NICOLA), she holds a PhD in factors affecting impact of publicly funded research and innovation.

Dr Isabel Fletcher

Researcher in Social Science and Food Systems, University of Edinburgh

Dr Isabel Fletcher is an experienced interdisciplinary social science researcher who has worked on a range of topics spanning health and environment including obesity, sustainable diets and food security. As part of this work, she has conducted many interviews with researchers, policymakers and members of the public. She has a background in the history of public health, and her research focuses on the ways in which evidence is used in the development of public policy. She is also interested in the way interdisciplinary research is used to address complex social problems and was one of the team that developed of the SHAPE-ID toolkit.

Professor Gary Donohoe

Established Professor of Psychology, Director of the Center for Neuroimaging, Cognition and Genomics, University of Galway

Following the completion of his doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, Gary undertook a research fellowship in the TCD neuropsychiatric genetics research group, where he earned a PhD in Cognitive Genomics. He joined the faculty of TCD’s school of medicine in 2006 where he had responsibility for the school’s psychology program, until 2013 when he was appointed NUI Galway Professor of Psychology. Alongside his research activities, Gary has remained clinically active, and continues to work as a clinical psychologist and advanced certified Schema therapist.

Gary’s research focuses on understanding the biological basis of cognitive deficits associated with psychosis, and the development of therapeutic programs for overcoming these deficits. In 2015, Gary was the recipient of a European Research Council fellowship award for his work on immune mediated genetic effects on cognition in schizophrenia. Since 2018 he has been the director of the HRB Collaborative Doctoral Award program in youth mental health. In 2020 he was granted a HRB Research Leaders Award in youth mental health to work alongside the national early intervention in psychosis program. Other recognition for his research include his election in 2022 to the Royal Irish Academy. Gary has published over 250 peer reviewed articles, which have been cited more than 30,000 times.

Professor Jonathan Drennan

Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, University College Dublin

Professor Jonathan Drennan is Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, University College Dublin. He previously held professorships at University College Cork and the University of Southampton and  has undertaken research in Ireland and the UK on nurse and midwife prescribing, cancer information services, research priorities for nursing and midwifery, safe nurse staffing and advanced practice.

He presented to and advised the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Safe Staffing Advisory Committees on staffing in medical and surgical wards and accident and emergency departments in the UK. This was part of the development process of the NICE guidelines on safe staffing.

Professor Drennan is currently a member of the Department of Health taskforce involved in the development of guidelines for safe nurse staffing and skill mix in the healthcare sector. He is currently leading a Health Research Board and Department of Health funded study on safe staffing in medical, surgical, emergency and older person’s settings in Ireland. Professor Drennan is also part of a European and US research team that have been awarded a grant from the EU Horizon 2020 research programme. The title of the research, Magnet4Europe, develops and implements a theory-based organizational redesign in 64 hospitals in 6 European countries and involves one-to-one twinning between hospitals in Europe and hospitals in the US with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of healthcare staff and enhancing the working environment. Professor Drennan was also appointed to the Expert Review Body on Nursing and Midwifery  by the Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly and is one of the authors of the Report that was launched in January 2022.

Professor Molly Byrne

Professor of Health Psychology, University of Galway, Ireland

Molly is a Professor of Health Psychology at the School of Psychology in the University of Galway where she directs the Health Behaviour Change Research Group (HBCRG). This Group is a national hub and internationally-recognised centre of excellence in the application of behavioural science to health behavioural intervention development, evaluation and implementation. Molly’s research aims to improve population health by working with key stakeholders to develop and promote an evidence-based behavioural science approach to health behaviour change interventions. She is particularly interested in chronic disease prevention and management. She directs the Collaborative Doctoral Programme in Chronic Disease Prevention (CDP-CDP) and the MSc in Health Psychology at University of Galway.  

Molly is an Honorary Fellow of the European Health Psychology Society and an Honorary Fellow of the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health. She is Associate Editor of Annals of Behavioral Medicine and a member of the Executive Committee of the International Behavioural Trials Network, the Executive Committee of the HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland and the Executive Committee of the HRB Diabetes Collaborative Clinical Trials Network.

Dr Maria O’Brien

Service Improvement Lead, Integrated Care Programme for Chronic Disease, Health Services Executive

Dr Maria O’ Brien is the Service Improvement Lead in the Health Service Executive for the Integrated Care programme for the Prevention and management of Chronic disease in Ireland.  Maria has held previous roles as the Programme Manager for the National Heart Programme and National Project Manager for the Making Every Contact Count for 5 years up to mid 2020), and led the development and implementation of the programme across the Health service.

Maria is the Principal Knowledge User for the Applied Partnership Award which was awarded in 2019 for the Making MECC Work project and worked in collaboration with Prof. Molly Byrne as the Principal Academic Applicant for this award.

Maria is a member of the Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Maria joined the Irish Health Service in 2004 and her specialist interests are policy development, chronic disease, implementation science and research, organisational development and change management, and health service evaluation and research 

Professor Austin Stack

Professor and Foundation Chair of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Limerick & Consultant Nephrologist, University Hospital Limerick

Austin Stack is Professor and Foundation Chair of Medicine at the School of Medicine, University of Limerick and Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospital Limerick in Ireland. He received his medical degree from University College Dublin and completed his medical residency at the Mater University Hospital, followed by a combined clinical and research fellowship programme at the University of Michigan, USA. He trained in epidemiology and health outcomes research at the Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Centre (KECC), University of Michigan, and the United States Renal Data System (USRDS) Coordinating Centre and was Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, Texas. He is a fellow of the American Society of Nephrology and Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Professor Stack’s research has addressed the epidemiology of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and acute kidney injury (AKI) in health systems, and their impact on clinical outcomes. He has a particular interest in modifiable risk factors for CKD including anaemia, iron deficiency, hyperuricaemia, dyskalaemia and their links with cardiovascular disease. He leads several national studies funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) that examine the burden, progression of CKD, and the impact of CKD and AKI in health systems. More recently, his research is exploring the risks associated with transitioning from advanced CKD to dialysis and sex disparities in CKD care.  Professor Stack leads the development of the IrishNational Kidney Disease Surveillance System and is co-investigator for the US CKD Surveillance System. He is conducting clinical trials that investigate the impact of novel therapies for the prevention of kidney disease.

Dr Gráinne Cousins

Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Gráinne is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where she leads a programme of research on the epidemiology and public health consequences of drug use. She has led on a number of cohort studies, including data linkage studies, to support evidence informed practice and service provision for people with opioid dependence. She is currently leading on a HRB secondary data analysis project which seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the supply, patterns of use and health burden associated with prescription drugs with potential for misuse (PDPM) in Ireland, using data from multiple early warning systems, drug supply, and epidemiological indicators.

Gráinne is a member of the Psychological Society of Ireland, and the Society for the Study of Addiction. She also sits on the National Drug Strategy Research Sub-Committee to oversee research and monitoring aspects of the national drugs strategy, which works closely with the strategic implementation group responsible for Strategic Priority 6 - Strengthening evidence informed and outcomes focused practice, services, policies and strategy implementation.


Professor Owen Smith

Professor of Child, Adolescent & Young Adult Oncology, Trinity College Dublin

Owen Smith is Professor of Child, Adolescent & Young Adult Oncology [2022] and Professor of Haematology [2002] in the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin. Professor Smith is Consultant Paediatric Haematologist at Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin, Chief Academic Lead to the Children Hospital Group, National Clinical Lead for Child, Adolescent & Young Adult cancers at the National Cancer Control Programme and is currently Chair of the Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Committee of the European Society for Paediatric Oncology [2022-2025]. The co-author of more than 400 research original articles, letters, books, book chapters and papers, Professor Smith is a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Pathologists, Royal College of Physicians of Dublin, Royal College of Physicians London, Royal College of Physicians Glasgow, and Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh. He is a member of numerous associations and societies, including; the Medical Research Council Childhood Leukaemia Working Party, Children’s Oncology Group [USA], the International Berlin Frankfurt Munster Study Group for Childhood Leukaemia, the United Kingdom Children’s Cancer Group, European Working Group on paediatric aplastic anaemia and myelodysplastic syndromes. He is an international advocate for children and adolescents with rare diseases and for expanded access to expensive drugs. In 2015 Professor Smith was conferred honorary Commander in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his life-long work on cancer in children and adolescents by Queen Elizabeth, on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Dr Janice Bailie

Assistant Director, HSC Research & Development Division Northern Ireland

Janice Bailie completed a PhD in Biochemistry at Queen's University Belfast in 1990, and post-doctoral research in Ophthalmology at Queen’s, and in the Radiation Science Group, Ulster University.  From 1998-2005, she was Divisional R&D Manager in Molecular Biology at Randox Laboratories Ltd. She joined the HSC R&D Office as Programme Manager in January 2005, and has since managed a programme of infrastructure initiatives and funding awards such as the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Networks, the Northern Ireland Clinical Trials Unit, the Clinical Research Facility and the Northern Ireland Biobank.  Janice was appointed to the role of Assistant Director of HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency, in June 2013.  She has worked on two Horizon 2020 consortia, in health services and personalized health, and led on a €105m INTERREGVA project, to promote cross-border healthcare interventions in Ireland

Dr Deirdre Lillis

Assistant Secretary General, Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in Ireland

Dr Deirdre Lillis is Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in Ireland, with responsibility for the Research, Innovation, Evidence for Policy and EU/International Division.  A proven senior executive, her prior experience includes university leadership roles in university-enterprise engagement in TU Dublin and as Head of Computer Science in Dublin Institute of Technology. She has a track record of research capacity building and transformation in higher education including principal investigator for an unprecedented national investment of €17.5m in university-enterprise engagement, the €4m global HubLinked Knowledge Alliance, and Marie-Curie RISE GETM3 Global Entrepreneurial Talent Management programme. She is a Chartered Director and has served on the Board of the Higher Education Authority in Ireland, the Senate of the National University of Ireland and the Board of the Irish Writers Centre. Her research interests include national research and innovation systems, higher education policy, university-industry innovations and young talent management. She has won European awards for her sustained commitment to developing the careers of female academic staff and for increasing the participation of females in technological higher education programmes.

Dr Maria Quinlan

General Manager, Research & Development, Health Service Executive (HSE)

Dr Maria Quinlan is General Manager of the Research & Development team within the HSE. The Research & Development function is responsible for implementing the HSE’s Action Plan for Health Research, including the reform of Research Ethics and the implementation of the HSE’s Research Governance Framework.

Maria is a sociologist, whose own research has focused on the use of creative, participatory methods which aim to facilitate people in sharing their lived-experience. Her research is multidisciplinary, and she has used visual methods such as photovoice to explore a variety of social topics including mental health, trauma, homelessness, addiction, sexual violence, and inequities and exclusion based on gender, race, and ethnicity. Maria is founder of Pink Flower Research, and was formerly Research Lead at the Applied Research for Connected Health centre at UCD; and Head of Research at the Institute for Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy. Maria has also worked with Science Foundation Ireland on their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy. She has lectured in the Sociology of Mental Health; Equality; Organisational Behaviour; Diversity and Inclusion.