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Japan and Norway cooperating on eHealth

How can Norway and Japan mutually benefit from each other’s work on developing user-friendly technological support systems for health personnel? Renée Schulz will be studying that matter for the next two years.

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Renée Schulz will do research in Japan for the next two years.

eHealth and welfare technology is not just a new prioritised research area in Norway but also in Japan. Even though the priorities of the two countries might not be the same, the goal is: creating a safer and simpler everyday life for users, next of kin and caregiving personnel.

As the only representative in 2018 from a Norwegian university, Renée Schulz has been awarded a post-doctoral grant to Japan through the Research Council of Norway’s (NFR) INT-BILAT programme. This is a special arrangement between Norway’s and Japan’s respective research councils (NFR and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science), and it is the first time that UiA have had an application approved for this arrangement. From autumn 2018, Schulz will be working at Osaka University.

The title of her research project is Usability and Procedure Learnability of Evidence-based Interactive Clinical Systems, and it combines expertise in eHealth, user-friendly design learning theories and big data.

User-centred design for health personnel

Schulz defended her doctoral thesis about digital aids in schools at the University of Agder before the summer. She examined if a more user-friendly design could motivate teachers to use mobile technology. Now, she will be focusing on eHealth technology.

At Osaka University, Schulz will study if a more user-centred design of technological support systems for health personnel can contribute to improving clinical results and patient safety. The aim is improving user-friendliness, as well as contextual and cultural factors.

“Studies in Germany and Norway have given me great insight into different European education and research systems. I want to continue working in an interdisciplinary and international environment. I think we can learn a lot from each other, across science and across country borders,” Schulz says.

Not “lost in translation”

Schulz is looking forward to starting the project and is excited about her new life in Japan. When she was a PhD student, she was an exchange student for a period at Osaka University. Therefore, she is no stranger to Japanese culture nor the Japanese language.

“One of the best things about Japanese culture is that everything is very organised. Procedures are accurate, and people are always punctual. The drawback is that people are less open to new suggestions,” Schulz says.

From previous interdisciplinary research cooperation, she has learned that it is useful to have a well organised and structured work flow, but also that flexibility is important.

“Flexibility is not a natural part of Japanese culture, and it might be more challenging than usual to be impulsive and change plans,” she says.

Schulz has signed up for a Japanese language course and is hoping to learn enough Japanese to be able to communicate with colleagues.

“Even though most people in research environments speak English, I think you should learn the language of the country you live in. It is a matter of respect. In addition, I want to be able to understand and make myself understood for my own benefit, of course,” Schulz says.

Busy researcher

Schulz has many invitations booked in her calendar. This summer, she visited the Norwegian and the Finish embassy to speak about eHealth technology. In September, she will attend Euraxess, European Research Day 2018 in Tokyo. There, the European Commission will gather the European research community in Japan to discuss exactly research, and also possibilities for work and Japan’s relationship with Europe.

Schulz has also been chosen by the NFR to represent “young future leaders” at the Science and Technology in Society forum (STS forum) in Kyoto this October. At this annual meeting, 150 young and promising leaders are gathered for an event called “Dialogue between Future Leaders and Nobel Laureates”. NFR sends five researchers to the forum. One of the conditions for being considered is that you have to be below the age of 40.

“The NFR is active in Japan. I am very happy to get invited to different events, by the NFR as well as others. A lot is about networking. When you go to another country for research, it is decisive to get help finding the right contacts,” Schulz explains.

The research project is supervised interdisciplinary by Associate Prof. Santiago Martinez (UiA, eHealth), Prof. Mariann Fossum (UiA, eHealth ), Prof. Andreas Prinz (Engineering and Science, UiA) and Prof. Takahiro Hara (Department of Multimedia Engineering, Osaka University).