Professor Ann Blandford's Festschrift event

prof blandford and prof harrison

Professor Ann Blandford has often been described as a 'pioneer' in the field of digital health and human-computer interaction. To celebrate her work and career, former and current colleagues, PhD students and members of the wider HCI community attended a 'Festschrift' event on 10 November, as UCLIC's final 21st birthday bash.

Chaired by Ann's long-term collaborator, Professor Michael Harrison, Emeritus Professor, Newcastle University, the event was also live-streamed. The programme included a number of live and pre-recorded presentations:

• Former UCLIC Director, Professor Emeritus Harold Thimbleby, borrowing from epidemiological terminology, applied the basic reproduction number, R_{0}, (i.e. the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection) to show the power of Ann's positively infectious supervisory and leadership style.
• Long-time collaborator Dr Dominic Furniss, Human Factors Consultant at Human Reliability Associates, focused on current work aiming to understand and improve sociotechnical systems, reflecting on how information is stored in the world (design), hands (procedures/instruction) and head (training).
• Former PhD student and colleague, Dr Aisling O'Kane, University of Bristol, assessed how Ann's supervision of her PhD research has influenced her own supervision of PhD research on understanding the context of use, misuse and abuse of everyday health and care technologies through in situ studies, and taking pragmatic approaches to understand implications for the entire user experience journey of everyday health technologies.
• Ann's collaborator Thulile Mathenjwa, African Health Research Institute (AHRI), introduced a project she is currently running to test the feasibility and acceptability of using smartphone GPS technology to study links between human mobility and HIV among young adults in rural KwaZulu Natal.
• Former colleague Dr Niels van Berkel, Aalborg University, applied the well-known REF - Retirement Evaluation Framework - to assess Prof. Ann Blandford's academic contributions. Reciting Ann's astonishing list of awards and accolades, the evaluation panel was particularly impressed by her tireless guidance and support of no less than 34 PhD students across various topics. The REF furthermore found Ann's work to be crossing borders, as evident by its international recognition and impact across disciplines.
• UCLIC PhD student Josie Carmichael focused on the potential application of artificial intelligence (AI) in eyecare, in particular for supporting optometrists when interpreting retinal scans. She discussed how, with Ann's leadership and expertise, research could help identify and eliminate some of the barriers to the implementation of AI for this purpose, whilst considering both clinical and HCI perspectives.

A collection of writings, focusing on 'UCLIC @21: Looking Back, Looking Forward' and celebrating working with Ann, was presented during the event and distributed to audience participants. The booklet includes each contributor's personal reflections on topics such as: Ann's breakthrough research (from designing computer simulations so that nuclear engineers could try out their ideas safely, to developing safety-critical systems, to her current research in digital health); her rigorous and supportive supervisory style; her ability to always consider the bigger picture, while paying painstaking attention to detail; the importance of end-users' needs and perspectives. Among the contributions also feature a novel hypothesis on Ann having 2 brains and a disquisition on the use of rabbits in a supervisor's marginal notes…

Click here for a selection of photos from the event.