Dr Mike Quayle - Proof of Concept: University of Limerick research project receives further ERC funding
Dr Mike Quayle, from UL’s Department of Psychology, was awarded the funding for the project he leads called ‘Attitude-Maps-4-All’
Thursday, February 10, 2022

A researcher at University of Limerick is one of just six in the country to receive a European Research Council Proof of Concept grant.

Dr Mike Quayle, from UL’s Department of Psychology, has been awarded the funding for the project he leads called ‘Attitude-Maps-4-All’.

Worth €150,000 each, the top-up funding aims to help researchers bridge the gap between the results of their pioneering research and the early phases of its commercialisation.

In total, 166 researchers across the EU have received the grants, which are funded by ERC as part of the research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe. Five researchers at TCD also received funding.

The Proof of Concept grant scheme is open only to researchers who are or have been previously funded by the ERC. They use PoC funding to develop findings they have made during research projects funded by their ERC Starting, Consolidator, Advanced or Synergy grants.

Dr Quayle was previously awarded almost €1.5 million by the ERC to investigate the dynamics of social influence in digital societies.

The top up funds will be used to develop a usable method for mapping groups in attitude networks by developing a prototype, development community and exploitation model to maximise its social value.

Dr Quayle explained: “Our ERC project developed a mathematical method to construct bipartite graphs directly from surveys of attitudes and opinions, providing a network representation of opinion-based groups. This approach reveals group structure, locates individuals in the space, allows the application of network methods to analyse their relations, and can detect ideological polarization, even without extremism.

“Like the invention of a new instrument for observing the physical world, for example a telescope, the method gives a new view on social attitudes and opinions, with huge value for detecting partisan dynamics in a wide range of disciplines interested in modelling attitudes and human behaviour. Understanding these processes is essential for tackling urgent social issues which require crosspartisan synchronization of core attitudes or opinions - for example climate change, vaccine hesitancy, cohesive democracy.

“Applying these methods currently requires high-level mathematics and coding skills. To realize the social value of the method we must get it into the hands of end-users in useable form,” Dr Quayle explained.

“Our intention is to maximize the value of the advance already achieved in our ERC project by completing the groundwork to make the innovation maximally accessible to the interdisciplinary scientific community and to identify synergistic commercialization opportunities,” Dr Quayle added.

President of the European Research Council Prof. Maria Leptin said: “It is wonderful to see that frontier research has the capacity to generate discoveries that can be quickly put into practice.

“Let us not forget that there is no applied research without basic research feeding the pipeline first - and that very valuable innovations spring from all disciplines, from the physical and life sciences to the social sciences and humanities.”