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An illustration of a COVID-19 vaccine passport.

Loughborough experts to lead £170k project that will explore how best to design COVID-19 immunity passports

Design experts at Loughborough University are to lead a £170,000 project that will explore how best to design COVID-19 immunity passports.

Design experts at Loughborough University are to lead a £170,000 project that will explore how best to design COVID-19 immunity passports.

Principal investigator Dr Panagiotis Balatsoukas and a team of researchers from the School of Design and Creative Arts and Brunel University London will investigate how artificial intelligence (AI) and user-centred design research can be used to design immunity passport services that keep us safe without compromising human rights.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the project will run until December 2021 and will involve hosting focus groups, interviews, a series of online questionnaire surveys – including a large-scale UK-wide survey, participatory design workshops, and systems modelling.

Information gathered using these methods will be used to produce specifications that outline immunity passport service design for use in travel and work, as well as in sport and cultural events.

Dr Balatsoukas says currently, immunity passports – which are also referred to as ‘vaccine passports’ - are being discussed as a product, whereas this research will approach immunity passports as a complex health system.

He explained: “Immunity passports should be seen as a service that will automate and help regulate the process of gaining, monitoring and retaining immunity.

“Not only could they provide us with some evidence or proof of whether someone has received the vaccine or not, these services could also help us monitor changes in immunity status at the population level.

“This could help us anticipate or predict forthcoming virus breakouts, and support different businesses and organisations - such as aviation, travel or creative and cultural industries - with the integration of immunity passports into their daily operations and business models without compromising human rights and civil liberties.   

“Such immunity passport services could also allow us to regulate and monitor when and how information about the immunity status of the population is shared between different countries and organisations, and guarantee that appropriate audit and feedback is in place when it comes to the safe use of personal information about someone’s immunity status.”

The researchers will merge modern AI-driven technologies with experience design research, specifically design thinking approaches, to co-produce with stakeholders (including immunologists, virologists, public health professionals, the NHS, businesses and the public) design specifications for immunity passport services that are relevant to users’ individual needs.

“The truth is that there is nothing similar in place in the UK or elsewhere so it is difficult to give a concrete example of how an immunity passport should look like”, said Dr Balatsoukas, “however, we know what it should not look like.

“We are hoping to examine how technology, people’s needs, tasks and processes can be mapped and modelled into an integrated whole that makes it possible to monitor and manage the immunisation process, but at the same time without compromising human rights and civil liberties.

“This project will generate new knowledge about how to design such services.”

For more information on the ‘Immunity Passports Service Design’ project, visit the dedicated webpage here.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 21/64

AHRC:

The Arts and Humanities Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation. It is the UK’s largest funder of arts and humanities research and training, investing over £100 million every year. It funds independent researchers in a wide range of subjects, including history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and many more. The research it funds provides social and cultural and benefits that contribute to the economic success of the UK, as well as to the culture and welfare of societies around the world. Find out more about AHRC at ahrc.ukri.org, or on Twitter at @ahrcpress.

Loughborough University:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

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