Marina Bos – de Vos

During her time as an architect, rising star Marina Bos-de Vos became more and more intrigued by the role of values in the design process, especially in multi-stakeholder projects involving many different disciplines. Following her PhD (2018, cum laude) she currently researches this topic as an assistant professor within the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering as a participant in transdisciplinary healthcare innovation programs.

So many values that can play a role

Multiple, co-existing values can lead to tensions and even conflicts within a project, especially when they are not made explicit. This may hinder collaboration and negatively impact the design process. When it comes to values, some researchers focus on those that serve a useful function, such as money or reputation. Others focus on more personal values, such as privacy and autonomy. ‘In my research, I take both perspectives into account,’ Bos-de Vos says. ‘This is especially important in the health technology projects I am currently involved in. It is not only important to work towards reducing the cost of healthcare and increasing its effectiveness, we also want to make sure that people feel safe and in charge of their own health.’

Multiple, co-existing values can lead to tensions and even conflicts within a project, especially when they are not made explicit.

A Digital Twin

One of the health projects she is currently involved in, is the design of a so-called Digital Twin. It is a concept widely used in engineering, for example to simulate various maintenance scenarios. For the medical field, however, it is a new development put into overdrive by the recent convergence between TU Delft, Erasmus MC and Erasmus University. In a medical context, a digital twin is a representation of a person’s health status, allowing personalized medical and lifestyle interventions, such as preventive measures based on the prediction of future medical conditions. ‘For now, we focus on women who have a child wish or who are pregnant as these are very motivated to make changes to their life,’ Bos-de Vos says. A first step towards a Digital Twin is taken by focusing on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, by suggesting lifestyle changes and care paths. Bos-de Vos: ‘Our initial prototype will provide such advice up to and during pregnancy. But, eventually, the digital twin should provide health advice over the entire lifespan and for all kinds of health conditions.’

The development of a person’s digital twin involves many different disciplines, adhering to competing underlying values.

Research-through-design

Designing such a Digital Twin requires a very close collaboration between various disciplines. For example, the medical professionals who focus on determining the care paths and what may or should trigger these, and the engineers who develop the underlying technology. ‘Together with some colleagues, I provide advice from a design perspective,’ Bos-de Vos says. ‘But I also look at the big picture from a research perspective. There are so many different disciplines and organisations involved in this project. We are bound to run into issues because of competing underlying values. Values that may furthermore change over the ten years this development will at least take. Through our design activities, I try to uncover how we deal with co-existing values and potential tensions between them. This can provide valuable insights for future projects of such scale.’ She is also keen to involve society itself in developing the Digital Twin, to maximise its efficacy and the target audience’s willingness to use it. ‘Citizen-science is another research topic that is quite new to the health domain.’

I hope to help raise a generation of designers that can truly cultivate transdisciplinary collaboration through understanding the role of values.

The next generation

Marina was a co-applicant on the Digital Twin project that was awarded with two postdoc positions by Erasmus MC and TU Delft. She was also part of a large consortium that submitted a 1.4 M€ NWO grant proposal that made it to the very last round. Together with Convergence scientists she is currently co-writing another NWO grant to be submitted next year. She likes for her research projects to have a positive impact on society. But, more in general, she hopes to play a role in raising the next generation of designers – designers who understand the role of values in their work and who can truly cultivate transdisciplinary collaborations.


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