International placement for knowledge exchange and networking

16 January 2023

In November 2022, NIHR CYP MedTech were delighted to welcome Dr Júlia Martín Badia, from the University of Barcelona, for a 1-month placement with us here in Sheffield.

Júlia is a postdoctoral researcher in Applied Ethics, with an academic background including a BA in Philosophy, a Master’s Degree in Citizenship and Human Rights, a Master’s Degree in Bioethics and Law, and a Postgraduate Degree in Hospital Pedagogy (all at the University of Barcelona, UB).

Following her PhD thesis “Towards adolescents’ autonomy: an accompaniment model for healthcare professionals,” Júlia’s post-doctoral project is entitled: “Use of AI and robotic technologies to empower adolescents in the healthcare field”. She is conducting this work within the Barcelona Science and Technology Studies Group (STS-b) from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Júlia describes her work in more detail below.

“My PhD started from two premises: 1) developing self-care capabilities is essential to become autonomous in all other areas of life; 2) a non-hospitalocentric approach to health promotion is needed. From here, I suggested a community-based accompaniment to foster adolescents’ autonomy, which requires coordination between healthcare services, social services, educational services and leisure time settings. The community needs to make adolescents feel emotionally, legally and socially recognized, in order to promote their objective, subjective and relational quality of life. In my postdoctoral research project, I analyse the ethical controversies of inserting socially interactive technologies (SIT) in this community-based process, as well as exploring the potential added value of using SITs to empower adolescents, in comparison to what healthcare professionals already do, in terms of helping them to develop their capabilities.

I chose to visit NIHR CYP MedTech after collaborating with Jenifer Preston [NIHR CYP MedTech’s PPIE Executive Lead] in the YEAH European project (Younsters EngAgment in Health science), so I knew this team is at the forefront of child health technology research. I had my placement at NIHR CYP MedTech during my research stay as an academic visitor at the Department of Philosophy in the University of Sheffield. I had five key objectives for this visit:

  1. Develop an understanding of existent SITs and their functionalities;
  2. Decide which SIT to focus on;
  3. Learn more about how to approach my PPI process;
  4. Define “social robot”, “social interaction”, “autonomy” and “care”; and
  5. Compare views from different professionals in this context.

Through introductions by the NIHR CYP MedTech team, I met the first three goals by visiting different labs from Sheffield Robotics, and by meeting engineers, clinicians, computer scientists and research designers. After being invited to attend the NIHR MindTech MIC National Symposium 2022 entitled “New Frontiers for Digital Mental Health”, that was held at the Royal College of Physicians in London, I decided to focus on SITs for autism and mental health challenges (depression and anxiety), which has increased among adolescents since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As for my last two goals, I hope to go deeper into them in the near future through in-depth interviews with professionals I met during my placement, together with a workshop with adolescents to understand their perspectives.

The main (preliminary) conclusion I draw from my visit to MedTech, that becomes a new starting point for my future reflection, is that SITs are transitional tools that foster adolescents’ functional autonomy, self-knowledge and social consciousness as basic skills to develop moral autonomy within their net of caring relationships.”

You can contact Júlia directly at, and follow her work on Twitter through the link below.