Professor Gloria Mark on Team Receiving $8 Million in IARPA Funding to Study Workplace Performance

April 17, 2018

Informatics Professor Gloria Mark is co-lead with Notre Dame Professor Aaron Striegel on a study that aims to predict workplace performance using mobile sensors. Mark and Striegel have teamed up with researchers from seven other universities to work on Project Tesserae, a 21-month study of 750 professionals working in cognitively demanding positions. The team has received $8 million in funding from Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

During the study, participants will wear an activity tracker that is paired with a smartphone app to gauge biomarkers, such as heart rate, sleep, physical activity and stress, and daily patterns — things people normally track for their own personal health. All of these are factors that can contribute to overall well-being and workplace performance. Passive sensors will also collect information about the workplace, such as ambient noise and light levels, to contextualize participant activity.

To address activity and behavior within the context of the workplace, the de-identified sensor data will be analyzed by the team of researchers from UCI, Notre Dame, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Washington and the University of Texas.

“I have been working with sensors in tracking stress and attention focus for quite some time,” says Mark, “so this is an extension of work that I’ve already been doing — it’s an extension on steroids.” She explains that while previous work has looked at relatively small numbers of people, “tracking 750 people for a year is going to really give us deep insight into workplace performance.”

Mark adds that privacy is a very important aspect of the work, so the team has enlisted the expertise of Notre Dame’s Wireless Institute, Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications (iCeNSA), and Center for Research Computing to help manage the data collection and analysis process. The expertise of each center will be critical to ensure data privacy and confidentiality and will help ground the work with a firm ethical foundation.

— Shani Murray