Mary Mulvihill prize: Submissions now open for science media award

10 Oct 2023

Mary Mulvihill. Image: The Mary Mulvihill Foundation

Named in memory of the Irish science communicator Mary Mulvihill, the competition is open to students of any discipline.

The Mary Mulvihill science media competition for Ireland’s third-level students is back and this year’s theme is intelligence.

Organisers of the annual award, the Mary Mulvihill Association, said undergraduate and postgraduate students from across the island of Ireland can start sending in entries for the 2024 award. Entries can be in a range of formats, including text, photos, comics and infographics.

The topic of intelligence can be addressed in “scientific, critical, imaginative or other terms” and interviews can be submitted in text, audio or video. “There are no prescriptions to how it might be approached,” the association writes in its call for applications today (10 October).

Named in memory of the Irish science communicator Mary Mulvihill, the competition open to students of any discipline is a project of Remembering Mary, an initiative established by family and friends of Mulvihill, who died in 2015. There is a €2,000 prize for the winner.

In March, Ayomide Ajani of University College Cork was named as the overall winner of the Mary Mulvihill Award 2023, with Trinity College Dublin student Ashik Prasad scooping the judges’ highly commended award at a ceremony in the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

The event featured an address from guest speaker, Irish astronomer and science communicator Dr Niamh Shaw, who reminisced that Mary Mulvihill had given her her first job as a science communicator.

“As a theme, intelligence offers myriad routes for exploration. Although generally linked to abilities to perform cognitive tasks efficiently, intelligence, as a concept, has always been both ideologically loaded and difficult to define,” the call for applications reads.

“We have entered a new era of technological development, which has aroused profound concerns about the potential harms – intentional and inadvertent – arising from AI systems. Some of the issues, such as algorithmic bias, are intrinsic to the technology and arise from who has developed the systems and how they have done so.

“But there are additional structural issues, arising from who has control of and access to these technologies – and who does not – and for what purposes they are being deployed.”

The Mary Mulvihill association said that the judges may, at their discretion, make an additional award of €500 for a “highly commended” entry. Deadline for submissions, which can be made on the award’s website, is 2 April 2024.

In 2021, a plaque in honour of Mulvihill was installed at her former home in Stoneybatter, Dublin. “We celebrate Mary for her warmth and her humanity, but also for her passion,” Irish radio broadcaster and reporter Leo Enright said at the launch.

“She was determined that Irish science should take its rightful place within Ireland’s national culture – it’s as much a part of the Irish cultural tradition as our poetry, our art and our music.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic