Science festival ready
for lift-off

31 Aug 2005

More than 300 scientists and 3,000 visitors are expected to attend events at the week-long BA Festival of Science, which begins at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) this Saturday. The event aims to foster a greater understanding of the value of science and technology.

The event is being organised by the BA (the British Association for the Advancement of Science), the UK government’s science promotion agency, which is hosting the international event in Ireland for the first time in almost 50 years. The main sponsors are TCD, Discover Science and Engineering and the Department of Education and Science.

Much of the activity surrounding the festival will take place at TCD, where many of the university’s scientists will be among those discussing their research with the public.

The festival will also include a special Science in the City programme, co-ordinated by Dublin City University (DCU), which will include debates, exhibitions, readings and an open-air film screening. As part of this, Professor Robert Winston, fertility expert and presenter of several popular science television programmes, will host an event at the RDS.

“The idea behind the Science in the City programme is to attract a diversity of people with presentations of science issues in a wide variety of forms and settings,” said Brian Trench, senior lecturer and head of School of Communications at DCU. “We will be exploring issues that affect Dubliners — the smoking ban, Ireland’s drinking culture and climate change — as well as incorporating some more light-hearted elements, such as hypnosis, science cabaret and a family science day.”

The festival will also include an event aiming to raise awareness of the gender imbalance in science. This will be hosted by the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC), which was launched by the UK Government in 2004.
UKRC director Annette Williams commented: “We know there is a great deal of momentum and understanding about the need to increase the representation of women in science in Ireland and that is why we are especially pleased that the BA Festival of Science will be hosted in Dublin this year.”

In April, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) launched the Women in Science and Engineering Initiative, a scheme aimed at boosting the number of women in Irish science and engineering. “There is a need to improve the working environment for women scientists and engineers and adapt to the needs of individuals conducting successful, internationally competitive research,” said Dr Mary Kelly, scientific programme officer, SFI. “SFI aims to encourage young women into science and engineering careers, and support talented female researchers to continue their careers in Irish academic institutions.”

By Brian Skelly