SFI backs 47 projects to make STEM more accessible to the public

1 Jun 2022

Image: © Mascha Tace/Stock.adobe.com

Some of the projects being funded include a workshop teaching AI to teens and a project exploring infectious diseases through oral testimony.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is investing €3.7m in 47 projects aimed at improving the Irish public’s understanding of STEM.

The projects are focusing on areas such as AI, infectious diseases, chemistry, data science, sexual health and climate science. They will target everyone from young children and teenagers to adults.

Projects have been developed by teams at third-level institutions, research centres and organisations around the country.

One project, called AI in My Life, will encourage transition year students to evaluate the social, ethical and privacy implications of AI. The workshops are currently being offered to 20 schools in disadvantaged communities through Dublin City University’s Access Service.

Some projects will mix STEM with storytelling and the arts to communicate ideas, including Catching Stories: Testimony of Infectious Disease in Ireland. This project will combine oral testimony and scientific commentary to explore Irish experiences of infectious diseases, public health and vaccination.

All projects are being funded through SFI’s Discover Programme.

Prof Philip Nolan, director general of SFI, said the programme is “a key part” of the organisation’s education and public engagement strategy and “aims to grow opportunities for dialogue between the research community and the public”.

“Our research improves people’s lives and we can only do that if we work in partnership with the public at all stages of the research process. The programme also aims to improve diversity and inclusion in science, broadening participation geographically and amongst less represented voices in research,” he added.

“STEM is such an exciting area to study and work in and we want to make it more accessible to a wide range of people.”

SFI’s Discover Programme is funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Five of the 47 projects are being co-funded by the Department of Education.

Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD, said she hoped the initiatives would prove “inspiring” for young people to explore STEM roles in the future.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic