SFI awards €2.8m in funding to five leaders in Irish science policy

26 Feb 2018

From left: Prof John McHale, NUI Galway; Prof Helena Lenihan, University of Limerick; Prof Kalpana Shankar, University College Dublin; Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI; and Dr Alma McCarthy, NUI Galway. Image: Jason Clarke

Ireland’s brightest advocates for the best scientific practice have been awarded a total of €2.8m to fund their research.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has revealed the award winners of the Science Policy Research Programme aimed at getting the policy behind Irish science up to date with the best practices.

The selected research projects comprise studies including: the role of talent and human capital management in national science foundations; the economic and societal impacts of scientific research; the link between scientific knowledge production and technological progress; the peer review process; and the importance of star researchers.

The five awards, with a total value of €2.8m, will support 15 research positions for both postdoctoral researchers and PhD students, for a period of up to four years.

The winners include:

  • Prof Helena Lenihan, University of Limerick
  • Prof John McHale, NUI Galway
  • Prof Kalpana Shankar, University College Dublin
  • Dr Alma McCarthy, NUI Galway
  • Prof Dieter Franz Kogler, University College Dublin

McHale is the recipient of the largest single sum, worth €856,264, which will analyse how the arrival of a star researcher affects institutional performance in terms of the productivity of incumbent scientists and the quality of subsequent recruits.

Commenting on the award winners, SFI director general Prof Mark Ferguson said: “These awards will build critical knowledge to enable us to develop effective policies on how we fund, evaluate and disseminate scientific research.

“Building Ireland’s research capacity in science policy will help to solidify Ireland’s position in developing international best practice, and encourage collaborations with international experts in the field.”

Follows STEM outreach funding

Announcing the awards, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan, TD, said: “The SFI Science Policy Research Programme is facilitating doctoral degrees that will generate important new policy insights that can help to bolster Ireland’s knowledge economy.

“The knowledge gained from these awards will help SFI assess the impact of the research funding it awards, with the aim of strengthening and improving our overall ecosystem.”

Earlier this month, SFI announced that it was to allocate €4.4m to 41 different science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) outreach programmes.

A number of projects specifically aimed at developing computing skills among young people are being funded, including CoderDojo, the highly successful volunteer coding organisation with Dojos in different parts of the world.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic