Inspirefest snapshot: Shining a much-needed light on LGBTQ researchers

11 Jun 2018155 Views

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Science communicator and producer Dr Shaun O’Boyle. Image: Shaun O’Boyle

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After years of being unfairly left out of the spotlight, LGBTQ researchers are getting the chance to shine, thanks to House of STEM and Dr Shaun O’Boyle.

Followers of Siliconrepublic.com’s Science Uncovered series will be familiar with a common trend throughout, that being scientists regularly pointing out the challenges of being a researcher in an environment where funding is hard to come by.

Now, add on top of that the daily struggle with feeling accepted and potentially hiding your true self, and you have the challenges faced by a researcher who identifies as LGBTQ.

However, efforts to break down these large obstacles have increased of late, as seen in the work of Dr Shaun O’Boyle, an accomplished producer and science communicator who will be taking to the Inspirefest stage later this month.

‘Science does not treat all scientists equally’

As he said in a guest piece on Siliconrepublic.com in April, his passion for supporting and increasing the visibility of LGBTQ scientists only grew after helping to organise the March for Science earlier this year, a movement that stemmed from critical comments made by US president Donald Trump against climate science, in particular.

Speaking of the challenges of an LGBTQ person in science, O’Boyle said: “Scientific research often requires us to travel for fieldwork or conferences, sometimes to countries where it’s dangerous or illegal to be LGBTQ.

“There are also cultural challenges. Science is a field founded on objectivity, and that can be a difficult environment in which to discuss personal experiences. While the scientific process treats all data equally, science does not treat all scientists equally.”

Faced with all these challenges, O’Boyle founded House of STEM, a community-led initiative for LGBTQ people working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in Ireland to connect with each other through events, campaigns and initiatives.

He is also one half of the producing partnership Bureau, which makes radio documentaries and podcasts that feature diverse voices and unexpected stories.

On top of that, he has also produced science reports for the BBC and was the producer on Newstalk’s weekly science show, Futureproof.

An accomplished science communicator with a PhD in developmental biology, O’Boyle teaches workshops and courses on science and science communication.

For inspiration from extraordinary thinkers, catch Dr Shaun O’Boyle and more at Inspirefest in Dublin on 21 and 22 June. Get your tickets now.

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com