Professor Jane Grimson has been appointed chairwoman of the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), the body that channels State funding into training and career development programmes for researchers at postgraduate and postdoctoral level.
Grimson’s appointment follows the recent retirement of Professor Thomas Mitchell from this role. Paying tribute to Mitchell’s achievements, she said the IRCSET would continue to play a vital role in providing the skills needed to support Ireland’s research agenda.
“While an excellent base has already clearly been established, continuity is vital to ensure future national success in research and development at both an academic and industrial level. The OECD has noted that considerable strides need to be taken to radically increase the number of researchers in our academic institutions and to increase interaction and research linkage with the industrial world. A significant proportion of such an increase must involve multiannual financial support for the development of talented doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. While this involves a major Exchequer commitment, it represents a strategic and economic imperative for our nation,” said Grimson, noting that, to date, more than €29m had been invested by the Exchequer in various IRCSET programmes.
She added: “Ireland must continue to enhance its appeal as a nation with the most progressive support mechanisms for young talent. Research is now a rewarding career and we shall work closely with other agencies in ensuring continuity of support through to research leadership positions. We are currently reviewing the council’s position and will be putting in place a renewed strategic plan for the next five years. This will be designed to ensure that the training of young researchers, who we support in Ireland, is world class and that it is also encouraged to yield tangible benefits both academically and for the economy in terms of the intellectual property being created.”
Grimson also emphasised that Ireland must do more to work with its European partners. “Apart from competing, Ireland must also seek greater levels of integration with the international research community so that we can share and exploit knowledge creation for our maximum benefit. The EU and the creation of a single European research area will form a key vehicle in this regard as will the further enhancement of research linkages with the wide range of multinational firms engaging in advanced scientific and technological R&D work in Ireland, an area in which IRCSET is expanding its co-operative initiatives.”
She concluded by noting that new Irish researchers, as well as those attracted to Ireland, should also “bear a sense of responsibility” towards the future development of Irish research, Irish economic and social development and the attainment for Ireland of a leading place in the global knowledge economy.
Vice-president of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and a chartered engineer, Grimson has been a board member of IRCSET since its inception by the government in 2002. Throughout her career she has been deeply involved in the strategic development of science and engineering. She is a fellow and past president of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland and president of the Irish Academy of Engineering, TCD. She was also formerly president of the Irish and British Computer Societies and of the Royal Academy of Medicine. She was dean of Engineering and Systems Sciences at TCD from 1996-1999 and was appointed pro-dean of research in 2000.
By Brian Skelly