SFI’s Ruth Freeman spoke to the Future Human audience about the importance of involving the public in thoughtful discussions about new research and innovations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant a vast majority of the public have become actively engaged in scientific debate and discussion. This, according to Science Foundation Ireland’s Dr Ruth Freeman, could be the solution to a major problem when it comes to new innovations, research and technologies.

Speaking at Future Human in October 2020, she discussed genetic modification (GM) and how polarising a topic it was when it first surfaced, while at the same time, internet technologies, the dawn of Google and file and data-sharing apps came to be without much concern.

“So while GM technology was initially feared and catastrophised, for many years the internet got a free pass,” she said.

“Why have those two technologies been viewed so differently by the public and the mainstream media? Both can potentially bring great benefits and both clearly have the potential to be harmful.

“If there had been more thoughtful, inclusive discussion about the ramifications of these technologies, both good and bad, as they were being developed, I wonder if both technologies today would be in a better place.”

Now, amid the global life-changing event that is the Covid-19 crisis, SFI wants to hear from the Irish public about living through the pandemic and the lessons that have been learned.


Words by Jenny Darmody