Capital takes centre stage as City of Science

Wed, Jul 11, 2012, 01:00

DUBLIN OFFICIALLY becomes Europe’s City of Science this evening when President Michael D Higgins opens the Euroscience Open Forum 2012 (Esof).

The five-day science meeting provides Ireland with an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the best of Irish scientific research.

The forum is the largest scientific meeting of its kind across Europe. The biennial gathering has attracted more than 4,000 delegates and will hear hundreds of presentations, including talks by five Nobel Prize winners.

Even as the meeting proceeds at the Convention Centre Dublin, the Science in the City Festival will be under way across the capital. Dozens of events are set to take place, with many free of charge. The festival is an attempt to promote a better public understanding and interest in the sciences, maths and engineering.

Ireland and Dublin secured the right to stage the Euroscience Open Forum 2012 after a tough international competition against main challenger Vienna more than four years ago and led by the State’s chief scientific adviser Prof Patrick Cunningham.

“After several years work to bring Euroscience Open Forum 2012 to Dublin, it is great to see that the event is finally upon us,” said Prof Cunningham on the eve of the event. “To have Esof in Dublin is a recognition of the fact that Ireland is a country that is serious about science. It will help to put Irish science on the global stage.”

The proceedings have been divided into a number of distinct strands including the main science programme, a careers programme for young researchers comprising “jobs zoo” event and a Science2Business programme that brings academic researchers and the business community together. There is also an impressive line-up of keynote speakers including former president Mary Robinson, musician Bob Geldof and commissioner for research, innovation and science Márie Geoghegan-Quinn, to name but a few.

A famous piece of Irish history will be resurrected tomorrow when geneticist Craig Venter delivers a talk entitled What is Life? This updates lectures of the same name delivered in 1943 by Nobel laureate and Austrian and Irish citizen Erwin Schrödinger when based at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Although a physicist, he discussed how science would reveal secrets of the genetic code, talks that eventually inspired a generation of scientists. These included later Nobel laureate James Watson who, with Francis Crick, discovered the structure of the genetic code DNA.

Dr Venter will move the What is Life theme into the 21st century in a talk at Trinity College Dublin and afterwards Dr Watson will provide a response.

Esof 2012 will be as topical in a news sense as it is interesting in a scientific sense. Dr Rolf Heuer, who heads the research lab that earlier this month likely proved the existence of the Higgs boson, will give a number of talks about the discovery.

Moreover, Charles Bolden, head of US space agency Nasa, will give a talk to 400 children and a keynote address. He will also reveal that Ireland is the first country to establish a relationship with Nasa which will mean third-level students conducting research in its labs in California.

David Fahy, Esof 2012 programme director, said: “The unique event brings together a who’s who of the world’s leading scientists. The Science in the City Festival has been a tremendous success since its launch on Friday and I would encourage everyone to participate in events which are running until Sunday.”

Director of IBM Research – Ireland Dr Lisa Amini said: “The Euroscience Open Forum is an opportunity that shines a spotlight on Ireland’s scientific community. We want other scientists to come in and see Ireland in this light.”

Arlene O’Neill, newly selected Dublin Rose, PhD researcher at Trinity and Esof 2012 ambassador, said: “It will give the rest of the world an opportunity to come and visit our great city, and make the link between world-class science and Ireland.”