Esof forum was magnet for new ideas
The science forum created new focus on excellence and the research Ireland should be doing, writes CONOR O'CARROLL
TWO WEEKS ago there was a flurry of activity around the Euroscience Open Forum 2012 in Dublin. The conference brought together leading researchers, young researchers, funders and policy-makers from across the world. At this point one might ask what is the legacy of Esof for Ireland. It certainly gave us an opportunity to show the results of government commitment to research over the past 14 years. Speaking to researchers from around the world, they were genuinely impressed at the continued commitment during an economic crisis.
The news of the Higgs boson led to a discussion in the media on the type of research to be supported by government in Ireland. In the light of research prioritisation, there is a strong sense among the research community in Ireland that funding agencies have moved away from supporting frontier research and are focusing only on activities that may bring short-term gain to the economy.
We cannot neglect outstanding research and researchers across all disciplines. This was brought home during Nobel laureate Jules Hoffmann’s lecture, in which he explained how work on fruit flies led to major breakthroughs in human immunology. There is another aspect that must not be forgotten. If we want to attract graduates to research then they should be inspired by the leaders and type of research being done. The demonstration at Esof that leading-edge research can have high societal impact is a real legacy.
I chaired the careers programme, which is a central part of all Esof forums in that it provides practical support for researchers planning their career. As the majority at Esof were early-stage researchers, this was particularly relevant. The programme covered a wide range of issues from role models for women scientists to getting a job in industry.
The latter is particularly relevant, as the majority of early-stage researchers will not become academics. In many of the career sessions there were speakers from universities and companies in Ireland. There was the unique opportunity to showcase our own good practice in doctoral training and industry – academic collaboration, for example.
In the context of jobs outside academia, there is much discussion of the transferable skills of researchers – their ability to work in teams, lead projects and meet tight deadlines. Researchers have the ability to analyse and solve complex problems, a skill that is required in many jobs.